short stories

Plotting the Short Story Workshop starts tomorrow! Only one this year, and only $50!

GUARANTEE: if you go through the class and ultimately don’t find it useful, I will give you a free enrollment in any one of my future workshops, on any topic – no questions asked.

I always include a little one-on-one work with each student to help tailor the experience to the it individual needs. The average student can spend a couple of hours a week and get through the reading and assignments, though the exercises will have a much larger impact on your work.

All workshops take place in my private online forum, so you can post questions, comments, and writing excerpts without worrying who will see it. Plus, since we have deadlines of a certain day, not a set class hour, you can be anywhere in the world and still participate!

Now enrolling:

April 15, 2015

“Plotting the Short Story” – By request! We’ll cover:

Recognizing plot vs other elements in someone else’s story? How about in your own?

Different plot structures and plotting techniques.

Fitting a whole story into different lengths: flash (1000 and under), mid-length short story (about 4000 words), and longer short stories (up to 6500 words). And, what do you put in and what do you leave off the page?

Plus! Fundamentals of storytelling, prepping (including outlining, character arcs, and plot twists) and basic editing (including how to recognize the different moments of your story so you can move them around) are also covered.

$50 for 4 weeks: Sign up here 

If you’d like to join us but need a little flexibility on the start date, or assignment schedule, please let me know. I can always make accommodations for students. My goal is to help you walk through the lessons, to learn as much as you can… And I know that sometimes what works best for one student isn’t what’s right for another.

This is the only time in 2015 that I will be offering this particular workshop… I hope you can join us!

Where to Start When You Want to Start Reading My Work (Fiction)

If you’re new to me as a writer (hi there!) or you’ve read a story here or there and you’d like to read more in the same vein, this sorted list might help you choose what to read next…

If you like fiction with female main characters:

If you like fiction about love, sex, and relationships set in SFF worlds:

If you like HPL-inspired/Mythos fiction:

If you like horror:

If you like fiction about robots:

If you like fiction about zombies:

  • “Mitch’s Girl” Edge Publishing’s Rigor Amortis anthology. October 1, 2010. (TW: zombie sex!)
  • “Dear Mom, This is Serious” Livingdead Press’s Emails of the Dead anthology. September 2010.

If you like mad science:

If you like noir:

  • A Different LeagueMondays are Murder web series, Akashic Books. August 26, 2013.

If you like darkly humorous or otherwise happily-ending stories:

If you want to be sad when you’re finished:

If you like stories with fighting, hunting, or soldiers:

If you like stories about books and maps:

If you like flash fiction of any stripe:

If you like Twitter Fiction:

If you like poetry:

And, if you want to read a bunch of these stories all together, please check out my first collection, Women and Other Constructs (published June 2013). Get it from me (print, epub or mobi), or from Amazon (print or Kindle).

Note: This list is presented with the most recent sales/publications first. When the story name is hyperlinked, click to read it for free online; if the title of the publication is linked, you can buy it online as well.

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Book Review: Dial M for Monkey

3 of 5*

Only 60+ pages; this quick read can be started and finished in well under an hour, and that alone makes it not a waste of time. The stories are a mix of “high impact” and “needs an editor” – I kept wanting to revise or strike his last lines, over and over.

Maxwell sticks to a format of “Here’s the story, wait, no there’s a twist coming up, TWIST”, expanding it sometimes to “Here’s the story, wait, no there’s a twist coming up, wait for it, wait for it, really I mean it, keep waiting, TWIST, he he he” for most of the collection. Most of the characters are middle-aged, blue collar, London-area blokes, and a lot of the humor is crude (“He got hit in the balls with a block, lol” type of stuff.)

Probably the best are “I Almost Spanked A Monkey”, “Sprouts” (which is one of the few near-genre stories in the book), and “Is That To Go?”. All use Maxwell’s preferred format successfully, and none go on too long.

The longer pieces aren’t quite as good as the flash, IMO, but at the same time Maxwell brings in an earthy, working class, feel to his fiction that I don’t often see in lit flash. It’s an important perspective because it’s not often published, and some of the pieces do work very well. Don’t read it because it’s the best ever (it’s not) but it is a valuable use of an hour, even if you’re only learning what not to do yourself.

What I’ve Been Reading: Rickert, Burstein, Sharma, Tobler

This week’s reading was a collection of stories I randomly discovered online, either because someone recommended it, or because I stumbled it across it while looking for something else.

The Mothers of Voorhisvill”  by Mary Rickert, Tor.com (novella)

5 out of 5 stars

There is a grandeur to Rickert’s work which is almost immediately obvious but not overwhelming. You begin to read the tale she’s written, sentences unfolding simply, with hints of strangeness, until a few paragraphs in you start to see the edges of the world she’s created — and it hits you. It’s never “let me tell you about every aspect of this setting for three pages before anything happens”. It’s not “this happened and then this happened and then this happened”. She understands her characters, where they live and how they move about in that place, so well that when she writes the story, it’s just you (the reader) and them (the fictional characters), having a dialogue.

Reading Rickert is like listening to the chatty neighbors you’d never noticed until they happened to be the most fascinating people you’ve ever met. You’ll find everything you’re looking for by the time it’s done.

The shape of this story is as a series of interviews conducted with various women who’ve, they admit at the beginning, done something terrible, or wonderful, and now they’re explaining why. There’s contrast between the things they’re admitting, the events they’re saying didn’t happen quite that way, and and the moments of “well, sure, it did happen, but she’s completely wrong about the way she describes it”. We read how the women see not only the events of the story but their own worlds so differently from one another. All the pieces of “Mothers”, not disparate but simply not the same, weave together until what you finally have is so large, so monstrous and beautiful and greater than you’d imagined, that “grandeur” is the best word to describe it.

There are definite hints of Witches of Eastwick, and Nightvale, but there are sensual details — the hundred scents, the beauty of light, of women, of creative arts — which swell as the women do, breaking free from other influences. Those details carry on as the story changes, gets darker and more desperate, breathing life into individual moments with the names of board games, the color of jam. It’s real without being weighted down; terrible in the way that it makes perfect sense. I continue to be in awe of Rickert’s ability to tell a complete story, full without going on for too long, like a ripe peach on the last day before it’s plucked and eaten.

Kaddish for the Last Survivor” by Michael A. Burstein, Apex Magazine.

2 out of 5 stars

A SF tale about Holocaust deniers? You might think it would be preachy, pointed, too invested in its message, and Burstein’s story is all of those things. It was also nominated for both the Hugo and Nebula awards in 2001, and it’s worth figuring out why. (more…)

Poetry Posts, a Project, and Free Fiction!

Last month I raised a little money to help me purchase a (very used) new car, after mine had been totaled in an accident. I only left the fundraising post open for a few days, and closed it as soon as I had the bare minimum to pay the seller, and rather than ask people to give me money, I offered them options for how they’d want that money to be repaid. Partly because I don’t feel comfortable asking for something without giving anything in exchange, and partly because I love knowing what my friends, readers, and fans want to see from me in the future.

In the end, they’d funded two new short stories to be posted, free to read, online, and a digital edition book of the poetry posts I had online as well as all the ones I had scheduled.

I’ve already put up one of the short stories: “Evolutionaries”. This is a first person, near-future science fiction, 6150 words. (Same universe as “Monsters, Monsters, Everywhere”, but set earlier. Think of it as a prequel.) You can click on the link above to get the PDF, or find it (and much more) on my free fiction page. I’ll post the second one later this month.

The poetry book was a little trickier. Folks wanted to see a more in-depth, annotated, version of the blog posts I was doing to celebrate National Poetry Month. I’d originally scheduled short, fun, but not terribly academic, mini-essays on different topics relating to speculative fiction in verse. After the fundraiser, I retooled that plan: I pulled the posts from the schedule, and have been expanding them. Rather than limit them to April, I’m now going to be posting them over the next few months, and at the end, will make an ebook of the whole thing available for free. First of the revised posts will go up this week; you can find all of them, old and new, under the tag “national poetry month“.

As a thank you, I also made my short collection, Women and Other Constructs, free in .ePub, .mobi, and PDF formats for the month of April. Over 100 people downloaded the book, and I’ve seen some nice reviews of the stories. I’ve decided to make the digital versions free from now on. 

Get Women and Other Constructs for FREE, either as a bundle of all ebook formats, here, or individually: ePubMobi, or PDF

Though the digital editions are free, please considering supporting my writing by ordering signed copies of the print book:

Bundle of signed print book + free instant download of a DRM-free epub file , $10 click here

Bundle of signed print book + free instant download of a DRM-free mobi file , $10 click here

If you already have the book, and liked it, please leave me a review on my Goodreads page.

Lastly, I’ve got a new project which I’m going to be releasing soon. Sonnets of the Rocket Queen is a novelette in verse: 144 sonnets telling a hard SF story. Please let me know if you’re interested in reviewing it; I’ll have eBooks available in advance.

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