Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Eve Tale

The following is a short, short story or flash fiction. Flash fiction can be fun to write and there is  market for it. For more examples of this writing, go to http://www.flashfictiononline.com/index.html.

In the silence of the dark living room, in the boughs of the Christmas tree, a strange conversation evolves.

"Okay, it's safe to talk."

"Is that you Snowy?"

"You betcha, Olga. Mr. Snowman, himself. How's our pretty little ice skating queen?"

"I'm still here."

Another female speaks, "Me, too."

A new macho voice. "Is that Tina, our tiny ballerina? Still twirling?"

"So far, Brady."

"Okay," Snowy said. "Tina and Mr. Football are still here."

"Yeah, Snowy.," says Brady. "I'm ready for the big game."

"Okay. What about Santa?"

"Ho, Ho, Ho, Snowy."


Snowy keeps up the roll call. "Angel?"

A sweet voice drifts down from the top of the tree. "I'm here Snowy, but I don't hear Chirpy singing."

Snowy calls out, "Chirpy?" Nothing. He tries again. "Chirpy, are you here?"

Chirpy was missing, and he wasn't the first. Last night they'd lost the Snowboarder, and before that, Rudolph and Teddy Bear had disappeared.

A frightened little voice cries, "Where is everyone?"

"Easy, Tina," Snowy says.

"Who's doing this?" Angel asks.

Olga answers. "I heard the mother say there were too many ornaments on the tree."

"I think it's the little boy," says Nutcracker. "Snowboarder said the boy wanted to play with him."

"That's right," Brady says. "And Rudolph said the boy pinched his nose. Now they're both gone. I hope he doesn't hurt them."

"I wish we could see each other,"says the ballerina. "I'm afraid, twirling up here by myself."

"I can see your head, Tina," says Angel.

A squeaky voice pipes up. "I can't see anybody."

"Who's that?" Snowy says.

"Gingerbread Man. What are we going to do?"

"I'm afraid," Tina says. "Who'll be next?"

"Don't worry, Tina. I'll protect you." The deep voice belongs to Mr. Nutcracker.

"Thank you Mr. Nutcracker, but you couldn't protect all the others."

Tina's words resound throughout the tree, and the living room gets very quiet. The ornaments know how easy it is for someone to steal them. 

As each ornament worries about his fate, the branches on the tree begin to move. Tiny voices cry out, "What's that? Who's there? What's going on?"

Then they hear a scream. "Help! Help! He's got me."

"Who is that? I can't see. What's going on?" Snowy yells.

"It's Gingerbread Man. Save me."


"What can we do?" Nutcracker says.

As Ginger's scream fade off into the distance, Angel asks, "Who took him? Did anyone see?"

No one saw anything. Finally, it becomes quiet again. None of the ornaments speak. It's Christmas Eve and they don't know if they'll be here to see Christmas morning.

In another room, a tiny voice calls out, "Mommy? Mommy?"

A sleepy voice answers. "What is it honey?"

"Mittens got ahold of something. I heard it scream."

"I'll take care of it in the morning."

"Mommy, it's in my room. I think it's crying."

"Oh, for heaven's sake. I'm coming."

Mommy comes in, turns on the light, and laughs. 
"Mittens! He's been stealing ornaments off the tree. Naughty kitty. Shoo."


She picks up Ginger, Snowboarder, Rudolph, Teddy Bear, and Chirpy and puts them all back on the tree. Chirpy's feathers are a little chewed, but he can still sing.

The little boy follows Mommy into the living room. "But, Mommy, I heard a scream."

"It was probably Mittens playing. Go to sleep. Santa will be coming soon."

After all the humans go back to sleep and everyone has been welcomed back to the tree, Snowy whispers, "I forgot that humans can hear us on Christmas Eve. If that wicked kitten comes back, we'll all yell and make a great big ruckus.

Just then, they hear sleigh bells outside, and a sigh sweeps the tree.

"We'll be all right now," Angel says.

###
Merry Christmas!
And, keep writing.









Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Find Your Writing Niche

While I was getting a short horror story ready for a contest this week, Black Petals, an online ezine, accepted one of my other horror stories.

I am so excited, it's difficult to conduct my regular life. I found myself giggling at work this morning, all the angst of writing forgotten for a brief celebratory moment. However, sanity is returning. With validation for my work, I'm doubly determined to edit and send out my manuscripts. 2015 will be my year.

One thing I've learned through the process of sending out my babies, is to pay strict attention to the type of writing that agencies accept. In my initial foray into magazines, I thought all horror was the same. Oh, pity this foolish woman. 

