Category Archives: Kris ‘n’ Dean Short Story Workshop

Short Story: The Ferro-Erotic Roaches of Kiki

The Ferro-Erotic Roaches of Kiki, a 3000-word science fiction story, is now available for the Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and Smashwords:

Cover - Ferro-Erotic Roaches of Kiki 200 x 300

Sharpen your beaks, prickle your barbs, color your ears. My Kiki, my brothers, we must guard our broods…

The Kiki dwell contentedly in their hive until the odd roundy beasts plummet to the surface.

Chantelle and James, marooned on an alien world of banded stone and gaping chasms, take refuge in the warrens of the roach-like denizens of the planet. They find a peaceful, if uneasy, co-existence.

Until the baby arrives.

And they call again for help.

And Chantelle must choose: her baby or her life…

A strange tale of science-fiction by Alistair Ainscott. 

“The Ferro-Erotic Roaches of Kiki” Copyright © 2011 Alistair Ainscott, Published by Rapid-Dynamix Publishing

Cover illustration © Innovari | Dreamstime.com

The Writing of the Ferro-Erotic Roaches of Kiki

This is one of the short stories that I wrote at the short story workshop that I did with Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith. To be honest it was the best received of the four stories that I wrote for the workshop. It has a strange voice for the parts told from the alien’s otherworldly point-of-view, funny in an odd way, but it mostly seemed to work for the twenty other writers who attended. This is interspersed with scenes from Chantelle’s (the protagonist’s) point of view.

Kris liked like the story and encouraged me to mail it or e-pub it (which I have now done).

Dean Wesley Smith loved the title. He must have said “What a great title!” three or four times.

This also may be the only science fiction story ever written about the Kiki / Bouba effect. It’s a real psychophysical effect. Look it up.

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Filed under Dean Wesley Smith, E-Pub, Indie Published Stories, Kris 'n' Dean Short Story Workshop, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Short Stories, Stories Available

Short Story: Captain Disaster and the Twin Terrors of Unholy Matrimony

Captain Disaster and the Twin Terrors of Unholy Matrimony, a humorous 5400-word story, is now available for the Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and Smashwords:

Cover - Captain Disaster Twin Terrors

One dad, twin preschoolers, and a three-thousand mile trip.

What could go wrong?

Bernard Keyes travels cross-country with his identical twin girls so they can be flower girls in his brother’s wedding. But that last mile of winding country roads just might be the hardest part of his journey… other than the ceremony itself. An inkling of trouble cracks in Captain Disaster’s arthritic knuckles, but can he push his sputtering, rusted-out old truck fast enough to save the day?

 

 

“Captain Disaster and the Twin Terrors of Unholy Matrimony” Copyright © 2011 Alistair Ainscott, Published by Rapid-Dynamix Publishing

Cover illustration © Marianmocanu | Dreamstime.com

The Writing of Captain Disaster and the Twin Terrors of Unholy Matrimony

This was a short story that I originally wrote during the June 2011 Short Story Workshop that I did with Kristine Kathryn Rusch. This is the last story I wrote at the workshop; I was getting tired so this one came out pretty silly.

Thanks and I hope you enjoy the story.

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Filed under E-Pub, Indie Published Stories, Kris 'n' Dean Short Story Workshop, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Short Stories, Stories Available

First Professional Sale & Short Stories #38, #39 Mailed

Success!

I’ve sold Story #26 of my 2011 Short Story Challenge– to write 40 new short stories this year– to Penumbra, a new speculative fiction e-magazine. And yes, they pay professional rates of 5 cents per word.

My story will appear in the January 2012 issue. I’ll post more details and a link to the magazine when I have them.

It’s also a milestone for me because it marks my first professional sale.

I decided to get serious about my fiction about a year ago. Really started to focus on finishing things, on mailing them out rather than endlessly revising the same unfinished stories. Started really paying attention to the advice given by professionals, especially Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. And yes, I learned a ton– and took in a lot simply by osmosis– when I attended the June 2011 Short Story Workshop (taught mainly by Kris, an award-winning editor and writer).

Now, I’m not sure I agree with every bit of advice they dole out. But you know what? They’re both established professionals making a living from their writing. They have been at this for decades. They know what the heck they are talking about.

So I listened, and I learned. And I’m still learning.

Making the sale is great, but it doesn’t fool me; I know I still have a ton to learn to bring my craft to a higher level. My job now is to write the next one, and the next, and the one after that. May sell or it may not. But I’ll keep practicing and learning new tools, how to tell a good story in a compelling way.

I have to admit the making the sale did get in my head for a few days. I found it hard to sit down and write. The idea that someone might actually publish these words I was writing, these practice sessions that I was setting down on paper, paralyzed me. Felt like the words had to be perfect, the story had to be great.

