You Should be Reading: “Sic Semper” by Kristopher Reisz

I consider myself incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by people who either support creative works, or are creative types themselves. I know singer/songwriters, cosplayers, artists of various mediums, and of course a couple of writer-types. We keep each other confident during our bouts of writer’s block and celebrate each others accomplishments. One of those writer-types is Kris Reisz, who has an awesome name and an awesome short story out at Crossed Genre right now.  Here’s a teaser:

Vladislav IX had been the first monarch ever assassinated by bullet, a fact his ghost was quite proud of. “No brutish stabbing and hacking for me!” he crowed. “Powder and lead, efficient and to the point.”

Backed against the wall of the royal crypt, Alexander nodded. “Sure… I can tell.” The historic shot had left Vladislav IX with very little face above his curled white mustachios. This made talking to him unsettling. Luckily, the ghost carried most of the conversation.

“My reign was very forward-looking that way. I was also the first Cynanian monarch to eat a plantain.”

“Oh? Did you like it?”

“Not particularly. Mushy.”

Alexander kept nodding. He tried to remember something about Vladislav IX’s reign he might add to the conversation, but the truth was, Cynan had lots of Kings Vladislav. After a while, they all blurred together into one endless mustachio.

Just then, the shade of Queen Ludmila the First drifted close. “Vlad, stop pestering him. Can’t you see he’s nervous?”

Vladislav IX harrumphed. “I’m simply giving him some historical context for what he’s about to do.”

“He doesn’t need any historical context.” Queen Ludmila smiled at Alexander. “Just do what comes naturally, dear. Assassination isn’t difficult.”

Alexander gulped. “Y-you know why I’m here?”

The ghosts filling the royal crypts laughed. “We’re nobles, boy! Can’t slip an assassin past us,” Boris the Younger said.

“Unless he’s hiding in the privy with a spear, eh, Boris?” asked Mad King Casimir. This made all the ghosts – except Boris – laugh even harder. Boris the Younger (also known to the annals as the Man-Eater King and Boris Lutheran-Bane) snipped back, “Well, at least I wasn’t poisoned like some woman!”

“No, you just died with a spear-point rammed up your–”

“Lords, please!” Queen Ludmila drifted between them, then turned back to Alexander. “The point is, you’re hiding in the royal crypt fiddling with a gun. I’d know what you were up to even if I hadn’t killed my husband’s first wife.”

Alexander stuffed the revolver in his pocket, but the queen was right. He was here to kill the king.

Read the rest of “Sic Semper” at Crossed Genres. While you’re there, feel free to donate or purchase a subscription to get more stories and support the site. It’s a really rad publication, with lots of opportunities for authors to submit stories. Even if you don’t have the pleasure of knowing Kris like I do, you will enjoy his works. So go read!

Life of a Former Slush Pile Reader

A TALE IN WHICH THE AUTHOR, at her computer, comes across a newly released story.

“Didn’t they already release this one?” she asks herself. “I could have sworn they printed it last year. Let’s see if anybody else noticed in the reviews.”

But no one did. There was nothing but praise for the story, and so the author reflects on where she might recognize this story from.

“Oh,” she says to her cat, “I read this when it was in the slush pile. I approved it and sent it to the next level of approval/rejection. Huh.”

The author felt pretty cool about that.

Daily Science Fiction and the Itsy-Bitsy Teenie-Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Word Count

Breaking news!  By breaking, I of course mean, “I read about this last week and am just getting around to telling other people about it!”

Daily Science Fiction has moved their maximum accepted word count from 10k down to a lean 1.5k.  The announcement came and went as a header for a story with little fanfare, an e-mail I deleted because I am an idiot and reflexively delete stories once I am done reading them.  There was no notice on their Face Book page, nor any mention of it on the main DSF website that I could find other than an edited submissions page that reflects the new word count limit. I do not think this is a negative move, as the owners and editors of DSF may do as they very damn well please with their submission guidelines and, as I recall from my deleted e-mail, are moving towards shorter stories in response to their audience’s desire for a more true “quick-fix fiction” story in their inbox each day. This shorter word count will also strip away the longer stories typically published on Fridays.

DSF is a voracious market that demands literally hundreds of stories a year to keep pace with its publishing schedule and I can not blame them for moving to smaller stories for shorted processing times in regards to slush pile navigation and the necessary editing process that touches stories of all lengths. It also helps cut back on the cost of paying authors, which even as an author who has and will continue to submit to DSF, I don’t see this as a bad thing. DSF will keep their 8 cents a word payment and I respect that a lot. If this was a cost-saving maneuver on their behalf then I would prefer that they take shorter stories and maintain their status as a Qualifying Short Fiction Venue for SFWA.

Daily Science Fiction is an awesome market, and I highly encourage anyone with a shorty-short story to throw their hat into the slush pile.  No, wait, throw your story into the slush pile. You would probably ruin a hat doing that.

 

 

BOOM. I’m back.

Two truths and a lie, and then a bunch of links:

1) Working on an early draft of a novel is boring.

2) There is a place in my town that sells “drinking chocolate” that is right across from our main library branch.

3) I returned all of my library books on time, as I always do.

 

First Draft in 30 Days is a how-to book that will, in theory, help you crank out a highly detailed outline that can be gently jostled into a first draft. I found it worth the trip to the library, and suggest you give it a read through if you have trouble organizing your plot.

Scared Yet remains a fantastic study of scary stories and if you haven’t discovered Kris Straub yet then you are just flat missing out.

She Walks In Shadow will hold open submissions for their Lovecraft inspired anthology. The submission pool is open to female-identifying authors only, and they will start taking submissions in November.  I want to submit to this real, real bad so we’ll see what sort of Lovecraft vibe I can shake out of my brain. What I don’t know about eldritch horrors I can make up for in a weirdly expansive collection of man made industrial incidents and I have all sorts of thoughts on how closely the two are related.

Scared Yet? A Study in Horror

Found a cool thing and I’mma share it with you! I’m like a golden retriever that brings back websites instead of sticks.

I highly recommend that you check out the video series “Scared Yet” by Kris Straub. Straub is the author/illustrator of the ongoing webcomic Broodhollow (excellent) and the notorious creepy-pasta “Candle Cove” (also excellent). In this serious Straub takes on the task of studying the more popular scary stories that have spread throughout the Internet, dissecting both their intent and construction to determine if the piece is a success or failure.

 

 

“Scared Yet” is a great resource for writers, regardless of how invested they are in the horror genre. It’s a great way to see how stories attempt to evoke a specific reaction from their audience and how it can go both wrong and right. Straub is respectful in his critiques as he seeks out weak stories not to shame their creator, but to show the flaws in its execution and where it might be improved. Pacing, believability, and what an author can and cannot expect of their audience are discussed in a broad sense that is not aimed towards authors but an author can certainly gleam some good information from each episode.

Go check it out!

Diabolical Plots Reviews “The Witch’s Cat”

Diabolical Plots, in case you weren’t aware, is a cool website that does a lot of literary reviews. One of their more impressive feats is their devotion to reviewing each and every Daily Science Fiction story that gets published. You can also find The Grinder on their site, which is a story submission database and a great tool for researching available markets.

Here’s what they had to say about my story:

A tribute of a town’s savior shows up at the doorstep of a young lady’s home in The Witch’s Cat by Kalisa Ann Lessnau (debut 9/5 and reviewed by Frank D). The companion of a Witch takes to the protagonist when its master dies. The Witch did much for the town. The people she helped all whisper their thanks to the cat (named Sampson) as the protagonist walks tours the community. Sampson contributes to the bonfire while the town performs one last tribute to the Witch, surprising them all, but the magic of the witch has not stopped giving, after all.

“The Witch’s Cat” is a tale that had me guessing throughout. The Witch had left a lasting mark on the local people, she being an icon like many leaders throughout history. I really had no idea where this story was heading and its conclusion is one that I whole-heartedly approve of. Very nice work indeed.

RECOMMENDED

I appreciate the positive review, and am very proud to have earned a recommendation from them. Whee, thanks, Frank D.! I would have posted this review even if it were neutral or negative, because I see all reviews as a learning experience. Sometimes the lesson is “people are cray” (especially if you read some of the reviews on GoodReads and Amazon, yikes) but for a minor-league author like myself it is just good to know that someone out there is reading my work.

As an unrelated bonus, please enjoy this informative video in regards to the Oxford Comma:

Book Review: The Drowned Forest by Kristopher Reisz

[Editor's Note: a version of this review is also on my GoodReads page. It is my hope to begin reviewing more books in this blog, as I review podcasts, in an attempt to bring attention to the things I think others should check out.]

The Drowned Forest

The Drowned Forest by Kristopher Reisz is a book that has stuck with me over the last few days. I highly enjoyed it and hope that many others will as well.

The story follows Jane, a teenage girl who is trying and failing to deal with the loss of her best friend, Holly. Jane is in the center of a very religious community and holds God in every aspect of her life. However, the faith that she so heavily relies on offers little comfort in light of the fact that Holly’s spirit remains trapped in the waters she drowned in.

I was following the story along willingly until I reached a scene that caused me to put the book down, ponder what the hell just happened, then immediately pick the book back up to see what would happen next. The story is quick-paced, spanning a week’s time, and as soon as the action kicks in it does not lag.

The characters are believable and feel real. The details of the world are engaging (damned if Reisz cannot convey the awful, sticky heat of an Alabama summer) and are woven into Jane’s thoughts. We are spared any spoon-fed explanations and are simply offered the world of The Drowned Forest as it is.

There folklore in this story is some of the best this side of the Mississippi. There are root workers, circles drawn to ward off spirits, and the power of mojo. Reisz brings a haunting, hungry force into Jane’s world through the history that surrounds the titular drowned forest and I am so sorry that people ditched on the incredible mythos he is laying down in this story.

The protagonist begins the story as a sheltered, heavily-religious teenager who is trapped in her grief over the loss of her friend Holly. The religious aspect of Jane’s life is intentionally suffocating. It reflects the way that, although perhaps Jane cannot yet see for herself, those around her see their own struggling or non-existent faith. But a protagonist is built to change, to alter their own perspective and see the world in a different way. Regardless of your own personal religious views (or lack thereof, that’s cool too), I hope that you give The Drowned Forest the chance it so richly deserves.

Bonus fact: As a role-playing nerd I can totally see this as a viable setting for a campaign.