A Doorway to Friday Fictioneers

I normally post my Friday Fictioneers story on, well, Friday, because it ain’t Thursday Fictioneers. However, bright and early tomorrow I head to the airport for a weekend trip to New England to visit some old friends. I probably won’t get much writing done, but it’ll be fun.

After this weekend, the countdown to this year’s National Novel Writing Month begins, but in October I need to lock down that manuscript I had out to beta readers and get it ready to send off to my workshop instructor. Lots of nerves going on there. And I have two more Spy Flash stories to finish so I can get that next volume in a state to be edited and hopefully ready for publishing at the first of the year. In between all that will be Thanksgiving and Christmas. Oh, and a writing conference.

Yeah, retirements means sitting on your ass and doing nothing. Sure it does. Wouldn’t trade it for the world, or a job.

Friday Fictioneers LogoSo, for a long-time Whovian (Google it), today’s Friday Fictioneers photo prompt was just too tempting. Think of it not as fan faction but, rather, an homage with a twist. What else would you come up with after seeing the photo but a story about a door to nowhere, or maybe somewhere?

My story is “Time and Relative Dimension.” As usual, if you don’t see the link on the title, scroll to the top of the page, click on the tab for Friday Fictioneers, and select it from the drop-down list.

Defying a Ban

Today’s writing blog post crosses ever so slightly over into political commentary, so if you have qualms about my protesting the fact people want to ban books, you might want to skip this post.

Satanic Verses

Written work has probably been banned since the beginning of written communication. I’m sure some Cro-Magnon shaman who disagreed with the way a hunt was depicted on a cave wall forbad his or her tribe to view it. And, as it’s always been, forbidding someone from seeing something usually results in an overwhelming desire to see the forbidden thing.

Religion and political power always seem to raise their heads in these disputes. You can’t read this book because it goes against the Bible. Only if you’ve read the Old Testament do you appreciate that irony. People who look to the Bible as their moral guide in deciding which books you should and shouldn’t read conveniently overlook the fact that particular book is rife with rape, murder, infanticide, lust, political corruption, and incest among other distasteful things, which go largely unpunished. Governments have banned works–Stalin’s successors didn’t like the way Boris Pasternak portrayed the Soviet system and banned Doctor Zhivago; the Nazis held massive book-burnings designed to expunge the Reich of anything with a Jewish or Communist taint; Salman Rushdie had a fatwa issued against him by Islamic fundamentalists for The Satanic Verses.

Of course, Pasternak received a Nobel (for his poetry) two months after Doctor Zhivago was published outside the Soviet Union. The Nazis met their inevitable end in the spring of 1945. Rushdie, after being guarded in undisclosed locations for years, has a long (a very long) list of awards, including the Booker. All, as well as countless other examples, are testaments to the power of the written word and the fact people don’t like being told what they can and can’t read.

And lest you think this is a thing of the past or only occurs in regressive dictatorships, think again. A county in North Carolina recently banned 1952’s The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. Considered one of the best books about racial identity and prejudice, The Invisible Man won the National Book Award in 1953 and has been a mainstay on high school reading lists since. Just not in a particular county in North Carolina, where a school board member said, “I didn’t find any literary value.” (Translation: Our precious white boys and girls do not need to read about the problems with racial identity; it might make them tolerant.) After that county’s decision, sales of The Invisible Man shot up, for which, I’m sure, the Ellison estate is truly grateful.

When we write–at least when I do–we don’t think about whether or not our work will be banned by some religious prig or overbearing politician. Self-censoring is just as bad as government or church censorship. It inhibits our craft. Do my fingers hesitate over the f-word when I’m writing? No, because if I drop the f-bomb, it’s because it’s central to the character using it. We have to write the story that’s in us. Anything we do to alter that means it’s not the right story and that we’re not truly writers.

This last week of September is the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week. Libraries around the country highlight books, which have been banned for various reasons, putting them on display and encouraging people to check them out. Librarians are quite often at the forefront of complaints about books, and it’s the courageous ones who stand up to the book-burners, whether literal or figurative. (Click here for a list of ALA’s most challenged books from 2000 – 2009. Some won’t surprise you; others will shock you.)

