February 2, 2018

Stories I Love: January 2018

There are two things writers must do a lot of:

  1. Write
  2. Read

Simple, right? I write some on a daily basis, I am also regularly reading fiction, but I have long known I’ve been deficient in my short story reading. I read short stories from lots of sources, but not enough. So for 2018 I have challenged myself to read 365 short stories, preferably from markets I submit stories to.

This will be entertaining and good for my short story writing. I’ll get a better feel for markets and what they like and I’ll be infused with ideas from other writers. Some of my best stories have been a reaction to other stories, kind of like, “That was a fun idea, but I wished they’d done _______,” and then I go and fill in that blank and write that story. Other times it’s just ideas that dive down into my subconscious and come bubbling up later.

As I learned last year with the Short Story Writing Marathon, public accountability can be very helpful. So every month, I’ll be here telling you about the stories from the previous month that I LOVED.

Why loved? Why not review all of them? Well, first off stories are very subjective. The stories I’m reading are all stories that some editor paid for, so they must have loved them. Second off, I’m not a professional critic, nor do I want to be. I’m just going to share stories I love with you and maybe you’ll love them too (and if you’re fond of my writing that just might work out okay).

Some of these stories you’ll be able to click through and read for free, some will be only available for purchase. I encourage you to try some of the pay-only magazines and anthologies I will talk about here. This is a great time for sci-fi and fantasy short stories. I’ll babble on about the importance of short stories in a further installation of this, but for now, let’s get to it.


Stories read in January: 41
Words read in January: about 83,000

OMG I So Love These Stories!

These are what I consider “must read” stories. Read them now or I will hunt you down!

A Rabbit Egg for Flora
Caroline M. Yoachim
Fireside Fiction, free, approx 1,600 words
Charming and inventive near sci-fi with a strong ecological message. Caroline has lots of professional credits and it shows.

Millie Ho
Fireside Fiction, free, approx 4,000 words
Dark, fierce, terse, and packs a hell of punch. I need to go track down more of Millie’s stories. This one’s free, so seriously, go read this one right now!

Black Fanged Thing
Sam Rebelein
Shimmer Magazine, free, approx 5,000 words
A dark, foreboding wow that brings Stephen King to mind. I don’t even know how to describe this story.

Spud Wrangler
Kent Paterson
Pulphouse Fiction Magazine, Issue Zero, $4.99 for the anthology, approx 3,000 words

Ok, so this story is about cowboys that herd Idaho potatoes. Yes, you read that right, but Kent is such a great writer that this story is a glorious hoot. I’ll be reading this one again as a writer, just so I can try to learn how he pulled it off.

The Library of Orphaned Hearts
Annie Reed
Pulphouse Fiction Magazine, Issue Zero, $4.99 for the anthology, approx 4,000 words
A magical story about hearts and how they heal. Annie’s writing is magic, seriously. She is another writer I will be actively seeking out as a reader and studying as a writer.

Other Stories I Love

I love these stories too, I just won’t hunt you down if you don’t read them immediately, so take your time, but do check them out.

Rab the Giant versus the Witch of the Waterfall
Brian M. Milton
Fireside Fiction, free, approx 4,000 words
A charming story about a Giant and a Witch in modern day Glasgow. It reminds me of some of Terry Pratchett’s work, and believe me, that is a compliment.

Life, hacked
Krystal Claxton
Flash Fiction Online, free, approx 1,000 words.
It’s tough to tell a story in 1,000 words, but this one does. Great ideas.

Last Man Out
Dean Wesley Smith
Smith’s Monthly #39, $6.99 with other shorts and a novel, approx 3,500 words
This one is about golf and sex with a healthy dash of depth. It’s a great read. Originally written for the late, great Roger Zelazny for Wheel of Fortune, in 1995. Most definitely a story only for adults. Full disclosure, Dean is one of my writing mentors.

Rotary Dial
Deirdre Fagan
Every Day Fiction, free, approx 1,000 words
Touching and very short. It’s hard to write flash fiction (1,000 words or less), but this one manages it quite nicely and sweetly.

The Weak Force
Adam R. Shannon
Every Day Fiction, free, approx 400 words
This story is etheric, haunting, and dark, very hard to pin down. Not the kind of story that I can write and not the kind I normally love, but there is something here. Check it out.

P.S. There will be no hunting down, not my style (and who has the time?). Just making a point. There is great short fiction out there, so many opportunities to read, so GO READ!

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Robert J. McCarter

Robert J. McCarter is the author of more than ten novels and over a hundred short stories...... learn more

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  1. Thanks for your recommandations, I’ve checked a few of the short stories (and I had read some of them already), and they’re indeed excellent! I’ve also discovered a few magazines that I didn’t know, so thanks for that as well.

    Enjoy your reading, sounds like a fun challenge!

    1. Thanks Gnonopom! The first month has paid good dividends, and found some good stuff this month already. If you have a fav from January, fell free to post it in the comments.

      1. I don’t have just one favourite, but I would highly recommend Kris Rusch’s Free Fiction of the Week – I’m a big fan of her stories in general (plus they’re free, at least of a week each!). I especially love Millenium Babies, but I have read it a long time ago already, not this January:

        But I guess you know her website very well already if her husband Dean is one of your writing mentors!

        And while I was checking the venue, I stumbled upon a 2015 story on Flash Fiction Online, whose (very long) title intrigued me. I liked it a lot. It’s called:
        I am Graalnak of the Vroon Empire, Destroyer of Galaxies, Supreme Overlord of the Planet Earth. Ask Me Anything, by Laura Pearlman

        1. Gnondpom, thanks for the recommendation of “Graalnak of the Vroon Empire, Destroyer of Galaxies, Supreme Overlord of the Planet Earth. Ask Me Anything”. So funny. It will be on the list for next month.

          And I do need to get to reading some of Kris’s stories. She is such a good writer. I’ve added a few more sources this month but haven’t looped her in yet.

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