The contest I just entered gave the following categories of horror: gothic, dark fantasy, erotic, noir, psychological, quiet/soft, and suspense. Wow! I had no idea in which group my story fell. 
 

The choice of an online magazine that might consider my work was difficult. When I read through representative stories looking at the writing style, obvious sub-genre differences leaped out at me. I crossed those off my list.

Similarly, when choosing a place to submit my books, I've been told to look for books like mine and see who published them. If a publisher is making money from a certain type of book, they'll be looking for more of the same.

I've also gotten good ideas about places to submit my work from my online writing groups, SinC, Guppies, RWA, FF&P. It pays to become part of a writing community whose members have succeeded. Most authors are generous and enjoy helping out the newbies. 

My biggest asset has been my in-person writing group. We meet weekly, discuss our work, pass on writing tips, and cheer each other on. The ezine who accepted my story came from one of their tips. 

It's all about finding your niche, finishing your manuscript, and sending out.

Have a wonderful holiday.


And always -- Keep writing!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Horror Short Story Contest

Just a brief note to tell you what I'm up to.

My friend and writing bud, Lisa, sent me a list of contests from Writers Relief. She is such a sweetheart. Her blog, Enchanted Notebook, is listed on the right under favorite Sites.

I found a contest for Horror short stories, due in ten days. Picture me in determination mode. Two nights ago I began setting up a story. It took me ten tries to find the bones of a plot I liked. Then I played the "what if" game. So, then I needed  a good reason why my protagonist would act the way he does. You know, this isn't easy.

It came to me. What would hurt him the most? I found it. Then I posited that he would be hit with that scenario. Oh no! Poor thing.

Now I could see him acting in a way ordinarily foreign to him. Let the horror begin!

I'm presently in the process of fleshing out my characters, setting a believable scene, and wondering how best to end it, because I know what is going to happen.

This is exciting. I don't usually take the time to have all my information set up before I write. I like to rely on my muse. Unfortunately, my muse isn't a fairy godmother. She needs to know a little bit about the story before she can do her work.

Due Damn Diligence! 

Okay, I'm doing that. I'll get back to you on this after I submit my story.

Remember, keep writing.

  

Friday, December 5, 2014

Short Story Conundrum

I have two manuscripts in the editing mode, one Paranormal and one Urban Fantasy. I've won three Flash Fiction contests. Why, then, do I have so much trouble writing Short Stories?

I have actually written two short stories, both rejected, one of them multiple times. I agonized over both stories. What am I doing wrong?

In my longer work, I'm able to pull together a plot and then fill it in. I'm a pantser, so any kind of an outline is out of the question. When I try to use the same tactic with a short story, it doesn't work.

Right now, I'm in the process of constructing a short story, a paranormal mystery, but it isn't coming together.

One problem I've discovered with my shorts is that I haven't fleshed out my characters very much. So, without knowing who they are, it's difficult to know how they'll act. Why is the villain a villain? What makes the protagonist worth befriending or saving? Does the hero have anything more going for him than his good looks?

I know. I know. Of course I should have all that information in hand before attempting to flesh out the story. How else can I make the reader care? But, if I'm able to get all of that information into a story, how long will it be?

I actually have a good back story and motivation for my protagonist. One of her supporting characters is her aunt. (not fleshed out) I'd like to introduce another supporting character in the form of a peer/friend. Okay, how many words will this use? I still haven't taken into account the hero, villain, or red herring characters. And, then there's the plot. How heavy can I make it and still keep it short? I don't know. That's my problem.

Maxi
Mini
Also, what about length? What is a good length for short stories? I know that they can go from flash to novella, but what do readers prefer? Length matters. 

There are any number of websites where I can find information on short stories. 5 Short Story TipsShort Story - longer explanationSome Rules and Tools to name a few. These websites contain excellent advice. But, I still need more help.

So, I've begun an online Short Story workshop. I'm hoping for some guidance, any guidance at all. Maybe if I'm able to ask the instructor specific questions, I'll understand where I can improve. Or, maybe, I just don't have a good short story in me.

I have lots of ideas. That isn't the problem. Transferring the ideas to viable stories in a few thousand words is the what cause me heartburn. 

Maybe I'll try to write flash fiction and then add depth to that. I actually have one flash fiction story that I'd like to flesh out. I might give that a try. 

Both of my previous stories have been horror. I'd like to write something in a mystery or thriller.  I've wondered if the genre change could be what's tripping me up. I'd like to think, but my horror stories haven't gone anywhere. 

The more I think about it, the more confused I feel. In any case, I intend to keep trying. More research, more practice, and some plain old stick-to-itiveness will bring about success. I hope!

In the meantime, I'll take my own advice. Keep Writing!