Tuesday, January 3, 2012

It's Great, Really, But How About an Honorable Cash Prize?

Just before the New Year I got an e-mail from Writer's Digest, advising me that my work warranted an Honorable Mention in a recent horror contest. The May/June issue of WD will list my name as honorably mentioned in the contest, and I get a free copy of the 2012 Writer's Market. Which is nice, and the cost of the book means I'm ahead about $10 above my entry fee. Yay!

The story in question is "Gone to Earth", the title of which I blatantly stole from an early-20th-century book by a female author named Mary Webb. A sample (of my story, not hers):
The silence maddened her for the first week, but one day she shut her eyes and sat on the porch and listened, and she heard it finally: the whistling sounds of the trees, the industry of squirrels, the chittering of nesting birds, faraway burbling water. The clamor was deafening if you listened. The expectation of television, of booming car stereos, of next-door Smiths embroiled in domestic battle, had drowned out the real sounds that existed in this place. She was suddenly dizzy with the altitude.

Two weeks later, and she is knitting her fingers into the tiny garden’s wet dirt. A woodpecker is sporadic in keeping her company as she kneels in the damp earth. She hums Springsteen. A pale green tendril from a bush nearby snakes its way around her moving wrist.

She ceases and looks at it. It is still for a moment, and then it moves again, climbing its way up her arm to the crease of her elbow. She stands up at speed and the tendril slips away harmlessly, lying on the ground.

Shelly is shaking, her eyes wide, the tune in her throat forgotten. Her earthen hands dangle. The tendril does not move. It is another three days before she goes to the garden again, and by then the seeds and weeds alike have uncurled into life, the weeds twice as large and throttling the squash.
I wrote the story a few years ago, and although it really does belong in the stable of genre work, not literary, it was still (at the time) the closest I'd ever come to writing exactly what I had in mind. A piece of work I'm proud of. One day I want to place it in Weird Tales - it was rejected two years ago, but maybe with some more work it'll be worthy.

As I said a while back (while I was agonizedly editing "Gone to Earth" down for this very contest, in fact), I don't really know what's up with contests, how they work, but thus far this is the third one in which I have been granted an honorable mention. I'm pleased that I warrant mention, especially of the honorable sort, but I'm kind of starting to wonder what's up with this. (I'm an Honorable Mention winner from way back, all the way to science fair projects in elementary school and whatnot.) What do I do to break through from "yeah, we liked it" to "this is outstanding by any measure"? More characterization? Fewer adjectives? Thicker paper?

In other news, I bought Florence + the Machine's new album (Lungs has been listened to a nub, or would have been, if it hadn't been listened to entirely in digital form), and have discovered that noise-canceling headphones are really the only way to listen to Florence + the Machine. I just want to lie down and let her voice soak into my body, maybe for a day or two straight.

Also, totally blocked from working on the horror novel, either through laziness or perfectionist fears or whatever else is making me chemically unable to put one word in front of the other. I think this evening I'll try lubing up with a cocktail and see where that gets me. Yeah, not a wise habit, but it worked nicely with the Greenland book, and I didn't wind up with an alcohol problem after it was all over, so I think I'm OK. Also also, someone with more talent in the tip of her nose than I have in my entire brain has just e-mailed me a WIP for me to read and chat with her about, so I am apparently being revenged for my impatience with my readers. I can't wait to dig in.

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