Flash Fiction Friday (again)

Hope you like my new story ♡ The word prompt was “Vanish”

A twig snapped beneath her shoe, the ivory kid-leather boots already scuffed with dirt. The luminescence of the tiny mother-of-pearl buttons dotted up her ankles was mirrored in her dangling opal earrings, in the almost colorless-blond of her hair, the slight sheen of sweat on her furrowed brow. Despite the chill outside, her skin burned.

“I…I thought this time…” She took another step, dropping her skirts from her hands, uncaring that they’d soon be soiled. Broken branches, dead leaves, and dried mud littered the area she knew should be pristine. Her breath blew out in a hazy plume of exasperation. “It should be here.”

Memories swirled over her: the velvety feel of rose petals beneath her naked fingers, the taste of oddly-flavored teacakes: jasmine peppercorn, dark chocolate with birch sap frosting, or blood-orange and thyme, a half-moon smile, the soft, downy fur of a rabbit…

“Come now.” Her fiancé Edward tugged at her arm gently. “Let us go.”

She wanted to whirl around and argue, wanted to run her fingers through her curled coif and unthread it all, wanted to scream that this was not right…none of this was right! But she nodded, followed him to the waiting carriage. The driver snapped his whip. Her betroved didn’t show his impatience in the same manner, but she knew. They were sick of accompanying her here.

“Alice, my dear.” Edward lifted her hand, brushed his lips against the gloved-knuckles. “Can we move past this, now? There is nothing here to see.”

She turned from his searching eyes, the expectation pressing around her. To be simple, and meek, and normal.

Nothing here to see.

But there was. She screamed in her head. But there was.

***

“…hallucinations have to stop.”

“But electrotherapy…”

The voices weren’t quiet enough—Edward, her parents, the doctor. Alice pressed her hands against her ears, and tried to shut them out. As sure as she was of her self, the constant doubt was wearing her down.

The memories had felt like a dream for years. A full decade had passed while she thought her fanciful imaginings were simply that…imaginings. Then, four months ago, she caught a glimpse of a snow-white rabbit outside.

“How strange.” Her mother had sipped her tea, one eyebrow raised as she glanced out the window at the stretch of green grass and the animal in the middle of it. “A white rabbit, this time of year?”

Alice had looked, and it had winked at her. Winked!

That’s when, like lightning shot through the sky, the reality had slammed into her. Wonderland had been real. As that truth became clear, so did the location of how to get there. A half-days ride away, set in the middle of a faerie circle in the woods, was a door to the magical land.

But now it was gone.

And nobody believed her.

They would erase the illusions from her mind, they said. Before the wedding. A fresh start.

Soon the memories would do the same thing Wonderland had… vanish.

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Flash Fiction Friday

Hi there! I’m participating in a fun flash fiction challenge on Instagram, and I wrote up this 499-word story this morning, inspired by the prompt “Wicked”. Let me know what you think! 💅

Tittering at a worn, wooden table in the middle of a cottage sat two sisters. A third young woman, the eldest of them, Sulea, stood in a haze of fragrant fumes as she mixed drinks. The scent of juniper, bitters, and burnt marshmallow hung on the air, and the clank of spoon against glass rang out. Outside the moon was sickly-white; the light shone through the windows. Sulea’s hands were steady as she stirred, yet her stomach coiled with anticipation.

“Did you see their faces?” The youngest, Fehna, giggled and wiped tears that had spilled onto her acid-green skin. “Those idiots never saw us coming!”

“I love how that one was just so surprised. His face…” the middle snickered. Her skin was the darkest shade of green, and it couldn’t be exaggerated that she was the most wicked.

The three broke into laughter again.

Sulea set the glasses down and took her seat at the table. She raised her own drink triumphantly, the billowing black of her sleeve hanging off her cuff with an elegant—if threadbare—fall. They’d never been wealthy, but that was about to change. “We got what we went for. It’s only a matter of time before we rule all.” With that rule would come not just wealth, but power.

Without mentioning it, the three synched their glances into the other room. On a crude, handmade bench sat a pair of glittering slippers, sequins winking in the moonlight.

“So beautiful,” Fehna whispered. She pushed up from her chair, just a little, as if she were going to rise.

“Don’t,” Sulea snapped. “You know how dangerous they are. Don’t weaken yourself.”

I’ll have to watch her carefully. Sulea thought. She’d already allowed herself to weaken, already let her foolish heart soften for another, let her power dwindle with her vulnerability. Letting yourself be mesmerized—by lovers, or even enchanted tools—was the surest way to suck your magic dry. Her throat clenched with hatred, and she forced a smile on her face. “Now, let’s drink to us.”

“The wickedest sisters of all!” the three said in unison, clinking their glasses, and downing a long pull of the cocktail.

After a minute, the middle sister said sharply, “What’s in this?” Her skin appeared to be lightning, her chest rising rapidly.

Fehna’s eyes slid to Sulea, wide, but with an admiring glint within. “Did you poison us then?”

“Of course not you.” Sulea scoffed, jabbed her green finger—still caked with blood to her left. “Her.”

