Tag Archives: Sirens

Sirens Blog Tour Recap

I’ve hosted several blog tours over the years and made the same mistake with several of them — I didn’t post a recap blog post at the end of the tour. I think recap posts are important because they bring all the links together in one handy place for people who are discovering the blog tour after its over and so I’m working backward and creating those posts for past blog tours that are without. The very first tour to get a schmexy new recap post is Sirens: The Blog Tour.

Sirens are beautiful, dangerous, and musical, whether they come from the sea or the sky. Greek sirens were described as part-bird, part-woman, and Roman sirens more like mermaids, but both had a voice that could captivate and destroy the strongest man. The pages of this book contain the stories of the Sirens of old, but also allow for modern re-imaginings, plucking the sirens out of their natural elements and placing them at a high school football game, or in wartime London, or even into outer space.

Featuring stories by Kelly Sandoval, Amanda Kespohl, L.S. Johnson, Pat Flewwelling, Gabriel F. Cuellar, Randall G. Arnold, Micheal Leonberger, V. F. LeSann, Tamsin Showbrook, Simon Kewin, Cat McDonald, Sandra Wickham, K.T. Ivanrest, Adam L. Bealby, Eliza Chan, and Tabitha Lord, these siren songs will both exemplify and defy your expectations.

I love this anthology, so to celebrate and help spread the word about its release I hosted a contributor-centric blog tour. These were the stops:

Aurora Award Nominations are Open

It’s the time of year again! Nominations are open for the Aurora Awards.

This year I have two eligible anthologies, Sirens and C is for Chimera.

In addition, the following individual stories from the anthologies are also eligible:


  • “Moth to an Old Flame” by Pat Flewwelling
  • “Notefisher” by Cat McDonald
  • “Nautilus” by V.F. LeSann
  • “Experience” by Sandra Wickham

C is for Chimera:

  • “G is for Gladiator” by BD Wilson
  • “T is for Three (at the End of All Things)” by C.S. MacCath
  • “Y is for Yahoo” by Jonathan C. Parrish

If you are eligible to vote and nominate and would like a copy of either (or both) of these anthologies so that you can fairly consider them I would be happy to provide. Just let me know.

More details about the Aurora Awards can be found here.

Sirens Blog Tour Round-Up

Sirens Blog Tour


So you know that thing when you’re happily reading submissions for the fifth book in a series and you realise that though you thought you’d done a round up post about the blog tour you held to celebrate the fourth book in the series you didn’t? No. Well, that must be nice.

Because I know exactly how that feels.

So bear with me–even though this was several months ago, I’m going to make this round up post. Because these blog entries? They are pretty spectacular. If you haven’t seen them already, they are definitely worth a look!

Sirens Blog Tour Recap

June 28, 29th and 30th
“Of Sirens and Sorrow” three part mini-series by Amanda Kespohl

July 5th
Why I Wrote Safe Waters For Sirens” by Simon Kewin

July 7th
The Drama in Japanese Dramas” by Eliza Chan

July 12th (Release Day)
#TuesdayTeaser” by Pippa Jay
I Blurbed it!” by Beth Cato
Love at First Sight” by Amanda Kespohl

July 13th
Six Things on Sirens and Storytelling” by Tabitha Lord
Medusa with the Good Hair” by Michael Leonberger
Sirens: The Femme Fatales of Folklore” by Eliza Chan
The Horrors in the Closet” by Adam Bealby

July 14th
SIrens and the Writing Process” by Tamsin Showbrook
The Call of Sirens” by Amanda Kespohl
Voices in my Head…” by Tabitha Lord

July 15th
The Ugly Siren” by Adam Bealby
Linn Arvidsson hosts a Sirens spotlight and review
Samantha Saboviec conducts three question interviews with Sirens contributors
Listen and Repeat” by Tamsin Showbrook

July 16th
Why Sirens?” by L.S. Johnson
Literary Crush” by Michael Leonberger

July 18th
Paul A. Hamilton interviews K.T. Ivanrest, Cat McDonald and Randall G. Arnold
About ‘Siren Seeking’” by Kelly Sandoval
Notes on ‘We Are Sirens’” by L.S. Johnson

July 19th
Four (and a half) Things I Learned Writing Threshold” by K.T. Ivanrest

July 20th
Notefisher alternative opening by Cat McDonald

July 29th
The Sound of Sirens — the Sirens launchcast!


