Lessons from the Keyboard: Write the Right Thing

lessons-from-the-keyboard

A month and a half ago, I called my friend Sara in a bout of anxiety and depression as deep as the ocean. I’d been working on a manuscript for a magical romance novella since April, and I was absolutely stuck. I’m not talking about writer’s block. For me, writer’s block is pesky and disheartening, but always temporary. This was different. This was artistic paralysis. I dreaded every moment in front of my keyboard. Tears had been shed. And I hated my story, which didn’t make sense. It was a story involving a Victorian circus, a time traveler, and a fortune-teller, all things that rock my world. My characters sucked. I didn’t buy their burgeoning romance, and I was the one writing it. I was averaging 500 words a day, if I was lucky.

To add insult to injury, my assumed deadline for this project was a mere ten days away. But honestly, the thought of turning in my sad manuscript to my editor was almost as bad as the prospect of not turning in anything.

I expected a you-can-do-it pep talk from Sara. I thought she’d tell me that yes, this project was proving difficult, but all I needed to do was push through. She’d tell me she believed in me, that I was stronger than this. I needed to pull myself up by my bootstraps, get my ass in a chair, and write.

Nope. She advised me to stop writing my novella immediately. Burn it, she said. Get it out of my system. Then came the epiphany. “It shouldn’t be this hard. You’re writing the wrong thing.”

And I was. It was the wrong story. It was dark and sad, and I needed something different.

Though the prospect was daunting, I started over. I wrote nearly five pages the first day. It came naturally. It felt lighter. My vocabulary and humor blossomed. I found myself looking forward to writing again.

One week ago, I sent a 90-some-page manuscript to my editor (before its actual due date, September 1), a manuscript I’m proud of, something I’m happy I wrote. And while it’s a first draft and I expect edits from my editor and I know it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea…I finished it, and it’s a story I love. It’s sexy and funny and cheesy at times and creepy, because, I mean, it’s me.

I learned a valuable lesson while working on this project. While I’ve never been a fan of the adage, “Write what you know,” with a little modification, I can get behind, “Write what you love.” While writing is difficult and it’s hard work, if you hate what you’re doing, it’s not worth your time. Take a step back, assess, and write the right thing.

Next year, the novella that almost wasn’t will be published by Pen and Kink Publishing as part of the Enchanted series. And I can’t wait for you to read it.

Here’s the official announcement for the Enchanted series (huge shout outs to my magical romance authors in crime—Sara Dobie Bauer, Anna Kyle, and Wendy Sparrow—and our rockin’ editor Cori Vidae!).

And here’s a little more about my first contribution to Enchanted: Magic Spark:

When Natalie Willoughby discovers a pair of antique, diamond-encrusted shoes beneath the floorboards of the Forbidden Fox nightclub, she’s preternaturally drawn to them. Once they’re on her feet, Natalie’s burlesque alter ego, Jazz Corsette, is imbued with otherworldly sensuality and confidence, traits that lead her into the arms of adoring crowds and shy, down-to-earth Wes Peterson. But when whispers of the past threaten her relationships with Wes and her sisters in sequins, she’s torn. After all, once you’ve walked in someone else’s fabulous shoes, how can you go back to being yourself?

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Author Kelly Sandoval on “Siren Seeking”

Sirens Blog Tour

Deep, deep down, part of me believes I moved from a landlocked state to one bordering the ocean in order to secure a prime location for a siren sighting. I mean, it’s a possibility if one believes in magic, right?

I’ve always been drawn to stories involving sirens, and they are the only mythological creatures I’ve written about more than once. Whether of the feathered or finned variety, there’s always been something wildly intriguing about bewitching, seductive creatures who can bring others to a violent end by way of beautiful music.

When I learned of Rhonda Parrish’s Sirens anthology, it was like hearing a siren’s call. I needed the collection. Immediately.

And I was absolutely charmed by the very first story in the book, “Siren Seeking” by Kelly Sandoval, in which a reformed siren named Thelia, fully integrated into modern society, has signed up for an online dating service for magical beings … and we all know how that goes …

I spoke with Kelly about “Siren Seeking,” writing comedy, and women in mythology – and I may have fallen in love with her sense of fashion, too (tiny hats!).

First of all, what attracts you to sirens?

I’m attracted to myths about women, particularly women who are also monsters. They always seem to be doomed or deadly, or both. So often, these stories feel like cautionary tales. Stories told about women and to women, but not by women. And everything’s taken for granted. Sirens lure men to their deaths. Why? They just do.

