Favorite Short Stories Read in 2013 – 2014

In the summer of 2013 I was too sick to focus on writing a novel and decided writing short stories might be more manageable.  I started reading online science-fiction/fantasy magazines, took several classes on short story writing, and read several short story collections.  Like most of my reading, I tend to like science-fiction/fantasy or chick-lit romance stories best.

Favorite Stories Read Online

There are lots of stories to read online for free—including many science-fiction/fantasy stories.  I try to read a new story every day. Most of the stories I read are just okay, but about once a week, I read a story I really like —a ratio of 80% decent stories to 20% wonderful stories.  Considering I choose my stories pretty randomly that seems like a good ratio, about the same ratio I have with books.   Here’s a sampling of my favorite stories:

On the Big-Fisted Circuit, by Cat Rambo ( Daily Science Fiction.com, July 12, 2013) – I enjoyed this flash fiction piece about futuristic robotic cage fighting. This was my first Cat Rambo story, and since reading it, I’ve read dozens more by her.  Her stories tend to be clever, imaginative, and feminist, often with literary touches.  She also teaches awesome online short story classes, and writes an interesting blog and twitter feed.

One, by Sinead O’Hart (Daily Science Fiction.com, October 21, 2013) – In just 1,000 words this flashfic piece tells an entire sci-fi story with a twist.  This is the kind of story I aspire to write one day.

The Wrong Foot, by Stephanie Burgis (Daily Science Fiction.com, November 1, 2013) – A charmingly cheeky spin on Cinderella.

Stitched Wings, by Beth Cato (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, December 26, 2013) – A lovely heart-wrenching story about a child who catches fairies.

Tortoiseshell Cats Are Not Refundable, by Cat Rambo (Clarkeworld Magazine, February 2014)- What if you could clone your beloved dead pet or even your dead spouse?

Cattail Heart, by Kate Heartfield  (Daily Science Fiction. com, August 29, 2014) – A thoughtful story that starts off with a Native American woman being forced into a colonial boarding school and ends with a science fiction twist.

Whose Face This Is I Do Not Know, by Cat Rambo (Clarkesworld Magazine, May 2011) – Another good Cat Rambo story about a unique young woman whose looks can change.

Favorite Online Magazines and Podcasts

Daily Science Fiction.com– This is my favorite short story site.  The stories are mostly flash fiction—so they’re quite short, which I like—but they also tend to be interesting and entertaining as well. There’s a nice range from the very light to the more thoughtful, and a good mix of science fiction and fantasy. The site will deliver a daily story (Monday-Friday) to your email box. You can also read the stories on the website—though each story is posted to the site a week after its email delivery.

Clarkesworld– This is a literary magazine for science fiction and fantasy stories, that also has a podcast—available on the site and on iTunes. You can also subscribe to the magazine on Kindle or Nook, or can purchase a paper copy, too.  I find I either really like the stories in this magazine or totally don’t get them, with little in-between.  There are enough I like that I keep coming back to read though.

Lightspeed Magazine– This magazine has a wide range of science fiction/fantasy stories and I usually end up liking most of what I read here.  They recently had a successful Kickstarter campaign to produce a special issue called, “Women Destroy Science Fiction”, full of stories by and about women.  The campaign was so successful they were able to make fantasy and horror issues as well. Lightspeed also has a podcast with one new story  a week on the site and on iTunes. You can also subscribe to the magazine on Kindle or Nook or can purchase a paper copy, too.

Beneath Ceaseless Skies– I’ve only read a few stories in this fantasy magazine but liked what I read.  They also have a podcast on the site and on iTunes, and you can also subscribe to an ebook form of the magazine or get it on Kindle.  I didn’t see a Nook subscription, though you can buy individual copies of the magazine for Nook.

Escape Pod,  Podcastle, and Pseudopod– 3 podcasts available on iTunes with weekly short stories.  Escape Pod is for science fiction stories, Podcastle has fantasy stories, and Pseudopod is the horror story podcast.

Favorite Middle Read Reads of 2013 – 2014

Over the two years when I was too sick to blog I read 15 middle grade books. I tend to like escapist action-packed stories best, though, I did read one excellent novel in verse. Here are my favorites:

Middle Grade Novels & Memoirs

Image- Brown Girl DreamingBrown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson (August 2014)- Jacqueline Woodson’s memoir in verse is about her first 10 years growing up as an African-American girl in Ohio, South Carolina, and Brooklyn during the 60’s and 70’s. Technically it’s written for elementary school aged kids but it’s one of those crossover novels that can be enjoyed equally by adults. Lovely, interesting, quick read.

 

Image- BeswitchedBeswitched, by Kate Saunders (December 2011) An old-fashioned boarding school tale about a spoiled twelve-year-old girl, Flora, who is sent off to a posh boarding school in present day England, while her family takes care of her recently injured grandmother.  Something weird happens on the train, though, and Flora finds herself at a boarding school in 1935 instead!  I love boarding school books and the period details in Beswitched added to the fun.  The “twist” at the end is pretty obvious, but still satisfying.

