All posts in Short Stories

16 Jun

MK’s Top 25 Books

In Personal,Questions Answered,Reading,Recs,Short Stories by MK England / June 16, 2015 / 0 Comments

So, someone over on my fandom blog decided to take me up on my offer of personalized book recommendations for the summer. Except they are an omnivorous reader, so they just wanted my top five favorite books.

First of all, you should probably never ask that question of a librarian unless you have lots of time on your hands.

gif-belle-books

But here’s the problem with asking me specifically for my Top X Books of All Time: I either adore what I read, or I put it down. There’s rarely an in-between. There are SOME books that I forced myself through for the sake of school, and some that I enjoyed in the way you enjoy cotton candy dissolving into nothing. But the books that stick with me are the ones that really engage me intellectually or emotionally, or inspire the writer part of me stylistically. I do have some favorites that I enjoyed purely for a fun story, interesting world, and great characters, but that’s a separate list. This is the list of favorite books that affected me in some way. Most links will take you to Amazon, except in the cases where the book or story is available for free online somewhere. In no order whatsoever:

  1. Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (YA, realistic, Native American)
  2. The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell (adult, sci-fi, literary)
  3. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (YA, realistic, rape culture)
  4. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut (adult, sci-fi classic, stylistic influence)
  5. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (YA, LGBTQ+, romance, realistic)
  6. The Raven Cycle by maggie-stiefvater(YA, fantasy, realistic, stylistic influence, audio version is HIGHLY recommended)
  7. Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith (YA, sci-fi, LGBTQ+, screwed up/filthy/awesome)
  8. Little Brother by mostlysignssomeportents​/Cory Doctorow (read it for free on the author’s website! YA, tech, hacking, cyberpunk)
  9. Saga by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples (adult, sci-fi, weird, graphic novel, parenthood, nsfw)
  10. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart (YA, feminist, realistic, humor)
  11. Channel Zero by Brian Wood & Becky Cloonan (gritty, dystopian, tech, awesome art)
  12. Old Man’s War by John Scalzi (adult, military sci-fi, hilarious)
  13. Graceling by Kristin Cashore (YA, fantasy, feminist)
  14. His Majestey’s Dragon by Naomi Novik (one of the founders of the OTW!, adult, fantasy, alternate history, LGBTQ+ subtext)
  15. Local by Brian Wood & Ryan Kelly (adulting, travel, setting as character, 20-somethings)
  16. Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman (adult, literary, quick read)
  17. The Scorpio Races by maggie-stiefvater(YA, celtic mythology, audio version is HIGHLY recommended)
  18. Sold by Patricia McCormick (YA, human trafficking, novel in verse, audio version is HIGHLY recommended)
  19. Young Avengers (2013-2014) by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie (YA, Marvel universe, LGBTQ+, just…so good)
  20. Runaways by Brian K. Vaughan & various artists (YA, Marvel universe, LGBTQ+)
  21. X-Wing: Rogue Squadron by Michael A. Stackpole (adult, sci-fi, Star Wars, fighter pilots)
  22. Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson & Adrian Alphona (YA, Marvel universe, Muslim hero)
  23. The Knife of Never Letting Go by patricknessbooks(YA, dystopia, hard to explain, just read it, audio version is HIGHLY recommended)
  24. The P.L.A.I.N. Janes by Cecil Castellucci & Jim Rugg (YA, art, social change, nonviolent protest)
  25. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling (J/YA, wizards, y’all know this one)

BONUS short stories:

Yet More Bonus Selections under the cut. Seriously, just stop me. What books have affected or inspired you? Tell me in the comments!

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03 Feb

Short Stories Shred My Brain

In Goals,Short Stories,Writing Process by MK England / February 3, 2015 / 0 Comments

YA author Maggie Stiefvater (my goddess) once posted some great words about writing short stories that really captured my feelings on the topic:

“I actually find writing short stories to be a completely different animal than novel writing. […] A good short story is not merely a chapter. It is not a shrunken novel. It is a story that by its very nature and telling is better suited to a short format. Short fiction doesn’t behave at all like a novel – it asks you to think about dialog and show-don’t-tell differently. Your brain must learn to understand what 500 words feels like, 2,000 words, 10,000 words. Maybe the biggest surprise to me was finding out that my reader and writer brain thinks best in 125,000 word chunks. I feel I have to justify any length shorter or longer. […] Every size story asks something different from you.”

This is so true.

I find it incredibly difficult to write short stories. My brain just doesn’t understand them. When I get a new idea, I always start asking questions: how did this character get here? What is the rest of the world like? What necessarily follows from this series of events? And before I know it, I have enough information to fill up a novel. Part of my problem is that I have this weird fear: that somehow, the idea is “used up” by writing it as a short story, restricting me from ever exploring that character, world, or plot line in a novel. It’s not true. So many excellent novels began life as published short stories — but tell that to my subconscious.

In general, though, my brain only ever presents me with ideas for novel-length works, so my complete lack of written short stories also stems from a lack of ideas. I have notebooks and word documents full of dialogue scraps, characters, and worldbuilding bits for novels. Short stories? Um, I’ve written one in the past ten years. I have two insubstantial, wispy sorts of story ideas percolating right now, but they refuse to take the leap from brain to keyboard. 300 words of witty phrases and evocative images does not a story make. Or maybe it does, and that’s my problem. Perception. Definition. Maybe some of those ideas I already have do need to be told in short format. Something to consider.

The most essential thing anyone can do to prepare for short story writing is to read short stories. Get the sound and the feel of 5000 words in your head. Read them from different sources: collections in book form, those published in literary magazines, flash fiction from curated websites. If you can find stories in a style you’d like to emulate, so much the better. For me, there were two stories in the September 2014 issue of Lightspeed Magazine that really inspired me, so much so that they made my list of Things I Loved in 2014. Check them out — I highly recommend them, obviously.

I think it’s time for a goal. Creatures, you know how I am about goals by now. I love setting them. I love achieving them. I love having something to shoot for. SO: in 2015, I will write, polish, and submit for publication at least six short stories. I’ve already finished off and submitted one that I started at the end of 2014, so I’ll let that count.

One down, five to go.

What about you, creatures? Do you read or write short stories? Are they easier or harder than writing a novel? Tell me all your thoughts on short fiction of all kinds. I’m terribly curious.