News 08/03/2018

It’s been a busy week. Owing to a shocking confluence of free time and abundant energy, I’ve been writing much more than usual. I’ve even entered some contests, which I don’t often do because I never seem to win anything, but right now I’m feeling optimistic and the creative juices are flowing, so what the hell.

Here’s the week’s tally.

Rejections

None! Well, I didn’t get a grant at work, but in terms of creative writing, no rejections.

Publications

No stories, but my first ever visual submission “Marriage” came out in Riggwelter Issue 12. Check it out!

Acceptances 

My dark sci-fi drabble “Propolis” was accepted by Trembling with Fear.

A quirky story “The Girl in Jake’s Red Hoodie” was accepted for publication in Ghost Parachute. This is one of those rare, magical stories that seem to come out almost perfect in the first draft, title and all. It was accepted swiftly by the first market I’d sent it to.  (Another one of this enchanted ilk is “Her Hips Do Lie”,  which appeared in Jellyfish Review in March and is one of my favorites.)

Submissions

Wrote a new micro and entered the 53-word story competition (July theme: UFOs) in a fun three-way submission pact with two Twitter buddies.

Wrote and submitted a new drabble to 101 Fiction (September theme: werewolves and other werethings).

Wrote and submitted a new story to The Molotov CocktailFlash Beast” contest. It’s a strong piece; I’m quite proud of it and even if it doesn’t place in the comp, I’m pretty sure I will be able to publish it someplace great. I don’t know if other people who write speculative fiction have the same experience, but I feel that the veneer of implausibility characteristic of the genre acts as a protective buffer: it removes me from the raw and the deep and the uncomfortable just enough that I am able to tap into these feelings. I cannot do the same in the context of creative nonfiction or even realistic literary fiction, because I feel far too exposed and the defensive mechanisms kick in.

I submitted a gory  1,500-word horror/humor story. The combination of length (too long for flash; too short for many short-story zines) and genre (horror plus humor) made it it challenging to contemplate a possible home for this piece. I submitted it to a dream market of mine that likes quirky. (Must. Not. Jinx it.)

Entered To Hull and Back humorous short story competition. Aside from hosting the comp, Chris Fielden’s website is a goldmine of short-story resources.

Plans 

I have my eye on Drabbledark II (Aug 6-8), A Punk Rock Future (deadline Aug 15) , Robot Dinosaur (Aug 1-15), and Apparition Lit flash (Aug 1-15, theme: parasite). I know it’s unrealistic that I will enter them all because  I need to create new material for each, but I am pretty sure about Drabbledark II and one of the other three.

Gravy

My first ever author interview! It’s by Exoplanet Magazine, following the publication of “Cryobliss“.

News 07/25/2018

My micro “Looney” came out in 50-Word Stories. It’s guaranteed to brighten your day.

Two of my drabbles, “Ferryman” and “Diastanaut”, have been accepted for publication in the Chronos anthology by Shacklebound Books (editor Eric Fomley). I’m looking forward to its publication—it will feature some gorgeous cover art and the work of several fellow writers who are also Twitter friends!

I finished a gruesome yet funny short story that I’m quite proud of, and it’s been unleashed upon some unsuspecting slush readers. Mwahaha! Whenever I submit a newly minted piece, I marvel at how much better it is than anything I could have produced even just a few months ago.

Review: Tales from the Realm, Vol. 1

Aphotic Realm is an up-and-coming fiction magazine for the strange and the sinister, co-edited by Adrian Alexander Medina and Dustin Schyler Yoak. Tales from the Realm Vol. 1 is the “best of” collection for 2017, and it is simply excellent. Special kudos to Aphotic Realm‘s art director Gunnar Larsen, the creator of the anthology’s gorgeous cover, who consistently provides the magazine and the themed anthologies with eerie, breathtaking visuals.

The anthology offers something for every fan of dark fiction. There are mythical creatures, monsters, ghosts, and various undead; the kind of evil we cannot comprehend and the kind we can; bonds between people that transcend all obstacles and those that destroy us; foreign places, foreign worlds, and how oblivious we are to the perils; above all, the fragility, majesty, and darkness in us humans and in all we strive for.

