Tag Archives: short story

Behind the scenes: What She Saw By Lantern Light

I’ve been a fan of both Enchanted Conversation and World Weaver Press for years.  So when I saw the announcement that Kate Wolford would be heading up a joint anthology of original or lesser-known fairy tales set in winter, I decided I would write towards her prompt.  I never actually expected that she would like it, though I did try to hit both her theme and word count goals as a sort of experiment for myself.

What follows is a spoiler-free behind-the-scenes glimpse into the story, why it turned out the way it did, for those who like to read such things.


When I sat down to write the story in April (2015), my grandmother, for whom I’d been the primary caretaker the first six months or so of her brain cancer, had just recently passed away.  My own health, since I had my own chronic illness to contend with, had been thoroughly shot to pieces, but as part of my recovery I’d decided to return to writing again little by little.

I also had no workable computer at the time and so the idea was that I’d trial out writing a couple short stories on my 7″ tablet paired with a new bluetooth keyboard before delving into anything longer.  This set-up created the interesting effect of only being able to see a few lines of story at a time.

If the tale is packed full of details, it’s because if I didn’t write them, they would not exist.  Whatever ended up “on paper” became the story in my head, not the other way around.

In the bleak midwinter…

The opening line of the Frozen Fairy Tales prompt also happened to be the title of one of my favorite carols.  I’ve included the version that has meant the most to me over the years, trekking with me through the snowfalls and dark nights of my time living in Armenia, and soothing my grandmother’s anxiety as we sat together in her living room in our last month together.  I tried to capture the essence of the song in my story, both consciously and unconsciously.

“And a woman as had her wits about her.”

The Secret of Roan Inish is perhaps my favorite folktale movie of all time.  I watched it religiously when I was younger, to my sister’s bemusement.  If I was going to write a own folktale retelling, I had to pay homage to it in some way, if only in a turn of phrase.  Everyone with Netflix should check it out.

‘Not old like me. I mean old. Old like darkness and stars,’ she said to the flames.

Terry Pratchett’s Thief of Time has been my “bedtime story” audiobook of choice in recent years.  It never fails to sooth my own anxiety and help me conquer my insomnia (a frequent, pesky demon since my chronic illness struck).  One of my favorite scenes is when Nanny Ogg tells Susan, granddaughter of Death, her own hearth-tale about the lady Time giving birth to a mostly-mortal boy.  In honor of Terry Pratchett’s passing and in thanks for all the comfort and relief, I paid tribute to this scene by giving my favorite line a cameo.


(Photographer Claude TRUONG-NGOC, Wikimedia Commons)

(Photographer Claude TRUONG-NGOC, Wikimedia Commons)

The original Alsatian folktale I based my retelling on starts off with a newly-wed young woman setting off on her first, midnight trip from Rosheim to sell goods at the market in Strasbourg.  Making the switch to Strasbourg’s world-famous, centuries-old Christmas Market seemed like a perfect change to make, given the winter theme.

Sunday’s child…

The concept of a child born on Sunday being able to see into and participate in the world of spirits and faeries I borrowed from a different Alsatian folktale, which I translated from an oral telling under the title “The Faerie’s Gift of Tears.”

My own family lore…

I grew up with stories about my ancestors, including how one Swedish ancestor of mine (a young woman) would regularly walk for long hours of the night to “commute” between where she worked and where her family lived.  And there was this one time where she thought she saw something frightening in the dark…. I won’t tell you what it was or what it turned out to be, but the imagery has stayed with me.  My grandmother also told me a couple tales of her family members encountering friendly ghosts.  So, there’s that.


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Story accepted!

Happy All Saints’ Day!

My Alsatian folktale retelling “What She Saw By Lantern Light” will be published in Enchanted Conversation‘s and World Weaver Press‘ joint winter anthology, Frozen Fairy Tales.  You can find out more information, including the announced table of contents, here. You can find Frozen Fairy Tales on Goodreads, here.

I’ll post more once the anthology’s released. 🙂

Until then, I put my Bibliography back up, fully fleshed-out.  I took it down a couple years ago because it was depressingly empty and I felt having it up was rather pointless (and discouraging).  But now it is much fuller! And there is a point to having one! Woot woot.