I was excited to move beyond that, to see what it all looks like from the siren’s perspective.

The protagonist in “Siren Seeking,” Thelia, is a siren in modern times who’s signed up for a month of online dating through Elsewhen, a service specifically for magical beings. I have to say, a number of Thelia’s negative experiences were all too relatable. So, I have to ask … did you pull any inspiration from real-life experiences? Either yours or those of your friends? 

To be completely honest, I’ve never used an online dating service. But, at the time I wrote this story, one of my friends was playing OkCupid roulette. While none of her experiences directly inspired the story, talking to her is definitely what started me thinking about the difficulties of online dating. I remember joking with her about creating a dating app for writers. From there, I started to think about other groups that might need an online dating app. Immortal beings, for example.

If you were a member of Elsewhen, what kind of magical creature do you think you’d most jive with, and why?

Oh, immortals seem like they’d be too much work, don’t you think? That said, I think every writer wants to date a muse, at least for a little while.

The Grashe (one of Thelia’s dates) were simply intriguing. Is that multi-deity based on any particular lore?

The Grashe are based less on a specific deity and more on a specific idea of deity. The idea that gods are in some ways a reflection of their worshippers’ expectations shows up a lot, and I started to wonder what that would feel like. What happens when you go from being foolish Aries to mighty Mars? Do you keep a little bit of each inside you? The Grashe reflect that difficulty. I imagine they’re very old, older than Thelia realizes. Probably more dangerous, too.

There’s an interesting theme that comes up in your story: whether an immortal – in this case, Thelia – can truly distance themselves from their past. Do you think that distance is possible for magical folk to achieve? How about mortals?

This is a great question, and it’s one I keep returning to in fiction. But I don’t know the answer. Certainly, they must try to change. We all try. But immortals are often archetypal in some way. They represent ideas, concepts. When you’re part concept, how do you become something new?

It’s easier for mortals, and that contrast is great story fodder. You’ve got these timeless beings who are essentially stuck. But pathetic humans, with their gnat-like lifespans, keep changing. Keep striving.

Thelia ponders something thought-provoking with her friend, Meda, toward the end of “Siren Seeking” – what will they be in 100 years. What do you think the next incarnation of the siren will be in the world you’ve created?

Thelia’s role will always be one of coaxing people, of getting them to want. I imagine she’ll get into government work eventually, selling the idea of space travel to nervous colonists. 100 years after that? Maybe a summer home on Titan, swimming with alien fish.

This story made me laugh throughout! You have a great sense of humor. Do you have any advice for authors who want to incorporate more comedy into their writing?

I wrote this story in part as a challenge to myself. I like to joke that I write “sad stories about sad people being sad.” I wanted to try my hand at something funny. I think it’s important to push your boundaries every once in a while.

The best advice I can give is to write characters with a sense of humor. Thelia finds her situation funny, so she makes jokes about it. It’s all a matter of the character’s perspective. If Thelia approached each date with starry-eyed hope, it’d be a much darker story.

Where can we find more of your work? And are you working on anything we can be on the lookout for?

My website, kellysandovalfiction.com is the best place to find more of my fiction. For another story that explores immortality and change, I suggest “The Wolf and the Tower Unwoven,” which was published in Uncanny Magazine. As a warning, it’s a bit sad.

I’m currently finishing up an interactive novel for Choice of Games. It’s about class warfare and adorable baby gryphons. No release date yet, but I imagine it will be some time next year.

AuthorPhoto_KS

About the Author 

Kelly Sandoval’s fiction has appeared in UncannyStrange Horizons, and Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy. She lives in Seattle, where the weather is always happy to make staying in and writing seem like a good idea. Her family includes a patient husband, a demanding cat, and an anarchist tortoise. You can find her online at kellysandovalfiction.com.

 

 

Sirens_SneakPeekAbout Sirens 

Sirens are beautiful, dangerous, and musical, whether they come from the sea or the sky. Greek sirens were described as part-bird, part-woman, and Roman sirens more like mermaids, but both had a voice that could captivate and destroy the strongest man. The pages of this book contain the stories of the Sirens of old, but also allow for modern re-imaginings, plucking the sirens out of their natural elements and placing them at a high school football game, or in wartime London, or even into outer space.

Featuring stories by Kelly Sandoval, Amanda Kespohl, L.S. Johnson, Pat Flewwelling, Gabriel F. Cuellar, Randall G. Arnold, Michael Leonberger, V. F. LeSann, Tamsin Showbrook, Simon Kewin, Cat McDonald, Sandra Wickham, K.T. Ivanrest, Adam L. Bealby, Eliza Chan, and Tabitha Lord, these siren songs will both exemplify and defy your expectations.

No Joke: Read “Bad Vibrations” in Alternate Hilarities V: One Star Reviews of the Afterlife

Ebook Cover

Since I began publishing fiction in 2012, I’ve billed myself as a horror and fantasy author, someone inclined to write about monsters and mayhem and mythological creatures. For a few years, I was completely satisfied writing about time travel, ghosts, devils, sirens, succubi, and devious drug plots.

And while I will continue to write about these things, I’ve started to play with new genres and writing styles. The other night, I finished my first romance novelette. Before that, a comedic, satiric take on a fairy tale. Comedy and romance are becoming a regular part of my repetoire, and it’s a really exciting and fun shift. (My writing group back in Phoenix, Arizona, would be so proud, a group that often requested I write something in which someone didn’t die or the conflict was resolved happily.)

So it’s fitting that today, April Fool’s Day, marks the publication of my very first piece of straight-up comedic writing. No joke, I’ve written something that I hope makes you laugh, not shiver in terror.

Today, Alternate Hilarities V: One Star Reviews of the Afterlife is available via Strange Musings Press, bringing you 33 crazy, wacky tales from the great beyond and outlining just what could go wrong with it:

As you shuffle off this mortal coil, many things will go through your mind. Will you be remembered well? Did you live the best life you could? Did you leave the iron on? And most importantly, did you remember to delete your browser history recently? But the big question that will finally hit you full on, is there something after all of this? And if so, will it suck? If only Yelp! had a category for the afterlife.

Here is a collection of humorous tales of the afterlife that covers the I.T. woes of Heaven, the dangers involved in using out-of-date occult tools, the perils of not saving appropriately for the hereafter, the shock of finding out that not every good deed will get you through the pearly gates and the cold hard fact that paradise just isn’t for everyone.

So go to the light at your own peril.

It could be life everlasting, or it could be an oncoming train.”

My contribution, “Bad Vibrations,” explores the motivations of a ghost’s very first haunting – and the truly embarrassing secrets she wishes had followed her to the grave.

Pick up your copy today, and be on the lookout for a blog takeover by Alternate Hilarities editor Giovanni Valentino on April 11 and my author interview with Strange Musings on April 14!

Maybe I Should Write More Romance?

Photo by flickr user “Ganesh K S.”

Right before I moved to San Diego this summer, I heard about the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge, a competition that pits authors from around the world against each other in one big flash fiction smackdown with some significant prizes up for grabs. I knew that my dedication to writing would wane moving from Arizona to California—as it tends to do during most large scale life changes—so I decided to sign up. I figured the challenge would force me to carve out time for my craft, even if I was surrounded by half-full cardboard boxes.

I was willing to make this commitment, because the challenge seemed really manageable. It would span four months, and I only needed to write one piece of flash fiction (1,000 words or less) a month. I could totally handle that.

Much like my experience with The Iron Writer, the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge works on a bracket system. You’re grouped with 30 or so other writers, you all receive the same challenge each round (three elements – a genre, a location, and an object), you’re assigned points from judges based upon your story, and if you do well enough in the ranks, you proceed to the next round. The first two rounds are open to everyone who signs up to compete; even if you receive 0 points in round one (only the top 15 stories earn points), you’re still in the running to catch up in round two. Round three is reserved for the top five point earners from each bracket; it’s the first elimination round. Writers are placed in new, larger writing groups, and the top five point earners from those new groups advance to round four, the final competition.

I got the results from the second round of competition this morning, and I was only two points shy of advancing to round three.

Instead of feeling disheartened by this, I’m pretty jazzed! In my opinion, I performed well, especially since this was my first time competing in this challenge. Sixth in my bracket? I’ll take it!

On top of that, I’ve received some really amazing feedback from the judges throughout this process—and I made a personal self-discovery: I always claim to be a horror/fantasy writer, but perhaps I have a future in romance.

My story “French Kiss” appears in this issue!

In round one of the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge, I had to write a horror story and received 5 points from the judges (10th place in my bracket); in round two, I had to write a romantic comedy and received 14 points from the judges (2nd place in my bracket). Who knew I had it in me?! (Although maybe the first indication was publishing my short story “French Kiss” in Romance Magazine earlier this year?)

That’s why I love challenges like this one. They take you outside your comfort zone. They keep your craft fresh. And you never know, you just might learn a little something about yourself as an artist.

I’ve included the stories I wrote in the challenge below. Take a read and let me know which you prefer.

Should I start writing some romance?

 

Round One Entry:

Required elements: Horror genre, a crime scene, a straw

 

Happy Meal

By Tiffany Michelle Brown

She watched the two men fumble with the body the way high school boys grapple with bra hooks—nervous and tepid at first and then with a strange, unneeded abandon. The men had approached the corpse with slow, careful steps and copious swearing; now, they crouched on their haunches and hovered over its head, breathing in death and trying to figure out what the hell had happened to their friend.

One of the uniforms tried to lift a dead wrist with a ballpoint pen. It flopped to the pavement like a beached fish.

“Leave it, Stevens.” It was the tall blond one with a square jaw and bowed legs. The thing in the bushes breathed in his scent—expensive bamboo linens, passionate lust, the orangey balm of self-confidence, a sprinkling of good luck clover. It took exceptional restraint for the thing to keep her fangs sheathed. She chewed and sucked on the straw between her lips, savoring the scarce, albeit satisfying remnants of her last meal. His happiness had been delicious.

“We should call this in, Briggs.” The other one. Baby-faced, a little overweight. He smelled like crisp divorce papers and hot plastic, a credit card swiped much too often, an endless line of zeroes. And could she detect a whiff of porn addiction?

“He was one of us. You want lab coats crawling all over him and then keeping their secrets because of bullshit department protocol?” Briggs asked.

Stevens shrugged his broad, soft shoulders.

The thing in the bushes shook her head in disappointment. What a waste. If only that meat were seasoned with vacations to Tahiti and financial stability and less self-loathing…

“If this were me on the sidewalk,” Briggs said, rising to his feet, “I’d want us to take a crack at figuring it out, not them.” He ran a hand through his hair and moved toward Alvarez’s shiny, black shoes.

“He’s awfully pale, like he’s been drained or something,” Stevens said.

All eight of the thing’s eyes widened and she could feel her hearts beating in her center, different, stunted, terrified rhythms. Perhaps she’d underestimated the chubby one.

“He’s dead, you idiot. Dead bodies go cold. No one stays rosy.”

“I’m just saying.”

“Look for something helpful.”

The thing relaxed and continued to gnaw thoughtfully. The blood was gone from the straw, but the habitual motion of chewing would keep her calm.

“There’s, um…” Stevens started and then stopped, choking on nerves.

Briggs was examining the soles of the dead man’s loafers. “What is it?”

“I’m not sure. There’s something on Alvarez’s neck.”

Briggs stood and strode over to Stevens in three long steps, a graceful spider. The thing imagined the cop’s muscles rippling beneath his uniform, so taut and juicy. His fragrant blood made her swoon a little.

“What the fuck is that?” Briggs asked, peering down at the dead man’s neck.

“It looks like a puncture wound. Scabbed over,” Stevens offered.

“Perfect circle.” Briggs massaged his mustache with his fingertips. “Cigarette burn?”

The thing smiled—as much as it could smile in its current form. Briggs’ conjecture was so rational and cute.

“Any gang murders reported lately with a signature like this?” Stevens asked.

“Not that I know of. Could be something new. Slick if a tiny hole like that can kill someone.”

The thing sat up a little taller, preening. How stupid they’d feel if they knew their friend—Alvarez, was it?—was killed with something so pedestrian. Sharpened and reinforced with alkaline moonbeam, mind you, but really quite “normal.”

Stevens turned from the body, puttered a few steps, and lost his breakfast on the pavement.

“Jesus,” Briggs said. Then the disgust on his face melted into curiosity. “This cut—it’s picking up the light.” He leaned in closer. “Silver.”

Stevens crawled back to the body. “You’re right. It’s…shimmering.”

The thing’s gut tightened. She knew she should have been more careful. She should have checked for metallic residue at the entry point. But hunger made her lose control, made her sloppy.

