CONFESSIONS OF A SHORT-STORY VIRGIN

 

Short stories have always been elusive to me. Despite the countless number that I wrote in my late teens and early twenties, I never finished writing even one of them. Although there wasn’t a name for it back then, I was basically writing flash fiction, though purely for my own enjoyment. Apparently, though, nothing I wrote interested me enough to finish it.

At age nineteen, I had 150 pages of a novel added to my repertoire of incomplete stories. Stories, novels—it didn’t matter: I was an equal opportunity non-finisher.

As I later learned through introspection, it was a combined fear of success and failure that kept me from finishing my work, coupled with the age-old issue of having no idea where I was going with my many WIPs. Eventually, I resolved the reasons for my unproductiveness, and with those fears no longer holding me back, I began to write. In the early days, I wrote four screenplays (still collecting dust somewhere) and two plays. Years later, my deep desire to be a novelist was liberated. I began writing books—and finishing those, too.

I first wrote three standalone novels in different genres (Crooked Moon; Squalor, New Mexico, & Molly Hacker Is Too Picky!), and then began a YA paranormal trilogy, The Desert Series. Mind you, I was still a short-story virgin. I never even thought about popping the short story cherry.

Short stories were alien beings to me. They really were.

I didn't have time-revise

The above quote, which is attributed to Mark Twain, has been attributed to others as well. I’m not sure who said it or even if Twain did. But what I do know is that it packs a whole lot of truth.

It’s usually much easier to ramble on than it is to take an idea and express it in few words. Plus, there are still so many novels in my head waiting to be written, and I couldn’t grasp the concept of having an idea that could be … dare I say it … a short story! (Rather ironic coming from someone has tweeted every day since 2009.)

So how did I lose my short-story virginity?

It was after I finished edits for the first book in my YA paranormal trilogy, Mystical High, and was writing book 2, Desert Star, that I found myself longing to write without any language restraints. It was time to release the pent-up literary fiction writer in me. I quietly did the deed, then gave birth to my first short story, and then to another. (I’m slowly putting together a collection for some time down the road.)

When fellow author Maria Savva asked me to write two short stories for the Triptychs, the third book in The Mind’s Eye series, I was eager to join my fellow authors in being a contributor for this fascinating anthology.

TriptychsDualCover

In the first two books of the series, Reflections and Perspectives, each author wrote a short story inspired by a unique photograph. In Triptychs, the same photo was given to three different writers who were asked to write a short story or poem inspired by the image. Authors were neither able to choose the photos nor given any information to jumpstart their imagination.

The title Triptychs-revise

But when I was given these two photographs, although pretty, they’re not ones that I would have chosen to inspire me to write a story. I really had to think outside of “the box.” I had to find a flicker of something in these photos that resonated with me so that I could build a story I felt passionate about telling.

This exercise fascinated me because for years, I had considered writing stories centered around famous paintings, especially some by Edward Hopper. For example, this is Edward Hopper’s, A Room in New York, one of the many paintings I thought would be a great starting point for a story or a novel.

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I have been imagining stories in my head for a lifetime, but I have always done so when looking at photos, paintings, people, cities, or just about anything that inspires me. Never before had I written stories based on what someone else felt passionate about. The challenge of writing these stories for Triptychs really stretched my imagination in new and extraordinary directions.

It’s interesting, too, that while viewing one of the photographs, it took me about a minute to conceive the story “I Wish…”

Sunset(Credit: Helle Gade)

When viewing the second photograph, however, my story, “May Twenty-Fourth,” took weeks. Creativity is endlessly fascinating, don’t you think?

SONY DSC(Credit: Martin David Porter)

Triptychs is now available at a pre-order price of .99 until the book is published on March 16, 2015.

Amazon U.S.

Amazon U.K.

The other contributors to the book include:

Eden Baylee

Ben Ditmars

Jay Finn

Helle Gade

Darcia Helle

Jason McIntyre

Marc Nash

Martin David Porter

Julie Elizabeth Powell

J. Michael Radcliffe

Maria Savva

Geoffrey West

 

 

CHAT WITH JULIE STOCK

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Julie Stock is an author of contemporary romance novels and short stories. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme and an Associate Member of The Alliance of Independent Authors.

