A River, A Soccer Ball And An Elderly Woman Walk Into A Bar…

https://blog.reedsy.com/creative-writing-prompts/author/carolyn-mcbride/

Adelaide put another stick of wood in the stove and closed the door, feeling every one of her 80 years. She filled the kettle and set it on the flat blacktop. Tomorrow, she would not have her evening cup of tea here. 

Hit the link to read the rest!

Or maybe this is more your style;

When she’d expressed an interest in retiring, Mack had laughed at first. At least until he realized she was serious. Then he’d peered at her through narrowed eyes and shook his head.

“People in our business don’t retire. You know that.”

“I don’t want to be someone else’s loose end, Mack,” she’d told him. “I want to live long enough to have silver hair and grandchildren.”

“Then you’re in the wrong business, Dante. You know that.” As if they’d not even had the conversation, he sent her out on another job….

Or maybe you prefer bodyguard tales;

Only an arm-length away from the first female president, a flash in the crowd caught my attention.

“Gun!” I screamed. “Down, down!” I dove for Alexis, felt she and Harper go down beneath me and wondered why Harper had punched me in the chest…

Three short, entertaining short stories that might surprise you. I’d love to hear what you think!

Kick-Ass Women And Justice

Some people get excited about shoe sales. Not me. Book sales get my pulse popping! And I’m thrilled beyond bits to be offering Undercover Justice for sale for a limited time! It’s got kick-ass women, bad guys, folks in need of a hero and a sweet, smart horse. You don’t even need to set aside hours to read it either. You can finish it in line for your Covid shot, or if you get in traffic. It’s worth every cent though.

Here’s the blurb…

Residents of a small dusty town are held fast in the grip of a controlling, cruel egomaniac. Those who try to leave are hunted down and killed. When a stranger comes seeking medical help, enforcers begin dying one by one. Only one person knows why, and that person may be the town’s only hope. This is a tale of secrets, hope and the bravery it takes to stand up to cruelty.

Grab your copy today and let me know if you liked it!

Free! For A Limited Time Only!

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Like everyone else, I’m cursing this insidious, sneaky and frightening virus we’ve called COVID-19. It has touched so many people all across the world, on so many levels, and it’s not done with us yet. We’ll feel the effects for some time to come, I’m afraid. We need to rise above the overwhelm, and one of the ways we can do that is by reading.

Read novels, poetry, short stories, whatever strikes your fancy. In order to help you do that, I’ve put Undercover Justice on sale. For free. If the Old West is your thing, or you just simply like going back to an era where good battled evil and the moral code was easy to understand, you might like Undercover Justice.

It’s a short read, you can read it wherever and whenever you like. In whatever format you like, epub mobi pdf lrf pdb txt HTML. Slip over to Smashwords and check it out. If you like it, I’d be grateful if you left a review! Anyway, here’s the link you need to get the short story.

Happy reading!

 

Judging By Covers & The Power Of A Summary

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As an author, I’m here to tell you, summaries are a bitch. Most writers dread them just as much as dental work or taxes. Why? Because after all the care we’ve put into our darlings that are our stories, we have to sum up the draw of the story. Not the plot, the draw. It’s said that an author should tease the reader with a summary that briefly explains what the main character has to achieve, what they’re up against, and what they stand to lose if that all-important goal is not met.

Not nearly as easy as it sounds.

But that summary will either hook a reader, or repel them. And if they put down that book, odds are against them picking it up again. Now, in this age of e-books, summaries are even more important. An author has three chances to land a reader.

  1. The cover (I’ll touch on that in a minute)
  2. The preview
  3. The summary

I cannot tell you the number of times I have started reading a summary, only to be met with a review, or a list of prizes the work has won. I read. I read like I breathe. I read A LOT. I read both in digital format and the words on a slice of dead tree. I see so many online summaries that trumpet how many reviews the work has. This practice seems to have become the trend among Indie authors. No plot condensed down, no reason why I should read it, just a blaring account of how many stars a novel has, or the prizes it’s won.

My fellow writers, I’m begging you STOP DOING THIS!

It will not land you a reader, it will not provide you with a die-hard fan that will buy every word you write, and as a reader, it tells me exactly nothing about your story. I want to be a fan of your work, but if your summary does nothing but tell me that your tale won a bestoftheweb award, how do I know if it’s worthy of my time? I have a TBR (to be read) list of over 350 digital works, and a physical stack of books threatening to overtake my bedroom, and I know many of my fellow readers are just as busy as I am. So please, do the work and give us a reason to want to read your story. Do the work and give us a summary that will make us dive right in and not cast your work aside. Thanks.

I read far outside the genres that I write in. I read free books, novellas, flash fiction and anthologies. I haunt my library enough to know their catalogue and search systems is a stinky mess and which librarian is best at their job. I happily spend my money on books whose authors I know, in both fiction and nonfiction. So I’ve seen a good many covers. I’ve seen covers that make me awe-struck. I have seen covers (I swear this is the truth) I stare at for long minutes in wonder. Those are the ones that ought to be framed. And heaven forgive me, I’ve seen a powerful amount of crap.

We’ve been told so often not to judge a book by its cover, but we pretty much have to. Most especially in this day and age of e-publishing.

A cover with a half naked couple grasping at each other is pretty likely either romance or erotica. We know that if a book’s cover shows a shot of a jungle and a leaping tiger, you’re probably not holding a science fiction tale. So yes, covers should meet certain expectations. But, they should also stand out. As writers, we’re advised to envision our book on a shelf at a bookstore, front covers out (as they like to do when they’re on sale or part of a themed display). Then we’re asked if our book would stand out, or be lost among the dozens of others in our genre or field of expertise. To that end, as a reader, I’d like to pass on some advice to Indie authors, and publishing houses as well.

