Bailey’s Writing Tips podcast ‘short stories’ episode no.8

Bailey’s Writing Tips podcast ‘short stories’ episode number eight, part of a series tucked in between hints & tips or red pen critique sessions, went live today.

I’ve been starting off the first few weeks with the flash fiction that have appeared on my blog as ‘Flash Fiction Fridays’, reading out three per fortnight. I am running out so do email me should you like to submit your own.

Today’s are: ‘You are what you don’t eat‘ (981 words) by Joy V Smith, ‘The Red-Haired Girl‘ (100 words) by Smoky Zeidel and ‘A Damned Hot Day‘ (477 words) by Michael C Boxall.

I don’t critique the stories but just simply reading them out and I hope you enjoy this format. I will warn you though that I put on some seriously dodgy accents (the French sounding more Italian at times) for Joy’s story so I apologise to you but especially to Joy!

Joy V Smith was born on a farm in Wisconsin and still love barns and the smell of silage (“an acquired taste,” she says).  She lived in Boston after graduating from college, and is now back in Florida (not retired) where she spent some of her childhood.

After selling wildlife habitat in the country, she bought a foreclosure earlier this year and had to replace the kitchen, among other things. They’d even taken the kitchen sink! Thanks to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), which takes place each November, Joy’s now written three novels. Joy’s writing blog is http://pagadan.wordpress.com.

Smoky Trudeau Zeidel is the author of two novels, On the Choptank Shores and The Cabin; a recently-released collection of stories, Short Story Collection Vol. 1; and two nonfiction books on writing which have recently been combined into one book, Smoky’s Writer’s Workshop Combo Set. She is the author of Observations of an Earth Mage, a collection of prose, poetry, and photographs celebrating the natural world. All her books are published by Vanilla Heart Publishing. Smoky lives in California with her husband Scott (a college music professor and classical guitarist), her daughter (a college student and actress), and a menagerie of animals, both domestic and wild, in a ramshackle cottage in the woods overlooking the San Gabriel Valley and Mountains beyond. When she isn’t writing, she spends her time hiking in the mountains and deserts, splashing in tide pools, and resisting the urge to speak in haiku. Smoky’s website is http://smokyzeidel.wordpress.com.

Michael C. Boxall is an expatriated English magazine journalist-turned-novelist currently living in North Vancouver, B.C. He is obsessed with the sales of his newly-published thriller, The Great Firewall. Even for a debut work by a writer no longer in the first flush The Great Firewall had a long gestation. The original idea came after a trip to Shanghai to do a travel piece. It was for a story set in the White Russian community in the 1920s, and it was to be not a novel but a multimedia game. But one thing led to another, and after aborted incarnations as a radio play and a movie script it became what it is now: the story of bankrupt software genius Daniel Skye, “Orson Welles with a laptop,” and his quest to Shanghai to find money for his dream project, and the enemies he makes in the process. You can read more about it (and see more short fiction on the blog) at www.thegreatfirewall.com. Even better, you can buy it at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk. Reviews much appreciated.

Thank you for downloading / listening to this short story episode and my other podcasts. They have, up to now, been weekly but I’m embarking on editing my four novels so I shall be dropping the podcasts to fortnightly – one episode of short stories per month, one episode of hints & tips or red pen session.

All the details of these episodes are listed on the podcast page of this blog and my email address to submit a short story for critique (or review for the Short Story Saturdays) is morgen@morgenbailey.com.

The podcast is available via iTunes, Google’s Feedburner, Podbean (when it catches up), Podcasters (which takes even longer) or Podcast Alley (which doesn’t list the episodes but will let you subscribe).

You can read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at Smashwords, Sony Reader Store, Barnes & Noble, iTunes Bookstore and Kobo. And I have a new forum at http://morgenbailey.freeforums.org.

Flash Fiction Friday 020: ‘The Red-Haired Girl’ by Smoky Zeidel

Welcome to Flash Fiction Friday and the twentieth piece in this series. This week’s story is a 100-worder entitled ‘The Red-Haired Girl’ by Smoky Zeidel.

The Red-Haired Girl

You climb on the back of the enormous black horse, his rear-end looks like an ebony drum. He’s skittish, finding your seat is difficult. Your long red hair glimmers in the sun, his black mane in stark contrast. The camera and I are one, as are you and the horse. I start shooting until, exhausted, I race into town; I cannot wait to see the photos. The printer tells me all the pictures are of an elderly, white-haired lady on a dappled grey. But I see my red-haired girl as she once was, sitting on the back of a horse.