Silencing the Bell by Gary Buller. Explores the consequences of inexcusable actions, guilt, and punishment.

Other Mother by Skye Makaris. A tale of a fairy who’s served royalty for generations, and the costs of those relationships to everyone involved. Beautiful and intricate.

Imagination by A. K. Summers. What happens when what’s inside our heads makes no sense to the rest of the world.

Rot Brothers by Simon McHardy. Relationships between siblings, mistakes, loss, and revenge.

The Trials of Man by Tevis Shkoora. A fantasy tale of a royal coming of age, and learning the hard way that the world is much bigger than himself.

The Wall’s End by Rudolfo Serna. The conditions on Earth have changed and so have humans, but will the modifications persist through generations?

The Forgotten House by S. J. Budd. Be careful what you wish for, because someone might acquire it for you. And not in the way you’ve envisioned.

Persistence of Memories by John Crain. A well-written sci-fi story of extraterrestrial exploration. It reminds us of that old saying that involves a feline and a thirst for knowledge…

Enid and the Owls by K.T. Wagner. A heartbreaking, dark tale of aging; how the world stops seeing that people matter in their twilight years.

The Yellow Door by Isha Ro. Precise and unflinching, a story of meaningless and perennial evil in our midst.

No Laughing Matter by Phil Temples. A detective story, with a hilarious, absurd premise that somehow, deep down, feels surprisingly…not absurd.

My Better Half by Mark Blickley. Funny and unapologetic, a tale of a self-absorbed man who has a lot to learn and a unique opportunity to do so, yet, being who he is, doesn’t.

Dinner Party by Ashley Libey. A tight sci-fi gem, with vivid characters and sharp glistening edges, literally and metaphorically.

Cajoled by Bronte Pearson. Even the seemingly safest places can be replete with danger when we’re vulnerable.

A Mother’s Love by Micah Castle. A beautifully crafted fantasy piece, revealing darkness within people and the protective power of love.

Provident Justice by Carrier Connel-Gripp. Teenagers, man; teenagers. Gripping, with a surprising and ultimately heartwarming resolution.

Number Seventeen by J. R. Heatherton. Gaslighting, ’tis all I will say. If you watch The Handmaid’s Tale, this story might give the same feeling in the pit of your stomach; it’s a mixture of incredulity, helplessness, and rage.

The Shape of Government Center by Gene Grantham. You know how parents ask, “If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you follow?” Now replace the bridge with the creepiest, spookiest building you know.

An Almost Cannibal by Morgan K. Tanner. A gentleman of good taste makes his fortune as a special kind of motivational speaker. This story features exquisitely vivid, stomach-churning imagery.

Black Lung Hay Fever by S. E. Casey. Set in a sleepy town, the story slithers, relentless, as if everything is business as usual. Terror emerges from the deceptive molasses of routine.

Truly, this is an excellent anthology. However, if you want to read just one story from it, I recommend Other Mother; I believe it is also the longest piece in there. I remember Other Mother from months ago, when I first came across Apothic Realm‘s website. The story blew my mind: gorgeous but unassuming prose, a number of well-crafted characters, relationships that feel organic even though the characters aren’t all human, and a fairly (pun intended) complex plot with several surprises. This story has a lot of heart but tries to keep a stiff upper lip. Also, you are guaranteed to notice the opening sentence.

If you’d like a few shorter stories that span a wide range of topics — a taster flight, it you will — I recommend picking from among Enid and the Owls, Persistence of Memories, The Yellow Door, Dinner Party, A Mother’s Love, Provident Justice, and Black Lung Hay Fever.

Overall, a great collection. I look forward to the 2018 anthology and suggest keeping an eye on Aphotic Realm — I predict exciting times ahead for this splendid new magazine.

Review: Drabbledark — An Anthology of Dark Drabbles

Drabbledark, edited by Eric Fomley, is an anthology of 100-word-long stories (drabbles) that slither and slide along the darkest edges of fantasy, science fiction, realism, and humor.

As a supporter of a crowdfunding campaign for a different publication by the same editor, I received Drabbledark in three electronic formats (pdf, epub, and mobi). I looked at the epub and pdf versions in detail, and the formatting is excellent. I read the entire anthology on the phone (epub); the layout is clean and beautiful. I am sure reading on a Kindle or a nook would be just as enjoyable.

