first lines meme, completed stories edition
I mentioned several stories in my last post which are awaiting revision. I think what I’d like to do here is discuss two categories: stories which I’m not submitting anywhere, and stories I intend to submit once I get the damn things revised.
These are the ones I’ve decided, for one reason or another, to put into the trunk. I thought it might be interesting to line them up and see if any themes emerge. In the interests of avoiding a lot of juvenilia, we’re looking only a short stories (and one novella) produced after “Execution Morning,” which I consider to be the first short fiction I wrote that worked.
“Close your mouth, Mairín; do you want to catch flies?”
Like “Lost Soul,” it’s a Nine Lands story set in Tir Diamh with no actual magic involved. Unfortunately, it’s also a trite little tale of a girl going to an archery contest and being tempted to throw it so as to not hurt the feelings of the boy she’s attracted to. I wrote it, took one look at it, and knew I would never send it anywhere.
“Returning to the Nest”
The street stretched out, dusty gold in the afternoon sunlight. Tirean eyed it and cursed the impulse that had brought her there.
More Nine Lands, more Tir Diamh, more lack of magic. I wrote this one before “Lost Soul,” but it takes place after; in fact, “Lost Soul” was my attempt to figure out what brought Tirean to this point. She goes back to her master Decebhin and has an argument with him, but the result is regrettably preachy. Submitted this one for a while anyway, before deciding it just wasn’t good enough for me to want it out there.
“The City’s Bones”
Fitful gusts of wind sent plastic bags and crumpled McDonald’s wrappers skittering down the gutters.
I brought this one up in the context of an unfinished fragment in the last post; it’s connected to “Such as Dreams Are Made Of,” and also “The Memories Rise to Hunt,” which you’ll see elsewhere in this post. I like this story, but on the whole it’s fairly amateur work, and nobody has picked it up. After long effort, I’ve decided to retire it.
“If You Listen”
The harbor was a blessing from the saints — the latest in a long string, without which William Hobb knew he would not have survived this long.
I used to have trouble coming up with short story ideas, and for a while my most productive method was to think up backstory for the novels I was working on. This one belongs to Sunlight and Storm, the fantasy western I’d really like to rewrite and maybe publish someday. It only got submitted for a little while, though; I soon got the hang of independent short stories and started producing things sufficiently better that there wasn’t much point in shopping this one around.
“The Drowning Ships”
Even strong men hid when the Drowning Ships came.
This one has gone an odd path. I thought up the idea of the Drowning Ships for the Nine Lands (the Eldaan Islands, which haven’t appeared in any of the other short stories yet), but since this (like “If You Listen”) got produced during a period where I was trying to crank out a short story a week, I didn’t really have time to worldbuild, so it ended up being its own non-Eldaansk thing. The story got shopped and didn’t sell, so I expect I’m likely to cannibalize it, taking back the concept of the Drowning Ships for the Nine Lands, and producing a new story about them someday.
“The White Lady”
When the screaming had ended, when the people had come and taken measurements and photographs and samples, when everyone had gone away and the street was quiet and the blood was nothing more than a stain on the concrete, then a mist arose and took shape.
Go go gadget overly simplistic feminism! This was my first attempt to make a story out of a certain image in my head, and it turned out appallingly bad. Like “True Flight,” I scrapped this one without ever so much as spell-checking it.
“Darkness in Spring”
She lived for spring, and spring lived for her — or perhaps one should say through her.
All gimmick, no story. 727 words leading up to Demeter, in the modern day, discovering that Persephone has gone goth. Again, shelved without a second look.
“The Perfect Vessel”
Paper, clay, wood, cloth. Any of these will work.
I believe this and “Schrodinger’s Crone” are the only flash pieces I’ve written that aren’t direct riffs on an existing piece of folklore. This one pretty much taught me that I shouldn’t bother trying; without that shared base of reference to make my work more efficient, I have a hard time producing something that’s worthwhile at less than 500 words.
“Smiling at the End of the World”
Paggarat was doomed from the start — or rather, from the end.
A very short Driftwood story. Doesn’t stand on its own, but if I can get “Remembering Light” revised and sell it somewhere, I’ll probably toss this up on my website as a freebie for the Driftwood fans.
“Games in the Dark”
The old man’s mind snapped like a twig at the sight of his captor’s face.
