fiction short stories spec fic work in progress

stocktaking, early spring


Winter 2010-2011 was not enormously successful in terms of getting things done. Well, I made a lot of books for other people and one for myself. But not a great deal of consummated writing. Stories I worked on, ought to have finished, but did not:

“Liam and the Changelings”—the fourth Liam story, following “Liam and the Wild Fairy” (published in Icarus #5, Summer 2010); “…and the Ordinary Boy”; “…and His Dads.” There should be seven of them eventually, with “Changelings” to be followed by “…and the Coward,” “…and the Pornographer,” and “Liam Discovers Fairyland.” 200 words of the most recent attempt to figure out what the story means to do.

“The Discovery of Vinhático”—a tale of an American tourist visiting an isolated island in the Atlantic (based on Madeira) and his encounter with its fourteenth-century Scots discoverer. I’ve been trying to get this one to work since September 2009. 5,000 words in the current, seventh attempt.

“A Prince of Antrazza”—novelette or novella of planetary romance in the mode of ER Burroughs’s Barsoom stories. Intended for a market that may not in fact exist. Must check. 5,000 words.

“Handless. Heartless.”—longish urban fantasy of an apprentice wizard, his witch mother, and a lost boy. Loosely based on several variants of the fairy tale “The Girl without Hands” and riffing on motifs from John Masefield’s The Midnight Folk and The Box of Delights. 8,400 words.

“Seb and Duncan and the Sirens”—what it says on the tin: a story about Homer’s sirens on a contemporary Greek island, involving an American nerd college student and his jock best friend. Meant for a forthcoming anthology of fantasy stories about uncanny inhabitants of the sea … except, of course, classical sirens weren’t aquatic. So that’s one problem, of several. 6,000 words.

“The Lagoon of DEATH” (working title, obvs)—a different stab at a sea story for the above anthology. Polynesian (not really) rite-of-passage story: a youth deliberately stranded on a desert island discovers something in the lagoon. Barely commenced: 700 words.

“Stealth vs The Anger”—response to an invitation to submit to a forthcoming anthology of stories about queer costumed supervillains. Sadly or otherwise, this will probably continue to go nowhere. I was never a superhero/comic-book nerd and suspect it’s too late to become fatally interested in the genre. Stalled at pretty much the same 600 words since this time last year.

“Davio under the Hill”—meant to be a highly erotic, highly stylized story of a spear carrier from the Orlando furioso who wanders into Aubrey Beardsley’s take on the legend of Venus and Tannhäuser. I had a market in mind for this one, too, but the deadline swift approaches and I expect the story would too literary for the audience anyway. Only way to make it more obscure would be to write it in ottava rima. Which I might just do! 500 words.

“The Box of Delights”—meant to be my first stab at steampunk, a genre I fail to understand. Possibly why it refuses to go anywhere? 250 words.

“Black Dog of the East”—another attempt to jump on a popular bandwagon: an urban fantasy about a werebeast. The anthology I planned to submit it to closed in November, I think. Oh well. 200 words.

Story completed, submitted, sold:

“Captain of the World”—forthcoming in Speaking Out, edited by Steve Berman (Bold Strokes Books/Soliloquy, Fall 2011). Contemporary non-fantastical story of a gay Turkish-American soccer goalkeeper. So that was satisfying. Except a few days after selling the 7,000-word story I got this notion of expanding it into a 60,000-word YA novel. And that’s not going so well.

Completed stories out on submission:

“Then We Went There”—5,500 words. Starts out as a high-school-bullying story, turns into something stranger. I love this story (partly because it was the first thing I finished after The New People and the first completed short story in ten years), but sympathetic early readers have been baffled and editorial response—when not boilerplate sorry can’t use it—has crucially misunderstood what I was trying to do: those aren’t bugs, they’re features. Or I’m deluded. Can eleven markets (so far) be wrong? Yes. Yes, dammit, they can.

“Tattooed Love Boys”—10,000 words. Fantastical adventures of two young American siblings in the contemporary hinterland of Charlotte Brontë’s Labassecour. I’m not the only one who loves this one: early reader Steve Berman wants to have written it himself. Unfortunately, the markets that seemed appropriate have been cursed (two of them died, though one was resurrected) and/or VERY SLOW. The third has had it for going on six months and I don’t realistically expect a decision anytime soon. Augh.

“Like Spinning Stars, Like Flowers”—7,000 words. A finalist, but not winner or runner up, in the 2011 Saints and Sinners Literary Festival Short Fiction Contest. It remains unclear whether my story will be included in the May 2011 anthology from the Queer Mojo imprint of Rebel Satori Press. The festival’s dogged failure to communicate frustrates me a good deal. All my info comes from press releases.

“Liam and the Ordinary Boy” and “Liam and His Dads”—4,500 and 6,000 words, respectively. Not a lot of hope for these, frankly. Instalments in an on-going series, don’t really stand up individually. Lethe Press wants to follow up The Abode of Bliss with a collection of fantastical stories, in 2012 maybe; my intention is to include the entire Liam saga. If I ever finish it.

“The Conjuror of Irem”—7,000 words. Bronze-age Crete. Cthulhu Mythos. S&M. Not a horror story and the Lovecraftian motifs possibly too subtly deployed. I’m always making things difficult for myself. Seventh rejection should arrive any day now. Bar “Captain of the World,” the last thing I finished: in August.

Overall (sing it together): Disappointing. But … but … BUT:

An unexpected thing about The Unexpected Thing, my enormous work in progress, turned out to be that I was incapable of working on it during autumn and winter. It happened in 2009, four months after I started: stalled out sometime in October. And again in 2010: nothing after September. It’s a summer-vacation story, maybe that’s why. I am morbidly affected by climate.

Although the first two weeks of spring in Rhode Island have not been especially springlike—wretchedly chilly with intervals of rain, sleet, and snow (snowing right now!)—it appears just crossing the vernal equinox may have been sufficient to convince my hindbrain. Three chapters drafted in seven days. Seven to go, if I manage to stick to the plan. A reread of the first fifty chapters made me cry four times. No, not from disgust or despair.

Then the miserable prospect of hacking out 30,000 or more words to get it down to reasonable size, running it past early readers, and the still more miserable prospect of putting together a pitch package and, you know, finding a publisher.

The writer’s life, it is blissful.

2 replies on “stocktaking, early spring”

Blissful is not the word I most often use regarding the writer’s life 🙂

Still, look at all you’ve done! I wouldn’t say it’s disappointing at all. Like an ocean, our writing lives have ups and downs, storms and peaceful days, eddies and something that are not eddies. The only way to fail is to not write at all.

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