writing

Yes, even more Scifi/Fantasy Very Short Stories!

Yes, I wrote even more science fiction and fantasy Very Short Stories! These appeared on Twitter on the hashtags #scififri, #satsplat, and #vss365! I hope you enjoy them!

  1. "WILLOW! Bring me that antidote!" His slave stumbled into the room, tripping over her feet. He poked her with his cane.

    "Hurry!" Her hands shook as she poured a drink into his mouth. He cursed.

    "Wrong one, stupid girl!" He fell, his mouth foaming.

    Willow smiled.

  2. Water poured out of the sea caves and frothed at the bottom of the cavern, tearing at the rock with hungry force.

    "They call this place Charybdis," he said. "If someone fell down there, they'd be torn to pieces."

    Was that what had happened to her sister? she thought.

  3. She dropped her eyes and blushed, looking pretty and demure. It gave her the opportunity to give surreptitious glance at their guests' weapons. The milk-faced boy carried a fine sword, Damascus steel. His fingers drifted to the hilt like he knew how to use it.

  4. The cauldron boiled and seethed. Frothy black effervescence floated to the top. She sprinkled a couple of milky eyes into the brew. At last, when the smell burnt her nostrils, she poured him a tumbler full.

    "There," she said. "The strongest hangover cure I can make."

  5. The delicate butterflies flit over the surface of the lake, their wings silver and blue in the moonlight. They float around the waterfall and vanish in the mist.

    "Where do they go?" I whisper.

    "No one knows," Gran says. "But mayhap the fairies."

Guest Post and Review of Sapience

I’m happy to say that Sapience got another lovely review, this time on Killian Wolf’s blog!

I gotta say, WOW! Thanks to Alexis Lantgen this will not be the last science fiction I pick up. I really enjoyed reading these. 

Check out the rest of the review on KillianWolf.com!

I also have a guest post on Mrs. Average Evaluates on being a mother and a writer, so check it out!

Becoming a mother is a beautiful but difficult transition. You’re so exhausted, so overwhelmed, that it’s hard to find the mental energy for the complex thinking required to write well.

I’m happy to write more guest post for other blogs or website, so if you’re interested in having me write for you, use the contact form below!

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Short Stories: Why I Write Them

Over the last few years, I’ve written tons of short stories! I started writing them soon after I had my first child. As a new mother, I found it difficult to get the focused, sustained time and attention I needed to write a full length novel, so instead I started writing something short. I ended up really liking short stories, both to read and to write, because they can pack such an emotional punch in such a quick period of time.

Short stories are also good way for writers to explore different genres or writing styles without committing to an intense project. If you normally write serious, dramatic novels, you could try writing something light-hearted or funny in a short story. I've written short stories about minor characters or aspects of a world I might later use in a novel. That allows me to flesh out these side characters and give them more depth, and it can help with world-building.

It can be tricky with science fiction or fantasy stories because often the worlds we create in speculative fiction are unique to our imaginations. This is why many fantasy writers spend so much time "world-building," or writing about the setting of their stories or novels. For short stories, our world-building needs to be economized as much as possible. We need to suggest the nature of our world in a few words, or else our "short story" quickly swells into a novel with a limited, short-story plot. I handle this by trying to keep the world entirely within one character's perspective. If that character knows little about the nature of magic or a scientific discovery, then I don't give the reader an explanation either. It's often more dramatic and emotional if characters don't completely understand what's happening to them, or how things work. Life is often bewildering.

While writing short stories is a fun challenge, reading them wonderful too! I love many short stories by writers such as Connie Willis and Neil Gaiman. I also like reading multi-author anthologies such as Black Swan, White Raven, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, or the Nebula Awards Showcase books, which have some really excellent science fiction. Books like these can also help you find new authors whose writing and story telling you admire.

Of course, if you enjoy short stories, I hope you’ll read my book, Sapience, as well!

Seven More Very Short Stories

I’ve mentioned my very short stories earlier, which I’ve been posting on Twitter, usually under the hashtag #vss365. Here are a few more I wrote, including a couple of my favorites I’ve done so far. A couple of them are related and form a somewhat connected story!

1.There are caution tapes draped around the playground, and a quick outline scrawled in white chalk. A very small outline.

2."Mama?" says a voice that melts my heart. He's less than two years old, sweet-faced and baby soft. I pick him up and cuddle him, pressing my cheek to his.

"Not Mama!" He struggles against me, straining away. I keep holding him tight. He'll learn soon enough.

3.She swims along the reef, allowing the detritus of human occupation to collect in her yawning maw. Her scrubbers sifted plastics, cans, even harmful chemicals from the water, leaving it clean and pure. At least until the next holiday.