Looking back at this makes me proud all over again. For this blog tour. For this book. Thank you to everyone who helped make both happen 🙂

Magical Menageries Colouring Book

Unicorn in an autumn forestI’m currently open to submissions of speculative stories about all things equine for Equus, the latest title in my Magical Menageries series. If you’re interested in submitting check out the call for submissions here, or find out what happens after you submit here.

But this is not about that 🙂

Not only is Equus the fifth title in my Magical Menageries series, it’s also meant to be the final book in that series. With the series coming to a close I wanted to come up with a way to mark and celebrate it because it is one hell of a collection.

So I’m going to produce a Magical Menageries colouring book!

The idea is that I will give it away as swag at conventions or sell it at the cost of shipping from my website for those who won’t be at the same conventions that I am. The only problem is I am *so* not an artist.

Which means I need to hire some.

I will be asking each participating artist to provide me with one colouring page to represent each book in the Magical Menageries collection, so five in all. Those books are:

  • Fae — fairies, forests, fairies, green men, fairies… you get the idea. Mostly fairies… but not so much of the Tinkerbell variety.
  • Corvidae — Magpies and ravens and jays, oh my!
  • Scarecrow — D’oh! I should have saved the Wizard of Oz reference for this description. Because yes. Scarecrows.
  • Sirens — Sirens from both the sea (mermaid type) and sky (winged type)
  • Equus — Horses, unicorns, Pegasus, centaurs…

If you’re not familiar with the books and find yourself stuck for subject matter I will be happy to provide a sample story to help inspire you.

I’m looking for colouring pages however you define that. It might be something as complex and detailed as this:

Detailed zentangle mermaid for coloring page

something simpler, like this:

Coloring page The magic bird

Or even this:

Outlined illustration of an adorable fairy

I want a mixture of styles and detail levels and will be asking for the nonexclusive use to the images (which means you’ll be free to sell or use them elsewhere too).

I will offer a token payment per image (starting around $5-10) plus contributor copies.

If you are interested in contributing to the colouring book please contact me at rhonda.l.parrish@gmail.com with a sample of your work or a link to your portfolio and a note about your expected rate of payment.

I’d like to have all the artists lined up by January so I’ll be open to receiving emails about this until December 15th, 2016.

Thank you!

When Words Collide 2016

What a weekend!

When Words Collide was last weekend and it was amazing (as always). I can’t begin to contain all the awesome things that happened in one blog post, but here’s a very brief snapshot of my weekend:

Driving Down

This was the view out my car window as we drove down to Calgary for the convention. One of my favourite things about Alberta is our amazing skies. I lived in Norwich, England for a brief time and complained (probably the whole time >_<) about the absence of sky — it all felt very claustrophobic. I don’t think my boyfriend at the time understood at all what I was talking about until he came to visit and saw where I’d come from. I know Montana branded itself ‘Big Sky Country’ but really, it doesn’t get an exclusive claim to that 😉

My first panel was the early bird live action slush, which I really enjoyed. As I promised last year, I put a page of my own into the pile this time… and was stinkin’ tense the whole time my fellow panelists were giving it feedback. It was fun, when it was my turn to speak, to say, “That one was mine. Thank you.” but I heard from one member of the audience that they could tell it was mine from the moment Edward Willett began to read because I was so tense looking. Good to know! LOL

The mythology panel I was on was fantastic (S.G. Wong is an amazeballs moderator) and one con highlight for me came immediately after it when Athen, of Athen’s Book Picks, asked me to sign his copy of Sirens. Athen has a great blog where he reviews children’s, MG and YA Books and I had a lovely (but short) chat with him about that. It makes my heart glad to see young people not just caring about books but caring passionately about them.

