My short story, “The Wanderer King” is now available at Podcastle for your listening pleasure.
We steer clear of the mines–that’s Fixer territory. The Wanderers are dangerous, too, ever since they came fighting back around Day 30. But there’s always been less of them–less in all, and less because they scatter through the woods on their business instead of fixing to the towns and mines.
We step along to the city, fitting the crown on all we come across. We sleep in the darkest part of the day when the sky dips to dark blue. At first, in the country, there aren’t many heads to try. But we come up on the city, and we slow. We even try it on Fixers because Pansy says the King is the King and it doesn’t matter whose body he’s in. “The King is for all,” Pansy says. “Anyone can carry the King.”
For those who like to hold a book in their hand, “The Wanderer King” was originally published in Mike Allen’s Clockwork Phoenix 4.
I’ve been trying to get my writer’s house in order lately, trying to organize the forces of the universe in my direction. It’s not that I think feng shui is going to make me the next Meg Cabot, but more like I’m trying to see my obligations beyond putting words on the page, and do the right thing.
This week, I finally sent that thank-you letter for the conference scholarship I received in June. I sent out two stories for submission, not because I think they’ll be accepted, but because sending out stories is the right path and I’ve neglected it.
Along those lines, Tayari Jones has a really nice post about what to do with feedback on your work. It starts and ends with gratitude to your readers, but in between there are practical suggestions like “listen to the vibe of the comment as much as the specifics” and “when you love something that one of your readers hates, just sit with it for a while.” I’m going through a couple of revisions right now, and it is not my favorite fun time. Reading her post makes me feel calm and serene, yet powerful, like I’ve just had a great yoga class.
And while that universe alignment may not be working for me, at least it’s working–a good friend is on the verge of selling her first novel. Glad to help.
Paul sent me this story because, he said, the voice reminded him of my stories. Because I am trying to do my duty by the short story, and because I am desperate–not so much to know how my writing looks to others but how it would look to me if only I could see it–I read it over last Saturday’s breakfast.
Reading fiction I admire, I sometimes fall into fits of despair because I know, deeply, that I could never write sentences like the ones on the page. They just wouldn’t come out of me like that. The arrangement of words is unexpected, the content unfamiliar, the tone rotated 15 degrees, and it is a million light years from anything that would occur to me. I end up thinking ‘If this is good and I can’t do it, then what I can do must not be good.’
The first sentence of ‘Childcare’ is:
“The cold came late that fall, and the songbirds were caught off guard.”
This is a sentence I can imagine myself writing. Score one for Paul.
Other possible similarities I can see would be in the humor (I loved the bit where she uses her roommate’s vibrator to stir her chocolate milk. I would do that to a character.) and the way people talk across each other, making motions through conversations without ever really connecting, and possibly the end, where I was not sure exactly what had happened (or failed to happen) but I was sure it was bad. Long, sad, inevitable and to be endured. So, what do you think, Paul, were these the things you meant? (It will be perfect if you say ‘Not at all’.)
Other things I noticed about the story was how slow it started off, with the main character meandering around the cold winter streets, something I would be prone to do, but which I would feel was not permitted. I talked about this story with another writer this morning, and she had the same reservations. Because we are amateurs, we don’t know–is it still wrong if someone famous does it, if it is published in the New Yorker?
I was annoyed by the early passage describing the narrator’s Midwestern background, the menu & customs in the German restaurant, how the wines came in ‘red, white, or pink’. It seemed not only too easy to make fun of these things (an amuse bouche of smug satisfaction for sophisticated New Yorker readers before the main course of yuppie adoption ennui?) but too knowing for the naive and protected voice of the narrator.
Did I like the story? With short stories I can never tell. I laughed a few times. I recognized the characters as people I have seen, if not known. But I don’t know if that adds up to enjoyment.
I got the idea for “Parvati” when I was working on a longer story. I was trying to explain the roots of a modern family’s repetitive disfunctionality through the story a grandmother tells her granddaughter while combing her hair.
I eventually decided Parvati’s story wasn’t awful enough for that family, and made up something much more evil.
I used to have recurring nightmares about being bitten by a snake, a fox, and an alligator. But in real life, I was used to being around snakes and wasn’t afraid of them until I went to India. There I learned that I am only not afraid of black snakes, copperheads and timber rattlesnakes. I am scared silly by cobras. Having to walk past a snake charmer, knowing that he would chase me with that crazy snake because I was a tourist and therefore a good earning opportunity, absolutely petrified me.