Monthly Archives: January 2015

My Personal Hell? Short Stories

wish-promoMy mind has been going so many directions the last few days that I feel like I’ve spun my own spiderweb. It’s writer hell. And not so great if you’re not into spiders, which I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned I’m not.

So first, Make A Wish! is on Amazon for free through January 31st. This is sort of the send-off on that novel because after that it’ll no longer be exclusive to Amazon. What does this mean? Well for those with Prime and a Kindle, it won’t be in the lender’s library anymore or Kindle Unlimited. It also won’t be eligible for free promotions, at least not on Amazon. On the flip side, Make A Wish! will join my other novels (and a short story) on Smashwords. So what? It also means it’ll show up in the library for Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBooks, Oyster, and some other sites.

That’s something to look forward to, if you’re anyone other than me. I get to reformat the book again. Yay, my favorite thing to do. Right up there with looking out for invisible spiders. Plus, whenever I deal with any of the previously mentioned sites, I start thinking about short stories. I’m midway through a novel right now, and have a pressing need to finish it, but my mind is wandering to short stories. This is bad. Make yourself comfortable and let me rant explain.

First, a short story is a complete tale of less than about 8,000 words. There is some debate on word count. For example, the next step up from a short story is a novella, which starts at about 20,000 words. That’s a big gap. What if you wrote something that’s 15,000 words? Well, it depends on where you’re submitting it for one thing. For another, short stories generally lack the character development of novels or novellas. Descriptive locations also tend to fall to the wayside. A short story is just that: a story that is short. People don’t pick them up with the expectation of being drawn into a complex new world or identify with a character. The reader is there for the story. It’s plot-driven. If your 15,000 word masterpiece fits that description: short story. If it has more meat on it: novella.

Second, when it comes to writing, short stories are a different sort of animal. Some writers are more flexible than others. This applies to a multitude of things such as when, where, and how they write, but also what they write. Some write in multiple genres, others are specific. Some write single titles and series (not talking about romance categories here), some manage every length from poems to epic novels. Personally, I can’t manage short stories.

I say that, but I have one published. Hmm. Let’s back up, shall we?

I used to write short stories. The idea of a novel was just too grand to contemplate. This was in junior high, so we’re not talking starry-eyed writer with hopes of being an author. I liked to write and short stories were what I produced.

In high school, writing became uncool, and in college I didn’t really have time. Then there was marriage and career and kids. When I got back to writing, I took a short story from eons ago and started to rework it, and it became a novel. Yay! I didn’t expect that, but jump for joy, a novel. I did it again. And again. This went on.

A writing class assigned short stories and … I had a problem. I’d gained the ability to write a novel, but lost the ability to write short stories. I can’t not develop my characters enough to make it fit the word count. I can’t have one simple story arc going and leave others alone. I can’t not have a backstory for the characters or complication.

While I did figure out how to trim a lot of things off a book, I could never manage to trim enough to make anything a short story. The closest I came was taking story ideas and writing a synopsis. Presto: 2,000 word short story. Sort of. Okay, not really.

But I wrote one. There’s proof.

No, I didn’t. Meet Olive was never intended to be a short story. It was originally the prologue for Be Careful What You Wish For. I had mixed messages from a critique group and beta readers about it: it wasn’t needed and prologues aren’t necessary, but people liked it. Fine. Take the chapter out of the book and set it adrift on its own. Problem solved.

No, problem not solved. I have Meet Olive available for free a lot of places. Apparently it’s too short. Fine. I have the same situation for Make A Wish! – an opening chapter (that I cut) introducing the genie and how she came to be where we find her. I’ve been waffling over making it a short story. Maybe I’ll package them together, then it’ll be longer. I’ll wait until I finish the next in The Genie In Your Pocket Collection before doing any more short stories. I know I’m cutting chapters out of the third book, so maybe they’ll end up there too. We’ll have to see.

And with this, I return to writing a yet unnamed novel that will be the fourth in The Thousand Words Series. Then I’ll finish the third genie book. Then I’ll have to face NaNoWriMo again and decide if I’m going to continue playing that little game. And then I can finish revising A’gust and then third in The Death Of Secrets Series, yet another untitled book – sad when you remember it’s actually finished. Okay, it needs a final revision and edit, but it’s complete.

Hmm… sort of feeling like my calendar is booked, but I want to do something new and different. This would be a good time to whip out a short story. If I could. Damn.

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Shopping With Teenagers

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Every so often, Hubby decides it would be nice to just pick a store and wander around. We might find something we need. We usually don’t, but you never know, it could happen. On Monday, he had such a whim and chose Target. Sigh.

First, I should mention we’d all been in this particular store before, but not often and not recently. Kjkugyhjvgstdfrdfrerdfrfrgtmnhtj <-this is The Girl’s efforts to sabotage my ability to tell you this story. As if that were possible. She’s going to pass out from sheer exhaustion shortly. (It’s from running through the aisles like some sort of sugar-crazed lunatic.) No, seriously, don’t lick that.

Anyway … (now you understand why I don’t get writing done with the kids home, don’t you?) so we were walking around, discovering that I need to turn off the formatting symbols in Word or she’ll read EVERY DAMN ONE – so we were walking around, discovering more what they didn’t have than what they did and found their no smoking aisle. The Boy immediately told his sister to leave. He clearly wasn’t thinking. She was.

