January 12, 2023
I wanted to start what I hope will be the first of many annual reflections on my writing in the past year with an interview posted on January 8. J. Scott Coatsworth, founder and administrator, with Mark Guzman and some others, of Queer Sci Fi and Liminal Fiction. Scott and Mark are also the founders of Other Worlds Ink, which provide such services as blog tours, and this spotlight below. I highly recommend the blog tours, and, signing up for a spotlight! They are good folks indeed.
This Author Spotlight got a surprising amount of attention and positive responses. Scott did post it on various Facebook group pages, such as LGBT Writers, Queer SF, his blog, SF fan groups, and so on. Sales, I don’t know yet. But, interest was sparked.
This brings me to the three writing highlights of the year: the publications of In Light’s Shadow: A Fairy Tale, in September, “Ghosts,” a flash fiction shorty story, in October, and of Susurrus, a stand-alone novella, in November.
In an earlier reflection (see below) I have written about In Light’s Shadow‘s writing history, starting back in 2003, when the short story, “The Golden Boy,” was published in The Silver Gryphon (Golden Gryphon Press, 2003). In January 2022, as mentioned in the earlier post, I sent off the novel to a press in Canada, Mirror World Publishing. They asked for 3 more chapters–which makes any writer cautiously optimistic and excited. The rejection letter was 3 pages long. I took it to heart, in the spirit in which it was written. More revisions, then even more, with an amazing free-lance editor I know (who happens to be my best friend), Ellen McQueen.
We worked on revising the novel for several months. This was an immense amount of fun and hard work. We discussed characters and their motivations, their authenticity, and believability. We discussed idea and metaphor and trope. Pages of text from the Mirror World version were edited out. We discussed the world of the novel, the Columbian Empire. We talked about telling the truth, the job of any writer and editor. Our finished work was sent to JMS Books, my publisher. More revisions, another editor with a different eye. Art work and blurbs and proofreading and proofreading and proofreading, and the novel was published in September in ebook format, in paperback in October.
Sigh. Even with that much proofreading, yes, there were published mistakes. But not big, plot holes, thank God. One reviewer did ask where were the “good Columbians,” like the “Good Germans” in World War II? A fair question and while I know they were there, and helping the persecuted fairies, as they risked (and sometimes lost) their own lives, I could have, and should have, made it more explicit. All that said, I am proud of this book.
Susurrus came out in November. Like Light’s, this stand-alone novella grew out of a shorter work, in this case, “Ghosts,” a flash fiction short story also published, in 2022, in Clarity: Queer Sci Fi’s NinthAnnual Flash Fiction Contest (Other Worlds Ink).
The writing prompt for the contest is as follows: Clarity (noun): 1) coherent and intelligible; 2) transparent and pure; (3) attaining certainty about something; and (4) easy to see or hear. The 300-word stories, Clarity-themed, SF, fantasy, paranormal, or horror, with LGBTQ+ characters. I went with 2. Transparent, ghosts are transparent, what if people were becoming ghosts and were still alive, if something had happened to turn them transparent, a disease, maybe, but nobody knew for sure. I followed two characters, two gay men, a married couple, Russell and Theo, as the disease progressed.
I was pleased when “Ghosts” earned an Honorable Mention in the flash fiction contest.
Like many of my stories, I found myself wanting to know more about my characters, and the world in which they lived. What happened next to Russell and Theo? How did they get this disease? Where did the disease come from? Was it human-made? So, I started a longer version in response to a call for stories from JMS Books. Every year, the press holds an Advent Calendar Sale, a free story (12,000-20,000 words) for each day of Advent. The world of the flash fiction story, I knew. It was a world I have explored in several stories, particular those in The Wicked Stepbrother and Other Stories (JMS Books, 2021). This fantasy world grew over the years, and has its own timeline, dynastic lists, and so on.
Russell and Theo lived in the Kingdom of Lothia, north of Joria, in a small city in the north, Ciara. I learned more about them, such as their past, families, details of their jobs, and so on. And I learned more about the ghost disease. It was not natural, but rather magical disease made by the royal magician, Varon Cambeul, at the request of his lover, King Aloysius of Lothia. And to my surprise, this longer story, Susurrus, was not about Russell and Theo, but Varon. Pause, reset, shift, edit, revise, proofread several times, work with an editor–and Susurrus was published in November. The title refers to a stage of the ghost disease, when the afflicted become like a susurrus (noun: whispering, murmuring, rustling, ex. the wind in trees).
I like this story a lot. So, those are the highlights of my year in writing, 2022. This year, I am working on a new story collection, of which Susurrus will be a part, the sequel to In Light’s Shadow: A Fairy Tale, and, I hope, getting a good start on the sequel to The Werewolf and His Boy (JMS Books, 2021, a re-release of the 2016 Samhain Publishing edition).
2022 was a good year. Onward!