Author: midnightflyer

Best Online Short Stories July 2017

I have created a new feature, a monthly Best Online Short Stories list so welcome to the first edition.

This is a list of the best short stories I’ve read in the past month. These stories were published online, though some may also have been published in a print journal or e-zine. These online stories represent excellent work, often by new writers, and I simply wish them well and a wider audience.

If you read something great this month, share it.

  • The Dead Father Cookbook by Ashley Booms

http://strangehorizons.com/fiction/the-dead-father-cookbook/

Ashley Bloom: http://www.ashleyblooms.com/

A creepy story that may say too much about me in the fact I thought it was fun.

  • What if I Fall by Anne Dafeta

http://omenana.com/2017/04/06/what-if-i-fall/

Anne Dafeta: https://ajdafeta.wordpress.com/

The tension and pacing are very well done.

  • Ten Thousand Sleeping Beauties by Jocelyn Koehler

http://lunastationquarterly.com/story/ten-thousand-sleeping-beauties

Jocelyn Koehler: http://www.teamblood.org

A thoughtful, poignant tale with big themes in a small space.

Each of these stories are by writers without long publishing credentials but they are all strong writers with excellent voices.

Other good stories for July 2017

Goals, To-do Lists, Productivity, and Creativity

The first rule of writing is to write.
There are a bunch of other rules about how to do it.
The last rule of writing is, to write.
I know I am not alone in suffering from the Shiny Object Syndrome. I have told myself often when I’m working on an outline, or sketching scenes for a new work, that I’m just getting my ideas down before I forget them. While some of that is true, largely it is an excuse to spend time with a shiny new object.
I discovered recently that I had so many works in progress that I needed to set goals and due dates for those goals. That resulted in a schedule and a checklist which became my writing to-do list. That worked well for several months but then I stopped to think about the ultimate due date for any work. When would it be finished? I am a slow writer and given my time-sliced method I found that it would be nearly two years before the first work was finished.
Not acceptable.
The solution I found is really simple, and I may be the last to figure this out, but what I needed to do is trim the number of goals and the number of projects being worked on concurrently. Now I have a goal that equates to a single task: complete first draft of novel X by May 30th. I’m taking the 31st off.
There are probably many advantages to this but there are three which matter most to me. First, I can focus all my creative energy on a project. I am resisting the inevitable, “I’m not feeling this story today” syndrome and remaining focused on a single large work and a single short work until each draft is complete. The second advantage is that I get a completed draft sooner. Rather than have three or four drafts finishing within a month or two of each other—three years from now— I get one at the end of a few months. Hopefully.
The final and perhaps best advantage is this: my work will get better with each project. By working serially each project will be better than the one before. It is inevitable. Under my old way of working I would end up with three novels at the same level of craft and three years later another three novels that are a little better. By the time I get to my sixth novel I want it to be much better than my first, not just a little.
The shiny objects still pop up from time to time but I deal with them quickly in the form of notes and get back to the current project.
Write. Write to completion. Edit. Submit. Write again.

Creative Reading

I don’t know if all writers are like this, I suspect many are, but I can never read more than a few pages of a good book, fiction or nonfiction, without discovering some idea for one of my own stories. It’s not that I want to copy it, there’s just a trigger, something that fires my creative neurons and I have to stop reading and jot down a note.

Time, for Changes

This post is more intimate than usual. The start of  a new year is often a time for making changes, or trying to, but this year, on January 18th o be specific, I nearly didn’t wake up. I survived the immediate crisis but a full recovery will be a life long process. Change must happen. Change takes time, and all change requires putting more or new time and energy into different things and less into others.

The term work-life balance really misses the mark. Some people love what they do for work, for what they get paid to do, so putting large amounts of time and energy into work is probably fine. Those people should probably not be forced to find some arbitrary number of hours to spend on ‘life.’ They will probably resent their time away from what they love. I don’t know; that’s not me.

I fall into a category I believe many do. We have been fortunate to find something we’re good enough doing to get paid to do it, and we like it well enough to excel within our professions. But, while professionally successful, we’re the ones who cheat ourselves from ‘life’ because ‘life’ is where we shelved the things we truly love to do. We end up putting most of our energy into what we get paid to do, often simply so we can continue to get paid to do it.

Sometimes I think I would have been better off finding a job I despised rather than a profession I liked, but I know that isn’t true. I’ve seen first hand what that can do to a family. The resentment, anger, and depression get transferred to the innocents around us, the ones we care for the most. That is not the answer. So what must I do? The plan is simple really; it will be the execution of the plan which will be more difficult.

Declaring I will do more of what I love is not enough. That’s a hollow New Year’s resolution. A false, and sometimes stress inducing self delusion. The way I actually do more of what is important to me, I think, is to use what I love to do as a practice in calm and transition; what some refer to as mindfulness. Creating a strict time for doing what I love as a daily practice, an intentional act of separating myself from work life to real life, has to be the answer.

Why is it so difficult for us to find time to do what we love? We need to embrace the feeling of a child running from the school bus at the end of the day, excited to ride that bike, play that game, or read that book, with no thoughts of homework or chores or whatever. Embrace the eagerness to do what you want, and then do it, everyday.