When she is not writing, she works part-time as a teacher. She is married with two teenage daughters and lives with her family in Bedfordshire in the UK.

What is your latest book?

My latest book is also my debut novel and it is a contemporary romance called From Here to Nashville. It tells the story of Rachel Hardy, who dreams of being a country music singer in Nashville, 4,000 miles away from her life in Dorset in the UK, and Jackson Phillips who is in the UK for his cousin’s wedding and scouting for talent for his record label, back in Nashville.

From_Here_To_Nashville

Is your recent book part of a series?

No, it’s not part of a series, although there could definitely be more books about the characters in From Here to Nashville.

How did you choose the genre you write in? Or did it choose you?

I’ve always loved reading romance stories of all kinds so it made sense to me to write in that genre. The story of From Here to Nashville kind of presented itself to me, fully formed so I went from there.

I hear you have some very exciting news! Can you share it with us?

I am just about to self-publish From Here to Nashville. It will be available w/c February 16th, 2015.

If you were to advertise your book on a bumper sticker, what would it say?

‘I Love You From Here to Nashville.’

What do you think some of the greatest misconceptions about indie authors are?

There is still the belief that if you self-publish, your book won’t be as professionally produced as if you were traditionally published. Most indie authors I know are working really hard to have their books professionally edited and proofread, as well as organising professional cover design. The Alliance of Independent Authors is doing lots of work to show how much pride indie authors place in their books, along with a number of other organisations around the world.

What part of writing a novel do you enjoy the most? The least?

I love the freedom you have when you’re writing your first draft. I find the rewrites after that very draining. I hope this is something I will get better at as I become more experienced.

Some writers edit excessively as they write; others wait until a novel is finished to do the bulk of the editing. How about you?

I write a first draft, without editing and when it’s finished, that’s when the editing and rewriting starts.

Do you have any advice for first-time authors?

I think you have to try and write every day, in some form or another. This could mean working on your current work in progress or it could mean writing your blog. My blog has been such a source of pleasure for me since I started it in 2013. I write a post every Monday and I take part in #MondayBlogs which has helped me make many new friends on Twitter, some of whom have become writing partners. I have interacted with a whole host of writers on Twitter and via the organisations I’ve joined and this has helped me to improve my writing as well. In addition, you should go on as many writing courses as you can afford and read everything you can lay your hands on to help make your writing better. I clip all my useful articles into Evernote and can then go back and refer to them whenever I want. You need to try and keep learning all the time.

Can you tell us about your road to publication?

I started writing my debut novel nearly two years ago. I had an idea for the story and just wrote until I reached the end. During this time, I joined Twitter and found out about National Novel Writing Month in November. I took part that year and also used some of their Camps to help me finish writing From Here to Nashville. I heard about the New Writers’ Scheme run by The Romantic Novelists’ Association and decided to try and join at the beginning of 2014. I was lucky enough to get on to the scheme and had my book read and critiqued by a professional author. That gave me the confidence to push on and finish my rewrites. By this time, I was pretty much decided on self-publishing and so I joined the Alliance of Independent Authors as well, after hearing one of their members speak at the RNA Conference. Since September, I have sourced my own cover, had my book edited and I expect it back from the proofreader’s this week. It is very hard work to self-publish, there’s no doubt about it but I am pleased that I’ve had the freedom to do what I wanted to do for the first book and to understand how everything works.

Do you allow others to read your work in progress, or do you keep it a secret until you’ve finished your first draft? Can you elaborate?

I did invite a few close friends and family to read my first thirteen chapters before I’d even finished the first draft. They all loved it, of course! I found my first proper beta reader via NaNoWriMo/Twitter. She read my very first draft and gave me lots of detailed feedback. I also sent it to the RNA for a professional read-through. I then asked another RNA friend to read the final version after it had been professionally edited. I don’t think I would show my next book to anyone before the first draft is finished.

We all know the old saying; you can’t judge a book by its cover. This is true. However, how much importance do you place on your book cover design?

