Realizing My Dream

QUOTES_Langston_HughesAs I write more and learn more about writing, this really and truly the only thing I want to do. However, I’m not naïve enough to believe that I have arrived—that my writing is critically spectacular and I can totally support my family on it. In fact, it’s quite the contrary. I have stories that I want to tell that my limited writing skill is totally unable to do justice, so I’ll keep those ideas close to my heart until I’ve written a book or three.

In recent weeks, all the hoopla around Fifty Shades has made me realize something—and this has played out in other mediums of entertainment as well. Your creative offering doesn’t have to be the best one on the market; it just has to have that special something that propels it forward in the collective hearts and minds of willing consumers. And it has to enter the market at just the right time to catch that spark that pushes it into the stratosphere. This has happened with The DaVinci Code, Twilight, The Kite Runner, The Help and many, many other stories.

Somehow, E. L. James was able to bottle that lightening with her Fifty Shades stories. There has been much said about it as she has racked up the notoriety, accolades, and denigration for this trilogy of books. It underscores that people have widely varying opinions on everything, and aren’t afraid to voice them across the internet airwaves.

My only opinion now is that James has received her seven-figure payday, so we might as well move on from beating the dead horse that has become a thoroughbred. I am not and never did hate on Ms. James. I just hope Vintage helps her to improve the quality of the 750,000 paperbacks they will glut the market with.

I have written a novella that I am busy editing for publication on Amazon KDP to build myself a following. I have only been a modestly successful writer by fandom standards, so I don’t have the luxury of the legions of fans Ms. James has taken with her into superstardom. I want to build a base of readers who will like my writing style enough to tell a friend, who’ll tell a friend, and eventually they will happily read my offerings as eagerly as J.D. Robb’s and James Patterson’s fans do.

Several weeks ago, I entered an original fiction contest at The Writer’s Coffee Shop and as I await their decision on its suitability for publication, I can’t help but be excited that I am moving forward with my own dream of getting a book in print. Will my romantic drama set in exotic Paris be a hit? I have no earthly idea. One thing I do know is that if it is not accepted by TWCS, I won’t stop there. I will continue to tweak my stories, to hone my craft, until I have a novel in print somewhere.

The only thing that matters to me now, is that I’m finally going to get to do something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time. If my writing career goes nowhere, at least I’ll be able to say I’ve realized my dream and removed another item from my bucket list.

Flash Fiction – My Second Love

My first novel was a monstrosity in terms of word count and sheer overkill. I have always been a wordy person. When I was in grade school, I preferred writing notes rather than talking to my friends. Early in life, I preferred guy friends to girl friends, because I felt like they talked too much. When I hung out with my guy friends, we might sit for hours and not say much, and that suited me just fine.flash_render

In writing my thoughts, I could take my time and put down in words what I didn’t have the courage or poise to say in the moment. You know—I’m that person who doesn’t have that clever, pithy insult on the ready when someone offends me. And joke punch-lines? Forget it—couldn’t deliver one to save my life.

Even when I met the man who is now my husband, he will tell you, I shared my feelings about him in a letter. Letter writing is a lost art—one which I might tackle in a blog post eventually—but I digress. In this post I want to tell you about my second love: Flash Fiction.

When I re-joined, I did so to write short stories again. I had done this in the past and been mildly successful at it. Well, if you call one publication mildly successful. When I was sixteen, I wrote a short story for a teen magazine. It was a romance—full of angst and unrequited love—girl has crush on star basketball player at her school, and yada, yada, yada.

The editor of the mag loved it and paid me a whopping $75 for my story. You would have thought I might have ridden on the crest of that success and gone on to write multiple published stories, but noooo. I sent in other stories to other magazines, but eventually the sting of rejection crushed my young impressionable heart.

I went on to develop a serious crush on a gorgeous college man when I was seventeen and a green- around-the-gills freshman away from home without my family for the first time. I wrote an epic ton of bad poetry all centered on him, and published a few of my non-college-man centric poems in my College Magazine.

I loved the payoff of writing poetry, and I remember wishing even then, you could write a story that short. Flash forward through my childbearing years to the recent past. While piddling around on Zoetrope, I discovered there was a whole new genre of short-short stories called Flash Fiction.

These are stories with a beginning, middle, and end that are less than one thousand words. Many journals and magazines define their own lengths for Flash Fiction. Some want it to be less than 750 words, others, 500 words. Still others like extreme brevity: 100, 75, and 25. Heck, there’s even one lit mag that asks for six word stories. Yeah, six; and this feat is much harder than you would imagine.

The most memorable six-word story I’ve ever read is this Hemingway gem:

For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn. —Ernest Hemingway

 Beginning, middle, end—we know from this that a mother has lost a child, either to miscarriage, stillbirth or some similar tragedy. The beginning presents the “for sale” sign, the middle describes the item, and the end describes their condition. As a mother who’s lost a child to stillbirth, this story resonates with me.

