aggregate fiction story

Stars in Her Eyes

Stars in Her Eyes, by Dona McCormack, will appear in the upcoming Aggregate anthology.

Dona McCormack is a disabled writer living in Northeast Ohio with four fuzzbutts, one oversized goldfish-chomping aquatic turtle, and Michael, her devoted partner. When she’s not poking a notebook with a pen (sometimes by design), Dona pokes thread into fabric (always by design). She writes Realism and Weird, she’s published in several journals including, and she won third in Reflex Fiction’s Summer 2019 Flash Contest. Dona’s website:, Twitter: @DonaWrites, and Instagram: @DonaWritesInsta.

Wind ripped at the tangled fabric of Willa’s clothing. She pressed her dark glasses closer to her face and tugged her sweater tighter around her frame, hugged down toward the sidewalk, away from the spring gust. Away from the smells it carried of rain-turned soil and fresh mowed grass, of churning earthworms and soggy tree bark. She wished that she could fold herself neatly within her shoes—invisible, squarely-fitted-Willa-feet and nothing else, stepping along, well below everyone’s eyeline. She could not do that, so she curled down, toward her feet.

A man emerged from the dentist’s office on the corner and turned her way. Her step quickened, then slowed, then quickened again. A dance of indecision.

He pulled his brown overcoat against the wind and tipped her his bowler hat. She ducked the kindness, tucking her chin in the hollow she had dug into her chest over the many years. Hiding did things to a body. Crumpled it. Compressed it. Obscured it and marked it with pockets. Willa’s chin rested in the pocket in her chest, hiding her face from the man. She didn’t miss his look of disturbance.

When he passed, she stretched her neck a few inches. Pressed her glasses close to her face and fought the urge to look back at the man—had he been handsome? Would she have recognized him? Maybe he’d shared something of the only face that mattered, the one that always said the same words, from a mouth painted with hot pink that stained coffee-yellowed teeth. Ma’s face. Might he have had lips thin and hard from a thin hard life, like Ma’s lips. Maybe those lips would have said, “Those stars will cut you to ribbons, my girl.”


How and why you should kill your darlings

You’ve probably heard it before. Kill your darlings. Murder them, as some say. Inflict violence on those that you care most about. Do bad things to the ones you love.

What on earth is going on? Are writers destined to be violent people? Isn’t writing a peaceful solitary process?

Of course, this isn’t a literal statement. We’re talking about your writing here, after all.

In writing, you must kill all your darlings.

William Faulkner

Writers (and fans of writers) have a penchant for drama, as expected. We’d prefer to talk about the writing process in an exciting way, especially when compared to the reality in which we sit in a chair and pore over half-empty pages for hours at a time.

So what’s meant by killing your darlings, and why would you ever do such a thing?

Photo by Matt Artz on Unsplash
aggregate fiction story

April Showers

April Showers, by Eric Nash, will appear in the upcoming Aggregate anthology.

Eric Nash lives in south west England and writes fiction, mainly speculative and often dark. His work has been published by Alban Lake, Demain Publishing, Daily Nightmare, Firbolg Publishing, Great Old Ones Fiction, HellBound Books, Horla Horror, Horrified Press, Indie Authors Press, JWK Fiction, Mythic Magazine, Oscillate Wildly Press, and Sekhmet Press. He is a member of the Horror Writers Association. His website is

As my dad remembers it, he was walking with my sister Anna along the lane, returning from the little shop at the cove. It was Easter, and my family was holidaying in Devon as usual. The wholesome smell of cowshit surrounded them both as he blocked the sun’s glare with his hand. Those hands: the mountainous knuckles, ridge-like tendons, and valleys of wrinkles and creases were landscapes promising adventure to me.

He called to Anna, hurrying her along. They had been sent on an errand by Mum and had to return with supplies. “Come on, Glitterbug.” The timbre of his voice had always been resoundingly reassuring, even during the frequent fights between my sister and I.

Cola-coloured rivulets raced jagged down her shiny yellow raincoat and dripped into the Dunlop wellies that shattered rainbow-slick puddles with splashes. The eight powder-blue segments of Anna’s parasol were spattered with muck.

