Tag Archives: short story

I’m Back!

Did anybody miss me?

Seriously though, one of the reasons I was gone so long was that I was feeling depressed about my writing. I felt that nobody cared about anything I was doing and all the blog posts I wrote were simply masturbating out into the web, ejaculating my thoughts and ideas into a dark corner of the Internet where all they left was a sticky little stain and a funky smell.

Another of the reasons was that I was pouring all of my energy into my day job. A job that, sometimes, felt like no matter how much of my effort went into it, nobody cared much about it there, either. I was getting in long before anyone else showed up, 90 minutes before I was scheduled to be there, and staying late to make sure that everything got done. Nobody asked me to do this, but I was raised by a workaholic and that work ethic stuck with me, no matter how destructive it might be to my health and sanity.

So, combine depression with continually putting all of my energy into something other than writing, and that makes a sure-fire recipe for being completely burnt out. I didn’t feel like I had any time to write before work, and by the time I got home I was too tired to do anything more than crawl into bed. The only thing left was a feeling of failure as the days passed one after the other without anything getting on the page.

Which, of course, simply fed the cycle.

But now, dear reader(s) (if I have any of you left), I am going to try to start over. I am going to try to focus less on my job in order to save more of my energy for writing. My goals for the year have shifted as a result of this collapse, and I will no longer be trying to write a new novel this year. My main focus is not to simply continue to write, on whatever project I feel deserves the limited energy and attention I can give it. I can’t promise anything, but I will try to post whenever I can and give you an update on how things are moving along.

Speaking of projects, I thought of a new one over this last weekend. It was the opening day of WisCon, which, if you have followed my blog for any amount of time, you will remember I attend regularly. I was there in a last-ditch effort to regain my writing mojo, and, since I am currently blogging about it, I was successful in that effort. There were actually a few panels that I attended that helped me in this, from the Joy of Failure to Taking Care of the Writer’s Body. From Social Isolation to How to Not Give a &#@! All of these panels helped me to refocus my thinking on stuff that doesn’t really matter to the things that make me WANT to get out of bed in the morning.

Anyway, back to the project. There was a sign in the lobby with a title of “We All Met In A Tavern”. I’m not really sure what it was all about, but it reminded me of the old Thieves’ World anthologies, where several different writers all wrote stories set in the same world. It seemed like a good idea, and so, of course, that meant it was worth stealing. Not completely, mind you, but the general idea. So here it is:

The Liars Club

Let me explain. I want to get submissions from writers around the world (or, more specifically, the Internet) to send me stories that are essentially their favorite characters telling a lie. And not just any lie, but a big one. A profound prevarication. An immense insincerity. A fabulous falsehood.

Depending on the submissions, this could either be something simply posted online to the world for everyone to enjoy, or the tales could be collected into an anthology for sale to the gullible public. For now, I’m not sure if I would have the skills or energy to physically publish anything, and I have no idea whether or not anyone will even submit anything, so it will probably just be going online. We can revisit the publication aspect in the future if there is enough interest.

If YOU are interested, here are the rules:

  1. Use your own character. I’m not interested in fan fic or slash fic, so don’t kidnap another author’s brain child
  2. The story has to be told in the first person
  3. The story has to be something outlandish and/or outrageous. Something fantastic that really makes it hard to believe, but told in such a way that it maybe, possibly, could have potentially happened
  4. The story should be told as if it actually happened to the main character, and they should state why they are unloading this load of bullpuckey onto the listener. Whether they are telling the story to explain why they were late to their own wedding or why they have a terrible fear of wheelchairs doesn’t matter, but the story should start with a lead-in
  5. The story should end with the listener’s reaction. Do they believe this nonsense? Or were they smart enough to catch something in the story that revealed the lie?

That’s my idea. I would be interested to know what you think about it (if there are any of you still out there). And, like I said, if you want to participate, send me a story and spread the word!

I won’t bother telling you when I’ll be back with another post, as I don’t know myself. I have only turned on my laptop a few times in the last four months, and that was mostly just to check my e-mail before my inbox exploded. But I am going to try to be better at that starting this week, so hopefully I’ll have another post soon.