 

Image- Capture the FlagCapture the Flag, by Kate Messer (July 2012) – This action-adventure story reads like an Disney movie with more diverse casting.  Three kids search for a missing famous American flag while stranded at the airport.  Messer taught for years before writing and it’s pretty clear she knows how to capture the attention of third-seventh graders.

 

Image- Deadweather and SunriseDeadweather and Sunrise: The Chronicles of Egg 1, by  Geoff Rodkey (May 2012)-  Egg, the youngest son of a fruit farmer, eeks out a dreary life on Deadweather Island, bullied by his older brother and sister while he tries to educate himself with the terrified tutors his father hires.  The day his father takes him for a visit to Sunrise Island is the day his life changes.  This fun action-adventure story— with an especially enjoyable narrator—would make a good bedtime or classroom read aloud.

Image- The Great Greene Heist

 

The Great Greene Heist, by Varian Johnson (May 2014) – An Ocean’s Eleven caper for the middle school set.  Like Capture the Flag, the story hosts a fun, diverse cast and lots of twists and turns.

 

Image- League of SevenLeague of Seven, by Alan Gratz (August 2014) – This steampunk fantasy is set in an alternate- America where Native Americans and Yankees run the country together and electricity is illegal.  Archie—the son of two members of the secret Septemberist Society—must save his kidnapped parents from the Mangleborn monsters who are supposed to be trapped in underground prisons. A Native American girl and a boy apprentice to Edison join forces with Archie in this action-packed story, full of cool gadgets and inventions.

 

Favorite Grown Up Fiction, Memoir, and Non-Fiction Books Read in 2013-2014

While I was too sick to blog I read light, escapist adult novels—lots of chick-lit and action-adventure. Here are my favorite realistic and historical fiction reads over the past two years.

Realistic Fiction/ Historical Fiction for Grown Ups

16071745  Someday, Someday Maybe, by Lauren Graham (April 2013) – It turns out Lauren Graham (Gilmore Girls, Parenthood) isn’t just an entertaining actor, she can write too.   Frankie Banks is on the last six months of the three years she gave herself to break into the acting business in New York and is beginning to wonder if she should just pack up and go home to her sweet boyfriend.  I enjoyed this fun, light chick-lit type story.  I could relate to Frankie’s doubts and insecurities about making it in a competitive artistic business and especially liked the behind-the-scene look into acting class, auditions, agents, and commercials.

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Longbourn, by Jo Baker (October 2013) – I enjoyed this spin-off book of Pride and Prejudice that imagines what the lives of the Bennett household servants were like while Lizzy was getting to know Mr. Darcy.  It’s kind of like a novel-version of Downton Abbey but set in the  early 1800’s.  It also has a good audiobook version.

 

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Landline, by Rainbow Rowell (July 2014)- Technically Rainbow Rowell’s third novel has a bit of a sci-fi/fantasy device where a landline phone connects the main character to her husband—but in the past when he was still her boyfriend. The  core of the story, though, is a realistic tale of a young woman trying to figure out what went wrong in her marriage while she and her writing partner finish up scripts for a TV series they’re trying to sell to a network.  I especially liked the behind-the-scenes look at writing for a TV series.

 

Memoirs

image- Yes, PleaseYes, Please! by Amy Poehler –  I love Parks and Recreation so it’s not a surprise that I enjoyed Amy Poehler’s memoir/self-help book. The book is a mixture of stories about her childhood, stories about improv, life advice, fun lists, and comedy riffs. She’s open and funny but manages to keep her private life private—for instance the only real details she’ll say about her divorce to Will Arnett is that it’s “too personal and too sad” to talk about.

At the same time she’s pretty blunt—in an amusing way—about how hard divorce can be.  I loved her summary of books she could now write about divorce, with such titles as, “I Want a Divorce! See You Tomorrow!” (a book about divorcing while raising small children together) and “Get Over It! (But Not Too Fast!)”.

I think her discussion at the beginning of the book about how hard writing is, was my favorite part though.  To quote Amy, “The truth is, writing is this: hard and boring and occasionally great but usually not. Even I have lied about writing. I have told people that writing this book has been like brushing away dirt from a fossil. What a load of shit.  It has been like hacking away at a freezer with a screwdriver.”  Hee!  So true.

Image- Brown Girl Dreaming

Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson ( 2014)- Jacqueline Woodson’s memoir in verse is about her first 10 years growing up as an African-American girl in Ohio, South Carolina, and Brooklyn during the 60’s and 70’s. Technically it’s written for elementary school aged kids but it’s one of those crossover novels that can be enjoyed equally by adults. Lovely, interesting, quick read.

 

Non-Fiction

Image- 7 Secrets of the ProlificThe 7 Secrets of the Prolific, by Hillary Rettig – I read this book for a class taught by the teacher.  It’s a good resource for dealing with writer’s block or just a general lack of confidence about your writing.  Rettig’s emphasis is on perfectionism and how it hurts writing output.  She explains exactly what perfectionism is and how to combat it.  I found her methods and thoughts quite helpful when I was trying to get back into writing after being sick for months with my thyroid issues.