I’m writing this post from Orlando, Florida, where I attended ICFA 43 (Int’l Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts). ICFA is always great: a mix of sf/f writers with academics and students presenting their papers on various sf/fantasy and sff-adjacent topics like games and gaming, or the immersive fantasies of theme-park design, or connections between gothic literature and gothic subcultures.
One of the program items is sf/f writers reading their work. I opted to do a reading rather than speak on a panel this year, but I was undecided what story I should read. When I was packing for the con I was waffling about this one, entitled “Sacred Heart.” The story appeared in the Unfettered Hexes anthology (edited by Dave Ring, Neon Hemlock Press, buy it from Bookshop.org, Amazon, or your local indie bookstore) which was published for Halloween in October 2021.
This was, without a doubt, one of the short stories I wrote while procrastinating from working on my novel. But it was one of those ones where I sat down at the keyboard with a blank word processor document and it just poured out. Dave, the editor, only had a few small suggestions to make. It’s so rare when something just crystallizes like that, where it’s like you kind of see the entire thing right from the start. When I write stories like that, it’s like I see the first sentence or the first paragraph but that little piece is a fractal which contains the whole, and as I write through the story, more and more of it reveals itself, but it was all there right from the start.
But, still, two days before the con my internal censor was yapping at me: this story is kinda weird, isn’t it too weird? Maybe it isn’t that good. Maybe you should find something else, or write something newer, or… or… or…
Well, I read it, and people REALLY LIKED IT. The audience was pretty much full, which was especially great given that the reading was in the very first session of the con on Wednesday and a lot of attendees weren’t even here yet. My co-readers were Regina Hansen and Rich Larson. Afterward, several folks, including a writer I admire and whose literary taste I trust, made a point to come tell me how much they liked it. And then throughout the weekend, people kept telling me how great they thought the story was.
So, take that, internal censor! You’re clearly wrong.
The video of me reading the story, above, I recorded in January when the Arisia convention was scuttled at the last minute by the Omicron wave. I set up a Zoom event for myself and read three stories, of which “Sacred Heart” was one. Folks who are Patreon supporters got the full video, but I decided to release just the one story to the public for fun. I’d meant to post this weeks ago, but this weekend’s events reminded me to do it now!
It was good timing for the lesson on the internal critic, too. Over the weekend, I got an email rejection on a short story I had sent out recently, and I was half-tempted to “trunk” the story and never look at it again. But I sent it out to another market, instead. I know it’s a “weird” story that pushes certain boundaries and, unlike most of my stories, really should carry a warning about violence. But if I learned one thing this weekend, it’s don’t self-reject. Maybe this story will make the rounds and not land anywhere. Maybe I’ll end up just reading it to my patrons. But I’ll try other markets first.