I’m hard at work on the sequel to The Marian, but in between finishing the rough draft and beginning the heavy editing phase, I took a break to work on something else. I’ve been hanging out in that world of Priestesses, salt dunes, and completely improbable spider-ships for a good chunk of time now, so it was nice to get a brief change of pace.
So here’s the fruit of my labor. It’s a short story called “Polaroid.” It’s about a man who finds a photo of his missing wife at a garage sale. He buys it, but quickly learns the photo is not what it seems. There’s not much else I can say without giving stuff away.
I’m going to get all bloggy here, so if the only thing you care about is getting a free short story, here are a few of the places you can download it.
Currently, it’s not free on Amazon yet because they have to catch up and do a price match. If you’re dying to give me money for 3,000 words, then I think Amazon is charging 99 cents for this sucker.
I really enjoyed writing this story. I wanted to push myself when I put it together, so I wrote it in present tense. I don’t know if that’s a geeky writing thing to be excited about, but it definitely made the story a fun challenge.
Present tense is a style that’s deceptively difficult. Not a lot of people do it well. Most of the time, it just sounds like the author took a novel with all past tense verbs, and then swapped out all of the -ed’s for -es’s.
In contrast, I remember reading Austin Grossman’s Soon I Will Be Invincible and thinking THIS is how you do present tense! Besides somehow pulling off literary superhero fiction, Grossman combined present tense verbs with first-person narration to give the story a very immediate and intimate feel. It made my little grammar-geeky heart happy.
With “Polaroid,” I wanted to do a story with that same immediacy and intimacy. It took a lot of work, because the challenge went beyond swapping out familiar verb conjugations. In some cases, I had to rethink my go-to methods for constructing sentences and scenes. There are a lot of phrases that work just fine with past tense verbs, but sound totally clunky in present. This whole project was an exercise in voice for me, and that’s a lot of what made it so much fun. The whole thing comes out to about 10 pages double-spaced, and I spent a good two or three weeks tweaking everything until I was perfectly happy.
Story-wise, I wanted to accomplish something like The Twilight Zone. I love the way the older episodes felt like the storytelling equivalent of doodles. There’s no big, fleshed-out story. No vibrant cast of characters. Just a brief exploration of an occasionally unnerving and creepy what-if question.
So that’s what I hope “Polaroid” is. It’s not much longer than this blog post, actually, but I hope you enjoy it. If you do enjoy it (or anything else I’ve written, for that matter) I’d be honored if you left me an honest review on your favorite ebook retailer. Reviews help other readers find my work, and they also provide the constant maintenance that my ego requires.
If you don’t feel like scrolling back up, here are the links to download the story again: