New Things for a New Year

You may have noticed two tabs missing from the Home page of the blog, replaced by two new ones.

My beloved Flash! Friday micro fiction weekly contest is no more. The moderator decided it was time to focus on her own writing. I’ll miss my weekly dragon queen’s offerings, but at least she stopped for a reason I can understand.

I hadn’t participated in Friday Fictioneers in quite some time. It’s still a lively and vibrant site and definitely a place to go if you want to practice writing short, short, short fiction, as in, 100-word fiction. I feel that between Flash! Friday and Friday Fictioneers, I learned a great deal about flash fiction, and I want to move onto something new.

To show I haven’t given up flash fiction, take a look at the new tab “RSC Mini Stories.” Journalist and author Jennie Coughlin has started posting a daily photo prompt using Rory’s Story Cubes on her Instagram account. She posts her own mini-story there, but I’m using the photo prompt to write some flash fiction on my blog. There have been seven prompts so far, so seven mini-stories for you to read.

The other new tab on my blog is “Haiku.” I’ve loved the Haiku form since I learned it in high school and college. I’ve recently learned, however, that the five-seven-five syllable set-up is bogus because of the differences between written English and Japanese. A modern, American haiku is still three lines (maybe) but is generally between ten and seventeen syllables. So, I’m going to give a haiku a day a try. Because 2016 is a leap year, that’ll be 366 haiku–if I’m up to it.

I’m going to use Rory’s Story Cubes for this as well. Each day, I’ll post a picture of three cubes, and I’ll write a haiku based on my interpretation of them. And that the fun thing about Rory’s Story Cubes: They can mean whatever you want them to mean, and your imagination can run away with itself.

I encourage you to join me in both endeavors and post your mini-stories and/or haiku in the comments on each of my posts. And let’s have fun.

More Good (and Bad) Writerly News!

Two, count ’em, two stories of mine will be published soon: one in a fiction chapbook, the other in an anthology.

“Reset” is a completely made-up story (as in not based on something which happened to me even though one character bears a strong resemblance to my father) about a father and daughter who attempt to prove the validity of the one-shooter conclusion of the Warren Commission Report. It will appear in the inaugural edition of The Ink Ribbon Reader later this year. For more information on Ink Ribbon Press, the publisher, click here.

The other story is “Dreamtime,” winner of the Flash!Friday second annual flash fiction contest. It will be published in the anthology Skyline 2016, which will come out next spring, likely at a Virginia Festival of the Book event. My story, “Meeting the Enemy,” appeared in Skyline 2014. The Skyline anthologies are edited by author Olivia Stowe and published by Cyberworld Publishing.

So, that’s the good news.

The bad news–and that’s the writing life–my story, “The Lost Diaries of Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany,” did not advance me to the third round of NYC Midnight’s 2015 Short Story Challenge. The judges liked the story, but one didn’t buy the voice in the story was a seven-year-old’s. I respectfully disagree, especially since I explained the child’s advanced vocabulary in the story itself, but, hey, can’t please ’em all. “Prince Leopold” will find a home, somewhere.

And more good news: A Spy Flash novella, “My Noble Enemy,” will be available soon for pre-order. Here’s a cover preview:

BookCoverPreview.do

 

“My Noble Enemy” goes against how most spy deaths are portrayed in movies and novels, and here’s the tagline:

“There are old spies and bold spies, but no old, bold spies because, if you believe all those blockbuster movies and bad novels, they go out in a blaze of gunfire. Or do they?”

“My Noble Enemy” will be available for your Kindle and as a slim paperback (117 pages), and I’m pretty excited about its upcoming release.

And the final good news–then, no more bragging, I promise–late summer will see the release of my novel in stories, The Better Spy. Here’s its cover preview:

TBS Cover

Pre-ordering for this should be turned on some time in July, and it will also be available for Kindle or as a paperback.

The Better Spy is in an experimental format, and not just as a novel in stories. It proceeds from “present day” (2013) to a seminal event in a character’s life in the mid-1980s. That puts a bit of a burden on the reader, but I’ve also put a date tag on every story to help with that.