My cover design was very important to me. I’d had a provisional cover for a long time and I wanted the actual cover to be very similar to it, just much more professional! I was lucky that my cover designers were very patient with my lack of knowledge about cover design and although it took a while to get there, I’m so pleased with the final result.

Where do you live now? If you had to move to another city/state/country, where might that be?

I live in a small, rural village in Bedfordshire in the UK. I would like to live by the sea, either in Norfolk or in Cornwall. I don’t think I’d like to move country, although I love to travel, especially to France. I did live in France for the best part of a year when I was at university and that kind of convinced me that as much as it’s wonderful to travel, it’s always great to come back home.

Trains, planes, automobiles, or boats

I don’t mind travelling by train, plane or car but I really don’t like boats that much. I can manage a ferry across the English Channel but you would never catch me on a cruise! I have a bit of an irrational fear of large expanses of water – Titanic syndrome perhaps.

If you could have one skill that you don’t currently have, what would it be?

I learnt the piano for a few years when I was young but I gave up. I really wish I hadn’t so that I could play confidently now and accompany other people. It’s so much harder to pick up when you’re older though.

What might we be surprised to know about you?

My degree was in French and I also learnt Spanish and Italian. My love of languages came from my grand-dad who was born in Czechoslovakia but moved to France during the war. I have kept my spoken French going all my life and as a result, I still speak it pretty fluently. I love speaking the language when I’m there. I hope to go there again this summer to the Alsace region. My next book will be set there.

What music soothes your soul?

I love all kinds of music but my favourite band of the moment is Lady Antebellum. I have all their albums and often listen to them on a constant loop! I was lucky enough to see them in a small gig in the UK last October and I’m seeing them again in March. My character, Rachel, sings one of their songs in ‘From Here to Nashville,’ along with a number of other country music songs and some of her own songs.

Music has always been an important part of my life. I have always loved to sing and in fact, I met my husband when we were singing in the same London choir nearly thirty years ago!

If you are a TV watcher, would you share the names of your favorite shows with us?

My husband and I are knee-deep catching up with Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones at the moment. We really enjoy them both. We also love the TV show Nashville which inspired my book but we’re not sure yet if the UK will get the third series. We’d be really disappointed if we didn’t get it!

What’s your favorite film of all times? Favorite book?

One of my favourite films is Truly, Madly, Deeply with a very young Alan Rickman and Juliet Stevenson. I can hardly ever watch it without crying my eyes out. One of my favourite books is The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, which has exactly the same effect on me!

CONNECT WITH JULIE

Website / Blog

Twitter

Facebook

From Here to Nashville (Amazon UK)

From Here to Nashville (Amazon US)

 

 

CHAT WITH PAUL CUDE

Paul_Cude

Paul Cude was born in Southampton, Hampshire. As a small child he moved to Salisbury, and as a much older child he developed a fanatical interest in playing hockey, something he is still obsessed with to this very day. He has the privilege of being a full-time house husband, watching and shaping his two fantastic children as they progress in life. He likes days out with his family, taking computers apart (sometimes even putting them back together again, occasionally successfully) and, of course, writing.

Time to chat with Paul!

What is your latest book?

Currently I’m just editing the third book in the Bentwhistle series, Bentwhistle the Dragon in A Twisted Prophecy, while at the same time writing the fourth in the series, Bentwhistle the Dragon in Earth’s Custodian. Both books continue the series, following the adventures of a group of dragon friends who spend most of their time disguised in human form and, like the rest of their race, they are tasked with protecting and guiding humanity.

Is your recent book part of a series?

Yes. The books are as follows.

Book 1 Bentwhistle the Dragon in A Threat From The Past

Book 2 Bentwhistle the Dragon in A Chilling Revelation

Book 3 Bentwhistle the Dragon in A Twisted Prophecy

Book 4 Bentwhistle the Dragon in Earth’s Custodian

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What are the special challenges in writing a series?

For me I thoroughly enjoy it. I’m constantly thinking and dreaming about the direction of the story and the characters. The only thing I find challenging is linking up all the little details, something that becomes harder, the longer the series goes on. I’m constantly looking back to make sure all the little things are right, to provide continuity.

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How did you choose the genre you write in? Or did it choose you?

Fantasy is one of my favorite genres to read so that, combined with everything else in my life, tends to lead to me having rather vivid and surreal dreams, mostly about the characters and plot lines in my books. I think it’s safe to say that the fantasy genre definitely chose me. The whole story is part of everything that makes me who I am. Hockey plays a big part in the story and the plot, and has probably been the biggest influence on my life. I started playing when I was eleven years old (old by today’s standards, but young back then). I’m hesitant to tell you how long ago that actually was. But through that sport I have met some of the most amazing people, most of whom I can count as friends, and had the best time on and off the field. I still play when I can, despite being more than a little long in the tooth, and I’m proud to say both of my children play. I help coach them every Sunday during the hockey season.

As well as the hockey, I suppose the other influences come in the form of the books that I read, and the computer games that I play. I love the Harry Potter books, I’m a great fan of the Star Wars Expanded Universe and love the books of Terry Goodkind. But my favorite author in the whole world has to be Terry Pratchett. His books are fantastic and I’ve been an avid reader of them for as long as I can remember. The worlds and the characters he creates are amazing and can easily be pictured in your mind. The twists and turns are something akin to a whirlwind, but it’s the humor that I find most compelling. I can name three or four books that have made me cry with laughter at what’s been written, and just thinking about one book, The Fifth Elephant, is making me laugh as I write this. All of these things zip through my tiny little mind, and in so doing are responsible for everything that fills the pages of my book. If you want to know all about me as a person……..read my book.

Over the years, many well-known authors have stated that they wished they’d written their characters or their plots differently. Have you ever had similar regrets?

A small part of me would like to rewrite my first book, Bentwhistle the Dragon in A Threat From The Past. Not because I dislike it, but because I feel now I have the skill and experience as an author to do better. I love the book, for many different reasons, and so most of me wouldn’t want to change a thing. The more I think about it, the more I go round in circles. I’m sure at some point in the future I’ll think the same about my later books. I do hope all authors feel the same kind of conflict.

Do you have any advice for first-time authors?

Use every last second of your time. Even a few minutes here and there… do social media work, or anything that needs catching up on. I find I use all these little segments of time to buy myself a bigger block of time at some point during the day, in which I can just write undisturbed. Get your work up on Smashwords as soon as it’s ready. You can hunt about for agents and publishers after it’s already up there, with readers already able to get a feel for your work. It’s such a good site and allows you fantastic control over your work. As well, I feel interacting on Twitter can do a great deal to promote your book, as well gaining valuable advice from other authors, and meeting some great new people from across the globe.

What do you like best about the books you read? What do you like least?

I love to lose myself in the story and the characters. Twists and turns are always a must for me. I’m constantly trying to guess what’s coming next in my mind, and always love it when things go in a totally different direction. Depending on the book, I do like some humor injected into it. Books from my favorite author, Terry Pratchett, have some of the most side-splitting comedy woven into their intricately written fantasy plots, that at times I’ve cried with laughter

Are you a fast typist? Does your typing speed (or lack of it) affect your writing?

I’m pretty good. Before deciding to write my first book, I could only type with two fingers. I taught myself to type with a computer program, which took about three months, in what little free time I had. After that, things only got better and faster. The only thing I regret, a little, is that I taught myself to type on a Microsoft shaped, split keyboard. While I have no problem sitting at my desk and typing on my keyboard at my own computer, I struggle if I have to use any of the other computers (laptops) in the house.

Are you an early bird writer or night owl? And do you have any must haves like coffee, chocolates, wine, music or something else?

The older I get, the earlier I seem to get up. I still go to bed quite late (11 pm or so), but more often than not, I’m awake early, and just know that I’m not going to get back to sleep. Normally I choose to get up and either write, or get on with some social media tasks. This at least buys me some time later on in the day to write, or do something else book related, such as research, or updating my blog or website.

Where do you live now? If you had to move to another city/state/country, where might that be?

I currently live in the beautiful city of Salisbury, in Wiltshire, England. If I had to move anywhere, I think it would be to Swanage in Dorset, England. It’s a place the Cude family often goes to, especially in the summer – we all love nothing more than frequenting the stunning beach, fabulous shops, and going on the fantastic steam railway.

Trains, planes, automobiles, or boats?

From the answer to the last question, I’m sure you can guess I’m going to say trains, trains, trains. TRAINS! Just like Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory………I love trains! (I also have my own spot on the sofa. Don’t tell anyone though.)

What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?

Last year I received a fantastic camera for my birthday. That was only in December, and so far, life and fate have conspired to make sure that I’ve had very little time to use it. I love taking pictures, especially of my kids, but of all sorts of things as well, and plan to start practising with it as soon as possible.

What might we be surprised to know about you?

I don’t drink alcohol. That’s why my blog is called “thesoberhockeyplayer”… it sums me up perfectly. I’m the only sober hockey player I’ve ever met… and I’ve met loads, on tours, playing alongside and against. It makes me unique and is something I’m very proud of. I’m not against people drinking by the way… it’s just not for me. Also, I think this is up there with my sense of humour as one of my best character traits.

I once got the words “pottery” and “hockey” mixed up… and in that instant, it totally changed my life, forever.

I always endeavour to treat people how I would hope to be treated, but more than you would expect, find myself let down.

If you are a TV watcher, would you share the names of your favorite shows with us?

In no particular order: The Big Bang Theory, Arrow, The Flash, Marvel’s Agents Of Shield, NCIS Los Angeles, Hawaii Five-O and The Musketeers.

What simple pleasure makes you smile?

Other than spending time with my family, I love to play hockey (field hockey). I can only imagine I have the biggest smile in the world on my face when I play.

CONNECT WITH PAUL

Website

Blog

Twitter

Bentwhistle the Dragon Facebook Page

Amazon Author Page U.K.

Amazon Author Page U.S.

Bentwhistle the Dragon in A Threat From the Past (Amazon U.S.)

Bentwhistle the Dragon in A Chilling Revelation (Amazon U.S.)

Bentwhistle the Dragon in a Threat From the Past (Smashwords)

Bentwhistle the Dragon In A Chilling Revelation (Smashwords)

Bentwhistle the Dragon (BN)

Goodreads

CHAT WITH DIANA HOCKLEY

DianaHockleyDiana Hockley is a prolific reader, animal welfare advocate, classical music nut and community volunteer from South East Queensland, Australia. She is married to Andrew, mother of three, granny of three.

Time to chat with Diana!

What is your latest book?

After Ariel

Who would have guessed that the world of classical music could be so deadly?

Asked what she would do on her last night on earth, Ariel may have rolled her eyes, giggled and said, “Listen to Miley Cyrus while, like, kissing red hot abs!” in one respect she would have been spot on.

DI Susan Prescott has a secret; Pamela Miller wants to find love.

Dingo just wants to play games.

Then it all goes wrong…

After Ariel Paperback.jpg customised 2

Is your recent book part of a series?

Yes it is, but each book is a standalone story. The Naked Room was the first, second The Celibate Mouse.

What are the special challenges in writing a series?

Remembering all the details about the characters used in each one and deciding exactly how much the reader would want to know about them down the track.

NakedRoom

How did you choose the genre you write in? Or did it choose you?

I love crime and romance so that is what I write – well, mainly crime with a tinge of romance!

What else have you written?

Short stories (six on Amazon), article, a little poetry over the years. I won a poetry prize in our town festival a number of years ago. I write articles and edit for Kings River Life, a free online California magazine.

Celibate Mouse Cover

What do you think some of the greatest misconceptions about indie authors are?

That we are so hopeless that no one will publish our work!

Is it important for you to know the ending of a book before you write it? The title?

Both are important and I know them before I start. However, I may not know who the killer is. In After Ariel I didn’t know his name until the moment he was captured. My next book is called A Dark and Lonely Place and is, of course, a murder mystery!

Over the years, many well-known authors have stated that they wished they’d written their characters or their plots differently. Have you ever had similar regrets?