Well you know what? Some stories I set down on paper stink. I know that. I’m sure editors are sometimes thinking that when they send me form rejections.

But I also know that I’m wrong about that sometimes, and the only way to find out is to finish the story and mail it.

The story I sold is a perfect example. It’s a short, funny sci-fi story. In many ways the premise is ridiculous. I wasn’t sure the story even worked. I wondered if I should mail it out or just trunk it.

But I was wrong; it worked and it worked great, and an editor bought it. Sold the first time out, actually.

It feels great to have a story out there and published that never got rejected!

And really, it didn’t take so long:

  • I wrote that story just a little bit past 100,000 words of fiction written since I got serious about it. None of the stories from the first 100,000 words has sold yet, although I know at least one of them moved on to later rounds of reviewing (a piece I sent to ChiZine, a really tough market to crack).
  • It was the 73rd manuscript that I mailed out this year.
  • I wrote the story when my race score was at 20 stories in the mail; the acceptance came at 31 stories in the mail. (My race score at the moment is 32; the point for the story that sold doesn’t come off until it’s published).
  • The acceptance came after I’d hit 90 rejections.

Now it may be twice as long before I sell the next one, or who knows, one of the stories I have out might sell tomorrow. No way to know. But I feel like I’m on the right path and I’ll keep working at it. I’m sure I’m no exception and I have a million words of crap in me. Or heck, I’ve written so much non-fiction in my professional work that I may very well need two million words of crap to overcome that deficit.

But I know there will be some gems in there too.

I have gotten over the hump of the sale now and moved on to the next one. Mailed out Stories #38 and #39 in the last week or so.  Both are on the short side; #38 is about 1500 words, #39 is a flash fiction piece. But I’ve been learning a lot and having great fun writing a number of shorter pieces; one of them sold and another was shortlisted elsewhere before it ultimately got rejected. So it seems to be working for me.

I have story #40 nearly finished as well, so I’ll make my 2011 Short Story Challenge goal of 40 stories written and mailed probably by early next week.

So now I’m gunning for my stretch goal of 50 Stories finished and mailed by the end of the year, but it will be tough to get there with some upcoming travel for work plus the usual holiday distractions. But we’ll see. I’m going to take a run at this and see just how far I can get.

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Filed under Accepted Stories, Dean Wesley Smith, Flash Fiction, Kris 'n' Dean Short Story Workshop, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Rejections, Short Stories, Story Challenge 2011

Short Story #32 Mailed

I finished a new ~4,000 word story for a pro-paying anthology submission last night and mailed it off today, for Story #32 completed of my 2011 short story challenge. I thought the story turned out pretty well, but who knows. It’s impossible to judge your own work, so I will await the judgement of the editors, but I feel like I put out a good effort for this one and I’ll simply hope for the best.

I also received one rejection back from a story that had been out for a long time, and mailed it back out the very same day– to a market that pays better, even– so my race score now stands at 26.

I decided the ~5,000 word story that I had tentatively earmarked for the anthology had too many problems at present, so I decided not to mail it off yet. I’ll revisit that story in a while and decide what to do with it, with the options being mail it out as is (if fresh eyes revise my opinion of it), trunk it, redraft it (write most of it starting over from scratch), or most likely, add some scenes and word count so that it can deliver better on its original promise.

The absolutely key thing to avoid is a death-spiral of revision, tempting though that may sometimes be. I found myself quite tempted to start fiddling with this one, which from experience I know is at best a fine way to waste time and at worst a very effective way to ruin a perfectly good story. This is also what Kris ‘n’ Dean preached repeatedly at their Short Story Workshop– it takes a lot of experience and skill to make anything more than superficial revisions to a story, particularly if you let youself slip into critical voice– so I just set it aside and completed the other story instead, and now I’m glad that I did.

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Filed under Kris 'n' Dean Short Story Workshop, Short Stories, Story Challenge 2011

VOMIT SETTING ONTO THE PAGE. (and 100th Submission, 75th Rejection, & Short Story #31 Mailed)

It’s been a while since I last posted but things have been busy. Since Oct 7th I received 9 rejections (one piece rejected twice) and mailed out 11 pieces. That brings my race score to 25.

I also passed some milestones this week, with the 75th rejection of the year coming in and the 100th mailing of the year going out.

I still also have one piece being held by an editor for possible publication. No clue when I will hear back about that, but it’s for a market that pays professional rates.

I mailed off Short Story #31 of my 2011 Short Story Challenge several days ago, a short strange one about a character with phantom limbs.

I have also finished a first draft of the short novel at about 31,000 words as well as a first draft of a 5,000 word short story that I was thinking of submitting to an anthology call. So, lots of words coming through the keyboard, but finding time to do some editing (as opposed to producing new words, which has been my priority) has been a challenge.

I started a new piece this week as well where I decided to have fun and follow explicitly the directions that Dean Wesley Smith gave us for one excercise at the June 2011 Short Story workshop when he was none too pleased about the results of a previous assignment about story setting:

VOMIT SETTING ONTO THE PAGE.

So I went and did just that and have a 2,500 word start on another story where the first six pages do nothing but layer in a creepy setting bit by bit, filtered through the viewpoint and opinions of the main character. I rather like how it has turned out so far.

The reason to “vomit setting onto the page” is that, as an early-stage professional writer, it is too easy to focus on plot and other story aspects and leave the setting too thin. That leaves you with a white-room story full of fake details (“the bench” vs. “the grubby oak-planked bench capped with wrought-iron finials,” for example). This also brings particular and concrete details into your story that evoke the five senses.

On this new story, I’m admittedly a bit stuck on where it will go next. But I have a solution for that, as well, thanks again to another bit of advice that Dean pearled out during the dinner on the last night of the workshop.

One of the students asked Dean how to flesh out a big idea, how to get going on it, how to develop it to its full potential. Dean had a great, short answer that might seem trite at first glance but actually encapsulates a lot of wisdom:

“Just start typing.”

The student looked at him incredulously and started to rephrase the question. To which Dean said, “No, really, just start typing.” His point was that the place to do world-building is at your keyboard, with probes and bore-holes drilled in the form of stories. If a particular story veers off of your big idea, well so what. Let your subconscious, creative mind take you where it will, finish off that story, and take another whack at it with your next story. And then the next. And the next. Soon you’ll understand your “big idea” better, and through the process of exploration in story form, likely come up with many twists and turns and improvements on your idea that you never would have otherwise.

Now, I may have little track record as a fiction writer but I’ve worked in advanced R & D for my entire professional career and so I could see the wisdom in Dean’s words. It’s way, way to easy to paralyze yourself into inaction because an idea seems to big or too difficult or too vague in its present form. You just have to build stuff, try things out, and gradually via exploration-through-experience something interesting will come out of it– as long as you trust yourself and permit yourself to have some whiffs along the way.

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Filed under Dean Wesley Smith, Kris 'n' Dean Short Story Workshop, Novels, Short Novels & Novellas, Rejections, Short Stories, Story Challenge 2011, Workshops

Short Story #28 Mailed

I was on travel with the family this weekend, so no time for writing really, but I did whip out one short-short on the iPad for a short fiction contest. It’s the shortest story of this year’s challenge so far, but finished, titled, and mailed, so I’m counting it :-). I also wrote a 500 word fragment in which I have no idea where I am going, so I will shelve that for now and may or may not return to it.

This week I am focusing my effort on working up something to send to the Writers of the Future contest. The deadline is midnight on Friday so I’ll have to write this one fast and hard. This one will be a complete redrafting of a story that I wrote at the Kris ‘n’ Dean short story workshop. By redraft I mean I’m not even looking back at the original manuscript, just starting from a similar idea of what the story will be. It was a story with a nice rich, lush setting– setting is probably what I do best as a writer– and Kris commented that it was beautifully written but left too many story questions unanswered. And actually, at the time, I remember being relieved at her comments because all the same questions had been nagging at me as I wrote it– I knew I had left them dangling– but under a tight time deadline I hadn’t been able to figure out the answers. And a number of people at the workshop liked the story even as it was (we all read each other’s stories, in addition to a hefty writing load). As Kris said repeatedly during the workshop, “It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does have to be finished.” Where “finished” means at least 3,000 words, with a beginning, a middle, and an ending– as well as that closing validation that gives the reader permission to leave the story.

My daughter was sick last night, so there was little time for writing, but I did manage to pound out an 800 word start on the new story for Writers of the Future, again on the iPad. I never would have imagined that the iPad would be such a useful tool for writing, and to be honest I only downloaded the iWork Pages application to study and experience how Apple handled a multi-touch word processor– professionally, I work in interaction design– but I’ve noticed that a hefty percentage of my stories are getting their starts on the iPad. So it seems to encourage lowering the mental filters that let words flood onto the page, and it’s a great “shim” device for wedging into those little crevices of writing time that appear here and there in daily life.

In the past week I also received 5 rejections and sent six manuscripts back out in the mail. That brings my race score for manuscripts in the hands of editors at pro-paying short fiction markets up to 22.

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Filed under Flash Fiction, Kris 'n' Dean Short Story Workshop, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Rejections, Short Stories, Story Challenge 2011, Workshops