Oh, and if the cover of The Better Spy seems a little familiar, it’s a companion cover to 2012’s Spy Flash:

Spy Flash Cover 2.do

 

Lots of things to look forward to for the summer. Oh, and either or both of these new works would make great beach reads!

 

 

Rainy Days and Fridays–Fictioneers, That Is

Friday Fictioneers LogoA gloomy, rainy day in the valley means spending most of the day nursing a sinus headache–for me, at least. For a while it looked as if there’d be no Friday Fictioneers for me today, but somehow the story, “BFFs–Not!” managed to claw its way through my congested head and out into the muted light of day. Well, at least onto the page. Maybe not my best effort, but considering my sinuses have made every single tooth in my head hurt, it’s pretty remarkable. As usual, if you don’t see the link on the title a few lines above, scroll to the top of the page, select the Friday Fictioneers tab, then click on the story from the drop-down list.

And if you have time, consider reading my enter for the Flash! Friday Flashversary contest, “The Dragon Who Breathed No Fire.” It’s a story I’m very proud of, so cross your fingers the contest judges agree.

The Company of Writers

You love your family and enjoy your time with them, especially grown children and, if you’re lucky, grandchildren. You look forward to time with friends, old and new; after all, who knows you better than a life-long friend? You approach each of these reunions with anticipation, and the time spent together is some of the best. With grandchildren you get the added joy of giving them back, but I digress.

When you’re a writer, there’s nothing quite like spending time in the company of fellow writers. They talk your language; they understand your ups and downs; they have quirky senses of humor. Socializing with other writers makes you a better writer because you’re part of a community stretching back to the first Cro Magnons who drew the story of a hunt on a cave wall.

Yesterday, several of us from an online writing group planned to get together to celebrate our NaNoWriMo success. The group is the Shenandoah Valley Writers, and it’s a great, supportive, eccentric, and talented collection of writers of many genres. The only issue is, because the Valley is such a big place and we come from the head and tail and all throughout it, we rarely get together face-to-face. For the post-NaNoWriMo celebration, we selected a spot close to the mid-point, the long-lived Johnny Appleseed Restaurant in New Market, VA. Trust me, this restaurant, which I’ve been going to for more than forty years, is a legend in the Valley and beyond. It’s worth a drive-by to see the Johnny Appleseed statue.

For me, it’s around forty-five miles away. Not a big trip, except when you’re traveling on I-81 on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. But I’d looked forward to this for more than the month of NaNoWriMo–I’d looked forward to it since our similar get-together from last year! Nothing was going to keep me away, so I navigated the kind of traffic which had compelled me to leave Northern Virginia just so I could spend time with writer friends.

Writers are always going to talk about craft, but when the dinner conversation turns to how to kill someone, or someone missing a family event because they’re in jail, or dragons, you get some interesting looks from the other patrons–to the point where we had to announce, loudly, we were writers. Of course, that’s the fun part about it, and, hey, I’m sure at least one of us will write about that occurrence.

The point, however, is, when you have a great writers community, you’ll do anything, including braving holiday traffic, to have face time with the members. So, when a round-trip drive which normally takes about eighty minutes takes nearly two hours, you know you’ve done it for something important to you. I’m lucky to have two great writing groups–a virtual one and one where we meet face-to-face once a month. The wonderful aspect of a virtual writers group is you can meet and interact with writers from around the world or from right up the road. Consider finding and joining one, virtual or real.

An off-shoot of Shenandoah Valley Writers for the past year is a weekly flash fiction contest called Flash! Friday. This week is the one-year anniversary, or, since we’re writers who make up words sometimes, the Flashversary. To celebrate our community of writers, there is a special contest, with real prizes, including the possibility of being published in an online magazine. I’ve judged this contest several times over the past year, and there are some wicked excellent writers who participate. I even gave up judging so I could submit a story for the Flashversary Contest. For submission guidelines and other information click here, and consider giving us a try.