Tag Archives: Online Writing

The Workaholic (Short Story)

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Hello, everyone, I wrote this a couple of days ago and thought I would share it. It is a story about a man who let work rule his life. I hope you enjoy it.   Shirley

 

The Workaholic

 

James stood by the large picture windows, gazing over the open fields, to the purple-tinged mountains beyond. Darkness would be coming soon and with it a storm. He flinched as a crack of lightning split the murky sky. He turned and threw another log on the open fire, sending a flurry of ash into the air. He refilled his whiskey glass and took a deep sip. He savored the taste as it warmed his throat. He was trying to build up the courage to make that phone call he had been putting off all day. He reached for the phone just as it started to ring.

His heart began to pound as he grabbed for the receiver. The tentative nature of his voice was heard clearly as he murmured, “Hello.”

“Hello, James, this is Edmond from Buying Direct and do I have a deal for you.”

“What, oh hell, don’t call again,” he shouted as he slammed the receiver down. I’m not calling her. She is the one who left. His mind immediately went back to a week ago when he came home after being gone for two weeks and found her and the kids were gone. He was expecting his two-year-old daughter to start screaming “daddy” as soon as she realized he was home, and his five-year-old son starts asking to go out back and play catch. So much for expectations. What he got was an empty house with a note left on the dining room table. He’d memorized every word since he’d read it so many times.

James, I’ve taken the kids and moved out. I’ve tried to talk to you many times, but you kept putting me off or not listening at all. You can’t stay away from home for weeks and expect me to handle the house, the kids, the bills and that dog of yours. Don’t bother calling Mom’s because I’m not going there. If I want to talk to you, which I doubt. I will call you. April

After reading the note, James made his bar area his most favorite spot in the house. The drinking began the day he got home and has only stopped when he passes out on the couch. Normally he is fastidious about his appearance but not this week. He looks like a drunk on skid row. His facial hair now has six days’ growth, not to mention the hair on his head is greasy. He’s not removed his clothes since he walked through the door. They smell like body odor and wet dog scent and are very wrinkled.

The storm rumbling outside enhanced James’s angry mood. He couldn’t believe, after all, the years they’d been together, and as hard as he worked, she left. She can stay gone. I don’t need her, and I will fight for custody of the kids. She’s not going to get away with doing this to our family. James picked up his glass from the coffee table poured himself another glass of Crown Royal over rocks. He’d lost count of the number of times he’d filled his glass.

“Come here, Brutus. You will be my family. Won’t you boy? You love me don’t you? We don’t need her.” The Mastiff shook his head slinging saliva on the coffee table before he jumped up to lay beside James on the couch. James began to rub Brutus’s head and ears. “You’re such a good boy. You won’t leave me, will you?”

 

“You know, Old Boy, I have to go back to work on Monday. I don’t think I can go back to Raleigh and leave you here. I’ll give my boss a call tomorrow and tell him I can’t abandon you. I’m sure he’ll understand. There’s no way I’m leaving you here. She’ll be sorry she left us. You wait and see.”

The phone rang again but this time, James was too inebriated to care who was on the phone. He picked up the phone and slurred “Hello.”

“James, it’s April.”

“Yeah, what do you want?”

“The kids want to talk to you, but I can hear in your voice this is not a good time.”

“Why in the hell would you care what kind of time it is. You’re not here. You took them and ran away.”

“Sober up James if you want to talk to the kids. Goodbye”

The phone clicked, and she was gone. He didn’t even bother to hang it up before he laid down on the couch and passed out.

6 Steps for Writing a book Synopsis

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snopsisSince Princess Adele’s Dragon has now been published I have to write a synopsis of the story.  I decided to look for some help and found this blog by Marissa Meyer. It broke the synopsis down into easy to handle pieces. I hope you find it helpful.  Shirley    http://amzn.to/25lUOYM
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Confession: I enjoy writing query letters. I know that most writers loathe them, but I always thought the query letter was a fun challenge. The challenge of trying to distil your novel down to its essence, giving just enough information to draw the agent or editor into the story, but without giving away so much that the manuscript loses all sense of mystery.

However, I feel quite differently about the second-most dreaded item of many submission packages: the Synopsis.

