Friday, September 27, 2013

Things that Did Not Happen this Summer (and Some Things that Did)

I did not fall off the face of the Earth.  Neither did I get kidnapped, develop amnesia, or have my laptop stolen (knock wood).  However, I did have a summer so filled with change that it resulted in me publishing, The Collector, the first in a short story series.  It also resulted in my family selling our house and moving!  And about a week ago, I was informed that my short story "A Sort of Homecoming" would be included in Spark: A Creative Anthology, Vol. IV (due out in January 2014).  With my list of publications growing, I decided that this would be a good time to get my on-line house in order and make a move.  If you are interested in continuing with me on my journey, you can follow me here. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

How I Learned Humility...the Power of Friends

My forty-first birthday is later this week, and I realized that I had still done nothing courageous.  Sure, I had been writing, and I got a few short stories sold/published, and I had written more articles than I care to recall, but I had not done anything BIG.  I felt like I was running out of time.  So, on a whim (yeah, whims do tend to spur me to action), I went ahead and did something scary; I took one of my short stories, "The Collector," and I put it up on Amazon. 

It takes about twelve hours for a story to show up in the Amazon store, so I couldn't immediately chicken out.  I was in limbo.  So, I waited.  The next morning, after a fitful night's sleep with nightmares involving typos and missing text, I woke up around 4 a.m. and headed to the computer. 

There it was.

The Collector

I resisted the urge to take it down before anyone saw it.  (Um...yeah.  That would kinda defeat the purpose!)

I went to work as usual, but I didn't mention this act of insanity right away.  By lunch time, however, I started to let people in on what I had done.  The reaction was immediate...fierce...and humbling. 

Within a few hours, the Facebook share-fest had begun.  Friends, and friends of friends, and then people I didn't even know where sharing links to my story.  Soon, a review had been posted on Amazon.  Some friends pinned my book cover on their Pinterest page.  Others tweeted about the story.  Every repost, retweet, and email was appreciated.  All the messages and calls meant so much!

More than once I thought about Amanda Palmer.  I thought about how vulnerable it makes you feel to put a piece of yourself out into the world, about how hard it is to ask for help, but how vital it is that we DO share, and we DO ask. 

So, I am asking.  If you have not read "The Collector," please take a minute to download it.  It is a short read (less than 6,000 words) that combines Southern Gothic and Horror.  It is part Firestarter and part Fried Green Tomatoes, or at least that is what it feels like to me.  Read it for yourself, and let me know what you think.  Leave a comment, send me an email, write a review on Amazon, or on your blog.  Share the story with others. 

"The Collector" is the first in a collection of stories.  When ten year old Junie Rae Campbell wakes up in the parking lot of a seedy motel, and her mother is found dead inside, she has no choice but to go with the social worker who comes to collect her and take her to the tiny, sun-baked Oklahoma town of Crankston’s Landing to live with Granny Enid. But when lies and lechery threaten Junie and the people she has latched onto, secrets are exposed, untapped abilities reemerge…and a weapon for vengeance is born.

If you want to find out more about Junie Rae, you can buy the story here.  If you don't have a Kindle, you can still download the story to your computer, or read it on your phone with the free Kindle Reader App for phones and tablets.  If your budget is strained but you have Amazon Prime, feel free to borrow the story from the Amazon's Kindle Owner's Lending Library. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Well, (gulp!) I did it...

I uploaded my short story "The Collector" to Amazon.  It should be available in about 12 hours.  Until then, I plan on alternating between feelings of exhilaration and nausea.  I will let you know which one finally wins...

Thursday, May 30, 2013

A Storm, Reading Aloud, and the Inevitable Oopsies.

When you grow up in a part of the country known as "Tornado Alley," you kind of get numb to nature's danger.  Every now and then, though, it seems nature seems to sense this, and she rages and storms just to remind you that you aren't in charge, and you aren't indestructible, and that your plans mean nothing in the Grand Scheme of Things.

