As I prepare to hunker down this weekend with my family, I wanted to share something positive. My artist friend Sambaran Chatterjee has done another lovely illustration for me! This time he’s drawn Mario Reyes from my story “Exchange” / “A Coral Study.”
As I’ve said before, I’m not a visual artist in the least, so I’m in awe of both the overall picture and the striking details. Thanks, Sambaran! You can check out more of his awesome work at his website.
I did once see an octopus, a very small one, while snorkeling in the Galápagos Islands, where my character Mario is from. The biodiversity there, the endemic species, their lack of fear around humans, made it one of the most magical places I’ve ever been.
I have a trio of bite-size stories in the new anthology Nano Nightmares, available now in paperback and ebook. Every story in this horror anthology is self-contained and designed to chill, haunt, alarm, or otherwise unsettle. In only two sentences.
If I’m not mistaken, the concept of two-sentence horror stories has even inspired a TV series. See for yourself the variety of scares a couple sentences can hold by picking up a copy of Nano Nightmares.
The Exchange Students anthology is available now. The stories in this book marry the concept of its title to the vast possibilities that speculative fiction provides. Aliens? Fantasy creatures? Time travel? Homework? You bet.
My tale, “A Coral Study,” first appeared as “Exchange” in Factor Four Magazine. I’ve mentioned before how my dad’s undergrad experience helped inspire it. Well, last summer my parents went to lunch with my dad’s college roommate and his wife, and they shared my story with them. The roommate replied, “Her story makes me think of the late night study breaks and your regaling all in our room with stories from Ecuador.”
I was also inspired by my memories of wandering through the aquarium aisles of pet stores as a kid and admiring all the little sunken ships and other décor. One day I asked myself what if someone had decorated their living space with those types of ornaments, and the writing sprang from there.
My husband and I had promised to take our boys to the beach sometime this winter, so today they got to experience all the gloom and fury that is the Oregon coast in February. Turns out there was a windstorm while we were there, exacerbating the usual cold. But we had fun overall, thanks to mostly indoor activities.
We made it to the Seaside Carousel Mall, and of all the carousel steeds, one of my sons chose – Seahorse! After the ride he asked me if I liked the animal he’d chosen, and I told him about my latest story.
Speaking of marine life, my story “Exchange” appears under a new title, “A Coral Study,” in a new anthology of speculative fiction called Exchange Students. It’s available for preorder now, in paperback or ebook. The official release date is this Tuesday!
This tale came about when I was mining my childhood memories for story ideas, and I recalled visiting a double-decker carousel at a theme park in Santa Clara. Whenever my family did our annual summer road trip to visit my grandparents near San Francisco, we’d alternate going to either California’s Great America (then called Paramount’s Great America) or Six Flags Marine World (then Marine World/Africa U.S.A.). I ended up making my fictional carousel a single level to keep it focused and to reflect the majority of carousels in the world (I didn’t find out until I was older that two-story ones are rare). I also based a character on my favorite steed at the Seaside Carousel Mall on the Oregon coast, the hippocampus.
At one point I got stuck on the draft of this one. Then I saw that a local library was hosting a presentation on the history of carousels. Jackpot! The speaker, Darrell Jabin, introduced concepts such as the romance side of a steed and the term “stargazer.” The draft came together soon after that.
My story “The Menagerie Machine” will soon be available in the winter issue of Rendez-Vous, as well as from Short Édition Short Story Dispensers, which produce (for free!) printouts of short stories and poetry at the push of a button. That’s right, you’ll be able to get my story about a machine, dispensed from a machine, and if you think about it, any book published in an automated way comes into the world through machinery. A dispenser expedites the process, the ultimate in print-on-demand. Their locations include airports, universities, and other places where people are passing the time and could benefit from some free, curated reading material.
I’m excited to announce that my story “DEZLON-182-D’s Scrapbook” is available now as part of Harbinger Press’s Flash Fiction Fridays. I don’t want to risk any spoilers, what with this story being newly published, but some other time I’ll have to share about how life sort of imitated art right after I’d completed the rough draft of this one. That very same weekend.
What I can say for now is that the initial idea for this one came back when I decided to try my hand at making a scrapbook of my wedding rather than a traditional photo album. I learned that I’m not a scrapbooker, no sirree. Come to think of it, I should’ve known that already, because I’d tried once before for a study abroad trip. That one I managed to complete. The wedding one remains in progress. While we were newlyweds, my husband encouraged me to focus more on my writing, as he knew it was a lifelong passion of mine. So, I boxed up the scrapbook project, guilt-free, and started looking for a writer’s group to join. And I’m so very grateful he did. It was exactly the push I needed at that time.
My younger son’s class has been studying fantasy stories this month. When I asked him about it yesterday, he thought for a moment and said, “Yeah, they’re stories about things that aren’t real.” I beamed and said, “That’s what I write!” He looked at me with a slightly shocked expression and said, “You write about things that are fake?”
Talk about a loaded question. My mind raced with points I knew didn’t fit this conversation: how technically all fiction by definition is about the non-real, how fiction writers tend to explore kernels of truth by defamiliarizing the mundane, how you’re more likely to see the significance of fakeness if you first understand the genuine counterpart, and how some argue that all writing can be considered metaphor if you dig deep enough.
Instead, I stammered something about using lots of imagination. This seemed to satisfy him, and our conversation moved on. A few minutes later, he suddenly blurted out a couple sentences about a ghost leading me to a dark dungeon. I beamed once more and told him, “You just made up a fantasy story!” He looked away with a shy, pleased smile.
I’m pleased to share that 87 Bedford has published my 50-word story “Warren.” This little dribble of a tale came about when I attended a recent workshop on micro fiction led by Becky Kjelstrom, the President of Oregon Writers Colony, and her writing partner, Robin Anderson. For one exercise, they passed around greeting cards with interesting artwork on the front, and one with an image of woodland creatures playing instruments jumped out at me. They challenged us to write a 50-word story, and my mind went off on a bit of a dark tangent from the enchanting source material. Inspiration can come from anywhere!
I love the challenge of micro fiction, how like poetry it brings the focus down to the individual word level.