If you don’t want your child to read the Harry Potter series or R. L. Stine or Toni Morrison or Ralph Ellison, then don’t buy those books. Tell your child they’re not to be read. (Understand, though, that forbidding something makes it ever so much more desirable.) You’ll end up with an intellectually stunted child who won’t be able to handle the real world, but that’s your choice.

However, don’t tell me I can’t read them or that my child can’t read them. Is that limiting your First Amendment rights? No, because you’re free to opine all you want about what you find objectionable about a particular book, but you can’t force your narrow-minded opinion on others whose minds are open to knowledge.

There is no irony in the fact that the books people seek to ban are the ones which expand our knowledge, which challenge facts we shouldn’t accept on face value. Trust me, I never would have learned about the real facts of life (and not the confused mess my mother told me because she found sex disgusting) had one classmate not circulated a much-thumbed copy of Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex but Were Afraid to Ask. I never would have learned to question authority without Animal Farm or 1984. I never would have understood the horrors of war if not for The Red Badge of Courage or All’s Quiet on the Western Front. I never would have learned about the negative aspects of letting money rule your life if not for The Great Gatsby or Bonfire of the Vanities. I would have followed my family into intolerance had I not read To Kill a Mockingbird or, yes, The Invisible Man. And, I never would have learned about the dangers of banning books if I hadn’t read Fahrenheit 451. Somewhere in America, at some point, all those books I mentioned have been banned, and, thank goodness, those bans didn’t work.

Even now, when I hear some puritanical school board has banned a book, I want to read it. I want to know what they’re afraid of so I can emulate the author. Yes, that’s how I’ll know I’ve “made it” as a writer–when some troglodyte bans a book I’ve written.

Celebrate Banned Books Week–read a banned book in public and piss off a book-burner. You’ll feel better for it.

Friday Fictioneers First Day of Summer!

Now the hard work begins. Now, I’m coming down off the high of the positive remarks about my novel excerpt and beginning the revision of the first draft. I have the workshop instructor’s marked-up copy, plus my notes from our one-on-one conference, plus the comments from my fellow workshoppers, and those will be a big help, but revising is the hardest work of all.

Since the key to any good work of fiction is to get the reader to turn the page, the extraneous dreck has to go. I think Fred Leebron’s words will have to become a mantra for revising: “The first draft is for the characters; the final is for the reader.”

So, here’s my process. The first revision is a re-type of the MS, editing as I go. Then, I’ll put it aside for a couple of weeks to get it out of my head. Next, I’ll print out a double-spaced copy and do a physical line-edit. (I’m old school; I still need to have a hard-copy version and a red pen.) While doing the line-edit is when I’ll read the MS aloud, and it’s amazing what you find when you hear your words spoken. Once I incorporate the changes from the line-edit, I’ll either pass the MS through my critique group or have a couple of folks from the workshop review it. Finally, it’ll be off to the workshop instructor for review, and then the process will probably start all over again; but that’s the writing life.

Another hard part of the hard part is that for the next several months I’ll be focused on this MS alone, and I know I’ll miss working on the Mai/Alexei novels. I’ll still be doing Spy Flash stories, but delving into my world of spies and intrigue will have to take a back seat for a while.

Friday Fictioneers LogoAnd I’ll always have Friday Fictioneers! I know I’ve praised this exercise before, but it has allowed me to delve into genres I thought were beyond me–sci-fi, fantasy, horror. Today is one of those times, even though it’s a fairly straight-forward photo prompt: a soldier standing guard. What you don’t see is what the soldier guards, and that’s what got my imagination going–and you get, “The Unknown Soldier.”

As usual, if you don’t see the link on the story title above, scroll to the top of this page, click on the Friday Fictioneers tab, then select the story from the drop-down list.

Tinker Mountain Day Three

Wait. Day three? Hello, didn’t we just arrive? How can it be Day Three? Rather proves the cliche about time aviating when you’re entertained.

The craft lecture today by Jim McKean was about including suspense in your fiction, creative non-fiction, and poetry. Perfect for me since 1) I write suspense, and 2) I’m giving a one-evening workshop next week on incorporating suspense into your work. So the “Nine Tricks for Incorporating Suspense” and the “41 Ways to Create and Heighten Suspense” were perfect for me–and not just for the workshop. I’m certain I’ll keep both at hand when I’m writing/revising stories about Mai and Alexei.

Before the critiques started today, Fred Leebron talked about the relationship of the title to the remainder of the work then about Risk = Ambition in novel writing. They are essentially equal, he said, but one also leads to the other in a loop.

