Anxiety #1 What Genre is my novel?

I discovered, via discussion with my writing group, that I have anxieties about the publication process that are preventing me from completing the editing process.

The first of which –  I have no idea what genre my novel is.

I worry about this, and consider how difficult it will be to find an agent to represent me if I can’t define my genre, and how difficult it will be to form my query letter, and what my pen name should be, because this story is so unlike the others I have written…

Thinking about all this keeps me from doing what I ought.

Thanks to FLAWS, I have re-oriented my thinking, and have adopted this mantra to overcome my anxieties when they creep up on me:

First things first – finish the book.

I am blessed to spend time outside of FLAWS meetings with one of my fellow members. Together, she and I determined that my novel is of the genre…

…drumroll, please…
Young Adult!
Big thanks to Tina for the encouragement and support!

Writing – FLAWS and all

Last year, I pitched a book I had written for National Novel Writing Month to a couple of agents.

Okay, a lot of agents.

The reception of my work was less than enthusiastic, and rightfully so; I pitched it because I was eager to say I had “finished” something, but the book was not ready for publication.  I should have put some more work into it before pitching.

However, having a book circulating “out there” got me moving forward with promotion, building a fan base, and all of those things.

(I started a writing blog, opened a Twitter account, stuff like that).

When I faced the music about my book still needing work and stopped pitching it, I also stopped working on my writing career, and doing all those little things that can build a fan base.  I abandoned my recently acquired habits of writing flash fiction for blog content and bits of micro flash for Twitter.

Enter FLAWS, the Fellowship for Ladies and Accountability in Writing Society. FLAWS is a group of talented and dynamic women writers who meet monthly for…well…fellowship and accountability in writing.

Meeting with FLAWS has inspired me, and re-invigorated my commitment to my craft and to my (someday) audience base. These ladies have given me deadlines to keep, inspiration to write, and have even talked me through a tearful session of doubt…and we are only just getting started (our first meeting was in December of 2016)!

So, here it is, the first toe-dip, nay, the full-out splash-spraying spring back into the waters of the writing world.

And to think, I have  only FLAWS to thank…

Esmeralda – Flash Fiction

Here is my entry to the Flash, Friday! Vol 3-33 contest.

The challenge, this time, was to use 250 words EXACTLY, and incorporate two of the following:

* Conflict: varies; often man vs man or man vs self
Character (choose one): street urchin, adventuring sailor, girl unaware of her true heritage
Theme(s) (choose one): Rags to riches, justice, forgiveness
Setting: ancient Persia

There was also a photo prompt, but it did not enter in to my story.

by Jamie Hershberger @JamieRHersh
Elements: Girl unaware of heritage, Justice
250 words

“I’m off to feed Nonnina,” I said, leaving my brother and the stranger to talk over a bottle of wine.
When I fed Nonnina, I’d often regale her with tales she’d told when she’d still been able to speak. This day, I chose her favorite, the story of Esmeralda, a raven-haired beauty who had poisoned a King.
Nonnina’s eyes sparkled with delight when I finished it properly: “and she disappeared into the night, never to be seen again.”
Leaving Nonnina’s room, I turned to lock eyes with the stranger, now alone at the table.
“Your brother went after more wine,” he said, “how did your grandmother enjoy her porridge?”
I looked at him for a long moment.
“Forgive my manners, sir,” I replied, “but I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure of an introduction.”
The stranger rose from the table as he spoke.
“I am Elrond IV, rightful heir to the throne of Callan, taken from my family years ago by a raven-haired maiden, whose location, until this very night, had been unknown.”
I turned and flung the door open, but it was too late for my Nonnina.
I turned back to the stranger. “What of me, then? Of my brother?”
Elrond crossed the room, and, in one quick motion, sliced away a lock of my long, black hair.
“I am avenged,” he said, almost tenderly, his falling hand caressing my cheek.
“I wonder if your Grandmother was as beautiful as you are on the day she killed my Grandfather.”

‘Til Death – Flash Fiction

Here is my entry for Alissa Leonard’s FINISH THAT THOUGHT Contest #2-31 

 The challenge is to write a story of 500 words or less, and to start the story with the following phrase words in [Brackets] are interchangeable:

[It] wasn’t supposed to be like this.

There was also a special challenge to write in second person.

‘Til Death – 500 words

Special Challenge accepted

The end wasn’t supposed to be like this, but there she was, sprawled on the hearth, head split on the bricks, life oozing from the wound.

“It was an accident” you tell yourself, but you know what the police are going to see – your most recent transgression surfaces in your memory like a bloated corpse in a flooding graveyard – you were in a bar brawl, just last week.

There would be witnesses, probably dozens, each bearing a tantalizing tale of your barbarianism. Giddily bathing in the gasps of horrified reaction, each would be eager to serve up another offering to the god of your condemnation.

Until this moment, you’ve stood frozen, staring at her, but you’ve become suddenly aware of your pulse, telegraphing a psychotic “S.O.S” to your limbs. Now, the overwhelming instinct is to go.

You put on your jacket, grab your keys, and tuck your cell phone into your pocket. The familiar cadence of the going almost makes you forget the “why” of it.

You stop.

The plan appears in your mind suddenly, but you are as instantly certain it is right. You return your jacket, wallet, and keys. Locking the door, you step outside, pulling it closed behind you. Turning, you kick at it until the jamb gives away.

“He confronted me in the kitchen,” you imagine yourself telling the police, “and we fought there”.

You careen around the room, wrestling the imaginary perpetrator. Realizing there will have to be fresh wounds, you blacken your eye and re-split your lip on the refrigerator door.

“She tried to stop us,” you imagine saying, as you and the invisible intruder bounce into the living room, “but she fell backward.”

You stand still, breathing heavy.

“He ran out when he saw she was hurt,” you say to the empty room.
Within the hour, you’re giving your statement to an officer who seems to believe your story.

“Did you know the perpetrator?” he asks.

Your mind conjures up a convenient face from the bar fight, recollecting the disgusting things he was saying about your wife and her “kind”.

“Yeah, I knew him,” you say, “It was Connie Brown. You know, the skinhead.”

“Connie Brown,” the officer repeats, “you sure?”

“It was Connie Brown,” you say, loud enough to halt the neighbors’ whispers. In the ensuing silence, you scream it again, almost believing it yourself, now, “Connie Brown did this! Connie Brown killed my Joan!”

“Sir,” the officer says, “Connie Brown was found dead this morning. Someone shot him.”

You turn, slack-mouthed, to the police officer.

“No,” you say.

“When did you say you last saw Mr. Brown?”

“No,” you say again.

“I’m going to have to ask you to come with me,” the officer says.

“No,” you say again, as the handcuffs go on, and again as you are placed in the cruiser.

You say the word over and over, longer and louder, until the sound becomes a wailing cry that no one can hear over the patrol car’s siren.

Rabbit Pause – Flash Fiction

Here is my entry for Alissa Leonard’s FINISH THAT THOUGHT Contest #2-27 

The challenge is to write a story of 500 words or less, and to start the story with the following phrase words in [Brackets] are interchangeable:

[I’m] not much of a hearts and flowers type, so it had me wondering what spell had been cast to make [me] feel so [schmoopy].

Rabbit Pause – 480 words

Pa’s not much of a hearts and flowers type, so it had me wondering what spell had been cast to make him feel so schmoopy.

He’d come creepin’ slow through the kitchen door, a distinct departure from his usual, blustery, dinner-time entry. He had one hand under his jacket, and, for a moment, I thought he must be having heart trouble, again, ’til that big ole hand came out of that jacket, holding a baby rabbit.
“Almost hit it with the tractor,” he said, as if that explained everything.

I was stymied, thinking how If I had a dollar for every rabbit that man had me skin and fry up for him, I’d be retiring on a chaise in finery and lace, instead of puttin’ up preserves on a 90 degree day in August.

Pa didn’t notice I was perplexed, or didn’t care. He disappeared, then came back with an old crate. Pa placed that rabbit kit in the crate, then put it in a corner of the room, not far from the wood-stove.

Later, as I got to doin’ the dinner dishes, Tommy came in from Bible Camp, wearing the headdress he’d made there, whoopin’ and hollerin’ about being an “injun”. Particularly absorbed in giving my roaster a good scrub, I payed no mind to his war dance, but I perked up when I realized Tommy’d gone quiet.

I looked to see what the boy had gotten up to. I didn’t think about the rabbit until I saw that Tommy had something small and white in his hands. I cursed.

“Preacher says you ain’t ‘posed to say that word,” Tommy scolded.

“Preacher says you ain’t posed to touch what ain’t yours, too,” I said, crossing the room in a hurry to retrieve and examine the kit.

“We gonna name it? Or eat it? Or what?” Tommy asked.

“I reckon that’s up to yer Pa,” I told him.

He shrugged as he walked away.

“You shouldn’t name it if your gonna eat it.”

I looked down at the creature in my hand, thinking about how I’d sat there during dinner, stupefied, as that heavy-handed man caressed and cuddled that baby rabbit all through the meal, carrying on like he’d never done for any of the 11 children I’d bore for him.

I knew with too much of a squeeze, it’d be all over – the only baby Pa had ever shown any interest in would be buried under the poplar, next to Tommy’s ten infant siblings.

Thinking of the poplar, I looked through the window. Behind the tree, I could see the pink and yellow blaze of the sunset on the horizon. My thoughts turned to the artistry of the creator, and to all the many blessings I’d been given.

The kit twitched in my hand, then. I kissed its soft, warm head.

“Think we’ll name you ‘Grace’” I whispered.

The Audition – Flash Fictionn

Here is my entry to the Flash, Friday! Vol 3-7 contest.

The prompt was the photo below, and we had to include the beach as a primary setting.

The Audition
210 words

“How was the audition, Sweetie?”
“Fine, I guess.”
“Fine? You know that play frontward and backward. You could recite your lines in your sleep. Heck, you could probably recite the entire show in your sleep. Surely, you nailed the audition, and are just being modest. Am I right?”
“Sadly, no. I mean, I knew my lines, and everything. It’s just that, well, this director’s interpretation is very different than what I’m used to.”
“In what way?”
“Well, the bicycle basket is mounted on the back of the bike, and not the front.”
“That’s fine. Your character doesn’t even interact with the bicycle.”
“It isn’t just the bicycle – it’s the tornado, too.”
“How does one reinterpret a tornado?”
“By changing it into a tsunami – the whole second act takes place on the beach.”
“The beach? How does that work?”
“The yellow brick road is a stretch of sand along the ocean.”
“It’s what?”
“Yeah. And there aren’t any ruby slippers, either. Only a pair of sensible shoes and a magical babushka.”
“I see. But, tell me, please, that the director hasn’t tampered too much with your part.”
“Funny, that’s the one change I think actually enhances the show. I mean, what could be sadder than a dolphin with no brain?”

Last Dance – Flash Fiction

Here is my entry for “Finish That Thought” The week of November 6, 2014.

1. Start with the given first sentence.
2. Up to 500 words
3. Keep it clean (nothing rated R or above)
4. Optional Special Challenge
5. Stories submitted must be your own work, using characters and worlds that you have created. Sorry, no fanfiction.
6. Include: Twitter/email, word count, Special Challenge accepted
7. The challenge is open for 24 hours on Tuesday EST
The challenge was to finish the prompt 

PROMPT: The first time you hear their screams is always the hardest. Your SPECIAL CHALLENGE from the judge is: Incorporate at least THREE spices. 

Last Dance
481 Words
Challenge Accepted

“The first time you hear their screams is always the hardest,” she told me, “or so I’ve heard. None of mine have ever screamed. But, if it happens to you, don’t let it get to you; it’s just the air releasing from the inside the bugs.”

“Quit calling them ‘bugs’, Jenny,” I said, “or I won’t be able to enjoy the linguine.”
She shrugged. “It’s all the same to me, you’re the one who wanted my recipe.”
I scowled. She was right; Valentine’s Day was coming, and I wanted a special dish to present to Jorge.
“You’re going all out,” she said, “serving lobster and everything. Are you anticipating something special?” She tapped her wedding ring meaningfully.
“I dunno,” I admitted. I put my head down and doodled a lobster claw in my notebook. Jorge and I had been dating for two years. I’d started hinting at engagement after our six month anniversary, which had changed dynamics of our relationship into a bizarre game – me, dropping hints about marriage, and him, dancing his way around them.
He was good looking, and good company, so I’d tolerated the dancing. But, I was growing tired of calendar dates, pregnant with romantic possibility, coming and going without him asking that question which would propel our relationship to the next level. I’d determined that this Valentine’s Day would be the last that I would endure this romantic purgatory. No question this year would mean the end of Jorge’s dancing.
I didn’t want to tell Jenny any of that, so I brought the subject back to linguine.
“Let’s say I’ve got them cooked, survived the screaming, and all that. Then what?”
“Okay, so, I forgot to tell you. You need to get some Old bay seasoning and toss it in the water with the bugs. It’s sold in the supermarket, by the garlic and basil and stuff.”
I made a note about the Old Bay and nodded.
“So, okay, you’ve got them cooked, cleaned and shelled, time to make the pasta.”
Jenny droned on for several minutes about preparing the linguine, and I dutifully made my notations. Meanwhile, I was remembering of the many dances of Jorge. I thought about the two weddings we’d attended together, how I’d cried while he’d shifted uncomfortably in the pew next to me. I remembered two Birthday dinners that were lovely, but perfunctory, rushed through so we wouldn’t miss opening kick-offs. I recalled other occasions of disappointment, not even related to the question of engagement, moments when I’d felt back-burnered, and un-important.
I wasn’t angry, I realized, and I wasn’t hurt. In that moment, I realized that I’d quit caring enough to be hurt some weeks ago. Sitting there, I began to understand that, question or no question, I was ready to make this my last supper with Jorge.
“And that’s all there is to it,” Jenny said, “I hope I’ve been helpful.”
“You’ve been super-helpful, Jenny,” I replied, closing my notebook, “I know exactly what to do, now.”