Tag Archives: short story

Long Time No Post

Hello all!

Long time no post, right? Let me update you on the state of this little one-woman nation.

I had a new short story come out in Flash Fiction Online at the beginning of August. It’s about you. No, really, you. I don’t know how to break it to you, but you’re very sick. The story is told in second person, and I dare you to argue with it. It’s totally about you.

You can read You Are Not a Metaphor here.

I also spent a week-ish in Kansas City for this year’s WorldCon (AKA MidAmericon II). For the most part, I had a blast. Got to see lots of friends, make new ones, and had a great meeting with my editor and agent about NOUMENON’s sequel.

I also took part in a group reading for Galaxy’s Edge Magazine, which was my first-ever public reading. All in all, I think it went pretty well (the panel next door even provided mood music).

Got to observe the Alfies once more (where agent-sib Alyssa Wong took home the Alfie for best short story!), and snapped even worse pictures of the ceremony than I did last time (hey, it was really dark in that theater, and the stage was really bright). For comparison:

 

Last Year

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(George R R Martin, Eric Flint, and other lovely people)

This Year

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(George R R Martin and other lovely people I could not identify in a line up with only this picture to go on)

 

In short, I had a great time (again, mostly. Pro tip: do not grab women at parties and then threaten to get into a violent altercation with their agents, okay?), and book two is going to be AWESOME (capitalization for emphasis…Awesome is not the title of book two…but it should be).

If you want a much more thorough recap of the convention, I suggest you take a gander at the write up penned by David Steffen over at Diabolical Plots. He took a lot of great pictures during the week, so pick an author/editor/cool person you love and go play Where’s Waldo.

Recap can be found here.

So now I’m officially in the throes of writing the sequel to NOUMENON. I will keep you in the loop via a newsletter I plan on starting before the end of this month. If there’s anything specific you’d like to see in a newsletter (WIP updates, writerly tips, jokes, cat pictures, grains of wisdom etc.) let me know in the comments!

 

~Marina

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New Story: “Lifeboat” out in Vitality Magazine

The July issue of Vitality is now free to download!  “Lifeboat” is the cover story for the issue, and has four beautiful accompanying illustrations.

The story takes place post-Earth, when the crew of a mining spacecraft–who believe themselves to be the last remnants of life–discover a strange vessel. It could be a dangerous trap left over from the final war, or it could be proof that they aren’t alone in the universe.

Here’s an excerpt:

“We’ve finished our initial sweep.  It’s all one room.  This is it.  There are a few access panels to the inner workings, but nothing we can identify as an inhabitable space.”

“What’s it for?” Martinez wondered aloud.  “There’s nothing in here.”

“I don’t know, but I get the feeling you’re right: it’s not a remnant from the war.”

“But where did it come from?  Why’s it here?”  She turned back to the bramble.  “Keep searching.  I want signs of life.  A hair, a scale, a flake of skin, whatever.  There have to be remnants of whoever made it.”

Could it really be that we’re not alone?  That it’s not man-made?  Her heart leapt.  Not alone.

On a whim, she stuck out two gloved fingers, hooked them under one of the twisted metal pieces on the console, and pulled.

The ship groaned and shuddered.  There was a great screech of metal on metal, as though the vessel had not been given commands for a very long time.

The away team stopped, and everyone looked up.  Something moved in the dark.

Clat, clat, clat–a huge metal turbine, the length of the ship, slowly rolled overhead.  The walls quivered.

The garish protrusions she’d noted before jerked out of the walls, like plaster figures popped from silicon molds.  They were attached to long coils of wire, which the turbine rolled up, forming a sort of tent over the bay.  Hidden row after row of the objects came forth from their compartments.  When the ship lay quiet again, the vast room was filled with dangling, glittering shapes.  They looked like fancy party decorations or Christmas ornaments with the way they glimmered in the flashlight beams.

A few tinkled like chimes as they bounced lightly off one another.

You click the cover to go to the download page:

July-Issue-Cover Vitality

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Rats Will Run Up in BuzzyMag

Story up! Rats will Run is free to read online from BuzzyMag.