Some of the ways you take risks in novel writing are altering the form or structure, using an unusual voice, the content itself, how you use time, and how you treat what’s absent from the novel.

For using an unusual voice, for example, he cited Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney. It’s written entirely in second person. Then he had us do an exercise where we took something from our novel excerpt and put it in a voice opposite to what we’d already written. Amazing how that changes perspective and meaning.

When taking a risk, you need to ask yourself if that risk is necessary or gratuitous; a reader rebels against gratuitous risk. In other words, like the inclusion of sex and/or violence, it has to work within the story. Then, our exercise was to identify what risks we had and hadn’t taken with our novels.

Finally, we discussed how to keep our novels from becoming obsolete. For example, how do novels like Moby Dick, The Great Gatsby, or Heart of Darkness still resonate today, decades, even a century or more after publication? The writer “got the details right”–in other words, verisimilitude.

Tomorrow’s craft seminar is by my instructor, Fred Leebron, and his subject is “Achieving Complexity in Narrative.” He indicated his students didn’t have to attend, since it will be a summary of what he’s told us the whole week, but I have a feeling we’ll all be there. After workshop, we have our class photo out by the famous campus rock, then open mic night for those who didn’t read on Tuesday night.

And then, it will be almost over.

Tinker Mountain Day Two

Thorpe Moeckel makes me wish I were a poet. His craft lecture, “Food and Drink in Poetry: The Techniques, Trappings, and Themes,” was, pun intended, a feast of delicious poems he used to illustrate his point; namely, that the necessity of food and drink to life makes them elementals. The act of eating and drinking is sensory, a particularly good ingredient for writing of any kind.

Moeckel imagines the first poets were proto-humans who sat around a campfire chanting about their basic needs–sustenance, warmth, and mates. When we see our work on a page, he says, think of it as food on a plate. That distances you from the work and lets you  begin to revise.

Many of my fellow prose writers skipped this craft lecture, and I say, “Shame on you!” It well worth the time and the reading of the poems he used as examples. My favorite was this one, by Charles Simic:


Green Buddhas
on the fruit stand.
We eat the smile
and spit out the teeth.

The afternoon, of course, was day two of the Advanced Novel workshop, and my novel excerpt was up for critique at the end of the day. Fred Leebron started it off with a brief overview of finding an agent and preparing the right sort of query letter. Then, he went over some hints about how to submit a successful manuscript–formatting, for example–then things to do to make an editor “love your book for two years,” the approximate length of the publishing cycle. Keep at it, he advised. “If you give up, nothing will happen, so you can’t give up.”

Then came the critiques. Again, this was a civilized process, which provided positive feedback. I’m still at the level of confidence where someone who likes or praises my writing leaves me in a state of wonder. When a well-known teacher of writing compares your excerpt to Sinclair Lewis’ Main Street or Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy, holy crap, you must be doing something right.

The one-on-one conference afterwards gave me good direction and a plan to pursue, and it wasn’t exactly what I had already planned; but it’s where I need to go.

Tonight was student open-mic night, and I read “Marakata,” my short story which won third place in WriterHouse’s contest back in May. It was very well-received, and I got some suggestions on where to submit it for possible publication.

Jim McKean will give tomorrow’s craft lecture, entitled, “Suspense?”–a timely topic since I’m teaching a one-night, online workshop next week about including suspense in your fiction. Then, two more critiques of other classmates’ excerpts. It’s hard to believe as of tomorrow we’ll be on the downward slide.

Second Thoughts on Entering a Contest

You think I wouldn’t be contest adverse after a successful contest experience this past weekend, but I am wondering if there’s a particular one I’d identified I should just skip. It’s the New Letters Literary Award, with entries due by May 17. Yep, Friday. The kicker is the short story to be entered should not exceed 8,000 words.

New Letters is the literary journal for the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and you get an actual monetary prize for a winning entry, and all entries will be considered for publication in the journal.

I don’t have any 8,000-word stories in the works right now. Everything I have is around 2,000 – 3,000. Yes, it says “not to exceed” 8,000, but I’m wondering if anything at the lower end of that number would even be considered. I did pull a chapter from a work in progress, which would make a decent stand-alone story, and it comes in at right around 3,000 words.

And, yes, I know I could write something original, and that’s usually not a problem for me to sit down and thrown out 5,000 or 6,000 words in a couple days’ time. But with five days left to refine and edit it until it’s presentable? I don’t know.

Over-analyzing much? Probably so, and mostly my fault for not paying attention to the deadline until May actually rolled around. However, you don’t win or get your entry read unless you roll the dice and enter. I’ve given myself until Thursday to decide if the entry I had in mind is in good enough shape to submit.

The next time someone says to me, “Oh, writing. What an easy job,” I’ll restrain myself from exploding. Still, if the process weren’t challenging, if it didn’t make you question yourself and your writing daily, hourly even, it really wouldn’t be worth it.

National Short Story Month

May is the traditional month for college graduations, high school proms, renewing your garden or flower beds, but it’s also the “national” month for several issues:  Speech and Hearing, Lupus, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), Skin Cancer, Asian Pacific Heritage, and many, many more. People involved with or affected by these issues use the month of May to increase awareness of the topic and raise money.

May is also National Short Story Month. Now, I’m not trying to equate short story awareness with, say ALS awareness, but a literate society is one that strives to conquer disease and acknowledge diversity. An appreciation of the short story, whether as a reader or writer of them, is an essential part of being literate, of having an education.

Many writers–especially those of us who count short stories among our skills–look upon short stories as rather the red-headed step-child of literature. That isn’t altogether inaccurate. The big-name, traditional publishers won’t touch a collection of short stories unless you’re an equally big-name writer. In the past decade or so, some writers have come up with unique ways of “disguising” short story collections–linked stories (Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From the Goon Squad, Jennie Coughlin’s Thrown Out, and my own Blood Vengeanceor a novel in stories (Molly Ringwald’s When It Happens to You, Clifford Garstang’s What the Zhang Boys Know, and, to a certain extent, my book, Spy Flash.)

Those alternative approaches have had some success in getting the short story before the reading public. Small presses, like Press 53 in North Carolina, are more amenable to the publication of short stories, as are university presses, but short stories are almost a niche market.

In the past, short stories (which some believe have their origins in The Canterbury Tales, perhaps the first collection of linked short stories) were the venerated form of fiction, and in the short story’s glory days, hundred of literary and mainstream magazines featured short works. The novel was considered crass pulp fiction, and the short story was considered an art. Such noted writers as Kurt Vonnegut struggled to get his short stories published and often considered himself a failure for it, even as his novels assured his success and literary acceptance. As the novel reached its ascendence in the twentieth century, short stories survived in but a few literary magazines and the venerated New Yorker. Genre short stories–horror, science fiction, thrillers, crime–continued to flourish in limited markets. There are some, usually genre fans, of which I’m one, who believe it was genre short stories that saved the short story as a literary niche.

Interestingly enough, short stories have enjoyed a revival of sorts with the advent of the ebook reader. When you’re looking for something to read on your work commute, a short story is ideal. A short story is something you can begin and finish easily in a single sitting. When I used to commute to work, I’d often be frustrated that I’d reach just the most critical point in a novel when my stop came up. And, yes, there were occasions where I missed my stop because of that. Short stories are ideal for the eReader, either as collections or as singles.

What is the attraction of short stories? Why do those of us who call ourselves novelists indulge in the production of shorter work? Well, sometimes you don’t need 50,000-plus words to tell a story. Sometimes you can do it in 5,000, 3,000, or, with the advent of flash fiction, in less than 1,000 words. Some of us can manage a story in 100 words, and Hemingway once told a rich, poignant story in six words: “For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.”

Though I consider myself a novelist, my only published work has been short stories, either in literary magazines or in my own collections. I write two to three short stories a week, usually flash fiction mainly as an exercise for my longer fiction. Face it, when you have to hone and cut words to meet an arbitrary word limit and still tell a complete story, that’s absolutely translatable to a novel-length work. In my year-long edit of a series of four books I’ve been working on, I managed to trim well over 100 pages, which didn’t need to be there in the first place. Had I not been practicing my short story skills under those word limits, I’m convinced that wouldn’t have happened, to the detriment of the work.

So, help out a short story writer in May. Buy a single, or, better yet, buy a collection of short stories and savor them. I happen to have three such collections available. Just scroll down the righthand column. A click on the book’s cover will take you to where you can purchase them. Don’t think of it as enriching me (because, really, it doesn’t pay me that much). Think of it as assuring the continuation of an essential form of fiction–the short story.

