And I am done with my graceless heart
so tonight I’m gonna cut it out and then restart
– Florence + the Machine Shake It Out
As of today, my story Comes the Huntsman is online at Strange Horizons, available to be read for free. (Though you should consider donating to SH if you like the story!) This is my best work to date, so please go read it, and tell your friends if you like it! Being published in Strange Horizons has been my dream since I started writing seriously again, so today feels unreal for a multitude of reasons.
You see, Comes the Huntsman was not a story I actually intended to write. Nothing remotely like it, in fact.
I wrote it all in one sitting on February 8th of this year, because it was Tom Hiddleston’s birthday in less than 24 hours. I am an unabashed fan, and I’d been intending to get something written to send in with all the other fanworks for the big, gleeful happy birthday package. Unfortunately, I had a rough semester, then I was out of the country for nearly a month and a half for various reasons and it just didn’t happen.
So I sat in front of my computer and decided that damnit, I would write something, and then I’d post it online, spread it around Twitter a bit, and feel like at least I made the attempt and let my fan flag fly. I was vaguely shooting for something cute, fluffy, and quite possibly fan-fiction.
That’s obviously not what happened.
I was in tears as I wrote the story, not necessarily out of sadness but because writing the thing just felt overwhelming. I was in tears all over again when I re-read it. I sent it to my dear friend Rynn, not really sure what I should do because I knew why I’d set out to write the story, and it had gone where it needed to go instead of where I intended it to end up. I didn’t have time to write another story, and I didn’t know if it was any good, and and and–
Rynn’s the one that told me it was good, that I should try to have it published. I flailed at her via gchat about butbutbut and this was supposed to be a gift and so many other worries. Well yes, it can still be a birthday present. That’s what dedications are for, if you feel like it’s what you want to give.
It wasn’t anything I ever intended, but I looked at Comes the Huntsman and knew I’d written it with someone in mind.
So that’s the reason behind the dedication. I see no reason to act as if it’s some coy secret that the mysterious Mr. T. H. is indeed Tom Hiddleston, whom I have never had the privilege of meeting but respect greatly as an artist and a genuinely good human being. (In my book, there aren’t too many better compliments than that.) Sorry it’s a bit late, but sometimes I still have the bad habit of doing things at the last minute.
Since this story was intended to be a gift, and as far as I’m concerned is whether it ever reaches the intended recipient or no, I don’t feel right about keeping the payment. I might be a grad student but I’m doing okay, and I know there are people who can put the money to better use than I. If I by some miracle hear from the incredibly busy man himself (I’ll be holding the money for a couple of months just in case), I’ll be more than happy to send the money wherever he might like since I don’t feel it’s my story in that way.
Comes the Huntsman is a special story for me for many reasons beyond its emotional content. It’s the third short story I’ve sold at a professional rate, which means I get to – as I’ve jokingly said – wear the big girl writerpants from here on out. Three short stories at $.05+/word is a magical border (at least in my genre) that makes one a “professional” writer. I can no longer submit stories to Writers of the Future, or any other publications/contests that are aimed at non-professional or semi-professional writers. That alone is enough to make this a profound day in my life as a would-be artist.
I normally don’t write stories like this, ones where you just let your heart have its say without filtering it through your brain first. I was so out of my comfort zone as a writer that I’ve yet to find my way back. But even more so, writing a story for someone is a very powerful experience, full of uncertainty and churning worries. You spend a lot of time worrying about if this thing you’ve drawn from yourself and shown to the world is worthy, what other people will think, if it will be a welcome gift. When it’s a situation as odd as this, you take a lot of those worries and turn them up to 11. (Supposedly grown-up nobody writing a story for a famous movie star who is completely unaware of her existence? Psh. Give me a break.)
To hell with all of that. I refuse to be anything but proud of what I’ve written and why. I want to love, create, and give without fear. In my experience, you will always have more regrets about the things you haven’t done, as opposed the things you possessed the bravery (or madness) to do.
And it’s hard to dance with the devil on your back
So shake him out.
Sing it, Flo.
UPDATE: The payment money has now been donated. More here.