Thursday, October 30, 2008

Halloween Flash #7: The Final Flash

All right. This will be my last Halloween Horror October story for the season. I hope to do this again next year, or something like it. I’d very much like to thank everyone who took part by posting flash fictions or other Halloween related materials on their blogs. We truly had some awesome stories posted and some great discussion of movies and other horror related topics. Kudos to everyone, even if you just came and read the pieces.

Now, I hope I didn’t miss any links. But I plan to do a post in a few days that pulls together ALL the Halloween Horror links that I’ve posted previously. So, if I’ve missed anything you’d like me to include, let me know and I’ll get it into that post. After tomorrow night, however, I’m not going to be adding any new links for a bit. I need a short break.

The piece below is a variation on something I posted originally in response to a prompt on another person’s blog, in this case Bernita, who is soundly missed, by the way. I don’t believe most of you have seen it so it should be completely new to you. It’s been revised anyway. It’s called:


Sunlight fogs the clearing where the dying trees watch; nothing stirs. But the quiet will soon break. Riders are coming from north and south, and before them fly the ravens. They come in flocks, light spilling dark from flashing wings. Their cries rasp the sky. A wind moves with them.

The ancient oaks shiver as the black birds settle raucously in their branches. The ravens’ agate eyes spark with red as they turn their heads in the sun. The grass stirs now, whispering with gossip as the wind arrives. And there is a rumble in the distance that might be thunder but which the ravens know as the beat of iron-shod hooves.

Up the last hills toward the clearing the riders come, their thunder shaking the earth now, shaking the trees and stirring the birds into a frenzy. Light ripples off armor, off the heads of lances and the bright pennons that snap with eagerness.

The sky roars with sound, then falls nearly silent as the armies draw to a halt facing each other. In the trees, the ravens preside. And the charge comes, as the birds expect. Battle is joined. Carnage riots in the clearing.

First blood soaks the earth, moistens the dry soil. More crimson follows. Buckets of it. It’s what the dying oaks have waited for. It’s why they’ve been sending hate over the years into weak human minds, urging them toward war, urging them toward this moment and this place.

Quietly, the oaks begin to bloom. And in the trees’ awakening hunger, the ravens are the first to be devoured.

The first. But not the last.

--- the end ---

New Halloween Horror Links:

More Halloween Horror October Flash Stories, or Poetry

Barbara Martin, with her first: Halloween Flash

Lucas Pederson: The Creeper.

Sarah Hina: Run.

Laughingwolf (Adult Language Warning): taboo

Jason Evans: The Forgotten Ones

Vesper: On a Halloween Night

Billy Hammett: It Is a Fearful Thing

Halloween inspired art:

Check out Steve Malley’s killer Halloween art here.

Jack Bertram: Frankenstein versus Hercules

From Scott’s blog: David Hartman


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Halloween Dream

Had a very strange dream last night. In some dreams I’m one person all the way through. In others, I’m observing from above as an omniscient presence. But in last night’s dream I “head-hopped,” moving from person to person depending on the scene.

The dream began on an oil exploration ship. Our team had brought aboard a slimy substance dredged from the ocean’s bottom and we had it in a glass case that looked a bit like a crystal coffin. I was one of several scientists gathered around the case as another scientist showed us how the slime moved when shocked.

At one point, the scientist sent a surge of electricity through the slime and it suddenly began to grow and started sloshing back and forth in the case much like those old wave machines used to. We all panicked and started backing away when suddenly the slime darkened dramatically and thickened into a throbbing chrysalis. In the next instant the chrysalis burst open to reveal, very anti-climactically, a chimpanzee.

The dream switched ahead in time then and I found myself in a rec room on the ship. I was reading a newspaper while two other men played cards. The chimp was wandering around in the room and I understood that tests had revealed him as nothing more than a normal chimp. For that reason he’d been freed of his case. I heard a sound and looked up to see the chimp suddenly attack the two other men and begin tearing at them. Blood sprayed; the men began screaming; I jumped up and ran for the door.

That’s when I began head-hopping. First I was back in the lab where the slime remaining in the glass case started to bubble and birth black blobs of some tarry substance. These broke open to reveal all kinds of apes. There were chimps, gorillas, and orangutans, but they were distorted, looking more human in the shapes of their skulls but with long arms ending in massive slashing claws. They smashed through the glass and I was swarmed under as I tried to flee.

