I’m going in…

I finished the first draft of a story on new year’s eve and then metaphorically shoved it in a drawer. That draft is a mess, so I had intended to let it sit and percolate in there for several weeks and hope that I could magically work out how to fix it in the meantime.

I realized this past week, though, that the deadline for submitting it to the place I want to submit it is the beginning of February and not the end of February, so I’ve had to shuffle up the timeline a bit. In order to get a readable draft out to my first reader so that I can get notes back and still have time to revise it again, the story has to come out of the drawer today.

I printed it out this morning, and I’m about to wade in. Sharpening the red pen, as it were. Wish me luck.

Advertisements

My story in print!

IMG_2962.JPG

The issue of PRISM with my story in it spotted in the wild.

I meant to post this ages ago, of course, back when it came out. But I wanted to include a photo of the magazine actually in a store, and though I visited several branches I couldn’t find it anywhere in the time before I left on my adventure. By the time I got back in late November, it didn’t seem worth posting anymore. Although I did go back to the bookstore to snap my coveted photo.

But this whole year-in-review time seems to be as good as any for remembering that someone paid me for a story I wrote for the very first time this year. It came out in PRISM 53.1, the Fall 2014 issue. I’m delighted with the cover art on the issue, too, which is both classy and whimsical. The little blurb on their page about my piece reads:

“On the non-fiction side, PRISM 53:1 includes K.A. MacKinnon’s “Character Sketch,” a uniquely-structured piece about two women traveling through Europe as circus employees.”

I also wanted to include a link to Ayelet Tsabari’s web page. (If you haven’t read her stuff, you really should. ‘Yemeni Soup and Other Recipes’ is my favourite.) She taught me in the two Continuing Ed. creative non-fiction courses I took last year. Those classes turned out to provide exactly the right information at exactly the right time for me, in terms of the progress of my writing, and the piece PRISM published originally started as an assignment in one of those classes.

Anyway, Ayelet wrote a lovely post recently in which she bragged on behalf of a few of her students who are doing well, and I was one of them.

In other writing-related news, I have two stories out being considered at the moment. For one, I should hear sometime in January, for the other they’re saying ‘the first quarter of 2015’, so sometime before April, I guess.

I’ve been writing with reasonable dedication this month and I have another story that is about 500 words from being finished. I have sworn the first draft will be done this month, so that’s mostly my plan for this evening.

Still writing…

My day job has segued into Lunacy: Part 2, and I’m back to working 60 hours a week. I’m reasonably proud, however, that I’ve still managed to write most of a short story. It’ll probably end up being 5,000-5,500 words long (I have about 4,600 words done), and I’m really pleased with what I’ve got so far. And tonight, after a week and half of procrastination, I finally sat down and powered through the chunk of story I was stuck on. I’ve got the climax done now, and it’s just clean-up and denouement to go. With any luck, I’ll be able to finish it by the end of the week.

 

Fiction – If We’d Heard…

We didn’t hear Jules coming up behind us. You can see his shoes… I can’t believe the photograph captured that. The moment everything changed. My hands tremble, looking at it, even now.

If we’d heard…

No.

I haven’t seen Stefan since that day. That’s him on the left. You can’t see the look in his eyes… It breaks my heart. There should be a record of the way his face glowed when he looked at Lukas. That’s Lukas on the right, beautiful Lukas, grinning right at the camera… He looks happy.

#

We were up at the cabin that September. 1938. The weather was glorious – bright sun, and the air cool enough to keep us comfortable. We were hiking the hills, doing a little climbing. Just the three of us up there for the two weeks before Jules joined us.

I noticed right away that something was wrong. Stefan and Lukas wouldn’t touch each other, would hardly look at each other. Both of them rigid as starched collars. I couldn’t understand. If they’d separated, surely they wouldn’t have come on holiday together.

We stopped for lunch at the top of the ridge that first afternoon, and they sat one on either side of me while we ate in awkward silence.

“All right, what the heck is going on?”

Stefan opened his mouth to speak, but Lukas shook his head. Short, sharp. Stefan glared, hurt and angry, but subsided.

I turned to Lukas. “Tell me.”

His soul twisted in the depths of those beautiful blue eyes as he met my gaze and lied. “There’s nothing to tell.”

“She’s been in France,” Stefan said.

“So?”

“So she doesn’t understand.”

“So tell me. Please.”

“The SS,” Stefan said. “There have been raids, arrests, disappearances. It isn’t safe to be… what we are.”

Lukas turned away. “We aren’t anything.”

I could see Stefan’s face. I saw his heart break, right in front of me.

“You’re safe with me.” It was all I could think of to say.

#

The afternoon was just as silent and painful as the morning, but back at the cabin after supper, Lukas let Stefan take him by the hand, pull him out under the stars.

It was like old times after that. Until Jules came.

#

We were horsing around when we took that picture, playing with the self timer on the camera. It was our last day at the cabin and spirits were high. Jules had shut himself inside with his endless paperwork. We didn’t expect to see him until supper.

We must have disturbed him.

It started as a shove, playful, because Lukas was so poised in front of the camera. So perfect. So beautiful. Stefan gazed at him and smiled the smile that lit up his face. The shove turned into a caress, fingers teasing in the fine hairs on the back of Lukas’ neck.

Jules could see what the camera couldn’t. Jules could see the look in Stefan’s eyes. There was no lie that would convince him.

End

Author’s Note:

I wrote this for the Geist Postcard Story Competition, which involves writing a 500-word story that is tied to a single image. I found this picture on the Wikimedia Commons, saw the German names and the caption date of 1938, and… well. (I make no inferences about the lives or sexualities of the people in the picture – the story is entirely fictional.) I found out two days ago that I didn’t win the competition, but I’m still very pleased with how the story turned out, so I decided to share it here.

