Category Archives: short stories

Cancer sucks, and fiction’s fun!

Happy Halloween! I hope you’re staying warm (and dry, those of you who met with Hurricane Sandy), and I wish you all a great night with friends and family… and good fiction.

While you’re looking for the perfect Halloween read, check out Inveterate Media Junkies’ series of posts today about the awesome anthology, Hazard Yet Forward! This collection of short stories sends all proceeds after Amazon’s cut to cancer-fighting superhero, Donna Munro. You can celebrate this evening by reading great fiction, spitting in cancer’s face, AND eating all that candy you couldn’t bring yourself to give away to the neighborhood kiddies. Yeah, I know about that secret Snickers bites bag.

Come on down to IMJ to learn about the amazing writers who have contributed to this anthology. There really is something for everyone!

You can read my column, The Princess and Her PS3, here.

You can read Heidi Ruby Miller’s column, Geek Girl Underground, here.

You can read Jason Jack Miller’s column, Sound Check, here.

Which is your favorite story from this anthology? I honestly can’t decide — there are so many amazing ones. Let me know if you have a recommendation!

Breast Cancer Sucks, but Great Fiction Helps

Here is an anthology that everyone will want. It offers just about every type of fiction you could need from top authors in their genres — and it supports one of the coolest writer chicks I know who is currently battling breast cancer like a champ. Read on for the press release, and get your copy today!

Seventy-six writers connected to the Seton Hill University Writing Popular Fiction program have created a multi-genre charity anthology entitled Hazard Yet Forward.  All proceeds from this project will benefit Donna Munro, a 2004 graduate of the program.  Munro, a teacher living in St. Louis, Missouri, was recently diagnosed with breast cancer.  An active member of the SHU WPF alumni committee, Munro helps organize the school’s annual writing conference, the In Your Write Mind Workshop.

To aid Munro and her family, faculty members, alumni, students and friends of the Writing Popular Fiction program quickly responded to compile this massive anthology.  The book features flash fiction, short stories and even a full-length novella.  In total, there are 75 works from various genres, which makes this anthology one that features something for everyone.

Genres represented in the book range from horror to romance to mystery – and everything in between.  Some of the notable writers in the anthology are World Fantasy Award winner Nalo Hopkinson, Bram Stoker winners Michael A. Arnzen and Michael Knost, Bram Stoker nominee Lawrence C. Connolly, ALA/YALSA Best Book for Young Adults winner Jessica Warman, Rita finalist Dana Marton, Spur winner Meg Mims, Asimov’s Readers’ Award winner Timons Esaias  and WV Arts and Humanities literary fellowships winner Geoffrey Cameron Fuller.

About Hazard Yet Forward, co-compiler Matt Duvall says, “It’s an unprecedented collection of stories from every genre imaginable.”  This large volume is an electronic book for the popular Kindle platform and is available for purchase through Amazon starting August 7.  It’s also reasonably priced.  The book will be on sale for $9.99.

I am honored to be a part of this anthology.  My story “God Corp.” is one that I penned around the time I first met Donna, so it is a special treat to be able to include it in this amazing collection.

More information about the anthology can be found at http://hazardyetforward.wordpress.com.

What do you <3 or hate about short stories?

Every form of fiction has its benefits and its drawbacks. I’d like to explore each kind one at a time. In my previous pros/cons post I wrote about novels. Feel free to add your thoughts to the discussion there.

But what about other forms of fiction? They have different benefits and drawbacks of their own, along with the shared features of novels.

Short Stories

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Benefits:

  • They are short.  🙂  Short stories are perfect for those afternoon breaks when you have only a few minutes to yourself, but you really need to escape.
  • Many times they come in collections of other short stories, giving you many different worlds to experience in one sitting.
  • They interface with your imagination.  🙂  You get no pictures (or few, usually), and you aren’t actually involved in the story, but you get to take what you read and make it real for you.
  • You can read them any time you’re free of distractions.
  • Other benefits?