It didn’t matter. Once the police department conducted an autopsy, they’d know the truth anyway. When they cut Alvarez open, they’d discover the thin sheet of silver directly below his skin, injected just moments after she’d sucked out his insides. The silver was the only thing maintaining the dead man’s shape. Without it, he’d be nothing more than a pile of wilted flesh. And that could be problematic. The FBI and CIA would be called in immediately if local precincts started finding skin suits littered about. The silver bought the thing more time.

“Alvarez, were you doing some crazy drugs with that redhead you left the bar with last night?” Briggs posed the question directly to the dead man’s face. “She had a great ass, but you should have gone home to Kimmy instead, buddy.” 

Okay, enough now. The thing spit the straw to the ground and covered it with sod using a slow-moving tentacle. They won’t figure it out. Stop playing with your food.

The thing morphed into a puddle of liquid that resembled water. It dripped down the sidewalk, traveling a few blocks before ducking behind a tree in a residential neighborhood.

Moments later, a striking woman with long legs and hair the color of an Arizona sunset emerged from behind the bark, a cell phone in hand. She dialed three numbers and brought the device to her ear. She explained to the operator that her boyfriend had hit her, she was afraid, could they send an officer who was nearby? She glanced at the house behind her and gave the number. The woman thanked the operator in a shaky voice and hung up. She picked up a nearby rock, clocked herself in the face, and willed her fake skin to swell and discolor.

She leaned against the tree trunk, hunched and crooked, trying to look like a victim while she waited for the smell of bamboo, sex, bravado, and fortune to arrive.

 

 

Round Two Entry:

Required elements: Romantic comedy genre, an orchestra pit, a spider

 

Anything But Plain

By Tiffany Michelle Brown

Kate Saxon turned to her left to regard Lawrence Chilton’s very plain profile, then to her right to a man in his seventies who was snoozing and wondered whom she’d rather have as her date for the evening. She rather appreciated the older man’s daring—or perhaps it was narcolepsy. In either case, there was no pretense, no mask, no pretending to have a good time, none of the bullshit that accompanied the vile mating ritual that was the blind date.

To be fair, Lawrence wasn’t horrible company. He was simply expected company, which was worse in Kate’s book.

He’d showed up at her door at precisely 6 PM, freshly shaved, a bouquet of pink carnations underarm. He was her height, normal looking, and held every door open for her. He took her to a well-known Italian restaurant where they shared a bottle of Chianti and blew through the checklist of obligatory first date questions and answers over a fried artichoke appetizer—my job is very satisfying, I go to yoga about twice a week, my family lives an hour away, and my sister will get married in the fall. They’d both taken to studying the décor of the restaurant in mock appreciation by the time their entrees arrived.

When the waitress took their plates, Kate rejoiced that the date was nearly over. She would let nice-enough-but-predictable Lawrence take her home where she could open another bottle of wine and do Tina Turner impressions in heels while listening to a 60s-era record on her vintage turntable. It was her post bad date ritual. It was also wonderful cardio.

But Kate’s plan was foiled. Lawrence excitedly pulled a white envelope from his tweed coat and announced he had two tickets for the 8 PM performance of King Lear at the Orpheum Theater downtown. Kate smiled a fake smile, said something about loving “the Bard,” and then took a sip of air from her far too empty wine glass.

Now, she sat in the front row of the theater, picking at a loose seam on her skirt, wishing she were in her seventies and, thus, allowed to fall asleep on a date without it being considered rude.

Of course, if she did fall asleep and snored like a trucker, perhaps Lawrence would find her repulsive and never call again. Kate thought seriously through the pros and cons of this option as the lights in the theater dimmed.

“This is going to be great,” Lawrence whispered.

Kate offered a tight-lipped, “Mm hmm,” and then slouched in her chair, ready to commence her boredom-induced slumber routine. If she was lucky, she’d drool.

About ten minutes into the show, Kate had her eyes closed when she felt a tickle on her left knuckle. She tensed. Oh God, he’s trying to hold my hand.

Kate’s eyes flicked open, and she looked down, ready to pull her hand discreetly into her lap. But Lawrence’s hand was nowhere to be found. Instead, a spider of damn near Amazonian size peered up at Kate like a puppy dog yearning for a cuddle.

Kate stood up and began to shriek, flicking both of her wrists spastically in an effort to buck the spider from her hand. But the spider held on valiantly like a cowboy at a rodeo, desperate for its six seconds of fame.

Kate was vaguely aware of running about, climbing something—and perhaps rolling around on the ground?—but her sense of location in the theater was a blur until the spider gave up, leapt from her hand, and disappeared through a crack in the stage into the orchestra pit below.