They both looked at Glinda, whose skin was smudging out at the sharp edges, turning as milky as the moon. Her hands wrapped around her throat as her wickedness choked out of her. “Why?” she managed weakly.

“Him.” Sulea said. Her heart thumped inside her chest. Revenge would make it harden again. “Get out.” Before I kill you.

And Glinda did, escaping into the moonlight, tripping as she ran out into the woods. Leaving two sisters, laughing at the worn, wooden table.

Sonja Uncaged E-book Release

 

sonja-uncaged-cover-minex2

Hi everyone! I am happy to share another short story is available now for you to read. Sonja Uncaged is an 8,000 word story I wrote this fall about a woman who swaps bodies with her bird. Side note: I had someone close to me, who is a great graphic designer, make the cover, but it turns out I’m an incredibly stubborn perfectionist (lol) who wanted something I couldn’t vocalize, so I played with his design and tweaked it a little until it was as close to my imagination as possible. What I learned: It’s NOT easy making a cover, or even changing an existing design (and I’m clearly an amateur!). But, it was still fun! Hopefully it looks okay 🙂 But, back to the story. It’s a fantasy Women’s Fiction, and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it! Here’s more about it:

A short story about a lonely young woman riddled with panic attacks and agoraphobia. Sonja’s only friends are her fat cat Louie, and her new bird Phinny. Despite her crush on her mailman Ben, she is unable to form relationships because of her crippling anxiety. And then one day, everything changes. Sonja wakes up inside her canary’s cage. She and her bird have switched bodies. Sonja is now a human in a bird’s body, unable to speak, barely able to fly. Phinny is mute as a human, even more terrified to leave the apartment than Sonja was, and fascinated and yet still terrified of fat Louie the cat. But before long, the story shifts even odder, and Ben the mailman and Louie find themselves in their own conundrum. Can a cat and a bird fall in love? Can a woman stuck inside a bird’s body learn to love her life in a cage of her own making, or will she force herself to leave it and truly fly beyond what she thought ever possible? Sonja Uncaged is a story of longing, of fear, and the kind of love that makes us spread our wings, and fly.

Read an excerpt:

The bird was a gift. Kind of.

I’d had dogs as pets before, and six years ago acquired a large, gray cat from the animal shelter, but birds were new territory for me.

“You’ll love having a bird,” my neighbor Constance told me. She was a singer—a beautiful singer with tawny skin and lips she painted merlot, which made her teeth flash whiter than white when she smiled. She wore printed dresses and tall heels, and had gotten a gig in a Broadway show. It was her big break, and she was moving closer to the city. She couldn’t bring the little bird with her. When she’d asked if I’d like her, for free, all supplies included, I’d said yes without hesitating. It was very unlike me. Hesitation was my middle name. And if Hesitation was my middle name, FEAR was my first. Capital letters. FEAR Hesitation Morris.

“I’m sad to be leaving her,” Constance said with a sincere frown. “But I know you’ll give her a good home. You’ll love her, Sonja. Sing with her. That’s what I do.”

“Mm.” Nodding in a non-committal way, I tried not to look as though I were second-guessing this all.

I was no singer, and as far as loving a bird went, I had my doubts, though I suspected I’d like her well enough. However, I couldn’t find fault with more company. Besides, I’d always liked birds in nature, and this was a sweet-faced little canary who trilled in her cage. It wasn’t a bad gift…or, um, donation. Scooting a stack of books and squat, green plant to the side, I set the bird’s cage in the middle of the antique pedestal table in my living room. It looked perfectly at home there, amidst the vintage, old-lady chic décor I’d mostly inherited with the apartment.

“Wait,” I said, as Constance left quickly, possibly afraid I’d change my mind and the spontaneous decision to accept the bird. “What’s her name? Does she…have one?”

“Of course.” She laughed. “Her name is Phinny.”

When the door closed, the bird stopped singing, slanted her head to one side, and assessed me.

“Well, hello, Phinny,” I said, awkwardly. And then I laughed. Why was I nervous about a bird? “Nice to meet you. I’m Sonja.”

And she opened her beak and sang again.

* * * *

Sometimes, I called her Phin, and she cocked her head and hopped as if she approved of the plucky nickname. When I opened the door of the cage and let her fly free, she stayed high, near the moldings of my old apartment’s ceiling, afraid to get too close to Louie. He, I watched with caution, lest he somehow manage to catch her, despite being a rather hefty cat with a sagging belly, and, I suspected, less-than-stellar hunting skills.

In time, we fell into a rhythm.

For a long time, it was just the three of us. The girl, the cat, the bird.

* * * *

I quickly grew accustomed to having a bird, and Louie loved to watch Phinny from his perch on the back of my armchair, or from the windowsill. She eyed him warily, and flapped away in fright if he got too close. If he heaved his sturdy self up onto the table where I’d placed her cage, I’d give him a healthy squirt of water from a spray bottle I kept nearby. Not only did I become protective of my little bird, but I looked to her for comfort. When I was sad, or bored, I liked to fold myself up in the armchair next to her table and peer into her cage, watching how she moved and how she watched me in return. Sometimes, she would sing and I’d mimic the tune, although it was just to show her I was listening, not so much to prove my skills at birdsong. Occasionally, when I took my place in the chair with a book or sketchpad, Louie sat on my lap, and I stroked his short, thick fur while he kneaded my chest. But whenever Phinny sang, even Louie stopped to listen, and the whole apartment became quiet. The outside, bustling city stilled, and everything seemed to make sense. The fear in my heart subsided, and I was able to breathe deeply.

I did so love to hear her sing.

* * * *

Like what you read so far? Then please click the buy links to download the full story!

Buy it on Amazon or Smashwords. (It’ll be available from other retailers sometime soon.)

Add it to your Goodreads list.

And finally, TELL YOUR FRIENDS.

Thanks everyone for your support. I couldn’t keep writing these stories without having someone to write them for. As an aside, Sonja Uncaged will not be including in my upcoming short story collection (Beach Glass & Other Broken Things) but it will be part of a future magical realism/fantasy/fabulism collection. But, shhhhh. Not quite talking about that yet…now, go read.

Have a fabulous New Year!

 

Coming in 2017: Beach Glass & Other Broken Things

Hello, my friends.

Coming directly off the release of my latest e-book short story How to Get Unstuck, I am here with an announcement: I have decided to self-publish my Women’s Fiction short story collection in summer of 2017!

You see, I knew it would be hard to get the manuscript published traditionally, despite the small successes I’ve had getting individual stories accepted for publication. Short story collections (SCC) are notoriously difficult to find agents, or publishers for (don’t ask me why. I STILL don’t get it, despite all the yakkity-yak about markets). You know I love short stories and flash fiction stories. I lurve them! And I think many readers love them, too. But, c’est la vie, and all that.

So, I figured I’d try some querying, and not kill myself worrying about it. When you go to querytracker.net and narrow your search for agents seeking SSC, you get a fair amount. However, when you actually go to those agents’ websites, you will see far, far less than is indicated otherwise. I think this is because sometimes they don’t explicitly say they AREN’T accepting SSC, but they also don’t say they are. I queried as many agents as I could find that fit my manuscript, as well as small presses. I came up with about 30 queries in total. If you recall, I queried over 220 agents with Ditch Flowers! It wasn’t lack of effort this time around, simply that there were so many less options. Of those who responded, only a few actually said they were looking for collections (and they just didn’t want my specific manuscript), despite them seeming like a good fit on agent tracking websites. Still, I tried. Didn’t work out. And I’m okay with that.

With that plan behind me I’m eagerly moving on to the next. Beach Glass & Other Broken Things will be published in e-book and paperback by yours truly. I’m hoping you will love the collection as much as I do! Here’s a little bit about it:

Beach Glass & Other Broken Things is a collection of twenty eight (maybe slightly more/less) stories about women on the cusp of becoming who they are. From a transgendered teen struggling with her reality, to a grandmother falling in love for the first time, Beach Glass & Other Broken Things is a collection that highlights the complexities of girls and women, and how they will sometimes choose something different than we’d imagine. It is a work that celebrates women who are happy, those who are broken-hearted, those who are saving themselves, and those who allow themselves to be saved. It is stories of unimaginable loss, unbreakable hope, and the power of learning to laugh, to love, to let go.

I will be including in it the flash fiction/short stories I’ve already released: Rousseau, Clementine, Running and then the latest How to Get Unstuck. Please click the store tab to find out more about those if you haven’t already read them (they are mostly FREE).There will be an additional 20+ stories in the book, so only a small portion of them are available individually, and I won’t be releasing anymore on their own, or at least, I don’t think. I’ve been building this collection for some time (years, guys, YEARS.), and I’m proud of it. I hope you will enjoy it.

I’ll be posting more about the book as I sort out details, and I’ll also have an update on Like Waves, my poetry collection. Meanwhile, I’m querying Witch Lessons with literary agents, and revising Weightless, AND I’ll be publishing some fabulism/fantasy/fairytale/magical realism stories for a different future flash fiction/short story collection. Whew!

Please stay with me throughout this exciting, and interesting journey! There is lots more good to come.

 

 

 

Writing What You Love

writing

This post might sound overly simplistic in some ways, and overly complex in others, but it’s neither. Let’s break it down with a little background on me as a writer.

First, let me explain that my debut novel, which was published last year, is contemporary Women’s Fiction. It’s raw, and heart-breaking, and hopeful. It is not, in any shape or form, fantastical or unrealistic (other than taking creative liberties with plot, as any writer does). There are no fairies. There are no witches, no vampires, no werewolves, no magic potions, and no wands. There is nary a Phoenix, a griffin (Grphyon? I realized just now I have no clue how to spell that beast), unicorn, or any other mythical creature. It is a story firmly based in reality. Many readers have raved that it is realistic, that it’s something they can relate to. It could be the serious issue of recurrent pregnancy loss which the main character Julia experiences, or the underlying issue of communication within relationships (or lack thereof), or the question of infidelity within marriage. Whatever the reason, I love that it has connected with readers. I was driven to write Ditch Flowers, and I worked hard to write it. I’m happy, and proud that it came out as it was meant to come out.

With that said,  my writing has changed since I began writing Ditch Flowers years ago (God, over 7 years ago!). I have changed as a writer. I still write Women’s Fiction, but it is pretty much exclusively kept in short forms, such as my completed short story manuscript, and I have no plans to write another WF novel. Now, I suppose my work-in-progress Witch Lessons could be categorized as a type of WF novel, because it deals with post-partum depression, relationships, sexuality, and other women’s issues, but it also is a sort of modern-day Salem witch trial complete with real magic, so…it’s a stretch.

Let me also say I had never given thought to writing any sort of fantasy. And that’s a disconnect I still don’t understand about myself. My favorite book ever is Beauty by Robin McKinley, a retelling of Beauty & the Beast. Besides that fairytale, I’m a sucker for pretty much any other. I am a Disney movie fanatic. A Harry Potter nerd. A fable, folk-tale, and fantasy FUH-REAK.

So, why didn’t I realize I should be writing the fantastical sooner? Even after I started Witch Lessons I realized of course it was a type of fantasy, but I just thought it was what it was, and that was it. The story poured out of me, as I’ve stated before, and even as I’m revising it now, I can’t believe how easily it is coming to me. I thought it was just a fluke, just a lucky sort of thing. Even my recent post about the muse being kind, still didn’t connect the dots to me. And then I had an ah-ha moment. Maybe, just maybe, the inspiration is here, the creativity is absolutely flowing with that manuscript, because I am writing what I am MEANT to write.

If you are struggling, I am going to suggest some things. They may ring true, and they may not. Maybe your situation is totally different, and I’m just a dunce, and everyone else already gets this, but here goes. I can tell you that the peace, joy, and simple acceptance I feel now is wonderful. I’ve never felt stronger as a writer. I’ve never felt more at home. If I can help anyone else feel that too, well, golly, that would rock.

First of all, as simple as this sounds, identify your favorite kinds of stories to read. It seems so apparent, like duh, I know what I like to read. But because it’s such an easy question, with a pretty obvious question, that I never actually asked it of myself. I still pick up Women’s Fiction, and enjoy it, and I read non-fiction, and like that quite a lot, too. But what I am increasingly drawn to, what I have been since I was a child, is all the fantasy stories I mentioned above- fairy tales, fables, etc. Seriously. If there’s any chance in hell I can escape everyday life, and dive into a story that makes me want to believe, that makes me want to disappear into that made-up world, I am THERE.

Maybe you write creative non-fiction, but you pick up cozy mysteries again, and again. Perhaps you’re supremely talented at erotica, but you tend to read memoirs over anything else. Maybe you are an award-winning writer of thrillers, but you devour historical fiction. Or YA. Or picture books. Whatever it may be, listen to yourself. Really, take a moment, and ask yourself what you love to read. Ask yourself what you have to read. If it’s different than what you are writing, feel compelled to write, or have written in the past, then ask yourself why. Ask yourself if you’re pushing yourself to be something you aren’t.

Now, it very well may be that you do enjoy what you write, and read in that genre as well. Like I stated above, I’m proud of Ditch Flowers, and I do still read WF. But my passion has always been, and continues to be Fantasy. I just didn’t *know* it until recently. Even after writing The Peony and the Sun, a fable, I still didn’t truly understand. It was literally within the last couple weeks that I knew it is what I should be writing.

Ditch Flowers was a labor of love. It was squeezed out of me. Many of the pages were like contractions. Painful, and hard-coming. It took me years to write. Because it was so difficult to get out of me, as rewarding as it is now, I have to wonder in hindsight, is that because it didn’t come naturally? Witch Lessons is less than a year out from the start, and it has been a bajillion times easier to write—and much faster. Besides that, the last month or so alone, I’ve written or started a good 6 or 7 fabulism stories. Granted, those are very short. But every single one of them came to me easily. I don’t mean to say that I’m not still working for my art (why does that sound so pompous? I don’t mean it to be) but if writing DF was like giving birth med-free, then writing these stories is like having an awesome epidural. (And yes, I’ve done both, and both were wonderful in different ways.)

So, if you’ve identified the type of stories you love to read, then you know the kind of stories you should try writing. We can break that down even further into identifying the length of story. I read short stories just as much, if not more, than full-length novels. I know I should be writing fantasy novels, novellas, and short stories now. Besides that, you can figure out the age group you should be writing for. I read adult, YA, and children’s books, and I love all three. It’s no surprise that I’m now writing in all these categories. Seriously, if you do not read in the genre in which you write, how can you improve your craft? And why would you want to write in a category you don’t deign to read? Don’t take that harshly, because my intention is to be gentle, yet firm. Read the genre you write. Write the genre you read. Your reading will be more enjoyable. You will write better. I truly believe both those statements.

If you now have answered the kind of books you read- genre, length, age group, then you can even delve further. Do you like books with a smidgen of mystery, a bit of romance? A lot of intellectual reasoning? Try weaving those details into whatever type of book you’re writing. It doesn’t mean you have to write full-on mystery, romance, or textbooks. It just means those elements should be included. Do you prefer reading minimalistic, simple prose? Or would you rather lose yourself in poetic, flowery description? Pay attention to the kind of writing that calls to you. It is what you probably should be writing yourself.

