Really cool places to get short stories.

If you’ve been following Flowery Prose for a while, you’ll know that I LOOOOOVE all forms of short stories.  I publish flash fiction by many amazing authors over at Paper Butterfly Flash Fiction, and I occasionally write short stories myself.  (If there were more than 24 hours in a day, I’d write quite a few more!). But I have an especially soft spot for reading short stories…and I particularly adore science fiction, fantasy, and horror.  The more eclectic and inventive, the better!

If you love short stories as much as I do (especially speculative fiction), give these sites a try!  I am a first reader for Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores, a longtime print subscriber to On Spec (which is based out of Edmonton, in my home province of Alberta), and I’ve had my work published in Polar Borealis and 365 Tomorrows.  Sites such as Daily Science Fiction are fun because you can have them send you one story each day – a treat to go with your morning coffee!  (Every Day Fiction is another source of daily stories, as their publishing schedule permits – and they publish all genres, not just speculative fiction).

On Spec (Canadian; print and digital editions available for a subscription fee)

Polar Borealis (Canadian; online only, free to read but donations welcomed)

Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores (must pay to subscribe, but they always have a free sample story up on the website to enjoy; a new feature are the podcasts, which you can listen to for free!)

365 Tomorrows (free to read!)

The Martian Magazine (free to read; The Martian publishes drabbles (fiction of 100 words or less) so you can gobble down several of these in one sitting)

Daily Science Fiction (free; if you give them your email address, they’ll gift you with a new story five days a week!)

Every Day Fiction (free; subscribe by email. New stories are published frequently)

Paper Butterfly Flash Fiction (of course I have to include this one!  Free to read!) – right now, I’m featuring a hilarious gem by Gregg Chamberlain, “Poetic Licence.”

Do you read short stories?  Do you subscribe to any short story magazines, or do you prefer book-form anthologies or collections (one author or multiple)?  Please share any recommendations you may have – it doesn’t matter where in the world you live!  

Book review: The 2016 Long Lunch/Quick Reads Anthology, edited by Lisa Murphy-Lamb et al.

“Book Review August and Possibly Part of September” doesn’t really have a zippy ring, but here goes….  I should note that all of the books I’m going to post about over the next few weeks have been read in the past year and a half, and there is quite a eclectic jumble of genres, audiences, etc..  If you’ve been following Flowery Prose for a while, you’ll already know that my reading tastes are pretty wide-ranging.  I hope there will be something here that will pique your interest!  

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The 2016 Long Lunch/Quick Reads Anthology – Edited by Lisa Murphy-Lamb, Paul DiStefano, and Doug Neilson (2016, Loft on Eighth Calgary)

This collection of twelve stories and poems from both established and new Calgary writers is a delicious treat (pun intended!), a showcase of talent born out of the Loft 112 Creative Hive, a local writer’s group.  Put on your walking shoes and explore the city of Calgary, from the hidden spaces of the Calgary Stampede and the end of childhood, to a park bench by the cancer clinic, a suddenly crowded lane in a swimming pool, and the foot of a graffiti-scrawled underpass downtown. It’s all a bit gritty, unsettling, and heart-wrenching – you’ll see.  Standouts (for me): Doug Neilson’s devastating “Hymenoptera,” “At This Confluence,” the eloquent, elegant series of poems by Jessica Magonet, and poet Diane Guichon’s urban snapshots, “Sidewalk Litanies.”

The Door is Ajar: Public Library and Other Stories by Ali Smith.

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Public Library and Other Stories – Ali Smith (2015 Penguin Canada)

Smith’s collection of short stories was gathered together to celebrate the role of public libraries in personal and public life, of the value they bring to community, and the wealth of knowledge and the opportunity for engagement, thought, and creativity that they invoke.  Public Library is also a protest against the closure of libraries in the United Kingdom and other parts of the world, the quashing of budgets, collections, and services in libraries that remain, and the overall decline of government and popular support for these previously-revered institutions.  Smith’s stories are framed by quotes from writers, thinkers, and other figures as they explore their personal emotions and connections to libraries, books, reading, and writing.

The stories themselves were a delight for me and I devoured them in a couple of very short sittings. I am not familiar with Smith’s other work and I loved her style and juicy depth of language as she wound her way around several accounts of relationships gone sour, reimaginings of history, and family life.  It’s difficult to pick a favourite out of this collection, but “The Ex-Wife” and “The Poet” are special standouts for me.  Highly recommended.

Title.

A couple of weeks ago an editor e-mailed me a response to a piece I had submitted, of which the gist was: I like what you’re doing here, but your title doesn’t quite fit the situation you describe in your work. Either change the situation or change the title – it’s up to you.  Of course, I took the easier (but possibly more stressful) route and spent a day and a half agonizing over potential new titles, one of which was ultimately affixed to the published work.

Coming up with suitable titles is probably one of the most difficult parts of writing for me. If I’m writing an article – about composting, perhaps, or dividing perennials or buying garden tools – I tend to simply give a really brief statement about where I’m headed with the content. So far, I haven’t had to apply the heavy-handed sass that might yield that special click bait edge. “10 Deadly Secrets Your Lawnmower is Harbouring” isn’t really the sort of thing I write.  Yet.  These are lean times.

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I usually fare better when it comes to fiction, because the story tells me what it wants to be called (yeah, that doesn’t sound quite right now that I read that back but we’ll go with it).  Because I often write humour, my titles have contained puns (“Johnny Cache Steps Out”), snippets of clichéd sayings (“…If You Were the Last Man on Earth”), or slang (“Sheeple”). Still, the titles are usually coughed up at the end, when I’ve gotten the text down.  The only time it can get a bit shaky is when you have to scramble to meet a deadline and your story is ambiguous with its choice.  You don’t want your title to come across reading like a label hastily slapped on a shipping container (well, I guess it depends on the story).

Blog posts are even worse.  Take today’s title, for example.  It’s short and to the point, and definitely conveys what the writer wants it to, but it’s lacking a certain grittiness that would just nudge it over the top.  I’d chew on it a little bit more, but I’m suddenly inspired to write some horror flash fic about lawnmowers….  (Garden horror – that could seriously be a sub-genre, am I right?).

Are titles a struggle for you?

Clipart credit.