Friday, September 2, 2016

Publication Day! In Clarkesworld


This is how I feel today, along with some celebratory punching of imaginary things in the air.

Why am I doing this, you ask? Because my story "Aphrodite's Blood, Decanted" is in the September issue of Clarkesworld.

Sometimes when one of my stories publishes, I share the story behind it. Here's this one.

One of my writers groups, an online forum called Codex, holds an annual contest to write a flash-length piece over the weekend every week for five weeks. I've participated in this contest for the past three years. Also this year, there was a bonus round: write a short story in two weeks. Each short story must be based off a title that the writer chooses from a database of titles submitted by fellow Codexians. The database has thousands of titles.

I don't usually do the short story round, but my flashes had mostly been a bust this year. I got one good one, which you can read here, if you like. I decided to give the bonus round a try. After much rummaging through the database, I settled on this title: "Aphrodite's Blood, Decanted into a Glass Slipper."

Here's the fuzzy part. I don't remember how, from that title, I settled on a story about a lonely AI-controlled factory who's trying to bring people back to his nuked, uninhabitable city. I do remember going that route because the idea surprised me; I wouldn't expect a story with this title to be that sort of story. I shortened the title. I researched the how and why of decanting wine. I wrote a first draft, and I handed it over to my critique group.

One of my critique mates suggested I whack off the entire last scene, in which the AI's scheme is successful and people do return to the city. It's unnecessary, he said. I wanted some kind of resolution to whether the AI's scheme worked or not. Out of our discussion came an alternate ending. We laughed over it. The next day, I tried a draft with the type of ending we discussed, liked it, and submitted to the Codex contest.

The feedback from Codex was split evenly between those who loved the ending and those who hated it. Either way, I had evoked a passionate reaction, which every writer wants to do.

After more polishing, I submitted the story to Clarkesworld, a magazine I had been trying to get into for years and had never made it past the first-round slush readers. When the acceptance landed in my email box late one night after the kids were in bed, you can bet there was some (quiet) celebration.

The moral is: Sometimes it takes a village. This story would not exist without the folks who run the Codex contest, the anonymous writer of the original title, and my lovely critique group. Thank you, all. And if you read my story this month, or listen to it on Clarkesworld's wonderful podcast, I hope you enjoy it.