Category Archives: Short Stories

Back and Hitting Overdrive

Wow, is it February already? A lot of work and news has happened. The Gothic Blue Book with Antidote for the Soul has been out for public consumption for months. I have even signed a few copies people have brought me. No matter who you are, when someone asks you to sign something you’ve published, a little voice inside you goes “SQUEEEE”. And mine certainly did.

Still Available in print or Kindle. SQUEE

Adding to that, I have also guest lectured classes on the writing process and creating worlds and characters for two separate classes. These were both outstanding experiences that I was much honored to be a part of these young writers’ journeys. Hearing their ideas and answering their questions allowed them to bring new ideas to my writing at the same time that I was trying to help them.  The most fun was hearing all the little details that they’d caught that I didn’t think anyone but me would get. Easter Eggs are fun for everyone.

In other news, I got word back from my wonderful and talented Beta Readers, and as of yesterday, I have applied the notes and finished the last draft of Black Sun. I’m really excited about these changes, and they couldn’t have happened without outstanding Beta Readers. I owe each and every one of them a drink of their choice.

Beyond that, I am gearing up to polish up an eye-catching query letter and synopsis for agents to peruse and, hopefully, fall in love with. In this pursuit, yesterday I was given an outstanding exercise. An agent was holding a contest for people to win a chance for him to go over their query letter. In order to win that opportunity, writers had to post a 100 word scene from the POV of their villain/antagonist. This was an outstanding exercise that I would recommend to every writer. I put an added challenge in mine, and made sure that my villain/anatagonist’s Goal, Motivation and Conflict were identifiable in those short 100 words. Whew, never knew 100 words could go by so fast. I’m already about four times that in this blog post alone. So it was daunting to get a coherent, engaging snippet from my darling villain and also convey his true goals with his reasonable motivation and the thwart to his overall plan. The funny thing is, he ended up sounding in his own POV like he was a hero. But then again, shouldn’t many villains seem themselves in the right? I was so intrigued by this that I’m going to write more on it in my next post.

For now, I am moving forward in as quick a pace as my day job will allow me. Time to get this bad boy packaged up for others in this world to see and l enjoy.

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Antidote for the Soul is going to be PUBLISHED!

My title says it all.

I had this wonderful, thought provoking, craft educational post all thought out and outlined for today, but nope, that will wait for another day.

Last night at 9:05pm I received an email from BurialDay Books:

“Dear Courtney,

Thank you for sending us “Antidote for the soul.”

We love your story and would like to publish it in the Gothic Blue Book!

We will be in touch shortly with a more formal letter and details.

Regards,”

Time for a few fireworks in the world.

I am an author (soon to be officially published in both ebook and traditional print) and teach others how to write, yet I can find no words to describe how I felt at that moment. Excited, too pale and blah. Elated, nope, not enough hop to it. Ecstatic, not enough zing. Euphoric, getting closer, but still not enough to describe that one moment in time.

Everything just froze. I read it and re-read it. I then got up, did my happy puppy dance all over the room as I called all those who had helped me on my journey. It was a moment I hope to relive in the future, but no matter what, I will always remember and work back towards that feeling.

It’s true. As of the end of next month, my words will be in ebook and traditional print format. People will be able to go out and buy them, take them home, read them, judge them, enjoy them. I have street cred.

Exciting and humbling all in the same breath. So, next rounds on me, folk. Let’s celebrate!

Image by: xedos4

 


Short Story, Big Package

As many of you wonderful followers know, for the last week I’ve been tirelessly working on my short story “Antidote for the Soul” for Burial Day’s Gothic Blue Book submission. I came up with the idea over a dinner and had an outline within an hour. I could see the big scenes, feel for the characters. I executed more research than I’d done for my last paper and educated myself to match style and substance. It was fully planned out and ready to write.

And write it I did. But every work has its complications and so did this one. The issue for this piece was the requirements. To give you some background, “Gothic Blue Books were abridgements of full-length Gothic novels. The subjects of the books fell into one of two categories; the first being set in a monastery or convent and the second being set in a castle.” For the publisher, the whole short story had to be 3,500 words. My students looked at that and went, “How can you write that much?” I looked at it and said, “How can I tell this entire tale in 3500 words?”

