Still celebrating the release of ‘Unburied Treasures – an illustrated anthology‘, I’ve invited Lindsey Duncan – the author of ‘Stone Unturned’ – to chat with me about anthologies, rejection letters, and cooking. I truly adore Lindsey’s work. The imagery in her stories is always so rich and unique, such a delight to immerse in.
Lovely to have you here, Lindsey. Tell us a bit about yourself. What do you do when you’re not writing?
I’m a professional performer and teacher of the traditional lever harp – sometimes referred to as the Celtic harp. My repertoire is primarily Scottish, Welsh and Irish tunes, but I also play Renaissance and medieval tunes and some more contemporary selections – I love Andrew Lloyd Webber. I’ve played some rather unusual pieces on the harp, such as ‘Under The Sea’ from The Little Mermaid and the theme from Jurassic Park.
As if this didn’t keep me scrambling fast enough, I’m currently in culinary school – more on that later.
Of course, I love to read in my (ha!) spare time, a lot of fantasy and culinary-related non-fiction, but I also enjoy mystery novels. I’m a big fan of Ellis Peters’ Cadfael novels.
I adore the magic and mythology in your story Stone Unturned. I got goosebumps when I reached the end. Tell us how you created this world?
Confession: one of the things I love about writing short fiction is creating the illusion of depth and cohesiveness … when the truth is, the reader knows almost as much as I do about the world. In most of my short stories, it’s my first visit.
In the case of Stone Unturned, the world came into being to serve the plot. I knew I wanted elements of duality in the religion, with a benevolent deity and another who, if not exactly malevolent, expressed itself in terms of chaos and fear. I’ve always loved the idea of being able to divine an object’s past by touch, and that seemed a natural fit here. I initially resisted the urge to have the protagonist weave her magic with song, but that was a battle I lost – it just seemed to fit too well.
You have published many short fiction in highly respectable magazines. Can you share with us the secret behind short fiction publishing? How many stories do you submit per year? What do you do with rejection letters?
If there is a secret to short fiction publishing, I haven’t uncovered it yet. For me, it’s a matter of persistence, patience, and a well-organized tracking system because it may be months or even up to a year before an editor responds. As to how many stories I submit a year, that’s tough to answer, because I have a specific system I use: I keep 8-9 stories and 3-4 pieces of flash fiction or poetry in circulation at any one time. As soon as I receive a rejection, the piece goes on to the next market. (Obviously, there are exceptions to this – if the editor has made comments I feel need examining and revision, if the next place I want to submit to isn’t open to submissions right now, etc.)
As for rejection letters, please don’t think less of me, but I delete them! If I decide to make revisions based on editorial advice, of course, I’ll hold onto the rejection until I’ve done so … but I tend to be the kind of person who dwells and obsesses on things, so I’ve learned it’s better for my mental health to remove temptation. Otherwise, I’d go back through all my rejection letters and wallow. Which no one needs to do, really.
Which is your favourite speculative fiction magazine? Which would you recommend to peeps to read?
I have a special place in my heart for Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine – it’s a great magazine. Without a smidge of bias, I also really enjoy Abyss and Apex. Most of the time, though, when I’m looking to read short fiction, I reach for anthologies. Two of my favorites are Murder By Magic (edited by Rosemary Edghill) and Fantastic Companions (edited by Julie E. Czerneda).
And almost everything Mike Resnick edits is golden.
Where can we go to read your awesome stories?
Darwin’s Evolutions is supposed to be closing shop soon, so I want to plug this while it’s still up and available: Fatecraft. This was in direct response to a rejection letter from Black Gate, commenting that they saw too much adventure fiction about assassins. So I set out to write an adventure story about the most unlikely duo I could think of – to whit, a dice-maker and a clock-maker.
Also check out the Trespass anthology which includes my Bird Out Of Water. Another standalone short story, which is a foray into science fantasy and the perils of motherhood, can be found here: Taming The Weald.
