Friday, April 26, 2013

Flash Friday #40: A Frog's Tale

This story is a feghoot, which is a pun story (the pun will be at the end).(

Murray was an unpretentious frog. He wasn't big like Gregor, who pretty much ruled the pond, though he wasn't mean. It was just if Gregor said to jump -- well, you did jump.

Murray also didn't jump as high and splendidly as Airy, who had his name because he could almost fly. Dangerous, Murray, always thought, watching the eagles and hawks in nearby trees. But Airy made a show and he was a wonder to watch when the sun was going down and the air began to cool. He could leap high and catch bugs at the same time.

Murray also wasn't mean like Bev. She loved to do nothing more than torment him, sneaking up across the waterlilies while he rested, and then leaping in just the right spot to dump him into the water. Then she'd leap away -- jump, jump, jump -- out of sight and across the pond. He always heard her mocking laughter.

Murray would climb back to his lily pad, or to another if that one had already been taken over. If he were lucky, she only dumped him once or twice a day. He didn't mind being in the water, of course. He was a frog after all, but he rather liked going in when he wanted to, and not at the whim of some bad-tempered child with no manners.

And so this went on through the first half of the summer. He began to think he might take up residence with the frogs along the edge of the pond, half buried in muck and mud. They seemed content there. It would be a good life --

"Got ya!" Bev yelled as he tumbled into the water. This time a big fish came straight at him and he barely pulled himself back out in time, scrambling to the center of his pad and holding very still.

"She's not going to quit, you know," Airy said as he landed on the pad next to him. "I've been watching her for days now. She's made a name for herself. All the other girls take bets on whether or not she'll ever anger you enough to strike back. The odds have not been in your favor for a while."

He sighed. He wasn't certain he really needed to know this was more than a silly game by a female with nothing better to do. "I think I'll move to the bank."

"She'll just kick mud at you."

He sighed again.

"There's something you need to do, Murray lad," Airy said. He leaned forward, stretching out his long, lean legs. "You need to go and tip her into the water."

He'd never considered such a thing. He blinked several times and lazily caught a mosquito. They were so thick this year it hardly took any effort at all.

"Tip her?" he finally said. "I wouldn't even know where to find her."

"I can help you out there," Airy said and took one of his prodigious leaps upward and back down, all grace. "I've seen where she usually settles, and she's headed there now, the little vixen."

"Why are you helping me?"

"A whim," Airy said. "And because you seem a nice enough guy. I don't think you'd be happy in the mud."

"I don't know, Airy."

"Come on. What have you got to lose? At least get a look at where she is, so you can make up your mind later."

That seemed a good idea, actually. Murray didn't like to rush into anything. For a frog he was quite a lay-about. This time he gave Airy a nod and followed him, leaping from pad-to-pad, apologizing as he rushed through another's territory. He had to take two or three leaps to every one of Airy's single jumps.

Airy finally stopped on the wide branch of a long limb, sticking far out over the water. Murray had to scramble up to join him, slipping twice before he finally reached Airy's side. This didn't seem such a good place to stay. He'd seen birds here.

"There she is. See her, there in that clump of lily pads with all the other girls gathered around?" He flicked his tongue in that direction, and managed to catch three mosquitoes at the same time. The guy just had the knack for doing things well.

Murray stared out across the pond, his frogy eyes narrowing against the glare of the water. He found her, finally, about as far from where he lived as you could get and still be in the same pond. He'd never been to that far side, even as a tadpole.

"You need to go and dump her in the water, Murray," Airy said with a nod.

He studied the scene for a long, silent time, before he finally turned back to his companion.

"I don't know. It's a long ways to tip her, Airy."

The End

838 words

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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Novels? Short Stories? Both?

Here is something I was told by more than one published author: Not everyone is a short story writer or needs to be. Writing short stories is not a good way to prepare for novels because, except for some technical aspects (grammar, spelling, etc.) they are not alike. Anyone who actually writes both knows this is true.

Many novelists do not write short stories and have no inclination to start. Check out your favorite novelists and see if they have more than a few short stories out there. Some have none at all. They went straight to novel writing because that was both what they wanted to do and what they do well. Some people are born novelists. Some are born short story writers. Others can do both.

Learning to write a good short story will not automatically make you a good novelist. The story structure is not the same, though you can practice things like grammar, proper sentences and such. I know some people who have been told that their short stories are unfinished novels. They have not always found the story structure they need to tell a compelling short story.

But there are those who have trouble with novel-length work as well. They're stories can be compact and well-told, but not presenting the larger structure you find in a novel.

Both short stories and novels are good. Both are difficult to write well. You do not have to be good at both to be a successful writer, whether you take the indie or the traditional path.

I had written more than 30 novels (and sold a few to small press publishers) before I wrote short stories. I had no interest in them. My first short stories grew out of writing exercises like writing what looks like a good opening line to a story every day (The exercise came from a book called 'What If' and was an excellent way to look at the crucial opening words). I got tired of one line after a few months and decided to expand that to the first 100 words. Well maybe 200. Well -- look. Short story. Wow. I didn't think I could do that!

I love writing short stories, though not as much as I love the length and depth of novels. I write quite a few of both. I used to sell quite a few shorter pieces to ezines and small press companies. Now, like the novels, they've gone to indie publication, though I also do a Flash Fiction each week on my blog.

But what should you write?

Write what you want to write. If you don't like to write short stories -- and especially if you don't like to read them -- then don't torture yourself trying to create shorter works. It's not necessary that every writer becomes proficient in every form. Would you tell poets they have to learn to write novels in order to be able to write good poetry?

What is important is that you write the stories you want to tell and you learn to do so well. This means perfecting your craft. Some people say they write short stories to hone their storytelling techniques. You can do the same with novels, of course, even if they are longer. Short stories are not a short cut to novels. I'm not saying you can't learn how to do dialog better, or improve your sentence structure, etc.,  by writing short stories, though.  Just realize you can do the same by writing something you want to write.

Don't let anyone tell you that you have to write short stories before you can write novels. Don't let them tell you that you can't sell a novel to a publisher before you have written and sold shorter works. Even though having sold them won't hurt, they don't prove you can sustain the work of writing a full novel. In the end, the work you present to a publisher has to sell itself, and no amount of published short stories will make a poor novel better.

Only write shorter works if you want to write them. Use them for practice if you want to do so. Don't write them because you think they're a necessary step on the way to writing novels.  And don't write novels if they don't appeal to you. This works both ways!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Flash Friday #39 -- Waiting for M'Lady to Drown

I could tell from the look in m'lady's doe brown eyes that she didn't believe the rumors about Sir David's last wife.  She doted on him; blushing when he glanced her way, and acting like a school girl with a crush rather than a woman on her second marriage.

I saw no mistrust or fear in her.

"More tea, Jane." Sir David tapped his china cup with a long, perfectly manicured finger.

"Yes sir." I poured, drizzled a hint of honey along the inside of the cup, and stepped back. 

"I have made arrangements, my love," Sir David said.  The ghost of old dread slip up around my heart.  

"Arrangements?" m'lady asked softly, a hint of expectation in her heart shaped face.

"For the Grand Tour, of course."

She clapped her hands with delight and he laughed with pleasure.  I remembered how he'd looked the same way at Lady Sarah when she was pleased, even that evening she'd told him there would be a child.

She died the same night, falling into the Old Mill Pond.  Lord David married again hardly six months later.  I hadn't expected it.

Lord David wouldn't take me with them.  I knew that just by his look as m'lady stood, fairly dancing away from the table. 

"If you have accusations to make, Jane, I suggest you take them straight to the village constabulary."

"I wouldn't consider it, sir." 

"Then I suggest, missy, that you amend your attitude or start looking for a new position.  And you will not receive a good recommendation from me."

I wondered if he remembered that like him, I had been born in this house.  I'd spent more time here than he ever had, with his jaunts schooling and jaunts to other places

"Do we understand each other?"

"Yes, of course, Lord David."

He stood, brushing down his fine jacket, and left me to clean the crumbs of their breakfast.  I went about my usual work, drawing no attention.  He watched and measured my actions.  I did everything according to the proper hours for the next two days.

He grew weary of watching me at my monotonous work. That evening, he and m'lady went for a walk along the cottage path.

They disappeared around the bramble bushes and past the wild roses.  I saw Lord David bend and kiss m'lady on the forehead and hand her a lovely white flower. Did he remember doing that on the day his last wife died?  Did he remember coming back alone, and how they found her body in the pond hours later?

I waited until I saw the pigeons start up from the old aviary.  Knowing where the lord and lady went sent my heart pounding.

I dashed out of the manor and ran, though not along the cottage road.  I took to the woods, darting along the old wood cutter's trail, my skirt held indecently high, my shoes scuffing in the dirt.  Birds cried out and squirrels ran screaming at me.

I reached the pond before they did, the being in no hurry.  She held a bouquet of flowers. He gently touched the side of her face as they paused by the water.

"I am afraid I shall have to let Jane go, my love," he said softly.  My heart pounded.  This was my home!  I'd never been more than three or four miles from the manor in all my life!

"Oh will you, please?" the pretty little witch asked.  "She glares so, David.  She frightens me some days, the way she is always there, watching."

"You should have said so," David said and laughed.  "I only kept her because I feared you wouldn't want to train someone new.  We'll go on Tour -- perhaps we'll find you a pretty little French maid."

My hand fell to a long stout limb.  Was this the one I had used when I found Lady Sarah alone, starring into the water?  Perhaps.  But his Lordship had gone back that time.  I was able to keep him safe from the outsider who came to the manor.

But he would only bring another woman to his bed.  Just as his father had, despite the pretty words he'd said to me when I was a young, naive thing.  Lord David would do the same, no matter how many of them I killed.

And he would send me away from home.

He bent and kissed her.

She saw me leap out of the brush and started to scream.  I hit Lord David against the side of the head and used my momentum to shove him down the bank and into the pond.  He fell, his face in the water, blood flowing.  He didn't try to turn.

I grabbed M'Lady and threw her as well.  She hit the water by her husband, turned him over and pulling towards the shore.

That would never do.

I scrambled in after them, half-mired in muck and mud.  Her face, covered in mud and muck, showed no fear.

"Why?" she said.  She held Lord David, but I could tell, with the mud caking his mouth and nose, that he didn't breathe.  Half the work done.

"You won't take him away." I swung the limb.  Her head snapped back and she fell onto her husband.  "No one will take him away again."

I held her down in the water until she gave a little cough. I remembered the feel.  She went limp and I let go.  They laid side-by-side, but I tore them apart, dragging Lord David to the edge of the water lilies.  He looked pretty there, even with the mud.

I took the cottage road back to the manor. Oh, I knew the constabulary would come for me, but they'd never take me from my home.  I set fire to Lord David's bedroom and the hall. I waited by the window while the others screamed and ran.

But no one would send me away.

992 words
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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Two new books and Why just Smashwords?

This week I've released two new novels:

Paid in Gold an Blood (fantasy)

Katashan left behind his past; all the good and the bad, including his belief that the gods would help him in a time of need. Moving to a new land, he has every intention of starting a new life. What he finds, though, is the body of a woman sacrificed at the foot of a statue to a benevolent goddess. Katashan is soon caught up in a mix of magical and political troubles -- and drawing far too much attention from the gods he no longer serves.

Vita's Vengeance (Science Fiction)

Alsandor Vita has returned home with bad news for those who hoped outsiders would help against a treacherous enemy poised to invade their world. Despite the situation, Alsandor hadn't expected dramatic changes in his own future, but unusual circumstances soon give him a chance to fight the war in ways he never expected, leading Alsandor into a perilous world of secret identities and dangerous allies.

The war will affect the lives of others as well, from generals to presidents and from farm boys to pirates -- all caught in a tangle of deceptions, desperation and lies.

Both of these can be found on Smashwords, which offers versions for Kindle, Nook, Sony and other ebook readers, as well as PDF.

At the moment, they are only available on Smashwords.

Why haven't I gone ahead and posted on the Kindle and Nook sites?

Amazon has done a couple things lately that have directly affected me. First, for no reason at all, they decided to remove the Forward Motion Storefront, which had over 150 entries by people at FM. The reason? The note said that someone associated with us had done something that was against their rules, so we lost the store.

