December 2017 update: I’m thrilled to announce I won a Rainbow Award (co-winner with the anthology Haunting Muses, which I have a story in)!
In September, all my short stories gathered under one roof, so to speak. A Perfect Life and Other Stories was published by GusGus Press, an imprint of Bedazzled Ink.
I like having almost all of them in one place. I keep churning out new ones, so there are a couple not included. The ones in the collection had been scattered in a variety of anthologies and online mags (see the covers on my home page). It was a thrill to remember that first acceptance, for “A Perfect Life,” which appeared in Skulls and Crossbones.
For this collection, I had to reread each and barely made a change. That might not be a good thing. Thankfully, my editor had a fresher perspective. But I liked the stories. I liked reading them again as a reader, long past the horrible angst of writing them.
There aren’t a lot of places to publish lesbian short fiction. I haven’t considered selling directly on Amazon. Yet. The calls for anthology submissions tend to be very narrowly targeted. I had a story in Finding Ms. Write, which came out in May from Ylva. All the stories are about the book business—writing, editing, publishing, or selling. When I first read the guidelines, I figured there was no way I was going to come up with something. Till an idea sparked. And once that happens, I let it take me where it will. I like what I came up with, “Consignment.” An indie bookseller deals with the inevitable eager writer, anxious to have the store carry her book. Madness ensues.
Another story came out in October. “Endurance” appeared in Haunting Muses, from Bedazzled Ink. This one had to be about ghosts, in one way or another. I set it on a possibly doomed space ship led by a captain haunted by regret and grief.
As a reader, I like anthologies. They are a great way to try a new author (hint, hint). Collections differ by being all by the same writer, but are also good for when you want something quick, maybe one to read before bedtime. All contained in a few thousand words. Right now, I’m working my way through about a dozen collections. I read one story per book per night. The ultimate anthology!
Some people complain shorts are too short. You only get started with these characters and it ends. As a writer of short stories, I like that I don’t have to include backstory. Sure, I have to know in my mind where this character came from in order for her to behave plausibly, but I don’t have to worry about letting the reader in on all the details without an info dump.
My collection’s title, A Perfect Life, alludes to a theme that runs through my writing: Ordinary people trying to lead ordinary lives. Not perfect in the plastic surgery sense, but authentic, true to themselves. They love deeply and grieve completely. Invariably there’s a sidekick, a best friend. Other than my wife, who is the best kind of best friend, I don’t really have one, so they might be stand ins.
And in case this is an obvious question, no, there is not much in the way of graphic sex in my stories. Not that there isn’t sex. There is. I prefer to focus on what that sex means to the character(s) and not on how they do it.
Story ideas come to me in mysterious ways. Here they are in chronological order (oldest first):
“A Perfect Life” began with Emily’s line, “Well, you can’t be a pirate. You’re a girl.” I pictured this feisty kid on the rock that in my own childhood had served as many a ship.
Who hasn’t panicked over buying a present for a significant other? That’s the premise of “The Gift.” (I think a short story collection would make a wonderful gift, don’t you?)
I got two stories out of a trip to Alaska. The first, “Tracy Arm,” was inspired by a real-life butch deckhand. Nothing and no one is otherwise real. Including her.
Similarly, “The Game” was inspired by an actual game of pool in Provincetown. But, again, the beauty of imagination is where you can go with the idea.
The other Alaska story is “Forget-Me-Not.” That is one of my sadder stories. I guess I was tired of all the happiness. Let’s have some reality. It appeared, I learned only later, around the time as the book Still Alice. There are weird coincidences (I haven’t read the book, but saw the movie recently, which changed things a bit), but my Alice is all mine.
Another “ripped from the headlines” is “The Stranger.” I donate to the National Center for Lesbian Rights. They send a newsletter describing the legal cases they take on. I’m always dismayed at the number of cases involving lesbians fighting each other for custody. My story takes up years later. What if…
“Lily Gets a Flu Shot” sprang from a long line I waited in for said shot. Her experience was quite thrilling. Mine was only boring.
“A Certain Moon” might be the first I wrote to a specific call, rather than something I came up with on my own. It had to be Halloween-appropriate and I’d had the fun of writing to prompts in an online group. I was able to rework that story. It has a bit of the ridiculous in it, which makes me smile.
A new story, first appearing in this collection, is “Auto Repair.” My old car, no longer with us sadly, was the inspiration, and all the repair work mentioned was actually done to it. The romance, however, is entirely made up. I was thrilled that it earned an honorable mention in the Saints and Sinners fiction contest. (My goal is to write something that wins!)
As one of my characters (not in this collection) says, “Story is everywhere, my dear.”
The fun is finding it and making imagination visible.
A Perfect Life and Other Stories
Finding Ms. Write
If shorts aren’t your thing, try my novel, Wishbone.