Tag Archives: Short Stories

Living a week in an agent’s shoes

I recently had the opportunity to judge a writing contest.  I, and two other brave souls, volunteered to read all the anonymous entries, and choose one winner who would win “the pot” collected from the entry fees.

I am going to admit that this was a grueling experience at times.  I swore, somewhere around the seventh entry, that I would never do this again.  My relief when I’d finally read the last entry, and made my choice for winner, was overwhelming.

Then I got to thinking.  What I went through is probably not unlike what an agent or a submissions editor goes through every day.  They get a mailbox full of submissions, and they have to review them all and choose only one, or none.

Now, consider this.  The people who entered this contest paid an entry fee.  This is one of the reasons I volunteered.  I mean, seriously… if you are going to fork up ten bucks to get into a contest, you gotta know your writing is good enough to have a chance, right? I imagined my mailbox filled with fantastic, wonderfully imagined and carefully crafted stories.

Did I get that? Ummm… Not always.

Now, this is not to say that there were not some great entries. There were. But at times, I held my hand to my head and thought, “What was this person thinking”?

The good thing that came out of this is the realization that what you hear is true. There is a lot of poorly written or poorly executed work out there in the query-sphere.

If you can honestly look at your work and say:

1.       It has been edited multiple times

2.       It has been critiqued multiple times

3.       It has been beta read by multiple readers

4.       I have listened to critiques/beta comments and made changes without thinking “they just don’t understand me” and ignoring them.

5.       I have a story arc with a beginning, middle and end.

6.       There is a journey/change in the main character that makes the story worth reading.

7.       There is conflict.

I could keep going, but I’ll stop there.  If you can say “yes” to all of the above, then you at least have a chance of getting read by an agent or editor. If you work stands out as well written and conceptualized, you will be in the 25% or so that will actually be considered.  This is the place where good writing is a given. This is where you are in competition for the best story.

This is where you want to be. If you answered “no” to any of the list above, and you are querying and getting rejections, there is a possibility you are just wasting their time. (And yours)

What I realized judging this contest is that there must be hundreds of thousands of people out there that are wasting their time by submitting before they are ready.

Do your research. Make sure you have learned your craft.

Don’t be afraid to ditch a story you have worked on if it is not marketable.  Move on to something else. Every time you sit down to write you are better than the last time. Be patient until you can honestly say “This is my best work.”

_JenniFer____EatoN

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A Review of “Dipping in a Toe” By Linda Carroll-Bradd @lcarrollbradd

I was just floored by this short story.  This little tidbit did everything it was meant to do.  It wet my appetite, and left me screaming for more.

Normally, I don’t like shorts, because I always feel like there is more to the story that I have not been told.  To an extent, this is no exception to that. However, this was so superbly written that I was left feeling satisfied with the ending, and not wanting to chuck my E-reader at the wall.

This is a very simple story about a single mother being attracted to her kid’s much younger swim coach, and what happens when he returns her attention.

While this is a very sweet story. (Not even any kissing) I found myself submersed in the heat between these two characters, and feeling every sensory perception relayed by the author.

My only fault is how short it is (I read it in two nights, but I could have gobbled it in one sitting if I wanted to)  I would love to read more about this new couple, and if there is a part two, I am reaching for it.

In general, I like fantasy or chase novels, and romance bores me.  This story, though, just blew my socks off without any TNT.  For the first time in a long time, I am looking up an author to see what else she’s written.

I can’t find any reason in this book not to give it five stars.  This is sweet romance at its utter and complete best.

Write a Story with Me # 33 – What? OH NO! She didn’t! by Danielle Ackley McPhail

Last week Janelle took off — literally, leaving the old lady with Mommy bleeding to death and in a ton of trouble.  What’s gonna happen?  Here’s Danielle Ackley McPhail’s first contribution to our story!

33- Danielle Ackley McPhail – Wait, she’s who?  What?  OH NO!  She didn’t!

Morana watched her unsuspecting daughter go, her lips tightly set and her eyes sad. She remembered more than a time before the faeries were looked on as vermin…she remembered when they had been kin with humans. When all kind were linked and not separate.

How dark and grim the world had become since that time.

With a sigh she turned back to her patient. Poor Natalia, forsaken by all and sundry; all but Morana, and now that the last witness was gone it was time to see to mother and babe.

Queen Morath of the fae shed the weight of her borrowed years, shed her human form, the aches and pains and the blurring of her eyes. All fell away like flakes of skin to dust leaving the most beautiful and powerful of fae standing over the human woman, who sprawled upon the floor in her own blood, the babe’s cord still trailing from her body, wet and glistening.

“tsk…let’s clean you up, my lovely, shall we?” Nearer to human height than the diminutive size the fae had become in the after-time, Morath bent gracefully down, folded the delicate membranes of her wings back and safely away from the mess on the floor before reaching out one ivory-pale hand to trail through Natalia’s hair and down the curve of her back. Magic sparkled in the air at the touch as like recognized like deep within the two races now drastically different. Queen of life and death as well as fae, Morath ordered the woman’s lifeblood back within the confines of her veins and wicked away both sweat and blood normal to the birthing of children, and with it the memory of that night’s ordeal…all of it. Natalia remain unconscious—blessedly so—as the faerie queen scooped up the woman’s son to cradle in immortal arms.

The child cooed and burbled, making the faerie queen laugh before she grew somber once more. “Come, Verval. For your own safety and theirs, you need be the price for my healing.”
And Morath rose in a cloud of glittering motes, secreting the foretold boy away before any harm might come to him or his parents for bearing him.

Write a Story with Me is a group endeavor just for the fun of it.  A different writer adds a new 250 words each week.  It is the ultimate Flash Fiction Challenge!

If you’d like to sign up, come on over.  There’s always room for more!

Part One – Jennifer M. Eaton

Part Two – J. Keller Ford

Part Three – Susan Roebuck

Part Four – Elin Gregory

Part Five – Eileen Snyder

Part Six – Mikaela Wire

Part Seven — Vanessa Chapman

Part Eight — Ravena Guron

Part Nine – Vikki Thompson

Part Ten — Susan Rocan mywithershins

Part Eleven — Kate Johnston  AKA 4AMWriter

Part Twelve — Julie Catherine

Part Thirteen — Kai Damian

Part Fourteen — Richard Leonard

Part Fifteen — Sharon Manship

Part Sixteen – Shannon Blue Christensen

Part Seventeen — Bryn Jones

Part Eighteen — Jennifer M. Eaton

Part Nineteen — Shannon Burton

Part Twenty — J.Keller Ford

Part Twenty-One — Susan Roebuck

Part Twenty-Two — Elin Gregory

Part Twenty-Three — Aparnauteur

Part Twenty-Four — Vanessa Chapman

Part Twenty-Five — Ravena Guron

Part Twenty Six — Susan Rocan

Part Twenty Seven — Kate Johnson AKA 4AMWriter

Part Twenty Eight – Julie Catherine

Part Twenty Nine — Kai Damian

Part Thirty — Richard Leonard

Part Thirty-One —Sharon Manship

Part Thirty-Two — Shannon Christensen

Part Thirty-Three — Danielle Ackley McPhail

Don’t forget to stop by next week to see what happens next.

Siv Maria Ottem— TAG!  You are “It”

Write a Story With Me #32 – Janelle’s Choice with Shannon Christensen

Last week the baby finally arrived, but it looks like Mommy is in big trouble!  Will she be okay?  Let’s find out!

Take it away Shannon!

32- Shannon Christensen

Janelle hesitated.

If she followed Morana’s instructions to get help, Natalia might live and the boy might grow up healthy, wealthy, and destructive. This baby could destroy them all – fairies and humans, regardless of Janelle’s help.

She considered this. The boy could turn out to be like Marci, and could be helpful to Janelle’s people. Then again, maybe not. If he were more like Bethany, then all the risks and sacrifices made by Marci, by Sian, by Janosc, by herself and so many others would be futile.

She did not have to help. She should not have helped earlier by bringing Morana. Certainly, the humans would not have helped a fairy mother. She could simply leave Natalia and the boy in Morana’s care and let luck or fate have her way.

Natalia moaned again and Morana pleaded.

Janelle watched.
As a mother, Janelle sympathized with the compulsion to care for an infant. As Marci’s friend, Janelle sympathized with the potential loss of a family member. As the new queen of the fairies, however, she understood that her own feelings were nothing compared to her peoples’ needs. She had accepted this when she ate the leaf. She had not expected to have to act so quickly on this new prioritization.

Janelle sighed. She would do what was best for the many, and not only the few.

“No.”

“But, you must!”

“No. I must not.” Janelle turned and flew away from the house for the last time.

Write a Story with Me is a group endeavor just for the fun of it.  A different writer adds a new 250 words each week.  It is the ultimate Flash Fiction Challenge!

If you’d like to sign up, come on over.  There’s always room for more!

Part One – Jennifer M. Eaton

Part Two – J. Keller Ford

Part Three – Susan Roebuck

Part Four – Elin Gregory

Part Five – Eileen Snyder

Part Six – Mikaela Wire

Part Seven — Vanessa Chapman

Part Eight — Ravena Guron

Part Nine – Vikki Thompson

Part Ten — Susan Rocan mywithershins

Part Eleven — Kate Johnston  AKA 4AMWriter

Part Twelve — Julie Catherine

Part Thirteen — Kai Damian

Part Fourteen — Richard Leonard

Part Fifteen — Sharon Manship

Part Sixteen – Shannon Blue Christensen

Part Seventeen — Bryn Jones

Part Eighteen — Jennifer M. Eaton

Part Nineteen — Shannon Burton

Part Twenty — J.Keller Ford

Part Twenty-One — Susan Roebuck

Part Twenty-Two — Elin Gregory

Part Twenty-Three — Aparnauteur

Part Twenty-Four — Vanessa Chapman

Part Twenty-Five — Ravena Guron

Part Twenty Six — Susan Rocan

Part Twenty Seven — Kate Johnson AKA 4AMWriter

Part Twenty Eight – Julie Catherine

Part Twenty Nine — Kai Damian

Part Thirty — Richard Leonard

Part Thirty-One — Sharon Manship

Part Thirty-Two — Shannon Christensen

Don’t forget to stop by next week to see what happens next.

Danielle Ackley McPhail — TAG!  You are “It”

Write a Story with Me Part 30 – To Janelle’s Horror “What?” – With Richard Leonard

Surprise!  I’m changing the day for “Write a Story with Me” from Tuesdays to Mondays.  Why?  Well, ’cause I can!  Here we go!

It’s been nearly a month since we saw Marci’s poor mom go into labor all alone!  Richard Leonard throws it back to  the birth string this week.  Will Janelle get help in time?  Take it away, Richard!

30 – Richard Leonard

Janelle was already out the bedroom door before realising the old woman was still fumbling for her walking stick. She watched helplessly as Morana shuffled unsteadily across the short distance from the bed to the other side of the night-stand where her walking stick rested, using the night-stand for support. Janelle’s mood fell as she realised how frail the old lady now was. Her magic could only do so much.

“I’m sorry, Morana. I wasn’t aware you cannot -”

“I can do this, Young Fairy. I must do this”, Morana said.

Janelle, said nothing, guilt building within her. To drag this weak old dear out into the cold night to help a woman giving birth seemed to be a cruel irony. Patience, Janelle, patience. At the same time she needed to hurry. The longer Natalia was without proper assistance the more dangerous the situation becomes.

Morana finally had the support of her stick and began a steady rhythm of shuffling towards the door and out of the house. Janelle, to ease her impatience and peace of mind,  would fly up and down the street and patrol the area while Morana hobbled slowly towards Natalia’s residence. At the end of every run she would check on Natalia through the window, carefully ensuring she was still in a stable condition, sometimes offering reassurance that help was on its way.

On the way back she would arrive with relief to find that Morana had made significant progress walking up the street. This continued for several shortening laps until, to Janelle’s horror,

Oh!  The mid sentance stop!  What a way to leave it.  Someone’s quaking in their booth figuring out what Janelle saw!

Write a Story with Me is a group endeavor just for the fun of it.  A different writer adds a new 250 words each week.  It is the ultimate Flash Fiction Challenge!

If you’d like to sign up, come on over.  There’s always room for more!

Part One – Jennifer M. Eaton

Part Two – J. Keller Ford

Part Three – Susan Roebuck

Part Four – Elin Gregory

Part Five – Eileen Snyder

Part Six – Mikaela Wire

Part Seven — Vanessa Chapman

Part Eight — Ravena Guron

Part Nine – Vikki Thompson

Part Ten — Susan Rocan mywithershins

Part Eleven — Kate Johnston  AKA 4AMWriter

Part Twelve — Julie Catherine

Part Thirteen — Kai Damian

Part Fourteen — Richard Leonard

Part Fifteen — Sharon Manship

Part Sixteen – Shannon Blue Christensen

Part Seventeen — Bryn Jones

Part Eighteen — Jennifer M. Eaton

Part Nineteen — Shannon Burton

Part Twenty — J.Keller Ford

Part Twenty-One — Susan Roebuck

Part Twenty-Two — Elin Gregory

Part Twenty-Three — Aparnauteur

Part Twenty-Four — Vanessa Chapman

Part Twenty-Five — Ravena Guron

Part Twenty Six — Susan Rocan

Part Twenty Seven — Kate Johnson AKA 4AMWriter

Part Twenty Eight – Julie Catherine

Part Twenty Nine — Kai Damian

Part Thirty — Richard Leonard

Don’t forget to stop by next week to see what happens next.

 Sharon Manship — TAG!  You are “It”

Road to Publication #21: Completing your first interview

Okay, to be honest, I am writing this up after completing many interviews.  The questions just keep flooding in.  Such wackiness, I swear!

If you were on a train in Alabama, and the lights went out and the sky turned green, what would you do?

Seriously?  You really want me to answer that question?

Okay, I made that up, but some of the questions are like this.  A lot of the questions are very much the same though, and it’s hard to keep them sounding “Fresh”

While I was filling out a set of questions last night, my son (The Monomanical Middle Grade Reviewer) Leaned over my shoulder and told me I was boring.

I read it over, and decided he was right.  I thought about some of the interviews that I’ve done here, and laughed at myself.  Boring interviews are the reason that the Little Blue Lady from Mars was created… to add a little spice and fun into it.

He pointed out the last question, and told me I didn’t even really answer it.  I looked it over.  Yep, he was right.  I danced around it.

“Okay,” I said.  “I’ll answer it.”

With a big smile on my face, I answered the question… I answered it with him in mind… Using all the magical powers of a science fiction author.

Within a few keystrokes, my son was chuckling.  I was too… and I found that this time, I really DID answer the question.  And it was funny.  More “me”.

“You are just too cool, Mom,” the MMGR said.

You know what?  I AM COOL Dernit!

Why hadn’t I done all of my interviews like that?  It made me want to go back and re-do all of the interviews I’d already done.  Unfortunately, I’d sent them all out already.

Lessons Learned.

For you guys… when you do your interviews, don’t get all “tight” and “boring”.  Remember your “voice”… remember who you are.  You only have about 250-500 words to get someone who has never heard of you to like you.

Use those words wisely.  Have fun and be yourself.

What do you like/hate about guest posts and author interviews?

Road to Publication #18: Reviewing the ARCs, OH NO!

Holy Crud.  This is not happening.  I just found out why you DON’T want to have two works being published at exactly the same time… and even worse… by two different publishers.

I was stunned this morning when the first round edits for Connect the Dots came through. I thought I would have another week.  I have two weeks to finish the ARC edit (the very last edit) of Last Winter Red AND finish the first round edit for Connect the Dots.

Okay.  Breathe.  It’s all good.  This is a great problem to have.  People are going to spit at you for having this problem.  Take a deep breath.  Chocolate helps.  Good.  Relax.

Okay.  No problem.  I can do this.

So… back to Last Winter Red.  I started reading it on Kindle last night.  I made a lot of highlights on the ARC with the handy Kindle Notes feature.

The reason for some of my notes is because my writing style has changed a lot in the last few months since I worked on Last Winter Red, and things don’t seem right to me anymore.

I did find a missing quotation mark at the end of a sentence.  Easy fix (I hope).

What is odd, is every once in a while I stopped and said “Is that what he said?” or “Did I write that?” or “Wait.  That makes absolutely no sense.”

I’m wondering if I even wrote some of these things, or if they were edited to the point of losing “something”.  I want to go through the whole thing, make notes, and then go back to my original copy and see if I need to smack myself upside the head for past mistakes.

Maybe I do.  At this point, I’m not sure what happened.

Either way, I think some more changes are in order.

What makes me cringe over this is that I could have made these changes months ago.  I am tucking this away as a “lesson’s learned” though.

I did have a bad feeling about not reviewing the full version before it went to copy editing.  You know that deep clawing pit-in-your-stomach feeling when you think you lost control of something?

To make sure this doesn’t happen again, I MADE SURE before I signed the contract with Still Moments Publishing for “Connect the Dots” that I WOULD have a chance to review a final before it went to final editing.  Not only that, I will get to see a FULL VERSION as it stands through each round of the editing process.

For a control freak like me, this is a huge relief… because I know I will not be down to the wire and fixing errors I would have seen earlier.

This is not J.Taylor Publishing’s fault either.  It is the way they work.  All publishers are different, and as an author, I need to be ready for this.

