Tag Archives: Arts

I Like Flash Fiction

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I like flash fiction. I didn’t know how much I would enjoy it when I started writing two years ago. I’ve had people tell me how much they enjoy reading flash fiction and then I’ve had a few that couldn’t get past the shortness and crispness of the story. I believe they are the one’s who are the flowery writers. They use lots of adjectives or whatever it takes to add description.  I figured out many years ago, I’m not a flowery writer. Maybe that’s why I like Flash Fiction, because it is very straight forward.

An example would be, “Walking down the stone strewn path, I can smell the wonderful aroma of the large honeysuckle vine. It’s vines turning and wrapping themselves though the spaces in the fence.” For flash fiction you could write something such as “Walking down the path, the odor of  honeysuckle filled the air. The vines wrapped themselves around the fence.”

The first example had twenty-nine words in the two sentences. The second example  had eighteen words. They are very concise, and crisp. Flash Fiction uses limited words.  I’ve written from 100 word stories to a 1000 words and it still be termed Flash Fiction. Any number you use requires a complete story. Sometimes it’s difficult to do.

Three days ago I wrote a Flash Fiction piece and entered it into a contest on FanStory. It’s called “The Letter”. I won the contest and I want to share it with you.    This is the instuctions I was given.

Write a scene in which your main character receives a strange looking letter beat up with stains on its cover. The letter has no return address. What’s in it? How does your character react to the contents once it is opened and why? This story should not be any longer than 1000 words but no shorter then 800 words.

Shirley

The Letter

 France, June 16, 1944
Rifle shots are randomly going off around Dan as he sits in the bombed out building. He’s writing a letter that he’s put off writing, because he knows it will break a girl’s heart back in Oklahoma. If you were to see his face, you’d think he’s about to cry tears. His heart is heavy.

Dear Janell, I really don’t know how to start this letter, but it is something I have to do. Sitting in the middle of this rubble, which was once a small town, probably a lot like our home town of Stuart. I’ve spent many months here, crawling through the mud and blood, and thinking of you and getting back home.

Two months ago, the French underground put me into hiding. There was a girl there by the name of Angelique. I called her Angel for short. I have to tell you, we have fallen in love, and I’m going to marry her. You know I never intended to hurt you, but I have to follow my heart. I only wish you the best with your life.
Dan

***

 “Mama, would you like a cup of hot tea and a muffin? You haven’t eaten a thing since we got back from the cemetery this morning.”

“Sally, I’m not hungry. Just leave me alone.”

“You have to have something. How about that cup of tea? I’ll get you the tea, then walk down to the mailbox and get the mail. Maybe there’s a letter from Aunt Hattie. She always cheered you up when you read one of her letters.

“Mama, here is some Earl Grey. It’s hot, so let it sit a couple of minutes. I’ll be right back.”

The mailbox was sitting at the intersection of the two dirt roads that ran by the house. How many times had she walked to this mailbox over the years? Today was different because she helped bury her father this morning.
When she opened the mailbox it contained one letter.

The envelope was yellow with age, and had a couple of dark brown spots on the front. The strange thing was the name on the envelope. It’s addressed to mama using her maiden name, Janell Griffin. You couldn’t tell who sent it, because there wasn’t a return address. This is a mystery, Sally thought. I wonder who sent this.

Janell, sitting in her rocking chair, with her eyes closed and a slight smile on her face. She’s remembering the first time she saw her Daniel. We were at a church picnic and began talking. It was if we’d always been together. We spent all the time together we could. In 1943, Dan joined the Army and was shipped overseas. He was there over a year. The letters came regularly at first and I answered each one promptly. I tried to write about everything going on and the people he knew. I knew his loneliness would be terrible. Then the letters stopped coming. I thought he’d been killed. Several months passed with me mourning the loss of my love, Daniel. I went to the drug store for Mother one Saturday morning. When I came out of the drug store, the Grey Hound bus was unloading passengers at the depot next door. When I looked at the unloading passengers, I saw a solider with a cane step off the bus. I screamed and began running and yelling Daniel at the top of my lungs. Daniel was alive and home. I was hugging him and kissing him with tears streaming down my face. I couldn’t believe my love was alive and home. He acted very strange at first. It was as if he wasn’t expecting me to hug and kiss him. He felt stiff when I touched him. He must have been through hell.

                                                                                     ***
“Mama,” Sally called out as she came through the door. “Wait till you see what we got in the mail.”

Janell opened her eyes, stopping the thoughts about her beloved Daniel. “What do you have?”

“It looks like a very old letter. It’s addressed to you but using your maiden name.”

“My maiden name! I haven’t used that name in almost sixty years. Let me see it.” Janell straightened her glasses as well as herself in the rocker.

“It’s post marked from France and I can see the number forty-four.”

“Well, let me see it.”