The autograph signing had a bit of confusion and a shortage of tables. If we hadn’t all wanted to sit together we totally could have found spots at various tables around the room but we DID want to sit together so Jo and Cat suggested we snag some of the refreshment tables and improvise. It turned out we were totally punk enough to do that, and we set up a super signing assembly line of awesome. And coloured* in between selling and signing books — as you do.


The hotel gave out a different style of mug for this year’s convention. Seen here with a copy of Sirens for scale.





Sunday at noon I was the featured author at the EDGE booth in the dealers room. I ran into Cat on my way in and when she asked what I was doing I said I was being featured. “Oh, this I need to see,” said Cat, and came with me… and was promptly talked into being featured “like big shots” alongside me. Soon after that we also talked Sandra Wickham into being a big shot with us:

Edge Friends

…which was even more fun than you can imagine and at one point involved squealing and happy jumping hugs. Because that’s how we roll.

Sirens Launch

After the EDGE booth party it was time for the Sirens launch. It was a lot of fun. We started off with Cat McDonald reading from “Notefisher” — her surreal story about getting stoned in the woods to forget that you want to kill yourself. Then it was V.F. LeSann’s turn to read from “Nautilus”. Megan Fennel and Leslie VanZwol are each one half of V.F. LeSann and they played rock, paper scissors to decide who was going to read. Leslie won/lost and gave a lovely reading.

Pat Flewwelling followed that up with a great reading of some of the darker parts of her story, “Moth to an Old Flame” and Sandra Wickham followed her with an engaging share of part of “Experience”. I felt a little bad for L.S. Johnson having to follow on Sandra’s heels… right up until L.S. knocked her reading of ‘We are Sirens’ out of the park and made me cry!

(Yes, I probably could have used the word ‘follow’ more in those last two paragraphs :-p)

The pitch sessions were a whirlwind of people telling me about their stories and blowing my mind, again and again, with creative ideas and plots. These pitches were five minutes each, and followed one right after the other. Many of the novels sound fantastic but the experience (it was my first time doing pitches) was rather dizzying and by the time it was over I was glad it had been my last session of the con because I really needed some quiet time to catch my breath LOL


And then it was time to go home. Have I mentioned how I feel about Alberta skies?


And then we were home!

Super big shout outs to Tyche Books for selling the Magical Menageries series at their table for me. Because of them we sold out of copies of Sirens and even sold a few of the older anthologies as well!


For me, the side effects of attending a convention include feeling recharged by seeing so many of my friends in the same place–many I don’t get to see in three dimensions anywhere else, inspired to get back to work by the conversation, panels and hearing people read… and a raging case of imposter syndrome. That last bit is compounded by a thing I’ve decided to call ‘Con Brain’. Are you nodding along already? Do you know what I’m about to say?

Con Brain.

Example #1: I was at a party and you looked over to see Sandra Wickham, Sandra Kasturi and S.G. Wong (whose name is also Sandra) all sitting together. I tapped tap S.G. Wong on the shoulder, fully intending to say, “Sandra, Sandra and Sandra! It’s the Sandra club!” (because they probably haven’t already all heard that five times already) but what happened is I said, “Sandra, Sandra and–” and I looked at S.G. Wong’s name tag and for some reason, for just a moment, I was like, “Wait! Stop! Don’t say Sandra! Her name is Susan! Quick! Change gears!” so I said, “Sandra, Sandra and Susan! It’s the S club!”


Sandra was awesome about it. Because she’s awesome. But really? Really?

…have I mentioned that my mother’s name was Sandra? If I was gonna mess up a name…


Example #2: This one is funnier. At the Sirens launch I was like, “The publisher for this book is When Words Collide and…” eventually the audience (and Sirens) stopped laughing long enough to remind me that the convention is When Words Collide and my publisher is World Weaver Press. WWC / WWP. My defense is that they are only one letter apart.