What I need to do now is finish reading and marking.  Then I want to go back again reading carefully for spelling/punctuation errors, and then I need to document and changes necessary on  a spreadsheet.

I need to do this within one week, so I can devote the next week to Connect the Dots.

Once again, sleep may become optional.

The Big Announcement! Writing to a Deadline AGAIN #4 The Big Announcement!

I am so excited to announce that I’ve just signed a contract with Still Moments Publishing to have my story Connect the Dots included in their 2012 Christmas Anthology.

This is totally unbelievable.  In January, I posted a big boisterous banner proclaiming that I WOULD BE PUBLISHED by the end of 2012.  It was quite a lofty goal for me, and now I will have two stories coming out this year.

I’m giddy with glee.

Hey, Canada.  Look South.  See that big bright light down in the USA?  That’s me smiling!

Oh, guys.  This is just so dern cool.  You have no idea.

Click here to see my query blurb and promo page for Connect the Dots.  Yeah, No explosions.  I was a good girl for Christmas.

Search and Destroy in the Editing Phase

Daily Writing Tips recently had an article explaining bad writing compared to poor writing.  The one part of the article that struck me was the end.

They presented a list which I will admit (giving them total credit) that I copied and pasted below.  I only want to talk about #5, but I am including the entire list, because I think there are a lot of writers out there who can benefit from it.

Here we go:  Total credit to Dailywritingtips.com (If you want to see the whole article, the link is below)

———————————————————————-

Here are some tips on avoiding the pitfalls of bad writing:

1. Be Fresh
The purpose of metaphor and simile is to evoke recognition by comparison or allusion. Write these analogies to aid your readers with your clarity of vision, not to serve your ego, and avoid clichés.

2. Be Clear
When drafting expository fiction or nonfiction, record your voice as you spontaneously describe a scene or explain a procedure, transcribe your comments, and base your writing on the transcription, revising only to select more vivid verbs and more precise nouns and to seek moderation in adverbs and adjectives.

3. Be Active
Use the passive voice judiciously.

4. Be Concise
Write tight.

5. Be Thorough
Accept that writing is the easy part; it’s the revision that makes or breaks your project — and requires most of your effort.

———————————————-

Okay then… end credit to daily writing tips.

(On a side note:  If anyone needs clarification on anything in the list above, let me know and I will do my best to translate.)

Let’s talk about #5.

This is near and dear to my heart, as I have just finished a roller-coaster ride self-imposed deadline of 5,000 words a week to finish a novel in 10 weeks.

I finished my first draft four weeks ahead of schedule, and dropped myself into editing.

Is my story great?  Well, of course it is! It’s my idea and I love it.

Is it well written…

Umm well, it will be.

Now is the tough part.  I need to attack all the sneaky “tell” that slipped in when I wasn’t looking.  I need to describe bronzed skin rather than telling “his skin was bronzed.”

Luckily enough, I have many words to spare, as I ended up short on my word-count target.  I have plenty of room to expand.

Right now, it is “search and destroy” on “Felt” “was” “it” and all those other nasty little tell markers.

I was paying attention this time around, and I tried my best not to have blatant run-on tell passages (as I’ve been guilty of in the past)  which is good, but all of my tell is now “subtle”.  It is the kind that will probably slip past most publishers.  But I don’t just want this to be a good novel.  I want it to be a great one.

Yes, it is this revision process that will make or break this novel.

I am approaching it by not reading for flow yet.  I am just looking for all those “little nasties”.  Once I think I am “nasty free” I will read for flow, and then ship off to betas, trusting them to slap me upside the head for everything else I may have missed.

How do you “search and destroy” during the editing phase?

Road to Publication #5: The Marketing Plan

Today I received one of those big-scary presents from my publisher.  The Marketing Plan.

I don’t know if this calls for a squee or and EEEK!

I was a little surprised by the magnitude of it.  Everyone says writing the novel is the easy part.  Now’s the time for the work.  And this isn’t something you can’t put off.  Anything you do wrong (or right) now can affect how your novel sells.

I have a 20 week marketing plan leading right up until the release date of December 3rd.  20 weeks equates to 50 pages of reading.  Did anyone else just cringe?

The good news is a lot of this I have done already, or have already planned to do and it is on my schedule.  The bad news is, there is a lot of stuff that I haven’t done, and some of it is scary.

It’s time to plow ahead.  The good news is that I can draw on experiences of others, and I am not floundering in the dark.

Keep your fingers crossed!