4. She dusted the keyhole for fingerprints, carefully collecting the smeared marks and recording them in her log. Only then did she unlock the door. The inside of his shed was spotless, and smelled of bleach. There was a rusted chain bolted to the floor.

5.The glass was shattered and the wood so splintered it took her a second to realize she held the remains of a picture frame.

"Who is this?" she asked. A gentle faced woman smiled at her through torn paper.

"His mother. She's dead. Suicide," the officer said.

6. The blue-green ink shimmered on her tentacles, the pattern of dots indicating her lineage and the proximity of her estrus cycle. One of the males danced above her, his red dot pulsating to show his interest. She floated up to join his dance.

7. Kerta turned off the propeller of her submersible, letting it float along in the currents above the sea vents. Above her, the amorphous shapes of the Europan jelly-flowers began their swirling mating dance, the epitome of grace.

Five of My Favorite Podcasts

1. Aria Code

This is a fairly new podcast from the Metropolitan Opera, that I love. For musicians or other lovers of classical music, this one is a must—it features incredible performances of some of opera’s most compelling arias. But even if you aren’t a fan of opera or classical music (and you might change your mind about that if you start listening to this podcast), this podcast is worth listening to for its thoughtful exploration of character. For people interested in writing or theater, this podcast offers in depth analysis and discussion of some of opera’s most poignant scenes and fascinating characters. The host, Rhiannon Giddens, discusses how composers express a character’s complex emotions using music, drawing on that character’s place in literature. The guest musicians on the show impart their understandings of the role the characters play in the opera and how their own experiences inform their interpretations and performances of that character. What’s more, every episode is entertaining and beautifully produced as well as informative.

2. Podcastle

I got a subscription to Podcastle after I started writing more fantasy short stories. I think that writers should be readers, but it’s hard to always find the time or the energy to read after a long day of work and babies. But I’ve found that scifi/fantasy podcasts can really fill the gap. I like to listen to them during my commute, which is nice because the stories are well timed for my drive. Not every story is a hit for me, but the ones that are, including "Opals and Clay" by Nino Cipri, "Hands of Burnished Bronze" by Rebecca Schwartz, and "Beat Softly My Wings of Steel" by Beth Cato, have knocked it out of the park. These are great stories--the worlds and characters the writers create are unique and original, yet so real it feels you could visit them in real life. The narrators are expressive without overwhelming the text. I'd recommend Podcastle to anyone who enjoys fantasy or listening to stories--it's perfect for a daily commute. 

3. The History Chicks

My friend Sarah Mensinga recommended this podcast to me when I was looking for something new to listen too, and once I started listening I was completely hooked. The History Chicks quickly became one of my favorite podcasts. Basically, it’s two women, Beckett and Susan, who discuss important women in history in a fun, conversational, but highly informative way. If you’re interested history, this show is well-researched and thoughtful, and I think they do a great job of understanding the women’s perspectives and the time periods that they lived in. Also, if you’re interested in writing, they even cover several famous female authors, including Louisa May Alcott and Lucy Maud Montgomery.

4. Escape Pod

I got a subscription to Escape Pod for the same reasons I started listening to Podcastle, at the same time. Of course, Escape Pod and Podcastle are own by the same company, but while Podcastle is dedicated to fantasy, Escape Pod is for science fiction (Pseudopod is their horror podcast, which I also like, but I'm afraid it might be too scary for me:). Escape Pod was the first podcast I ever listened to--I decided to give it a try since I hadn't picked a new book on Audible yet. I haven't heard as many Escape Pod stories as I have Podcastle stories, but the ones I have listened to are very good. I especially loved "Among the Living," by John Markley, a haunting tale about a futuristic firefighter in the aftermath of a terrible disaster, beautiful and heart-rending. It's well worth checking out for fans of scifi.

5. Pod Save the World

I know this show might be controversial because it’s political, but I honestly think that Tommy Vietor and his guests do an excellent job of breaking down extremely complex foreign policy issues and explaining them in an understandable way. If you ever wonder why Vladmir Putin is so determined to undermine the United States or what Kim Jung Un is looking for in his negotiations with us, I’d highly recommend this show. Vietor is passionate, thoughtful, and well-informed, and he has some pretty incredible guests. What’s more, for a show that discusses such dire issues, it always comes across as surprisingly hopeful.

Photo by Juja Han on Unsplash

Three Nonfiction Books Fantasy Writers Should Read

  1. The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England

I love reading about Medieval history, so when I found this book on audible, I was very interested. The book isn't a novel, so much as a popular history based on what it would be like to travel through England between the years of 1300 and 1400 AD. What would you see, smell, and hear? Who would you meet? What would it be like to live there? It's a fascinating concept, one that treats the past more like a living, breathing place than a remote, long dead era.