2014 Submission Stats

So, I started off the year submitting one novella, one short story translation, and one short story.  For reasons I’ll explain later, I’m going to stop submitting here for the year, but I thought I’d take a peek at submission stats before I close up shop.

It looks like I subbed these 3 works a total of 8 times and received 4 personalized rejections, 3 form rejections, and 1 acceptance.  Not too shabby?

Charlie Bowater’s


So, I’ve taken online classes before, but this is the first time I’m trying out the Skillshare class format.  It’s much less involved, there’s much less teacher-student interaction.  BUT it is also a lot cheaper.  For example, this class taught by one of my all-time favorite artists, Charlie Bowater, is only $10 with my link, $20 normally.

So, this afternoon I “finished” tinkering with my fae short story “Desired,” and sent it off.  Fingers crossed.  Now for the rest of the month I’m going to see about finishing my translation of Persinette and see what I can do to practice my art again via this class.  Classes make good motivators.

Fae short story 1.0

Well, I started and finished a short story this month!  And I got it mostly on wordcount target! I am so proud of myself, not gonna lie.   World Weaver Press is doing a fae anthology with a deadline of November 30th for submissions, which is perfect since I’m going to start Queen 3.0 in December and I’ve been craving writing/playing with the fae for some time now.

So I decided to both clear my palate from Queen of the Eight Banners and scratch the eldritch itch at the same time.  I know I swore off short story writing last year, but I found some great advice that was just what I needed to help me get over my particular struggles with the format, and when I swore off short stories it was mostly to keep myself focused on finishing Queen.  So, I’m having a blast with this thing, not taking myself too seriously with it.

I still don’t know what exactly to call it.  For now it’s “The Ring & The Gate” but I’m also toying with “Most Desired.”  It takes place on the plateau des fées (the fairies’ plateau) at the Elsberg gate along the Pagan Wall outside Strasbourg, France near Mont St. Odile in the year 1855.   Yes, that’s a real place!  And yes, that’s highly specific, isn’t it?   It’s a pre-existing character’s backstory, which helps me whip this out pretty quickly.

Here’s a peek at the process.  I set up a Pinterest board so I could have handy access to photos and descriptions. (Yes, beware, some of the sites are in French. :p)  You can also check out my wordcount spread:

fae story process draft 1.0

I cut out the column on the right that contains spoilers on what scenes I was working on. 😉

So, basically, I worked Monday through Saturday for 2 weeks minus one day in the middle of last week when I felt absolutely terrible, sometimes sitting down to write multiple times throughout the day.

Stats for draft 1.0:

Wordcount: 7,561

Wordcount goal: less than 7,500

Days spent planning: 3?

Days spent drafting: 12

Insomniatic Writings

Insomniatic Writings (click to enlarge)

So Mary Robinette Kowal posted about her writing space and asked about ours and C.N.Holmberg posted about the need for writers to meditate and ponder over their stories. So I thought I’d share my most recent write-space and meditation time:  In bed, in the dark, at an insomniatic (I know that’s not a word but work with me*) hour. Anywhere between 2 and 5 AM.   I went to bed at 9:30 because I was so absolutely dead.  This time I was able to use my insomniatic hours relatively well.  I have 7 of the above pages with “ahah!” moments of plot coming together for both my novel and my short story and bits of dialogue. The above is dialogue between three characters. Ajige, Red Dog, and Ilha.

Well, I thought it was funny. :p  (Also, note the misspelling. D’oh!)

Anyway! I’m going to pass the question along for those who want to play the game. Where do you write?

– – –

*It’s a replacement for “ungodly” since I don’t think there are “ungodly” hours, though insomniatic ones are surely on the top of the list.

First publication!

wait, whut?

Um. Guys. I am giggling intermittently. I think I am in shock.  My short story Decision at World’s End has been accepted for publication. At a paying market.

Excuse me, while I go…um…celebrate.

Horrible insomnia last night was totally worth it now! Woohoo!

More details will follow as publication date comes closer! Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

I feel like Jo from Little Women. Jumping around the house and saying, “I’m an author! Five whole dollars!”  (No worries, more than 5, but the image is the same. :P)


On Characters (Qot8B)

So, on one of our truck-drive commutes to WorldCon, M Williams and I realized that we both have a particular weakness when it comes to writing our characters.

In role-play, the world setting is a backdrop to our characters. We know or learn the world pretty quickly and then we spend the rest of our energy focusing entirely on our character (or characters). We know them inside out, backwards and forwards. They become living, breathing, fleshy creatures with strengths, weaknesses, fears, talents, backgrounds, and so on.

But for some odd reason, when we go to write a novel, we focus almost entirely on the world.  Flora, fauna, magic mechanics, society, history, warfare, etc. But when it comes to our protagonists, we know the barest minimum of what shape they hold in our minds.  Then we expect them to somehow enact a plot.

So we both came home from that commute with the determination to treat the characters in our novels with as much time and care as we treat the vivid people living in our heads from our role-playing.

Last week or so, however, I realized after writing about 2k of Queen of the Eight Banners that I did it again.  Firstly, that I ran away with the story idea without really knowing the world as much as I needed to. I was just so impatient to write the story. So I stopped and got my favorite library book on the topic and poured through it, developing the world.  Then I went to set Ilha my protagonist in that world and found that the world was richer than she was.

So this week I’ve slowed down again and have been focusing on her. Who she is, what makes her tick, where she comes from, what her goals are, what she’s afraid of–both in the world and in herself.

I’ve realized–patience is definitely a skill that transfers over to writing. That, and time. Time spent with the people, the world, the ideas.  I’m not the type who can just jump right in and write amazingly, though jumping in allowed me to see where all my holes were more clearly.

So, cool thing.  As I was researching the Jurchen coalition in the early 1600s for story fodder, I came across a Mongolian tribe that asked to join the Jurchen nation. As I described it to a friend,

They just trotted up to the growing Jurchen power and were like, “Excuse me, sir. We want to join our huge forces to yours. You see, there’s this enemy who wants our blood. And we are persuaded that you would be the perfect man to take them out for us. Oh yes, and we will help all your future endeavors. Oh yes, and did I say? We’re awesome?”

So I thought – wouldn’t it be politically savvy if Ilha were from this Mongolian tribe? It makes perfect sense to form a marriage alliance between such a powerful tribe and the Jurchen emperor.  So I tentatively noted that in the back of my mind.   Then I went to Wikipedia to jot down a quick succession of Jurchen/Manchu emperors, their wives, and the regents….

And Ilha, Dowager Empress’ historical equivalent – you guessed it – was from that exact Mongolian tribe I handpicked for her.  My eyes popped. But really, the tribe is politically perfect. Mongolian–so similar training and habits of the Jurchen people.  Marriage alliances meant adoption into the upper Banners and given Manchu status. And because the tribe volunteered to join, they weren’t split up. Huangtaiji/Hong Taiji let them rule their own people and made a whole section of his society just for them. They fought alongside each other, etc.  It really is truly awesome.  I love history. And politics. And politically savvy rulers.  Mmmmm…

In the mean time, my novel isn’t being entirely ignored. I’m allowing things to stew a bit, and there have been substantial additions. I realized as I was writing the last scenes where I am now that one of the newly introduced characters is from a third country that I didn’t even know existed.  (Yes, I was baffled, too.) Yet it fills world, economic and political holes in the world building, as well as bringing variety to my as yet small cast of characters.

I also ended up redrawing my old reference map so that now it has a functional mountain range as opposed to a decorative one.  It has a working river port city, and I got rid of  a grid of waystations that aren’t really necessary.  Oh yes, and that pesky third country now exists.

So now, who knows? Maybe there will be a third book in the world!  This one takes place in Melitene south of the mountain range in a land of forests, plains, and rivers. The next one, (a stand-alone prequel), takes place in Norlakhar in the deserty land above the pass.  And I suppose now there is potential for a third book set in the country I’m tentatively calling Galia, the country south of Melitene that’s positioned along the ocean and the river delta….

(This is a long post, if you haven’t noticed, but it will have to tide us over. I can’t make any guarantees about updates for the next two weeks. )

Queen of the Eight Banners

I’m starting a new story. Awfully shocking, I know. I tend to do this far too often. (But I do finish things, too! Honest!)

C.N.Holmberg dared? encouraged? me to get a story into Writers of the Future by the end of September so we can compete against each other–er, have a story in the same quarter together.

Months ago I started The Harvest Mask only to come to a screeching halt when I encountered a huge hole in my politics and worldbuilding.  Well, I’ve filled the hole…with a new story.  So, I’m going to write that story to lay the groundwork for the rest.  This story also spawns two more stories set in the same world. (In case I needed any more ideas….)

It’s a story that is also very important to me, so for all intents and purposes I’m going to be halting major work on my other projects to get a draft of this done.

I have been wanting to write about my chronic illness.  I just couldn’t figure out a story that wouldn’t be absolutely boring. Illnesses aren’t the most exciting things in the world.  Wake up, groan, feel ill, roll over and go back to bed. Next day, take two! Uh uh. Nope. Not exciting enough for me.

Well, now I’ve found a story that fits everything I need it to do!  It also breaks…so many literary rules that… well….

Tentatively entitled, “Queen of the Eight Banners.” Let’s see how this goes.



Yes, I updated The Storybox again.  This time with a historical fiction novel idea that has been popping in and out of my head since 2007.  I figured I now have a good reason to take it seriously. I won’t go into all the details about why, but there you have it.  I have officially added “historical fiction sans fantasie” to my list of genres I write in.  Oh? You didn’t know I write historical fiction without fantastic elements? Well, I do! Just not very often.

I also updated The Storybox with a brief description of what my as-of-yet-coolly-unnamed Armenian fantasy will be about.

The thing is, The Storybox isn’t even a complete list of all the things swarming my head, either.  I printed out the book I translated in 2008 and I’m currently working on English-to-English edits, also.  It’s going really well, and it’s remarkably fun, now that the stress of deadlines  is long past.  I’m hoping to finish this batch of edits before I get to Utah where I have the rest of my materials.  There I’ll compare these edits with my French-to-English edits, the original manuscript, and… Okay, so this is the wrong audience for translation talk, so I’ll spare you.  I do have hopes to publish it, though.

In any case, for my own sake, I need to organize the chaos of storylines and characters clawing for my attention.  Pretend I’m in the principal’s office with a gaggle of wayward children.

So! THE WITCH’S TOWER and OF GODS & WITCHES are set in the same world and are highly interconnected.  It’d be to my advantage to write them one after another and do the final edits at the same time.   Each can stand alone, however, so it won’t hurt to try to publish either of them separately.  Doing them together has some disadvantages: namely it pushes back potential publication of the first one.  But it has the great advantage of cohesion and gives me a greater flex time for potential editor-deadlines. I really hate deadlines with CFS.

Otherwise, of everything and everyone bustling about in my head, THE WITCH’S TOWER, OF GODS & WITCHES, and OTHERSIDE have the most meta-work and progress done on them, so they’re easiest to finish.  My sister also keeps wondering when I’ll get back to finishing OTHERSIDE. (I agree, I absolutely love the story!)

ARMENIAN TALE and THE SCHEMER I’m a little worried about because ARMENIAN TALE depends largely on my ability to remember a lot of details about my year living in Armenia, so I need to do it fairly soon.  THE SCHEMER depends on my French and French history&culture knowledge, so it also is time- and memory-sensitive.

You see the chaos’ whyfor, don’t you.  I can’t possibly write four novels at once.   To combat my failing memory, I’ve written a 5k document on Armenian culture…which still barely scratches the surface, of course, but I’m chipping away at it. But that can’t make up for the feel or memory of something.

I’m also tentatively considering a non-fiction project.

Not to mention all my short story ideas. Oy! Ah! Crowded! Spinning! Can’t think!

So! Order to chaos, here we go:

  1. Priority #1 – Finish THE WITCH’S TOWER. Remember? You need to finish something first!  And the natural act of finishing this project will mean that its prequel will get more work done on it, as well.
  2. Finish The Harvest Mask before October 1st.
  3. Finish English-English edits for ANDROMEDA.
  4. Tell all the other characters and stories to wait their turn, like well-behaved children.

See, self? Work on finishing what you’ve started before starting lots of other new shiny projects!