Sally handed the old letter to Janell. When Janell looked at the envelope, she began to cry.

“Mama, what’s wrong? Why are you crying?”

Janell sat very quiet holding the letter in her hands for a few minutes. When she was able to speak, she put the letter up to her heart and looked up at her daughter. “Sally, this letter was written by your father. I would know his hand writing anywhere. He was in France during the war. I actually thought he’d died, but God sent him back home to me. I can’t believe I got this letter on the day we buried him.

“Open it up and see what it says.”

Janell slowly opened the envelope with her arthritic fingers. She unfolded the paper and read the letter. She folded the letter and placed it back in the envelope.

“What did it say, Mama? Was it from Daddy?”

“No dear, it wasn’t meant for me. I think I want another cup of tea and I’m going to fix it. Would you like one?

“Yes, I would.”

“Sit down and I’ll call you when it’s ready”. Janell walked slowly to the kitchen and directly to the stove. She turned on the front burner for the tea pot and the flame started. She stuck the corner of the letter into the fire watching it burn and dropped it into the cast iron skillet sitting on the stove. While it burned to ashes she spoke softly aloud, “It wasn’t for me.”

Attention Writers: Flash Fiction Contest

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I thought we could have some fun writing a Flash Fiction story of no more than 400 words around the topic of July 4th.  It can be any genre you wish, any topic, but keep it clean.  All entries must be submitted by June 30th to shirley_mclain@yahoo.com. The winner will be announced on July 3rd.  The prize is two ebooks of your choice from Amazon.

Please submit title and author of the books you would like as well as the address where you want them sent.  The story I posted called Angie’s Secret is for a flash fiction contest. You can read it and then try to do better.

Here is a YouTube video that explains flash fiction a little further. I hope you enjoy it. I look forward to reading what you come up with.  Happy writing.

A New Contest

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Hello to everyone. Today I’m making a big announcement.  I am sponsoring another writing contest. The topic of this contest is National Pride.  It can be fiction or non-fiction, and no more than 1200 words.  The winner will receive  three ebooks of your choice and posting of your story on this blog.  The runner-up will receive a copy of the Historical Fiction, Dobyns Chronicles when it is published in a few months.

Please send the stories to shirley_mclain.com with your email address and the three ebooks you would like if you win.  All entries must be to me by May 31, 2012.  The winner will be announced June 15, 2012.

Use your creativeness and get out of your comfort zone a little bit. I look forward to receiving some great stories.

Shirley

I Won, Yippee, I won

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Photo of ice-covered mailbox in Spotsylvania C...

Photo of ice-covered mailbox in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, USA. February 14, 2007. Photograph taken by Joy Schoenberger with a Pentax K100D Digital SLR camera. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today I’m posting my 200 word flash fiction piece which won me $55.00. It’s the first  writing contest I have won, so I’m tickled. I have to admit it does make my ego feel good, even though I know it’s not really a big deal.  I wonder what it is that makes winning a contest so enjoyable? Is it the recognition of your work? I think these little ego boosts are good for a writer. Writing is a hard profession, due to all the other great stories out there in the publishing world. I’ve had my three seconds of bowing and patting myself on the back, now I have to get back to the real world and writing my book.
I hope you enjoy my 200 word story.
***
The Rent
The forecastt for the day is cold with a winter storm warning. I don’t want to get out of my nice warm bed, but I know I have to. There are many errands to run, and I have to do them before the storm hits.
Why Mrs. Flannigan has me pay my rent in person, I’ll never understand. It would be easier if I put it in the mail with my monthly bills. There isn’t any use crying and whining about it. That’s the way it is.
I back my car from the drive for the ten-mile trip to Mrs. Flannigan’s. My phone is in my purse for an emergency. The sleet and freezing rain are  already falling. The radio announcer tells everyone to stay off the roads. I’m not the smartest person, because I’m driving. I can’t drive fast because of poor visibility.  My hands are gripping the  wheel and my knuckles are white. Relax, Sally, you can do this.
The bridge over the lake is icy. What is that idiot doing? He’s going too fast. I’m in the middle of the bridge. I can’t scoot over. No, oh God help me.
Paper reads: Trucker and young woman join fatality toll.

Keep Talking, Andy…..

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I started a new book yesterday.  Now every time my mind is not specifically thinking about something else, plots and scenes keep running through my brain.  I find the creative process very interesting.  My muse, (I’m going to call him Andy,) works overtime when I’m writing.  Most of the time it is a very good thing, but sometimes I would like for Andy to stop talking to me.  I like being quiet at times, but not Andy. I can safely call him a motor mouth.

I have an advantage this go around that I didn’t have before.  I know my main characters very well since they were in The Tower.  Sam (shortened from Samantha ,) has a twin brother, Allan.  They share a psychic connection and are very close.  Sam works for Allan at IDEA (International Diagnostic Environmental Agency). Allan’s company investigates and recommends fixes for any environmental problem that affects people anywhere in the world.