The book synopsis is that three- or four-page snapshot of the book, that essentially tells your story from beginning to end while seemingly stripping it of any intrigue, humor, or emotional resonance. To me, writing a synopsis that could leave a reader still wanting to read the actual manuscript always seemed like a much bigger challenge than the query letter.

Unfortunately, it turns out that getting published does not necessarily mean we don’t ever have to write a synopsis again.

Last January, when it came time to my agent and me to start talking with my publisher about My Next Book (which was the Super Secret Project I wrote during NaNoWriMo last November), the submission package we pulled together was remarkably similar to the package we’d used to sell the Lunar Chronicles:

– A pitch letter (similar to a query), illustrating the concept and major conflict of the book.

– The first 50 pages, edited and polished to a glowy sheen.

– The synopsis of the book (although some plot points are subject to change).

So rather than whine and complain about how much I hate writing synopses, I decided to take the opportunity to embrace the synopsis writing challenge, and figure out a process for writing the synopsis that didn’t seem quite so painful and intimidating and, in the end, left me with something I was pleased to show my editor.

I’m not allowed to really talk about my new project,* so I’m going to use examples from the synopsis I wrote for CINDER way back when.

Step 0: Write the book!

If the book isn’t written yet, I feel like you’re writing an outline, not a synopsis, and I’ve talked about outline writing at length in previous blog posts. For the purpose of this synopsis-specific guide, let’s assume you have the book drafted out, or even completed.

Step 1: Skim through the manuscript, noting the important events of each chapter.

Try to boil every chapter down to just one or two sentences. What is the point of this chapter? What is the most important thing that happens?

Some chapters will be significantly longer than a sentence or two, particularly the opening chapters (as they tend to introduce a lot of information about the world and the main characters) and the climax (which could revolve around lots of complicated reveals and twists).

And yes, include the ending! From who wins the final battle to whether or not the protagonist hooks up with the love interest in the end. One of the main purposes of a synopsis is to show the full arcs of your plot and subplots, so don’t leave out those all-important resolutions.

Step 2. Embellish the beginning.

Just because you can’t use pages and pages to set up the world and protagonist’s character in the synopsis doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give the reader a little bit of foundation to stand on. The first paragraph of the synopsis should give the same basic information you convey through the book’s first chapter: where and when does this story take place, who is the protagonist, and what problem are they facing right off the bat?

xample: LINH CINDER is a cyborg, considered little more than a technological mistake by most of the society and a burden by her stepmother, ADRI. But her brain-machine interface has given her a unique skill with mechanics, making her, at sixteen, the best mechanic in New Beijing.

Step 3: String your short chapter summaries together, using standard synopsis formatting.

Here, it will begin to look like a story, but an incredibly sparse and drab one. Don’t worry about that. Just focus on getting all the technical formatting stuff figured out, so you don’t have to re-write it all at the end.

Standard Synopsis Formatting

– Written in third person, present tense, regardless of what POV or tense the book is written in.

– The first mention of each character’s name is put in all-caps (so that they can be easily spotted).

Example: When she arrives home, she discovers her two stepsisters—arrogant PEARL and vivacious PEONY—being fitted in ball gowns.

Step 4: Read through, with a focus on plot.

Distilling each chapter down into just a sentence or two can lead to lots of apparent plot holes and lost information. Read through what you’ve written and check that every event in the story naturally leads into the next. Imagine beginning each sentence with a Because / Then structure, and insert further explanation or character motivations as necessary.

Example: Cinder is worried that if she doesn’t fix the hover, Adri will sell off IKO to pay for the repairs herself. That night, Cinder goes to the junkyard to find replacement parts…

(Could be read as: Because Cinder is worried . . . then she goes to the junkyard…)

Step 5. Read through, with a focus on character arc.

Now that the plot makes sense from beginning to end check that you’re adequately showing how your protagonist evolves as a result of the events in the story. Do readers get a sense of who they are at the beginning and how they’ve changed by the end? Look for those Big Moments in the story that change your protagonist’s attitudes and goals. Indicate how those moments effect the protagonist emotionally, and show how their goals and motivations change as a result.

 

Example: Without Iko and Peony keeping her tied to Adri, Cinder vows to fix up the abandoned car she saw in the junkyard and run away.

 

Step 6. Trim and edit.

