Archive for the Short Fiction Category

“Why Pete?”: The Making of a Story

Posted in My Opinion, love it or leave it, Short Fiction with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 19, 2013 by tgmreynolds

Last summer I got word from L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future Contest that my short story, “Why Pete?” had been awarded an Honourable Mention in the second quarter of their quarterly international short story contest. I was ecstatic. I had an Honourable Mention from their Illustrators of the Future Contest from the early 90s, and this latest one completed the set.

Honourable Mention for "Why Pete?"

Writers of the Future Honourable Mention, 2nd Quarter 2012, for “Why Pete?” by Tim Reynolds.

“Why Pete?” is a pure science fiction piece written during a year of writing horror, fantasy, vampyre, zombie, and steampunk short stories. It tells the tale of Space Ark Commander Lily Rayn when she awakens from cryosleep near the end of her journey to a new star system with a load of colonists.

The Honourable Mention is a terrific honour and all, but there was no cash prize and the story didn’t get published, unlike the first-place winners. With stories, publication is what it’s all about, with hopefully a little cash thrown my way as a symbolic gesture.

So I submitted “Why Pete?” to Lightspeed Magazine. It was rejected. Next there was another competition at Arc. Nope. Then it was off to Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine (a perfect fit, or what?!). They liked it, but it wasn’t for them. Then the story made its way to Clarkesworld and it was rejected so fast it almost bounced. That’s fine, though. Rejection is okay.

Story rejections happen for a number of reasons. Here are a few, in no particular order.

  1. The story really does suck. (This was not a problem with “Why Pete?” because the judges at WOTF are very picky.)
  2. The story is of a type which doesn’t appeal to the editor. (He/she hates space operas, or whatever.)
  3. The story is not a good fit for the publication. (The story is science fiction, the publication is Homes & Gardens.)
  4. The publisher has recently purchased and/or published a similar story. (Just bad timing.)

And then came the much-anticipated call for submissions from Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy Publishing’s Tesseracts Seventeen. Tesseracts is THE Canadian annual speculative fiction anthology. There is often a theme and the only requirement is that the author(s) must be Canadian, in one form or another. Authors whose works have appeared in past editions include Margaret Atwood and Robert J. Sawyer. I have quite a few friends who have had their terrific stories grace the pages of one or more editions of Tesseracts, so I was eager to join their esteemed company. Also, one of my all-time favourite short stories (of mine) was rejected by Tesseracts Sixteen last year, and I was ready for the wind to change.

So I submitted, with fingers and toes crossed. I love all of the stories I write, at least once they’re finished, but “Why Pete?” has a special place in my heart because Lily isn’t based on me whatsoever and yet she came alive for me like few other characters have. I read the story now and I still smile at the way she handles the situation. Yes, I wrote the situation and her reaction, but when a story is written really well, it can separate itself from the author and become its own entity. “Why Pete?” has done that, for me, at least.

“Why Pete?” came about because I wanted to write about fear.  I wanted to write a dark story that made readers shiver, but I wanted to do it without a single monster or creature. I needed a phobia. My own fears aren’t of a phobia level so I stole one from my wife, Sue. She has a fear of being buried alive. Ooh! A good one! I suppose I do, too, once I think about it. Anyone who doesn’t, is crazy as far as I’m concerned.

I’d found my story’s fear factor. Now I just needed to find an original way to tell it. Well, there are no original ideas, just different voices telling the same stories. I wanted something set in space, to become part of a larger literary canvas I’m weaving with a series of novels, and this might just be the right fit. How could I bury someone alive in space? Well, aren’t spaceships just like submarines and simply sealed coffins waiting to be cracked open at the end of a journey? You betcha!

Now for my hero, Pete. Yes, Pete was the original hero during the concept stage. The problem is that I know so many strong women that I thought that it was time I gave them a hero of their own. Enter Lily. Lily Bianca Rayn. Lily (White) Rayn. It has such a cool sound to it. ‘Rayn’ is rain… a purification. Lily and Bianca/White are symbols of innocence. I wanted a character whose very name screamed “innocence and rebirth!!” The story is really about starting fresh, with a blank slate, and that’s what Lily ends up doing.