  • Not every science fiction story needs to have a space ship on the cover! For the love of ink, please do something original with a space-themed cover! Not every science fiction story is going to be about a grizzled space ship captain who is Earth’s last hope, but many of those covers would have us think so. There are so many sub-genres within science fiction, that a little examination and imagination can go a long way to creating an attractive and engaging cover. Because let me tell you, after the twentieth science fiction book we’ve glimpsed in an online store, we won’t be able to remember which one had a great sounding blurb. They all blend together. The same idea is true for romance, thrillers, spy novels, paranormal, and don’t even get me started on YA. So be nice to readers and make your cover stand out from the hundreds of others in your genre.
  • If you write more than one novel, whether it is a standalone or part of a series, readers remember your work better if your covers bear some similarity. Even if that is as small as a consistent font choice for the title and the author name. Many of the biggest names do this and call it brand recognition, but as a reader, I’m here to tell you that we do  make an association between your work and the way the text looks. Most especially if you use the same font or your covers have a similar feel to them. Kristina Stanley does this, and her cover designer goes a step further to ensure that her covers stand out as a Stanley. Check any Stephen King novel that he’s released in the last ten years and chances are good, his name is always in the same font. Patricia Cornwell does this as well, as does Koontz, Piers Anthony, Clive Cussler, Dan Brown, Melissa Good and Arthur C. Clarke. (Okay, Clarke is dead, but my point stands) Readers want to remember your work. So give them every reason to do so, whether that be through your writing style, the feel of your cover, or the font you choose for your title and name. It may not seem like a big thing, but I can tell you that I can spot a Piers Anthony book across a bookstore, and nine times out of ten, if I spot it, I’ll buy it. The same holds true for online book shopping.

So that’s a few thoughts on how to hook readers, or at the very least, keep them from putting down your book. We don’t want them to put down our books. We want to engage them from the moment they pick it up, or it pops up on their screen. We have to compete for readers time and attention, so don’t give them an excuse to put down our work. Give them every opportunity to get hooked on your words, your work and your vision.

The Wilderness In My Soul

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I’ve been writing for a number of years now, and over the years, my Muse has been both helpful and a fickle twit. Once upon a time, she abandoned me for nearly a decade. I thought I would be story-dry for the rest of my life.

Turns out, all I had to do was move back up north.

Once I settled back into a life among the wilds, my Muse raced back with a speed that was unsettling at times. It was as if she was perked up by pine-infused air, and boosted by birdsong!

One of the first short stories I began developing shortly after moving was inspired by taking my dog outside. As he was sniffing, I looked around me at our end of the valley. I was home, safe, cradled within the cliffs dotted with birch and maples. It wasn’t hard to imagine a young woman trying to climb over the ridges and make her way out of the valley. But what would make someone attempt such a hazardous trek? She has no choice…her survival, and that of her people, depends on her quest. It was easy to slip inside her skin as she huddled around her campfire that first night. She heard the coyotes that sang the song of their people outside my door. She heard the call of the owl in my backyard, and she saw the beaver that slapped its tail in the pond twenty feet away from my front door. That young woman, Butter, not only has to make her way in uncharted territory and survive in a wilderness she’s never experienced before, but she also has to decide if she can trust the outcast whose path she crosses. She cannot forget the point of her quest, either. To come back with a whole, living plant that will save her people and their future.

I am incredibly fortunate to live surrounded by trees, water and wild animals. This is a large part of my identity, both as a person and as a writer. But I have always felt the pull of the women whispering stories in my ear. The women explorers who curled up with their female companions at night. The women chasing convicted criminals across time and space. Those women that undertook impossible quests to save their people, and those that agreed to live with dragons and be a voice for her people. (Thankfully, my wife doesn’t mind sharing me with them!)

There is a growing library of work set in Canada, and for some reason, the majority of these seem to be either crime or romance. I’m fascinated and intrigued by the potential for speculative fiction here. I’ve found few pieces of fiction set in Northern Ontario. I hope to change that. I realize there may well be a small number of folks who are interested, but that’s the direction that my Muse has been tugging me. Toni Morrison once said, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”

I find further encouragement in the words of J.K Rowling, “There’s always room for a story that can transport people to another place.”

And on the days that I need just a bit more encouragement, I turn to this bit of wisdom from Eric Morgenstern, handwritten and taped near my computer.

“You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift.”

My Muse agrees.

 

Words for Wednesday!

 

 

So, here’s a new thing for me, well, relatively new. It’s called Words for Wednesday. The premise is that the WFW host post a list of words on their blog, and we take the words and write a little  piece of micro/flash/short fiction using those words.

Here are this week’s words, hosted on Riot Kitty’s blog;

Coffee
Profanity
Cats
Flowers
Cards
Writing

So here is my contribution!

It didn’t matter how much coffee I drank or how many cats I petted, I still couldn’t focus on the cards in front me. I let loose with a string of profanity that would make my pastor shake his head in disappointment if he’d heard. The flowers wilted and I squinted at them, disgusted by their lack of vigor. I shook my head and tried to concentrate on writing in the thank you cards I’d pulled aside for this very occasion. then I realized I didn’t have my glasses on and I’d been trying to write with a red crayon!

Needless to say another string of profanity laced the air, and the cats abandoned me for purer, quieter sleeping places.