I switched into another man’s head who was running from some howling apes. He dodged through a door ahead of his pursuers and reached the rail of the ship. There was nowhere else to go so he (I) hurled himself over the rail into a bright blue sea. As soon as I hit the water I switched into the head of a man hiding behind a white counter with two others. Apes burst through the door and began searching the room. One guy tried a peek over the counter and the apes saw him and attacked us.

I fled down a hallway and out a back door and slammed it against the apes. I tore off down a corridor toward what I knew was the bow of the ship. I passed another man running the other way and realized there was no safety in that direction. A large, glass-windowed room was to my left and I pulled open the door there and rushed in, thinking to hide among the machinery in the room. But an orangutan loping down the corridor after the other guy saw me through the windows and came after me.

I saw a metal mesh door that opened into some kind of small control room and ran over to it. The door was opened slightly and it took almost all my strength to get it open and get inside. I started pulling it shut just as the orang burst through the outer door into the room I’d just left.

There was a bolt that locked the metal mesh door and I started to slide it forward with the orang coming toward me. But it was very heavy and I struggled, knowing I had only seconds to work. I almost had it in the lock slot when the orang smashed into the metal mesh from the other side. Hot spittle exploded over my face and chest and I could hear an incredible howling from the creature’s wide open mouth. The bolt was touching the lock when the orang’s fingers came through the mesh and grabbed it. We strained against each other, me trying to close it, he trying to force it back to get in at me. At the instant I knew the beast was going to win I woke up.

--- dream end ---

NEW Halloween Horror News and Links:

A bit of cool news. L. A. Mitchell did a flash piece called “Home” for Halloween Horror October and won second place in a contest with that same piece. Check out the post here.

Laughingwolf has another freaky flash up: Chance

Vesper has a story up called Fortune

Will Kinshella has entered the fray with his own Halloween Flash

And Avery Debow adds another flash with The Love of the Job

And another from Laughingwolf, who would get an award for most prolific halloween flash fictioneer if I had thought about making such an award. See rider

OLDER Halloween Horror Links:

Flash Fictions

Hell Plate by Lucas Pederson.

freaky flash IX, night, by Laughingwolf.

lobo, also by Laughingwolf.


Barbara Martin has been running some posts on her blog about horror films. Today she has a piece on Dracula.

Travis has a great true story on his blog called Ghost. Well worth checking out.


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Halloween Flash #6

One thing I’ve realized about twist-ending stories is that there are usually several possible endings that can be produced by making only minor alterations in the text. And sometimes with no alterations. In fact, I’ve submitted stories with anywhere up to four different endings. My Halloween Flash this time is an example. Some of you read the story “Precious Cargo” when I entered it in the “Clarity of Night” contest. For that contest it had a bittersweet ending. As you can see, I’ve made a few minor changes at the end, and have changed the title to reflect the story’s new direction. WARNING: This ending is pretty damn nasty. Read at own risk.

Note: There are some more Halloween Horrors listed in the links below the story. Since I’m way behind in checking blogs, I may find more today and will add them here. If I miss anyone, please let me know. As always, older stories are linked in my recent posts.


No moon.

A sky flecked like mica with stars.

I had my Harley redlined, the V-Twin burning between my legs. It’s always dangerous riding fast at night. But since the change I had nothing to lose, no one to care if I lost it.

Then I saw her, lying across the blacktop.

Dead, I thought.

But she moved when I swerved to avoid her.

I got the bike stopped, u-turned, winced as I saw… Her back was broken.

I hung the bike on it’s kickstand, the headlight painting her, refracting jewels from her liquid eyes. I rushed to her, knelt.

She opened her mouth but made no sound. How could she be alive? How could she breathe with a chest half crushed? What was she doing so far from town? What sick fate had sent a vehicle to rendezvous with her at this lonely spot? There were signs of burnt rubber. Whoever had hit her hadn’t even slowed down.

I tried to force, “It’s OK,” through my lips. The meaningless words wouldn’t come.

Then she looked past me toward highway’s edge. I turned, saw some shadowy movement. When I turned back she looked like she was sleeping but her chest no longer rose and fell.

My feet followed where her gaze had led, and I saw why she’d been crossing the road. Saw what she was returning to. Or running from.

Her puppies had been born dead. But in this new world they hadn’t stayed that way. They smelled me, and squirmed toward me through their mother’s afterbirth, their baby teeth stark and white and gnashing.

