Here is another bit of micro fiction inspired by Cracked Flash’s weekly prompt. This one was a runner up.
What Comes Out of the Ground
By Sara Codair
“My flesh is clothed with worms and a crust of dirt,” I said, shuddering on the doorstep. The open door loomed over me, black and peeling, like the mouth of an ancient monster waiting to swallow me whole.
“Stop being dramatic,” muttered my mother. “Just make sure you wipe your feet before you go inside. I don’t want my floor ‘clothed’ in that shit.”
I brushed the flecks of brown off my clothing, pulled a wriggling worm out my hair, and rubbed the soles of my sneakers on the emoji door mat. I stepped inside, staring at immaculate white tile and paint, so clean it glowed. The floor creaked behind me. The door slammed shut.
“Please shower before you touch anything.” She shuffled past me, putting more weight on her cane than I remembered during my last visit.
Taking baby steps, I made my way to the powder room where I washed my hands, stripped out of my muddy clothing, put it in a trash bag, and got in the shower. I covered myself in a lather of soap and let the water rush over my skin until it looked like it belonged to a living human, not a zombie.
I got dressed, brought my soiled clothing to my car, and found my mother sitting on her front porch.
“Thank you for helping out,” she said. “We got good harvest. Those potatoes should last until the spring.”
If you enjoyed Chronicles of Nick by Sherrilyn Kenyon, you will probably enjoy How I Magically Messed Up My Life in Four Freakin’ Days as they both feature a snarky, sort of whiny, self-aware narrator who wants to be like Deadpool but isn’t quite as cool.
At the beginning, I was not a fan of this book, or Bryant, its narrator/main character. My first impression was that he was a racist dick because made a comment about “old black ladies” watching out for him. That opening chapter really made me think the book drew unnecessary attention to race, and made me want to punch Bryant in the face.
But Bryant grew on me. He made me laugh. I loved the idea of the magic cell phone, and the world was well built. That first chapter was really the only one that had a racist vibe. There were some lines that were a bit too corny, even for this character, but in the end, the plot and the world drew me in. Bryant did grow and change throughout book, and he learned something in the end, which more than I can say for the characters in Valerian.
Speaking of the end, it wrapped up the main storyline, but left plenty room for a sequel, which I would probably read. However, I never read the second book in the Chronicles of Nick, so maybe I will be content to leave Bryant with one book. Books, like all arts, are subjective, and Bryant’s voice just wasn’t one I connected with. That doesn’t mean it was bad — just not my cup of tea.
This one is going to be hard to review without spoilers, but I’ll do the best I can.
I received an ARC of The Dying Game through the First to Read program. I initially chose it because I thought it might eventually be a good comp for one of my novels. It was thriller set in the near future and it had a female protagonist trying to get over something bad. That part of the concept seemed neat. The whole set up with people disappearing from a secluded house filled with secret passages was cliche.
Overall, the book wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great. I get part of the thriller genre is to keep people guessing, but some of the details the author choose to leave out were downright distracting. For example, I never quite figured out the main character actually did at her job. I was constantly thinking about this instead of the story, and as a result, found myself constantly getting pulled out of the story. While the author skimped on details that seemed important, there were large swaths of back story that was just told, and more info dumps than I could count.
I kept thinking that all this was going to be relevant when I got to the end. Some of it was — but the end would have been far more surprising had the backstory been woven through in a more subtle way. Because of the info dumps and long, told, segments of flashbacks, the end was pretty much exactly what I was expecting, though, I admit, there were a few times in the middle where I thought I was wrong, and found myself hoping in vain for a more optimistic ending.
I also felt most of the characters were unnessarily sexist and binary. After reading two books with intersex and genderfluid leads, this felt like a slap in the face. I can see a female writer making the men seem a bit misogynistic to make a point, but there could have been at least one female character who wasn’t a stereotype of one kind or another…
Despite the many flaws of the The Dying Game, I did keep reading until the end, even though I considered giving up a couple times. The prose were pretty — there was good literary scenary that made it a little less painful. I also wanted to know if I was right about where the plot was going, and really hate to leave a novel unfinished (House of Leaves is still siting on my book case, mocking me. It doesn’t need a friend.) So I kept reading, and got to the ending I really wished I had been wrong about.
I my head, this book is 2.5 stars, but Goodreads and Amazon don’t give that option, so I’m rounding up when I review on those sites.
“When this is over, I want my sanity back,” said Elena as matter-of-factly as one could say anything when wearing a straightjacket in a padded room.
The padded walls spread their crusty purple lips, revealing row upon row of pointy yellow teeth and laughed.
“I mean it.” She waggled her pointer finger at the ceiling.
“Who says it will ever be over?” The wall’s lips cracked as it spoke.
“Who said I was talking to you,” retorted Elena, tearing her eyes away from the ceiling so she could glare at the wall.
Black blood dripped out of the wall’s cracked lip, trickling down to the floor. “No one leaves here alive.”
