Five More Very Short Stories

Here are five more of my very short stories! I originally posted them to #vss365 on Twitter.

  1. The snake curls around her arm, an old friend. Jen strokes its smooth scales, green and red. She has long been immune to her companion's venom, but it could stop the heart of an assassin in seconds. One reason why she has survived so many attempts on her life.

  2. It was a pity to destroy such beauty. He brushed a curl of rosewood off his scraper. He could understand why the new queen wished to replace the veneers of the old queen with her own coat of arms. By why did she demand he destroy the little princess's arms as well?

  3. A few extra pills, and she can float in the dreamless void. The voices don't bother her here, and she can't feel the pain anymore. Sometimes she wants to stay forever, but people need her. She just wishes she didn't have to listen to them screaming in her head.

  4. Floating the frozen sea is not like drifting in a void, as many people think. Bio-luminescent corals light up the deep sea vents while jelly-flowers and tube-sharks churn the cold waters of the upper layers. They ignore her submersible if she stops the propulsion.

  5. "My family starved to death, and you didn't care about them. Do you expect me to cry over one rich brat?" Spit flew from his mouth as the rope tightened on his neck. "You call me a villain? To you, that's just another peasant!" The rope jerked, and his feet dangled.

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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Review: Sister Emily's Lightship by Jane Yolen

Since I’ve been writing short stories, I thought I’d mention some more short story collections that I’ve read by other authors!

I first discovered Jane Yolen through her children's books, the adorable "How Does a Dinosaur?" books. I checked them out of the library to read to my little girl, and we ended up buying How Do Dinosaurs Clean Their Room?. These are lovely books for toddlers and young children--good messages delivered in a charming and imaginative way. However, on a later library trip, I discovered Sister Emily’s Lightship, and realized the author of some of my daughter's favorite books was also an award winning science fiction and fantasy writer for adults! I had to check the book out.

This book has twenty eight short stories, each one unique. In fact, it's hard to sum up Yolen's work, since the stories are so diverse in tone. Yet each one was interesting in its own right. I loved the lyricism of stories like "Become a Warrior" or "The Traveler and the Tale," as well as the cheeky impertinence of "Lost Girls." Yolen has a particular gift for re-telling fairy tales in a fresh, often startling way. "Granny Rumple" is penetrating examination of the Rumpelstiltskin story, one that reveals the original's unsavory origins. Likewise, "Allereirauh" and "Godmother Death" are haunting versions of folk tales and the bitter truths they hide. "Allereirauh" deals with the tragedy of incest and child abuse, and the horrid cycle it produces in one generation after another. Yolen also has several very funny stories, including a hilarious critique of Romeo and Juliet in "Dusty Loves" and the raunchy but enjoyable "Dick W. and his Pussy; or, Tess and her Adequate Dick."


Out of so many vastly different stories, I found it hard to pick my favorites, but if I had to, I'd say either "Sister Death" or "The Memoirs  of a Bottle Djinn." "Sister Death" is a dark tale about Lillith, yet the twist at the end, especially with its uncertain hope of redemption, makes it a powerful tale. I enjoyed "The Memoirs of a Bottle Djinn" because it was so evocative of the glories and joys of life, and the way that asceticism and religious fundamentalism rob life of its meaning. But the best part of the story was its wise protagonist, who recognizes that all the pleasures in the world are meaningless without love and companionship.

I'd recommend this book to anyone who loves science fiction and fantasy. And I'd also recommend Yolen's children's books to parents everywhere!

Review: Black Swan, White Raven

Black Swan, White Raven is a collection of fairy tales retold by modern fantasy writers. The stories are alternately dazzling, psychological, dark, and powerful. While a few fell flat, several stood out as brilliant re-imaginings of familiar stories.

In particular, I enjoyed Anne Bishop's retelling of Rapunzel, where the heroine learns true wisdom from her suffering. Don Webb's Three Dwarves and 2,000 Maniacs had an energetic and compelling voice, and captured the madcap insanity of magic run amok. Pat Murphy's The True Story turns the story of Snow White completely on its head, and raises some hard questions about why stepmothers are so reviled in stories, while fathers are excused. Likewise, Karen Fowler's The Black Fairy's Curse plays with our expectations about what makes a truly happy ending and a healthy relationship. Yet, perhaps the most eerie and unique story is Bruce Glassco's True Thomas, which seamlessly blends science fiction and fantasy into one of the most compelling versions of faeries I've ever read. This book is worth reading for that story alone.

A few of the stories were disappointing. I didn't care for The Flounder's Kiss--the main character seems likeable enough until the end of the story, when he becomes completely monstrous. It felt like an out of character transformation, and made the story feel uncomfortable and misogynistic. I also didn't care for the The Breadcrumb Trail, a poem included in the stories. It just didn't seem to work for me--it seemed to obvious.
Overall, I'd highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys fairytales, fantasy, or even science fiction. The stories are so diverse that each one feels new and exciting, even when they're retelling familiar stories. It's fascinating to read so many entirely new perspectives on fairy tales.

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.

Review and Fantasy Sci-Fi Reader's Lounge Takeover

I’m excited that Sapience has received some excellent reviews on Goodreads and on Blogs! In particular, my friend Gerardo Delgadillo wrote a wonderful review on his blog! Here’s a quote:

SAPIENCE is one the best science fiction anthologies I’ve come across in a long, long time, so long I think I need to go back to Ray Bradbury’s short fiction. I found myself immersed in these hard science fiction stories–the worlds, beings, characters, and the strangeness of it all.

You can find the rest of the review here or on Goodreads.

In addition to my review on Gerardo’s blog, I’m also excited that I’ll be taking over the Fantasy and Sci-Fi Reader’s Lounge on Facebook on Wednesday, April 10, 2019 at 8pm-9pm. That evening is a celebration of short stories, so I’ll post and reply to readers about short stories and what makes them great!

Seven of My Very Short Stories

There are many ways to spend time on social media, and I’m afraid I’ve become a bit addicted to them! I’m trying, however, to at least limit myself to being creative when I’m social media, especially Twitter. So instead of just mindless skimming, I’ve been writing very short stories. These are found on a couple of hashtags: #vss, #vss365, #satsplat, and a couple of others. I’ve been very happy with how some of these tiny stories turned out, and I think overall writing them has been a great writing exercise. Here are seven I’ve written recently!

1. I knew I was in trouble when I saw the broken vase.

"I'm sorry, mama, please don't be angry!"

She looks right through me, shoulders slumped and eyes glazed. She glances at the broken glass on the floor and shuffles back upstairs. I clean up the mess in silence.

2. She pressed a trembling palm to the scanner, hoping the extensive modification she'd endured would be enough to get her passed the security.

"Verified," chirped a robotic voice. The door slid open. The room had three terminals and shelves of samples.

3. Her heart ached as though it had been wrapped in thorns.

"I made it just for you," she said, clutching the soft cotton to her chest. She'd stitched her granddaughter's name in the center.

"It's stupid. I told you I wanted a new phone."

"I'm sorry."

4. When I bought the robe, it was thick and lush, softness you could bury your hands in and wrap around you when you needed comfort. Now it sagged around her shoulders, grey and faded, plush worn away. "What day is it?" she asks. "Who are you?"

5. "Who is it? Who could have known the invasion plans?"

"Their profile identifies them as s human claiming to have psychic powers."

"Nonsense. It must be a pseudonym. The humans we've tested have shown no psychic or clairvoyant resonances. We must have a traitor."

6. There. Aren't you so pretty? Mr. Levine is going to love you! Just be nice and sweet, and he'll make our career. Your career, I mean. And remember to smile!

7. She peered into the microscope. The synthetic molecules seemed to destroy the virus, but they also surrounded the host cell's DNA. Would the treatment inhibit cell function and kill the patients she wanted to save? Did she has time to find out?

Ian Mortimer: One of My Favorite History Writers

In an earlier post, I wrote about how much I enjoy listening to history on audible or reading it. I think it’s very useful research for fantasy writers, and the stories in history are so fascinating! One of my favorite history writers right now is Ian Mortimer, who wrote “The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England,” and many other great books. I already discussed the “Guide to Medieval England” in my previous post, but I’ve read or listened to many other excellent books by Mortimer. Here are a few I’ve enjoyed:

Edward III: The Perfect King

So my poor friends have had to listen to me nerd out about this book too much, so I should probably write about it! It’s an incredible look at one of the most successful, beloved, and glorious of England’s Medieval Kings. Yet his reign had one of the most inauspicious beginnings any King could have—his father was deposed by his mother’s lover, Roger Mortimer, when he was still underage. He quickly fell under Mortimer’s control, and had to survive some very real threats to his life and his crown. But in a dramatic turn around, Edward and his trusted companions made a bold move to sneak into Mortimer’s castle to capture and overthrow him. And that’s just the beginning of a very intense and dramatic reign, but one that also reflects the most exciting and romantic parts of the Middle Ages—jousting, poetry (Geoffrey Chaucer was a member of his court), feasts, and chivalry. He survived the Black Death and established the Order of the Garter. The book is an incredible story of the most pivotal man of the age, and I’d recommend it to anyone interested in Medieval history.

Henry IV: The Righteous King

This is a follow up book to Edward III: The Perfect King. Henry IV, like his cousin Richard II, was a grandson of Edward III. What I love about this book is how Mortimer manages to use the scant historical detail to create a living portrait of a man in a very difficult, unforgiving position. The reader feels the very real fear and dangers Henry IV faced, and the remarkable way he adapts to his circumstances and tries to find the right thing to do. Mortimer portrays a gallant and glorious man, a champion of the joust, who also has a deep love of books and music. Despite his reputation as a usurper, Henry IV showed remarkable patience and restraint towards Richard II, who several times threatens to murder Henry’s father, John of Gaunt. It’s a fascinating depiction of a king rarely discussed in English history.

The Time Traveler’s Guide to Elizabethan England

I loved The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England, so I was excited to read Mortimer’s follow up, the Time Traveler’s Guide to Elizabethan England. I loved this book as much as the first one! It’s full of colorful and interesting depictions of Elizabethan life. It’s also an evocative portrait of Queen Elizabeth I herself, and how her own personal religious and cultural preferences fundamentally shaped both the age that bears her name and the history of England (and in particular the Church of England). If you have any interest in learning about real Elizabethan life, I’d highly recommend it.

Exciting News: ArlingCon, Interviews, and More

ArlingCon 2019

I’m excited to announce that in addition to Dallas Fan Expo, I’ll also be having a table at the Arlington Public Library’s ArlingCon on June 15, 2019, from 10am to 6pm. The event is free and open to the public! I’ll be signing and selling books, and I’d be happy to meet any readers and fellow science fiction fans in Arlington, TX.

Interviews

I’m also happy to share that I had an Author Spotlight Interview on Timothy Bateson’s blog, which you can read here. In addition to being a book blogger and a writer, Timothy is also one of the brains behind OWS CyCon and the Fantasy and Science Fiction Reader’s Lounge on Facebook.

I also did a recent interview with book blogger Fiona Mcvie. Check it out!

Guest Blog

Finally, I wrote a guest blog for book blogger Katrina Marie, on my favorite quotes. I love quotes, and when I saw that Karina had a post on her favorite ones, I thought I’d write about some of the quotes I love best (hint: one of them is a famous line from “Dune”).