Daily Science Fiction

I want to share a short story that I loved.

A friend of mine introduced me to Daily Science Fiction not long ago. It’s a mailing list (they also have a website) that will deliver a new science fiction story to your inbox every day. I fell in love with the concept, even though I quickly fell way behind in reading the stories. I do enjoy having them in my inbox, and will often dip in to read one or two on my lunch break – on days when I get a lunch break. (Work is still a little nuts.)

The other day I read a story that completely charmed me. I loved the characters and the tone and the language. There was a hint of mystery and a feeling of quiet melancholy. I have a huge love for post-apocalyptic stories, but this one was unlike any other I’ve read so far. It’s my favourite of the stories I’ve received in my inbox, so I thought I’d share it.

The Astrologer’s Telling is by Therese Arkenberg (who blogs at ThereseArkenberg.blogspot.com).

Why I’m not writing a novel

Chuck Wendig recently wrote a post entitled “Ten Things I’d Like to Say to Young Writers“, and his tenth point in that essay was, basically, finish what you start.

I’ve been writing since I was thirteen years old, but I never finished anything. I wrote pages and pages of text, but no complete stories. I managed to convince myself along the way that I was unable to create plots for stories, that my brain was linear and just didn’t function in the necessary way.

As a result, my ability to create readable prose grew steadily, but my ability to write a story remained weak and stunted.

On the plus side, however, I now understand that the problem isn’t that I am physically unable to do it, it’s that I never learned how. And that is a problem I can work with.

So I’ve been spending a lot of time in the last months lurking on writing blogs. One of them belongs to the aforementioned Chuck Wendig, a published author of books, comic books and video games, and the other belongs to Jodie Llewellyn, who is an aspiring writer like myself. Both blogs discuss the craft of writing in some detail, from differing points of view.

On both sites, there has been a recent post that brought writers, aspiring and not, out of the woodwork in droves to discuss the current state of their own writings. And it seems like everyone and their cousin is smack in the middle of writing a full-length book.

I kind of feel left out in discussions like that. As though the novel is a rite of passage all writers must experience. And I know that it’s something I will want to tackle eventually. But at the moment, I’m not ready.

I’m still slogging my way up the learning curve, and short stories are my mile markers at the moment. In the last month or so, I’ve finished two short fiction stories. That’s a big accomplishment in my world. I got to feel that success, and take encouragement from it.

And short stories allow me to go through the cycle of plotting and writing on a much quicker time frame. It gives me the practice that I need in terms of the nuts and bolts of storytelling.

The fact that all these very logical points also cater to my absolute phobia of commitment is a complete coincidence…

 

Doing the To Dos

This has been a getting-stuff-done kind of week.

I finished and submitted a story I wrote specifically for one magazine. They had a call out on a topic that said a lot to me. I started months ago, but it got a bit lost while I tried to beat my fiction piece into shape. The deadline was January 31st, so I made the push to get it done. I cut about 700 words going into the last draft, and it really did make the piece stronger. I submitted it earlier this week.

Today I’m sending out an older story to try and find it a new home. I got the last rejection letter for this one more than two months ago, now, but never actually sat down to revise it and find it somewhere else to go. I finally made the changes I had in mind, and I’m quite pleased with them. It’s all printed up now, and I will mail it on the way to my writing group later this evening.

Next up on the horizon is the 10th Annual Literal Literary Postcard Story Contest. A friend of mine from my writers’ group sent through the link, and we’ve decided that everyone in the group is going to write an entry and we’ll look at them at our next meeting, which is right before the deadline (Feb 1st, in case you’re interested). I moped around for two days, convinced I’d never come up with an interesting idea, wallowing in defeatist thoughts. And then I sat down and wrote a whole draft of the story in one night. I spent some time in the Wikimedia Commons, and one of the images jumped out at me. The story came from there.

I’m also debating submitting something to this: http://michaelmatheson.wordpress.com/start-a-revolution/ I’m not really a revolutionary kind of girl, so I did the same defeatist do-see-do in my head for this one, but I’ve come up with at least half of an idea. I’m having trouble forcing myself to sit down and actually start it, but I’m hoping that completing the Postcard story might boost my confidence. The deadline on this one is March 31st, which is a reasonable amount of time. I’ll see how things go.

It’s a new dawn, a new day…

I don’t do new year’s resolutions. I’m still me, even when the calendar ticks over. It doesn’t seem worth starting out a new year by setting myself up to fail. Instead, I decided to spend new year’s day actually doing the things that I want to continue doing through the year. Starting off as I mean to go on.

So instead of putting the TV on, I picked up a book. And I spent a chunk of the afternoon writing as well. Step one.

I completely failed to accomplish my own little NaNoWriMo. I had set myself the goal of finishing a draft of my current fictional short story (novella?) by the end of November. I ended up stuck in the same scene for nearly two months. I have rewritten it countless times and it’s still not right. I have, I think, finally isolated why. I’ve been trying to push forward and get to the end, create a draft that I can then fix. But in not addressing some of the problems early in the story, I have created a house with a shoddy foundation, and when I hit this particular scene the whole wall fell down.

Yesterday I sat down and began to address the problems at the beginning of the story. We’ll see how I go from here.

I also wrote a new draft of a piece of creative non-fiction I’ve been working on. It was designed for a particular lit magazine and the deadline is January 31st. I workshopped it with my writers’ group this evening, and I think it’s pretty close to being done. I’ll do some final tweaking and hopefully send it out in the next week or so.

So the new year is going well so far. Step by step.