Now, it’s not as though you can’t admire work that you don’t care to create yourself. I absolutely do enjoy reading good historical romance now and then. But I have NO desire to write my own. Do I admire the authors who can research the dickens out of a time period, and create amazing settings with lots of historical detail, all while adding a feisty heroine and smoldering hero? Yes, and I like reading these kind of books, but they don’t speak to my soul personally, the way fantasy does. Alright, I sound like a total reading dork, and that’s okay.

If for some reason you still can’t answer what kind of books you like to read, I suspect this means you need to read more. Read different kinds of books, read books you think you may not even like. You could surprise yourself. If reading big books is too overwhelming, then try reading an assortment of very short stories in all different genres. That might help you narrow down your list. Then, you can go from there.

Once you are confident in the kind of books you like to read, and the kind you would like to write, you need to actually start writing. It wasn’t until I was a few short stories in, with a finished novel manuscript under my belt, to use a common cliché, that I realized fantasy was the one for me. So start writing. And if you’re unsure what exactly to write, my suggestion is once more, to give some love to the short story format. Diving into a whole novel can be overwhelming, exhausting, and intimidating. If you are still “finding yourself” as a writer, starting short may be just the jumpstart you need to get there. Start with 500 words. Even less, if you wish. On the other hand, it is already mid-October, and #nanowrimo (or writing a whole 50,000 word novel for National Novel Writing November) is coming up really soon. So, you could always begin there.

Beyond that, your work will improve, and increase in frequency, if you know what kind of a writer you are as far as habits, skill, and everything in between. It sounds like a lot to ask yourself, and maybe it doesn’t matter all that much, but once you really know who you are, and accept yourself, you can stop trying to fit into any other mold of what you think a writer should be. This could apply to any other category in life, too, for that matter. Stop trying to be something else. Learn who you are. Appreciate the uniqueness that is you. Find your passion.

I have learned the following things about myself as a writer: I do not, nor can I, write every day. (And I am still a writer, goddamnit). I am a pantser who feels lost without at least a paragraph of an outline. I have to write with background noise. Coffee is almost always a necessity. I hate writing around other people, unless those other people are strangers in a café who won’t bother me. I like to write between 9am and 11am if I can. Otherwise, I can hit my stride from around 7pm to 9pm. I like writing in an empty house, or when my family is asleep. I am inspired visually (thank you, Pinterest). I am inspired by prompts. I like reinventing familiar tales. I like to keep my drafts private until I don’t. Once I’m ready to show people, I rely heavily on feedback from trusted friends and readers. I want validation. I want critique, and suggestions. I need to hear my own fears, and thoughts of my writing reflected by another. I have to keep creating. I feel terrible when I’m not writing. I have to get the words out. I have to let the stories out. I am a short story writer. A novel writer. A writer of fantasy, fables, and folklore. I strive to be as talented as J.K. Rowling, Carolyn Turgeon, Robin McKinley, Judith Merkle Riley, Audrey Niffenegger, Alice Hoffman, and Laura Esquivel. (I realize that list could be much more diverse, so if you know some writers I should check out, please let me know) I need a happy ending, or at least a hopeful ending. I like a bittersweet tale, a little love, a little hope, a hint of magic. This is who I am.

Who are you?

 

Thanks for reading this long post, guys.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here Comes the Sun (Happy writing post, and some news)

A couple weeks ago I went through a very dry spell with minimal writing. I didn’t do anything creative, in fact, unless you count the overactive imaginings of an anxious and uneasy mind. I had no ideas, except the ideas I did have were awful. I had oodles of problems in current manuscripts that I knew needed fixing but I had no clue how to do it. I was understandably upset by this. I felt like I was sucking at life. Perhaps a bit of an overreaction, but if you’ve ever been blocked, or lacked inspiration or enthusiasm, or just felt downright bad about your writing (or whatever), then you get it. The bad news is it was a few days of black rain clouds over my head and instead of lifting my pen and writing, I pretty much just lifted nachos into my mouth…

The good news is, it passed. The sun is out again! I am writing! Now, I still have a few problems I don’t know how to fix in those manuscripts. I have stopped stressing about that, and am taking a little hiatus from those for a little while. I will come back to it when I come back to it. That’s the thing that works for me. Stuck on something? Move on to something else. When the answer is there, you will find it and go back. Writing something else at least keeps me writing!

In any case, this sunny explosion of creativity began when I was lying around on the couch and lazily musing about a story idea. “What if…” just came to me and I got the idea for short story #1, and I jotted down some notes. Then later that night as I was falling asleep I got a single line in my head “There was once a flower who fell in love.” And that became the first line in story #2, and it was that second story that I ended up writing first. (Still working on #1)

I actually made myself get up from bed, (well, fine, I mean I reached over and grabbed my phone) to put that line down, and I could just feel it was taking me somewhere. I fell asleep, anxious to wake up and write.