Right now Andy is helping me to decide on what kind of character I want my protagonist to be. It is being said today that publishers are not only wanting a book with good, strong characters and strong plots but they also want a story with a hook (Whatever that means.) I will have to do some reading and find out more about that hook business.

I want to write the best book I can,  which means Andy and I will be spending a lot of time together of the next few months. Hopefully he will continue to talk to me as much as he does now because if he doesn’t, I may be in trouble. I may gripe about his constant talking but I know I need him to help me accomplish what I want to do.

Flash Fiction Contest

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Cover of "Obsessed"

Cover of Obsessed

I was thinking about a character in my book,  The Tower. Tony who is completely obsessed with the protagonist. Samantha (Sam) was on his mind constantly. This obsession with Sam caused him to make  costly mistakes in his life.  Have you have been obsessed with someone or something?

The Merriam Webster Dictionary  defines obsession as a persistent disturbing preoccupation with an often unreasonable idea or feeling; broadly : compelling motivation <an obsession with profits>.  That definition covers a multitude of things. A person can have an obsession over anything from dust to peanut butter,  or I should say from A to Z.

I have been obsessed with reading a book.  Just couldn’t put it down until it was finished. Right now I couldn’t tell you the name of it if my life depended on it, but I’ve been there and been totally drawn into the story. That’s one of my wishes for my books. They won’t be able to put it down once the reading has begun.

I think new love is an obsession.  Do you remember the time when you waited with bated breath for the phone to ring, just to hear the voice that began your heart fluttering.  Hanging onto every word that came out of their mouth and always wanting to hear more.  The anxiety that built because you couldn’t be with them as much as you wanted. The tears when they had to go away. Fantasizing your life with them, happy forever after.  It’s a wonderfully, miserable time.

Some people can carry an obsession to the point that it is dangerous for the person who has the obsession, or if they are obsessed with another person it could be dangerous for them also. There has to be some mental instability to stalk someone just so you can see their every move during the day or night.

I said all of this to make the point that obsession can be a good story line because of the tension that it causes.  Write a 100 word piece of flash fiction using obsession and see what you come up with.  In fact the person who submits the best flash fiction to me will win their choice of an eBook (under $4.00) from Amazon.com. A winner will be announced April 14th.  Please send  the flash fiction as an attachment along with the name and author of the eBook you would like to have. Please include the email address where you would like it sent. Emails will be deleted so be sure you attachment has the needed information. Last day for submissions will be March 31, 2012 and the winner will be announced on April 14th, 2012. Send entries to shirley_mclain@yahoo.com Happy Flashing…..

A Little Help Needed From My Friends…..

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A week or so ago I wrote a blog called, “How Do You Know.” It’s about trying to decide on a name of a book of short stories. Well, I am now putting together my book of short stories and it’s called, “Shirley’s Shorts and Flashes.” It’s a simple title that I thought would work out OK.

Now I am in the process of having a cover designed for the book. I always have a lot of fun doing this but trying to decide which is the best cover to use is enough to make you lose your mind.  The first instructions I gave them was to try make something to go with the title.  I ended up with a lot of very well done covers, but they looked like they belonged on a children’s book, instead of stories that mostly deal with mystery and death and other things.  I had to say oops, I was wrong and lets start over and so they did. I ended up with 135 designs that I have now whittled down to seven.

I know the artwork on a book-cover usually tells you something about the book.  What kind of artwork do you choose when you have a little bit of every genre in the book? I  picked what appealed to me and hope that I make the right decision.  Actually, how about a little help from my friends?  Go to 99designs and help me pick a cover.   In the sidebar under blogroll you will find a link that will take you directly to the voting page. If you think of anything that you think might help the cover, just tweet and let me know.

I love writing and the entire book making process.  I hate marketing, but that’s another blog.

How Do You know?

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The best short stories of Mark TwainOK, I admit it, I really don’t know a great deal about writing.  That expression “flying by the seat of my pants” is exactly what I’m doing. I have to say I learn something new  every day and I find that exciting. Knowledge is what makes the world go round. Everything we have in life is due to someone’s knowledge and ingenuity.

Right now I am struggling with a simple thing(not to me), that is knowing, but not knowing enough.  I want to get the perfect title for a book of short stories.  I came up with a list of titles, but nothing seems right.  The stories are of different genres from horror to mystery with  even a love story or two. A title might fit one but not all.  So how do you come up with a title?

I’ve tried the internet and I can’t say I got much help from there. There was lots of information about how to write a short story. There were a couple of articles that mentioned naming but they were talking about one story not a dozen or so.  Usually my titles just come to me but not this time.