On the distant planet of Cit-Bolon-Tum, a cancer-researcher chases her hallucinating colleague into the unforgiving alien jungle. Is the man dealing with an advanced case of cabin fever, or has he become part of someone else’s experiments? Will she be able to save him before he gets eaten by the local vegetation, or will she fall victim to the same inexplicable visions driving him onwards?

Here’s an excerpt:

I freaking hate rats.

So I couldn’t, for the life of me, figure out why Pedro wanted to release a test group in the lab. “Can’t you do it in the observation cube? Why in here? They’ll get their rat germs all over everything.” I shivered, thinking about my tablet with tiny paw prints scattered across it.

“No, no. It has to be in here,” he insisted, pushing up his thick-framed glasses. “Gabby, trust me, you want to see this. I discovered it by accident.” Taking off with a hop and a skip, he went to retrieve a set of cages.

“Accident? What does that mean? One got loose? Geez, man, I had my lunch sitting out here yesterday.”
He let out a disturbing, manic cackle.

Perhaps he’d finally snapped–gone stir-crazy. We’d had a handful go wiggy over the past year. One guy even went outside the base sans pressure-suit. That wasn’t pretty. Isolation can do that to people–and it was hard to get more isolated than HD 10180-4.

We liked to call the planet Cit-Bolon-Tum (Tums for short), after one of the Mayan gods of medicine. It offered thousands of curative prospects, which was why all two hundred base-dwellers had made the trek to its shores.

“Is this what our Saturday nights have come to?” I asked as he hefted two cages–each with three rats–onto one of the touch-tables. “Oh, come on, I have to give presentations with that.”

“You can use the far wall,” he said, rolling his eyes. “How did you get into bio-research if you hate animals so much?”

“Microbiology,” I specified. “Microorganisms. You know, the things that don’t have faces. Or claws, or whiskers, or long, naked tails.”

“You still have to run experiments. Cancer cells don’t exist in a vacuum.”

I shrugged. The teasing from my subordinates was routine. I was the only biologist on the team–to hear them talk, in all of mankind–that hated nature. Well, not all of it. Just anything that scurried, or crawled, or scuttled. Which applied to almost all of Cit-Bolon-Tum’s complex life-forms.

“Get to it,” I insisted. “What’s this great rat-discovery you’ve made?”

“Watch,” he said with a giggle. “These ones on the left have been given compound 0697. The ones on the right are the control group.” He opened one cage, then the other, pulling a rat from each. Proudly, he held up both–a little grandstanding. Then, he turned both loose on the floor.

I leapt up onto a stool near the counter, almost knocking over an irreplaceable electron microscope in the process.

Read the rest at: http://buzzymag.com/rats-will-run-marina-j-lostetter/
Happy reading!

~Marina

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QuarterReads: Great Stories for Pocket Change

Forget about bang for your buck–how much bang can you get for a quarter? I’ve uploaded three of my sci-fi humor reprints to QuarterReads, a new website that lets you purchase individual stories for a quarter. Though the site design is simple, I think the idea behind it is wonderful. Here are the highlights:

*All stories are 2,000 words or under. They’re quick, satisfying reads.

*Of that quarter spent, twenty-two cents goes directly to the author.

*Browsing and buying are both simple. So far, finding things I’d like to read is easy. There’s a search by genre, popularity, and they suggest stories based on what you’ve already read. And you purchase a set amount of reads ahead of time, so it only takes one click to buy the story (you don’t have to worry about the hassle of going through paypal every time you want to read).

*The site is curated, meaning all stories have to be approved before they display, so you shouldn’t find stories with tons of typos or incredibly wonky formatting. And nothing will be incomplete.

*Tipping is encouraged, but not necessary. If you thought your read was worth more than a quarter, you can tip the author extra.

If you’d like to check it out, you can visit my author page here: https://quarterreads.com/writer.php?id=80

Happy reading!

~Marina

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Double Sales!

I’ve sold two short stories recently. One to Penumbra for their ‘Family Traditions’ issue (coming this December), and one to another venue which is TBA due to pending paperwork and edits (but I’ve also appeared there previously). I’m very excited about both of these sales and will give out more details soon!

Hope everyone is having an awesome day.

~Marina

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WotF Awards Vid

Hi all!

Below is a video clip from the Vol. 29 Writers and Illustrators of the Future awards ceremony. It contains an introduction to my story, the wonderfully quirky dance choreographed for it, my thank you speech and Tiffany England’s thank you speech. Enjoy, get inspired, and enter the contest!

~Marina

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Short Story Sale!

I’ve just sold a sci-fi humor detective story to Galaxy’s Edge. My first story with this venue is set to appear in the September issue, so I’m very glad to have another one in the works.

Happy dance time.

~Marina

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The Quirks of the Slush Pile, P1

Ah, Wednesday. We meet again.

As you probably know, I’ve been a first-reader for Waylines Magazine for several months now. Long enough to see some negative patterns in the submissions. Today I’d like to cover one of those negative aspects, and though this might be a discussion that’s a little rough on the ego, I feel it’s an important one to have.

Disclaimer: These are my views alone based on my experience, and they do not reflect the opinions or official stance of Waylines or any other publishing venue.

So, what is the biggest problem I see in the slush? What do approximately 80-90% of the stories I vet have in common?

They’re boring.

Ok, well that’s subjective, you say. One story can’t be all things to all people, and I’ve read plenty of published stories that I thought were boring.

True enough. And I’ll be the first to admit that for the most part, the entire selection process is subjective. But thus is the way of any entertainment industry.

But, I bet (and hey, I could be wrong) that you don’t find 90% of the available stories boring. And I do have concrete reasons behind my boredom. I’ll list not only the causes, but also ways I feel a skilled author can counteract them.

Number one. The story’s premise is unoriginal. This is top reason I find the majority of manuscripts in the slush can’t hold my attention. When I open up a ghost story and it feels like the twelve other ghost stories I’ve recently vetted, there’s no help for it. I’m unengaged almost immediately. I see this especially in the genres of paranormal horror, epic fantasy and hard-er sci-fi. Why is it so hard to sell a zombie story or a vampire story? Because everybody writes them.

But wait! Why then are there so many published zombie stories and vamp stories? The TV show Heroes was essentially X-Men, but that didn’t seem to matter. And how is The Walking Dead different from any other zombie apocalypse?

I’ll tell you how: the people. The best way to counteract a run-of-the-mill premise is with deep, original, heart-felt characters. Why do viewers and readers keep consuming zombie stories if the premise by itself has been beaten to death? Because these stories offer characters in conflict in instantly digestible circumstances. A writer or filmmaker doesn’t have to spend a lot of time explaining the milieu–which signals their intent is not to interest you in this exciting new idea, but interest you in these intense, fascinating people.

This is not to say that original ideas don’t need to be paired with great characters–they do. But a great character can carry an audience through almost anything. Most often I see these unoriginal premises supplemented by equally unoriginal characters. Which brings me to my next point.

Number two. The story’s characters are cardboard (and/or bad characters doing bad things apparently just because they’re terrible individuals).

I’ve only ever read one author who could pull off the cardboard character, and that was Michael Crichton. Why? Because he thought of things like, what would happen if I mixed real dinosaurs and theme parks? And then produced an engrossing plot from the premise.

What makes a character cardboard (ie. two dimensional)? Typically such characters are some form of stereotype fitted with a few quirks that scream LOOK, REAL PEOPLE ARE QUIRKY. Atypically, they’re simply non-people that could be replaced with any other person in the universe and the events of the story would still take place in exactly the same fashion (in other words, they have no effect on the plot, they’re just vehicles for it). Cardboard characters don’t seem to have any thoughts that are particularly special to them, their emotionality is flat, and their motivations are equally as stereotypical or non-existent as their personalities.

I pair this with bad characters who have horrific behavior for no apparent reason–ie., their motive is that they’re eeeevil, mwahah. I see this more in the horror genre than any other, but these characters are just as uninspired as the good guy who is just good because he’s sooooo good, or Orphan X that is the same as all the other orphan characters, or Female X who is more a prop than anything else, or Snarky Cowboy X who…you get the picture.

Even in stories where the protagonists are well rounded, a stereotypical I’m evil just to be evil bad guy can really kill my interest.

The fix? Well, you’ve got to have one hell of a plot to have dull characters–and one hell of a setting, and fantastic prose. After all, it’s difficult to become emotionally invested in a story when the story’s characters don’t have genuine emotional stake in it themselves.

Number three. The story has low tension or no tension. This is created through a variety of ways. It can happen through a lack of conflict, where the character is doing something like the laundry/getting dressed/walking the dog as usual–which means both the character and the audience are waiting for something to happen. Don’t make your audience suffer through a waiting-room like experience.

It can also happen through uninspired or false conflict. False conflict often manifests as a woes-me character walking down the street (or riding in a train car, or lying in bed) doing absolutely nothing (or a load of inconsequential stuff) while describing the world and how dark and dreary it is. This is not conflict, this is whining. Uninspired conflict is something like, my friend was mean to me today–which turns out to be the long and short of it. Conflict, like people, needs depth.

Conversely, dropping the reader into the middle of a war zone when they’ve got no concept of who is fighting or why also creates low tension–which I’m sure seems counter intuitive. One fight scene is largely like any other fight scene and is utterly boring without a reason to care about the fighting (especially when approached with movie-like detail. In film, lots of things happening mechanically at once can be absorbed in an instant. Trying to describe the same action in prose draws it out and sucks it of any tension created by the one thing fight scenes have going for them: immediacy).

These problems can usually be solved through a healthy amount of chopping (and in some cases, adding). Get to the good stuff–and no, none of the above is the good stuff.

Number four, and my last point. The story is filled with loving, repetitive descriptions of everything. Going over every object, every expression, every flit of the wind in minute detail gets really old, really quick. Now I’m probably more inclined to have a hair trigger on this than other people. While my husband is glad to have someone’s wardrobe described every time they come on the literary stage, I am not. Especially when we’ve already had someone’s general sense of style explained, and the adjectives being applied to their wardrobe are the same every time, and the only thing different about the dress or shirt or shoes the character is wearing today vs. yesterday is that they are green (but the author can’t just stop at green, oh no).

This slows down the plot and character development for a bit of self-indulgent authorlyness, in my opinion. Some call it world building. But to me, once the world is built, you don’t then need to show me a scale model, and five more sketches, and some of the prototypes, and a few of the extra nuts and bolts you threw in. Give me a sense of the world, then move it along, please.

These repetitive descriptions are especially irritating, in my opinion, when paired with the dull premises I mentioned before.

This is a kill your darlings moment, I think. The way to solve this is to tabulate how many times you’ve described Queen Odessa’s hairdo, and, unless her hair is somehow important to the plot or her character development, scale back.

Everything on this list basically goes back to the idea that all aspects of your writing needs to sing. But I think everyone needs suggestions on how to counteract weak points because, let’s face it, we’ve all got ‘em. Boring just happens to be the issue I see most often. Hopefully this short list is helpful to you.

If you’ve got any other points on why a story might be perceived as boring, let me know!

~Marina

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Writers of the Future Workshop Week and Gala, Part 4, Post Gala

The day after the gala we did a few interviews and had a PR workshop given to us by John Goodwin of Galaxy press. In it we were taught some basics on how to present yourself on camera (be polite, smile, don’t wear white because it wreaks havoc with the lighting), and how to create pithy summaries of our stories. We were each teamed up with a partner to work through some practice questions. Kodiak Julian (author of Holy Days, for which Aldo Katayanagi’s illustration won the IotF gold award) and I practiced together.

Later that day we were treated to a live audio play of one of Hubbard’s short stories. The performance was quite wonderful, and I personally found it a treat.

After that we had a pizza party with our guests and the remaining Judges.

Tuesday was the day we all said good bye, but not before Writers of the Future: The Musical was in full swing. We’d discovered just a few nights before that our group was quite musically inclined. Shannon Peavey (author of Scavengers) treated us to some beautiful a cappella opera, and Alex Wilson sang a quite rousing version of the “Gummy Bears” theme song.

And then we went our separate ways. I stayed in LA for a few more days on a mini vacation with my husband and my dad, which was fun. Highlights included Universal Studios and the Tesla dealer.

And that wraps up my WotF experience. As always, if there are any questions, I am happy to answer them!

~Marina

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Writers of the Future Workshop Week and Gala, Part 3

Here is a links to Part 2 (which contians a link to Part 1).

So, on Wednesday I typed up the following and posted it to WordPress.  Or, at least, I thought I did.  I was surprised to log in today (in order to moderate a comment) and find that there was no Part 3.  Either WordPress glitched on me, or somehow I navigated away from the page before actually hitting publish.  Luckily I save all of my lengthy posts in word docs.   I apologize for not catching the mistake sooner!

So, Sunday was Gala day.  We had a nice breakfast at the hotel in the morning, and then all the ladies were rushed off for hair and makeup (the guys got a couple of hours of down time, I believe.  Which is a fair trade off, since they did have to suffer through tux fittings earlier in the week).

Our beautification was done by cosmetology students, which had its pros and cons.  As we artists and writers were new to our perspective industries and had been learning all week, I liked the idea of furthering education in yet another field.  However, having students instead of pros do the work had its issues.  The woman who did my hair was very nice, but insisted on curling it.  I tried to explain that it would not work (I slept in curlers for my wedding and my hair was perfectly straight six hours after taking them out), but she went for it anyway.  As a result, when I finally made it on stage that night (I was the last writer to give my thank-yous), my hair simply looked like I’d failed to comb it.  And I’d made the mistake of telling my makeup artists that I usually wear smokey-purple eye shadow.  All she heard was purple, apparently, because man, my eyelids were puuuuurpppple.

Other ladies had much more luck–and others, much worse.  But, overall, despite our hits and misses, we all looked quite fantastic once we slipped into our gowns and jewelry.

My husband, father, brother, and step-mom had all flown in for the awards.  It was fantastic to see them all, if it was only for a few minutes.  I’ve been to several awards events with my husband, and at all of them the awards recipients were given specific times to take pictures with their guests.  Not so at the WotF gala.  We winners were rushed from one thing to the next, pictures here, interviews there, but never with our significant others.  The only time I got to spend with my husband was a few minutes on the red carpet out front, and at dinner (I would recommend future winners take dinner time to break out the cameras).  I got to see the rest of my family even less, as they were understandably not invited to the dinner.

The event itself was magnificent.  Beautiful sets, fantastic guest speakers, and wonderful dancers.  A special vignette was preformed for a few of the stories, and I was so glad mine was chosen.  (ETA: one positive point to the mis-post is that I can now share with you the gala clip that includes the dance done for my story, Master Belladino’s Mask.  My speach is in there too, but you can ignore that.)

Everyone’s speeches went well–even when they didn’t go as planned.  Alex Wilson (author of Vestigial Girl) ended up thanking two wives (though he insists he really only has the one).  I was introduced by none other than Larry Niven, who was quite shy and very nice.

After the ceremony we were all whisked away to the signing (this is when most award events afford the recipients some time for pictures with family).  We were seated in a circle emulating book order, which had me between Brian Trent (whose work opens the anthology), and Andrea Stewart (whose story, Dreameater, comes right before mine at the end).

It was a whirlwind event, with everyone in attendance coming by to get their copies of the anthology and calendars signed.

David Wolverton’s son, who had been in a coma for the entire workshop week, woke up for the first time that night, right before the gala started.   It was perfectly serendipitous.

After the signing I got to see my family for a few minutes, to thank them briefly and give hugs before we were once again rushed back to the hotel for an after party–which Joni Labaqui graciously hosted.  Though I don’t remember the exact time, it was pretty late at this point.  Mike Resnick hung out with us for a while, and though I had to tear myself a way relatively ‘early,’ I know many of the winners stayed up until 4am or so.

And that, my friends, was the gala.

There will indeed be a Part 4, as though the awards event was on Sunday, the workshop week wasn’t officially over until Tuesday.

~Marina

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