Not An Exit: An Annual Short Fiction Project

I like writing short stories. And flash fiction.

I like writing speculative bits and pieces of terrifying nonsense.

I like writing the trials and tribulations of the human condition masquerading as fantasy.

I like writing random apocalyptic and dystopian one-offs.

I like challenging you, dear reader, and giving you strange things to think about.

At first I was just going to keep these stories in a file on my iPad and let them exist in the dark ether. But I really wanted people to read them.

Then I thought about publishing them individually, as I wrote and polished them. And while that was extremely satisfying, I didn’t feel like the publishing model I was using for my other fiction fit with these stories.

What I am going to do is this:

Every year, on Halloween, I am going to publish a short story collection. These collections will include all the random, stand alone short fiction I have written in the previous year.

In case you didn’t know already, all the poetry that I have self-published is free. The books in my paranormal werewolf series, The Slaughter Chronicles, are free. The books in my urban fantasy faerie series (when they come out) will be free.

But I’d like to charge 0.99 for these short story collections because, while The Slaughter Chronicles and The Heart of the Forest Cycle might not be your cup of tea, if you like speculative fiction there’s a good chance you’ll like these stories.

It’s not that they’re more “accessible” or “mainstream” than my other work, but they are the words that cast the widest net. They’re not as specialized–for lack of a better word–than my other fiction and thusly, I feel, more marketable.

So if you like short story collections and want a quick and quirky/slightly dark read, my stories are for you and if you end up liking them, please give my other fiction a try.

If you already like my werewolf series and my poetry and would like to give me some support, please consider purchasing my short story collection(s).

The project is going to be titled “NOT AN EXIT” and every year a new volume will come out. Each volume will be available for sale on every ebook publishing platform, including Amazon Kindle.

As the publication date comes closer I will release the contents list and samples for your enjoyment. As well as some behind the scenes writing shenanigans.

Thank you so much for reading my work and following me on this self-publishing journey.

And since you’re curious, here’s the cover for the first volume…

Home

Home scratches at her shingles with tree branch fingers, pulls the air conditioning unit to her moldy, aluminum ribs and keens a whale song of mourning. We found her wandering the tornado snarled wild three months ago, empty and starving. We fed her pieces of dining room table, gas key fireplaces, and cast iron bathtubs, clawed feet first. We gutted her plumbing, ripped out her nerves and re-wired the electricity, reinforced foundation seams that let the water in every time it rained. She did not respond well. We found rot and mold in her corners, force fed her antibiotics and quarantine standard operating procedures while she belched ladder-back chairs, sofa cushions, wind chimes, and broken bookcases. She still has her bad days. After feeding time Home likes to sit back porch facing east and picture window facing west; Home sits and watches the sun set, sits for hours in the dark. She gets regular walks around the wolf pen—let her mingle with the vultures, I said, let her feel useful and clean up the dead, but no one would listen—she shakes every time the tornadoes come through. She has bad memories and, hopefully, maybe a few ecstatic ones. When it rains, Home hitches up her porch and hops from one corner to the other, splashing in the puddles when she can.

*

A previous version of this poem first appeared in Six Sentences, 2009. It was edited and re-published in Lupercalia.

Little Girls

They carried the baby bird wrapped in a yellow, flowered handkerchief. Its eyes bulged behind their closed lids and its prickly down barely covered the stubs of its wings. The wrinkly peach flesh was damp with perspiration and plant juice. It choked and twitched feebly, beak broken open.

“We’re going to operate now,” said the little girl in the red corduroy dress. Her glossy, black shoes were scuffed and muddy and her little white tights had been ripped by the holly bush. There were no lights in the attic but the mother had given them three candles with the stipulation that Make Believe was not allowed to knock the candles over and burn the house down.

The two girls scooted past boxes and trash bags filled with grown up things and tiny baby things from times they could not remember. They were like bright fishes, easily distracted by strange colors and strange noises. They crawled on three child’s paws: two dirty knees apiece, one dirty hand apiece, tipped with chewed nails.

“On the operating table,” said the little girl in the red dress. She snatched the handkerchief from her companion and slammed it down on one of the boxes.

“Scalpel!” she cried.

Her companion picked up the handkerchief and lifted it to her nose. There was something there that reminded her of earthworms and pill bugs, like the juice that dripped from the knife to the kitchen floor, like the scolding she received when she stayed out in the sandbox past lunchtime. She reached into the pocked of her blue shorts and held out a sprig of holly.

*

This piece first appeared in Lupercalia.

How to Build an Altar

To build an altar you need the familiar territory of a dry riverbed and the shadow of a nuclear power plant. You need the roar of a siren on the air, the highway in the distance, the skull of a kingfisher and the footprints of someone you don’t love anymore. You need a stone from a hand that killed in a war far from home, knucklebones that know the fractals of a willow branch and all the sounds of breaking. You need the smells of honeysuckle, salt, and gunpowder, a piece of iron if you’re superstitious. You need the oil slick iridescence of a cockroach wing and a lock of your mother’s hair. You need the cornerstone of a place that makes you feel safe, even if that place isn’t really a place but a scrap of paper or the empty air. You need a poem written by someone you haven’t met yet.

*

This poem first appeared in Lupercalia.

Eating a Strawberry

The strawberry is poison and it pops into your mouth as if by magic.

It is cold and sour. It pricks your tongue like a bee sting. You

chew as if a spider clawed its way across your jaw before stopping to

rest above your lower lip, you chew delicately.

Originally published in 50 to 1 (as Jessica Otto).

Photo source.

Romance

We stepped outside the greenhouse and the lights went cold. He reached out; his palm froze against Saturn’s gelatinous ring and pulled away from his wrist like wet paper. I felt the romance leak out of our suicide as I saw the black hole. I punched him in the face.

Originally published in 50 to 1 (as Jessica Otto) 13Feb2010.

Eating the Sky

After the storm we found pieces of the crackling sky lying in the rubble of a bomb-kissed office building-maybe it had once been a bank because the black marble floor sang and wept when the brilliant shards struck it. They melted the minerals above and below, gave everything a pearly, iridescent sheen. I didn’t want to touch it but Kia dared me to eat it instead and said it wouldn’t burn my lips if I put it on my tongue just right. I never refused a dare so I plucked the largest piece from the ruins with my teeth. They shattered as I tossed my head back and gulped the slick shine down and my last experience of taste was one of sugar and fire.

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