So, I’m in Cologne, Germany, at the moment. No, I don’t really have any reason to be here, other than there was a cheap place available and I had time on my hands (Hm… do I sense a theme?). But I’m here. Mostly without Internet, definitely without a phone, but with eyes wide open, camera shutter fast clicking and fingers tap-tap-tapping out stories.
Good news has arrived mid-travel, and so I’m also in sort of a pinching myself daze, just to make sure it’s all real.
First, my sireny horror short story, “The Lure of Dangerous Women,” has been accepted for the upcoming anthology, Blood Fruit, put out by the fantastic QueeredFiction. I’m so excited — this is one of the stories that was inspired by my cross-country trip this spring; it takes place in New Orleans and was inspired by this absolutely beautiful and incredibly rocking musician I happened to see while I was there. Also, look at this amazing cover. Isn’t it just gorgeous? Somehow, it seems not only dangerous, but also sexy. Which actually fits the theme of my story pretty well.
Second, Circlet Press has accepted my story, “Skin Deep,” for their BDSM fairy tale collection, Like a Thorn. I love Circlet Press; I’ve loved it for a long time, but it was one of those places that seemed so far above me that I never dared to submit. Until now. And I’m so, so happy that I did.
Not only did they take it, but the editor made me blush with her nice words in the acceptance email: We loved the dark tone of the story, as well as the unexpected interpretation of the relationship between Beauty and the beast. The images, i.e. clocks, birds, and mirrors, are beautiful and haunting, and seamlessly incorporated into the story’s sexual aspects.
Oh, wow. See? Pinching myself. Lots and lots, just to make sure it’s all real.
Kiss kiss bang bang, s.
Instead of my usual quote, I though I’d share some snippets from the stories. Hope you enjoy them!
From “The Lure of Dangerous Women” (plucked right out of the middle, so it probably doesn’t make much sense):
Stopping still, I flicked my lighter against the paper end of a cigarette, cocking my head toward the music. I had one of those sudden glimpses of how I looked from the outside—hair sex-tousled and in need of a cut, dressed in jeans and a men’s t-shirt, scowling, inhaling desperately from a cigarette while I listened, entranced, to just another washed-up singer cranking the blues down the street. It was the first time I’d wanted to paint anything since I’d gotten here, and what I wanted to paint was me. Me in the act of listening to her.
Then the moment passed, and I was just me, inside myself. Lifting my head, I realized I was at the intersection of the hotel, and I could take a right, turn back to Michelle. Throw away the pack of smokes on the way. Make nice.
But I knew I didn’t want to. I wanted to find the voice, to sit in a dark and smoky room, filling an ashtray with butts, losing myself in the rugged purr of her.
She wasn’t hard to find—her voice carried through the streets and caressed me, guided me like a native to her place. I slipped in, took a seat in the back. The bar, like so many in New Orleans, was just right for hiding in. Poorly lit, half-full of men who’d had enough drinks that they’d forgotten they didn’t know how to dance, girls in next-to-nothing, offering sugary shots from test tubes tucked in their chests.
But it was the stage that captured me. No, not the stage. Her, on it. Dressed in flowing green pants that curved around her hips, flowed around her legs as she moved in time to the band. A tight, shimmery shirt—black or grey—that showed off a strip ofof the seas.
And her voice, ah, god her voice. Didn’t matter what she sang—oldies, blues, a pop request from the drunken guy trying to stand at her feet—she crooned and cranked, a sound that I could feel not just in the hammer and anvil and stirrup of my ears, but in every bone in my body. My femur and radius, my clavicle and pelvis. I don’t know how long I sat. An older man who was trying to kiss the singer’s feet was rewarded with a choke-hold from one of the bouncers and was led out the door. The couple off to the right of me started making out; she was nearly under the table with her head in his lap. But none of this really held my attention. I watched her move through the grey screen of my cigarette smoke and I listened and listened. smooth belly beneath the hem and cap sleeves that did nothing to hide her arms. Strong, lean. Swimmer’s arms that held the mic while she swayed, lush as seaweed, rocking in tune to the music
And from “Skin Deep,” the opening lines:
They say I am the Beauty. Capital, like that. Beauty. In a softly brushed script that makes you feel safe, that gives you images of beauty beyond your imagining. Sometimes with flourishes and fleur-de-lis and a bird tucked into the bower of the B, as though all of those things will make it true. They even named me Belle. Which, in some ancient country, stands for beauty. All those Bs, the way they roll off the tongue. B. Buh. Buh. A stupid sound, for a stupid, pretty girl.
But B can stand for so many other things, can it not? Beast. Bad. Bare. Bones. Bitch. Blood.
I am all of those things inside. Aren’t we all?
My father brought me a rose from the creature’s castle. He picked the most gorgeous one he could find, I’m sure—my father is a kind, big-hearted man, if he is a bit blind. The flower was red as blood, and big around as my fist, each petal wide and curled as a tongue. I thanked him kindly—I am nothing if not a dutiful daughter—and then I took the flower to my room and stripped every petal from it, every silky slip of flesh, and threw them out the window.
Let my sisters have the dresses, the rings. The silk and pearls. Let them have their twittering laughter like fragile birds, as they twirl in the light.
I wanted for other things. The broken mirror. The poisoned comb. The cursed spindle.
They say I went willingly, and that part is true. It wasn’t for the rose, or even for the beast though—after all, I hadn’t met him yet. Would I have gone if I’d known what awaited me? Oh yes. Oh yes.
But I went for the stem, the thorns. Strong as a lash, sharp as claws. I bent the long stem of it over and over in my hands, closed my palms on their curved points until they pierced my flesh.
Oh, yes, I went willingly. Wantingly. Wantonly. A thorn in each hand.
PS — Funnily enough, as I was writing this — I literally mean as I was in the process of writing this post, I got a rejection. From a story that I really liked. The kind of “I enjoyed the story but it’s not right for this collection,” kind of rejection, which I actually get quite a lot. Just wanted to add that, lest people think that I’m just getting accepted left and right over here. The rejections never end, do they? And they never stop stinging, at least a little bit.