Kate looked up and was blinded by white light. As her eyes adjusted, she peered out into the audience of the theater, at the horrified patrons, at Lawrence, whose mouth hung open, at the old man she’d been seated next to only moments ago and who was now very much awake. She peered over her shoulder and found actors in Elizabethan garb staring at her as if she were in her underwear. Kate gazed down at her favorite peep-toe heels and realized she was on the apron of the stage, standing directly above the unused orchestra pit. And she was frozen to the spot, a mute snow woman in the middle of a theater in downtown Phoenix.

Shit.

As Kate opened her mouth to try to form an apology, Lawrence stood up in the front row. Kate was sure he’d storm out—or worse, reprimand her in public.

But instead, he started to sing. “Don’t go breakin’ my heart…”

Kate stood there, dumbfounded, frowning at him.

Lawrence stepped forward, climbed the lip of the stage, and repeated the line, taking Kate’s hand in his, “Don’t go breakin’ my heart.” He gave her a nod.

Kate opened her mouth and delivered a truly shaky and off-pitch, “I couldn’t if I tried.”

Lawrence smiled. “Honey, if I get restless.”

Kate smiled. “Baby, you’re not that kind.”

Silence enveloped the theater.

“Now bow,” Lawrence instructed.

Kate bent at the waist and the theater erupted in laughter and applause. Kate straightened and grinned. Lawrence squeezed her hand and she turned to find him laughing and waving at the audience.

“What do you say we get out of here?” Lawrence asked over the trill of the audience.

Kate gave him a nod and he pulled her offstage into the wings. The stage manager gave them a strict talking to as he led them through a narrow hall past dressing rooms and out the stage door exit.

In the alley behind the theater, Kate leaned back against the brick of the building and dissolved into laughter. Lawrence leaned back next to her and joined in, their shared hilarity echoing off the façades about them and into the starry night.

As Kate’s giggles died down, she looked over at her date. Lawrence’s eyes sparkled in the lamplight, and Kate admitted inwardly that she’d been wrong. Lawrence’s profile was anything but plain.

I Finished Something!

Photo by flickr user "Drew Coffman."

Photo by flickr user “Drew Coffman.”

My good friend and now cross-country writing soulmate, Sara Dobie Bauer, posted this little gem on Facebook earlier last week:

Scully snip

And I simply went, “Yep.”

Sara and I tend to write and publish serendipitously. It’s like when you hear about girl friends who get their periods the same week each month because they spend so much time together. Sara and I have graced the same publications without telling the other we’d sent in a submission. When one of us finishes a new piece and sends it on to the other for a little first reader love, it’s usually followed with constructive criticism and something like, “Hey, I’m almost done with this new story. I’ll send it your way soon.” And when writer’s block hits or depression takes over or life proves truly crazy and gets in the way of imagination, yeah, we’re usually in synch with that, too.

I sincerely hope that right now Sara isn’t experiencing what I have been the past few months. Although she did post the Scully meme. I wonder how in synch we are at the moment.

Ever since I published Spin: A Novelette on June 5th, my 30th birthday, my inkwell has run dry. Kind of anyway. For the past almost three months, I have been writing. But I’ve also been second guessing my every word. I’ve started a number of projects only to dismiss them less than ten pages in. Usually, when I start a new piece, I’m excited and I can’t wait to write, write, write, but lately it’s felt like a chore. And my work has seemed very blah, very uninspired.

It doesn’t help that I’ve been receiving rejection letter after rejection letter.

I’ve analyzed the situation, and perhaps I should give myself a break. I turned 30, self-published a novelette, left a job, started a new one, moved to California, and threw my back out–all since June 5th. And those are just the highlights. It’s been a lot of change, a lot of adjustment. And I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I felt a ton of pressure after publishing Spin. I mean, the reviews were really good. I feel like I broke into an audience with that piece. How could I keep that going? I didn’t want to fall prey to the sophomore slump. I had to keep creating fiction that was on par with my latest success.

It was exhausting and disheartening to sit down with a tumbler of whiskey, a dedicated Pandora station, and great idea…and no desire to hit the keys.

And here’s the thing. When a writer can’t write, it’s hell. Writing isn’t just something we do, it’s a lifestyle. So when that lovely little thing called writer’s block comes knocking, it’s followed by a touch of good old-fashioned identity crisis. Like the meme Sara posted says, we go a little crazy.