In the morning as soon as I could open my laptop I began writing. And writing. It was short, I think only 9 or 10 pages, but the flower story was there, and I loved it. I wrote the whole thing in about an hour. It was rough, of course, so I sent it off to a few wonderful, lovely friends and readers. They gave me plenty of feedback. I edited the story and added, and took away, and came out with, thus far, 18 pages, and a bit over 4,000 words which is actually a REALLY long short story for me. My longest short stories are usually about 1,000 words, but my average is probably about 700. So this was different, and it pushed me. I plan to get more editing done so that it is as perfect as I can get it.

You see, once the story was written I knew what I wanted to do with it. What is that, you ask? Well, I’m happy and excited to share I’m going to be releasing it as an e-book short story on Amazon Kindle soon! That’s right, everyone, I am going to be a hybrid author. I have always had an open mind about self-publishing for myself. I’m thrilled Ditch Flowers was traditionally published, because that’s the goal I set for it, and I worked damn hard for it! I am actively seeking a literary agent for my middle grade novel and my short story collection so they will be traditionally published, too, I hope. Though I may end up self-publishing the collection, who knows—those of you who are in the know are probably aware there are very few agents who take short story collections, and only slightly more small presses. So.

However, with this individual short story, I knew from the get-go after I wrote it that I wanted to release it on my own. I was SO excited to select cover art, and a title (both of which I’ll share in my next post! Sorry to tease you.) I can’t wait to share it with the world. It’s a learning process, for sure, but I am having fun with it. I’m telling you, the absolute high I got while getting some of the details figured out is just the coolest. I know it’s just a short story, not the next great American novel, but if you follow my blog at all you know I really, really LOVE short stories. And I am letting myself be hyped up about this story and the decision to self-publish. It is fun, and after the clouds over me lately, I am enjoying some positivity. The writing funk is over. Wahoo!

This path feels right for this project. And that’s all you can really do in this amazing world of writing. Follow the right path for you.

Self-publishing gurus- any tips for me as I move forward?

Thanks for sharing in my excitement, everyone. Stay tuned for my next post!

Amanda

 

 

What’s Up With Me?

I thought tonight, on the heels of some kind of cool novel-in-progress progress, I’d share a small update on what is going on with my writing life.

Agent Search: My upper middle grade fairytale retelling is out with a great agent right now (the FULL, I might add. Woohoo!!). This is cool and exciting, but I am remaining cautiously optimistic that even if said agent passes, things will work out. I believe I have a story worth telling, and if this agent doesn’t fall in love, someone else will. I have additional queries floating around cyberspace, so I should get more replies (or not) soon.

Short Stories: I’ve sent my collection to a few friends, and so far feedback has been spot-on, helpful, and super encouraging. I’m planning to start another round of editing, then on to writing the query so I can begin an agent search for the collection.

Novel: My current, and most pressing, work is going so amazingly well overall, I’m almost afraid to jinx it! It’s a paranormal women’s fiction and I am in love with the characters and the places they are taking me! I am about 5,000 words short of my initial target word count, and estimate probably another 5,000 will be added after. It has been one of the most fun, rewarding processes writing this story. Don’t get me wrong- I still have a lot of work to do. But I’m so hopeful for this. I really think it’s maybe my favorite writing so far?

Other: I try to blog when I can (rarely, haha. Sorry, guys), read when I’m able, write book reviews once I’m done reading those books, and then there’s submitting poems/shorts/etc. None of these things get done on the regular lately, but as long as the novel is being written, and my children are fed, I can’t feel like a total slacker, right?

That’s my update. I hope you wonderful readers are cheering on my progress silently (or, out loud. Come on! ) or at least, it helps me to put it “out there”. I am working. I am writing. I am staying busy. I hope to have something to show you all soon.

♡ Amanda

Book Review: American Housewife: Stories by Helen Ellis

 

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Book Review: American Housewife: Stories by Helen Ellis

 

In case you missed my last post , I would like to share again how much I love short stories in general. I saw this collection at my local library, and picked it up for the cover.

American Housewife has twelve short stories set in the “dark world of domesticity”. There is the rich, the bored, the confused, the twisted. I particularly enjoyed “The Fitter” the tale of a bra-fitting genius husband, and his wife determined to keep him in her grip, “Dumpster Diving with the Stars”, the story of a washed-up novelist taking part in a reality TV show, and the story (forgive my lapse in memory, I can’t recall the title!) of a woman moving into an apartment and instantly at odds with her neighbor over the hallway décor, the entire story told in scathing emails.

There were a couple of stories which didn’t seem distinctive enough to me. They were written in the same tone and style, offering advice almost, but apart from that, I quite enjoyed the collection and I would read it again. I do wish a couple of the stories had pushed more towards the end. In any case, I liked the twists in some of them, the dark humor (or tragedy) in others. Overall, I’d recommend this collection and give it 4 stars.

 

For the Love of Shorts

Short stories, that is.