For an interesting article on the history of the short story, click here.

Life Gets in the Way

Last week was a slow writing week. I didn’t even get a chance to sit down and compose until Friday morning. Some spring clean-up, some things I’d been putting off around the house, babysitting, and other obligations intervened. That’s life, but by the time Friday rolled around I not only missed writing, I kicked myself for not making the time to write.

And the weekend of April 5-6 was certainly inspiring. I attended the Tom Wolfe Seminar at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, VA. Wolfe, a 1951 W&L graduate, is so admired by his classmates that they endowed an annual seminar in his name, which pairs Wolfe and another author for a weekend of panel discussions of the author’s work. W&L faculty also present a scholarly address on a particular work of the featured author.

This year the featured author was Jennifer Egan, a Pulitzer winner for A Visit from the Goon Squad. I’d read “Goon Squad” right before the Pulitzer announcement because I’d heard it was a novel in stories, something I was interested in exploring. Some of the stories intrigued me, though the PowerPoint story gave me a flashback to working days and countless, bad PowerPoint presentations. I wasn’t entirely sure what I thought of the book as a whole, though the writing was excellent.

Turns out Egan never intended that book to be a novel, in stories or otherwise. She knew she had this cast of interrelated characters, and she had decided to write a story for each character; but she wasn’t calling it a “novel” in her own head. Nor did she call it a collection of short stories, though that’s what she intended it to be. It wasn’t until the paperback edition came out that the words “A Novel” appeared on the cover, but that, Egan stated, was likely at the publisher’s instigation–as if “Pulitzer Prize Winner” wouldn’t boost sales.

In truth, I read the book over a period of several weeks, and I think it’s a work you need to finish in a single sitting or not over a protracted amount of time. Otherwise, you tend to forget the connections and the fact that a minor or barely mentioned character in one story is featured in another. So, this seminar, then, along with the two scholarly explorations by W&L professors Christopher Gavaler (“Goon Squad as Pulp Fiction”) and Jasmin Darznik (“The Art of Discontinuity: Time and Memory in Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad“), brought the characters back to mind. And the connections clicked. “Goon Squad” is a book I recommend.

Egan’s speech–“Journalist as Novelist; Novelist as Journalist”–was thought-provoking as well. She admits she’s an “accidental journalist” and took advantage of a job offer from The New York Times Magazine to conduct research for her novel Look at Me. The emphasis on research as a journalist improved her lot as a novelist, Egan stated, and she lauded the recent trend in writing non-fiction along the lines of fiction and vice-versa. In all, a very inspiring talk, and Egan was self-deprecating; no swelled-head Pulitzer diva in the house.

This past weekend I attended a two-day workshop on Speculative Fiction by Edward M. Lerner and hosted by WriterHouse in Charlottesville, VA. It wasn’t so much a craft workshop as an in-depth explanation of what speculative fiction is, the elements of speculative fiction, its place in the current publishing market, and its related fandom. Lerner, who has co-authored with Larry Niven in addition to publishing several “hard” sci-fi novels on his own, is very knowledgeable of the topic and gave an excellent presentation with plenty of opportunity to ask questions. In truth, it was more of a refresher for me because I’ve read spec fic since I was a teen, but it did inspire me to give writing sci-fi a second (or third or twentieth) chance.

Why? Well, Lerner himself is a physicist, but he has written sci-fi books on nanotechnology, medical thrillers, and other non-physics topics through research and contacting subject matter experts. That approach doesn’t put it out of my wheelhouse, even though I’ve always thought I didn’t have the science chops to pull off writing sci-fi. However, the first story I had published in eFiction Magazine was sci-fi–“Without Form or Substance.” It was about time travel, but, unbeknownst to me until Lerner’s workshop, I used time travel as a trope. It was there and central to the plot, but the details of how it worked were unnecessary.

So, a great workshop for inspiration or, rather, renewing inspiration. If you live near Charlottesville, VA, give WriterHouse a look. In addition to providing space for actual writing, its workshops are always top-notch.

After all that, here’s hoping this week is more productive. I’d cross my fingers, but I need them to type.

