Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Finding Short Story Success - Milo James Fowler

My Own Worst Enemy

by Milo James Fowler

Have you ever had a story to tell, and you knew it was inside you waiting to burst forth, but you were too afraid you wouldn't be able to do it justice?

This kind of stinkin' thinkin' hit me hard when I came up with the idea for my story "Soulless in His Sight." Who was I to think I could write an homage to Faulkner's As I Lay Dying and McCarthy's The Road with Diogenes (crossbow and hatchet instead of a lamp) tossed in for good measure?

Here's the concept: What if Faulkner's Vardaman didn't know his own strength, and he hurt someone close to him? His father, a violent incarnation of McCarthy's paternal character, believes his son was born without a soul. Like Diogenes on the hunt for an honest man, the father must find a soul for his son so he can go to heaven and see his mother.

On Week #9 of Write1Sub1 2011, I finally decided to give it a go. I wrote, polished, and submitted "Soulless in His Sight" to Shimmer, a market I'd been stalking for over a year. The editor eventually responded, "I've read this story a few times now, and though I like it very much, the ending still makes me hesitate. I think if you were to be more concrete with it, the story would be a home run."

I was definitely open to a rewrite, and after making a few minor edits and overhauling the end, the editor replied, "I like the revisions very much. Fatha and Boy are just great; the story has a genuine voice that shines."

In spite of my self-doubt, "Soulless in His Sight" eventually appeared in Shimmer's July 2012 issue, and if that wasn't cool enough, in 2015 a reprint will appear in the Wastelands 2 anthology edited by John Joseph Adams. I'll be sharing a table of contents with George R. R. Martin, Orson Scott Card, Hugh Howey, and a host of others. It doesn't feel real yet. Maybe it will once I'm holding a copy in my hands!

"Soulless in His Sight” was a challenge for me to write, but I'm so glad I stuck with it and now have a story I can point to as one I didn't allow to beat me—and an example of my best work.

We don't have to be our own worst critics.

Believe in yourself. Believe in your work.

Cool stuff will happen.

Milo James Fowler is a teacher by day and a speculative fictioneer by night. When he's not grading papers, he's imagining what the world might be like in a few dozen alternate realities. He is an active SFWA member, and his work has appeared in AE SciFi, Cosmos, Daily Science Fiction, Nature, and Shimmer. His novel Captain Bartholomew Quasar and the Space-Time Displacement Conundrum is forthcoming from Every Day Publishing.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Thanks for joining us today, Milo!

Robin said...

Fear is definitely our worst enemy. Glad you overcame yours and found success with this story!

Michael Di Gesu said...

Good for you Milo... I've always admired your talent and you short story success!

Philip Verghese 'Ariel' said...

Hi Alex,
Thanks for introducing Milo james to us here. Good to meet you James. A warm welcome abroad. Have a wonderful time ahead.
Thanks for giving your connected links too.
Hope you are there in A to Z challenge this year?
Have a good day.
Hey Alex now I am at a new place, created a new page at
pl. do have a look and tell me your suggestion to improve it.
Good wishes

Pat Hatt said...

Just let the crazy flow and away the fear will go haha

L. Diane Wolfe said...

If you don't believe in yourself, no one else will!

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

What a great encouraging story. Thanks for sharing and congrats on the success of your story.

Michelle Wallace said...

I've read Milo's work. I think he can write just about anything he puts his mind to. He is an amazing haiku writer too!
Great post!

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Good post, Milo. I, for one, am very bad at self-talk and letting what I think are limitations stop me from reaching for my dreams. Thanks for reminding me that I don't have to be my own worse critic.

Tyrean Martinson said...

Great advice!!! Thanks for sharing, Milo!

Anonymous said...

Alex: Thanks for the invite. Honored to be here.

Robin: Sometimes it's a daily battle, but we shall overcome.

Michael: Thank you, sir.

Philip: I'm still recovering from A2Z 2011.

Pat: Something like that.

Diane: My wife believes in me even when I don't.

Susan: I was hoping this post would be a source of encouragement.

Michelle: Thank you. Haven't written much haiku this year; thanks for the reminder.

Joylene: Sometimes we need to mute our inner editors.

Tyrean: Always happy to share what I've learned in the trenches.

Heather Musk said...

I have a few stories that are currently beating me, but I'm working my way through them to get them finished and sent somewhere.
I finally had the courage to submit to a competition last week, and I have another I'm working on now.
This post is great inspiration, so thank you.

Anonymous said...

That's right -- get them out there where they belong. Glad to be of service.

Christine Rains said...

Excellent advice, Milo. I've learned a lot by pushing myself, and the more I learn, the more I believe in myself.

Anonymous said...

That's the stuff, Christine.

J.L. Campbell said...


You've left us a strong quote at the end in support of your experience. It's that belief in our writing that forces us onward until we're eventually published. Good job!

Unknown said...

Ah, good old fear. Way to push through & congrats on your success for it!!

Nas said...

Congrats Milo! Inspiring post! Thanks for sharing!

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

Ah yes, I'm all too familiar with the fractured thinking of not being able to do justice to the stories crying to get out. This post comes at a great time for me right now. Thanks, Milo.

Anonymous said...

JL: "Never give up, never surrender!" - Galaxy Quest

Terri: Can't let it beat us.

Nas & Lynda: We're all in this together.