The author, Ian Mortimer, makes some starling observations. For example, how young everyone is. Because so many people don't live to old age, nearly everyone is under the age of twenty five. At 16, a boy is considered a grown man, one who can lead troops into battle or become a king in his own right. The youthful society goes a long way towards explaining the lack of education and the sometimes fanciful beliefs many people have. Likewise, the catastrophic effects of the Black Death are hard for modern people to comprehend. By the end of the 14th century, England has half the population it had in the beginning. The population didn't recover until the 1600s. Entire villages would be wiped out, so that walking around the countryside might be like being the survivor of a zombie apocalypse (especially since contracting the plague likely meant certain death).


The author also rightly points out that while they may not have bathed as often as modern people, people in the 14th century made an effort to keep clean, despite our beliefs to the contrary. Cleanliness was a sign of good manners, and so prized that people in particularly filthy occupations bathed every day, and soap was a valued commodity. Almost everyone would have washed their faces and hands every morning, and manners required you to wash your hands before every meal. It's true they might not have been clean by modern standards, that doesn't mean they didn't value cleanliness and try to achieve it.

While this book does have a few slow chapters--I found the section on money a bit tedious--overall, it was a fascinating exploration about what it was like to live in a different time. As a writer, I found it an invaluable resource. It gave me great ideas for stories and intriguing details for Medieval settings. I'd recommend it to fantasy/historical fiction writers, as well as anyone interested in Medieval history.

2. The Plantagenets by Dan Jones


I love reading history, and The Plantagenets covers a particularly fascinating and eventful era in English history. It opens with the tragedy of the White Ship, a pivotal moment when the heir to the throne, only legitimate son of Henry I, died in a shipwreck. Without a male heir, Henry I decides to leave the throne to his only remaining legitimate child, the Empress Matilda. From Matilda's line came some of England's best and worst kings (and queens). Kings like Henry II or Edward III are remembered as powerful rulers who dominated their enemies and expanded their territories and influence. Yet, the Plantagenet kings like Edward II, John Lackland (the notorious Prince John of the Robin Hood legends), and Richard II endangered the monarchy and the country with their incompetence, arrogance, and savagery. Their stories are exciting to listen to, and give the listener a great insight into the Medieval world. Although it's a history book, it's almost as exciting as Game of Thrones. All in all, The Plantagenets is an excellent book, and I'd recommend it to anyone interested in history, or any fans of Medieval fantasy.

3. Mindset by Carol Dweck

I've been fascinated by Carol Dweck's research into the psychology of success since I first read about her work in NurtureShock. It reinforced some of what I'd read about in Alfie Kohn's Punished by Rewards, another excellent book that challenges plenty of received wisdom on using praise to control children's behavior. Still I had yet to read Dweck's magnum opus Mindset, so on a trip to the library I decided to reserve a copy. It's been such an amazing and helpful book, I intend to buy a copy to keep around when I have to return it to the library. While I'd previously though of Dweck's research as primarily relating to teaching and parenting, this book goes much deeper into how our mindset effects our relationships, our careers, and our ability to lead a fulfilling life. 

After reading Dweck's book, I started thinking about how our mindset effects writers. Writing carries with it an enormous amount of rejection and criticism, and requires an intense, sustained effort for any amount of success. How many people want to write a novel but never finish even a rough draft? Or more likely, how many have a good story idea but never sit down to write it at all? So what does it take to withstand all this adversity and keep writing? A "growth" mindset.

In her book, Dweck shows that some people embrace challenges as learning opportunities. They see failure and rejection as valuable lessons, and learn to accept feedback without allowing the criticism to sap their self-worth. These people have a growth mindset--they believe they can grow their talents and improve themselves with plenty of hard work and effort. Other people have a fixed mindset--they believe that success is dependent on talent and luck alone. They're reluctant to take risks and hate failure, because it's a sign that they're not talented enough to be successful. The fixed mindset discourages effort, because if you have enough talent, everything should be easy for you. 

It's easy to slip into a fixed mindset when you've gotten another rejection. It's easy to say, "I'm not good enough, I might as well give up." But it's so much more satisfying and exciting to say, I'll try again. I'll write more stories. I'll write another novel. I'll listen to feedback from my writing group, my beta readers, and anyone else who'll give it to me. I've gotten helpful feedback from editors who rejected me, and I'm so glad they took the time to send more than a form letter. A growth mindset encourages me to take risks with my writing. I'll try a different genre, or try writing short stories in addition to working on a novel, or query for non-fiction articles. Quitting guarantees failure, but if we keep going, if we work hard enough, we just might make it.