You see, I sent off my collection of short stories, 25 to be exact, to one of my BFFs the other day. I care very much about her opinion and am so glad she’s agreed to be a beta reader for me. The problem is, since sending, I am incredibly antsy. I’ve had people read a few of my stories, here or there. I’ve had a couple published online. But sending the whole thing together is somehow scarier. What if she hates it? What if the stories just don’t seem cohesive, yet distinctive? What if the theme is a no-go?

I decided to keep busy by writing about short stories. Why I love reading them, and why you should too! And, definitely why I love writing them.

I’ll backtrack a bit here. I started reading short stories before I wrote them. The Interpreter of Maladies is one of my very favorite collections. I recently posted my review of Women With Big Eyes. There’s many more. I’ve read collections, and short stories alone. Here are the reasons why I love reading them, let’s focus on whole collections for the moment:

  1. They are short. Well, yeah. Duh. Let me elaborate. I work at a library. I’m surrounded by books all the time. There are many a novel I have picked up and felt weighed down (literally)! Some of those bad boys are heavy. And my time these days is precious. I love reading. I do, but I don’t have time to always devote to huge books. I read fast, but I never have more than an hour at a time to read. It’s usually more like 20 minutes. So when I am considering reading a book, I have to decide if I’m going to commit many days of my life to reading just one book. I’m sure there are some short story collections that are large as well, but most of the ones I’ve seen are slim, perfectly sized books for someone lacking tons of time. You say you don’t have time to read? Rent, or buy a short story collection (further shortened to SSC here) and read a couple stories in one sitting!
  2. They are varied. What I mean by this is exactly that. Generally when you read a novel the author’s tone, style, voice are consistent throughout. Sure, they can have multiple narrators or points-of-view, but overall, I’d say the majority is kind of consistent through the entire story. If you pick up a book of an author whose style you like, or more hopefully love, then yay! If not, you kind of have to push through. If you’re not willing to chance your precious reading time on an unknown author’s novel because you’re for some reason worried you won’t like it, you may just feel more comfortable with an SSC. Because most collections I’ve read vary widely from story to story. There’s always some I love in each collection. A few I really like. Maybe one or two I don’t love. But that’s why I enjoy them so much. I know there will be something in there that is exactly what I’m looking for, without even knowing it.

 

So, that’s only two reasons, but they are two very good reasons why I love reading SSC. Why do I love writing them? And why should you consider writing some short stories? Never even mind an SSC, why not just start with a single story? Here’s why you should think about it:

 

  1. See number one above. They are short! Yes, that’s a wonderful reason to write a short story today. I have written shorts in as little as five minutes. Were they my best work? No. But, they were fun, freeing, and inspired me to either work on something else, or continue working on that story.
  2. They are fun. I already said that, but it deserves its own number. Short stories are FUN. They are fun to write because some of the pressure is off. There’s limited word count, limited world building, limited background, limited everything. But you shouldn’t feel limited writing them. Let yourself play with the form. Take a chance on less information. Less is more in the case of short stories.
  3. They push you. I really mean this one. Writing short stories pushes you as a writer. If you’re entering contests you very well might have a word limit. Try coming up with a wonderful idea and then finish the story, realizing you’re 500 words over your 750 word limit. It’s difficult cutting. It is difficult fitting in everything you need to tell a complete story in few words. They push you to know your characters, know your conflict, know your resolution. You don’t have pages and pages and pages to let your reader figure shit out. You have to know it, and they have to know it.

 

I started writing short stories as an adult student back in 2010 or 2011. I took a creative writing class which I loved, and we had a 25 word flash fiction prompt. That’s right. TWENTY FIVE WORDS! To tell a whole story? Impossible! Well, no. Just really hard. For those who don’t know the difference between Flash Fiction and short stories, flash is just a shorter form. It can be up to about 1,000 words, but most contests I’ve seen top it around 750. Flash happens to be what I enjoy writing most. My shortest flash fiction is about 250 words. Clementine, the story that began as a 25-word-prompt in my writing class, now is around a thousand words. In that case, I wrote the prompt and it was a complete story, but I wanted to lengthen it. I got it to a thousand, then began cutting away at it because I wanted to enter it in a contest with a 750 word limit. But the story lost a lot of its strength that way. That’s one important thing to understand about stories. Not every story can or should be short. Some lose something getting cut down. Not every story works as a novel either. You have to decide what form your story will take. Maybe it’s long. Maybe it’s short. Maybe it is actually a poem.

Try writing a short story this time. Get an idea, find the conflict. Then write. Your story needs an arc just like a novel. And then extra-push yourself. Have someone read it. Enter it into a competition. Just Google “Flash Fiction Contests” and see how many pop up. I placed as a Runner-Up twice in the WOW! Women on Writing contests (see Published Work) They hold it quarterly. There’s so many other options out there as well. Practice. Hone your skill. Read other short stories online, and in books, and in newspapers, and magazines. You may just find your new favorite form to read, and/or write. Here’s a few contests to get you started. But don’t forget about non-contest subm

WOW! Women on Writing Quarterly Flash Fiction Contest

Fiction Attic

Fish Publishing

Gemini Magazine

Tell me below- do you like writing short stories? How about reading them? What’s your favorite resource for short story writers?