I’m calling this ‘Con Brain’ because it seemed to get worse as the con went on. And I don’t think it was so much a case of just normal slips of the tongue so much as my brain saying, “Dude! We’re doing so much more adulting and peopling than we usually do! I’m burning out so I’m just gonna flip this switch for a while. You don’t need to word, right? Right? Good…”

Still, you can bet that I’ll be doing it all again next year because so far no one has held my oopses against me and man, I loves me some When Words Collide!


*More about this later.

The Sound of Sirens

Sirens Blog Tour

For this, the final entry into the Sirens blog tour, I’d like to leave you with something amazing — The Sound of Sirens. This podcast was created by Cat McDonald and edited by Nick Acheff to celebrate the launch of Sirens so we affectionately refer to it as our launchcast 🙂

When Cat and I first started discussing the possibility of creating this launchcast I said, “I like this podcast-style idea you have. Do you have any experience dealing with audio editing or anything of the like? Because I don’t LOL So while I’m happy to solicit recordings from people and such, I don’t have the skills to turn it into something cohesive & I’d need someone else to take the lead on that. Could that person be you?”

Cat’s response after a couple more emails was “I baaaaasically can’t be stopped.”

She meant it.

Cat put together an amazing line-up of Siren-y interviews and readings. I’m biased. Of course I’m biased. But it’s true. Check it out:

One of my favourite things about this launchcast was hearing the variety of accents of my contributors. It made it so real to me, like nothing else ever has, now very multi-national this (and every one of my anthologies) book is. Please listen and enjoy The Sound of Sirens.

And thank you Cat. This is a gift. To me, to everyone, and I really can’t say thank you enough.

SIRENS -- cover by Jonathan C. Parrish

Buy It Now!

World Weaver Press



B & N

Notefisher: Alt Opening

As suggested by the title right there *points up* and right there *points down”, this is an alternate opening for Cat McDonald’s Sirens story, “Notefisher” 🙂

Sirens Blog Tour


Notefisher Alt Opening

Cat McDonald


Terra wiggled back into the rain-wet couch as the smells of wood smoke and palo santo incense whirled around her. When she felt her fingers penetrate her cup of cocoa like tree roots, winding through it and dragging its sweetness into her, she figured the C-Sharp she’d taken was kicking in, so she settled in to enjoy it.

Their timing was good. A chillstep act had taken the main stage while she and Jordan had been up getting cocoa, so she could just relax into the sound, wait for her guide, and find out where the bass intended to take her.

Jordan turned around to look up at her from his spot on the ground. He seemed to like sitting right against the earth; he settled in the grass every chance he got, like a preschooler or a true festival kid. He wasn’t, of course; he didn’t seem to know anyone, always looked a little confused when he heard a new music take the stage, and had worn a plain red t-shirt. It was obviously his first festival, so he needed a guide, and Terra’s campmate had abandoned her to pursue a DJ anyway, so they’d become friends.

Right now, all she knew about him was that he was new to this, that he liked drum and bass more than house, and that he couldn’t keep himself from staring at dancers.

“How are you doing?”

He stared at her for a moment or two, black-brown eyes shining in the reflected firelight, seeming to change shape as she struggled to keep a handle on her perceptions. The stage went red as a more traditional dubstep took the stage from her ambient chillstep.

“I’m fine,” she thought she heard him say as he turned back to face the fire, entranced by something only he could see. Terra followed his gaze as a ribbon of wood smoke wriggled between the stage’s lasers toward her.

The scent of incense reached out to caress her face, and when she glanced down she saw a transparent gray-blue hand cradling her. Red and orange stage lights flickered inside the hand and arm like lightning strikes, contained in the body of the muse she’d grown to love.

A pleasant humming in her ear skirted just under the music, in awkward, unpracticed harmony with the deep, booming music, and a smoky breeze tickled at her left ear. Terra turned to see a familiar smile rippling through the air, wavering but brilliant like treasure at the bottom of a clear pond. The embers of the fire glittered in the muse’s eyes, and when she opened her mouth to speak, Terra felt her ears tingle.