The science of the story wasn’t too difficult to research. I allowed for the fantasy of cryosleep for a year and travel through a worm hole and then based all of the remaining science on submarines and various previous and existing space missions. By the way, the International Space Ark Mayhew is not named after Peter Mayhew, the actor who played Chewbacca in the Star Wars movies, but rather after my own ancestor, Thomas Mayhew, Governor of Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket & the Queen Elizabeth Islands in the mid-to-late 17th century. Many-Greats Grandpa Tom was an explorer and colonizer in his own right (and had the longest continuous Christian missionary effort in history).

The planet I sent Lily and the ark to is actually one in the Exoplanet Database, and is one of possibly habitable planets discovered by the Kepler telescope.

Because I’m all about using humour to break or bend tension, the Pete in the story became the personality overlay of the artificial intelligence that keeps Lily company during her ordeal. The original Pete who was the basis for the personality overlay, was Lily’s husband at the time of the AI’s programming. To say any more will give away some of the fun of the story, so I won’t. I’ll just add that the although I often start a story with the title, this one didn’t come to me until after the first draft was written and the original title, “One Hand Clapping” just didn’t fit the finished story.

Tesseracts Seventeen

The cover of Tesseracts Seventeen, from Edge Publishing.

I suppose I should tie this post up by adding that “Why Pete?” was selected by editors Colleen Anderson and Steve Vernon for TESSERACTS Seventeen: Speculating Canada from Coast to Coast. It’s due out in October and is available now for pre-order from Amazon.com. For anthologies containing any of my other published stories, here’s my Amazon Author’s page.

Like so many of my short stories, I have an idea where the story starts and some of the things I need to have happen, but quite often I just let the characters and narrative voice start talking and plotting and acting and see where it takes the tale. Sometimes a character will make a simple statement (“I hate dogs.”) and that will lead the story to a place where dogs become important. Maybe she’ll even become a werewolf. Ooo! I like that! ‘Scuse me while I jot that idea down… a cat person becoming a werewolf!

Anyway, without dropping any spoilers, that’s how “Why Pete?” came to be written, awarded, and eventually sold. Next up for the story will be an option by Sony for a Hollywood film starring Mrs. Pitt or  some other tough-as-nails, tender-as-a-kitten woman. Yah. Right.

That’s it, that’s all.

Ciao for now,

T-Bone.

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Way Down the Bucket List

Posted in Books Books Books, Short Fiction, Writing with tags , , , , , , , on June 12, 2013 by tgmreynolds

Howdy howdy howdy.

As a Canadian writer of stories of a speculative nature, including science fiction, fantasy, and horror, it has been one of my goals/dreams to have a story appear in Tesseracts, the annual Canadian Spec Fic collection.

Over the years, the list of contributing authors to Tesseracts appears like a Who’s Who of Canadian speculative writing, including Margaret Atwood and Robert J. Sawyer. Come this fall, I will be counted as one of the lesser Whos in this literary Whoville with my science fiction story “Why Pete?”.

Of course, there are many other dreams for Canadian SF writers, including (but not restricted to) winning an Aurora Award, being published in On Spec Magazine, and, more recently, having a piece selected for ChiZine/Tightrope’s IMAGINARIUM, the new annual collection of Canada’s Best Speculative Writing. IMAGINARIUM’s innaugural issue was in 2012 and included one of my first published stories, so although it wasn’t yet on my Bucket List, it was checked off retroactively. Of course now my list includes making it into IMAGINARIUM 2013, especially since I had so many fun, eligible stories published last year.

Here now is the Official Table of Contents for TESSERACTS 17, being edited by Colleen Anderson and Steve Vernon and published by EDGE Science Fiction & Fantasy Publishing:

TESSERACTS 17: SPECULATING CANADA FROM COAST TO COAST TO COAST

  • Introduction: What is a Tesseract? Colleen Anderson
  • Vermilion Wine: Claude Lalumiere
  • Night Journey: West Coast: Eileen Kernaghan
  • The Wall: Rhea Rose
  • 2020 Vision: Lisa Smedman
  • Why Pete?: Timothy Reynolds (the harrowing tale of a space ark captain who awakens from hypersleep to find herself locked in her sleep pod and the only survivor of a freak catastrophe. It wouldn’t be so bad if the computer wasn’t programmed with her ex-husband’s voice).
  • Bird Bones: Megan Fennell
  • Bedtime Story: Rhonda Parrish
  • Graveyard Shift: Holly Schofield
  • Path of Souls: Edward Willett
  • Sin A Squay: David Jón Fuller
  • Hereinafter Referred to as the Ghost: Mark Leslie
  • Anywhere: Alyxandra Harvey
  • Secret Recipes: Costi Gurgu
  • Star Severer: Ben Godby
  • The Lighthouse Keeper’s Wife: Dave Beynon
  • Graffiti Borealis: Lisa Poh
  • My Child Has Winter in His Bones: Dominik Parisien
  • Team Leader 2040: Catherine Austen
  • Sand Hill: Elise Moser
  • The Ripping: Vincent Grant Perkins
  • Unwilling to Turn Around: J.J. Steinfield
  • Pique Assiette: Catherine MacLeod
  • Leaving Cape Roseway: John Bell
  • Everybody Wins: Rachel Cooper
  • In the Bubble: William Meikle
  • Hermione and Me: Dwain Campbell
  • Blizzard Warning: Jason Barrett
  • M.E.L.: Dianne Homan
  • The Calligrapher’s Daughter: Patricia Robertson
  • Afterword: Editing Anthologies Made Easy: Steve Vernon

So, that’s it, that’s all. Yah, yah, I know… I don’t write a damned thing for months and then I treat you to a fricking table of contents. Sorry. Just be thankful I wrote anything at all. I’ve been languishing in the doldrums now for a month or two. This latest news, though, might just snap me out of it. Keep your fingers crossed.

Ciao for now.

T-Bone.

A 100-Word Short Story?

Posted in Short Fiction, Writing with tags , , , , , , , , on February 9, 2013 by tgmreynolds

I didn’t really think I could write a complete story in only 100 words, but I really didn’t have a choice. It was an interesting challenge and, as usual, the idea came to me out of the blue while I was just driving along.

My story is “Temper Temper” and it is something of an ‘audition piece’ because although the top 20 entries will be published in an eAnthology, the top three will be picked and they will be invited to enter the first 3000 words of their unfinished novel to compete for a Curtis Brown Creative online novel writing course. Fingers and stuff are crossed. Here’s my entry, for your enjoyment:

Temper Temper

by

Timothy Reynolds

Leon slammed the spade’s blade into the dirt cellar floor. “Hack my Facebook account will she? Bitch! No wonder Dad ran off with the babysitter-slash-cheerleader when I was ten.”

The pile of dirt grew.  A car door banged shut. He dug faster, mumbling. “I’ll kill her, bury her, hack her Facebook account, and make it look like she’s travelling.” The shovel hit something hard. “What the hell?” He brushed off dirt. In the dim light it looked like two skulls and a pompom.

“Whatcha doing, Honey?”

Leon spun at the sound of his mother’s voice, but not fast enough.

###

Thanks for reading. Many thanks go out to my anonymous Beta readers who helped clean this story up by asking questions, making suggestions, or just telling me that this part or that part sucked..

Ciao for now,

T-Bone.

Human Skull

From beneath the cellar floor.

A Short Summary of Tim Reynolds’ Published Short Fiction Since 9-2011

Posted in Books, Books Books Books, My Opinion, love it or leave it, Short Fiction, Writing with tags , , , , , , on September 14, 2012 by tgmreynolds

Howdy.