I asked Smoky what prompted this piece and she said…

I used to teach fiction writing workshops at my local community college, and one of my favorite writing exercises was to have my students write a short story in exactly 100 words. Not 99, not 101–100 words exactly. I got some of my best stories out of my students with this exercise!

One semester, my students insisted I write one, too. I asked the class to give me an animal, a color, and an electronic device. They shouted out all sorts of suggestions, but I chose the first I heard, which ended up being horse, red, and camera. These three words, then, had to be used in the story. I gave them twenty minutes to write their stories.

This exercise taught students the value of each word used in a story. It taught them to write tight stories, and how to edit out the superfluous. It remains, to this day, my favorite writing exercise.

Thank you Smoky. I loved it, especially being so short, and second person viewpoint, my favourite. It’s an exercise that we do on a Monday night except we have five keywords (I’m mean) and a 60, 100 or 150 limit gets brownie points. 🙂

Smoky Trudeau Zeidel is the author of two novels, On the Choptank Shores and The Cabin; a recently-released collection of stories, Short Story Collection Vol. 1; and two nonfiction books on writing which have recently been combined into one book, Smoky’s Writer’s Workshop Combo Set. She is the author of Observations of an Earth Mage, a collection of prose, poetry, and photographs celebrating the natural world. All her books are published by Vanilla Heart Publishing.

Smoky lives in California with her husband Scott (a college music professor and classical guitarist), her daughter (a college student and actress), and a menagerie of animals, both domestic and wild, in a ramshackle cottage in the woods overlooking the San Gabriel Valley and Mountains beyond. When she isn’t writing, she spends her time hiking in the mountains and deserts, splashing in tide pools, and resisting the urge to speak in haiku.

If you’d like to submit your 1,000-word max. stories for consideration for Flash Fiction Friday take a look here.

The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with murder mystery author Jean Harrington – the two hundred and sixty-ninth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at Smashwords.

Author Spotlight no.26 – Smoky Trudeau Zeidel

To complement my daily blog interviews I recently started a series of Author Spotlights and today’s, the twenty-sixth, is of historical, romance, paranormal novelist and writing guide guru Smoky Trudeau Zeidel who guest blogged for me recently.

Smoky Trudeau Zeidel is the author of two novels, The Cabin and On the Choptank Shores; a recently-released collection of stories, Short Story Collection Vol. 1; and Smoky’s Writer’s Workshop Combo Set, a newly released book containing both her writer’s workshop book and collection of 366 writing prompts, previously published as separate books.

She taught fiction writing and creativity workshops at community colleges and other venues in the Midwest for many years before packing up her daughter, dog, two cats, and guinea pig and moving to California, where she swears the climate is much more conducive to creative work and the men are, too. (She met her husband and soul mate, Scott, shortly after her move.)

Smoky and Scott live with a menagerie of animals, both domestic and wild, in a ramshackle cottage in the woods overlooking the San Gabriel Valley and Mountains beyond. When she isn’t writing, they spend their time hiking in the mountains and deserts, splashing in tide pools, and resisting the urge to speak in haiku.

Smoky is, metaphorically speaking, the salmon who swims downstream, not up. When the invitation says “black tie,” she’ll more likely show up in tie-dye. If there’s a tree, she’ll climb it. A rock, she’ll scramble up  it. A creek, she’ll splash in it.  When the neighborhood coyotes howl, she tends to howl back.  Her husband calls her “eccentric.” She prefers the term “quirky.” But then, she’s a writer, an artist. What else would you expect?

And now from the author herself:

When I was a child, my grandparents had a farm in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, a place of sheer magic to me. There was magic in the mountains and the valleys of Virginia. I had proof: I had fairy stones.

Fairy stones are rare mineral crystals found in only a few locations worldwide. What makes them so wondrous is they are formed in the shape of a cross. Oh, some are less perfect than others, but to a child of six, the age I was when I found my first fairy stone, they all held magic.

Fairy stones are an important part of my novel, The Cabin. Young James-Cyrus Hoffmann is as enthralled with them as I was as a child. As an adult, he finds one particular fairy stone that has the power to change his life forever.