Drawbacks:

  • They are short.  🙂  If you want to explore a world in depth with subplots and secondary characters, you’re not going to get much chance here.
  • Endings, often done as “twists” or abrupt conclusions, can be difficult to create and sometimes difficult to believe.
  • They can’t show you anything that you can’t imagine. If the author fails to explain approximately how large the monster is, then the reader either has to make that part up or feel lost.
  • It can be difficult to enjoy them when there are noisy people nearby.
  • Other drawbacks?

What else?

Organized? HA!

I’m actually not a very organized person at heart. If you take a look around my messy room or office at the books and files I have “strategically placed” in utterly nonsensical locations, you’ll know that’s true. It’s a fact of my personality that I can’t change, and because of this I have to compensate.

At any given time, in addition to my other responsibilities, I’m also juggling several writing projects and school (PhD program and an MFA program). This can lead to some definite confusion when it comes to deadlines if I’m not careful. So I’m ultra careful!

I rely on quite a few programs to keep me in line. They probably seem excessive, but you have to know the totally disorganized me to understand why I need such constant support.

In a way I’m like a cyborg – hooked up to all kinds of computer software, kept alive only by the grace of the Internet.  🙂  Awesome.

First, I keep a Word document that lists personal To Do items for each day, broken down into simple categories. I (roughly) plan this ahead for each month, and I update it every day. It’s nothing fancy; a typical day looks something like this:

Wednesday, August 11:
SCHOOL
Read (insert book title and chapter here)
Read (insert other book title and chapter here)
Critique

FUNNEL
(insert list of Funnel to dos)

BLOG
Write about organization

WRITING
Android play, scene 3
Dystopian novel, chapter 20 outline
Submit (insert short story title) for publication

MISC
Exercise
Clean

Not everything gets done, and that’s okay. It feels nice to delete items as I go, and it gives me an idea each morning of what my time looks like for the rest of the day. I’m also pretty forgiving when things need to change.  🙂  Because many of these are personal deadlines, I remind myself that they are, for the most part, flexible.

I keep folders on my desktop that are clearly labeled for each project I’m working on, and I maintain backups of those.

My online calendar reminds me of important dates along the way. It sends daily email reminders about my appointments, and it text messages my phone an hour before each event or deadline.

To track where I have submitted work and when, I keep an Excel spreadsheet.

Like most other writers, I imagine, I also use Word docs for my works in progress – well, most of them. For plays I use Scrivener. It has a bit of a learning curve, but this program has been very useful to me for drafting scenes.

So, there you have it. There are actually a few other little things I use (example: the WordPress publishing scheduler), but the ones I listed here are definitely the biggest help. Excessive? Probably. In fact, many people see what a tight shop I run on my own schedule, and they assume I’m a very organized person. Ha. Hahahahahahahahahaha. *wipes away tears of laughter* These programs are quite organized; I’m only the lesser, human component that the software struggles to keep in line.  🙂

What about you? Do you count on The Great Computer to keep your day running smoothly, or are you naturally organized?

Novels and short stories and plays! (omai)

Not all writing is created equal, I’ve found. I have worked on many varieties of wordsmithing throughout my studies and my career, and each version has different needs and offers different things.

The three most common (traditional) projects I work on are short stories, novels, and plays.

Short stories are like bright ideas that appear in a flash and stay for a while, playfully and periodically lighting up on my computer screen at unplanned moments. I have a lot of fun with short stories. They feel like snacks between meals, and I take my time with them. I like how compact they can be, like a booklight that folds up into a convenient size for luggage. I bring my short story ideas with me everywhere, and I play with them whenever the mood hits. Though they may take a long time to complete to my satisfaction, they rarely become tangled messes or require elaborate outlining. For me, short stories are pure fun.

Novels are different. These are writing experiences that feel like boring through dark tunnels, seeking precious light at the end of long and twisted journeys. I love working on novels. These aren’t just my snacks or my meals; they’re the entire kitchen and dining room, and the bread and salad and wine that go with the entrée. A novel is a commitment to time and energy and love. It can get scary and frustrating and even impossible without a good plan, but the payoff at the end is emotionally rewarding. Most authors, published and un, will agree that the success we feel from finishing such a novel is wonderful beyond words.

