The Liner Notes: “One Quiet Night”

OQNbanner

Last year my friend Shannon was staying with me while she looked for places in London. Being Canadian, the capital was calling her like a moth to a flame, I was like that once too, even if I didn’t go into the city much until my final year at uni and after. Anyway, for fun, we invited around two geek friends of mine, Mel and Kris, for a night of pizza and board games. I didn’t even know that was a thing until Shannon got me playing them. Now I’m a huge fan of Cards Against Humanity on principle because it is the perfect adult game, mainly because it works better the more you drink.

Yeah, it got pretty rude towards the end.

Anyway, we also played Pandemic which Shannon had previously introduced me and a somewhat sceptical Uni too. It’s a lot more fun when you have two more players and I’m totally for anything involving viruses and extinction level events (this is what I get from reading far too much Seanan McGuire). One of the cards, titled One Quiet Night, stuck with me (Hi, Pandemic folk, please don’t sue me!) and thus was my story born.

I wrote “One Quiet Night” in second person because I wanted to really get readers stuck in the story, setting it in an unnamed town near to where I live. It focuses on an unnamed single mother who’s daughter, Carly, has caught a new strain of flu which is, literally, killing humanity not that my protagonist has completely realised her daughter is dying. Then the phone goes out and she can’t figure out why. Oh and her elder son, Brandon, isn’t all himself either.

This story is so British it’s almost painful. That was half the point as I’m aware most readers won’t be; the British words like ‘mobile’, ‘GP’ and ‘101’ are going to confuse the heck out of people, thushopefully—heightening the tension. Added to that the isolation, which is straight out of every horror story ever, is particularly poignant. Especially when the protagonist realises she’s not the only one watching her child die to a disease humanity simply doesn’t have a cure too.

I remember when H1N1 and swine flu were things; there was never that much panic buying, at least not in my little town but everyone was almost painfully aware—exacerbated entirely by Twitter and Facebook—that something foul was in the air. That’s where the rest of this story came from, even though back then at least there was no real danger, not if people were smart (and people so seldom are).

Here’s the cover I designed for it (I think the image is gorgeous and totally fits the story which is contemporary but also sci fi):

OQNcover

As a reminder, here’s the blurb:

It only takes one quiet night for humanity to die …

Everyone expects zombies and nuclear fire to herald the destruction of the Earth but the end, at least in this tale, comes much more quietly. Your daughter is sick, the entire world is dying, and there’s nothing you can do. 

Yes, you

Step into the shoes of a single mother whose daughter doesn’t just have a simple bug but is one of millions afflicting with a terrifying virus which is quietly decimating humanity.

And you’re not the only one watching her die.

Oh and you can go preorder the book (which is out 1st May) by going here: smarturl.it/Mosaics2

Please follow and like us:

Finding the Angle in Short Fiction

Screenshot 2016-02-28 11.27.38

I’ve been making a concerted effort to write more—and better—short fiction and send it out to markets. This is partly because I want to be a better writer and because I would love to see my name on the covers of magazines I adore reading. I can’t subscribe to every magazine but I do read LightspeedUncanny and BCS religiously (thank you Kickstarter credits, regularly updated websites of free fiction goodness and Weightless Books).

I’ve spent the last couple of days devouring an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) of my friend Kim’s Mosaics: Volume 1 and it’s a beautiful tome, not just physically but compositionally. That’s what struck me, the positioning of the stories, poems and essays was particularly well done and I’ve not yet found one entry in the anthology I don’t like whereas I normally find anthologies are very much like albums; you love a couple of songs and the rest are kinda meh. That book has a soul which is a very hard thing to do and is seldom ever seen in magazines, no matter how well they’re curated.

I suppose a lot of that is down to the fact the anthology was curated with chosen pieces rather than a compendium of on-spec stories (which is how the anthologies I write for normally seem to be done). It makes for a nice change but it also got me thinking about my short stories, the ones I’m sending out to magazines, those are all on-spec (meaning I’m writing and sending them out without being asked for them). This makes it much harder as you’re basically writing stories in the hope that one of the slush editors/the EiC are going to like them enough to buy them.

But these on-spec stories, they’re also me; my ideas and composition. I have four stories out right now, with one more to follow after my crit group later today. Each story has focused on different ideas, styles and tenses. One is urban fantasy, another sci fi with notes of magical realism and fantasy, the third is historical, alternate fiction and the fourth an origin story. The latest story is epic fantasy with a secondary world based on ancient China which is just about ready to go out into the world for a round of rejectomancy. The last is a second person sci fi story about an author whose stint in a mental hospital activates psychic abilities which allow her see other worlds and dimensions, eventually evolving to a point where she is almost able to alter reality.

Each story is stand-alone and unique, part of the act of selling stuff is knowing which markets to try and that, in my opinion, is the problem or, at least, the challenge of submitting to market. You’re basically sending stuff out with no idea how it will be received, though if you’re lucky then you get rejections (called personals) with a note on what the editor liked or didn’t which can help guide future submissions, albeit to other markets.

Of course then you have that great question: to re-edit or not re-edit. A single editor doesn’t speak for the whole collective and one change might turn another editor off a story entirely. Being a slush editor for is one of those things which should help, except I did it for two issues and never had one of the stories I sent up go anywhere. Plus, with new magazines, it’s much harder to find a soul than with once that have been going for years. It’s almost like a brand and those, regardless of whether it’s a person or a magazine, take time to form. But, boy, is it fun to watch.

Every time I get a personal, I want to re-edit. This is my character flaw: I’m impatient and I latch onto what people say as if it’s gospel. It’s also why I’m in a crit group, surrounded by people whose opinions I trust, especially when it comes to my attempts at short fiction. Like journalism, it’s all about the angle except it’s this amorphous thing which changes depending on the editor.

I started a file last night, a folder on my browser called ‘Short Stories I Love’, mostly composed of entries from Lightspeed and Uncanny of short fiction which has really moved me. It delights me when I see the authors of my favourite stories with new ones in magazines I wait for with baited breath each month. I’d love to be able to to subscribe to every magazine but I can’t so I rely on the biweekly updates where fiction unlocks for free on publishers’ sites. Doing this, it’s helped me with my own writing but has also helped me, with my short attention span, to find a medium I really do love to read.

And if I read it, one day, I’ll sell just the right story.

Until then I’m going to play the probability game.

Please follow and like us:

Hey Look! It’s the Mosaics: Volumes One and Two Covers

12717508_940191586064266_3108514406525228393_n1491439_945966608820097_5834716211237630666_o

How cool are these? And please do click on each one to pre-order. I’ve got a story in Volume 2 called “One Quiet Night” but I wanted to showcase both covers because why not? Volume 1 is out March 8th and features a collection of short stories, flash fiction and essays from a bunch of amazing women. Volume 2 will follow with even more, including my contribution.

I don’t have the release date for Volume 2 yet but it’s apparently going to be confirmed by the end of March, to tie in with the first volume’s release. I’m just excited to be involved that that Pavarti and Kim loved my little story.

Please follow and like us: