Death to an Idol – fiction by Leilanie Stewart

Death to an Idol

Leilanie Stewart © 2018

I worry. I worry a lot. I worry that my story will have no direction. I worry that the story I’m about to tell you doesn’t make any sense. I’m too pedantic. But not too pedantic to stop telling my story. No, never that pedantic.

The moon was high in the sky. It hung behind a thin veil of fog. Not fog; fog is on the ground. This was cloud. It hung behind a thin veil of cloud.

I looked at the moon and I wanted to reach it. I stretched my fingers towards it and it slipped between my index and ring finger. It fit snugly in the V. Snugly. Smugly. Snug because it sat comfortably on the web of skin. Smugly because the moon mocked me. It mocked me like the prostitute who was ten pounds too dear for my miserly budget.

I did it. I did it again. I’ve made myself worry. I was getting into the groove of my story and I worked myself up all over again. I told you too much. I told you about the whore who was out of reach.

She was out of reach and she mocked me, like the moon. Her teeth were white, like the moon. And the bruise on her thigh was yellow; piss-coloured. A faded, piss-coloured stain as yellow as my cat’s eyes.

My cat will probably eat me when I’m gone. Cats eat meat, and when I go, I will be meat. There’s no reason that I can surmise as to why my cat would not eat my decaying remains after I’m gone. Continue reading

Advertisements

The Lady and the Tiger – fiction by Leilanie Stewart

The Lady and the Tiger

Leilanie Stewart © 2018

The glass tower block called The City, shone before me in the morning sun. I popped a mint in my mouth and took a deep breath, then climbed the front steps and walked through the revolving doors into a wide lobby. My interview letter said I had to go to the thirtieth floor, so I made my way to the lifts to the left of the reception desk.

I pushed the button and waited. The doors opened and I saw a smartly-dressed woman in her mid-thirties, wearing a tweed jacket and pinstripe trousers. Next to her, on a leash, was a Siberian tiger.

“Are you getting in?” she asked me.

“Really? Is it safe?” I replied.

She smiled. “Sure. A lady can’t be a lady without her tiger. And a tiger needs a lady for balance. Up or down?”

“But- aren’t we on the ground floor?”

She shook her head. “No, it gets much lower than this. Rock bottom.”

I wasn’t sure what she meant, but I got in and stood with the tiger to my right. I raised my hand towards the panel on the left side, but noticed that the numbers only went as high as twenty-five. The doors closed, but the lift didn’t move. Continue reading

Coco and The Black Box – fiction by Leilanie Stewart

Coco and The Black Box
Leilanie Stewart © 2018

20181006_151026

The black dog crouched in the corner of the kitchen. Its teeth were bared and a low, steady growl rumbled from its throat as it fixed its eyes on Mandy. Any minute now the animal would spring and devour her. Mandy’s shaking hand gripped the phone. The dialling tone sounded in her ear.

“Pick up, Deanna, please pick up,” she whispered.

Deanna’s voice cut across the tone. “Hello?”

“Oh thank God – it’s Coco. I don’t know what to do.”

“Not again Mandy. I’ve told you, you have to get rid of this thing for once and for all.”

“Please. I don’t know what to do. This devil dog is gonna kill me.”

“Because you let it. If it eats you up, it’s your own fault. Kick this beast to the curb – put it to rest for your own good, I’m telling you.”

“It’s not that easy.”

“You let it take over your life. Look, I’ve given you my advice, take it or leave it.”
The call ended. Mandy listened to the dead tone. And then, in a flash of black, Coco pounced. Continue reading

Spooky stories for Samhain – the countdown to Halloween

To celebrate all things horror, during October I’ll be publishing my strange and/or spooky stories in the build up to Halloween. Admittedly, none of these are straight horror stories; my fiction always tends to be a hybrid of sorts, mainly surreal or incorporating magical realism, but I have written a backlog of weirdos that should keep fellow horror fans entertained, nonetheless. Enjoy!

Paying to be published: a personal view

Over the years I have been promoting poetry competitions and advertising literary magazines from external websites that are free for writers to submit their work to. If you have been following my blog posts on these topics, you will know that I disagree with any literary platform that charges authors upfront payments to publish their work, whether that be in the form of ‘submission fees’, ‘reading fees’ or any  other contribution towards production costs.

 

If a publisher charges fees to an author to submit their work, I would be inclined to call this business a vanity press, not a publisher. If they are charging the writer, say, a £20 submission fee to even have their work considered for publication, I’d bet my boots they have an almost 100% acceptance rate of submissions. The publisher may state on their website that there is no guarantee of publication, but if they are making money from the author, not book sales, then why would they worry about the quality of the writing? Publishing a new or little-known author is a risky business: sales may or may not do well. But if a ‘publisher’ eliminates the risk of losses by charging an author upfront fees, then why worry about sales? If an author will pay £20 upfront, then they will surely pay more once they have signed a contract. Why not charge them to buy 50 copies of their book, as a contractual condition? Why not make them commit a couple of hundred, or even several thousand pounds towards production costs, so that they can “have control over design of the finished product”?

 

Yes, publishers need money to survive and make more books. They may need start-up funds to get their business going in the first place. Nevertheless, a reputable publisher should make money from sales, or subscriptions, not authors. I have absolutely no problem with a publisher asking a would-be author to buy a book from their bookstore to support the publisher and to see if their writing fits with the catalogue. But asking a writer to fork out a tonne of money as a condition of being published in the first place is wrong. With all this in mind, let’s end with my checklist of publishing red-flags:

 

Continue reading

Rejection letters: the road to novel publication

Since my last post, I’ve been adrift on the endless sea that is the submissions process. While it may be a calm sea so far, I can’t yet see land in sight. One or two patches on the horizon that I thought might have been islands have turned out to be mirages.

But, enough of the poetic melancholy; let’s get to the point. The ultimate goal of any serious writer is to get that much anticipated acceptance, negotiate a good contract and take their work forward from manuscript to published book, preferably reaching readership through shops and libraries. Isn’t that the dream?

Of course, there are always obstacles along the way. Mine of late have been in the form of rejection letters. Being optimistic, it is good to acknowledge that every rejection is a step closer to acceptance. It’s important, however, to honestly assess just how close those steps are. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some recent responses to my fantasy novel, which has been on the publication rounds since November. The first is rather short: Continue reading

Novel submissions and tackling the slushpile

It has been a while since my last post, mainly because my maternity leave ended in April; my writing took a temporary back seat while I got into the groove of returning to my full time day job. This month has been easier as I am back into the swing of both work and writing. However, I have found that getting my novel out to publishers is not as straightforward as it seems. Having to change formatting from one publisher to the next is to be expected: Times New Roman for one, whereas Book Antiqua for another, page numbers in the footer versus the header, etc. Occasionally though, a publisher wants the synopsis to be one paragraph instead of a page, and in one instance, I had to expand my synopsis to six detailed pages. After spending many edits whittling it down to fit it onto a page, it was a good challenge to have to expand it, while still keeping the details relevant to the plot.

Standing out from the rest

The real challenge for a writer though, is getting their work noticed on the slushpile. How does one go about making their work stand out from the rest? Continue reading

Latest short story, House of Cards, published in Entropy Magazine

My latest fiction appears in Entropy Magazine this month. House of Cards is a spiritual story about battling depression. This one is published at a good time for me personally as a pick-me-up: having only recently returned to work after maternity leave, I find myself convalescing at home in recovery from an accident while commuting. Luckily this has involved a swollen sprained ankle and two black and blue legs, rather than a broken bone or head injury. Always one to be thankful for the good things in life, I’m happy to know that when tossed over handlebars my body knows how to roll and, unlike the protagonist in my story, I have stayed generally upbeat, if a little sorry for myself, despite being in pain. Take the good with the bad; that’s life I guess. Anyway, hope you find it a good read!

Joseph Robert’s fiction in The Crazy Oik

Isn’t it lovely to check the morning mail and see a contributor copy in the post among the letters? This time it was one for my husband, Joseph Robert, but as a proud one-half-of-a-literary-couple wife, I was just as excited to read his story in it.

‘Buried Treasure’ appears on page 36 in Issue 37 of The Crazy Oik. This one can be read in a couple of ways: as a straight literary story about a boy being being made to work on his uncle’s farm as punishment over an injustice, or as an allegorical piece on the fate of the working class. Alongside Joseph Robert’s story, the Spring 2018 issue of The Crazy Oik contains mostly fiction, some poems and reviews.

Maternity leave and writing goals

Can you believe it’s April already? The days are flying by so quickly. With a new baby along for the adventure, I have been cherishing every moment; savouring my maternity leave has been important for literary reasons too.

What is a writer to do when a baby is part of the equation? Luckily, writing is one of those jobs that can be pretty much accomplished anywhere: it’s a case of making the time, not finding the time for it. In the past I have found inspiration while bedridden with flu, namely from the accompanying fever dreams. This time around, while on maternity leave, I haven’t so much been bedridden as sofa-bound. So what can a writer do while feeding baby, bum-on-couch? For me, my literary goals didn’t stop once baby arrived. In fact, baby helped me to keep to a loose writing schedule, in quiet moments while nursing or sleeping on my chest.

 

Of course, balancing a laptop on a tray with a baby on your lap is pretty much a no-no. If anyone has managed this, I would love to hear about it! Nor was writing in a notebook: if it didn’t continually get kicked to the floor by chunky legs, the pages got crumpled by chubby fists and the corners got gnawed for teething! Finding a balance was key.

Fortunately, I had many almost-finished projects that could be tinkered with on my smartphone. These were realistic goals that I had set out to achieve when first beginning my maternity leave (see my post from 30 June 2017, Writing goals and wrapping up the day job for more on this).

So, in no particular order, here is what I have accomplished over the past 9 months:

1. Finishing a 102,000 word novel.

The timing was admittedly good on this one: Continue reading