We all want the perfect title that will grab the attention of the reader so they will pick up the book. We want the title to lead them to open the book, and never put it down until it’s read. Here are six keys to writing a title by Terri Marie of White Wing Entertainment:
1. Write down all possible titles. Anything and everything you can think of. You never know which phrase may catch and stick.
2. Pay attention to how YOU feel when you tell others your title. Do you feel proud, tentative, scared, stupid? The feeling you want is like a proud mother or father of your new little baby. Give it the best name you can. It will be called that name the rest of its life.
3. I also researched other titles on amazon. You don’t want a title that everyone has. It will get lost. You also don’t want a title so obscure or under-descriptive that nothing will come up on a search.
4. It needs to have intrigue and yet be clear.
“Things Your Priest Doesn’t Want You To Know,” would be intriguing. So would “Things Your (fill in the blank) Doesn’t Want You To Know.” We humans like to know what others are doing, thinking feeling etc.
5. Does your title help the reader to become a better person? We want to strive higher, yet it has to be an achievable goal without huge effort. If your title is “How to increase your IQ by 10 points, studying an extra 5 hours a day,” I’m not interested.
6. Sum up your book in one sentence. Write as many as you can of these one liners. If you get just one chance to give a message from your book to others, what would you say? That’s often all you get. Use it wisely. When it all comes down to it, go with your gut.

Does knowing the above information make it any easier? It doesn’t for me. When it comes to titles, how do you know?

 

 

My Family Will be Thrilled…..

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It was so easy it scared me.  I published my Christian Poetry book on XenXii.com.  For some reason I thought it would be harder.  It was a little time-consuming for me to get the poems and pictures into one document.  Thank goodness this was a small book. I wanted to see what actually happens with the process.

Now comes the hard part of trying to sell the book.  I think publicizing is the hardest part of the book writing process.  I probably won’t get on Good Morning America or Anderson for the world to see me  and listen to me say how wonderful either of the books I have out now are. I have read everything I could get my hands on about selling a book and they all start with the social programs.  What works, what doesn’t work and what might work when your networking. So I’m on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, but who I’m connecting with is other writers trying to do the same thing I am.  I think it is a vicious circle.

I am beginning to do Pod Radio interviews now and I must say it has been interesting.  I plan on doing more of them just because I like to talk and I can hear myself on the radio. That is something I never thought would happen.  I know I can get my family to listen and tell me how good I sounded and how absolutely wonderful the books sound.  There’s nothing like having people who love you.

I think I’m going to try my hand at doing a book commercial. That will be fun and once again, it will thrill my family.

Oh by the way drop by http://www.xinxii.com/en/verses-for-my-king-p-333636.html?osCsid=gmcb03bri8khs1hcqg1s9gtf03 and have a look at Verses For My King.

How’s Your Title Coming Along

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Cover of "On Writing:  A Memoir of the Cr...

Cover of On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

If you are like me, it may take some time to come up for the appropriate title for your work. It goes for anything that you want to place before the public.  I find I can think of titles, but something inside of me knows it doesn’t quite fit (I wonder if that’s my muse talking).

Sometimes the titles are correct from the start for me.  My book that was originally published in November of last year, had the title of “The Tower”.  When I did a revision of the book this year, I felt the title needed expanding.  I actually gave it a subtitle.  It is now”The Tower, A Jensen Mystery.”  The book I hope to publish this coming year is called “Dobyns Chronicles”.  I haven’t been able to come up with a new title, so it is the one that stuck (cover is designed).

If you have problems, I have found an article from Daily Writing Tips  which gives seven ways to help you find the correct title for your work.

1.  Think of adjectives, nouns and verbs which describe your work.  Write them down and then try pulling your title from them.  You can mix them around to see what works best.

2. Look for an important turning point in your novel or focus on the climax.  Describe the event on paper  Pick out the words or phrases which stand out to you.  See if something works for you for a title.

3.  Pick out novels or short stories that run in the same genre as your work.  Study the titles and how they relate to the story.  Then,  look at your project as a whole.  Think of the theme or overall message of your book.  Write down some words that go along with your theme and work them to see if you can find your title.

4.  Avoid the obvious “The” titles like “The Pink Slipper” or The Brown Dog“.  Look for a slight recurring themes or undercurrents in your novel and try naming your novel after those subtle nuances.

5.  Poets have a way of weaving words into a beautiful picture.  Read some famous poetry and write down words and phrases that stick out to you.  Song lyrics can have the same effect. You can find some powerful titles by mixing, matching and combining words from lyrics.

6.  Consult your thesaurus and look up synonyms for commonly occurring words in your novel.  Look up this synonyms in the dictionary to get a better understand of their meaning.  Use different words in context to find a combination that you like.

7.Type title generator into your search engine and see what pops up.  There are several websites that will either random titles .

I have also included a video on picking your title.  Enjoy……..

http://youtu.be/L0OJuB2yX50