Elena laughed. The sound was harsher, more maniacal than it had been two weeks ago.
“You do not believe?” asked the wall.
“You’re the reason I’m here.” She crouched down, wriggling in the straightjacket that was not nearly as tight as the orderlies thought, thankful for all the months she’d trained prior to taking this assignment.
“You can’t do that,” said the wall.
Elena arched one eyebrow as she shrugged off the jacket and used it to wipe up the black blood.
The wall opened its mouth and screamed. Elena didn’t flinch. It inhaled, sucking in air so hard her hair blew towards its maw. She closed her eyes, cleared her mind of the all the drug-induced hallucinations she’d had during her stay Frommington Hospital, waiting for the wall to show its true face.
She whispered words of power in the ancient tongue. The blood soaked jacket caught fire. The wall screamed as it burned with the jacket. The door opened as orderlies rushed in to put out the fire. Elena charged through them and strolled out of the burning hospital like she owned the place.
I received a free, electronic copy of Dalí from NineStar Press in exchange for an honest review.
I admit, I haven’t read much space opera, if any, since Karen Traviss stopped writing for the Star Wars franchise. I stuck to fantasy, and to science fiction that did not involve space travel because nothing quite compared to the Star Wars universe and the 40+ books I had read in it.
Dalí restored my faith in that particular sub-genre. The world building was exquisite, and done so smoothly that it did not distract from character development and plot. There was just enough description to help me picture the world, but it was concise and didn’t slow the story down. But most importantly, the characters were alive, diverse, fluid, and complex.
I am envious of Dalí’s ability to change gender to suit the their mood or the situation but remain neutral when they are just being theirself. I have a soft spot for characters that do not conform to the binary gender, and for characters that bounce back from trauma.
All that I mentioned above combined with the fascinating galaxy and the well woven Princess Bride references made this book a definite five stars.
There is so much more explore with this galaxy and its characters. I really hope this becomes a series!
The title and cover of “Trans Liberty Riot Brigade” told me the book was going to be something special. The teaser on the back was further evidence supporting that theory. The novel did not disappoint. Once I started reading, I had to finish in one sitting.
At first, the slang made it hard for to engage with the character. I had to stop and figure out what some of the words meant. They were familiar enough, that between context, and remembering how my friends from high school used to talk, I could figure them out, especially after I let my mind wander into the metaphorical gutter. They were foreign enough to feel like they were part of a true future, but familiar enough to decipher. Once I got through the first few chapters and learned their rhythm, I flew through the book.
The truth that potential future portrayed in Trans Liberty Riot Brigade holds too much truth; it was the most terrifying part of the book. The dark, gritty, dystopian landscape seems all to possible in today’s political climate. There was just enough truth to make it seem plausible…and give me nightmares about where the the current president could steer our country.
The world building was good – but the main character was amazing. I always find myself complaining that character in some of my favorite books are too binary, but this one featured two who truly transcended the binary idea gender.
I can forgive the occasional moments of preachy-ness, characters occasionally recovering too fast from injuries, and the work I had to do to learn the language of the book. The plot kept me on the edge of my seat. I could really engage with the characters, and I believed the world.
If I had to compare it other books, I say it’s a mix of Christina Henry’s Alice, Veronica Roth’s Divergent, and George Orwell’s 1984.
“Scrape that off before you make the jump.” Dad’s voice crackled through the com. Like everything Iris’ family owned, it was utterly obsolete.
He faded to static. Iris imagined him lecturing her on the dangers of bringing organic, terrestrial material, like pollen and bird shit, into hyperspace.
“Will do,” she said before turning on her craft’s wipers. Just to be safe, she set to the whole ship vibrating.
“Make sure you don’t miss anything,” crackled Dad.
“I love you, Dad. I’ll be fine, and I’ll let you know as soon as I revert to real time.” Iris punched the coordinates for Great Red Eight. She was going to be attending university there and studying materials engineering, but as she prepped for light speed, all she could think about was the party scene, and what it would finally be like to make a life for herself away from her family’s antiques and eccentricities.
As the home-made hyper drive hummed to life and the stars stretched into lines in her space-craft’s windshield, Iris couldn’t help thinking of each glowing streak as a potentially awesome path her life could take. With hope brewing in her brain, Iris set an alarm to wake her shortly before reverting to real time and drifted off to sleep.
Iris woke to urgent beeping. It wasn’t the alarm she set, but one alerting her to premature real-time reversion. Blinking sleep away, she stared at the controls, holding her breath until she realized she was only seconds away from her planned reversion point.
“That could’ve been worse,” she sighed, adjusting her course.
The ship hit resistance that shouldn’t exist in space. She peered through the view screens. A giant Osprey was pushing her craft away from Red Eight.
“So much for escaping eccentricity,” she muttered before radioing for emergency assistance.
When I was taking a creative writing workshop in college, my professor (Andre Dubus III) told me he never planned novels. He encouraged us to avoid outlines, claiming they would make our writing feel forced. He said if we outlined, our characters wouldn’t feel real, and they wouldn’t come to life on the page.
Shortly after that, I went to a talk / signing to see Jim Butcher, who was my absolute favorite author at the time. He was the opposite. He planned entire series before he wrote them.
Both men were successful – they had best selling novels. One was on Oprah and had his books in her book club. The other had fans who went to cons dressed up as his characters. However, they wrote completely different styles of fiction. Dubus wrote realistic literary fiction and Butcher wrote about snarky wizards and monsters the monsters they fought.
In hind sight, I think I would’ve finished my first novel quicker if I’d followed Butcher’s planner approach. However, the thrill of not knowing what was going to happen next kept me writing well past midnight. I loved letting my characters develop on the page and shape the plot with their own stubborn whims.
The problem was, left to their own devices, my character took the plot down dead ends that didn’t go anywhere or their plots would amble on and on, never reaching a destination.
I started a novel when I was 18. I finished draft 1 when I was 26. I finished draft 10 at 28. Now, at 29, I’ve gotten lots of rejections for it, and am waiting for four agents who have the full manuscript to make a decision.
It only took me a few months to write a first draft of novel # 2, but that draft turned out to be 200,000 words long. Then it took me two years to cut it down to 84,000 words. I just started querying that novel.
While I liked the idea of the “panster” approach, it was not very efficient. When 2016’s National Novel Writing Month rolled around, I tried to be a planster. I had a short story I was expanding to a novel, so made a very rough outline where it was going to go. There were some cool surprises – like the sentient, genetically modified cats that showed half way through the first draft, and chapters from the antagonist’s point of view that helped me resolve the conflict.
After a month, I had a 55,000 word draft that was well plotted with deep, dynamic characters. Seven beta readers and as many revisions later, I’m ready to enter this book into pitch wars.
With Community Magic, I had a concept and characters in my head, with a very vague plot, so I jotted down a few ideas and dove into the first draft. I’m half way through, but it is a big mess of a draft.
For Earth Reclaimed, I wrote out a chapter by chapter outline, wrote a complete synopsis, a pitch, and a query before I finished writing Chapter 2. So far, I have a cleaner, readable draft that I will be able to give to beta readers when I finish.
With Community Magic, I will have to revise two or three times before I let anyone read the whole thing.
Both books have interesting characters, a compelling plot, and I’ve encountered surprises while writing both of them. Even with all the planning I did, I never expected intelligent, self-aware schooners to show up in Earth Reclaimed, but they did, and they’re there to stay.
Outlines and plans are not the evil things I once thought they were. They are not vampires that suck the life out of a story. They just help writers get things done.
Last night I launched my first Publishizer campaign. I received four pre-orders ranging from $8 to $45. I thought that was good night, but my experience selling online is with jewelry, not books. When selling on Etsy, I was thrilled if I had four orders in one evening.
While I’m happy with the orders I have so far, and really appreciate the support people have shown, I still have a long way to go. My goal is to get 500 orders by August 8th since that is what I need in order for Publishizer to query my book to top, traditional publishers publishers. I’d be completely happy with an offer from a small or indie press too. Publishizer queries them when I hit 250 pre-orders.
However, I will not take an offer from “service” or “hybrid” publishers.
I tried to publish a book with a hybrid publisher last year. They got me really excited, but by book never even went to edits. Its been almost a year since I heard from anyone at that company and I’m not sure they even still exist. The best I can hope for is that they forget about me, so when my contract expires I can try publishing the book elsewhere.
A bad experience is not the only reason I’m avoiding hybrids, though. From what I understand, they use print on demand and other self-publishing methods. Yes, they edit for you, design a cover and do some minimal marketing, but they are also taking a large chunk of the sales. They’re not saving writers any money.
I suppose if one knows nothing about editing or cover design, and has no platform a hybrid or service publisher might bel helpful. For me, not so much. I already have a cover for my book. I have a platform. I even have an editor. What I don’t have is a giant network of Facebook friends willing to throw their money at me. I need a publisher that is going to get my book in the hands people I’ve never met before, one that will expose me to new readers.
The publisher must not charge the writer anything, ever.
The publisher must provide multiple rounds of professional editing.
The publisher must market my book in ways I cannot do on my own.
The owner, editors, PR people and designers should have prior experience in publishing.
The website must be geared towards readers, not perspective writers.
The covers must be beautiful and professionally designed.
The books for sale must have decent amazon rankings and reviews.
My campaign with Publishizer is a new adventure for me — a new path through the publishing word — but I will still hold any offers I get to the same standards as any I get through more traditional methods. If I get under 50 pre-orders, I do have the option to refund my readers. If I get more than 50, but do not get any offers I approve of, then this will turn into my first experience with self-publishing.
Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed my post and want to support my writing journey, please pre-order Earth Reclaimed at https://publishizer.com/earth-reclaimed/