Of course, I have not written any Flash Fiction that is such sheer genius. I stay within the 250-1000 word range. I’m too wordy otherwise.

I took to writing Flash Fiction because I liked the immediate payoff of having a fully realized story without agonizing for weeks, months, maybe even years to write a novel. I also wanted to be able to rack up some more publishing credits, but the most important reason I began writing Flash Fiction was to learn the art of brevity—to be able to say a lot in fewer words. I did it to learn how to tighten and edit my own fiction before I place it into the hands of pre-readers and reviewer friends who will give it a more thorough once-over. Flash Fiction has done all this for me and more. That is why, next to my novels, it is my second love.

What I Learned Moving From Derivative to Original Fiction

In the summer of 2009, I was introduced to a series of Young Adult novels by my daughter which catapulted me into a world of derivative fiction that I never knew existed. When I discovered this magical place, I thought, “Here I can practice writing without having to pay big bucks for a writing workshop.” I will forever be grateful for the people I’ve met, and the inspiration so many writers and readers in this venue have been to me.

Navigating social networks as an aspiring writer has been a very interesting journey for me. As a generously middle-aged woman, with children that are now leaving the nest, I took an early stance of endeavoring to remain above the fray. You know, the chaos that inevitably develops resulting from a large group of people, who have different beliefs, personalities, and opinions coexisting on a platform where words can be taken out of context and be blown out of proportion within seconds—and in realtime!

dreamstimefree_179689However, being a part of a derivative group that ranges in ages from late teens to late sixties (and possibly beyond), with the only common denominator being a love for reading and writing rekindled by a series of books that spawned a phenomenon—cliques and factions and divisiveness were bound to rear their ugly heads.

There are the purists—those writers who consider themselves the closest thing to professional writers among us, who are very selective in their choice of other writers they elect to associate themselves with.

There are the divas—those writers who remind us lesser writers time and again that they rule the roost and it is always “all about me.”

There are the hobbyists—those writers who do this purely as a mechanism for fun and as a social outlet.

There are the rest-of-us—those writers who are working hard to improve their craft, who may not yet consider themselves a J K Rowling or a Suzanne Collins, yet—but who hope to get there someday. (It is Stephenie Meyers’ characters most of us have embraced and write about, but her body of work hasn’t solidified her firmly as a great writer yet, IMHO).

And finally there are the readers who separate themselves, often times, based on those who like the actors who’ve gone on to play the beloved characters in the books, both separately, and romantically as a unit—which has spawned a spate of infighting that I will never understand.

As I have become increasingly disenchanted with the drama that often goes with establishing a presence on Twitter, Facebook and the Internet in general, I am still searching for that elusive place where I will only be judged by my writing alone, and not which group I belong to, or my ability to titillate by incorporating subject matter in what is supposed to be a Young Adult novel and turning it into something else altogether.

While I don’t believe in censorship, I do believe that because we essentially borrowed these characters from other writers, there should be some respect shown for how we choose to write about them. What does that look like? My answer is simply, “whatever allows you personally to sleep at night.”

Early last year, in the midst of a family crises, I went back to join an original fiction writers’ group that I had been a part of years ago. During what I call my “second honeymoon phase” I was embraced by a group of writers on a forum within that forum which I believed, judged me by my writing alone. However, the longer I remained a part of this new group, the more I began to see similar lines of demarcation that I saw among the writers in my derivative fiction group.

Though subtle, the same hierarchy that existed in my derivative fiction group, exists in this new group of writers. I began to see that while certain writers in this group dove right in and critiqued my work just as thoughtfully and seriously as I did theirs, there were others who avoided me like the plague. I also saw that while this new group might contain a larger proportion of writers who are classically educated (with MFAs from prestigious institutions of higher learning), there were a few who thumbed their noses at writers like myself who either  1) didn’t hold that distinction or 2) wasn’t published enough to be considered “serious.”

So what I’ve learned is simple: There is no perfect place, no vacuum in which one who has a sincere desire to practice the craft of writing can exist without drama. Therefore, my objective will be to surround myself with writers and readers who are about the business of writing, reading good writing, and fostering good relationships as we move toward a common goal.

The Parisian Assignation (Novel In Progress)


The Parisian Assignation

The Parisian Assignation

Stephen has lived most of his life believing he was a middle-class Cranford. He has finished college, begun a career, and is engaged to a supermodel. What more could an All-American Boy ask for? On the eve of his thirtieth birthday, Stephen learns the truth about his origins, changing his life forever and putting him on the true path to fulfilling his potential in exotic France.

American-born Nicole Parker has been educated abroad since she was in grade school. An MBA and expert linguist, she is excellent at what she does, but does she remind Stephen all too much of someone he’d rather forget?

Will the Parisian assignation prepare Stephen to claim his legacy, or will his assistant drive him to distraction, in more ways than one?

Novel in Progress. Read 1st Five Chapters here: