Accepting the Pace Life Wants to be Lived

I’m a week away from the writing conference I am helping to put on (Write on the Red Cedar). We’re sold out. All the nitty-gritty details are being dealt with. I’ve been busy updating the conference blog almost every day, which may partially explain my slow posting on this blog. And even though we haven’t run into any huge snafus yet, I still feel a bit like this guy…

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Like I have one little part of this thing in hand, but also I am going to trip up at any minute. I’ve started having dreams about things going wrong, like back when I was in high school plays and I would have dreams of shoddy scenery falling down during a performance. But mostly, I’m excited.

I am still slowly plugging away at the first draft of my current WIP. My ideas are at a slow burn. I type a paragraph then do other things, come back and type another. I stopped drafting the other day to jot off a very short story (fewer than 1,500 words) as a fun diversion. The novel draft won’t be done by conference time, but it should be finished by the end of the month, which is fine with me. That will give it enough time to sit and simmer before Zach and I take a long weekend writing retreat during which I can do the first big revision.

As frantically busy as November and December were, in writing and in life, January has gotten a slow start. And I’m okay with that. Winter’s really here now, and it bids us take our time.

First Short Story Collection: Cover Art Reveal!

Over a year ago, I secured the services of Heather Brewer, a talented graphic designer I’m lucky to call a colleague and friend, to design a book cover for me. At the time, I thought it would be a novel. At some point I realized that what I really wanted her to design was the cover for my collected short stories.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a year or more, you probably know that in 2013 I challenged myself to write one short story each month. During that year, I made each story available for Kindle users. Now I’m gathering those stories together, adding more material, and preparing to publish the collection as both a printed book and an ebook.

And this, I’m ecstatic to say, is the cover…

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When I saw it, I literally said in a loud and astonished voice (to no one in particular), “Oh my GOSH!” 

It’s breathtaking. And it’s more than just a pretty picture. Not only is it eye-catching, it evokes the kind of emotion that I hope the stories evoke in the reader–a little mystery, a little ache in the soul, an appreciation of beauty alongside an acknowledgement of the broken things. And, importantly, it’s non-gendered. In this collection, there are just as many male protagonists as female, and the themes are more universal than gender-specific, so having a cover that would appeal to both men and women was important to me. What do you think? Have we succeeded?

I’m currently editing the collection and getting the interior ready to go. I don’t have a firm release date just yet, but my hope is that it will hit the “shelves” by late summer or early fall. I’ll keep you posted!

Merry (Early) Christmas

Look what I stumbled upon while I was updating my Amazon author page:

Click the cover image to get to the Amazon page where this collection is already available for Kindle for just $3.99! Printed books should be available in January or February.

And you’re going to want to hang out there at Amazon and pick up your copy of December’s short story, Water & Light. I wanted to make it free starting Christmas Eve, but the timing with uploading it made that impossible (boo!) so it will be free on Christmas Day and Boxing Day only!

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Thanks so much for your support this year as I carried out my short story writing experiment. It has been such fun and so rewarding. I can’t wait to see what the next year has in store…

New Release: Drive

I pleased to announce the release of October’s short story, Drive. I got the initial idea for this story last year and this is one of the first covers I designed when I decided to write and self-publish a short story every month of 2013. However, it was not until last weekend when the last piece of the plot puzzle fell into place.

Writers, this is why you always want to capture those little ideas on paper. If I hadn’t written myself a note saying “guy goes to collect U-Haul-type trucks that aren’t returned” I might not have even remembered the premise when I came across a news story last weekend about a guy who was legally dead.

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So there you have it. Nearly a year in the making and here it finally is! Buy it here for Kindle. For those of you with other e-readers, I plan on releasing all of this year’s short stories on Smashwords in every conceivable format next spring. And for those of you who prefer traditional books, also coming in the spring will be a printed collection of all of this year’s stories. I’m so excited about it! So hang tight, stay tuned, and hold fast–your day is coming!

New Release: The Beginning and the End

My September story is now available for Kindle and Kindle apps! Click here to buy.

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I have to say this month has been an odd one as far as short story creation is concerned. I started this month’s story with this cover photo and title:

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But as I wrote the story, the title changed, and the photo had to change too. I had intended the story to be more about the house/inn but it became more about how relationships begin and end. To figure out the significance of the dandelion on the cover, you’ll have to read the story. Also got to have a little fun with the type this time around.

I’m really looking forward to writing my nonfiction book next year on how this year’s experiment worked and how you can make writing more intentional. September was a perfect example of initial inspiration having served its purpose and then needing to be discarded for the good of the story. Too fun.

Only three more short stories to go!

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A New Appreciation for August–Oh, and a New Story

Before I get to the post, just want to make you aware that…

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August’s Short Story Is Now Available!

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Kayaks, Lake Superior, bad weather, a mysterious woman…this story blends together elements of adventure on the open “seas” and psychological drama to create a time-bending tale that feels to me like the beginning of a much larger story waiting to be written. Hope you enjoy it! Click here to buy it for slightly less than $1 for your Kindle.

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Now, to the point…

It is the final day of August and, as I mentioned earlier in the week, I have just begun to develop a bit of a good feeling toward this month.

Since childhood, I have disliked the month of August, which I always thought of as just one more month of hot, humid, numbingly boring days before school finally started up (yeah, I was one of those kids who loved going back to school). Little League was over, the bloom of freedom I felt in June had withered, and I have always disliked very hot weather.

Into adulthood I have maintained this disdain for August. It is a month where you dress for the heat and then freeze inside every business because they set their air conditioning so insanely low. It is a month where wasps and bees, previously seen as happy-go-lucky and dopey, mindlessly buzzing about in the yard, become aggressive and swarmy as they start fretting about the impending winter. It is a month when lots of spiders and bats–BATS–start exploring your house (and your poor husband must get a painful and heart-stoppingly expensive series of eleven rabies shots after a close encounter, eight in just one sitting).

Still, there are a few perks, right?

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The farmer’s market is flush with fresh local produce. My backyard vegetable garden is busy working on a bumper crop of tomatoes, eggplants, and cucumbers. Homemade tomato sauce is bubbling on the stove top. There are peaches and apricots and plums to can. 

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Ah, but the flower garden is in such disarray! It looks terrible! Besides those common little black-eyed susans, nothing at all is blooming! And the weeds! The weeds!

Still, there was that field of nodding sunflowers we saw as we drove home from our hiking trip.

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And the sound of cicadas. And the hints of fall. The gold carpet of dying ferns beneath the evergreens. The audacious red display of the sumac along my weekly commute. The precocious tree here and there that simply cannot wait to show off her red and orange autumnal gown.

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The rumblings of the thunderstorms that wake me in the wee hours of the morning. The shimmering clouds of blackbirds gathering for their fall migration.

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The dreamy quality of the light. The foggy mornings that burn off into brilliantly sunny days.

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Yes. Maybe…just maybe…August is getting a hold on me.

But I still hate March.

10 Degrees Cooler in the Shade

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Hot off the virtual press (thanks to the near universality of wifi, even on Mackinac Island) is July’s short story, 10 Degrees Cooler in the Shade. This story started at simply pairing a title idea (with no thought of possible plot, characters, setting, content, etc.) and a photo I took at the Ingham County Fair a year or so ago. (Aside: The 2013 Ingham County Fair starts today and runs all week!) I asked my husband to suggest a name of a guy that sounded like he might be a carny (no offense to those of you out there who might share this name). And off my imagination went.

One of the fun things about writing a bunch of short stories this year is trying out different genres, and this is one I’ve never written–suspense. I hope you enjoy it!

Buy it here for 99 cents for your Kindle and Kindle apps.

One Endless Summer Day: A Story from Life

Just under the wire, June’s short story is here! Well, not here on the blog, but HERE in the Kindle store.

I wrote a prehistoric version of this story way back in my second year of college for a creative writing class. At the time I was sure it was the best thing I’d ever written. When I reread it earlier this month I thought it was pretty atrocious. So I took out all the pretension, changed the POV and the tense, added, subtracted, and molded. A few lines made it through unscathed and unedited. But just a few. It is the exact same story as it was fourteen years ago–just much, much, MUCH better.

Unlike all of my other stories written thus far this year, this one is based on a real event and real people, though most are dead and the living have new names. It’s an artistic, fictional rendering of a very small event that made a very big impression on me, an event that I have never forgotten, but told from the perspective of someone else who was there.

Here is a short excerpt to tempt you…

When did she get so old? It seems to have happened when I wasn’t looking, perhaps one night as I was sleeping. It vexes me that time is quickly stealing away abandon, that most precious of childhood qualities. To be unconcerned, flitting about on the very edge of reality in the silvery world of forests and fairies, wearing a dress made of yellow rose petals and riding upon the backs of ladybugs. To lightly touch down upon the ground on soft bare feet. To wear necklaces of raindrops. To talk to fireflies.

“Paula, what are you looking at out there?”

“Karen. Just watching Karen play in the yard. I’m listening. You were talking about the prices at the meat market.”

“It’s really just ridiculous, you know. I’ve never paid so much for ground chuck in my life, and that’s including…”

And on and on and on. The motorcycles from the front room. The drone of negativity from across the table. I squeeze my eyes shut and push my fingers into my temples.

“Mom, do you have any aspirin?”

“It’s in the bathroom.”

I go into the bathroom, shut the door, and stand for a moment in the lovely still dark, my hands upon the counter. Then I flick on the light and open the medicine cabinet. I scan the jars and bottles lined up in rows, a neat little train of powdered normalcy that daily delivers some relief, some steadiness, one more miserable day upon this earth to the two old people who live in this sad little house.

I tell myself that I need to be more patient with her. That life has not always been kind to her. That I’ll be old someday. That she just wants someone to talk to.

In case you’re curious, the POV character is based on my mother, who loved the original story from my creative writing class. I think she will enjoy this one much more. And I hope you enjoy it as well.

Latest Short Story Now Available (and a peek at summer cover art)

Today is the day! You can now buy Clean, my short story for May, for Kindle and Kindle apps. Just click here.

I’ve got covers mocked up for the next five months of short stories and I’m looking forward to writing stories inspired by the titles and images.

As always, things may change, but for now, here’s a peek at what summer will bring…

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