It has been a busy 12 months for my suddenly-alive short story writing and I thought I’d quickly toss up the covers of the projects done and the ones scheduled before the end of 2012. Let’s start with the Photoshopped writer’s shelf.

My Writer's Shelf

Writer’s Tears with writer’s cheers (covers).

Imaginarium 2012

Imaginarium 2012: Containing “Hawkwood’s Folly” by Tim Reynolds.

In Places Between 2012

In Places Between 2012: Contains “Lyoshka & the Steam Butterfly” by Tim Reynolds.

Mytherium: Tales of Mythical and Magical Creatures

Mytherium: Tales of Mythical and Magical Creatures. Contains “Dragons in Suburbia” by Tim Reynolds.

Cavalcade Of Terror

Cavalcade Of Terror: Contains “Of Monsters and Men” by Tim Reynolds.

Danse Macabre: Encounters with the Reaper

Danse Macabre: Encounters with the Reaper. Contains “Blue-Black Night” by Tim Reynolds.

Shanghai Steam

Shanghai Steam: Contains “The Ability of Lightness” by Tim Reynolds

I'll Never Go Away 2

I’ll Never Go Away 2: Contains “Danny in the Dark” by Tim Reynolds.

20001: A Steampunk Odyssey

20001: A Steampunk Odyssey: Contains “Hawkwood’s Folly” by Tim Reynolds.

That’s it, so far. There are a couple web-based publications without cover art and there are some pending projects, but these are the anthologies from the last year, up to the end of October 2012.

More information can be found at www.tgmreynolds.com or on Amazon.com at my Author Central Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003KCV338.

It’s Friday night and I needs food, so

Ciao for now.

T-Bone.

Shanghai Steam (a Wuxia Steam Punk anthology)

Posted in Books, Short Fiction with tags , , , , , , , , on September 14, 2012 by tgmreynolds
Shanghai Steam from Absolute Xpress

Shanghai Steam, due October 2012.

From my blurb on the Shanghai Steam Facebook Page:

By blending actual martial arts with the mythical and science-fictional, and then setting it all in a real place in a specific time, I tried to make ‘The Ability of Lightness’ feel like a true story that no one had told before. From the research into tai chi movements, to the Chinese calendar for that exact year, to the layout of Galden Namgey Lahtse monastery, I wanted the story to not just entertain the average reader, but to ring true with anyone familiar with t’ai chi or even the monastery itself. Of course, the dragon cave and the dragon are fictional, but a reader should be able to use my story to actually find their way through some of the monastery, or even replicate the motions Yu makes as he’s practicing his t’ai chi. As for developing the ability of lightness, we all have the capability, if we just reach deep down inside ourselves…”

That’s it, that’s all. More to come later, I suppose.

Ciao for now,

T-Bone.

Best of Canadian Speculative Writing of 2011? Cool!

Posted in Books, My Opinion, love it or leave it, Short Fiction with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 23, 2012 by tgmreynolds

Imaginarium 2012 is the collection of the ‘Best of Canadian Speculative Writing and my own short story “Hawkwood’s Folly” has been accepted into this terrific ‘Best of’. What an honour! It’s a little story I wrote for Kindling Press‘ fledgling collection, 20001: A Steampunk Odyssey, which is a collection of Steampunk tributes/homages to the nautical writings of Jules Verne.

“From gunshots in the streets of Paris to brass-and-glass automatons on the sea floor off the coast of North Africa, Hawkwood’s Folly draws an English lord, a French doctor and a young Russian bo’s’n’s mate into the deadly ocean depths on their quest to build a Utopia where no man has ventured before. The story blends together equal portions of science, philosophy, and adventure in a Jules Verne homage that asks ‘how far is too far?’.”

The collection is due July 17th, 2012 and preorder is available here: Amazon Canada or Amazon.com. Kelley Armstrong and I will both be attending the readers’ festival When Words Collide 2012 in Calgary from August 10-12, 2012. As a matter of fact, Kelley is one of the special guests.

For a complete table of contents and a list of the worthy honourable mentions, this is the place to hie theeself to: ChiZine Publications.