Now that you have all the necessary information read through a few more times and trim it up as much as you can. Be ruthless when it comes to removing excess words and phrases that don’t help you tell the story. Choose your descriptive words carefully, ensuring that you’re using words that carry a lot of weight. My book synopses for CINDER and New Secret Project both came in around the 1,500-2,000 word range, and that’s not a lot of room to work with! So edit, edit, edit.

Six Easy Grammer and Format Tips

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Grammer

The following blog is from BubbleCow which I received this morning.  Because of my editing on Princess Adele’s Dragon, I seem to be paying a lot more attention when I see these helpful tips. I wanted to share it.  Have a blessed day.  Shirley

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I’m talking about that dirty word: grammar.

But more than that, I’m also talking about formatting, which is kind of like grammar for the computer-age. Bold statements aside, if you want to be taken seriously by publishers, editors, and readers, then you’ve got to get your head around formatting conventions on word processors. I often joke that you wouldn’t start playing a sport without first reading the rules. It is the same for writing. You need to be getting the basics correct; there’s no excuse. As a writer, you simply need to know this stuff.

I’m a big fan of writing software in general and favour a whole host of different word processors. However, Microsoft Word is still the industry standard, so I’ll be using that as a reference point. These rules will still apply whether you’re using Scrivener, OpenOffice, LibreOffice, or whatever your software of choice is.

OK, so with all that said, here’s the six grammar/formatting issues that drive us mad:

Ellipses – yep. They showed up last week and they’re back again. A few of you seemed unclear as to the nature of an ellipsis. Well, an ellipsis is the three dots writers use to denote an omission or to show a pause in speech. Here at BubbleCow, we often receive manuscripts where the writer has thrown in a few ellipses but with variable numbers of dots. In fact, some writers seem to think that the more dots they add, the more mysterious and tantalising their cliff-hanger becomes. “I was never there…………………… OR WAS I?” Oh dear. Ellipses only ever have three dots. No more, no fewer.

Two other things to say about ellipses. The correct way to write an ellipsis is . . . – that’s dot space dot space dot. The problem is that this plays havoc with some eBook conversion tools. Therefore, our house style is to alter them to … (three dots with no spaces). This will be picked up in the conversion process and handled correctly.

What about when an ellipsis is used at the end of the sentence? What happens to that extra full stop? Should it be three dots (…) or three and a full stop (… .). The answer is a little confusing. There’s no set rule on this, with different style guides opting for different options. At BubbleCow, our house style ignores that last full stop. Just the three dots for us, please.

Here’s a great LINK to an article on ellipses.

Writing numbers – this, confusingly, is not another case of consistency. Now, we get hundreds of manuscripts where the writers rather sensibly choose to either use either purely numeric or purely written numbers for the entirety of their manuscripts. Then we get those who arbitrarily use a mixture of the two. Strangely, both parties are wrong in this case. Our house style (based on the Chicago Manual of Style) is as follows: numbers up to 100 must be written in words – so: one, seventeen, ninety-four. After that this becomes a little time consuming, so we allow these larger numbers to be written in digits: 1003, 784, 100,000. All you have to remember is that 100 is the magic number.

Spaces – now I know what you’re thinking. How can anyone mess up a space? Do we receive manuscripts that are just spaceless walls of interlinked words? The answer is no.

I’m talking about making sure that you’re only using one space between words. Now I know how it is – you’re writing passages, deleting them later on, shuffling around paragraphs – things get messy. But I recently ran a find-and-replace on a manuscript and it found 384 instances where two spaces had snuck in instead of one.

We’ve talked about single and double spacing before and it kicked up a bit of a storm. You see back in the olden days of typewriters and typesetting, double-spacing was standard. Those days are over! Double spaces are a nightmare for those unlucky publishers who’re in charge of creating eBooks. They mess up the formatting, resulting in unattractive, oddly-spaced electronic books that inevitably have to scrapped and redone. Our advice? Stick to one space.

Page breaks – this one is easy. The reason I’ve listed it here is because eBook conversions rely on page breaks between chapters. They will see the page break and understand that they need to do something special. If you’ve just pressed Enter a load of time to move the text to the next page you are in trouble. Not only will the conversion process potentially miss the chapter break but you’ll also lose the positioning if you then add or remove text in the chapter.

