Seven Sentence Sequel

Check out the Seven Sentence Story for the first part of this tale.

She had been sitting just long enough for anxiety to eclipse anger when an average looking man appeared in her peripheral vision.  Snapping her head around, she got a good look at him as he raised his right eyebrow.

“A clever one; this could be interesting,” he said, quietly enough that she suspected he was talking to himself.

She sat, stunned, and watched him unlock her ankle manacles before she found voice enough to ask, “What’s going on here?”

He freed her wrists, a slight smile on his face, before he stood and replied cryptically, “You should know that he does not want maidens for food, but he does crave their attention.”

She must have seemed utterly confused, for he added, “We’ve come to collect you for your year of service.”

“Who-” she started to ask, but the word died on her lips as a huge, scarlet dragon lifted into the air behind him.

Why everyone should have a collection of short stories

Everyone should have at least one collection of short stories in their personal library.  It should be a collection that you like, that you can read over and over.  (I have five.)  The reason for this is best illustrated by an experience I had today.

Before I begin my tale, let me first explain that I do not like being without reading material.  When I finish something, I start something else.  Even if I don’t open the reading material for a day or two, I don’t feel complete unless I am “reading” something.  Now, to the story.

I am reading Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series again from the beginning.  (I haven’t read the three concluding books yet, but I decided I would enjoy them better if I worked my way there.)  I do not currently own any of the series, so I’ve been requesting them from my local library.

When I get to about 100 pages left, I put a hold on the next book in line.  This time, when I was nearly done with book two, someone already had book three checked out, so it took a bit longer.  Fortunately, I had two months worth of National Geographic waiting for me.  I switched right over to those when I finished The Great Hunt.

Last night I read the last article of this month’s NG.  This morning I had the realization that I was without reading material, and at one of those “reading required” moments in my day.  These moments, when I am mid-series and yet without material, are when I reach for one of the well-worn short story collections on my shelf.

Here is the beauty of a book of short stories: they give you something to read without requiring a great deal of commitment.  You can read one story to get you through until the next trip to the library, or you can read several stories to get a fiction fix in the middle of a long stretch of non-fiction.

The end of my tale is quite fun, too, although not entirely related to the point I’m trying to make.  I was not without reading material for long, because I got both my notification from the library and next month’s National Geographic today!

Seven Sentence Story

His heart began to race when the doorbell rang; he wasn’t ready for this.

“I’m coming!” he shouted through his toothpaste, hoping it would buy him a moment or two more.  With a quick rinse and spit, he tapped the toothbrush on the edge of the sink and dropped it into the holder.   A crumpled paper towel nearby was perfect for the swift wipe of the sink to complete the bathroom.  He ducked into the bedroom to grab his shirt and pull it on over his head.  Rushing to the door, he passed the table in the kitchen, where he paused briefly to straighten the messy pile of receipts and paid bills into something that at least appeared tidy.

With a last breath to steady himself, he walked over and opened the door.


Ten Sentence Story

She took the stairs two at a time, slowing as she neared her floor.  It was odd, she thought, how habits carry us through even when the world has changed.  She hesitated at her apartment door, absent-mindedly running her thumb over the key in her hand.  Finally she acknowledged that she couldn’t stand in the hall forever.

With a sigh and a mental shake, she entered her home.  At first glance, everything looked the same.  The parrot gave her his usual disgruntled greeting, shaking his bell with excessive force.  Still, she could feel a strange emptiness hanging over everything.

She kept it at bay as she hung up her coat, set down her bag, and took off her shoes.  It wasn’t until she caught sight of the vacant dog bed out of the corner of her eye that she collapsed into sobs.

A Look Back at 2011

It’s once again time to take a look back at what the year has held.  (Where did the year go?)

This past year has been much better than the last one.   Let’s start with writing first.  In 2011 I wrote a blog every day but two (and I shake my fist at you, March 12 and December 9).  I finished a short story (With Honor) and two novels (Dragon Pendant and Life in Dreams), one of which was the result of my first successful NaNoWriMo!  I also e-published The Queen’s Butterflies, which has now sold at least 28 copies.  Not a bad year, as far as writing goes!

In my personal life, 2011 turned out to be a fun year.  I traveled to New York City, Dallas/Fort Worth, Arkansas, Minnesota, Illinois and East Texas, all in one year!  I learned to knit well enough to make Christmas gifts for my dad and sister (with one on the way for mom).  I read 35 books and National Geographics, which is lower than my average but understandable with all of the writing going on.  My social life expanded, too, as my circle of friends got a little more active, and I even started dating someone.  I also lost 20 pounds and won a weight-loss challenge at work, although a few of them have snuck back on in the last couple of months.

Work can also get a nod in my review of the year.  I attended three workshops for my favorite professional organization and presented at two of them.  I successfully nurtured two more major projects to fruition, and my department has stayed mostly intact and very stable.  I love my job, and it’s been a good year there.

There aren’t a lot of negatives to review, and they are small in their impact.  My divorce was finalized, which seems bad but was really a relief to have finished.  I’ve been really tired, probably because I’ve been so very busy, and I’ve had some small struggles with my finances.  (I’ve been trying unsuccessfully to find a second job – apparently I’m overqualified and underqualified at the same time.)

All of these are minor compared to the positives in my life this year, and I am looking forward to another great year in 2012!

2012, Year of the Revision

I was discussing writing with a friend last night.  She’s a writer, too, and we started by talking about NaNo.  In the course of our conversation about e-books and novels, something occurred to me.

Next year will be the year of the revision.

I have three major revising projects to tackle.  I want to get the short stories that are set in the world of Butterflies compiled into a collection, plus I need to attack Dragon and Dreams.  The first major revision is always the messiest.

Of course, I’m also hoping to write at least one novel in 2012.  (Yes, I am going to start working on Chasing again!  The more people read Butterflies, the more I need to work on the sequel.)

What are your writing goals for the new year?

A story in need of a plot

On Friday I mentioned that an old idea for a story had resurfaced.  It’s a cool idea, although probably not novel-length, and I’m starting to work out some of the details.

The problem is that I need a plot.

I love my characters, and every story I’ve written has started with the people.  As I get to know the characters I find their story.  For my new concept, the interesting thing about the two main girls is their connection to one another.  This connection is the thing I want to explore with the story, although it isn’t really a plot on its own.  In Butterflies, in Dragon, even in my short stories, the characters’ problems led to a clear idea of a plot.  In this one their connection doesn’t necessarily guarantee conflict or a problem to be resolved.

Perhaps it will just take some fleshing out of their world to find the bigger picture for these two.

Deciding What’s Next

The first draft of Dragon is done.  I have to let it sit without touching it or really thinking about it for a while, so I can do a major revision with fresh eyes in a couple of months.

The Queen’s Butterflies is now officially available for download from  Getting it ready is the other project that has been keeping me busy.

The new girl, while intriguing enough to keep my brain working while hiking, has proven to be part of the sequel to Butterflies.  This means that I can write parts of her story, but it won’t stand on its own.

The characters from Dragon have settled down, the characters from Butterfly are still a bit quiet.  This leaves me in a good place to officially choose what to work on next.  As is typical for me, I can’t do just one thing.

I’ve decided that I want to take the three short stories that are Butterfly related (Burden of Knowledge, Bonded, and With Honor) from Serial Central and turn them into a collection to sell on Smashwords.  Just like with Butterflies, this is a formatting and revising task that won’t tax the creative side of my brain.

On top of that, I think I’ve committed to working on a first draft of Chasing Butterflies.  Several of the interwoven stories of the sequel are intriguing to me, and I’m guessing that the number of people requesting the sequel is only going to grow as more people read Butterflies.  A friend at work told me to be careful and take my time; lots of authors rush the sequel and it ends up feeling forced.  I know that the overarching plot for Chasing is strong, and it has more than one tale to weave in.  I’m looking forward to playing in the world of Butterflies again, with old friends and new characters alike.

Getting Wrapped Up in Reading (my own book)

There are two frequently heard pieces of writing advice that I believe are true.  1. Write what you know.  2. Write a book you want to read.

I was reminded again today that I was successful with that second one, at least with Butterflies.

I’ve figured out some more pieces about the new girl.  Two of those pieces required a bit of research in the text of Butterflies.  I do not currently have a hard copy of the novel in my possession (two of my coworkers each have one of my copies) so I loaded the document on my computer.  I searched for a specific term (Travelers) hoping to find the information I was seeking.  I read the first section about the character who is a member of the gypsy-like people, then found the second section.  Once I read that section, I had answered my questions, but I kept reading.  I ended up reading three more chapters before I convinced myself to stop!

It’s probably a good thing when you struggle to put down a book you wrote (and have read through at least three times).  It means you were definitely successful at writing a book you want to read!

Why Is She So Afraid?

The new girl has been speaking up a bit more, now that the characters of Dragon are a bit less insistent.  (There are still a couple of stories there, but the volume has dropped a bit on their microphones.)  She’s still quiet, but I’m intrigued.  I’ve finally gotten her to share a few things.

First, I should tell you where this started.  I had an image of bare feet on a wooden stage, a handkerchief skirt swirling around ankles.  I knew she was a dancer, taking the stage, looking down at her feet as she walked in.  When her head came up to look out at the audience, she had a sudden and intense wave of fear.

That’s the entire image that I had of her until a few nights ago.  I couldn’t figure out her name, what world she belonged in, nothing.  I finally focused on the important question.  Why is she so afraid?

Answering that one question unraveled several tantalizing pieces of a tangled, sordid tale.  I’ve found where she belongs (in one of the neighbor countries of the world of Butterflies) and I have context for the first image of her.  I still don’t know her name, but I can’t wait to discover the rest of her story!

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