Like “The White Lady,” a failed attempt at an idea I came back to more successfully later (in this case, with “Waiting for Beauty”). It was supposed to be part of my set of dark fairy-tale retellings, but it just didn’t match the others and I didn’t like it very much.
“The Moon and the Son”
The voice came from far below, rising ghost-like from the shadowed landscape of night.
A terrible opening sentence, but I never went back and turned this into the flash piece I thought it should be, because I discovered the work I based it on is not a folksong as I’d thought, but someone’s original composition. (“Hijo de la Luna,” for the curious.) My efforts to contact the songwriter and ask permission failed, so I trunked it.
“Solstice Night” (two versions)
The long dark night of the winter solstice had begun.
Both versions begin with that line. Related story to an unpublished novel, done from two different points of view, taking place in between the first book and the sequel I haven’t written yet. Unsellable for rather obvious reasons, and some that are less obvious. I’m glad I wrote them, though, since they helped me figure out some necessary bits of character.
Do you see her there, in her house in the woods, going about her life when no one is there to observe?
Wrote it, showed it to my crit group, agreed it would make a better poem than a flash story. Am still hoping to make the poem work someday.
And now the stories I am at least hoping to submit, if I ever get them into marketable shape.
“The Legend of Anahata”
The woman at the stream caught Kirtti’s eye.
Nine Lands, Sahasrara; same setting as “Kingspeaker.” This one got an HM from the Asimov Award, but didn’t sell; I like the idea enough that it’s currently sitting around waiting for a new draft.
Dancing the Warrior
Nothing in the world matched the feeling of a Dance well done.
I could make a lot of people happy if I revised this one and did something with it, as it’s a backstory piece for the doppelganger books. Unfortunately, as the italicized title gives away, it’s also a novella, which makes revising this one a lot of work. It’s been languishing for ages as a result.
“The Choice of a King”
The rumours tell their own story, of course. If you buy a drink for the right man in the right tavern, he’ll tell you how I murdered my brother to earn my crown.
Nine Lands, Sahasrara; part of a set with “The Legend of Anahata” and “Kingspeaker.” Again, it didn’t sell, because it was never my best work. This one probably doesn’t need a new draft so much as a complete replacement — take the core concept and start fresh, see what comes out.
Among the young siorai practicing bare-handed attacks under Redfeather’s watchful eye, one figure stood out.
As I mentioned last post, this thing’s been sitting around for more than seven years. It pretty much won’t go anywhere until I have the time to sort out the problems with its setting, which (for complicated reasons) is a bigger task than it sounds like.
“The Memories Rise to Hunt”
They rise each night from stains in the concrete, from shadows in the stone.
This is not nearly as bad of a story as “The White Lady,” but it’s definitely broken. I’m not sure whether it’s worth trying to fix or not, given that I’ve trunked “The City’s Bones” and the road-dragon fragment in my other post isn’t really going anywhere, leaving it without much of a set to belong to.
“On the Feast of the Firewife”
On the morning of the first feast, when worry and fear were threatening to suffocate Chamari, the old woman’s mere presence made everything worse.
God, this one’s just pure laziness on my part. I should have revised it years ago, and I haven’t. Goes with “Kingspeaker,” “The Legend of Anahata,” and “The Choice of a King.”
The new ground of the milpa showed like a scar torn into the forest.
A Xochitlicacan story, meaning the same setting as “A Mask of Flesh.” I was very ambitious with this idea, and kind of tanked on the execution; I think I should write some other Xochitlicacan stories before I come back to it.
As a child, Noirin never thought it strange that her world should be only a few blocks square, and that on the other side of the Palace Way (whose Palace had vanished before her grandmother was born) there should be a place where the people had four arms and rain always fell from the sky.
Driftwood. More laziness on my part. I know what needs doing; I just haven’t done it.
“And Blow Them at the Moon”
The noise of the street outside was muffled, distant, as if it came from another world. Inside this room, the only sound was Henry Garnet’s breathing, marking the passage of time like a ragged and desperate clock.
Onyx Court. I don’t feel guilty about not having revised this one yet, since I only finished it last week.
He spends his days sitting at the window, like a maiden in some troubadour’s tale.
And I finished this one last night.
If I got all of the second category back out the door, I’d more than double the short fiction I’ve got in circulation right now. Not going to happen, but the takeaway point is still valid. It’s long past time some of these got out and started trying to earn their keep.