Sunday morning, in a house full of bagels (a cooking experiment that went somewhat wrong due to an oven that just wouldn’t bake the darn things–they’re somewhere on the cusp between “crispy” and “burnt to a crisp”).

I’ve finally hammered that %% short story into a sort of decent shape. Longer than I thought it would be (sigh–what’s new), mainly due to a character who wouldn’t stay secondary. It’s a horrible, horrible tale about horrible people in a depressing world; somehow I can’t seem to write horror that isn’t sordid.

Provisional title “As Heaven Meant Us” (I’m hesitating between that and “Father’s Flesh, Mother’s Blood”, which is neater but less accurate). It’s in the same universe as “Heaven Under Earth”, except a great deal nastier.


The group waiting at the gates of the house looked innocuous enough: two scholars, dressed in the grey robes of their profession, and an escort of neutered men holding repulsive screens to protect their masters against the howling winds of New Zhongguo. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary.

But, even where he was–sitting inside, watching the scene on the security cameras–, Leyou could see that the scholars held themselves a little too eagerly, a little too hungrily. And the cloth of their robes was impeccable, with not a trace of the omnipresent red dust on the large sleeves and carefully-embroidered hems: their robes were new and never-worn, barely out of the Imperial Weaving Mills. If Leyou were out there now, he’d find that they smelled of cinnabar and bleach–an odour too deeply sunk under their skins to be scrubbed away.


I’ve noticed something fun recently: I used to finish the draft, set it aside and move on to something else. For the past few stories, however, I can’t seem to get the ending right first thing: I have to come back and tinker for a few days with the last few paragraphs, until I get to the point where the last sentence(s) feel punchy enough (and it can get very nitpicky, with me swapping one word for another until it seems to work). Weird; I never was so obsessive. I guess that’s my way of trying to improve on endings.


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