May is Short Story Month #FreeBook

May marks Short Story Month.

I had heard this for the past few years but didn’t know where it started. I mean there is a day or month out there for everything – Donut Day, Naked Gardening Day, Breast Cancer Awareness month, Autism Awareness month and so on.

According to Poets & Writers webpage, The Emerging Writers Network kicked off the Short Story month in 2007.

They felt we should showcase short stories – as in stories that could be read in one sitting. Now there isn’t an official number of words that constitutes a short story but the general consensus online is that a short story is between 1000 and 7,500 words.

Hmmm….this means the “short” story I published in 2012 is not really a short story by this definition. I wrote The Search as a prequel to my fantasy trilogy The Elemental. It is 12,200 words. According to the internet, my story is a novelette which is between 7,500 to 20,000 words. (To find out more about the length difference in a short story, a novella and a novel, click here.)

Of course, I have found sites out there that list a short story as anything between 1,000 and 20,000 words. So I guess I will go with this definition because when you compare The Search to my novels which are 81,000+ words, 12,000 is definitely short in my book. It is after all 15% of the length of a full length novel.

In honor of Short Story Month, let me share with you an excerpt of my “short” story The Search.

You can get The Search for FREE from Barnes & Noble, the Kobo StoreiTunes or Smashwords where it is available in all e-book formats.

You can also purchase it for 99 cents on Amazon.

Book Description

For over a thousand years, telepathic cats known as STACs have faithfully searched for those with power over the elements looking for the one foretold to save the Land. None have questioned their duty to fulfill this ancient task.

But when Tosh’s latest charge is murdered because of his Elemental powers, Tosh considers abandoning The Search. Will a glimpse of the future destruction be enough to change his mind?

Excerpt 

The horse’s hooves thundered across the ground. Tosh dug his claws into the saddle as his back legs threatened to slip off. A firm hand pressed against his side, pulling him closer toward the young man behind him. Feeling safer, Tosh leaned out to see the terrain up ahead. He blinked his eyes in disbelief at what he saw.

You can’t be serious.

“We can make it,” Nolan said, speaking directly into his mind.

Tosh looked up at him, but Nolan wasn’t looking at the ravine. He was looking over his shoulder at the three men on horseback chasing them. Tosh caught a glimpse of a hefty man with a red beard leaning forward, urging his mount to run faster. He clearly was gaining on them. Tosh looked at the ravine before them.

It is too far for her to jump.

“Ah come on, Tosh. She’ll do just fine.”

Tosh sighed. Nolan rarely listened to any advice he gave him unless it coincided with something that Nolan already wanted to do. Knowing there was no way and no time to change the young man’s mind, Tosh curled up against him. He dug his claws deeper into the saddle and wrapped his tail protectively around his body. He felt Nolan lean forward as the mare’s hooves left the ground. He closed his eyes, counting the seconds until he felt the mare land on the other side. She stumbled slightly, and Tosh opened his eyes to see a small section of ground at the ravine’s edge fall.

Nolan reined in the mare and turned to look back at the ravine and the approaching men. Tosh glanced up and saw the look of concentration on his face. Suddenly, the ground shook. The edge of the ravine crumbled. Rocks and dirt fell until the gorge was three feet wider than it had been moments earlier. The men pursuing them pulled their mounts to a halt at the edge of the gorge.

“You won’t get away from us,” the redhead yelled.

Nolan raised his hand and waved before urging the mare toward the forest. Tosh glanced back to see the men swearing as they eyed the ravine which now was clearly too wide for them to jump. As they entered the forest, Nolan slowed the mare to a walk.

“That was amazing,” he said with a chuckle.

You’re lucky the mare made it.

“Oh, Tosh, you worry too much,” he said ruffling Tosh’s fur.

Tosh turned to glare at him and then proceeded to lick the fur back into the correct direction. We wouldn’t have had to find out if she could make it if you just learn to control your temper.  

Tosh didn’t really expect Nolan ever to learn to do that. He had been trying to drill that lesson into him since he was a headstrong teenager but to no avail.

“I know. I know. And stop using my Elemental power in front of others,” Nolan said with a sigh. “Why shouldn’t I use it?”