Behind the head and torso of a stately, dignified older woman, the body of a great rainbow-colored serpent glittered in twisted ribbons that bumped and writhed along the waveforms of the music like a fast-moving river. Every time Terra got a fix on one of her colors, the peerless aquamarine just behind her shoulder, it changed and the entire body had moved away on the wind to be discovered anew. Now, the journey could begin.

Rather than staring straight at Terra, her sparkling eyes stared down at the ground in front of the couch, where Jordan stared out into the distance after his own muse.

A high-pitched squeal in her ear pulled Terra’s focus back to the muse’s face, to the way her brows knit together, to the deep darkness that had settled in behind the sparks in her eyes. She brought her transparent hands together in front of her and cupped them in the air as if cradling something very delicate.

Terra reached out to take those hands, and felt nothing even though she saw them return her grasp.

“I understand. I’ll look out for him,” Terra said, and although the darkness never left the muse’s eyes, she smiled.

Then, as always, the world started to ripple around them as the muse pulled Terra forward into her dark, uncertain, watery world.

“I trust you,” Terra heard herself say out loud before falling forward to find out where the trip led next.

Cat McDonald lives in an eighth-floor apartment in Edmonton with a baby tortoise and at least a dozen tarot decks. She’s studying Investigations at Macewan and Tarot at Northern Star college, and makes better choices now than she did five years ago. Eli is two years old and loves strawberries.


SIRENS -- cover by Jonathan C. Parrish

Buy It Now!

World Weaver Press



B & N

Four (and a half) Things I Learned Writing Threshold

Sirens Blog Tour

Four (and a half) Things I Learned Writing Threshold

K.T. Ivanrest

Disclaimer: While some of these are things I discovered about myself as a writer, others are advice straight out of Writing 101. I’m sharing them anyway because they were “Oh!” moments, when knowing something in the abstract became seeing it work (or not work) on the page.

1. Character and conflict outweigh the “cool concept.”

I admit it: I suck at coming up with story ideas. My Twitter feed is full of writers lamenting that they have three billion stories just waiting to be written and, woe is them, wherever will they find the time? I’m not one of those writers. Going from “awesome idea” to “plot” is really hard for me. So even with the anthology theme to give me a starting point, followed by lots of brainstorming weird siren scenarios, I was struggling.

After abandoning my first idea (about sirens running a dating service), I ran across a writing prompt: “You’re a pirate of the skies, preying on merchant airships. The officer leading the hunt for you is your brother.” (From Faye Kirwin @Writerology)

Now, if you read Threshold, you’ll notice that it has nothing to do with pirates, or airships, or manhunts (sad, I know). What it does have, though, is sibling rivalry, and that was what jumped out at me from that prompt. When I read it, I’d all but given up trying to write a story for Sirens, but as soon as “brother vs. brother” entered my head, I was ready to give it another go. I still didn’t have a plot, but I had a character struggle, and that resonated with me more strongly than any of the “cool concepts” I’d been dwelling on up till then.

[Caption: Rokat vs. Navrin (Source: Pokémon: The First Movie)]

2. Give your character a concrete want.

Kurt Vonnegut famously said, “Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water” (Bagombo Snuff Box). My problem in Threshold’s early drafts was that my protagonist only wanted something abstract, something long term. This internal conflict was resolved by the end of the story, yes, but as my alpha reader (shout-out to Laura VanArendonk Baugh!) pointed out, any crisis situation could have led to the same resolution. It wasn’t a story about sirens, it just happened to include them because I needed a disaster and, well, the anthology theme was sirens! When it came time to give Navrin a more immediate want, I tied it directly to the sirens and other monsters in the story, and by doing so, I not only had a more interesting character, I also found a reason for my sirens to be there.

3. Fix one problem, create another – or solve them all?

Giving Navrin an immediate want didn’t just tighten the story, it solved at least three other problems as well. His new want resulted in a career change. That led to a setting change. That removed a crowd of people I didn’t need, a pack of “security guards” who should have prevented a disaster, and several instances of “this isn’t very logical, but maybe the reader won’t notice?”