For both novels and short stories, I find that I need to see my paragraphs on the screen in order to understand how they work together. In other words, I don’t think I could dictate fiction to someone else to type out for me. Somewhere along the way I would get lost without my visual cues. In addition to that, I normally read a page or two aloud to myself as I work on first drafts and revisions just to get a different sense of the flow. This helps me hear words that might be off or misplaced, when my eye would have failed to notice.

Plays take me somewhere else entirely. When I work on a play I am both closer to my characters and farther away from them. It’s as if they’re half in shadow, half in sunlight, as I explore their feelings and reactions, but I keep an almost equal distance between the entire cast. It’s a tough act to perform, like juggling apples and bananas and oranges all at the same time. I have to handle each one properly and fairly, but I can’t hesitate too long or everything tumbles down. The theatre is one of my first true loves, and I cherish every minute I spend considering questions such as, “Will this set be possible or practical?” and “How can I get this actor off stage to change costumes?” in addition to the normal plotting questions that come up when working with fiction.

I also have to read my work aloud when I write a play, of course. However, I do it differently. If I don’t have someone else around (my husband, my brother, other friends) who can act, I sometimes have to record myself reading the lines into a microphone. For some reason I can listen to my words for short stories or novels aloud as I speak them, and I can feel my way through the proper flow. But with plays I need to sit back as an audience member and listen to the way the words sound from there – and that requires either willing friends or a recorder.

Sometimes (right now) I’m working on all three at once. This might seem overwhelming and potentially confusing, but it works for me to be able to change gears every day or two. I like to have multiple projects going at the same time so that my stories always feel fresh when I return to them.

What about you?  🙂  Are you a writer or a reader (or an audience member)? Do you have a preferred format to write or enjoy? What does it mean to you?

Dead Fairies

“I found the dead fairy on our back porch during last week’s spring cleaning.”

From “An Emmet Lost,” by Irene L. Pynn

The January print edition of Golden Visions Magazine of Science Fiction & Fantasy arrived in my mailbox this week, and it contains a story I wrote called “An Emmet Lost.” If you like dead fairies, then this might be the piece of short fiction for you. 🙂 If not, there is plenty of other fantastic content to check out.

This publication is packed with original fiction, reviews, articles, and more. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys SF/F, and I’m very happy to have my work appearing in Golden Visions for a second time (the first was with a short story called “Mind Reader”).

If you get a chance to take a look, please let me know what you think!

Decisions and Revisions

Today is a day of decisions and revisions.

I’ve been going through my short stories and a novel (requested by an agent) most of today, tightening here and adding there. Whenever I get a free moment, I’m looking at my past work and coming up with what I hope are improvements.

At times this editing process feels as dull as putting gas into my car – just another tedious stop on a long trip that keeps me from my ultimate destination.

But occasionally, revising feels really good. It’s as though I have made a terrible mess of things; there’s mud on the floor and there are clothes crumpled in the corner. Then, like Cinderella, I come whisking in with a smile and soon everything’s sparkling clean, ready for the ball.

Today’s been a little of both. Sometimes smelly petrol, sometimes shiny dance floor.

My new work in progress (Abandoned) is getting some attention, as well, though I need to catch up with my word count. Once in a while you’re having so much fun writing a scene that you linger far too long, and the next thing you know, you’ve lost track of where you were going in the first place. Time to break out the plot map and force some discipline upon myself!

The current scene I’m working on in Abandoned deals primarily with eggs. Not breakfast eggs. Not robin’s eggs. These are giant, cracking, prehistoric eggs that contain a very special secret. Shhh. Don’t tell.

Tomorrow I’ll be a guest on Kim Smith’s radio show on BlogTalkRadio at 830 p.m., EST. Be sure to tune in!

Now. Back to revisions… or eggs.