I backed away, then screamed as a sudden flashing agony lanced through my legs. I fell, rolled instinctively away from the pain. The mother hound’s mouth was flecked with foam and blood. My blood. Her eyes had been reborn as scarlet hells.

I tried to get up, found she’d torn out my Achilles tendons. Still screaming, I scrabbled away along the highway. The hound growled and hitched herself toward me, her paws slapping at the asphalt. Intestines unraveled behind her.

I almost laughed hysterically as I realized the mother’s broken spine would keep her from catching me.

Then I saw the puppies. On the road. They couldn’t walk either. But they were crawling faster than I was.

--- the end ---

Halloween Horror Links:

Flash Fictions

Hell Plate by Lucas Pederson.

freaky flash IX, night, by Laughingwolf.

lobo, also by Laughingwolf.


Barbara Martin has been running some posts on her blog about horror films. Today she has a piece on Dracula.

Travis has a great true story on his blog called Ghost. Well worth checking out.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Halloween Flash #5

In thinking more about the primary topic of my last post, an idea for a flash piece occurred to me. And so, I give you “Isolation.”

Stay tuned after the story for another new Halloween Horror link. I'm expecting some more tomorrow and will add them to this post then.

In last minute news, before this post, I just got an email accepting a short story of mine called "Dragon Lost." I'll write more about that at a future time.


The snow falls straight down. Like cold feathers at first. Then in heavy clumps like frozen rags. You stumble to your knees. But you’re up again swiftly. To stop moving is deadly. Not that you’ll freeze. That death would be almost welcome compared to the horror you fear. You can’t even name the horror. Not clearly. But it follows you. It follows.

You stagger forward, through the first swirling winds of what threatens to become a blizzard. Wind will cover your tracks, you think. It would be such a gift. But you doubt it’ll happen fast enough to save you.

The snow thickens. You start to sweat. You remember reading how dangerous that is in the cold. The sweat will freeze on you, chill you to death. But you dare not slow. The followers are coming. You hear them, you think. Though you hope it’s only the wind’s shrill shriek.

Then the world knocks you down. You don’t see well anyway without your glasses and in the snow you run head on into a cliff. Suddenly you’re flat on your back with wet white piling on you. Your face throbs. You taste salt at your lips, know that it must be blood.

Somehow you climb to your feet. Your hands find the cliff’s face. You realize it isn’t a cliff at all. It’s a wall. It towers too high to climb over so you begin to feel your way along it, knowing there’s no time to retrace your steps.

A sound stops you, freezes your blood more than the cold surroundings. You turn. Your followers are there, mere silhouettes through the blitz of snow. You back away—until your shoulders press against the wall and there is nowhere left to go.

The followers close in, bulking around you, cutting you off from any escape. You want to cry out for mercy. You would beg in an instant if you thought it would save you. But their soul-less eyes tell you it won’t.

One follower offers something to you in a bulky paw. Though terrified, you scoot slowly forward. The paw resolves itself. It’s wearing a mitten. Your glasses dangle from the digits. You reach for them, knowing what will happen. The glasses are released just as you touch them, drop and disappear in the snow. You feel the sting of tears and fight them back.

From somewhere a bell rings. It’s too late. Nothing can end the game just yet.

The other children laugh as they push you hard against the wall, and you hear the crunch as someone stomps your glasses. You do begin to cry now, even though you know it’ll make things worse. They love the tears, and they don’t care that recess is over. They only care that you’re different, and alone with them. Alone. Isolated.

--- the end ---

Halloween Horror Links:

Three more from Laughingwolf:

1. Polterguest by Laughingwolf.

2. Dawn Coyote

freaky flash IX, night, a recent one. I'll add this one to links in my next post as well.

One from SQT

Election Day by SQT. OK, now this one is almost too horrific to contemplate.


Monday, October 20, 2008

Various Halloween Type Things

The new Shantytown Anomaly is out for Halloween. There are a couple of my horror haiku in it, and our own Greg Schwartz has a piece in it as well.

I’ve been enjoying the spate of horror movies that always show on TV around this time of year. One of my favorites is John Carpenter’s The Thing. I’ve seen it many times by now. Alien is another great one. I think of it more as horror than SF. Predator is the same kind of movie for me. One of the things that all three of these movies have in common is that they take a small group of people and isolate them in hostile environments—outer space, arctic cold, and the jungle. The first two achieve the greatest amount of isolation and are, accordingly, the most powerful.

A movie that achieves a notable degree of isolation despite taking place in a populated setting is Invasion of the Body Snatchers, both the original and the first remake. In some ways, the isolation is even greater because the small band of normals are surrounded by other people but have no idea who they can trust. The Thing capitalized on this sense of paranoia as well.

I used the small, isolated band idea in Cold in the Light. I’d like to revisit it in a future book. Isolation is important in horror. The hero or heroes need to be stripped bare of defenses and support. They have to stand on their own. And if the heroes can be turned against each other, even better.

I’ll have another Halloween Horror Flash up in a day or so. In the meantime, we have more flash fiction offerings from our colleagues in the blogosphere. The newest ones are below, along with some nonfiction links, but check my post from Wednesday, October 15 if you still haven’t read the older ones.

Trick or Treat by Mark C. Durfee.

Inspire by JR.

Loop by Donnetta Lee. This is a micro flash in 55 words.

analine by Laughingwolf.

Chocophobia by Writtenwyrd.

Investigating a Mysterious Ending by Travis.

And for a longer piece, but definitely a nasty one, see Little Friends by Ferrel D. Moore.

And for those of you looking for markets for horror fiction, check out:
Marketing Horror, put up by Writtenwyrd.


Friday, October 17, 2008

Halloween Flash #4

Does horror always have to be horrific? Or can it have a lighter touch? Humor and horror seldom go together in my mind, and I don’t think the following piece is a very good example of the proper mix. The mere presence of a ghost, or a vampire as we’ve seen in a lot of recent published works, does not make something horror. But I figure we should have examples of the range of horror for our Halloween Horror October. Maybe someone else can do much better with horror humor. After the story I'll give you some new links to more Halloween Horror tales that have just gone up


The ghost fluttered like a butterfly in the wind, wailing like a banshee over the members of the Goth Rock band Scarlet Sphinx while they sat chopsticking some sushi.

"You hear something?" Ricki Naill asked his mates.

"Yeah, you eatin’ like a cow," Harley Storm said. "Didn't your mother teach you to chew with your mouth closed?"

"That’s not what I'm talking about," Ricki said. "It was high pitched, like a Memorex scream, with a...fluttering."

The others laughed.

"You are one psycho mother," Harley said. And thus was born the title and much of the content of their biggest selling album.

The ghost traveled with the band after that and got to live (relatively speaking) the rock-n-roll lifestyle. But even though he was the inspiration for the band’s greatest success, he didn’t get any royalties. And that pissed him off. Royally you might say.

So one night the ghost possessed Ricki Naill, the only one sensitive enough to experience him, and used Ricki’s hands to stab the drummer with his own drum sticks, garrote both the bassist and guitarist with strings from their instruments, and electrocute the keyboardist. Ricki then tried to swallow his own microphone and choked to death.

The ghost was quite happy. Until, in the wake of all the gruesome deaths, the Scarlet Sphinx album went multi- multi-platinum. And he still didn’t get paid.

--- the end ---

New Halloween Horrors, Just Up

The Lesson by Lucas Pederson. Lucas is a horror writer and has leaped into the fray with a nicely imagine piece.

overlord by Laughingwolf. This is Laughingwolf's fith piece. Can you say prolific?

Rather than list all the links to the older stories here again, I'll just refer you to my Wednesday, October 15 post, if you haven't already seen 'em. We've got a pretty incredible line-up, I'd say.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

More Halloween Horror October Links

My next flash fiction story, #4, will be up Friday but in the meantime there is plenty of new stuff to read regarding Halloween Horror October. New stories are rolling in from around the blogosphere, and there are some non-fiction things happening as well.

Although not officially described as a Halloween Horror, Bernardl certainly has a Halloween themed short horror piece at his blog. It’s entitled Jack-o-Lantern.

Sidney Williams has thrown a second Horror flash into the mix. It’s a very nasty one, and similarly entitled Jack-O-Lanterns. I suppose evil minds think alike.

Laughingwolf has two, count ‘em two, flash horror pieces up at his blog. These are: freaky flash iii, and witch. “witch" is particularly interesting, I think.

L. A. Mitchell treats us to a haunting and lyrical piece of mood horror called Home.

And for non-fiction, Rick at “The Writer and the White Cat” is running a very informative series about the “monsters” of horror fiction. His latest report is on “The Sex Lives of Werewolves.”

And over at “Blog of the Beast,” Scott is doing a series on horror movies, including one of the goriest films ever, “Dead-Alive,” which was directed by none other than Peter Jackson.

If that isn’t enough, you can find my first three horror flash fictions at my blog under the names “Halloween Flash #1, #2, and #3.

And, in case you missed any of them, below we have the links to more short horrors by our colleagues in the blogosphere. I never guessed when I said for folks to “join in” that we’d have so much creative effort put toward the writing of flash fiction horror tales. A pleasant surprise! Or an “unpleasant” one depending on whether you like horror fiction or not.

Fat Man
by Stewart Sternberg.

Twisted by Miladysa.

Having His Say by Sidney Williams.

The Empress of the Fescue
, by Avery DeBow.

Problem Child by Avery Debow.

by Laughingwolf

lady jane, another by Laughingwolf.

Finally, the new Illuminata is out. That’s the October 2008 issue. It has pieces in it by myself and the blog world’s own Rachel.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Halloween Flash #3

OK, here is my third Halloween flash story. It's a revision of something I once posted on another blog in response to a prompt. I hope I was able to turn it into something appropriately Halloweeny. I've also reposted the links to all the other Halloween flash pieces just below my piece. We have new, additional pieces from Avery and Laughingwolf.


The spaceship jarred as it landed. The computer had done its job, had brought me down safely from orbit. But I was weak, gasping for breath, mind drifting from lack of oxygen. The recycler had broken down. Even my space suit was nearly exhausted of air. But I managed to make it to the airlock.

I didn’t know this planet. Was the atmosphere breathable? I had no choice but to find out. The outer hatch opened under my hand. I staggered through, fell to hands and knees, slapped my helmet release.

A breath shuddered into my lungs. Warm. Languid. It fed me. My lungs filled with it; my body drank it like nectar. I coughed, then forced myself to my feet. The view froze me.

A low mist coiled thickly around my feet, as if I stood on a cloud. But up through the fog thrust metal trees, of copper, black iron, gleaming platinum. Their leaves chimed in a zephyr breeze. Above me, the sky was clear and golden, like melted butter.

And in the sky drifted a city of silver. I heard the belling of trumpets, and rising over the city’s needle spires came a flock of beings who swept toward me. They were white, blindingly white, with feathered wings.

For an instant I wondered if I had died aboard my ship, or if I lay dreaming with brain damaged from oxygen loss. But I’d always understood the difference between fantasy and reality, and the reality was that the creatures who dove toward me were angels.

They began to sing. My heart swelled with the beauty. I lifted my own voice to join theirs.

The angels swirled before me. Their luminous eyes were sharp, piercing. Their voices rose higher and higher.

My own voice faltered. I couldn’t match them. And I realized that their song was no song at all. No song at all.

At the sound of the angels’ laughter, my ears began to bleed.

--- the end ---



Problem Child, by Avery Debow.

lady jane, by Laughingwolf.


Fat Man
by Stewart Sternberg.

Twisted by Miladysa.

Having His Say by Sidney Williams.

The Empress of the Fescue
, by Avery DeBow.

by Laughingwolf.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Halloween Horror October

My Halloween Flash #3 is almost ready but I probably won't get it posted till tomorrow. Today is Lana's birthday and we're off to the big city's bright lights for some fun and games. Actually, we're going to the insectorium because we just don't get enough bugs around here.

However, so as not to leave you Jonesing for some flash fiction horrors, two new folks have entered the lists with their own wicked quickie tales. So check 'em out for some shudders. The links are:

Fat Man
by Stewart Sternberg.


Twisted by Miladysa.

And Sidney Williams, Avery DeBow, and Laughingwolf still have their tales up as well. The links are below.

Having His Say by Sidney.

The Empress of the Fescue
, by Avery.

by Laughingwolf


Saturday, October 11, 2008

Halloween Flash #2

Well, here is the second installment of Halloween Horror October. It's called "Spot." But don't rush away after you finish the story. Two other folks have joined in the fun, Avery DeBow, with the very eerie "The Empress of the Fescue," and Laughingwolf, with a tightrope walking piece of prose called "flight." The links to these stories will be posted after the end of "Spot." And if you missed my "Halloween Flash #1," called "Goodnight," just see my Thursday post. Hope you enjoy!

Note: Sidney Williams has posted a Halloween Flash Horror over on his blog so I'm going to add his link to this post, at the bottom. It's an evil little piece deserving of your attention, called "Having His Say."