The collection contains 101 drabbles by 86 authors. Most stories are original submissions, the rest are high-quality reprints. If you’ve never read microfiction, be forewarned that reading 101 100-word pieces requires considerably more focus than reading 10,100 words of a longer piece. A drabble is the double-espresso shot to a short story’s or novella’s 20-oz filter coffee. A well-written drabble can deliver great emotional impact and demands great reader engagement, because every word matters. Luckily for us readers, Drabbledark contains many well-written drabbles.

The collection covers a remarkable range of topics: ghosts and apparitions, goblins, vampires, curses, the devil in its many forms, human sacrifices, body horror, cannibals, psychopaths and other murderers, entrapment, real monsters and monsters within us (especially within children), mirrors (a perennial motif in dark fiction), dystopia, artificial intelligence, politics, aliens, genetic engineering, space travel, addiction, suicide, child abuse, and, thankfully, some humor. Some of my favorites from the collection include Body Jewelry, Poor Nathan, The Lady on the Bus, Lesson Learned, Feralization,  Suicide Hotline, Enchanted Leftovers, Inspiration Point, Ghosts of the Past, Midnight Imposter, A Small Misunderstanding, What Alice Wants, but this list is far from exhaustive.

In summary, I greatly enjoyed reading Drabbledark. Owing to the breadth of topics and quality of stories, which were presented within an elegant,  reader-friendly layout, I would highly recommend Drabbledark as a quick introduction to the genre of dark fiction. However, beware: a likely side effect of reading this ambitious anthology of blood-curdling gems is a frighteningly deep, almost otherworldly attachment to microfiction.

New Sci-Fi Story: Cryobliss

Exoplanet is a new science-fiction magazine and I’m proud to be one of the authors in its first issue, which dropped today (June 21).

Without further ado, here’s my story:

Cryobliss by Maura Yzmore in Exoplanet Magazine

The whole issue is great, and I highly recommend checking it out. You can download the pdf of Issue 1 here or read specific stories on the Issue 1 website. Some of my favorites are Swap.Me, Malfunction, Departure, and Sunrise on Menelaus, but honestly, read the whole thing. It features a variety of topics and styles.

Enjoy!

Review: Three Sisters of Stone by Stephanie Hutton

threesisters

Stephanie Hutton is one of today’s best writers of flash fiction (short fiction under 1000 words in length). I enjoy her writing for its clarity and poignancy, and was excited at the news that her novella-in-flash Three Sisters of Stone would be published by Ellipsis Zine in early 2018. In the novella-in-flash format, each flash — itself a standalone story with a clear conflict-and-resolution arc — also serves as a building block in a much longer, more complex narrative. While flash typically addresses an incident that is focused in time and space, when woven together, these sparkling bits of fiction can create a vivid tapestry of longer periods and distances.

Stephanie Hutton’s novella-in-flash is a beautiful example of the form. The book tracks the relationships among three sisters who grew up in an abusive household: the bonds formed and broken, the damage seen and unseen, and how the three cope with the burdens of their trauma as they move into adulthood. Stephanie is a writer of great compassion and tenderness, observant and unobtrusive. Her narrator, Bella, the middle sister and the peacemaker, is torn between a painful need for intimacy and a fear that comes from years of torment. She is a trembling heartstring, a thread that connects the analytical and distracted Agnes, the exuberant but fragile Chloe, and their broken, withdrawn mother.

There are many beautiful and profound moments in the novella, and I would do them injustice by quoting them out of context. Instead, I will say that my favorite flashes include “Sardines”, “Outside and Inside”, “Room”; “Mask”, and “What Mother Never Did”. Also, among the many heartbreaking scenes, this one, between the adult Bella and her mother, hit me hardest:

‘I never did lay a finger on you,’ mother repeated, staring down into the milk swirling around dark liquid.

I shook my head in reply. …No, mother never did lay a finger on me. Or place two arms around me. Or lean her head against mine to kiss me goodnight. She never did lay a finger on me, and maybe that was the ache.

Stephanie’s lovely writing is a treat and her novella-in-flash will delight both the readers who appreciate flash and those who crave richly textured literary fiction in longer form.