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. 

writing words into stories is hard

Writing words into stories is hard work sometimes. I envy people who can whip out a short story over a weekend and sell it on Monday. I'm not one of those people. Occasionally, I can write a story and polish it within a week or two by working in the evenings and on the weekends, but rarely do I finish a short story in less than two weeks.

I mean I can, but it's not usually a very good story.

I have a story that stymied me recently. I've been working on it off and on for a month now. I was ready to trash it until my reading partner told me that she loved it. She also told me how to fix it--the places where I was unclear or had shot off the rails into a side plot that didn't belong in this particular story.

About ninety percent of my work would hit the recycle bin without ever seeing the light of day if I were left to my own devices. That's why it's good to have a second set of eyes on every one of my projects.

What gave me so much patience with this yet unnamed story was another short story that I wrote back in the spring. "La Santisima" took all the same weird curves and turns that this current story has suffered. I worked on "La Santisima" a little at a time as a side project for a couple of months.

"Naked the Sings" shot out of my laptop in a week. That was one of the rare stories that just flowed from beginning to end. "Love, Crystal and Stone" fell between the others--at times it came very quickly, other portions had to be groomed and polished relentlessly.

I love working on short stories, though. They give me the opportunity to experiment with different styles and subjects without the time investment of a novel. I also force myself to complete them whether I think the story has merit or not.

The ones that I spend the longest time working on are usually my better works, the ones that I'm very proud of when I reread them.

A couple of links:

Drey's Library is running a series of posts where authors who are involved with the Neverland's Library Anthology discuss why we wrote stories for the anthology. Mine is here.

You can read an exclusive excerpt from "Love, Crystal and Stone" at the Fantasy Book Critic.

Sabrina Vourvoulias wrote an exceptional post on Some Thoughts About Ageism, Fear, Failed Posts and Even More Failed Imaginations. I agree with her and she will no longer be fighting that battle alone. I'll also raise the banner to see more older characters in novels.

That's it for this week.

Come back next week, because if the stars come together and the universe smiles upon us, I might have something very special for all of you.

a long, dry spell, then the news rained down ...

Thanks to hard work, several top-notch beta readers, and some sheer good luck, I finished my urban fantasy short story "Naked the Night Sings" and submitted it for consideration. I received my email confirmation on Friday, and I'm thrilled to announce that "Naked the Night Sings" will be included in Manifesto: UF.
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