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Let Your Freak Flag Fly

This week I reached the end of my Dirty Little Freaks collection of short stories. The last one was titled The End, but I may change that after editing. The plot, in a nutshell, was about a young man telling about a day that was both the best and worst day of his life. It started out nicely enough, with great weather on a late spring day. He took his girlfriend to a secluded picnic spot on the lake that only he knew about. They swam for a while, then went back to shore to rest. Since it was such a nice day, he fell asleep, and when he woke up his girlfriend was being abducted by three dwarves. He chased them and caught up to them just before they entered the cave that was their lair. He managed to get her out of their clutches and she hailed him as her hero. They both thought it was over, but as they walked away he fell into a pit and a dwarf crushed his skull.

Not my best work, but it wasn’t too bad for something off the top of my head. A lot like most of the stories I wrote over the last year. Most of them only suck because they weren’t thought through before I started writing. They all contain a kernel of a good idea that just needs a little nurturing in order to become great.

So now what?

I’m glad you asked. Over the next few days I think I’ll work on finishing one of the in-between stories that I started when I was ahead of schedule one week. I’ll also be starting to brainstorm some ideas for the novel I plan on writing next year. I would like to have some of the highlights of the new book down on paper before I start writing. It would be a welcome change for me to know a little bit about my characters and where the story is going before I shoot off into another dead-end.

My character idea so far is a reluctant hero. Someone who would rather just be left alone, but circumstances beyond his control drag him out into the world and make him the center of attention. He has to learn how to deal with other people and their problems in order to solve his own.

As far as the plot goes, I have no ideas. I know that it will need to fit in with my intended character arc, but other than that it could be anything. Fantasy, science fiction, horror. Maybe a mix of all three. I might even throw some romance in there if I can figure out how to make it work with the character.

Thanks for sticking with me over the last year as I wrote my stories. I ended up with over 136,000 words and 57 first drafts. And like I said at the beginning of this post, each of them is an idea which can be used to write something better. And maybe someday I will.

That’s it for today. I’ll see you next week to let you know how the planning for the new novel is going. TTFN!

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The End

This week I start the last short story in my Dirty Little Freaks collection. So I suppose it is fitting that I have decided to call it The End. I’m not exactly sure what the story will be, but that is my theme so far.

Last week’s story was about a girl who went home early and found her father draining the blood from one of their neighbors. Apparently she and her whole family are aliens living in disguise on planet Earth and need human DNA in order to fit in. Kind of a weird story, with some creepy psychopathic elements to it, but nobody actually dies. The stolen blood is replaced by something else that takes its place until the donor can make more.

I know that there are going to be a few days left at the end of the year in which I could write another short story, but I don’t think I will. I might take that time to work on the plot for the novel I intend to write next year, or I may just take a break. In either case, there won’t be 53 weeks of short stories, only 52.

Besides, I have already written five extra short stories this year, counting the writing contests for OddCon and WisCon, and the three extra I wrote while I was ahead of schedule in September. So I have done what I set out to do and I have nothing to apologize for if I stop on the 28th instead of the 31st.

That’s about all I have to say this week. I’ll be back next week for another update, and I’ll let you know how the last freak turned out. See you then!

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Running Out of Steam

I have to say that after a year of writing short stories I am finding it a little hard to find inspiration. I have covered so many different things over the last fifty weeks that finding something new to write is becoming an issue.

Or maybe the problem is just that I am getting tired of doing this over and over again.

Last week’s story was about a party hosted by social vampires. They enticed people into their lair and drained them dry, making them pay for food and drinks and subjecting them to all sorts of depravities, leaving them broke and broken and willing to do anything to get back in. It actually wasn’t much of a story, more of a lecture about how the party started and one man’s efforts to fight back by using social networks like Facebook and Twitter to warn people to stay away. But it could be an interesting premise to write an actual story about. All I would have to do is find the right characters to write about and put them in the thick of things.

I think that maybe this week I’ll take my inspiration from Twitter. I can read a bunch of posts and see if I can find something that inspires me with a “what if?” thought. Otherwise I have no idea what I will be writing this week.