It’s been a task, but fun in its way. We get used to writing styles: novels, novellas, long format fiction, papers. When asked to step into new shoes, we have to start all over again. This piece came out to be a full piece short story, now it was time to abridge. So came out the red pen and scenes and characters got cut. It was like surgery. Merry Bond gave me great advice last week, “you really shouldn’t put in hardly any details, you just want the story, the gruesome, frightening, creepy, wonderful story with just merest touch of ambiance.” Thank you, Merry!

Let's see what the publisher thinks of our little convent.

Now reading the finished product, I like it. The story and most of the mood is still there, even if it was planned to be four times this length.

Beyond it being done, it’s off to the publisher. It’s in their hands now in more ways than one. It would be an honor to be included in their work. Just have to wait and let them read and decide.

Now time to leave planet again and deal with my vampires and werewolves in the deep of space, but I enjoyed my venture Earth side in the darkness of our horrific past.

Image by: Salvatore Vuono


I Hear Imaginary People

Voices, voices everywhere, all telling me what to do.

Ganhdi once said “The only tyrant I accept in this world is the still voice within.” Does this mean that authors have worlds of little tyrants all demanding they be written into existence? We created and hone these voices until they gain faces and style and story and quirks and finally a voice that others can hear as well. See, it’s not schizophrenia if others can hear it too, right?

Characters and characterization tend to be very important to me. There’s the plot and conflict carrying them along from misadventure to misadventure until they learn how to be masters and mistresses of their own fate (well, at least for a short time). However, the characters have to be relatable and real to make the story interesting and my readers care. And that’s not just the good guys. We all want to feel a part of the hero/heroine. See something of ourselves there in the hope that we can raise ourselves to such heights and overcome the obstacles we encounter. Thus making the characters real and concrete enough for others to hear and see while making them broad enough so everyone can slip into their shoes if they try is no mean trick.

Aww, but look at the teddy. He LOVES me!

But what of our villains? Villains need love, too. This doesn’t mean you have to like the villain by any stretch of the imagination. Nor should you want to cheer for them. They have to be just as relatable and real as the hero/heroine or they lose their punch and become caricatures. Even in the movies, some of the villains I most remember I don’t like at all. I HATE them, but I LOVE hating them. Very often it is because their motivations and actions are believable. Not understandable (we’re not psychopaths) but believable. We are not all murderous cannibals, but something within us loves the suave control of Hannibal Lecter and his intellect. Moriarty is a cold blooded killer with no regard for human life, but his ability to think around Holmes makes us marvel at his brain. Very often we love the villains because they represent the darker shadow side of ourselves just begging to be let out. They do the things we want to, only to a much greater extreme.

But hero or villain or sidekick or reflection, each character has his/her own voice. How he sounds. What vocal pauses she uses. Vocal ticks. Voice helps the image of the character come more alive in the imagination of the reader. I use full character and vocal sheets to create the character fully so I won’t forget who says what in what way, especially over multiple books.

Then comes the added trick of writing a character’s voice from a time not our own. I am faced with that right now. I am writing character in the 1830’s, a time with speech and etiquette very different from my own. Added to that, my main character is a male Irish doctor living in the 1830’s. Having to get the gentile nature of the time, the turns of phrases and the accent all wrapped up into one phrase is fun, exciting, interesting and a pain. But he’s starting to take fuller shape on the page, especially as people are dying all around him. It’s sink or swim time and the devil’s at the door, maybe for real, and his voice is reflecting it.

Benjamin Disraeli said it well, “There is no index of character so sure as the voice.”


Antidote for the Soul

Last week my husband sprang a new idea for me over dinner. He’d run across a request for Gothic Horror and thought since I have such fun writing twisted horror…and he continued talking about it but I was someplace else. My mind started whirling. Ideas, possibilities, characters, settings, they all began circling in my brain with twisted and wondrous scenes taking shape before our meal even arrived.

By the time we reached the car, he HAD to drive, so I could sit down with pen and any piece of paper I could scavenge from the depths of the car (ended up using the back of a quiz for my students) to write down the outline for this short story. By the time we made it home, the outline was complete from beginning to end. The last three days I’ve spent on researching time period, medicine, toxicology, convents, religious orders and dress.

And last night I started drafting the story itself!

Only peace and tranquility here...right...right?!

I am so excited about this new tale. I’ve been in the future for so long, I’d forgotten how fun it could be to write in an established time period. Who needs the future to throw drastic wrinkles into the horrific mix?

This short is ending up being a mix of Irving, Lovecraft and Poe. Even if this short goes nowhere professionally, it’s going to be an adventure to write, and I hope each of you enjoy it immensely.

Image Credit: Salvatore Vuono


Lost in the Woods

There’s not much to report. I am on the edge of my seat waiting on the feedback from my first beta reader. And from the requests showing up in my inbox, so are the other beta readers. New eyes are always a scary feature to writing. I learned this clearly in my critique group. Will they get the nuance and meaning you were trying to lace into the description and dialogue? Will they follow the action or get lost in the fight? Did you beat them over the head with the message or was it subtly woven into the story? Are there too many characters, not enough? Was the story too complex, or not complex enough? Having done editing for a while now, I explain over and over, “I know it’s perfectly clear in your head, but that clarity never reached the paper”. Is this where I will be, or does the story have a complete linear thrust without being too obvious?

Well, there’s nothing I can do on it now, until it comes back full of markups and comments. So on to the next feat. I have finished the first draft of “Waiting for Tomorrow” and am letting it breathe a bit of its own life. Letting it grow some legs, if you will. In the meantime, it’s time to do what I’ve wanted to since April. It is time to get underway on Black Moon. The world is established, some of the characters are established, now it is time to establish the scenes. I will be sitting down with my scene and character worksheets and blocking out each major scene and the reasons it belongs in the story.

 

Black Moon

A whole new adventure

I know once I start drafting, I may venture away like Red Riding Hood from the path, but sometimes the Big Bad Wolf is the best part of the story. So, here’s to getting lost in the woods and the adventure to find my way back. Black Moon it’s your turn.


Beta, Beta, bo Beta

The first of my Beta Readers has Black Sun. He is also double checking my continuity and copy editing. I am excited to have someone else’s eyes reading my work in full. A giant step forward. Every step is making this more real, and I can’t describe how that makes me feel deep down. Dreams are enticing and amorphous ghosts that chase us through life. It’s fun to do the chasing for once, and to feel that I am almost a hand’s reach away.

Problems in the food chain affect everyone

On other fronts, I did a lot of work today on “Waiting for Tomorrow”. This is set between Black Moon (Book 2) and Black Planet (Book 3). A glimpse into the future the characters will have to deal with. It’s nice to be writing from another perspective and on planet again, even if the ending is not quite “and they all lived happily ever after”.


Waiting for Tomorrow

Black Sun is a chapter and a half away from being ready for beta readers. I am so excited I can hardly stand it. Years of work, ready for people in the world to experience and enjoy.  A step closer to the reality of a dream.

So rather than boring you all with more revision talk, how about something special from my special files of short works. This is an excerpt from the short story I told you about on May 23rd. The working title right now is “Waiting for Tomorrow”. This would be the opening mood setter. It’s still rough, but is starting to shape up.

“The lieutenant stomped his boots in the snow, gaining back momentary feeling in his feet.  Brief but satisfying none the less.  He gazed out at the large black structure that stared at them day and night.  The gate to nowhere they’d been “assigned” to watch for the last six months did the same thing it did everyday…nothing.  Just hung there in the middle of the Dakotas, big and ominous and empty.  If it did something, maybe he could keep his men’s mind on their task better, but no.  Some swore it hummed; he’d never heard it.”

Inversion

What could put humanity on the endangered species list?


Short Work

I’m continuing with my revisions upon revisions. I’m really happy with the changes and tightening of language that has formed from the process. Even gave a semi pitch to a friend who is anti-Sci-fi yesterday. She thought the story sounded interesting. For her to listen to a story about something taking place on a deep space station, that’s saying something. It made me smile. To reach my goal for this summer, I can’t wait to get this cleanly into the hands of my Beta readers then hopefully agents and publishers.

But now, I’m thinking of other projects to churn the waters. Getting noticed cold turkey is not impossible, but it is hard. I need stir things up and venture to the world beyond the safety of my inner circle.

So, a short story is cooking. It is a story of Earth far in the future. A time when Earth is tenuously unified but barely making it. Huge structures of alien material have appeared all over the planet, both on land and in the air, just hanging there. What could these structures hold? Who brought them? What is their purpose? Why at these locations?

The story will be from the POV of the commander of a battalion of soldiers stationed outside one of these structures. They have been waiting months, just stationed in this desolate area, waiting for the structure to do something. And then it does…

Hoping to get this one polished as well and shop it for some shorter format publications.

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