2014 Short Stories & Novellas Thus Far – With Teasers for Stories Soon To Come

Note to new followers: This blog is a mashup of my ongoing political opinions, essays and mutterings, as well as a place to keep track of the fiction I write. I write a lot of fiction! If you like my essays, you might like the fiction too. Suffice it to say that my opinions about female heroes and active female characters are reflected in everything I write.

So, a compendium of the short stories and novellas I’ve published and sold to be published thus far in 2014, so I can keep track, and perhaps so you can too.  I’ll keep updating this throughout the year. There are little teasers here for a few things that aren’t live yet, and links for some that are.

The Tallest Doll in New York City – Tor.com (February, 2014. 2600 words)

A Damon Runyonesque riff of a Valentine’s Day fantasy story involving a love affair between a couple of major NYC landmarks. This was exceedingly fun to write – the Runyon style is a challenge, and the idea of two objects falling in love pleased me.

The Cloud Club’s open since before the building got her spire, and the waitstaff in a Member’s Own knows things even a man’s miss doesn’t. Back during Prohibition, we install each of the carved wood lockers at the Cloud Club with a hieroglyphic identification code straight out of ancient Egypt, so our members can keep their bottles safe and sound. Valorous Victor dazzles the police more than once with his rambling explanation of cryptographic complexities, and finally the blue boys just take a drink and call it done. No copper’s going to Rosetta our rigmarole.

 

I’m at the bar mixing a Horse’s Neck for Mr. Condé Nast, but I’ve got my eye on the mass of members staggering out of the elevators with fur coats, necklaces, and parcels of cling & linger, when, at 5:28p.m. precisely, the Chrysler Building steps off her foundation and goes for a walk.

 

Dim Sun: Lightspeed Magazine, Women Destroy Science Fiction (June, 2014. 5500 words)

A politically rageful lark of an SF story involving an insufferable restaurant critic in outer space, and his best friend Rodney, a tag-a-long with a huge appetite. The two men face down the critic’s ex-wife Harriet, who has lately become president of the universe. This one’s a little bit Douglas Adams, a little Roald Dahl. I had unholy amounts of fun writing it. I like to write comic things as much as I like writing terrifying things. The story isn’t online – it’s exclusive to the ebook and print editions. Which are so worth it! The whole volume is awesome. There’s also an author spotlight in there about the story.

“Rings of Saturn,” the chef says. “Deep-fried, flash drenched in Mars water-ice, and then fried again.”

 

His assistant is standing by with a fire extinguisher, but this is nothing. The rings are small, a bit blurry, and clearly crisp. They glow a little, which might be worrying for some, but Bert Gold and I are invulnerable. We’re connoisseurs of spice. These rings are fried in some kind of astral napalm. I take one, and crunch into it with my front teeth, feeling it beginning to burn the roof of my mouth. It makes me hard, I’m telling you. I miss onion rings. Back in the day, me and Bert were at a bar one night, and I put seven onion rings around my business. Didn’t end the way I thought it might. I was looking at the ladies. They were laughing at me. People, it turned out, didn’t feel the same way I did about rings. There’s a photo somewhere.

 

The Badger Baby – Glittering Scrivener (June 2014. 2900 words)

A horror story regarding a real painting of a baby in a lake, by an artist named T.H. Badger. I stumbled on the painting on eBay, and have since been trying to exorcise it from my inbox. This story was an attempt. I put it up on my own blog as a free story, because the exorcism was time sensitive. 🙂

The baby had been painted in a lake, not in a baptismal way, but in a way that suggested the water was its habitat. It drifted unanchored, surrounded by mist. The portrait depicted only the baby’s upper chest, shoulders, and head. Its arms were at its sides in the lake, which was rendered in lavender and slate, shading to navy at the edges of the oval, a bit of yellow, some grayish pink where the baby’s body presumably was. The baby looked directly out at the viewer, with black-eyed certainty. From certain angles, the baby seemed inhabited by something other than a baby.

 

The Cull – The Toast (June, 2014. 1800 words.)

A debutante ball goes horribly wrong, and there is a literary assassination. Horror/black comedy. If you want a very short, very fun thing to read during a coffee break, this is the one.

It is unclear which of us began the rebellion. Perhaps all of us at once. A glittering, star-shaped pin came unfastened from a bodice. A clutch clicked open and a vial of explosives rolled out. An elastic garter sprang back against a thigh embossed with the outline of a derringer.

 

What There Was To See: Novella – Subterranean Online (Summer, 2014. 19K words)

Link to come when it goes up. The unlikely history of corneal transplants, rabbits, and German bears. Literary horror and ghosts, along with science.

There was something white in the center of the great lawn. She walked toward it, slowly. A chicken, possibly, caught by a fox. Or one of those rabbits.

 

She picked up her husband’s pajama trousers before she knew what they were, and found dirt on them, their edge partially dug into a divet in the grass. Then his shirt. She found, not thinking, no, not thinking, a ragged tear in it. She looked around, turning slowly in a circle. There was nothing else. No one. No Fritz. Here were his slippers, his pajamas, his robe.

 

Johanna turned to run back to the house, to tell someone. What would she tell them? That he’d shed his clothes and run into the forest? She paused, stepping over the place the pajamas had been.

 

There was something watching. She felt it. She looked around frantically, dread rising in her, her throat clenching, her fists closing. Something was all around her. And a horrible smell, dense woods, rotting meat.

 

As she stood, paralyzed, shaking, something tore a slash in her wrapper, long and jagged, and she felt a searing pain in her rib, the flesh opened by something sharp as a knife.

 

And the Winners Will Be Swept Out to Sea (Lightspeed Magazine, 5500 words)

Link to come – it should be up in the next few months. Here is a teaser. A fantastical love story involving two monsters, both water dwellers.

I met you at the end of centuries spent alone. My body has been every decorative lily pool in Japan, and every waterfall in Africa. My body has been the Amazon, full of snakes, thigh-deep wading for explorers, and the Mississippi and her floodplains, spilling out across miles, looping and twisting to surprise the houses. My body was the last moments of the Aral Sea, the final drops drunk by a camel, and carried away. When you found me in that fishtank, I was too lonely to travel.

 

Who is Your Executioner? (Nightmare Magazine – 7400 words)

Link to come, should be up in the next few months. Here’s a teaser for this dark horror story about children’s games and inadvertent conjuring.

On the photo wall as we leave the prom, there’s a fully developed Polaroid of me and of Trev, with Oona between us, looking like a smudge of light, and inside that, the faintest outlines of a little girl, looking straight at the camera, her eyes glowing.

 

Later they tell us that somebody slipped LSD in the punch, but they never figure out who it was. Trevor and I each take her hands and we go out into the night, to Trevor’s car, borrowed from his grandfather. We ignore the sweetish smoky smell. We pretend it’s not there. Oona’s fingers lace into ours. Her hands are always cold.

 

“What was that?” I ask her.

 

“That was nothing,” she says. She looks at me. Her eyes reflect headlights, and then she gets out of the car and takes off running down the highway, five miles from anywhere.

 

The End of the Sentence: A Novella. Subterranean Press. Cowritten with Kat Howard. (33K, September, 2014)

This is a literary horror-fantasy novella published in book form, hardcover and trade paper. Order now! BookRiot says this about the novella – listed on their Best Books We Read in June.

Malcolm Mays flees to rural Oregon after a tragic accident that shatters his life, buying a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere and doing his best to leave his past behind. But the house’s former owner, a mysterious and suspiciously prescient entity named Dusha Chuchonnyhoof, has other ideas for Malcolm: claiming he’s been unjustly imprisoned–for 117 years–Chuchonnyhoof demands Malcolm’s assistance with a near-impossible task. As the end of Chuchonnyhoof’s sentence approaches, Malcolm must decide whether he’s helping to free an innocent–or the Devil himself. A deliciously creepy and atmospheric mashup of old myths and new twists, Headley and Howard’s lush, sinister novella is a guaranteed treat for fans of the fantastic. -Sarah McCarry

 

And here’s a little excerpt:

I drove into Ione again, late at night. Moon up, yellow and thin as a toenail clipping. My granddad had been a captain working in the Gulf of Mexico, but early in his career, he’d been second mate on a Norwegian freighter. I thought about a story he’d told me once, about a ship made of the nail clippings of the dead. I heard him again like I was six years old, sitting with him on his porch in New Orleans.

 

“Naglfar, they call it,” said my granddad. “The nailship. At the end of the world, Naglfar comes loose from its mooring. You have to trim the fingernails of the dead, boy, or they go to build that ship. You don’t want to leave a deadman with his fingernails long.”

I saw my granddad’s white beard, his dark skin, and his glittering eyes. He stretched his fingernails out to show me. Trimmed to the rind. He looked at my face, and then laughed.

“Your gran told me not to tell you those stories anymore, or you’ll wet the bed, won’t you?”

 

“Will not,” I said. But I did, later that night, imagining the nail ship making its way through some terrible ocean, an anchor chain made of toenails, and a hull made of fingernails torn from their beds. I had nightmares about Naglfar for years. Now I was having waking nightmares about iron growing out of bones and I couldn’t make sense of them. I imagined nails, iron nails. I’d read a story years before about a woman who grew fingernails instead of hair, and I imagined that for a drunken moment, a miserable creature covered in hard, sharp, scales.

On the steering wheel, I looked at my own fingernails. For the first time in years I’d let them grow beyond their edges. What kind of fool thought he wasn’t five minutes from dying?

 

AND….

COMING UP IN 2015, my young adult novel debut, MAGONIA, from HarperCollins. It grew out of a little piece of folklore from both the 8th and 11th centuries, and involves a sky kingdom.

From Publisher’s Weekly:

 

Kristen Pettit at HarperCollins has acquired two books by Maria Dahvana Headley, author ofThe Year of Yes and Queen of Kings, both for adults. Her YA fantasy, called Magonia, stars a razor-tongued teenage girl caught in a collision of worlds – her familiar home on the Earth’s surface and the desperate, hidden civilizations sailing the “sea” of the earth’s atmosphere. Summer 2015 is the projected pub date.

 

And a little teaser…

 

“Aza Ray,” says someone, way, WAY too loudly. “Aza Ray, wake up.”

I put my head under the covers. Absolutely not. There will be no waking up for me, because it is clearly five AM, and this can only be cruel night phlebotomy. I have a spinny, achy head, leftover from whatever got me here, and yes, I remember some of it, and yes, some of it was bad, but it’s been bad before, but here I still apparently am, so it can’t have been that bad.

 

I’ve been sleeping like the dead. That’s a joke I’m allowed to make. Whatever drug they’ve got me on, it’s working. If they ask me, I can say pain scale zero, which has never happened before, not in my entire history of hospitals.

 

The voice gets sharper. This nurse has no sense of nice. Her voice is both way too loud, and way too high-pitched. I yank the covers higher over my face.

 

“AZA RAY QUEL. It’s time to wake up now!”

 

Something sharp pokes me. My bed shakes.

 

I reluctantly open my eyes and I’m looking at–

 

An owl.

 

A HUMAN SIZED OWL, a, what? WHAT? A WORLD-CLASS HALLUCINATION.

 

The owl stretches long yellow fingers and runs one over my forehead. It clacks its beak at me.

 

“Still fevered,” it says.

 

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