As the year of the Dirty Little Freaks winds down, however, my mind is pushing ahead to next year. Although I hit 200 days on my chain on the Magic Spreadsheet, I think I’m going to stop using it next year. I’ve done what I needed to do and I really don’t have any more to prove. I just want to focus on writing a good novel next year, which means planning it out so that it will be the best story I can write. No more freestyle writing where I have no idea what is going to come out of my mind and onto the page. No more discovering the story as I write it. I want to know what the story is about ahead of time in order to decide whether or not it is worth writing in the first place.

I also want to get some reading done. I haven’t had a whole lot of time for reading this last year, and I have an awful lot of books on my shelves that are gathering dust, and I haven’t even cracked their covers yet. I’m talking physical books here, not e-books. Don’t even ask about how many unread books are on my Kindle. It’s obscene.

That’s about it for this week. As always, I’ll fill you in next Sunday on my latest story. And if I’m lucky I’ll have found the inspiration for next year’s novel. See you then!

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Weekly Update

Nothing special to report today. My last story was about a young man walking the line between good and evil. He had grown up without his father and had fallen in with someone in high school who was a bad influence, introducing him to drugs and alcohol. Now that he is out of school, he is finally realizing that there is no future in that relationship, but he doesn’t know how to end the friendship. His uncle sits him down and tells him a story about how he and the kid’s father had crossed that line in their youth, becoming drug dealers and living on the wrong side of the law. He told him how his father had been killed during an ambush while they were making a pick-up from their supplier. That story, along with an understanding of just how much his uncle cared for him, was the deciding factor in making the decision to drop his friend and give up the party life.

It’s not a great story, but it is one of the few that I have written this year that hasn’t had a paranormal or seriously disturbing influence. It was kind of refreshing to write something without a demon or monster in it. I probably won’t be able to continue the trend, but at least I managed the one.

That’s all for today. I’ll check in again next week with another update and fill you in on Dirty Little Freaks story number Fifty. See you then!

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Another False Start

I did it again this week. The beginning of my story was one thing, while the story itself was something completely different. In my defense, however, if this story was a lot longer I might still be able to bring it back around to where I started.

When I begin writing a new story, I try really hard to make the first sentence “pop”. I want to grab your attention right out of the gate. A lot of good writers do this. If you can seize hold of your reader right away you have a better chance of keeping them involved when things slow down.

In this story, I set the scene as my hero lining up to take a shot at something. I didn’t say what it was, just that the fate of the world rested on his shoulders at that moment. And it was all because of something that had started just a few days ago. The rest of the story was told as a flashback, remembering how he had met the woman who had put him there, in that place, with that responsibility.

The problem was that it was supposed to be a short story, and what I wanted to tell was more like a James Bond blockbuster. There was no way I could fit all that into under 10,000 words. So what it ended up being was just a beginning scene. I kind of wrapped it up at the end, but there is so much more to tell in that story. Unfortunately, the rest of it will have to wait until I have more time to spend on it, along with all the other stories like it that I wrote this year.

Which brings me to my next question: What will I be writing next year?

This year of writing a story a week has definitely been interesting, as well as productive. But I’m getting tired of these quick and dirty tales, and would really like to dig into something with some more meat on it again. I want to write another novel.

However, this time I don’t want to just start writing and see where it takes me. I want to take some time and figure out what the story is before I start. I want to know who my characters are at the beginning and where I want them to be at the end. I want to decide what the story is trying to say about life, the universe, and everything before I put my fingers on the keyboard. And, perhaps most of all, I want it to be outstanding.

The stories I have written so far have been okay. I like my characters, even though I have been told that they are so similar it is hard to tell them apart. And even though I put them in danger, there can also be a bit of deus ex machina involved in getting them out of trouble. It makes the story less believable and makes disengages the reader.

I’m not sure what I’ll be writing yet. I could take one of the shorts that I have been telling you about this year and expand it. Or I could write something completely new. It could be horror, science fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy, or paranormal romance. Or maybe I might try writing something a little more serious. An attempt at real literature. Something that you might see on Oprah’s book club.

Actually, probably not.

The first step is probably going to be the characters. I think they are the most important part of the story, even more important than the plot. The plot, of course, would be next, but it would fit the characters and the arc I want to take them through before the end. Those two things will help me decide what kind of genre I will be writing.

I guess that’s about all I have to say this week. Congratulations to all of you who participated in NaNoWriMo this year. I wasn’t one of them this year, but speaking as a winner for the last three years I know how hard it is. And even if you didn’t finish I still think you deserve recognition. Hooray for you!

See you next week, and keep on writing!

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How Did I Get Here?

This week my story started out with a boy running from some bullies. Then I turned it into a flashback and by the time I had finished it was essentially an origin story for a superhero like Batman. He found a secret hideout underneath an old, empty warehouse that was full of technology that was beyond what the rest of the world had available. He’s not quite sure if it is alien in origin or not, but he thinks that he can use it to make himself into a hero.

The story isn’t bad, but the first few paragraphs really don’t fit where the rest of the story ended up. They will probably all have to be rewritten or maybe cut altogether for the second draft. It’s kind of an intriguing premise though, and I might just have to explore it again some other day. In the meantime, though, I’m on to story number 48.

It’s hard to believe that we’re this close to the end of the year. It has been a long run, and I think writing all of these short stories has been good for me. They have certainly given me a chance to come up with some interesting ideas for the future. If you have followed my blog, you also know that they have also given me some reason to worry about my sanity. But then, most writers probably think that at one point or another in their careers. How often do you think Stephen King has written something and thought to himself, “What is wrong with me?”

Anyway, since I have spent most of this weekend watching Doctor Who in honor of the 50th anniversary special, I started this week’s story with my main character using some British idioms and references. I probably won’t be able to pull it off for the whole story, but it’s one of those writing exercises that I thought might be interesting. I’ll let you know next week how it went.

Speaking of the Doctor, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to come up with that kind of immortal character? There aren’t many fictional creations that have the worldwide attraction and recognition of Doctor Who. It’s also interesting that the ones that I can think of are British creations, like James Bond and Harry Potter.

Time for a challenge, kiddies! Name some other fictional characters in a long-running series that are widely recognized across the globe. Go ahead, I dare you!

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Going Too Far

All right, this last week’s story was just plain wrong. It started out all right, about an eight year old boy who decided to go treasure hunting. Armed only with his mothers gardening trowel, he set off into the woods to find gold. Which he did.

He dug up a huge golden egg. It was planted in the ground in the middle of a clearing. He spent the day digging it out, then gave himself a hernia getting it out of the hole. He had to leave it in the woods due to his injury, but the gold was already having its effect on him. He didn’t tell anyone he found it, wanting to keep it all to himself.

Of course, his plans didn’t mean so much to his mother. She freaked out when she saw how filthy he was, and when she found out he was injured she dragged him to the hospital. The doctor diagnosed the hernia and told him to stay in bed for a few days, effectively grounding him. He also prescribed some heavy-duty painkillers which made sure he couldn’t go anywhere because they knocked him out cold.

After a full day of unconsciousness he managed to convince his mother he didn’t need the pills, then tried to stay awake long enough to sneak out to get the egg. Things didn’t work out that way though, and he fell asleep while waiting for the house to settle in for the night. It wasn’t an ordinary sleep though. He had a dream that his stomach ripped open and a monster burrowed inside, taking over his body and using him as a meat puppet.

The demon walked the two of them outside and into the woods to the egg. Our little victim was barefoot, so his feet got cut up along the way. The monster used the blood to paint arcane symbols on the egg, which then rose into the air and hatched.

A cloud covered up the moon just before the hatching, so the boy wasn’t able to see what came out of the egg. When it was gone, he was back in control of his body and ran home, where he started to wash off his mutilated feet. The bathroom door opened behind him, and when he turned to look he found a dragon had eaten his mother, and it was still hungry.

The story had so much promise in the beginning. I thought it would be a nice story of buried treasure. I thought that maybe I might make it a cautionary tale about the perils of greed. But then it went dark. Really dark. This is probably what I should have written during the week of Halloween, as it is definitely a horror story.

Maybe going too far like this is a good thing for a writer. Pushing the envelope can make a mediocre tale into a great one. Or, it could push it over the edge into the abyss of unsalable dreck.

What do you think? Did I go too far? Is this story better for the horrific events that happened, or is it over the edge? Would you like to read this kind of story, or do you think it should be burned in a ritual exorcism to cleanse it of the demons that have taken over my brain?

I’ll try to write something a little less creepy this week, but I won’t make any guarantees. Check in next Sunday to see how it goes.

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Oops

It seems that I forgot to post on Sunday. Sorry. I guess all I can say is better late than never.

Last week my story was about an auction. I was watching episodes of Storage Wars, so it seemed like the thing to do. In case you haven’t heard about it, Storage Wars follows several people as they bid on storage lockers that have been abandoned. Nobody knows why these little rooms full of people’s lives have wound up on the auction block, but it gives these entrepreneurs the chance to  pick up stuff for pennies on the dollar. They find the most unusual items, which they then take to experts to explain why they are special and what they are worth. At the end, the narrator recaps the profits that each one made from the locker.

So my story started simply, about a man getting ready for his bid. Then he spots an attractive woman who seems to be extremely interested in something in the locker. He decides that he is going to do something different for this auction. Instead of focusing on the value of the contents and cutting off his bid appropriately, he decides he is going to spend whatever it takes to win the locker. He is betting that he can then get the woman to sleep with him in exchange for whatever it is that she wants from the room.

The bidding goes higher and higher, to the amazement of the rest of the people at the auction, as they are convinced that it couldn’t possibly that much. The main character pushes it up to ten thousand dollars, probably ten times what it is worth, which wins him the locker. The rest of the auction then goes off to the next item up for bid, leaving him alone with the girl.

He starts digging into the boxes, purposefully ignoring the one she was interested in, while she hems and haws in the background. When she finally speaks, he dismisses her, but she refuses to leave. He ends up thinking that she is a born victim, unable to make up her mind and in desperate need of a strong man to take control. Which he then does.

She tells him that the locker was her sisters and she is looking for a family heirloom. He convinces her that the only way she is going to get it is if she takes off her clothes. She hesitates, but eventually does as he asks. While she strips, he finds her trinket, which is a locket with a crescent moon on the cover. He also finds some fur-lined handcuffs, because apparently her sister was into light bondage. He puts the cuffs on the girl, and then slips the necklace over her head before turning around to get another sex toy from the box. By the time he looks back, she has transformed into a werewolf which proceeds to tear him apart.

So the aggressor becomes the victim, and the world is possibly a better place. Depending, of course, on how you feel about werewolves.

My story this week is about a young boy who finds buried treasure. A huge golden egg buried in the woods. So far he has spent most of the day digging it out, and gave himself a hernia getting it out of the hole. I’m trying to show that he is unnaturally obsessed with this thing. I think it is going to turn out to be a dragon egg, but I haven’t figured out yet where the story is going next.

I’ll fill you in on the rest of the story next week. Hopefully on time. See you then!

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Be Careful What You Wish For

Last week’s story was supposed to be a Halloween horror story, but it didn’t turn out to be very scary. One more story that needs a lot of work to get to where I wanted it to be.

It started telling about an ordinary man. An insurance agent with nothing special about him. But then he met the woman of his dreams. A beautiful woman who could have been a supermodel or movie star. She told him she was there to buy insurance for her boss. And then, once their business was concluded, she asked him out on a date. Things went well, and eventually he asked her to marry him. She said yes, but on the eve of their wedding her boss called Thomas into his study and stole his body. It had all been a setup. Thomas had been a target from the start.

I think that one of my biggest problems was that I was on a deadline to finish it by Saturday. So instead of taking the time to craft the build up and suspense, I pushed it, especially at the end. Of course, this is something that can be fixed simply by taking the time during edits to fill in those holes.

I don’t know yet what I’ll be writing about this week. Tune in next Sunday to find out!

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