A modest sweet angel… Peeps, I just want to say one thing: if you haven’t read Lindsey’s work, you are missing out. Find something from this list or her website. I promise you, you won’t be disappointed.
Okay moving on… Tell us about your novel Flow.
Flow is a contemporary fantasy novel. It stems from two perspectives: teenaged Kit, bitter in the wake of the death of her mother and unable to control her budding powers; and Chailyn, a water-witch raised in the underwater Vale and only now sent to the surface for her first mission.
The pair team up to uncover her mother’s killer and find more than they bargained for: predatory fairies, a rival organization to the water-witches known as the Borderwatch, and secrets buried in both their pasts. They also find Hadrian, a bizarre young man with hyper-accelerated perceptions who invites himself along on the journey.
Sounds exciting! Where do we go to read it?
You have furry friends. Tell us about them. What’s the funniest thing they have done and how do you keep them in line?
I have two, the younger one is the imp. Both pups are Bichon Frises (little white puffballs), Peri (means “nymph” in Greek) and Lexi (means “protector,” also in Greek).
They’re very different, but they do have some shared habits. I give them ice cubes instead of water at night, and it’s freaked people out because they don’t lick the ice cubes: they crunch and chew on them whole.
Probably Peri’s funniest quirk is that corners are magnetic to her. If there is a small, walled-off space, she will squeeze into it. She crawls between my desk and bookshelves, under my rental harp, between pillows … sometimes, it’s a stretch. One time, I came around the corner and found her sandwiched between the pantry door and the broom. Lexi is very much the big sister. She will “tattle” – I’ve learned if Lexi suddenly starts barking at Peri in the other room, I need to go see what’s happening. On the other hand, she knows how to get what she wants. If I’m down on the floor scratching them both, Lexi goes to get a toy and brings it over. Peri immediately wants the toy, so she grabs it and bounds away … which means Lexi gets me-time without interruption.
You have been cooking some serious delish! Tell us about this new passion of yours.
I’m currently in culinary school – finishing a diploma in baking and pastry, then re-enrolling to get an associates in culinary arts. My hope is to start my own catering business. My love for cooking and baking crept up on me: I started to joke about going to culinary school “some day,” and then had an epiphany last year that I should stop joking and take the plunge.
The baking and pastry side is so much about detail, precision and repetition. Small changes in the environment or ingredients can cause huge differences in the results, so it’s often a case of trial and error to discover what works in one kitchen … only to start anew when you change venues.
I love the combination of art and science.
Technique is still very important on the culinary side, but there’s a lot more instinct and intuition involved. You learn how to subtly (or not so subtly) change flavors on the fly. That’s a lot more spontaneity there. In pastry, you have to have a game plan.
What are you writing now? Tell me your current projects.
I have two major projects in the works in different stages. I’m currently editing Who Wants To Be A Hero? a humorous novel based on the premise “What would happen if a Greco-Roman pantheon of gods invented reality television competitions?” The sundry competitors have to survive a series of challenges testing their heroics, all to win a kingdom and a divine bride/groom. There’s a lot of in-jokes for mythology buffs and RPG fans. I suspect this one will take a lot of honing, as the pace of the comedy needs some work yet.
My project-in-writing right now is Unnatural Causes, a fantasy-mystery novel where a controversial enchanter is murdered, and her familiar (the POV character) and apprentice take on the task of finding out who killed her. One of the challenges is that, in this setting, familiars are otherworldly beings, and they really don’t think like humans … so writing first person from Vil’s perspective has given me a creative workout. I’m particularly proud of the magic system: magic is performed by creating phantasmal thought-machines, visible only to the enchanter and others with the talent. These machines execute the spell.
Well, Lindsey, thank you so much for sharing yourself with us today. It’s been a pleasure having you here. I can’t wait to read ‘Who Wants To Be A Hero?’ 🙂 And best of luck with your catering business!
Thanks so much for hosting me and letting me ramble!
You can ramble anytime, Lindsey!