It’s that time of year again!
Award Eligibility Season. A time for nominations, yearly round-ups, and recommended reading lists. I love this time of year, not only because I’m a Winter Lady at heart, but because I get a rush of stories brought to my attention that I inevitably missed when they first came out.
My writing year felt unusually frustrating for a number of reasons both personal and professional, but I’m very proud of the stories I’ve had come out these past few months.
Here we go:
In January, my short story “The Daddy Thing” came out with Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading, edited and introduced by Halimah Marcus
In “The Daddy Thing” by K. C. Mead-Brewer, a young girl named Juana befriends a vampire bat that enters her bedroom at night. It’s unclear if the bat, like so many fairy-tale characters come before, is a villain or a friend. The bat offers Juana a deal: if she shares her blood, the bat will “owe her.” It’s a bargain only a vulnerable and lonely person would make. “No one ever thinks they owe anything to people that young,” Mead-Brewer writes. Certainly no one has ever admitted to owing anything to Juana, not her abusive father, nor her terrified mother, her clueless teacher, or her imaginary sister. What the vampire bat will give her is unspecified, though it only has one skill, and that is drinking blood.
“You must listen to me, Juana,” her mother says, believing she is speaking metaphorically. “This is the way the story ends, you understand? This is the way it always ends… Vampires are parasites and they’ll take every drop you give them.”
I don’t want to share too much of what happens. Better that you get the story filtered through the eyes of Juana, who perceives the violence of her household as only a child can: in half understood shadows, the sound of her mother crying, a BANG BANG BANG on the door. “The sound that hits you, as if you yourself were the door.”
With “The Daddy Thing,” Mead-Brewer has written a modern fairy tale of the highest literary merit. Like the witch that cages children, or the wolf that swallows the grandma, the brutality of “The Daddy Thing” is at once laid bare and cleverly disguised. It makes sense: in life, violence is permanent; but in fairy tales, violence is reversible. The children escape the cage, the grandma is preserved in the wolf’s stomach. In “The Daddy Thing” the violence is spectral, hidden, yet pervasive. Waiting to be appeased. And like the best fairy tales, it is far too scary for children.
Editor in Chief, Recommended Reading
Next up, my short story “The Three Snake-Leaves” with The McNeese Review Vol. 56, edited by Ashlee Lhamon
Her husband has stopped waking up. That’s the way to say it: her husband has stopped waking up. Because it isn’t that he’s dead or asleep—though he does sleep a lot; all the time, really—but that even when he is up and about with his eyes open, he isn’t awake anymore. Somewhere between a zombie and Sleeping Beauty, Nika figures. Things trapped living in the tomb.
My flash story, “Things Overheard through a Wall,” with Paper Darts Vol. 8 (print edition), edited by Meghan Murphy
It’s an app date they’re on. Dates & Daikons it’s called. Swipe right for ‘yes,’ a date! Swipe left for ‘no,’ a daikon. Absurdly, Rachel feels like she’s keeping her use of the app secret from Jonah, as if he hadn’t used it as well. Everything she knows but doesn’t say feels like a secret. Another handwritten letter poised over a candleflame.
Rare for me! A prose poem: “The Sweethearts” with Pidgeonholes, edited by Leonora Desar
The woman isn’t a southpaw, but she’s gone and fallen in love with her left hand anyway. This isn’t something she planned; she can’t help it. Look at the saucy thing, lighting out from her arm like a sensate candelabra.
We took Emmaline on what promised to be a particularly stormy night. It wasn’t hard to do, especially since all the police and alarm company people were right there in the mob with us. Her mother, Rebecca, had to be restrained by five different people; the sheriff even had to lock her in a holding cell to keep her secured.
My flash horror story “Room 321” with X-R-A-Y’s Boneyard Issue, edited by Megan Pillow and Joaquin Fernandez
You’re late. That’s what he says when she sits down at the crowded hotel bar. She doesn’t recognize him, but his smile, well. All women recognize that smile.
My flash haunted house story “It’s Only a House” with Wigleaf, edited by Scott Garson
The house is dark but of course it’s dark. Jenna wants to check her phone but can’t, won’t, they’ll know, they’ll see the light of it through the slatted windows, and anyway this is stupid, just fifteen minutes, that’s all, that’s it. It’s tradition, they said, come on, oh my god, look at your face, you’re actually scared, aren’t you? No, of course not, because this is stupid.
My flash haunted theater story “The Ghost Light” with bad pony (issue 6), edited by Emily Corwin
The stage really is kinda creepy in the dark like this. Cold, empty, the dusty smell of canvas and rope. Everyone gone for the night. The Ultimate Sleepover, Tilda keeps calling it; something Tilda’s talked about since her moms took over the theater’s tech crew a few years ago. From center stage, the lamp doesn’t illuminate much. Laurie can only just make out the stage’s edge, the darkness lapping at it like a seashore, waiting to sweep her out.
Last but not least, my short story “Horse Girl” with Joyland Magazine, edited by Amy Shearn
Esme lasts two more days before finally admitting it. She’s not six anymore, she has a fucking cellphone, a computer, but no, sure, this knocking thing. She’ll give it a go. They’ll both be poltergeists tonight.