So you’ll understand why I’m so excited to say…I FINISHED SOMETHING TODAY! I really did! It’s a new story and I followed through with it and it’s almost 6,000 words and I feel like I’m getting rid of that funk that made my greatest passion close to unbearable.

The new story is a lovely little Christmas-themed horror piece I plan to submit to a charity anthology. And I feel really good about it. Really good. The way I used to.

I’m not sure what changed, but quite frankly, I don’t really care. I feel like I fit in my skin again. I feel like I can call myself a writer again. My muse is back and I can’t wait to keep writing.

 

Photo licenseWriter’s Block II on flickr

Read SPIN: A Novelette…on any e-reader you got!

spin cover2 - rgb - cs5

“To regular passersby, the brick façade on Washington Street between 7th and 8th was nothing more than an abandoned host for disgruntled bursts of graffiti, petrified chewing gum, and the benign city smells of urine and cigarette smoke; but to those with desperation and regret hanging in their chests, they saw something different. If the sunlight peeked out behind the clouds just right, like it was doing now, you could see the thin, dotted outline of a doorframe, the glint of a display window, the shutter of a neon sign which proclaimed not just Open, but Come In, too.”

And so it begins. My very first self-published work. Something that I am so fucking proud of that I had to share it with everyone come hell or high water or hours and hours of reformatting for various digital formats.

Now, it’s ready. And I truly hope you’ll read it. It’s a tale reminiscent of those you’d find on The Twilight Zone. It’s a love letter to music and particularly the rockin’ tunes of the 70s. It dabbles, er, goes full throttle into a world where time travel is possible – for those who need it the most. It’s a psychological exploration of regret and the things we’ll do for love.

My truly fabulous and disgustingly talented boyfriend, Bryan Mok, designed the cover, which made me swoon the first moment I saw it.

And this little novelette has been receiving some great reviews:

“If Neil Gaiman and Lovecraft had a love child … well, it’d be mad, but Brown is pretty close. Her prose is gorgeous. Her storyline will keep you stressing and screaming at the characters. Mostly, though, she makes you consider what you would do if you could erase regret. Would you? At what cost? Personally, I think I’ll leave time travel alone.”

“If you’ve got an hour, 99 cents, a seatbelt, and a desire to get your mind blown. READ. THIS. STORY!!!! Smart, stylish, edgy, heart-breaking, provocative, and… Al Green! Quite an accomplishment.”

Thank you in advance if you decide to pick up this little story and add it into your virtual bookcase. I hope you love it!

Download SPIN: A Novelette on Amazon (for Kindles or Kindle apps for PC).

Download SPIN: A Novelette at Barnes & Noble (for Nooks).

Download SPIN: A Novelette on Smashwords (for any other format – PDF, rtf, txt, etc.)

Could I Be a Champion?

This is my champion baller stance. Word.

This is my champion baller stance. Word.

Last summer, I stumbled upon this cool little website/contest/community called The Iron Writer—and it completely changed and improved my writing.

Each week, The Iron Writer hosts a flash fiction smackdown. Four authors are pitted against each other to create a 500-word story that must incorporate four provided elements. And usually, these elements are completely oddball and unrelated. They often inspire terror and what-the-hell-am-I-going-to-do-with-these moments when they are revealed.

This format forces you to be wildly creative, word under a tight deadline (five days), and live for brevity. I’ve written some really cool stories that I wouldn’t have had I not been involved in this community. I’ve stretched and strengthened my craft while having a lot of fun, which is so awesome.

Each week, a challenge winner is determined by scores from a panel of judges combined with an open public vote. Winners of weekly challenges compete in solstice competitions four times a year. And then the final four advance to the annual championship.

Today, the 2015 championship stories are on the website—and one of them is MINE! That’s right, I could take home the title!

So now, I need a little something from you, dear readers. Go visit the championship page, read through the entries, and vote for the piece that you think is the most deserving.

I’m not going to tell you which one is mine—because in this circumstance, I’d rather people vote for the story than the author. (Now, those of you who are familiar with my writing…you just might recognize my style.)

In any case, take a moment to read some great (and weird, by virtue of the crazy elements we were assigned) flash fiction and vote for the story that impresses you the most.

Could I be this year’s champion? I certainly hope so.

See you all on the flipside of this competition next week. Here’s hoping the flipside involves assuming a victorious pose and singing Queen’s “We Are the Champions” at the top of my lungs directly into my computer screen.