Oh yes, I’ll re-read a book when it comes out and think anything from “Wow, did I write that?” to “OMG, did really I write that?”

Authors, especially Indies, are constantly trying to understand why some authors sell very well while their talented fellow authors have a hard time of it. It’s an ongoing conundrum. What do you make of it all?

Sheer luck. If you think of the most notable – Fifty Shades of Grey – it was sheer luck that got that author her accolades. I’m very envious, but good luck to her!

Do you have any advice for first-time authors?

DO NOT EDIT YOUR OWN WORK!!!! Do not ask Aunty Flo, Cousin Sue or Sister Petunia to beta read or to edit your work. Hire a human literary Rottweiler!

Can you tell us about your road to publication?

Five years from when I joined the worldwide workshop site, The Next Big Writer, and then published the first book. I did over three thousand reviews on that site and was in turn helped by so many wonderful and kind writers.

Do you have any grammatical pet peeves to share?

Oh yes! Sentences that start with “and “ and “but,” the use of phrases such as “He done good” and the dropping of “ly” in words – e.g. “It works more effective.” Lack of knowledge of the language, e.g. many writers do not know the difference between “site” “cite” and “sight”!

What do you like best about the books you read? What do you like least?

The humour and including animals in my books. Worst – I loathe books where there is animal cruelty/killing and where the hero constantly calls the heroine “Babe.”

How much research was involved in writing your book? How did you go about it?

I have a retired (2014) Detective Senior Constable who gives me lots of help, a retired Senior Sergeant and our local Station cops who are very generous with their time.

Have you received reactions/feedback to your work that has surprised you? In what way?

A reviewer described After Ariel as “film noir”! Very exciting J The style of After Ariel was a gamble in that the reader knows the murderer from the start, but not WHO it is!

Do you dread writing a synopsis for your novel as much as most writers do? Do you think writing a synopsis is inherently evil? Why?

No, I learned on the workshop site to write drabbles (100-word stories) and droubles (200-word stories) Writing a synopsis is easy for me.

Having our work out there to be judged by strangers is often daunting for writers. Do you have any tips on handling a negative review?

Yes! Go and look up your favourite book of all time – mine is that brilliant classic, The Wind in the Willows – and read the reviews. Yep, it has bad reviews as well as good. You don’t like every book you read, and that goes for readers of your work as well. Be as philosophical as you can – after you’ve had a good stiff whisky!

Many authors do giveaways; have you found them a successful way to promote your book?

They were when the option was first put out there, but now there’s too much competition. The Celibate Mouse got 21 thousand + downloads and it still has only 44 reviews.

We all know the old saying; you can’t judge a book by its cover. This is true. However, how much importance do you place on your book cover design?

VITAL!! That is your first line of defense, followed by the synopsis and then the first two pages. If they don’t like it by the second page, you’ve had it L

How would you define your style of writing?

Detailed and finicky. Very character oriented.

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, how do you get around it?

Chocolate, wine and whine.

Would you like to write a short poem for us?

A fellow writer, Kat Nove, lamented on the workshop site that she had found the remains of a mouse in her house and was thinking dark thoughts of her cats. I volunteered to be their advocate for the occasion and here is the statement they asked me to put to the court!!

“We’re innocent”, they purred with glee,
“The mouse remains were up a tree.
We brought them down for you to bury
To send them o’er the Styx by ferry.

But then we realised we were peckish
And we thought you had a fetish
For finding dead heads in the house
So for you, we hid some mouse.

We’re innocent, we promise you
We took advantage of the view
Of a dead mouse in the tree –
but we can fetch it for your tea!”

(c) Diana Hockley, Scribe. Hired by Nove Cats 2008

What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?

A successful cancer operation.

What are the most important traits you look for in a friend?

Loyalty.

If you had a million dollars to give to charity, how would you allot the funds?

Animal welfare organizations.

What music soothes your soul?

Classical

What makes you angry?

Abuse of animals.

Best subject at school

English.

CONNECT WITH DIANA

Website

Twitter

Facebook

Goodreads

Google+