She carried that thing everywhere like some security blanket, although you can’t jab someone in the ribs with woven bedding. I was always caught when I retaliated, it was as if my own bruises didn’t exist. Like everyone, he was charmed by the smile which bloomed from her chubby little face, whatever the adversity. This perceived positivity and the supposed selfless demeanour always distracted him. My smile was as fleeting as the attention he paid me.

aggregate fiction story


Macrophages, by Erica Ciko Campbell, will appear in the upcoming Aggregate anthology.

Erica Ciko Campbell made her writing debut on backwater internet forums in the early 2000’s. Since then, she hasn’t been able to resist tormenting her friends and family with the occasional sci-fi horror story. Her greatest accomplishment to date is To Be Young and Whole Again, the unpublished first novel in the Tales of a Starless Aeon series. She lives with her husband Jeremy and sheltie Charlie in the wilds of upstate New York. If you’re still craving the whispers of war-torn, dead galaxies, check out her website, Written Constellations: You can also find her on Twitter at @ECikoCampbell.


My grandmother always said that every planet in our galaxy was an atom, and that our entire universe was but a single cell in some megastructure we could never conceive. She theorized that the cosmic revolutions of Mars, Mercury, and even the Earth were little more than subatomic twitches inside some universe-sized leviathan. And as a worm burrows desperately into the innards of a dog, she speculated, we cling to our ignorance and the pitiful limitations of our senses.

Whenever Grandma started whispering about the monsters, my mother got very quiet and fixed her gaze upon the wall. It usually took a few moments for her to snap out of her trance, but when she did, her disquiet would boil into a sedated smile. She’d babble something about how the scariest monsters never leave the walls of the human mind, and how I shouldn’t listen to Grandma’s nonsense because she wasn’t thinking straight anymore.

But my mother’s eyes always left me wondering if she was running from some truth that I’d never know.

confidence motivation

What makes an author, anyway?

When does somebody take the leap from “non-author” into authorship? Is there some finish line to that journey, and if so, is it relatively quick like a hundred-meter sprint or is it a long arduous run similar to a marathon? Can you ever revert your author status once you have it?

And finally, are you an author?

Photo by Kat Stokes on Unsplash

Big questions, right? Well, I have a simple answer that I believe, followed by a long road of reasoning to hopefully justify myself.

If you think you’re an author, you’re an author.

Please read on for the justification, since some days really do let me feel like an ✨author✨ while some other days have me feeling like a slug.

confidence motivation

Taking care of yourself when writing is hard on you

We writers are known for being hard on ourselves. Sure, anybody can put words on the page, but as writers, we put a larger burden on ourselves to make sure those words are as meaningful as possible. In many cases, that meaning has to be mined out slowly, over time. And sometimes, that meaning is hard to confront.

The public perception of a writer can seem glamourous. Who wouldn’t want to travel around the world to reading events and interviews? Surely the life of a writer involves meeting celebrities (while also being a celebrity), basking in attention from readers at every step?


Of course, we know the truth is less exciting.

A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.

Thomas Mann

Writing is hard work. Sometimes, for those who do the work and are lucky enough to find an audience, the scenario above can come true. For the rest of us, writing is a deeply personal process full of profound highs and lows.

With all of the work, all of the toil, all of the personal sacrifice, and all of the risk of putting one’s thoughts and words into the world, it’s so, so important to remember to take care of yourself.

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Prioritize self-care

Writing, as a largely solitary activity, often demands long hours by yourself. Without taking the time to check in, it’s dangerously easy to lose track of your own self-care.

The importance of physical fitness in other sedentary activities, such as chess, poker, or e-sports, is becoming obvious. In addition to the clear physical benefits, getting up and moving can help your mind by stimulating blood flow and boosting creativity by changing your environment. Your body, like your mind, is a tool that needs cultivating.

Note that this doesn’t mean you should be lifting weights five to seven times a week. Getting outside for some fresh air for a few minutes each day is a wonderful start.

And if you’d like some inspiration, here are some articles about others who have taken those initial steps and found more value than they initially expected.

Burnout is a dangerous problem for those of us who push themselves too hard from time to time. If you’re working too hard and showing signs of physical or mental exhaustion, consider taking a step back and reflecting. You might do better work after rewarding yourself with a short break. Recharge that battery and help yourself at the same time.

Be kind to yourself

Every writer is different. Your writing is important because it’s yours. We all produce at different rates, with different degrees of quality along many different measurements. If we all had the same output, the world would be a boring place.

If you find you’re feeling down, consider taking a step back and reframing your expectations to be realistic. Published books aren’t first drafts, so our first drafts won’t read like our favourite books (yet!). Full-time authors have large blocks of time available to produce words, while part-timers like many of us have to eke out minutes when we can find them (but those words that we do create couldn’t have come from anybody else!).

All we can do is our best, and thank goodness for that. The world is a better and more enriched place because you’re in it.

Don’t dull your aspirations though, if you find they’re helpful! Being realistic doesn’t mean being hard on yourself. Everybody has hard days, and it’s important to remember that we all need support sometimes. Take the time you need to be healthy.

Ask for help when needed

While writing can be an intensely personal activity, don’t forget that there are people who can act as a support network at any level you need. Whether you’d benefit from an early reader, or if you just need a friend to support you through a rough patch, don’t forget to keep your social connections close.

If you’re finding that things are still hard to deal with, don’t be afraid to seek professional treatment from health professionals. Mental or physical illness are no joke. The stigma around disclosure is starting to fade, and if you’re apprehensive, you may be comforted to know that therapy (in any number of forms) is growing more common. Don’t be afraid to reach out if you think this might be helpful. Writing might be lonely, but life doesn’t have to be. 🧡


Adding tension to a scene

Have you ever written a scene that you know is full of potential but is somehow lacking excitement? A scene where interesting characters are in an interesting setting, but somehow aren’t interesting enough to carry your attention forward?

Let’s face it–most events in a regular day aren’t worth writing a story about. Sure, we all have interesting conversations from time to time, and we all certainly have moments in our lives that are story-worthy. However, from your reader’s perspective, each scene in a story needs to be compelling. A scene that isn’t compelling is a reason for your reader to stop and find another story by somebody else. Ouch.

How do we make sure a scene has so much conflict and tension that your reader has no choice but to stick around and find out what happens?

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash
confidence motivation

Should you make writing a priority?

Photo by Vanessa Bumbeers on Unsplash

There are plenty of books, essays, posts, and general social media reflections on carving out time for writing. Fighting for a spare moment to craft some words when life has other plans. With social lives, families, careers, and even sleep, how can a writer make time to actually write?

And with that in mind, how can we actually be sure that carving out time is a worthwhile thing to do? If writing was so important in our lives, wouldn’t be have already made the time we need? (Not necessarily, as I suspect most writers with busy schedules would argue!)

In this busy world of ours, how can somebody who wants to make more time available for writing actually make writing a priority in their life?

first draft motivation productivity

3 books to help boost your NaNoWrimo word count

Yes, it’s November, and that means another NaNoWriMo is here again!

NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, is an annual event where writers from around the globe get together to produce a novel’s worth of output in a single month. Since everybody works through this challenge as a group, there’s a baked-in support network. There are regional groups and meetups too, so you’ll always have others who can help you through the marathon.

Why take part? If you complete the challenge, you have fifty-thousand words! What happens if you fail? Nothing, really! Let’s say you only (note the emphasis on only) manage thirty-thousand words, you’re still thirty-thousand words ahead of where you were in October, right? Same deal if you “only” write ten-thousand, five-thousand, or even one hundred words.

And what if the words don’t feel right? Consider this an exercise in speed writing combined with an introduction to a vibrant and fun community of like-minded people.

NaNoWriMo isn’t for everybody, but it might be just the thing you need to get moving on that big project you’ve been procrastinating.

If this is something you’re interested in, here are three great books that can help you reach the finish line. And they’re all affiliate free, so we’re not trying to make any money off these sales–these are genuine recommendations.


Backing up your writing

Should you back up your writing?


Well, that was a short post, eh?

Oh, wait. We can probably be a bit more helpful than that!

Let’s talk about what a backup looks like, and how and when you should do a backup. (And yes, you definitely should be backing up your writing!)