So, thanks to everyone for their support and encouragement. This feather in my cap was not achieved alone. Special thanks to Sue Campbell and Jennifer Rahn, my beta readers for “Hawkwood’s Folly” and Peter Smalley, Bev Gelfand and the editorial crew at Kindling Press.

Ciao for now,

T-Bone.

Image

PornStar Cleaning?! Where this writer gets his ideas…

Posted in Books Books Books, My Opinion, love it or leave it, Short Fiction, The Novel Process with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 12, 2012 by tgmreynolds

“Where do you get your ideas?”

“What’s going on inside that head of yours?”

“Have you considered getting therapy?”

Time to answer at least the first question, which in turn might give up some insights into the second. No comment on the third.

“Where do you get your ideas?” is a question every published writer hears at least once. The more we get published, the more we hear it. The question can be asked, but can it actually be answered?

Of course. I can answer it for me, quite easily. But that’s not the question that’s really being asked. What’s really being asked is “Where can I get ideas like yours?”. Read that, too, as “Teach me to find ideas the way you do. Please and thank you.”

I can’t. Sorry. I can only tell you what I do, how I go about it all, and then you have to extrapolate the tidbits that fit your personality, your way of thinking and doing.I know for a fact that sometimes the way I think totally escapes the understanding of some people, and by ‘some people’, I mean my wife, Sue. 🙂

So, what do I do?

Well, I’m a big fan of “What If?” I see something: an object, a scene, a person, a word… and I ask myself, “what if…?” I once saw a Schnauser (dog) having its way with a Siamese (cat). I asked myself what their offspring be? (The answer became a short-lived, very off-colour joke in my comedy routine. Someday it may make it into one of my stories, but not yet.

Next: a man with MS moved slowly along the sidewalk, every step taking effort and concentration. My father had MS but his symptoms never manifested themselves like this stranger’s did so I asked myself “What if… I inherited MS from my father and it didn’t show up until now, when I’m in my fifties?” Then I asked “What if I wrote about a hero with late-onset MS who not only had to deal with this new illness but still save the world?”

Working cover for unpublished novel.

Then I asked “What if, when this hero died, when he failed at the task he was given, thousands of others died, too?” And I finally asked myself “What is the task that this MS-dealing, fifty-year-old hero is given that is so damned important to mankind?” The answer became my as-yet-unpublished novel, The Broken Shield.

“What if…?” should also lead you to opposites, and just so we’re clear, “What if…?” can also be “Who would…?” “Where would…?” “When would…?” “Why would…?” or “How could…?”. Write the answer to your first ‘What if…?” in the middle of a piece of paper. Let’s start with “Who would drive a vehicle off a bridge?” Write some possible answers: a parent, a police officer, a motorcyclist, a cab driver, a bus driver. Ooo… a bus driver.

Now I ask “What if it was a bus driver and everyone on the bus dies?” Answers might include “he burns in Hell”, “he becomes a ghost”, “he’s a hero”, “he’s brought back to life and suffers hauntings at the ghostly hands of his victims”. Hmmm… interesting choices. Let’s pick the oddest one, the hardest one to imagine… he kills everyone and he’s seen as a hero.

A hero? A bus driver kills all his passengers and he’s a hero? Bullsh*t. Can’t make it work. No? “What if the passengers were all pedophiles?” Nope, it’s still murder even if it’s what they deserve, and rest assured that not everyone will agree that this is the meaning of justice. Some say that justice belongs only in the hands of the courts or God, and many say not even the courts have the right to judge.

“What if they were aliens?” Nope. Even ET has rights. Okay, but we’re on to something here. “What if they’re not human?” Aliens are out, at least without rewriting “Alien” and it’s many sequels. Veloceraptors might work, but it’s just a re-imagining of a Jurassic Park-type tale. “What if they were…. demons!” Of course! No one sympathizes with demons. Well, almost no one. But reviewers are highly unlikely to vilify you for destroying demons, are they?

Okay, so far we’ve got a bus driver who drives his bus off a bridge and kills all his demonic passengers. Interesting idea. Now, “Why are they on the bus?” “What about the rest of the passengers?” “Where are they?” “Where are they going?” “Are they disguised?” “How does he know they’re demons?”

Answering these questions leads us to things like: “they’re on the way to a convention”, “they’re the only passengers” Why? “Because they hired the bus and the driver.” “They’re going to feed on souls.” Souls? “The souls of children.” Where? “In a school.” (Boring!) “In an orphanage” (A bit better). Wait… orphans? That’s an interesting direction. Let’s explore it a bit more. No one will miss orphans so they’re perfect targets for demons. But won’t an empty orphanage raise questions? Not if the orphans are outside the system. Maybe they’re… victims of a disaster.

And that’s where my short story Shut Up & Drive came from. I asked “What if…?” and “How could…?” and I ended up with a story of Juan, a bus driver who is hired to drive a load of disguised demons into earthquake-ravaged Chile so they can feed on the souls of children orphaned by the disaster. Juan can see them because he once died in a plane crash that killed his own family, but he was revived and can now see and hear things the rest of us can’t. You might be able to guess how the story ends, but when you started reading this article did you think a bus driver who kills his passengers could be seen as a hero? Read “Shut Up & Drive” when it comes out in the disaster-relief fundraising horror disaster anthology from HorrorAddicts.net this fall.

“What if…?” Hard to ask, harder to answer, but well worth the pain.

Don’t be afraid to ask yourself the tough questions. “What if my hero was not just a crime scene investigator, but a serial killer as well?” His name would be Dexter and he’d have a TV show.

“I’m a man but what if my hero was a woman?” Or vice versa, obviously.

“What if my hero was a gay woman?” “A transgender person?” “A trans-species person?” (formerly a chimp or an alligator?)

“What if my hero travels in time but gets stuck? Stuck in other peoples’ bodies and times?” Sounds like Quantum Leap to me.

Don’t forget the little questions, too. “What if my hero is a slob?” “What if he never washes dishes and just uses paper plates?” “What if he only gets take-out?” “What if he is a crime scene cleaner who gets paid an obscene amount of money but can’t stand the smell of PineSol so he never cleans at home?” The little questions can lead to big ones or just small, character-defining ones.

Sometimes an idea pops into the head fully-formed and ready to write. I have a novel that came to me in a dream, but it was only 80% formed. The other 20% came from asking questions like “Who is this famous ghost?” “Where would my hero run away to?” “Who would he run away from?” “How did they fall in love?” “How can I make this story different from the movie Ghost?”, and then sifting through the long list of answers.

For this whole process to work, you must overcome fear. Fear? Fear of an idea sounding stupid. (No one wants to read about a photographer who snaps pictures of covered bridges in Madison County!)  Fear of facing your fears. Fear that you’re a bad person if you come up with a strange, dark, twisted idea that makes readers scream and run for cover. (I can’t write about a killer clown/demon/thingy… people will think I’m strange and broken and need help!)

So, look at the world around you and ask “What if…?” What if my Yorkshire Terrier was the size of a black bear? What if my cat could speak fluent French but I only spoke a little? What if the clock I got from my mother-in-law only ran backwards when she was visiting? What if I really want to be a writer but I don’t know where to get ideas?

That’s how I do it. I look and see and ask. I drive around the city and let things seep into my brain. Sometimes the fun even comes from misinterpretation. My eyes saw a sign for ProStar Cleaners. The first time past my brain read “Prostate Cleaners”. Oooh! Gross! The second time it read “PornStar Cleaners”. Now THAT has some story potential.

Have fun, let your imagination off its leash and see where it runs to. If it runs too far, don’t worry, it’ll always run home again, eventually, and you’ll get a kick out of the stuff that it’s dragged home when it barks at your door. Is that a dinosaur bone Titan is chewing on? Cool…

That’s it, that’s all. Go imagine something cool. You have it in you to do it, I know you do.

Ciao for now.

T-Bone.