Right. Not that I had done anything, and the store was in my name. But Someone they didn't name did something they won't tell me.

Next, I happened to notice that some of my books were suddenly going from live to draft and with no reason at all. And no notice. I have no idea how long this has been going on.

I just found this all so annoying and unprofessional on their part that I have been trying to decide if I even want to go back there. That along with their high-handed decision to remove reviews by anyone who writes in that genre, plus removing tags so people can't use those to find books . . . Yeah, it's still the big name, but that doesn't make them good.

On the reviews part, someone told me she liked Amazon better than Smashwords because she could answer reviews on Amazon. I actually think this is a bad thing, and I'm just as glad you can't write notes on reviews at Smashwords. I also like that you can only review things you've bought at Smashwords, so you can't get people who (for good or bad) write reviews on stuff that they haven't read.

The Nook site is a slightly different situation. They are, as many people know, going through changes. There was some concern off the start, but they've changed a few thing for the better. I have nothing really against the Nook site, but I don't make enough sales there to worry too much over it. I let Smashwords handle my Nook uploads, even though Smashwords then takes a small cut.

Amazon kept claiming they were going to let Smashwords do the same there has, of course, not come through.

Is Smaswords perfect? Of course not. I've gone crazy trying to figure out why some books go through the process without a problem and others don't. I've reworked and reworked some, and still not gotten it right. That's part of the annoying world of Indie Publishing -- having to figure out everything on your own.

At the moment, my choice of distributors is based on a growing distrust of Amazon, a wait-and-see feeling towards Barnes and Noble, and the feeling that at least Smashwords only concern is ebooks and making money for the authors (and them). At Smashwords, we aren't a dangling addition to the 'real' store. I like the feel of it much better than trying to deal with the megalomaniac take over the world feel from Amazon. I'll probably get over that feeling later, but right now for my personal books, I'm sticking to the place where I feel writers at least are important to the business.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Writing Routines: Merry-Go-Round Tour #21

Here is my writing routine:

I sit down at the computer. I pull up the current story. I write.

Down through the years, I have developed the ability to write at almost any time and place. For instance, if I have a few minutes between work emails, I go and write a couple hundred words on a story. If I happen to be sitting in the car, I'll often do notes on some story or write a scene (My Nook HD emails the work back to my main computer. I love that!)I have, over the years, created an attitude (and yes, this is about attitude) that allows me to fall directly back into any story I'm working on.

I want to write.

Wanting to write -- really wanting to write, not wanting to have written something -- has made a huge difference in my work habits over the last few years. This is, of course, part of being prolific. Prolific doesn't mean anything if you don't finish first drafts and edit the work, though. You have to follow through on all steps, including either submissions for those choosing traditional publishing or publishing for Indie authors. (And here is a secret -- that last step is where I fall down. Right now I have three books all but ready to go to Smashwords, and I haven't done the last step to get them there. I'm positive something more needs to be done before I release them. This is an attitude problem I'm still working on.)

But let's get back to actual writing. I usually like quiet when I work, so there's no sorting through music. I might put something on if there are loud noises outside, but mostly the quiet works best for me. This is also good since it allows me to take advantage of those little breaks between other work without wasting the time looking for the right music, etc.

The cats are most apt to disturb me, though. And I swear whoever invented the Control+z command must have had cats. No, really, I didn't want to say uerwpqorwiu there, Zaphod. I'm sure it's a very proper kitty word, but it doesn't fit. Thank you for the help, though. Control+z and pop the epic 3,000 word battle back in that the somehow erased.

I think a lot of people have writing routines to set their writing apart from the rest of their real-world work. I think that's important in a lot of cases. I'm lucky because much of my real world is still involved in writing, and there's no huge dichotomy in moving from one part of my life to the others. I don't need to put that line between me and the rest of life.

So now I'm going to go work on getting one of those books up on Smashwords. It's time I hit my own problems straight on.

Wish me luck.
If you want to get to read about nearly twenty other writers, check out the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour. Be sure to read tomorrow's post by Sharon Kemmerer

Friday, April 12, 2013

Flash Friday #38: My Mistake

(This is a drabble -- 100 words -- and will only make sense to some of the chat people at FM.  But it was fun to write!)


DC stepped into the book, dismayed by line of characters doing unaccountably odd things.  She tried to find her people in this mass of insanity. 

Someone sprang by on a Pogo Stick.  "I'm late!  I'm late!"

She snagged him.  "You aren't a rabbit!  This isn't a rabbit hole!  I don't write fantasy!"

"Oh dear."  The man suddenly sprouted long ears.  His nose twitched.  "Now you've done it, haven't you?"

He bounded off and disappeared into a hole.

DC blinked.  "Of course.  My mistake.  This is a Grey world."

She stepped back out and went in search of her own story.


100 words
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Friday, April 05, 2013

Flash Friday # 37: The Real Reason Technology and Magic don't Mix

Wizard Elson had begun creating the spell 111 years and 111 days before. The spell was 111,111 lines long, each meticulously memorized because he dared not put something so potent down in script, even in small pieces.

Elson knew the power of one, and he used the power to his best advantage, building and building his spell and preparing to imbue the carefully crafted words with every bit of magic he had hoarded down through those long years.

However, during those 111 years and 111 days, the world had changed dramatically. The people of earth were now ensconced in the age of computers. Many of his colleagues had retreated to caves and tiny islands in abject fear of the new devices, but not Elson. He'd been too busy collecting his spell words and his power, and such a major move would have meant he would need to start over.

Elson, who had for the first 90 years or so imagined himself standing on a mountain top shouting out the spell, now found himself presented with a far better delivery system than the vagaries of the wind.

He had the Internet.

"I'm ready," he told Lexin, his long-suffering assistant. Lexin had been granted his immortality because Elson hated training new assistants, servants and lackeys. Lexin was all three of those in one package. He was also, unfortunately, perpetually 18 and sullen. Of late he'd gotten involved in the goth movement, and at least the black-on-black suited the lackey of a soon-to-be mad wizard ruling the world.

"Ready?" Lexin said with a sigh. He sighed about everything these days.

"At the first minute of the next sunrise, I will begin typing in the spell," he said. He had the joy of seeing Lexin finally look surprised. "You will stay here during the work, give me drink and food when I signal, and say nothing. And no, you cannot play that cursed music, either. You will sit and be silent or you will be an immortal cockroach. Is that clear?"

Lexin, who had been a cockroach on more than one occasion, gave a sullen, but silent, nod.

And so Elson sat in his tower and waited for the sun to rise. Well, actually it was an east-facing apartment in a rather dingy side of town, but that would soon change. He'd suffered for years without using much magic so he would have it all for this one day, this great moment of his triumph.

He booted the computer and opened an email, setting the address to a bit of magic that would take it to every single computer in the world.

As the sun began to rise, he started to type. One word. Another word. He typed each word, knowing that he would never be able to use them again in such a spell. The power he poured into them would burn them out for magic by the time he was done.

He typed and typed. Lexin gave him tea and cookies and held out his hand to catch the crumbs. Lexin hardly paused in the long, laborious work.

Line after line of perfect magic etched its way across the screen, power making the words glow even on the computer. The magic flowed from him and he felt weaker for it, but that would pass once his spell spread through the world and everything came under his control.

His hands trembled and his shoulders ached. His eyes blurred, but he continued to type and type. His heartbeat picked up as he typed out the final line, laughing with glee --

"Sir --"

He snarled at Lexin who ducked and avoided cockroachness by a hair's breadth. A fly on the wall suddenly became a cockroach, however, much to his dismay.

He spun back around to the keyboard and hit the final return, laughing wildly.

He waited.

And waited.

"Typo," Lexin said with a sigh.

Elson looked to Lexin, his breath catching. Then he slowly turned back to the computer, blinking his fuzzy sight back into focus.

"Last line. You typed 'teh' instead of 'the' which is a common mistake --"

Elson didn't even look. He just waved his hand and heard a dramatic cockroach sigh.

Then he pounded his head on teh keyboard for a while.

At dawn the next day he began to collect the new spell, one word at a time. What was another 111 years and 111 days?

Maybe by then he'd have found the perfect mountain top.

751 words
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