James-Cyrus has just inherited his grandfather’s farm, and with it a mysterious cabin deep in the woods on Hoffmann mountain; a cabin he has dreamed about since childhood. When he enters the cabin, he is vaulted back through time to the Civil War era, where he meets Elizabeth, the brave young woman who lives in the cabin, and Malachi, a runaway slave. James-Cyrus realizes his dreams of the cabin were visions of the past, and that Elizabeth is his great-great aunt a woman who vanished without a trace from the family tree. He also learns of his ancestors pivotal role in the lives of runaway slaves who were offered a safe haven at the cabin, a station on the underground railroad.

Cora Spellmacher, James-Cyrus’s elderly friend and neighbor, begins to unravel the secret of how he is able to make his fantastic leaps back and forth through time. In doing so, Cora begins to hope a tragic wrong from her own past can be righted, and that she can regain something precious that was lost to her many years earlier.

James-Cyrus realizes Elizabeth and Malachi are in terrible danger. With Cora’s help, he undertakes a daring plan of rescue that promises to rewrite his family history and change all of their lives forever.

The Cabin has received critical acclaim:

Mysterious and masterfully crafted, Smoky Trudeau Zeidel’s The Cabin draws the reader into a world in which reality swims, and truth is a thread of love through time. When protagonist James-Cyrus Hoffman inherits his grandfather’s farm, he discovers he has inherited more than land, his lineage bearing the passions, transgressions, and scars of his ancestors. A thoughtful, provocative, satisfying story that challenges not only the protagonist’s sense of time and place but the reader’s as well. — Patricia Damery, author of Snakes, and Farming Soul: A Tale of Initiation

Smoky Trudeau Zeidel brings to this magical and compelling historical fantasy an obvious and highly detailed love of plants and animals, mountains, dreams, and the old wisdom of one attuned to the mysteries of the natural world. — Malcolm R. Campbell, author of The Sun Singer and Sarabande.

Read The Cabin. Experience the magic.

Yes, please do. Thank you Smoky. You can find more about Smoky and her work via…

her blog http://smokyzeidel.wordpress.com where you can read about her blog tour (yours truly kicks it off!), editing service, books and short stories. Smoky returns for our interview on 14th November. A link, when it’s live, will be here too.

The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with romance novelist Joselyn Vaughn – the one hundred and sixty-ninth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me. You can also read / download my eBooks here.

Guest post re. writer’s block by Smoky Trudeau Zeidel

I’m delighted to bring you this guest blog post, today on the topic of writer’s block, by Smoky Trudeau Zeidel.

‘Fallow Times: Dealing With Writer’s Block’

If there is anything a writer fears more than a crashed hard drive, it’s writer’s block. The terror of one day sitting down, poising our fingers over the keyboard, and nothing coming out is enough to send most writers back to bed.

Sometimes, we sabotage ourselves, simply by not sitting down at our computers and putting finger to keyboard. Yesterday, I suddenly decided I just had to retile my bathroom floor; I spent the entire day on the floor, cutting tile, putting it down, fussing to make sure it was laid with the precision of a professional floor tiler. I asked some of my writer friends about their procrastination activities. One said she spent hours ironing her girls’ school uniforms. Another spent hours repainting baseboards. A third invited her grandchildren over for a sleepover so she’d have to focus on them rather than her writing.

That is procrastination, not writer’s block. The cure for that is to schedule a day once a week or so to do projects like these, and the other days, put your butt in your chair and your fingers on the keyboard and write!

But what if you are where you are supposed to be, at your desk, fingers poised, and not one word flows from your brain to the keyboard? What if you really are frozen, unable to write?

Believe it or not, this is okay. In fact, it’s a necessary part of being a writer. I don’t believe in writer’s block. When we can’t tap our ideas, it doesn’t mean we don’t have any. It means they aren’t ripe yet; they aren’t ready for birth. Any organic gardener will tell you fallow times are just as crucial to a good harvest as growing times. The soil needs to rest, to prepare itself for the next growing season. Your creative imagination is exactly the same. It needs to lie fallow and rest between crops of good stories. Winter of the mind is as crucial to a story as winter of the earth is to a good harvest.

That’s all very well and good, you may be thinking, but what if I’ve been in a fallow time for too long? How can I jump-start my ideas?

Different methods work for different people. What one writer swears is the cure for writer’s block, another writer will say doesn’t help at all. This list of suggestions is just that—a list of suggestions. If one trick doesn’t work for you, try another.

  • Change your routine. I’m a morning person. I can happily awaken at 5:00 a.m., fix a cup of coffee, and write until noon. Then, at exactly 12:02 p.m., my brain turns to mush and I can’t write any longer. I have writer friends whose schedules are just the opposite. They sleep until noon and write into the wee hours of the night. If you’re blocked, shake up your routine. Try writing in the morning if you’re a night owl, or writing at night if you’re like me, a morning person.
  • Write something different. Yes, you’re working on your masterpiece of a novel, the one that is sure to be a best seller. But if you’re blocked, you aren’t working on it, are you? Instead, try writing a poem, a limerick, a haiku. Write a love letter to your partner. Write a song. Don’t worry if it’s good or not. Good isn’t the issue—writing is. It’s very possible that the simple act of putting pen to paper (or keystroke to keyboard) is all you’ll need to jump start your creative imagination.
  • Take a walk. Or, go to the gym. Play tennis, or golf. Sometimes our brains don’t work because we’ve spent so many hours hunched over our computers our bodies are turning into piles of mashed potatoes. A little exercise will lift your spirits, tone your body, and give your creativity a jolt.
  • Play with toys. Yup, toys. I hereby give you permission to put playthings on your desk. If you don’t have any toys, go to the store and buy some. The reasoning behind this is quite simple. Think for a moment: who are the most creative people you know? Children, of course. Remember as a child casting aside your newly unwrapped holiday presents to turn the box into a spaceship? How many of you made forts from your parents’ dining room chairs? Playing with toys will bring out your inner child. Your creative, inner child. When I taught fiction writing workshops, this was always a favorite assignment of my students: to go out and buy toys for themselves!
  • Practice some other creative art. This is similar to the toy thing, and works well for people who are so grown up they can’t find their inner child anymore. (But that isn’t you, is it? I didn’t think so.) Your creative nature is like your health. It needs to be fed and nurtured. Carrots are a healthy food, but your body wouldn’t stay healthy for very long if you ate only carrots, would it? The same is true for your creative nature. Feed it only one food—fiction writing, in most of our cases—and that creative nature will grow unhealthy. To keep it fit, sculpt clay, paint with watercolors, or take up jewelry making. Make a collage. It doesn’t matter what it is, just so long as it is new to you and creative. It doesn’t have to be very good; no one has to see it but you. I am partial to making little statues and figurines out of Sculpey clay, and to making jewelry from semi-precious stones. But sometimes I dabble in watercolors, silk dyeing, and book making. Every time I finish an art project, I feel like I can return to my computer and take on the world.
  • Go ahead and write crap. If you really, truly don’t want to do anything other than work on your novel, by all means, sit at your computer and write crap. It is easier to fix bad writing than it is to create something from nothing. It could be that writing crap will wake up your muse enough to make her indignant and come rushing back to help you dig yourself out of that big pile.

All writers experience fallow times at one point or another; anyone who tells you otherwise is not being honest with you. If you’re in a fallow time, enjoy it. Make notes about what is going on around you; go to a coffee shop and eavesdrop on conversations. Who knows? You may overhear something that you can use. Remember, for writers, everything is research, everything is material for stories.

You will survive your fallow time. In the long run, it just may make you a better writer.

Thank you so much Smoky. I’m off now… to go and write. 🙂

Smoky Trudeau Zeidel is the author of two novels, On the Choptank Shores and The Cabin; a recently-released collection of stories,Short Story Collection Vol. 1; and two nonfiction books on writing which have recently been combined into one book, Smoky’s Writer’s Workshop Combo Set. She is the author of Observations of an Earth Mage, a collection of prose, poetry, and photographs celebrating the natural world. All her books are published by Vanilla Heart Publishing. Smoky lives in California with her husband Scott (a college music professor and classical guitarist), her daughter (a college student and actress), and a menagerie of animals, both domestic and wild, in a ramshackle cottage in the woods overlooking the San Gabriel Valley and Mountains beyond. When she isn’t writing, she spends her time hiking in the mountains and deserts, splashing in tide pools, and resisting the urge to speak in haiku.

If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me at morgen@morgenbailey.com with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please” (while quietly bouncing up and down in my seat with joy!).