“Are you trying to say I’m SMOKING?” (Flips hair and saunters away with what I assume was a 16 year old version of a nightclub walk. Yes, I’m talking to you, girl sitting next to me in giggles.)

The Boy blushed and ignored her bum wiggles. The Girl was very keen that I use that phrase “bum wiggles.”

Moving on … DON’T LICK ME! Did I mention she’s 16?

Oh thank God, Hubby distracted her.

Moving on, we made it to the toy aisles, as they were. The Girl immediately found a 3D puzzle of The Empire State Building, which we decided you assembled then hung a sock monkey on. Then we found Minecraft Legos, which seems odd. They were both the most redundant toy there, and the most realistic Legos designed to date. (For those not familiar with the video game Minecraft, it’s 1980s level graphics and all you do is build things from square blocks. Oh, and a few blocky monsters very slowly chase you. It’s Legos for video gamers, assuming they don’t want to play with the Legos games.)

And The Girl is back. She’s draping herself over me, demanding to be blogged like a French girl. Um … what exactly have you been reading? Oh, Titanic. Go away and sink it. She said okay, but when the police ask … “But my mom told me to do it!” Right, like she ever really listens – so I have nothing to worry about.

Further on I spy some little girls’ Disney Princess dresses. I pointed them out to the kids and asked The Boy if he thought his sister would still fit in them. Naturally The Girl gave me a horrified look, and said “No! I have hips and boobs now!” (This despite the fact she otherwise has barely grown since she was thirteen. Little girl. And I got a dirty look for that.)

“But if there was a dress for Vanellope Von Schweetz you’d try.” I smiled at her. Wreck it Ralph is one of her favorite movies and she loves that character.

“I would,” she squeaked.

I laughed, then as I am now as she relives her pain. Of course she rounded on me.

“Are you laughing at my pain?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“Because it’s funny.”

And she is once again demanding if I’m entertained. Thumbs up or thumbs down? (Gladiator reference there. She’s in fine form tonight.) And The Girl and Hubby are now off on a tangent about thumbs up and thumbs down used to have reversed meaning back in ancient Rome and why and … whatever, it has nothing to do with our trip to Target.

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Sea Kittens and Snuggle Sharks

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I woke this morning, like I do on many weekend mornings, to the cat being tossed on the bed and The Girl scampering away before Darth Jingles could gather herself to give chase. As usual, by the time I rise to see what’s up (as if I didn’t know) all I see is a splay-legged black cat in the middle of the bed and the retreating backside of my eldest offspring.

Jingles looks at me, a look of complete disgust with the situation. Hubby snores and she grants him a passing glare. I check the time: 8:45 am. All right, I got to sleep in a bit. Everyone in the house has a cold, and I’m starting to feel the effects myself, so I wasn’t really ready to get up.

I look at Jingles and try to decide if she’s going to let me roll over and go back to sleep. I decided it was worth a shot. Long story short – I was wrong. She was willing to let me go back to sleep, but not able to. She prowled around the foot of the bed for a moment, which I expected. I figured she’d find a nice place on the down comforter – her blanket because it smells (I imagine) like baby ducks = prey – and then settle down. It’s her spot, therefore she should like it. No. She circled like a restless tiger. Then she found my feet, but didn’t attack them amazingly enough, and followed my leg upward. All right, so she was heading for another favorite spot – the back of my knees.

She landed there and perched for a while, long enough for me to almost fall back to sleep. Then she decided to move up to the small of my back. Fine. Almost asleep again, she turns on the purr motor. What? Why? Whatever, fine. Concentrate on going back to sleep. Now. No, wait, she’s moving again – and takes up position on the pillow beside my head.

Okay, just no. Sweetheart, I love you, but no purring in mommy’s ear. I pick her up and pull her in front of me, snuggling her in my arms. Right, back to sleep. Scratch the cat behind the ears, then back to sleep. Let her get in a better position. There you go. Right there, with her nose tucked up under my chin. Jingles, I’m trimming your whiskers when I get up. And knock off the purring. Right, scratch behind the ear – no, sweetie, I can’t scratch under your chin, it’s under my chin. There’s a logistical problem with my arm doesn’t move that – oh, you’re going to move again to make it easier. Thanks.

And so on.

Somewhere in this long, drawn out, not-being-able-to-go-back-to-sleep process, I decided Jingles could be classified as a snuggle shark. This shows you how my sleep-deprived mind works. That naturally made me remember years ago when PETA decided they could get people to stop eating fish if they made over their image. The fish, not PETA. They devoted a website to this venture, and it was so absurd of course the news picked it up and helped them along. They proposed rebranding fish to be called “sea kittens.” True.

This flitted through my mind as my own little snuggle shark decided to start attacking my feet after all. I mean, I doubt Jingles would really care about it either way if her tuna were labeled sea kitten, she’d still find it a tasty treat and beg for it on a regular basis. And I vaguely remember mentioning this ill-conceived idea to the kids in a moment of weakness, to produce the expected outcome: The Boy asking for sea-kitten sandwiches and The Girl giggling while she took a marker and crossed out “tuna” on the cans in the pantry and wrote in “sea kitten” instead. Eventually that blew over and things returned to normal, just as my morning settled down as soon as I let snuggle shark outside to search for more suitable prey. And now I’m up, so I may as well get some things done.

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