Tag Archives: And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe

Dystopia and Unexpected Endings: The Story Behind “The Five-Day Summer Camp”

Welcome back! Today, I’m highlighting another original story from my collection, And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe. This time around, we head to a childhood vacation spot that isn’t quite so welcoming as it seems with “The Five-Day Summer Camp.”

The Five-Day Summer Camp

Now sometimes, when I do these behind-the-scenes blogs, I like to give insight into the story’s origin (mostly because I love to read blogs from other authors that discuss inspiration). Then there are times when it seems more pertinent to discuss the story’s development or its quest toward publication, because let’s face it: these beasts can often take on lives of their own. So it went with “The Five-Day Summer Camp,” which—with its two unusual sisters who must endure a world brimming with oppressive terror—might be best described as a little bit Shirley Jackson and a little bit George Orwell.

And Her Smile Will Untether the UniverseFrom the get-go, this was a story that I loved writing. It includes elements of my other work—sisters, outsiders, coming-of-age—but it also takes a different, and at times darker and more precarious, path to get there. That made this one both a challenge to write and a joy to take to fruition as a storyteller. But that was pretty much where the joy ended, because when it was finished, I had no idea where to submit this tale. It’s a bit of a between-genre piece with echoes of dystopia, horror, and the weird. As many of us short fiction writers lament, there aren’t a ton of markets for those stories that bridge those hard-to-define gaps. So last summer after completing this story, I was incredibly morose about its future, fearing it might never see the light of day. I mean, seriously morose (there might have even been some moping involved). After a day or two of my said moping, it was my husband who told me with complete confidence, “Don’t worry. It’s a great story. Just hold on to it until a publisher asks you for a fiction collection.” I promptly scowled and told him in my most dismissive tone, “No one’s ever going to ask me for a fiction collection.” (I probably rolled my eyes at him too, though fortunately we were on the phone at that time and he didn’t see that part.) But it’s true that I didn’t think there was much chance of me having a collection in the foreseeable future. Because when it comes down to it, I’m still such a relatively new writer; my first published story only came out in 2013, so why would anyone ask me for a collection?

But then, someone did. An awesome someone. Less than a month later, my beyond fabulous editor Jess Landry contacted me and asked me to send her a fiction collection. Naturally, “The Five-Day Summer Camp” was included in the book. So basically within a matter of days of claiming I’d never have a fiction collection, I was proved quite merrily wrong, and my husband likes to point this out whenever we discuss this particular story. Well played this time, husband. Well played.

To top it all off, I’ve already had several readers tell me how much they enjoyed “The Five-Day Summer Camp.” Over at her blog just earlier this week, Maria Haskins named it as one of her favorites from the collection and called it “a gut-wrenching story about resistance and rebellion.” If only every tale of author woes ended so happily, right?

I wish I could say this story has taught me something about endurance during the submission process, but truth be told, the next time I have a story that I love that can’t find a home, I’ll probably mope around the house all over again. But it is nice to be able to look back and remember a time like this one when it all worked out in the absolute best way. So maybe that’s something of a lesson in itself.

Happy reading, and happy submitting those strange stories that you love so much! Keep at it, because they’ll find their homes!

Fear in a Flash: The Story Behind “By Now, I’ll Probably Be Gone”

Welcome back, and happy Friday! Hopefully, you’ve got some fabulous plans heading into the weekend! Here in Gwendolyn-Land, I’ve sadly been marooned at home with strep throat all week, meaning that the last five days are a blur of doctor offices, giant pink pills, and the proverbial water drinking and rest. A majorly boring way to spend a week, but hey, we authors must soldier on, right? Especially when we’ve got books to talk about!

So it’s now been a month since the release of And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe. Happy one-month birthday, my book! And as promised in my post last week, let’s dig into the stories that are original to the collection! We’ll start small… as in the shortest of the brand-new tales: “By Now, I’ll Probably Be Gone.” Without divulging too much (it’s only 900 words, after all), this is a dark—and darkly humorous—breakup tale that features one of the most whimsically wicked characters I’ve ever created. How’s that for a teaser?

By Now, I'll Probably Be Gone

I’m sure I’ve said it before, but I will say it again: I love flash fiction. The table of contents for And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe includes two flash stories, the other being the mother-daughter horror tale, “Find Me, Mommy” (perfect for the impending Mother’s Day holiday, if I do say so!). As for the only new flash story from the book, “By Now, I’ll Probably Be Gone” started as a weird love letter to my husband, but immediately turned into something… more sinister. My husband, of course, thinks this is particularly humorous—in a wonderfully diabolical kind of way—and takes it as a serious compliment. So perhaps “a poisonous Valentine” is the best way to describe this story, which contains perhaps the most sweetly caustic voice of the entire collection. Because you need at least one mordant narrator to round out the protagonists, no?

And Her Smile Will Untether the UniverseUnfortunately, in my never-ending searches for places to submit, I’ve found there aren’t nearly enough markets out there for bite-sized fiction. I’m not sure what it is about flash fiction that puts off some editors and readers, but ever since I was young, I’ve always been a major fan, especially of super short horror tales. Packing a creepy wallop in less than 1,000 words has always seemed to me to be quite an underrated skill. Furthermore, as a writer, I’ve found that flash fiction has been incredibly helpful to my own development. I have no doubt that my longer fiction has benefited from my writing flash. The word limit forces me to whittle down a tale to the bare essentials of storytelling while still focusing on character development, plot, voice, setting, and theme (and all those other important elements that make literature so fabulous). So while flash might not be exactly en vogue right now, I will always adore it nonetheless, both as a reader and a writer.

Do you love flash fiction as much as I do? Here are six fantastic markets where you can submit your own flash fiction as well as read other authors’ flash stories!

Grievous Angel
An eclectic blend of tales, Grievous Angel focuses on genre (namely, fantasy, science fiction, and horror). Also, flash fiction stories are capped at no more than 700 words, so plan your submissions accordingly (and keep in mind that the editors accept poetry too!). You never know exactly what kinds of wonderful and strange tales you might find at Grievous Angel, but one thing is certain: the stories are consistently unique and entertaining. So if you’ve got an especially pithy flash story, this might just be the market for you.
Read More Here.

LampLight
Although LampLight’s bread-and-butter fiction tends more toward short stories, that doesn’t mean there isn’t flash lurking in the magazine’s pages. LampLight has long been one of my very favorite horror markets, and I can’t recommend it enough. So if you’ve got a short and terrifying work of “quiet horror,” then get submitting to LampLight; submissions close on May 15th, and won’t reopen until September.
Read More Here.

Mithila Review
One of the newest publications on this list, Mithila Review is only a handful of issues into its run, but already, this magazine is proving itself to be among the very best speculative fiction markets out there today. While the publication does not focus solely on flash fiction—the editors look for a wide variety of submissions, including poetry, short stories, novelettes, and visual art—at least one or two flash stories make the cut each issue, so this is definitely a publication to keep in mind for your super short submissions in need of a great home.
Read More Here.

Bracken
Like flash fiction, there aren’t enough markets for magic realism. Fortunately, Bracken has you covered for both. Word count for general submissions tops out at 2,500 words, so Bracken most certainly makes the list for awesome markets that accept flash fiction. And while the editors are currently open to regular submissions, the magazine is also running a flash fiction contest (judged by yours truly!), so if you’ve got a magic realism tale looking for a home, then consider sending it Bracken’s way!
Read More Here.

Daily Science Fiction
When it comes to flash stories, Daily Science Fiction has long been a favorite of speculative fiction readers—and for good reason. The bite-sized stories featured on the site run the gamut from humorous to deadly serious and include everything from fairy tales and swords-and-sorcery fantasy to hard science fiction and horror. This site is a joy to read and an absolute must for flash writers looking for places to submit their work. After all, it’s quite the badge of honor to have a rejection from this market but just keep on submitting.
Read More Here.

Flash Fiction Online
One of the few pro-paying markets out there that focuses solely on flash stories, Flash Fiction Online lives up to its name, providing an outlet to a wide array of speculative and literary flash tales, all of which are available to readers for free online. Each issue features a terrific table of contents (I love Maria Haskins’ new story this month!). So read Flash Fiction Online (if you aren’t already), and send your best flash fiction to the editors, too. It will be great literary times all around.
Read More Here.

Happy reading!

From the Collection Trenches: The Reviews (and Paperbacks) Are In!

So it’s been a week since the release of And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe. And what an insanely exciting week it’s been! I mean, I have a book that’s been turned loose upon the world!

And Her Smile Will Untether the UniverseI’m also thrilled that I’ve been hearing back from those reviewers who received advanced reading copies, and I couldn’t be more honored and thrilled at the responses so far!

