What do you think of when you see this picture? What story comes to mind?
When I first saw this image, I thought of exactly zero story ideas. That was a bit problematic, given that this gorgeous image is the story prompt for the Phoenix Fiction Writer’s upcoming anthology: Strange Waters.
After panicking for a couple of days, I started to settle down and think. Calmly. Rationally. And the ideas started to form.
An underwater civilization. A destructive magic. A girl with chronic pain.
From those concepts, This Pain Inside was born: A Science Fantasy short story about pain, purpose, and self-worth.
The Poison that destroyed the surface has come to claim the deep. It is severing electricity lines, imploding underwater houses, and destroying the solar power rafts humanity uses as its energy source. The Neons, people who act as hosts for a magical force, are fighting an ever-losing battle to keep the Poison at bay.
But that isn't any of Charlie's business. All Charlie can think about is finding a cure for her chronic pain. After all, she is too tired and too weak to help fight the Poison. If she can just make the pain go away, maybe then she'll be worth something. Maybe then she'll become useful enough and strong enough to join the fight.
But when the Poison begins to threaten what little family she has left, Charlie may just have to rethink her views on pain, worth, and what makes a person strong.
(To answer the question that just sprang to about half of my reader's minds: Yes, this story does take place on the same planet as Skies of Dripping Gold. Yay.)
Like all of my stories, This Pain Inside is highly personal. Unlike any of my stories, This Pain Inside features a protagonist who, like me, struggles with chronic pain.
Everything about this writing process was new and fascinating. It gave me the opportunity to really stop and think about how pain shapes a person. Or, rather, how a person can shape pain. Writing this story was emotionally exhausting, but incredibly worth it.
This Pain Inside also give me the opportunity to delve into other, less serious concepts. Like saturation diving tanks. And rock music. And sci-fi mermaid people.
By the time I finished writing the story, I knew I had something really special on my hands. I can’t wait to share it with you.
In fact, I so can’t wait to share it with you that I want to give you a little sneak peek right now.
Charlie, the protagonist of This Pain Inside, has a favorite rock song that she listens to throughout the story. My younger brother, a very talented musician, whipped up a song for me to use (beat and lyrics included).
Here’s the beat for your enjoyment:
In case you're wondering, yes, the sound of this song does perfectly match the vibe of This Pain Inside: Dark but energetic, a little edgy, and yet somehow hopeful.
You’re going to love it.
The Strange Waters anthology releases in October. You will soon be able to pre-order it and add it to your Goodreads list, so keep your eyes glued to the Phoenix Fiction Writers website.
While you wait for release day, don’t forget to check out alllll of the other amazing stories that will be in this anthology:
Beth Wangler’s Kamynosa’s Labyrinth – I read this and was constantly caught between laughing and awwww-ing. So good!
C. Scott Frank's Finer Things – He had me at exploding space station. Yes, please!
E.B. Dawson’s Barnaby Brown and the Sea of Glass – I’ve had the pleasure of reading this and guys. It is so. much. fun.
Janelle Garrett's Story – I can't say much because this story hasn't been officially revealed, buuuuut: I love it and will be reviewing it in a few weeks. It's great.
J.E. Purrazzi’s Roanoke – Trans-time communication? Is that code for time travel? I don't know, but I am EXCITED.
K.L. + Pierce's Story – This story also hasn't been revealed yet, but I have read it, and let me just say that it's an amazing tie-in to the Two Lives, Three Choices universe.
Kyle Robert Shultz’s Ric Vayne and the Curse of the Ghoul Nebula – I finished reading this last week and its so weird, so funny, and so wonderful.
Nate Philbrick’s Backpack Boy – It looks adorable and I’m so excited.
Okay. I'll stop gushing now. Have any questions or comments about about This Pain Inside? Leave them below!
Announcing My Phoenix Fiction Writers Anthology Story