and now for a very teeny story--comes the night (#SFWApro)

And now for a very teeny story:

Comes the Night

skintaker.jpg

Comes the night, thin fingers reach past broken glass and grit. Warm asphalt oozes open; weeds part like thin gray ribbons. Brown bottles litter the ground. The yeasty odor of old beer clings to the soil.

Skin-taker’s blind face rises up. The head weaves from side to side, and then suddenly stops.

The scent of cheap perfume, more alcohol than flowers, wafts through the air.

Roses at Midnight

Skin-taker slithers through the grass toward the scent.

Roses

Comes the night, Skin-taker creeps past the rusted trailers set all in a row. There are steps: one-two-three. At the door, thin fingers start rapping, tapping—way down low where the paint flakes across the threshold.

The door opens. A sliver of light leaks through. It’s not much, but it is enough. Skin-taker flies up. It has one chance. This time it is lucky. It catches the woman in her eye. Plunging into the soft tissue, Skin-taker finds the nerve and flows into her brain.

The woman notices nothing more than a sting in her eye.

From the kitchen, a man asks, Who is it?

Nobody.

The woman returns to the kitchen. The butcher knife is too heavy and will not do. She takes up the boning knife. Moonlight catches the cold, silver blade.

The man turns. Honey?

Skin-taker smiles with woman’s mouth but not with her eyes.

Comes the night, Skin-taker takes some skin.

free short story & the value of critique partners (#SFWApro)

First, a brief message: Just a reminder that I have posted a free short story "La Santisima" for you. If you would prefer to download it to your device, you can get the epub and mobi versions at Smashwords. You can rate it on Goodreads if you like.

In other news, I spent some time with my critique partner yesterday. We usually do chapter critiques via email. That is so that we can spend our face-time brainstorming both characterization and plot issues.

Last week, I sat down and developed an bulleted outline for the last half of the book. This is a reference that I can scan prior to writing the chapter. It contains nothing more than a list of plot points.

However, when my partner and I met, I went through the entire outline. This turned into one of those dreaded forty minute speeches entitled "What My Novel is About." It was the type of blow-by-blow account that sends most professional authors and agents into glaze-eyed comas where they nod occasionally (note: the nodding isn't in agreement, or a social cue to continue, they are usually fighting sleep).

On the other hand, my partner, who is a professional author, listened attentively and interjected some helpful points of her own just as I do for her. That is what critique partners do. We know one another's novels as intimately as our own. Neither of us are looking for a pat on the back, more often than not, we're looking for weak spots in one another's work.

The "What My Novel is About" speech is one that I always save for my critique partner and no one else. When I am at cons or other events and someone asks me about my work, I usually have a tag-line prepared. Nothing that will take more than a minute or two to explain. If the author or editor wants to know more, they will ask. Otherwise, we can move the conversation on to more interesting topics.

I would much rather someone read my work than hear me tell them about it. I believe the power is in the characters' voices and the story.

I will have a blurb for Cygnet Moon soon. I want to you meet Makar, but I want you to hear his story through his words, not mine.

And don't forget to check out "La Santisima" if you have time.