I don’t know if this is something I learned so much as simply a success, but that moment of “Whoa, this all works now!” was exhilarating and bolstering. It helped me realize that there was, in fact, a story here—I’d just been surrounding it with the wrong details.

And speaking of details…

4. Keep worldbuilding to a minimum.

Another Writing 101 tip here, but man, was it hard. Threshold is set in a world I’ve been developing for a fantasy novel (series?), and in early drafts I was having a great time throwing in unnecessary details. Sky serpents. Names of countries and people we’d never actually see or meet. A whole description of my world’s equivalent of an airport, complete with the abovementioned security guards. I even gave the novel’s main character a cameo.

While some of it could have stayed (the airport was the original story setting, for instance), the rest was not only unnecessary but distracting. Fine for a novel, where names and places and foreign words become relevant later on, but not for a story of this length. Worldbuilding’s great for drawing your readers in, but too much and they’ll feel left out—or just plain lost—instead.

But! Since you’re here, have a fun fact that I didn’t get to share in Threshold: my world is modeled on a variety of Asian countries. Navrin’s family is from “China” (where the story is set), while Rokat’s is from “Vietnam.”

[Caption: My model for Eisa (Source: Pinterest)]

4.5 Research is a killjoy.

…okay, not really. But did you know that if you’re knocked out for more than a few minutes, it’s likely you’ve sustained permanent brain damage or other lasting effects? I didn’t. But now I do, and so do my characters, who got a new story ending—and no brain damage—thanks to this discovery.

Kate wanted to be a cat or a horse when she grew up, but after failing to metamorphose into either, she began writing stories about them instead. Soon the horses became unicorns and the cats sprouted wings, and once the dragons arrived there was no turning back. When not writing, Kate can be found sewing, cosplaying, and drinking decaf coffee. She recently completed a PhD in Classical Studies, which will come in handy when aliens finally make contact and it turns out they speak Latin.


SIRENS -- cover by Jonathan C. Parrish

Buy It Now!

World Weaver Press



B & N

Notes on “We Are Sirens”

Sirens Blog Tour

Notes on “We Are Sirens”

L.S. Johnson 


This is the seed: a class called “Integrated Liberal Studies” in my senior year of high school. We read Homer, we read snatches of Ovid and Virgil, and I felt myself falling down a grotesque rabbit hole: women chased and women abandoned, women thwarted and women kidnapped, women raped and maimed and murdered and no rhyme or reason to any of it, just the will of the gods folks nothing to see here move along.

Decades later, I’m forwarded the call for Sirens stories and at once I’m back in that hot autumn classroom, thinking about sneaking a cigarette on my break, or about going out to a club that weekend with my fake ID and dancing to a band and making out with strange men. My teacher drones on about Odysseus Odysseus and who cares? The whole book is basically about a guy cheating on his wife and getting away with it, while the women of the story—Circe and her swine, the Sirens singing in their field of rotting corpses, Penelope’s weaving tactics—are just “episodes” in the journey of this asshole guy.

But that was then, and this is now, and I’m a writer, damn it.


It’s some weeks later and I’m turning, turning the idea of Sirens over in my head, looking for a way in . . . and it’s Saturday night, and we’re watching Mystery Science Theater 3000, like you do. Episode 610, to be exact: The Violent YearsLS2

There is nothing good about this movie, yet this time around I find it strangely enthralling. These women. These women with their anger and their pistols, their boy-clothes and their bandanna masks. I had forgotten about the rape scene, too—that rare spectacle, a woman raping a man—how she strips off her sweater with that wooden expression. Mike and the ‘bots giggle and crack wise, but this time around I feel angry: that these women are just puppets for Ed Wood’s straw man storyline; that they’re doomed, doomed, because the 1950s needed them to be doomed. Oh, that they could just keep on going, stealing petty cash and partying with bad boys and rolling around in that big old ’54 Cadillac.

They stay in my head, these women, lounging on the hood of their car, smoking and cleaning their weapons, waiting for me to do something about it.