I have never said you shouldn’t use it. You just need to decide when it is wise to do so.

“So using it to defend myself isn’t wise?”

Defending yourself is one thing. Picking fights is another. Tosh sighed. I guess this means we are moving again.

“But first we have to go pick up our belongings.”

They circled back toward the town. When they entered it an hour later, Tosh kept an eye out for the men, but the streets were nearly empty. No one paid them any attention as Nolan stopped before the boarding house where they had been staying. Tosh remained on the mare as Nolan ran upstairs to gather their things. Within minutes, the young man had returned, and they were on their way out of town.

#AtoZChallenge Recap

In April, I participated in the A to Z challenge where each day (except Sundays) you post on a new topic following the letters of the alphabet. So April 1 was A, April 3 was B and so on.

This was my fourth year doing the challenge. The organizers of the challenge suggest you pick a theme for your writing. The first year I didn’t do a theme. The next year it was TV shows and then last year I did characters. This year I decided to write about antagonists.

Now I typically have certain days that I already have topics to write about so I decided to incorporate the theme of antagonists on those days too. So here was my posting schedule.

Monday – Parenting (with an antagonist twist – topics included bad boys, high school and the word NO)

Tuesday – Antagonist

Wednesday – Quote by an antagonist

Thursday – Writing (about antagonists – topics included evil, killers, witches and questions to ask your antagonist)

Friday – Antagonist AND my scheduled Featured Author (Any authors interested in being on my Friday Feature, contact me through the About Me section.)

Saturday – Antagonist

I know many people on the challenge write their posts throughout the month or even the day they are to post. But I picked my topic and planned out my posts beginning in February. I had them all done by the end of March. It was nice not to have to write any blogs in April, which is a very busy month for me.  If I left my writing to the day of (or day before), I would probably have ended by the letter F like many of the others who signed up to participate.

Part of the challenge is also to visit other blogs. You never know when you will find a new favorite blogger. In past years, I have done better at this but this really has been a busy month. I did make it to some blogs and even some that were very interesting.

As always, I enjoyed the challenge and look forward to doing it again next year.

For any of you who have missed out on my blogs from the A to Z challenge, here is a recap of what I covered.

A is for Apocalypse

B is for Bad Boys (parenting)

C is for Cruella de Vil

D is for Darth Vader (Quote)

D is for To Die for Cake (Recipe)

E is for Evil (Writing)

F is for Freddy Kruger

G is for Gollum

H is for High School (parenting)

I is for Iron Monger

J is for Jafar (Quote)

K is for Killers (Writing)

L is for Loki

M is for Maleficent

N is for No (parenting)

O is for Oggie Boogie

P is for Professor Moriarty (Quote)

Q is for Questions (Writing)

R is for the Riddler

S is for Sauron 

T is for Technology (parenting)

U is for Ursula

V is for Voldemort (Quote)

W is for Witches (writing)

X is for Xenomorph

Y is for Yondu

Z is for Zoom

W is for Witches #AtoZChallenge

For the A to Z Challenge, I have chosen the theme of antagonists.

On my normal blogging days, Monday – parenting and Thursday – writing/publishing, I will tie that day’s topic to antagonists but on the other days (Tuesday, Friday and Saturday), I will write about antagonists from movies, TVs or books. On Wednesdays, my Quote of the Week will be from an antagonist that matches the letter of the day. Enjoy.

The Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz, the old witch in Hansel and Gretel, and the Sea Witch from The Little Mermaid – yes, today is the letter W, which is for witches.

In many stories, the witch is the antagonist. She is portrayed as haggard, old, and grotesque. And her use of magic is for her own gain. They are the bad girls of the story but just because you are using a witch as an antagonist doesn’t mean you need to stick with this type of stereotype.

Witches don’t have to be old with a wart on their nose. They can be tall and seductive. Or perhaps they are the petite blond with an angel’s face. And they really don’t have to be evil at all. But this is a post about antagonists so for today the witches will be on the wrong side of our protagonist.

Whether you stay with a stereotype or try to go the total opposite way will depend on your story. But as with any antagonist, be sure to spend time getting to know them and understanding what motivates them. And make sure there is a reason your story needs a witch with magic verses a normal human. The antagonist needs to fit the story.