I had planned to edit tonight, but instead I rushed home from work to make sure the kids were safe (they were).  After a quick dinner provided by my mom and dad--for which I am thankful (especially since the storm meant no quick trip to the store to restock my bare cupboards), I sat down to read my latest short story aloud in search of The Inevitable Oopsies. 

No matter how hard I try to edit, it seems that something manages slip through.  However, reading aloud makes me slow down (I am a crazy quick reader), listen for changes in tone or voice, makes me pay attention to inconsistencies and plot holes.  It also results in me taking on the voice--the tone, inflection, and vocal mannerisms--of my characters.  This can be a bit tough to shake and creates the illusion of delusion.

I had just nestled down to immerse myself in my delusions when: BOOM, zzaaaaaaapppp, silence; the electricity went out.

After much cussing, I gathered enough candles and flashlights to illuminate the room well enough to read.  I was shocked at how much more I noticed when I read aloud.  It forced me to focus on the work.  Distractions fell away, and the story consumed me.

I made notes, and once the lights came back on I made the changes on the computer, as well.  Now I will set it aside a while longer.  A story needs time to steep--like tea.

Also, my hand needs a break.  All this typing is taking its toll...Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and tendonitis. 

So for the next few days, I will write and edit and read aloud.  I will wait to see if the ginger agent ever responds, and I will send off finished stories and start new ones.

More storms are predicted for tomorrow, so there may be more candles in my future--but even if the storms hold off I might just light a candle anyway--for being safe, and feeling happy about a story, and prayin' that the story might be the one that tips the scales in my favor. 

For those that have read the short story, and offered comments and suggestions, who have kept reading and following me in this journey, who have bolstered my spirits and made me feel like I can do anything...I thank you. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Good Lord, What Have I Done?

Let me begin by saying that it seemed like a perfectly good idea at the time.  For some reason, I happened to clink on an email that I had absolutely no time to read.  But I did read it.  It was from Writers' Digest, and it mentioned new agents who were accepting submissions.  I scanned the various agents.  One stood out.  Perhaps it was the red hair...I do have an affinity for other gingers.  Perhaps it was because he was from the South.  Maybe it was because he mentioned story collections.  No idea, but I decided to send off some stories.  Just to know?  Sometimes you feel so...compelled to follow a notion through to the end. 

Which would be all well and good, except I can be a bit...impetuous.  I have a tendency to run and jump, simply believing that the world will reach out and catch me.  (This is not to say that I haven't fallen on my face a time to two.)

So...I did it.  I wrote some blathering thing and included two partials, and I hit "send."  Then...I panicked.  Oh no!  But it had seemed like such a good idea.  Suddenly, I feel like I am back in elementary school--with home-cut bangs and braces and glasses.  What I pride as being "fun" and "quirky" just feels...silly.   

The doubt sets in.

That thing I wrote...the one that I was so proud of...what if it is total crap?  What if the beta readers lied?  What if no one had the heart to tell me?  And why the hell didn't I think any of this until I hit the "send" button?

It doesn't matter that I have sold some stories...the doubt doesn't go away.  I don't know if it ever does.  I wonder if other writers, writers whom I admire, feel the same nagging sense of inadequacy?  I think about the thing Amanda Palmer said about the fraud police.  I try to catch my breath, which seems to have seeped out of my lungs and shows no sign of returning.  I lean over and put my head between my legs to quell the spinning room and overwhelming desire to puke. 

I try to remember everything I have ever heard or read by anyone whom I have ever admired about self-doubt and the creative process.  Then I remember...

Make Good Art...   

...and the air returned to my lungs.

Maybe I did act impetuously.  Perhaps I will never be as proper or professional as some writers.  I will always retain a bit of the girl with the home-cut bangs and the glasses.  Perhaps I will always doubt myself...but I don't doubt my stories, or the people who inhabit them.  I don't doubt the voice inside me that wants to be heard.

Ask me again, though, next time I hit that "send" button.  I might not sound so brave then.

What about you?  Do you feel like the Fraud Police are waiting to expose you?  How do you cope with the doubt after you hit the "send" button?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Life...and Other Creepy Things

Life has been busy and scramble-y lately.  The kiddos have been having lots of “end of school year” stuff going on, and I have been writing…a LOT.  In fact, I sold another short story!  The story is called “Call for Courage” and will be appearing late this summer/early autumn in Page & Spine.    I will shout about it more when it comes out, in case you want to head over and check it out. 

I finished the story I was working on for the “Katherine Anne Porter Prize for Fiction.”  I read, reread it, revised it and tampered with it so much that I’m pretty sure the image of the words are burned on my retinas. 

I just finished a draft of the story I plan to submit to the NPR Three Minute Fiction Contest later this week.  (Incidentally, the story I just sold was originally written as an entry into a previous Three Minute Fiction Contest!) 
I have also just realized that a lot of my stories creep me out.  I am not sure what this says about me, but it is true.  I don't actually read a lot of horror--unless you count the news headlines.   

So, tell me…what kinds of stories do you like to read?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

It's the Little Things

Admittedly, there are times when you have to take a leap of faith.  Sometimes, you just have to jump.  But other times...well, other times you don’t necessarily jump—more like you get pushed.  Life can be a bit of a bully that way.  Everything comes at you at once, and you find yourself in a free fall.  These are the times when you realize who really cares.  Sometimes they catch sight of you in the moments before your fall, and they rush to prepare a soft place for you to land.  They do this without speaking a word.  They do it without expectation. 

This week, my youngest has been having severe asthma problems.  Every day this week he has had to be picked up early from school because, despite his medications, he simply can’t get enough air.  He went to the doctor yesterday.  We are heading there again today.  Even as I type this, I know that prayers, good thoughts and intentions, and blessings are being said for him.  The people in my life, and on my blog, are just amazing like that.   

This morning, I had to get gasoline before I began the 1.5 hour trek to get all the kids to school and/or bus stops.  I was in a hurry, and I ran out without breakfast, and without preparing a drink to take to work.  (I refuse to spend $1.65 for a soda in the machine!  Besides, I didn’t have any cash on me.)  When I got to work, I found a stray packet of water flavoring in my desk drawer.  SCORE!  That got me through the morning.

When I rounded the corner at work, a friend asked, “You can eat bagels, right?  Someone brought bagels.  They are in the kitchen.”  BREAKFAST!  I couldn’t believe my luck. 

A bit later, when the school called, I hurried to call his doctor.  The nurse told me they had JUST had a cancellation and could get us in.  WIN!

With all the doctor’s appointments and emergency school runs this week, I had not found time to get groceries.  As a result, things are pretty “Old Mother Hubbard” at my house.  I wasn’t quite sure what to do about dinner.  In fact, it has been weighing on me all morning.  Takeout is rarely an option—besides being stupid expensive, it is also problematic due to all the food allergies in our house.  As I pondered this, the phone rang.  My mom had just been to a big Grand Opening Sale at a local store and got some good deals.  “I picked you up some—“ she began, then rattled off enough food to feed the family until the weekend.  YES!

And, just now, as I heated up some leftovers that I had stashed in the office ‘fridge, my dear friend popped her head in, “I am running out, do  you want anything?”  I thought of my now-empty glass at my desk, and nearly cried.  “Caffeine?” I whispered, almost afraid to hope.  She would laugh if she read this, because I am sure she didn't give her act of kindness a second thought, but for me it meant a lot.  The little things always mean so much more than you realize.    

In a bit I will leave to meet my son at the doctor.  I am worried.  So, here is hoping for a bit more good news, just one more blessing. 

Have you ever had a day when it felt like something was watching out for you--whether God, the Universe, or friends, or family?