The bottom line is that you should always use a page break to go to the next page before starting a new chapter. This makes for a clean and presentable eBook, and will also help the printers if you’re going to print copies.

Paragraph breaks versus line breaks – these two phenomena might need explaining as they’re both pretty similar. Indeed, Microsoft Word didn’t start distinguishing between them until about 2003 (don’t quote me on this), but in modern word processing, the difference is very important.

OK, if you open up Word, type “BubbleCow is great,” and then press Enter, you’ll notice that the cursor jumps down to the line below, leaving some space between the previous line and the new one. This is a paragraph break. This is the one you want.

If, however, you were to hold Shift and then press Enter, the resulting new line would be right up beneath “BubbleCow is great,” with no space between them.

A great way of checking this is to use the Show/Hide Nonprinting Characters button, found on the Home tab in Word (it’s the odd black backwards P symbol). A paragraph break will show up as one of these backward-Ps, whereas a line break will be a cornering arrow. You want the P.

Line breaks are a nightmare for those in charge of formatting your masterwork – it groups all the text together, which means that text becomes harder to arrange on the page and stubborn in its disobedience. Using line breaks to create space (at the end of a chapter, for example, so you can get that page break in) can create nightmares for eBook conversions. Paragraph breaks all the way. One of the first things I do with a new manuscript is to find and replace all line breaks with paragraph breaks.

Indentation – those pesky line breaks also have a habit of messing up any system of indentation you might (should) have going. Indents only trigger on paragraph breaks, so there’s an extra reason always to paragraph break! But indents are important in their right.

Here at BubbleCow, we want the first paragraph of each chapter to be a straight flush, with the first sentence in line with the following sentences. After that, though, every paragraph needs its first line to be indented using the Tab key (not spaces! These tend to be messier and can disappear during the eBook conversion process). Again, this is one of the first things we add when we receive a new manuscript, as it helps your manuscript appear clean, streamlined, and readable. It also makes eBook versions far more attractive and is necessary for the conversion process.

 

The Time is Here…..

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I’m so excited and can’t keep my old heart from jumping up and down. I finally have my book of short stories on Amazon. It’s called, “Shirley’s Shorts and Flashes”. You can read just about any genre you want with these stories. I started working on them a couple of years ago.

One thing I’m very pleased about is using Afaheem Solutions to do the drawings before every chapter. Those pictures set the story off and give you little hints what it’s about. It was fun to see what concepts he would come up with in a short period of time. If I wanted something changed he would do it immediately.

I think my favorite of the stories is Forever Love based on a true event from my life. If you like paranormal, love and tragedy all wrapped up in a neat package, you will like this story.

Take a look at it and let me know what you think about the book.  Blessings to all.        Shirley

Flash Fiction

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I love writing flash fiction. It lets me stretch my writing muscles a bit, but not feel overwhelmed. Today I wrote a flash fiction called Football Fantasy. I was required to use six words: alarm, agent, football, song, explosion, and fantasy. I’m posting it for you to read. Please give me some feedback. I love hearing from everyone.   Shirley

Football Fantasy

Can it be true? Has my life long fantasy happened? When the alarm went off this morning, I knew in my heart that it would be a great day. I jumped out of bed with a song on my lips. I’m happy. I’m blessed. When the agent called yesterday about being the place kicker for the Hurricanes, I had a difficult time talking because of my excitement. Me, Amy Jackson, playing football for a professional team.

What is that smell? I don’t know how many times I’ve mentioned it to the maintenance man. He tells me the same thing every time. “I’ll get to it when I can, Ma’am”. I have to take a shower before the agent and coach arrives. That bathroom heater needs lighting. I hate that pilot light. It only works when it wants to.
Where did I put those matches? Here they are.

***

On page four of the Tulsa World, Sunday edition, there is a small article, which reads: Amy Jackson, the rising star of the Hurricanes, the first duel-sexed team in Oklahoma, is mourning the loss of their new place kicker. She died in her home yesterday from a gas explosion. No further details are available at this time.

A Short Story (The Bluff) and Vacation

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Hello everyone. I am off to North Carolina and the beach today. Before I leave I decided to post a short story I wrote a couple of days ago. It’s a true story based on a lesson my six year old taught me (she’s now 41). I hope you enjoy it. I will post again after I get back from my trip.  Blessings to all.


I became a mother at the ripe old age of eighteen. I soon learned I knew nothing about raising a child. Three years later, I decided I needed two children to show off my child rearing abilities. I had a beautiful son and daughter.

My son, Allan, was the best boy. He loved to hunt, fish, and played Evil Kenivel on his bike. The trips to the hospital are another story. This story is about my little princess, Stephanie. She taught me an extremely valuable lesson about bluffing.

For some reason during her first year of school, Stephanie decided to stretch her independence. From a mother’s point of view, a six-year-old, in the first grade needs a great deal of motherly love and guidance.

This beautiful, blonde, blue-eyed, little girl was a bit hard-headed. That came from her father’s side of the family, of course. I’d ask her to do something, and she would stand with her hands on her hips and tell me no. She got her tail busted a few times, but it didn’t seem to matter to her. (By the way, you have to remember, back in the 70’s, busting tail wasn’t considered abuse.) I had to think of a creative way to get my daughter to behave. I came up with the perfect idea.

When Stephanie misbehaved, I would explain to her I was sending her to a convent run by Nuns, who would make her behave. We weren’t Catholic, and I’m sure she didn’t have a clue of what a convent was. All she knew I was going to send her away from home and that was all she needed to behave. I had my well-behaved daughter back. That is until October.

One Thursday evening in October, my little angel reverted to an obstinate, hateful, child. She pushed me to my limit. You know they do learn at a remarkably early age what buttons to push to send you near to the breaking point and then back off. With my control being reached, I yelled, “All right, little girl, I have had it with you. Come Monday morning you will be enrolled at the convent.” Of course, I didn’t have any intention of taking her anywhere, much less the fact I wasn’t even sure there was a convent in Oklahoma.

Stephanie believed me, settled down, and began watching TV with her brother. It ended up a real,enjoyable evening, and not even problems going to bed. I patted myself on the back, one more time for controlling my daughter without having to bust her tail.

Friday morning, the kids got up without any problem, had breakfast and headed out the door to school. I headed to work. I was the Director of Nursing at a nursing home. My day was going well, that is until 1:00 PM and I heard an overhead page announcing a phone call for me.

“Hello”, this is Shirley. How can I help you?” I’m thinking it’s a doctor’s office calling with orders. That’s the usual calls I received.

“Shirley, this is Amanda Jenkins, Stephanie’s teacher.”

“Is Stephanie hurt? What’s wrong?” I asked. I felt panic.

“Oh, nothing is wrong. I just wanted to ask you to come by the school and sign Stephanie’s transfer papers.”

“What? She’s not transferring anywhere.” I had forgotten about the night before.

“Stephanie came to me this afternoon and turned her books in. She said you were transferring her from here today, and she would start on Monday at another school.”

My darling called my bluff. I had to explain to the teacher what happened. I didn’t think she was going to stop laughing. I felt like an idiot. I never bluffed my daughter again. She taught me a good lesson about bluffing. Don’t do it unless you’re willing to follow through and accept the consequences. My consequences were, I had to eat crow.

 

“Warning” A Challenge. Can you do it?

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Here’s a challenge for you. Write a 100 word flash fiction, any genre. You must have a main character, beginning, climax and ending.  If you will send them to me at shirley_mclain.net, I will post them on my blog. When you write a story using only 100 words it is really bare bones, no fluff.  Let’s see what you can come up with.

I am posting the one I wrote for FanStory. It has made the All Time Favorite status and is also entered into a contest. I hope you enjoy the read and please let me know what you think of it.

I look forward to reading your stories and sharing them.

 

Warning

Thunder rumbled in the distance as Sally slipped out the door of her house. She had to get away from her vile, drunken husband. The police were her only hope. She knew if her husband found her, she’d be badly hurt.
“I need to talk to someone, please.”
“Hello, how can I help you?”
“My husband is going to hurt me. Please help me.”
“I’ll take you back and I’ll talk to him. Come with me.”
“No, don’t go to the door.”
Ignoring Sally’s warning, the officer went to the door, and rang the doorbell.
Six shots into the chest

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.
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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.