And in case you want to check out my other antagonists from the challenge…

A is for Apocalypse

B is for Bad Boys (parenting)

C is for Cruella de Vil

D is for Darth Vader (Quote)

D is for To Die for Cake (Recipe)

E is for Evil (Writing)

F is for Freddy Kruger

G is for Gollum

H is for High School (parenting)

I is for Iron Monger

J is for Jafar (Quote)

K is for Killers (Writing)

L is for Loki

M is for Maleficent

N is for No (parenting)

O is for Oggie Boogie

P is for Professor Moriarty (Quote)

Q is for Questions (Writing)

R is for the Riddler

S is for Sauron 

T is for Technology (parenting)

U is for Ursula

V is for Voldemort (Quote)

Q is for Questions #AtoZChallenge

For the A to Z Challenge, I have chosen the theme of antagonists.

On my normal blogging days, Monday – parenting and Thursday – writing/publishing, I will tie that day’s topic to antagonists but on the other days (Tuesday, Friday and Saturday), I will write about antagonists from movies, TVs or books. On Wednesdays, my Quote of the Week will be from an antagonist that matches the letter of the day. Enjoy.

Today is the letter Q, which is for Questions. A good way to get to know your antagonist is to conduct a character interview. This fun exercise can give you a lot of insight into your antagonist, and the better you know him/her, the easier it will be to bring them to life.

You can either get someone to ask you a list of questions or play both the interviewer and interviewee. But all responses should be done as if you are the antagonist. This means that their word choice, manner and attitude should be reflected in their answers.

The key is to ask open-ended questions so your character has to elaborate beyond a simple “yes” or “no.”  So instead of asking, “Were you scared when you were kidnapped?” ask “What was going through your head at the moment you were grabbed?”

Try to stick with questions that will benefit your story. You want to uncover the goals and motivation of your antagonist. And you might just uncover some of their soft spots too.

Need help coming up with questions? Here is a website that lists 50 Questions you can ask your antagonist.

And in case you want to check out my other antagonists from the challenge…

A is for Apocalypse

B is for Bad Boys (parenting)

C is for Cruella de Vil

D is for Darth Vader (Quote)

D is for To Die for Cake (Recipe)

E is for Evil (Writing)

F is for Freddy Kruger

G is for Gollum

H is for High School (parenting)

I is for Iron Monger

J is for Jafar (Quote)

K is for Killers (Writing)

L is for Loki

M is for Maleficent

N is for No (parenting)

O is for Oggie Boogie

P is for Professor Moriarty (Quote)

K is for Killers #AtoZChallenge

For the A to Z Challenge, I have chosen the theme of antagonists.

On my normal blogging days, Monday – parenting and Thursday – writing/publishing, I will tie that day’s topic to antagonists but on the other days (Tuesday, Friday and Saturday), I will write about antagonists from movies, TVs or books. On Wednesdays, my Quote of the Week will be from an antagonist that matches the letter of the day. Enjoy. 

Not all killers are antagonists just as all antagonists are not killers. Today is the letter K, and I am talking about Killers.

From serial killers to mysterious deaths to killing out of jealousy or survival, murder or deaths are often part of the conflict of a novel. And what better way to have your antagonist instill fear than to kill off a few people. Or it could be your protagonist doing the killing to preserve his or her life or that of a loved one.

But no matter who is doing the killing, you still must follow the rules. As with any character action, there needs to be a reason behind it. No one – not even serial killers – kill without a reason. It may not be an obvious reason such as self defense but even mass murderers have a reason for what they do. It is not “just because” or because they are “evil.”

As an author, you have to go beyond the motivation of the killer. If they are going to kill off a character in your story, you need to make sure there is a good reason for the character must die. It could be to advance the plot, spurring your protagonist into motion. Or it could be to add realism. No one expects to read a war drama without anyone dying. But it just shouldn’t be because of “shock” value or you need something to happen.

This give you at least two things to consider before making your antagonist a killer. Why does he do it? And is it necessary to your plot?

