Birthnight & Gifted

There are two stories, which are much shorter than the previous six. They were written at about the same time–very early ‘90s, and overlapping by a month.

It’s interesting for me to reread them, because I often don’t reread my short fiction unless I’m looking for specific details in a particular story–for instance, when looking up the Maker’s Guild in Memory of Stone. As I approach the task of proofing them (and describing elements of each story to the graphic designer), I’m struck by the sense of watching myself change as a writer over a decade and a half. These stories were written twenty years ago. All stories come from the sum of our experiences, observations, and interests, but not in completely predictable ways. I do not remember writing these stories, because two decades and small children have changed me.

They’re not the stories I would write now, either. They both have some of the feel of fairy tale in their language and the way event unfolds, and they are both about the end of immortality. I think that’s one of the subjects that’s always spoken to me as a reader – the passing of an age, the loss that it entails.

Birthnight is the first, and has the distinction of being the first short story sale I’d made to that point. I’d sold two novels (although they had yet to see publication, since the lead-time was much longer than it is now), written most of a third. My third attempt at a short story became the Books of the Sundered. So this would technically be my fourth attempt at a short story, because novels were my natural writing length.

I think it works better read aloud, which surprised me; when I wrote Birthnight, it had such a strong voice for me and the cadence of the sentences was entirely natural. But it’s possibly because it has some of the feel of a fairy tale of the type I might have listened to as a child, although I wouldn’t have understood the why of the end.

The story is available now at Smashwords, and is in the queue at and iBooks.


Gifted is mostly set in a contemporary urban environment, but the tone of the language itself isn’t hugely contemporary, because it’s written from the viewpoint of the last of the Genies, and in this particular small universe, Genies perish when they grant their third and final wish, so the narrative voice is distant because distance is how he’s survived.

The second character, the human, is an old woman who lives alone.

I think it’s a little short at the end; I hadn’t completely learned how to balance tone, voice and, well, length. That struggle, at least, has continued.

The story is also available at Smashwords, and is in the and iBooks queues.

I’ve added links to the author pages on the side-bar in “Other Stuff About me”. I’m in the process of adding links to’s author page(s) as well.

17 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. fyreink
    Aug 18, 2011 @ 12:21:58

    I think I understand what you mean about looking back at old written work. I’m still a college student, but when I go through my old notes and essays that I wrote from elementary school to the present, I can’t help but notice how much my handwriting and writing style changed through out the years as well as my self. Looking back at it all brings back a strong sense of nostalgia and a bit of embarrassment. I was different then compared to how I am now.


    • fyreink
      Aug 18, 2011 @ 12:24:24

      Oh, forgot to mention, both the covers for the ebooks are very beautiful. They remind me of the cover for The Memory of Stone.


  2. Michelle Sagara
    Aug 18, 2011 @ 16:37:42

    @fyreink: I really like the cover of Birthnight. I don’t mind the cover of Gifted, but I don’t think it works as well. With these covers, the designer went with Photoshop brushes rather than single images. I really like some of the later covers (she’s done the first thirty in total, so the hold-up here is on my end. It takes, at this point, five solid hours per story, although that will possibly go up as the stories get longer – which they will.)


  3. lyssabits (@lyssabits)
    Aug 18, 2011 @ 19:05:33

    Aww, I read Genie in SPEAKING WITH ANGELS, it was one of my favorite stories of the collection.


  4. Michael
    Aug 18, 2011 @ 19:46:04

    That struggle, at least, has continued.

    Keep losing the good fight, Michelle! I’m rooting for “you”!


  5. Genna Warner
    Aug 18, 2011 @ 19:51:10

    I will go looking for them on Amazon now. :)


  6. Hugh S. Myers
    Aug 19, 2011 @ 12:58:19

    I greatly enjoyed ‘Gifted’ when I read it in ‘Speaking with Angels’. Regards to your self-criticism—unbalanced ending and all—I think this is more apparent to you than to your readers. I know with my paintings and sculptures that every single flaw glares at me shouting ‘guilt, guilt, guilt’ yet at the shows no one sees them. I’ve even shown some to friends who later couldn’t find them again. Doesn’t mean the little craftsmanship voices will shut up, but I’ve learned to adjust :)


    • Michelle Sagara
      Aug 20, 2011 @ 14:42:27

      @hugh: it’s always a problem for creative people, though: we think we’ve improved, but it’s hard to be objective about our own work. It’s why I try very hard not to rewrite everything while proofing it. Very hard >.>.


  7. Genna Warner
    Aug 19, 2011 @ 13:24:22

    Just finished reading both of them. And I loved them both for different reasons but Gifted I think is my favorite of the two. I don’t think the ending was unbalanced at all and worked well with how the story was told. The ending did make me cry. *sniff*

    On Birthnight, I see why you think this would work better read aloud. The short story screems at me to add illustrations. The scenery that you paint in this story is very vivid in my mind and I think it would augment the text very well.


  8. Michelle Sagara
    Aug 20, 2011 @ 14:59:39

    @genna: First: Thank you!

    Second: I have no visual artistic ability whatsoever. I can barely draw recognizeable stick figures >.<. I have a very good eye for commercial typesetting, but no ability whatseover to do it well – just well enough that it looks like it ought to be better.


  9. Kerri Knorr
    Aug 24, 2011 @ 18:27:07

    Just FYI: I just now found “Birthnight” on iTunes, but Gifted still seems to be MIA.


  10. Michelle Sagara
    Aug 24, 2011 @ 22:33:50

    @Kerri: thank you! Gifted and Birthnight were put up at the same time, and I just checked iTunes, and they’ve released Gifted as well. I’ll add the links to my short story page.


  11. Kerri Knorr
    Aug 24, 2011 @ 23:18:41

    I will go download it now, then. Thank you!


  12. hjbau
    Aug 30, 2011 @ 21:10:56

    I just bought my first electronic book and figured out how to read it on my computer.


  13. Michelle Wooding
    Sep 26, 2011 @ 17:25:15

    There’s a comment on Gifted on Amazon that the story is missing from the download. Has this been fixed in the past month?


    • Michelle Sagara
      Sep 26, 2011 @ 20:42:22

      @Michelle: The comment on Amazon refers to the sample. If you download the sample, because the Amazon samples are based on percent of the total length, you don’t get any of the story =/. At Smashwords you can set a percentage of the total as a sample (with a default of 20%); at Amazon, you can’t.

      So if you buy the story, you get the whole thing, but if you ask for a free sample, as it’s 5k words, you don’t get any of the story itself.


  14. Michelle Wooding
    Sep 27, 2011 @ 21:59:56

    LOL – Learn something new every day. Thanks! I’m still reading Birthnight. I got halfway through and a physical book grabbed my attention…

    TBH, it doesn’t make ANY sense to download a sample of a short story…


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