It’s an almost mythical ride through the Weird, blending and deconstructing different themes to create some powerful tales and lasting images.” — greydogtales

The voice and themes here shake the expected and reinvent the norms so easily the fantastical aspects fit everywhere… If there’s another collection as good as this in 2017, I will be surprised. I certainly won’t hold my breath on it.” — Unnerving Magazine

If you like to think and feel deeply about the weird quiet places of the world, then Gwendolyn Kiste’s work is for you. It was written for you. You should read it.” — Ancient Logic

It’s like a quiet horror that builds with every page. Tales that you will want to read again and again.” — Book reviewer, S.J. Budd

Obviously, as a writer, you always hope that your work will resonate with readers, but the initial response to And Her Smile has definitely been above and beyond what I’d hoped for/dreamed of/demanded from the Elder Gods, so I want to thank everyone who’s read the collection so far, and I hope that the stories continue to resonate with readers as they delve into the collection.

There are several more reviews over at Goodreads and Amazon, so head on over there for even more collection-y goodness. In particular, visit the Goodreads page for the awesome giveaway that JournalStone has set up; ten lucky readers will receive copies of the paperback edition! Hooray!

Speaking of paperbacks, they have started arriving (as evidenced above!), so if you pre-ordered the collection, it should be arriving forthwith! Also, if you did support this very enthusiastic author right here and purchased the collection, I would seriously love it if you shared a picture of the collection on Facebook and Twitter, so that I could see my stories, nestled happily in their new home. It will do this little writer’s heart good to see the book out and about in the world!

Next week, I’ll be checking back in with more collection updates as well as a feature on a few of the very cool books I’ve been reading this year, in particular from some of my favorite female authors of horror, dark fantasy, and the weird. The official Women in Horror Month might be over, but around here, we support those ladies of the macabre year-round!

Happy reading!

Cover Reveal and Presale for my Debut Fiction Collection!

So. You might have already heard (because sometimes, I’m a little loquacious) that I have a book coming out. In fact, I have a book that has an official release date (APRIL 14th).

I have a book with a beautiful cover (see below, because for real).

I have a book with my name on it.

Seriously. This is actually happening.

In a way, I don’t know where to begin. The whole process of putting together this collection is a bit like waiting up on Christmas Eve. It’s nerve-wracking and thrilling in equal measure. And I still have trouble believing that such an amazing press like JournalStone is publishing my work. A whole book of my work. And speaking of books—in this case, book covers—allow me to swoon and squeal from behind my keyboard as I unveil the cover for my debut collection, And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe!

And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe

That gorgeous photograph is the work of the amazing Nona Limmen. All of the covers from JournalStone are absolutely incredible, so I knew when editor Jess Landry approached me for this collection, that no part of this process would be anything less than stellar. But to feature such a breathtaking image from an extraordinary talent like Nona on my cover is completely out of this world. I’m in awe of the design every time I look at it.

But that fabulous cover isn’t the only news about the collection. As of this past weekend, And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe is available for preorder on the JournalStone website! And for the first time, here is the official table of contents for my debut collection! (Again, how is this really happening?!? *head spins*)

TABLE OF CONTENTS
“Something Borrowed, Something Blue”
“Ten Things to Know About the Ten Questions”
“The Clawfoot Requiem”
“All the Red Apples Have Withered to Gray”
“The Man in the Ambry”
“Find Me, Mommy”
“Audrey at Night”
“The Five-Day Summer Camp”
“Skin like Honey and Lace”
“By Now, I’ll Probably Be Gone”
“Through Earth and Sky”
“The Tower Princesses”
“And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe”
“The Lazarus Bride”

These fourteen tales are a combination of my stories that have previously appeared in Nightmare, Shimmer, LampLight, Interzone, Bracken, and Three-Lobed Burning Eye, among other venues. There are also five brand-new tales that are original to this collection. Of course, I’ll be talking more about the process of creating this book as well as the story behind many of these pieces, but in the meantime, I have to give another shout-out as well as tremendous thanks to my editor Jess Landry for championing these stories. Without her devotion to my work as well as her incredible attention to detail, this book would not be a reality. I don’t know how I got so lucky to have such an incredible editor like Jess, but I truly couldn’t be more grateful.

So if you’re so inclined, head on over to the JournalStone site and check out the preorder page for And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe. And keep an eye on this blog in the coming weeks for more posts, giveaways, and promotions than you can shake a horror-loving stick at!

Happy reading!