And in case you want to check out my other antagonists from the challenge…

A is for Apocalypse

B is for Bad Boys (parenting)

C is for Cruella de Vil

D is for Darth Vader (Quote)

D is for To Die for Cake (Recipe)

E is for Evil (Writing)

F is for Freddy Kruger

G is for Gollum

H is for High School (parenting)

I is for Iron Monger

J is for Jafar (Quote)

E is for Evil #AtoZChallenge

For the A to Z Challenge, I have chosen the theme of antagonists.

eOn my normal blogging days, Monday – parenting and Thursday – writing/publishing, I will tie that day’s topic to antagonists but on the other days (Tuesday, Friday and Saturday), I will write about antagonists from movies, TVs or books. On Wednesdays, my Quote of the Week will be from an antagonist that matches the letter of the day. Enjoy.

Typically when one thinks of the antagonist of a story – especially a fantasy novel – one thinks of the person as being a bad person – perhaps even evil. Yes, today the letter E is about Evil.

Not every antagonist is evil or even bad for that matter. Antagonists are simply the characters in the book that stand in the way of the protagonist. (And they don’t have to be a person at all, but that is a topic for another post.)

evilAnd sometimes your antagonist is evil. But to make them evil just to be evil is not realistic – not to mention lazy on the part of the author. Everyone has a reason for what they do. Something had to cause the person to pick their evil path. It can be their quest for power, revenge, or even a mental disorder but there needs to be something the drives your antagonist. We are the culmination of our environment, our genetics, our past, and our choices.

Often our villain does not believe he is in the wrong. He feels justified by his choices. And even though his mind and reasoning can be twisted, he does everything with a reason.

And as an author, it is up to you to understand what made your antagonist the way he is. You need to spend time developing the background that made him the villain he is today. Your reader may not empathize with your antagonist, but they should understand his (or her) motives.

While his actions may be evil, to create a well-rounded, believable antagonist, you should consider giving him a redeeming quality (or two). And by this I mean something other than he likes puppies. Almost no one is evil all the time.

And in case you want to check out my other antagonists from the challenge…

A is for Apocalypse

B is for Bad Boys (parenting)

C is for Cruella de Vil

D is for Darth Vader (Quote)

D is for To Die for Cake (Recipe)

Editing your novel with the help of a revision outline

Last week I wrote about the different drafts your story will go through on the way to becoming a novel. During those drafts, you need to strengthen the characters and plot as well as reduce wordiness or strengthen your writing.

To do this, I find it helps to have something to keep me on track and remind me of all the areas that I need to focus on.

I am unsure where I got this revision outline. I believe it was condensed down and adjusted one from an online writing class I took years ago. But when I am done with my second draft, this is usually the outline I pull out to ensure I do a complete job of editing.

Even though the notes say to do only one of these at a time, I typically do several at once working on each chapter separately.

Revision Outline

Do only ONE step at a time. If you find another area that needs work – mark it and then continue with the current fine-tuning project. Work in block sections (defined by chapters). Complete each “block” before going on.

1.)    Structure – develop a clear, compelling plot.

a.)    Look for scenes that are passive/dialogue with no tension.

b.)    Scenes that don’t build or are anti-climactic.

NOTES: Each scene has a beginning, middle and end – there must be a climax/tension spot for each scene – make sure dialogue scenes have tension and are not just “passing time.”

2.)    Texture – Sharpen descriptive passages to make characters, setting, and action more vivid – SHOW, DON’T TELL

a.)    Look for too much/too little description

b.)    Clichés

c.)    Too many adjectives/adverbs

d.)   Information dumps

e.)    Background or setting info in the wrong place

3.)    Dialogue – Elicit character personality through conversation

a.)    Look at taglines (placement, too many, too few, too much extra information)

b.)    No information dump

c.)    Bland or melodramatic lines

NOTES: Read dialogue aloud to make sure it sounds natural/realistic.

4.)    Editing – Tighten pace and continuity

a.)    Look for repetition through implication

b.)    Slow passages

NOTES: Cut, cut, cut! Don’t repeat what the reader already knows or what is implied elsewhere. Be ruthless! Tighten up the copy without fear of shortening the novel.

5.)    Blending – search and destroy any weakness.

a.)    Look for soft spots – unclear character motivations, actions that seem contrived.

b.)    Fix by expanding or adding a scene so the novel flows.