Monthly Updates: February 2019 – Speculative Soul Story Editing Services

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Speculative Soul Story Editing Services is Live!

Wow, February flew by! For my fellow authors, I’m excited to announce the launch of my new editing services website. If you find yourself stuck in the revision process, or in need of a second set of eyes, feel free to get in touch. I offer services ranging from developmental editing to copyediting to critiquing. I know firsthand how tight an author’s budget can be, so I strive to keep services as affordable as possible. We can negotiate prices and service options, too. Editing has always been one of my favorite phases of the storytelling process, so I’m eager to bring this passion into the spotlight.

Check it Out!

 

New Book Giveaways and Deals

My own books are still baking in the editing oven, but like usual, here are some new giveaways across the speculative fiction spectrum if you’re on the hunt for more to read without breaking the bank:

Giveaways

Happy reading!

I hope you enjoy what remains of winter (of your current season) with warm beverages of choice and a bevy of good books.

Favorite Story Features

For this month’s story craft post, I’m going to go highly subjective. Out of curiosity, I spent a couple of hours last week breaking down my own favorite stories (my favorite books, games, movies, etc) and looking for the common threads that ran through all of them. I certainly found a few consistent factors, including several which I didn’t necessarily expect. Your mileage may vary, but here’s what makes me personally fall in love with a story:

  1. An accessible surface; a deep, complex, nuanced core.
    1. Most of my favorite stories have made themselves appear accessible on the surface – a standard sci-fi game, a standard shounen anime, a standard small-town murder mystery, etc – but with a deeper, and usually darker, core. They intentionally foster approachable first impressions to draw people in. They don’t necessarily lie about what they are, but they keep their secrets close until you get to know them better. This gradual unfolding is immersive, surprising, and ends up becoming addictive – what will happen next? As expectations fall away, so do “rules” and predictability.
    2. This deeper core usually revolves around themes that comprise the soul of the work.
  2. Memorable, “rule of cool” characters with realistic psychology.
    1. My favorite characters bring in elements from the most exaggerated genre fiction – unique vibes, tragic backstories, odd features, immense talents, unusual names, exaggerated speaking styles, amazing powers, etc – alongside grounded psychological elements from literary fiction – motives, needs, wants, fears, hopes, complex relationships, inner conflicts, strengths, flaws, contradictions, etc. Combining the fantastical and realistic creates characters who transcend mundane humanity – becoming memorable and iconic – while remaining so achingly human.
    2. These characters have psychologically realistic growth arcs that tie into the story’s themes. Each character often has their own sub-theme, as well.
  3. A distaste for expectation.
    1. This doesn’t mean being satire (far from it), but it does mean flipping tropes around to different angles, combining or using them in unconventional ways, or eschewing common genre tropes entirely.
    2. My favorite stories have some element of surprise – twists, gimmicks, “gasp” moments. Many of them end with a “clincher” – a final twist or shocking moment – instead of a clean resolution arc.
    3. This also applies to concepts like, and especially of, gender. None of my favorite stories have ever entirely accepted gender as a flat, unexplored binary. Some have actually veered into borderline problematic territory, while others handled these themes deftly, but none have blindly accepted the notion of the binary and its roles. When the binary is questioned, even a little, characters instantly become more free and alive.
  4. Sweet, soft moments contrasted by wrenching disasters.
    1. My favorite stories aren’t afraid to toe the line of melodrama, without ever quite crossing over it. Stories should be cathartic – felt in the body, mind, and soul – and they embrace this. In doing so, they include unflinchingly sweet moments between characters and showcase the beauty of their people and worlds. They invite readers (and players, viewers, etc) to sink in and fall in love. They also include moments of brutality, sorrow, shock. They aren’t afraid of diving into the strange and horrific. They are less concerned with being realistic than they are with evoking an emotional reaction. The contrast between joy and horror creates “flashbulb memories” that stick with audiences and keep them coming back for closure.
    2. These stories aim for satisfaction. They don’t time-skip over the most dramatic or impactful moments, even if they take place in resolutions.
    3. “Flashbulb” moments should incorporate – and tie together – the plot, characters, world, and themes. The best of them even take advantage of language in a literary sense.
    4. My favorite stories tend to use tenderness and introspection during “relief” moments, rather than humor.
    5. Often, their endings are bittersweet.
  5. Moments of wonder.
    1. My favorite stories, if even for a moment, invoke wonder. This can be done through character, setting, plot, or even literary language, but most often, comes when one or more of these elements combine with theme. If they all combine with theme, the resonance is stronger still.
    2. To evoke wonder, the story must not be afraid to address the unknown – and often, to leave aspects of the unknown just as unknown at the end of the story. They embrace curiosity, uncertainty, awe, fear, joy, sorrow, life, death, the human, and the divine. They seek to transcend the story world’s own mundanity.
    3. Such stories reach for the sublime. Even if they can’t quite stare it down, they glimpse it. Even if they can’t quite hold on to it, they touch it. They find the magic in the mundane – either literally or metaphorically.
    4. There is often a haunting tone to these stories at their core, both during and after their ending. They carry a certain bittersweet taste. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t also show the simple joy of existence.
  6. Mixed genre classifications.
    1. Most of my favorite stories don’t fit entirely into just one genre – after all, neither does life. My favorites use genres as tools, not limitations.
    2. These stories also often mix elements from the genre fiction and literary fiction umbrellas (as seen in the contrasts present in the other points).

What common threads have you caught running through your own favorite stories? Do any of my factors resonate with you?

Earth’s Emotion (Poem)

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Earth’s Emotion

Rain taps the roof
with desperate little fingers.
A chorus of tears
sent from the weeping winter sky.

Wind whistles by
Singing a song too sad to tell.
It sighs, sobs, screams
shaking the world to its core.

The snow falls so soft and slow,
shards of the gray endless above
reaching down to touch our cheeks –
beautiful yet cold.

The hail pounds our havens –
hundreds of furious fists
without forgiveness,
eager to kill.

The ice paints mirrors over familiar sights –
reminding us of our unwelcome,
yet shimmering
with stars in the night.

Chills seep in,
casting shadows on skin.
What a selfish thing –
this season.

Still I’m safe,
watching wonderland through my window.
Candlelight flickers and wanes –
always stronger than the darkness.

I’m not afraid of winter –
of Earth’s dark emotions that swarm outside.
Is it not true,
that the most bittersweet plays are the most moving too?

Monday Blues: Creepy Little Bedtime Stories

(“Monday” Blues: On the first Monday of the month, I’ll recommend a new world – a book, a game, a podcast, etc – to escape into. Or at least to look forward to after a hard day’s work.)

Creepy Little Bedtime Stories

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A Series of Short Stories by William F. Aicher

What It Is: A series of stand-alone short horror stories, each taking on a unique horror sub-genre and voice.

Why You Should Read It: As part of my recent horror binge, I came across this series of shorts and greatly enjoyed each of them. Each entry in the Creepy Little Bedtime Stories series offers an injection of fast-paced, bite-sized fear. What also makes them fun is that reading through the series will essentially take you on a tour through horror sub-genres, ranging from dark fairy tales to crime horror to body horror. Each entry also has a distinct voice and style – from the tight, clean suspense of Pretty When You Sleep to the abstract, lyrical eeriness of Roommates – showing an impressive range from one author. Like the best horror stories do, each entry explores deeper thematic material under their spooky surfaces. Plus, they’re short enough to read in one sitting, right before your own bedtime.


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If you’re looking for even more books to read during the long, gray winter, you can download my apocalyptic vampire novel, Night Plague, for free from my email list.

There’s also free short fiction, including some spooky stories,  available from my website.