 

The Big Choice

For some it’s not a difficult decision. For others they waiver back and forth between the two. After all, there are pros and cons to both. And I’m not talking about Coke vs. Pepsi here.

I’m talking about the BIGGIE in the literary world. The choice to publish traditionally or on your own.

Making the decision to publish with the Big 5, or a small press vs. self-publishing is huge. And not without conflict. I have heard incredibly snarky things from both sides of the decision. Snooty dismissiveness of indie authors by those published traditionally. Ranting rudeness by indies claiming traditional publishing is DEAD. Both of those are doing a disservice to all, in my opinion. Both options are okay, they really are. What matters is what you personally want to get out of it.

Like I said, there are pros and cons to both. Anyone who tells you otherwise isn’t being totally real with you. Both efforts require work. Both efforts require dedication. And both will result in some form of rejection. But we’re writers. We need to get used to all of that.

I can’t speak for others. Except my own characters, of course, and half the time they just tell me what to say. But I can tell you why I made the decision to be trade (traditionally) published for Ditch Flowers, and why I would consider self-publishing other projects.

Why I Chose Traditional:

-It was free. Other than stamps and mailing costs for the very few snail mail submissions I did, I paid nothing. Going into querying, I knew I didn’t want to pay for an editor (a caveat- in hindsight I’d get one for future traditionally published works prior to querying, because my work would have been ready a LOT earlier, and rejected a LOT less had I had it edited sooner). I did not want to shell out money for professional editing, be it copy or content. I didn’t want to pay for a professional cover. I did not want to pay to secure the ISBN or whatever else you have to do to get your book in stores. I simply was a cheap, stubborn writer. I didn’t want to pay anyone to publish. I wanted them to pay ME. And I’m okay with that.

-Someone else was in charge. Although I quite like being in charge in some aspects of life, I realized that sometimes it’s just too much responsibility. The best day I had recently was a family outing where someone else decided everything. Booked the hotel. Figured out schedule. Made dinner reservations at the restaurant of their choosing. All I had to do was show up and enjoy myself. And I did. It was sort of similar with publishing. I did not want to be 100% responsible for hiring cover artists or editors, or choosing said art, or fonts, or layouts, or timeline, or release date, or any of that. I wanted to write, and edit, and not be a publisher. I didn’t feel I had the skills necessary to self-publish this book.

-I wanted the validation. Some people are afraid to admit this, as though it’s something to be embarrassed about, but I’m going to be honest. Part of the reason I chose trade publishing was because I wanted someone to tell me I was good enough for them. Now, this could come down to some underlying self-esteem issues, but I’m going to go with my gut here. I have worked so hard, and for so long on being published. I felt changing my mind half-way through would feel like giving up. Not because I think self-publishing is subpar, but because I had set a goal and I meant to see it met. When I began submitting I didn’t really know anyone who had done it on their own so it never occurred to me to start out. But once I gained momentum with queries I wanted to keep at it. If and when I chose self-publishing, I want it to be because it’s 100% what I want, not because I couldn’t accomplish my first choice.

Of course there are a few other reasons. But that’s the gist. In the end, I’m happy I chose to publish with a small press. And if I could go back in time I’d make the same choice. The big 5 holds pros, and so does indie publishing, but this held the most for me. I like feeling like I belong to a small community, with my fellow Penner authors, and I like not feeling like just a number. I get marketing and promoting support, and had wonderful editors and a fantastic cover artist who created a stunning cover for my work, as well as a small advance and decent royalties. All in all, it’s been great. Which now brings me to…

Why I Will Very Likely Choose to Self-Publish in Future:

My indie friends are happy. And not that my trade-published friends aren’t. But I was worried there was a lot of dissatisfaction in the self-publishing world, and I’m finding that isn’t so. They’re happy with their choices. They like being in control. They like having a say. And the majority of them are choosing the same in future.

-My next project is a gamble. Let’s face it. Short story collections don’t sell all that well. I am a huge SS fan myself. And there’s a nice section devoted to it at my library, where some other fans regularly check out the work. But it’s no Romance, or Suspense, or Fantasy. And trying to find a literary agent or small press (or of course the big guys) to accept short story collections is a lot less likely than finding those things for a full-length novel. And it took me 2.5 years to get my novel accepted. I don’t think that I want to wait that long. In fact, I know I don’t.

-It feels less risky. How can a gamble be low-risk? I suppose I mean I’m willing to play around more with this project. Maybe because I have gotten that validation I needed, or because it’s a different type of work, but I’m liking the idea of having control with this project. Choosing a cover sounds fun this time, not intimidating. Formatting seems less scary. Editing sounds manageable. It all seems easier, and calmer for me.

So for my short-story collection I’m 90% sure I’ll go indie. I haven’t ruled out trade just because I haven’t researched any leads yet (because I’m not done writing or editing the project yet!) but this feels like a great option. That said, I have a paranormal women’s fiction novel in the works that I plan to publish traditionally. I like the idea of being a hybrid author. You get the best of both worlds! What are your thoughts? What choice did you make or are you considering? And would you ever go over to the other side?