April’s First Friday Fictioneers

Friday Fictioneers LogoA short post today because I’m off to Lexington, VA for the annual Tom Wolfe Lecture series. Legendary author Tom Wolfe introduces another author of note, and faculty from Washington and Lee University provide scholarly lectures on the author’s work. This is all interwoven with great food and interesting company, and this year the featured author is Pulitzer prize winner Jennifer Egan. Her featured work is A Visit from the Good Squad.

I’m looking forward to some in-depth study of another writer’s work–and to having my copy of Goon Squad signed by the author herself.

Today’s Friday Fictioneer’s story is a prose poem–yeah, I’m a glutton for punishment–in honor of National Poetry Month. Last night we had a great, SWAG Writers poetry reading, so I must have been inspired. Poets, be kind to “Life, a Cliché.” If you don’t see the link on the title, then scroll to the top of the page, click on Friday Fictioneers. You can select this week’s offering from the drop down list.

No Foolin’

Today, I could have played a major April Fools joke on the rest of you by “announcing” that I’d just been offered a six-figure advance and a multiple-book contract from one of the “Big Six.” I could have, but I won’t because it’s likely the joke would be on me. So, no advance, no book contract; just constant editing and revising and hoping.

I get frustrated at times with the lack of new material I’m producing. I retired to have more time to write, and I have written more and more constantly than before I retired; but it seems at times that I do more re-writing than writing.

No difference, you say. Writing is writing. True, but I miss the mad rush of researching and drafting that comes with a whole new project. Granted, I participate in National Novel Writing Month every November, which means I have created five, original manuscripts in five years.

The first one was a semi-autobiographical piece, which, after re-reading it, I realized was 200+ pages of self-indulgent whining. It has, however, been a good source of short stories.

The second one I have edited, revised, and re-written to the point where it’s as ready as it will ever be for pitching to possible agents.

For the third one, I took a risk and killed off one of my characters, a bold move that turned out fairly well. It also helped me face the loss of my long-term relationship and address the emotions that involved; however, the character wasn’t ready to die and told me so. The good news is, I’m meshing this manuscript with another one I developed shortly after the events of September 11, 2001. So, all is not lost.

The fourth one is one that I really enjoyed writing. It’s the closest thing to a sci-fi novel I’ve ever written–a story about a dire future after the Tea Party takes over the government. Dark and political, it was a rough draft I was very proud of, and, in fact, the first 5,000 words I submitted for critique in last year’s Tinker Mountain Writers Workshop. The reception it received was awesome. (It helps that the workshop instructor, Pinckney Benedict, is a fan of dystopian fiction.) Then, I re-read Margaret Atwood’s, The Handmaid’s Tale, for a book club and went, “Oops.” It had been two decades almost since I first read The Handmaid’s Tale, but apparently I channeled Atwood when I wrote my manuscript. (Channeling Atwood could be a good thing.) However, since it got such good feedback, it’s definitely something to work on.

The fifth one, last year, was a completely different work for me, a straight-up literary fiction novel that intersects an event in a small town during World War II with an event in the same town in present day. The protagonist is a successful romance writer married to a not-so-successful novelist, and all is just lovely until they find the bones of a baby in the wall of a room they’re renovating. I always put a NaNoWriMo draft aside for six months before I start revising, so next month is when I’ll pull it out and start polishing it.

So, what am I whining about? Well, after an amazing amount of creativity in the late 1990s and early 2000s wherein I dashed out six novel-length manuscripts featuring my two favorite spies, Mai Fisher and Alexei Bukharin, as they work for the fictional United Nations Intelligence Directorate, I haven’t produced a new novel featuring them since 2002. Yes, I’ve been revising and re-writing all those original manuscripts, but I’ve missed creating a new adventure for them. I have been writing short stories featuring them (Spy Flash, published in December 2012), but aside from that, Mai and Alexei walked away from a mission in 2001; and we’ve heard nothing from them since.

You’ve written all you can about them, you might say. No, I feel they have a lot of adventures in them, and I’ve made notes about those adventures. Merely, focusing on improving my craft and establishing a bit of a name for myself as a flash fiction writer has become my immediate focus.

That’s why I need that multiple-book contract, publishers. I’ve always been well-motivated by deadlines, so take a chance. Tell me you want three books, four, or five, and I’ll get right on them.

Don’t forget, this is National Poetry Month. Take a break from fantasy or cozy mysteries and read a poet you’ve never read before.