Crafting a Speculative and Historical Fiction Story

Dear Subscriber,

If I don’t write something, my mind and spirit go into a death spiral. Ergo, I get my kicks from being published so others can wallow in my “addiction” and either enjoy it or move on to less “brain stimulating” prose, of which there seems to be an abundance these days.

I am very proud of the story Cousins that I crafted. Why? Because it’s a combination of techniques that I most enjoy combining: historical reality and creative imagination.

Those who write historical fiction understand what I mean. What can be more stimulating to an author than researching facts that can be woven into a creative work that sparkles within and without? In other words, the psychological and even mythical reality of the inner character combines with the stylistic and important actions of plot and creative twists going on in the story itself.

I just found out that the publication Strange Horizons, which is one of the most popular and holy grail publications to achieve for a creative writer of speculative SciFi and Horror, has had my story Cousins for 119 days, and it accepts a year’s worth of fiction and poetry during their open reading time (May-August).

This means that either my story has gone with Alice down the rabbit hole of ignored Moksha stories (been there, done that), or it’s seriously being considered to fill one of the one-story-per-week slots coming up in 2024! If it’s the latter, then this old guy has hit his personal lottery number! I think it’s the latter because they have a very large staff, and I’ve never heard of them losing a story.

It’s not about the money and/or ego inflated buggery. Nope. It’s that other writers and serious fiction junkies will read my work and let it pour over their brains for a while in this hectic universe of chaos and distraction. That has been my dream since I picked up a pen to etch my thoughts down on that piece of paper, which has now morphed, over the years, into a scrolling system of fantasy bytes (bites) and pixelated joys.

Here’s a sample from Cousins wherein I impersonate Edgar Allan Poe at a moment of his serious bereavement. His cousin and wife, Elizabeth, has recently died, and he’s trying to write to distract himself. I learned during my research that Mr. Poe was quite a “ladies’ man,” especially to women who appreciated poetry. Thus, I’ve used this historical information to plant into my character’s head the following. Please note that in the creative writer’s mind conflict must always be foremost in his toolbox of crafting:

They call me the man who never smiles. My eyes are dark ink spots smeared within a face of tormented and pale hue. My forehead shines with oily sweat, as I go through my withdrawals from that ghostly liquored morning-fog, and I am a man insane, with demons dark and deeply embedded, inside that wide forehead, that stubborn granite bone of cursed genius!

I see the women poets in my mind, writing love letters, scribbling their rotting poems of devoted joy about my new story, my new poem, their best poetry, and their affectations of simulated spontaneity. After my Raven, I attempted to instruct them about the importance of words. That words are like mathematical formulae, tickets into another world, where the human spirit can dwell and survive, even endure a suffering beyond belief!

Only Virginia showed me that unaffected, devoted spirit. She carried the letters between these artistic accomplices, as she did when she was only nine in Baltimore, delivering my love letters to Miss Mary Devereaux. Sis invited Mrs. Osgood over for tea and lengthy discussions about art, and Virginia played piano while we conversed. Sis knew I never drank in Mrs. Osgood’s presence. But I did become a drunken lout, in Virginia’s life, because of my gloomy misery concerning her waxing and waning illness.

It’s me again. Obviously, since this story is around 8K words, I have inserted more subjective and psychological information than I would, in say, a flash fiction piece of 1K words.

Frances Osgood

This image of the poet “Mrs. Osgood” (Frances Sargent Locke Osgood) shows you why Poe enjoyed her company (those eyes!) even though she was married! The reader will discover how intimate they were, which may be speculation on my part, but I’m not the only historical speculator to follow that romantic thread, so I used it. I also used her husband in the “other cousin” story, within the Poe story, set in the future (1945, Oslo, Norway). This “story within a story” is the time travel portion that makes my historical fiction also a genre-bending time traveling story, thus satisfying the publisher’s speculative requirement.

If/when this story is published, I will certainly let you know, my dear fans, and I’ll be giving you all a link to read it for free on Strange Horizons. Even if you don’t read historical fiction, I think you’ll enjoy this story, as it contains a lot of research and true facts about Poe and others that you may not have known before. All of my work in the historical fiction genre is crafted to do this, so my readers come away with more than just a read to escape.

Stay calm, keep reading, and have a fabulous week!

James Musgrave

EMRE Publishing

San Diego, CA

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