Spot is my pet and I love him. My daddy brought him home last week, but already we’re inseparable. He sleeps on the floor by my bed and I feed him scraps from the table when no one is looking.

I love my daddy, too. And not just because he brought Spot home after my dog, Rover, died. Daddy knows everything. He teaches at a major university and is a doctor, though I’m always sposed to remember he’s not a “med doctor” but a doctor of Sperimental Psychology. He says med doctors are just plumbers.

I’m eight years old and one thing that worried me at first about Spot was that he was older than me. So was Rover. But when I asked Daddy if he thought Spot might die soon from old age, he said not to worry, that Rover had died from barking too much and Spot doesn’t bark.

Spot plays all the games I like, as long as I give him clear orders. I especially like to play fetch with him, and he never gets the ball all slobbery like Rover did. The only thing I don’t like is that he’s not as much fun to pet as Rover. Part of it is that he doesn’t have Rover’s soft fur, but I think a lot of it is the ugly black box attached to his head. It gets in the way a lot.

Daddy says the box is really important, though. He says that it has lectrodes that control Spot, and that without it Spot would run away. I don’t want that to happen so I’ll just have to live with the box, I guess. I sure wouldn’t want to see Spot’s picture on a milk carton like those other lost kids.

--- the end ---

Empress of the Fescue, by Avery DeBow.

flight, by Laughingwolf.

Having His Say by Sidney Williams.


Thursday, October 09, 2008

Halloween Flash #1

I love Halloween. Always have. I love spooky stuff. I love a haunted mood and a good gore fest both. So, in the spirit of the month, I plan to post a few horror flash pieces over the next few weeks as we approach the big night. Feel free to join in if you’re a mind too, and if you want to send me a notice that you’ve done so at Kainja at hotmail dot com (Put Halloween Horror in the subject line), or drop me a note in my comments section, then I’ll post the links to your stories here on my blog. Let’s call it Halloween Horror October. Below is my first burnt offering.


You are lying awake and still in the darkness when you hear the noise, a soft shuffle, like rotted feet dragging on carpet.

Your heartbeat speeds. Your mouth dries. Who’s coming? Who’s coming!

The door to your bedroom opens, scritching back on hinges that need oiling. A shadow bulks in the faint glow from the hallway lamp. A scream rises in your throat, bulges your lips like vomit trying to escape.

But then you hear Momma say: “Sleep tight. Don’t let the bedbugs bite.”

“Yes, Momma,” you reply. And: “I love you, Momma.”

You think you see her smile. Certainly there is a flash of white in the dimness that could be her teeth.

The door closes and you lie awake and still. But no matter how still you lie, there is movement under the sheets.

You bite your lip. Your nose itches but you dare not lift a hand to scratch. You must: “sleep tight.”

Or else the mandible-clicking little monsters that Momma tucked in with you earlier will rip you to shreds.

--- the end ---

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Word Count and Ruthlessness

Novels have room for words, lots and lots of words. That doesn’t mean you can spend them unwisely, but it does mean you can loosen the cinch on your story a “bit” without losing your saddle. Not so with short stories. I’ve heard that writing novels and short stories are two different art forms, and I believe it. Short stories require a ruthlessness that most novel writers seldom need to match.

I was talking to a young writer not long ago about short stories. She was explaining how all her stories ran long because there was just so much to tell. One idea led to another, one twist to the next. And then she found herself wanting to explore every quirk of her characters.

My advice to her was to: “Stop that!” I said: “Such distractions rear up in my own stories sometimes. I beat them about the head and ears until they go away.”

“Distractions!” she said. “But those are the kinds of things that made me want to write the story in the first place.”

“Then you’re thinking primarily like a novelist,” I responded. “There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s different than thinking like a short story writer. Short stories are hard enough to publish for money as it is. But when you trowel in sub-plots and layers of characterization for multiple actors in the story you’re virtually assuring that you’ll never sell it as a short.”

Nine and ten thousand word short stories very, very seldom sell. Unless you already have a big name, which you probably got from writing novels. I wish this wasn’t true. I enjoy reading longish short stories and novellas, but there isn’t much market for them today. In fact, there hasn’t been in my memory, because in my early days of writing, my stories used to run long too. Especially my fantasy stories. And selling them proved extremely tough.

So what’s the solution? How do you tell the story completely in the way you want to tell it and still sell it? The solution for me was to take those long stories and rip their guts out. Sub-plots? Gone! Full character development for secondary characters? Gone! World building? Minimized! Description? Intensified but minimized! Twists? Leave one or two and throw out the rest!

I still have story files on my computer with titles like “Riderorig,” which stands for “The Evening Rider, original version.” Then there’s a second file just called “Rider.” The second version is three thousand words shorter. Guess which version sold.

You can always write a story for yourself, save it, then revise it under another file name strictly for the reader. The existence of one doesn’t hurt the other. So have your cake. And eat it too.


Sunday, October 05, 2008

TV: Where's The Beef?

I’ve never written about TV. Maybe it's time. My family was one of the first in our neck of the Arkansas woods to get color TV. We watched it a couple of hours each night. In those days, parents decided on the channel, though we only had three to choose from. We watched the news, which I didn’t get at that age, and Lawrence Welk, which I hated, and Grand Old Opry, which I didn’t like, and sometimes the Porter Wagner show, which I hated. A little later Hee Haw came out, and that I liked. It had pretty girls and I was beginning to notice girls. And sometimes we’d watch Bonanza or Gunsmoke, both of which I liked a lot. I remember when Star Trek came out. In the first season it was on at 7:00 and some serious begging earned me the chance to watch it. The next year it was on at 9:00 and that was past my bedtime. No more Trek for me, and I didn’t see the 2nd and 3rd seasons until years later in reruns. I never watched The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits because those were deemed too scary for me.

By college, I had pretty much lost interest in TV. I’d watch Star Trek, and for a while got semi-hooked on Buck Rodgers. The only other shows I watched occasionally were the westerns, Big Valley and High Chaparral, and sometimes the detective series Mannix. I would catch episodes of things like Hart to Hart but didn’t watch them regularly. Unlike most of my friends, I never watched MASH, or WKRP in Cincinnati (although later I caught episodes of each in syndication.) I watched episodes here and there of some SF shows I really liked, such as The Invaders and Land of the Giants.

When Star Trek: The Next Generation came out, I made it a habit to watch it each week. That lasted most of a season. I just found it impossible to schedule time to devote to a weekly TV show. Plus, I often simply forgot a show was going to be on. Time and again I started watching a series and failed three to four episodes in. It happened with Space Above and Beyond, with Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek Voyager, Star Trek Enterprise, Stargate SG1, and, more recently, the new Battlestar Galactica. Just this last month I decided I was going to watch Fringe. I managed two episodes and got bored.

The only TV shows I’ve seen every episode of are the original Star Trek, Star Trek: TNG, Frazier, and Nip/Tuck. In all cases I saw far more episodes during syndication (or rebroadcast) than when it first aired.

I guess, in part, I just don’t get what is so interesting about TV. I can read for hours, write for hours, play a video game for hours. But ten or fifteen minutes into most TV shows and I’m clicking channels. And this has gotten much worse as TV shows have introduced ambitious multi-year arcs. I don’t even try to watch shows like Lost, for example, because I know I’m never going to keep up.

Do I have a point? Not really. I like the characters on some shows and there are often interesting story lines and special effects. But most of the time they seem like more trouble than they're worth, or they interfere with a dozen other things I’d rather do. So what is it about particular TV shows that hooks you as a viewer? I’d like to know.


Thursday, October 02, 2008

Around the Blogosphere Today

Well, of the three articles I have to do for that mental health reference book, the ones on Neuropsychology and on Transvestism are completely done. The third one on Fear is pretty much done except for polishing and putting together the annotated bibliography. The deadline is not until October 17 so I’ve got a bit of time. I hate letting deadlines creep up on me so I usually have stuff done ahead of time. Can you say, “obsessive?” I knew you could.

Several things are happening around the local blogging group that I wanted to call attention to. Many of you may already know of these. But:

First, lets all send good thoughts and prayers to Bernita and her husband, who is in the hospital.

Also, Moonrat is holding the “Mischief Fights Cancer raffle,” where she is raffling off her editorial talents to help someone who has been diagnosed with cancer. This could be a good chance to get feedback on a manuscript or query letter, and help a good cause at the same time.

Travis Erwin is also promoting a good cause on his blog today, about helping kids’ education, and, especially, getting them to read. Check it out.

Sarai has a contest going where you can win a free book.

Belatedly, I forgot to add that Shauna Roberts is also running a contest where you can win a book over on her blog, where she has an excellent interview with writer Jade Lee. More possible free books, folks.