I’ve seen a lot of girl gang movies, and there’s always something that feels off to me. Something about how the stories are framed; something about how the women’s choices unfold . . . as if they have no choice at all, as if whoever is plotting their lives needs them to be something very particular. Not a character but a trope, an idea.

Not a character but a myth.


LS3My Sirens are a mashup of different Greek writings: a dollop of Homer, a line of Hyginus, all topped off with a few spoonfuls of Lycophron. Like so many figures in Greek mythology, Sirens are who their authors need them to be: an episode, an explanation, even a cautionary tale, but always without motivation or agency. Thus Hyginus:

“It was predicted that [the Sirens] would live only until someone who heard their singing would pass by. Ulysses proved fatal to them, for when by his cleverness he passed by the rocks where they dwelt, they threw themselves into the sea.”

I re-read these lines, and in my head five women look up from where they sprawl on the hood of their Cadillac, roll their eyes, and sing out in unison, “As if.”

Thus do stories begin.

L.S. Johnson was born in New York and now lives in Northern California, where she feeds her four cats by writing book indexes. Her stories have appeared in Strange HorizonsInterzoneLong HiddenYear’s Best Weird Fiction, and other venues, and she has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and longlisted for the Tiptree Award. Her first collection, Vacui Magia: Stories, is now available. Find out more about her at http://traversingz.com/.

SIRENS -- cover by Jonathan C. Parrish

Get It Now!

World Weaver Press



B & N

Images: 1) Red-figured stamnos showing Odysseus and the Sirens, copyright The Trustees of the British Museum. 2) Publicity still from The Violent Years. 3) The Sirens and Ulysses, William Etty, 1837.


Literary Crush

Sirens Blog Tour

Literary Crush

by Michael Leonberger

If novels are like great romances, then short stories are the equivalent of speed dating.

Fast. Flirty. Direct. If the encounter is good, it lingers in the mind long after the affair has ended.

Hopefully it leaves the reader wanting more.

Sirens, then, are the perfect subjects for short stories, creatures whose very existence are built around flash pangs of desire. Of course, far from being celebratory, these stories instill caution in their audience.

Caution against quick detours. Against mischievous dead-ends. Against anything that detract from the long, overarching novel narrative of ones life.

What’s apparent to anyone living it is that life isn’t structured anything like a novel. Life is more non-sequitor and coincidence than we’d like to admit, which goes at least part of the way towards explaining the resilience of short stories.

Sometimes, the story the old scabby throated fossil tells around the campfire lives in the mind long after the balanced and thoughtful prose of a novel. Part of the power lies in the brevity. In the open-endedness. In the gray stuff left open to interpretation. For the camp fire story, it’s the shadows outside of the fire. Those terrific and endless swathes of black, where the imagination lives on long after the story teller has done his work.

It’s the same with the quick romances in life. The surging passions, the darting glances, the apprehensions, the stolen kisses — but beyond that, it’s the imagining. The gifts that you only get when you don’t know. The agonizing but stupidly pleasing process of lying in bed, wondering about your object of desire, filling in the blanks, fantasizing.

Writing isn’t such a dissimilar preoccupation. Neither is reading.

Constructing narratives, weird solipsistic successions of dreams becoming nightmares, and back again, and in this area, short stories have the edge because even the best short stories end. Upon re-reading enough, their mysteries and pleasures usually become routine. Usually.

But some crushes, even long extinct, can still come shrink-wrapped in soft, nostalgic ellipses. Some of these can shred even the best of us to pieces.

The story I wrote for Sirens is about such a situation — worse, because the main character is a married father, seemingly helpless to the infatuation he feels for a young woman. I think, morally and emotionally, he is maybe the weakest character I’ve ever written. Which means I trust him a great deal.

The great thing about horror stories (or fairy tales, fantasy, and any genre that deals with caution and consequence) is they are a great platform for us to examine ourselves at our worst. To see what we might be like if our scabs were to break open.

I think, for this character, the scab gets peeled all the way back, and what we might find in that blood is that endless black shadows aren’t exclusive to the edges of a campfire.

No, they live somewhere inside of us, where the loneliness is indefatigable. We can hurl things at them- crushes, desires, the constructing and consuming of fiction — but sometimes those yawning black chasms are impossible to fill.

The Siren stories, then, aren’t about the corruptibility of man, or his susceptibility to turpitude. They are about exploiting the human need for companionship.

The horror here isn’t about being whisked away, drowned, or eaten alive. It isn’t even the horror of unfaithfulness, or infidelity.

It’s the horror of being alone.


“Michael Leonberger is a writer, a filmmaker, and a horror movie enthusiast. A graduate of the VCUarts Cinema Department, he is responsible for the short film “Hair Grows In Funny Places” (the tragicomic love story between a werewolf and a dominatrix) and the feature length romantic comedy “Goodish” (a movie he co-directed that premiered at the 2014 Virginia Film Festival in Charlottesville, VA). He recently published his first book, Halloween Sweets, about a teenage girl who can raise the dead, and has since published several short stories. He also writes a column for the website Digital America.”


SIRENS -- cover by Jonathan C. Parrish

Get Sirens Now!

World Weaver Press



B & N



Listen and Repeat

Today’s contribution to the Sirens blog tour is a piece of flash fiction from Tamsin Showbrook. Enjoy!

Sirens Blog Tour


by Tamsin Showbrook 

It was okay in the beginning.

I first heard the song on YouTube.  There were a few versions with different names, but I liked the one called Kanagawa Waves ’cos that was the smoothest.  It didn’t have an actual video, just that picture – the one everyone knows but they never know its name?  Where the boats look like they’re getting swallowed by the sea.  Like there’s nothing the people on them can do to stop it.

I listened to it all the time and I shared it with my mates.  Everyone could download it for free.  I went to the original source – that blog by Netu-1.  They – no one knows whether Netu-1 is a man or a woman – they said they heard it at the beach one day.  Not close by, more like it was coming from out at sea, but somehow their phone’s mic picked it up.  They cleaned it up and posted it, and after a week they had over 200,000 followers and then… Well, you know.

There’s no way of describing it.  Everyone says different things when I ask them.  For me, it’s like someone sorted out that shitty whale music for meditation, so it makes sense and there’s proper notes and… Yeah.

People have tried to copy it, haven’t they? But no one can, and no one’s heard ‘the real thing’ since, or if they have, they’ve not hit record quick enough.

I got the same effect as everyone: made me feel dead chilled out while I listened and then when I turned it off just… buzzing.  Like I could do anything.  Anything.  The stuff I’ve done, I mean… Yeah.

I saw things more clearly too, y’know? And I lost weight.  Didn’t feel like I needed to eat anymore; had to think about it.  And I got this… healthy glow.  I know now there’s nothing inside though; I’ve seen the reports.

I didn’t go home for a couple of months after I started listening, but then I lost my job and, yeah…

Mum cried when she opened her door.  She hugged me, kept saying, “Oh, my poor baby!”

But I was fine.

I am fine.

Now I’m in here, I’ll be fine.

The riots and the collapse didn’t surprise me.  I mean, there’s that many people like me now, stuck in these places, not contributing.  Because of what we did while we were listening.  I still can’t believe what I did to that guy.  And there’ve been all those people who just let themselves fade to nothing…

I know the world governments teamed up to delete the file, even though some people still think it was planted by one of them in the first place.  But you can’t tell me it’s not still out there.  Have you got it on your phone? I won’t tell, honest.  Just give me the overture.  Go on.  I’m alright.

I don’t need much.

Just a few bars.

Like in the beginning.


Tamsin lives in Manchester, UK, where she taught English in secondary schools until she had her two kids.  Now she tutors part-time and writes a variety of stuff into the depths of night most days.  She loves reading – can’t get enough Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman or David Mitchell – as well as hiking and running.  Her best ideas do tend to come to her while she’s exercising, which means she has to make frequent scribble-stops and will never achieve marathon-level fitness, but she’s okay with that.

SIRENS -- cover by Jonathan C. Parrish

Get Sirens Now!

World Weaver Press



B & N