Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Why I Write Short Stories

I try not to be fazed when people say I write light-weight books. Mainly, because I do. It's hard to be taken aback when someone calls it as it is. I also write genre. Mysteries, to be exact. For the most part, they are well received, more so than I thought possible.
I suspect that might be because while considered humorous and light-weight, my books are based on deeper stuff. In the Alvarez Family Mysteries for instance, the first book of the series takes place two years after the patriarch of the family dies. The protagonist (Lee) is fairly disassociated from her mother and brother, especially after the father's unexpected death. What they still share is a business created by him, a detective agency in Silicon Valley. Through a set of circumstances - okay, a dead body, because it is a murder mystery, after all - they become close again. I threw in unconditional love in the form of an uncle, who loves all three of them, no matter what. In the best of all possible worlds, most of us could use someone like that.
This odd, four-peopled family represent a lot of today's family dynamics. Many readers see that. While the books might be labeled funny and light-weight, the reader often identifies with the underlying problems this small family manages to overcome. And most importantly, this is a family who reaches out, despite the fact they often don't 'get' one another.
But back to why I like short stories. After the initial draft, I look for feedback from friends and fellow writers. I have found that in short stories, short shorts, and flash fiction (so called for their extreme brevity), each and every word counts. Rambling is not permitted to the extent it is in a novel. Writing in these mediums is what hones the craft. Truly.
If you are having writer's block, stop what you're doing - which is wanting, anyway, right? -  and choose any three words. Then try to do a 300 to 500-word flash fiction around those words for a couple of hours. If that doesn't grind up your stoppage, make it a 50-word ff. It can be the most rejuvenating thing in the world. Better than 3-weeks in the Bahamas. If you can clear your stoppage while lounging on a Bahamian beach, hurrah for you.
There are many short stories written by the accomplished. They knew and know the benefits of less is more. The beauty is, short stories force the writer to focus on each word. Otherwise, the results are probably going to be just garble. One cannot redeem oneself in the following chapters. Often, there isn't even a following paragraph. Get that one word and get it right.

Ernest Hemingway is credited with writing one of the best 6-word short stories: Baby shoes for sale. Never worn.
Now, isn't that lovely? I mean, really. A whole life experience - more than one - is penned in six words. That's craftsmanship.





I have just finished a collection of my short stories, short shorts, and flash-fiction, called Corliss and Other Award Winning Stories.
http://tinyurl.com/kqh9ueq
I'm no Hemingway (I only wish), but I've worked hard on these stories. I'm proud of them. They were rewritten and work shopped up the wazoo.
Sell-ability? Forget it. Other than famous writers and the Best American Short Stories collection, short stories on the whole don't sell well.
But that's not why we write them. Certainly not why I do. I want to sharpen my skills. I want to challenge myself. Then afterward, if allowed, I want to share, because there's something from the heart in a short story.

Do you have a short story, short short or flash fiction you would like to share? Whether you've written it or not, I would love to read it.
Life and short stories are for sharing. And you might win an eBook copy of Corliss and Other Award Winning Stores.

Thanks.

Heather Haven, writer
San Jose, California 95135
https://www.facebook.com/HeatherHavenStories
Twitter@HeatherHaven
Heather’s author page at Amazon:

Email me at: Heather@HeatherHavenStories.com

Monday, May 4, 2015

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

When I was a kid, I asked my mother why people lied. She said, "Usually it's because if that person tells the truth they won't get what they want."
That's probably more true than not. However, I find it interesting that there are so many words that mean a lie or liar, and most of them are just wonderful sounding. I mean, aren't we wasting terrific words on something that's supposed to be shameful and rotten?
For instance, in Tennessee Williams' play, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Big Daddy uses the word 'mendacity' frequently. What ham actor wouldn't want to scream that out to a packed house night after night? Tennessee Williams probably saved the word mendacity from obscurity. In today's clime, it's probably the only way anyone under thirty who didn't major in Drama knows the word at all. If they do. It does have more than two syllables, after all.
Then there's the wonderful words 'equivocator' and 'fabulist'. Equivocator sounds like someone who settles things, makes this right, equalizes them. And who wouldn't want to be a fabulist? Maybe not if they knew what it meant, but going by the sheer sound of it, it's fabulous. Yes, pun intended.
Then there's prevarication and taradiddle. Just great sounding words. I could go on and on, but as I am simply musing, my job is done here.
But to carry this a little further, maybe there's reason we have such inventive, colorful, and neat-sounding words for a liar. Possibly somewhere deep inside of each one of us, we are in awe of someone who can look us straight in the face and tell one helluva whopper.





https://www.facebook.com/HeatherHavenStories
Twitter@HeatherHaven
Heather’s author page at Amazon:


Saturday, January 3, 2015

This Writing Thing

I have discovered there might be a perk or two to being a writer. For sure, my crossword puzzle skills have improved dramatically. I will now grope for the rest.



Perk #1 - I can enter a world I create when all around me is chaos. There's a lot to be said for that. The older I get, the more chaotic I find the world. Sometimes a trip to the grocery store can be mind-boggling. I have been Greenpeaced there several times. The polar bears are better off because of the volunteers and my contributions to their cause. Oh yes, and I did buy some ice cream.

Perk #2 - People actually think because I can write a novel, I am an intelligent person. This is not necessarily the case. I have found that I am on the fairly dumb side, especially when it comes to finding my reading glasses or the car in a parking lot. Of course, saving the bears distracted me. I wandered around the parking lot for 15-minutes pushing a shopping cart full of melting ice cream. I try to look on it as exercise.

Perk #3 - When together with a bunch of strangers at a gathering and we need to make inane, mindless conversation before the hors d'oeuvres arrive, I can throw in the bit about being a writer. This usually stops people in their tracks. but ratchets up the conversation. They think of  J.D. Salinger, Jane Austin, or Steven King. I think of the arrival of shrimp cocktail. Sometimes one or two trapped people actually like murder mysteries. This means I can give them a bookmark and hope they go to Amazon to get one of my books. Add another 1/2 perk for this.

Perk #4 - I get to do what I love. Hmm. Let's make that Perk #1.

Happy New Year to all my fellow authors and readers. We may be crazy, but we are doing what we love to do. There's a lot to be said for that.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

I Hold Charles Dickens Completely Responsible

Decided to share this again. First published last holiday season.
Since I was a child, 
I would watch countless adaptations of A Christmas Carol on TV and
in the movies. I've seen variations of the character of Scrooge played by the likes of Alec Guinness, Susan Lucci, Jim Carrey, Vanessa Williams, and Scrooge McDuck. I even read the novel way back, when I was into a Reading the Classics Phase, which is a great phase to be in, frankly. We learn from the masters.
In 25-words or less, A Christmas Carol is a story of a mean, hard-hearted person who hates Christmas and all it stands for i.e. love, charity, and warm fuzzy slippers. On that fateful Christmas Eve, Ebenezer Scrooge could have just as easily uttered, "Cripes! It was an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato. Someone pass me a Tums." Let's face it, if antacids had been around then, it might have been a different story. 
But being a genius writer, Dickens has Scrooge find his inner self, thanks to an unending supply of colorful and inventive ghosts who are out to show he doesn't have to be the rat-fink he thinks himself to be. It is touch and go for awhile, but kindness and mercy win out. Love of fellowman scores a touchdown. And we, the readers, cheer from the sidelines. Yes, you can be a B&BP (bigger and better person) if only you try.
Taking this story to heart since I was around five-years old, I was convinced it was possible to help change a person's character. Yes, enlighten them as to the good in everyone, help them to see the gentler part of humankind, that which sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom, and you've got something. Although, according to Lila Hamilton Alvarez, the matriarch of the Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries, what sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom is our ability to accessorize. I should have listened to her.
So, at the ripe old age of 49 and holding, holding, holding, held and strangled, I have come to realize change is not going to happen for some people. They are incapable of change, they don't see the need, or sadly, some people believe they don't deserve happiness, so changing for the better is not an option. For them, a troubled, loveless life is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Psych 101, folks.
 But because of Charles Dickens, I saw the hope. I saw the possibility. 
Consequently, I spent decades trying to win one or two people over, loving them just a little bit more than the day before, and to hopefully, make them love me. 
Forget it. You can't make anybody do anything. What's the old saying? You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink. Or was it, you can lead a horticulture, but you can't make her think?
But Dickensian lovers, despair not. I am not slamming a man who knew minutely about humanity's strengths and weaknesses. There is a deeper truth in A Christmas Carol, one I failed to see the first few hundred times of viewing or reading. 
The beauty of the character of Ebenezer Scrooge is not that he changed, but that he wanted to change. He wanted to be a B&BP. It was and is the miracle of inner perspective. And Christmas, after all, is the time of miracles. 


Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you. And God bless us, everyone.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Thornton Wilder's The Skin of Our Teeth

I recently saw a production of Wilder's Skin of Our Teeth, given by Mountain View High School students. It was amazing.
First of all, I had forgotten just what a fine play Thornton Wilder had written. As a teen, I had been involved in two productions of it, myself. One in high school and the other in college. I was too young and too inexperienced to understand the complexities held within the manuscript. Wilder winning a Pulitzer Prize for the play should have been my first clue he was on to something, but I can be slow on the uptake.
Wrapped in allegories, anachronisms, humor, dinosaurs, and satire, Wilder exposes social mores, sadly even more relevant today than in 1942. It's about the way society gets caught up in the trappings of male/female roles, the educated vs the uneducated, the haves and the have nots, man's love of creation and need for destruction. The author throws in murder, lust, and betrayal, almost as an afterthought, but then there's a lot of think about in this work. A frightening, but often hilarious play, it is one that asks us to ponder our own lot in life and enforced expectations.
Under the capable direction of Rob Seitelman, Mountain View's drama teacher, a fine production of this play was mounted. To my mind, it was of a higher calibre than one had a right to expect of high school students. But maybe not. Today's children are much more aware and savvy than the youth in my day. And when you have a dedicated, talented director such as Mr. Seitelman, buoyed by healthy school funding, strong parental support, kids who are devoted to the arts, and a beautiful theatre in which to deliver this bundle, a lot can be accomplished. And is.
So, let's give credit where credit is due. Last week Thornton Wilder, Rob Seitelman, and the Mountain View cast and crew delivered the goods in The Skin of Our Teeth. I was privileged to see them strut their stuff.




Friday, August 8, 2014

Michelle K. Pickett Has a New Novel Coming Out

Michelle is an award winning author and is very excited about her new book, Unspeakable, as is everyone else. And the cover is sensational! Just see for yourself. The muted colors are exquisite and there's something about the eyes. They look right at you, promising much...maybe. And what lurks behind the face of this innocent looking girl that can be so 'unspeakable'?


A quote from Goodreads:
 "We are excited to share with you the official cover reveal of UNSPEAKABLE by Michelle K. Pickett. UNSPEAKABLE is a young adult contemporary romance that is scheduled to release in February of 2015. Check out more information below and make sure to add it to your TBR List!" 




Unspeakable Blurb:

“Breathe. No one will break me. I’m strong. Breathe. Just breathe.”

On the outside, Willow appears to have it all. She’s beautiful, smart, from an influential family, and she dates the most popular guy in school—Jaden. But she would walk away from it all in a second. Willow is tormented by lies and suffocating guilt, not the hearts and flowers people believe her life is full of.

She carries a dark secret. Plagued by nightmares and pain, the secret dominates her life. If she hadn’t walked away. If she had just…but she didn’t. And now she has to live with her choice. But when someone uncovers her family’s past, they use it against her, crushing her spirit little by little. She tells herself she just has to make it to graduation. Then she can leave Middleton, and her secret, far behind.

When Brody transfers to Cassidy High, he turns Willow’s life upside down. He shows her what it feels like to live again, really live. And suddenly, she isn’t satisfied with just surviving until graduation. She wants a normal life—with Brody—and he wants her. But the closer they become, the more it threatens to unravel the secret she’s worked so hard to hide.

Willow finds true love with Brody. Will she let his love save her, or walk away from him to keep her secret safe?


About the author:

Michelle is the bestselling author of the young adult novel PODs. She was born and raised in Flint, Michigan, but now lives in a sleepy suburb outside Houston with her extremely supportive husband, three school-aged children, a 125 pound “lap dog,” and a very snooty cat.


Want to know more about Unspeakable? Then  visit:
Goodreads -http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5448974.Michelle_K_Pickett

And lastly, here's Michelle's Amazon page, where you can learn more about her and her books:
Amazon - http://www.amazon.com/Michelle-K.-Pickett/e/B008QWUA5O



 




Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Heather and Her New BFF, Bookbub

Getting your name out there as a novelist is a lot of work. The good news about being independent is you get to do what you want. You have the power. The bad news is you need to do the promoting, marketing, strategizing yourself. If you don't, your book(s) could sink down in the oblivion of the thousand others coming onto the market each day. It takes time from writing, thinking, researching, etc. So enter Bookbub.
If you have a book that is established, Bookbub sends out emails to readers from across the board to download your work, but only if it is deeply discounted or free.

This is the second time I've used Bookbub to promote one of my books - and it ain't cheap, folks - but I have been very happy with the results. Bookbub probably works best if you have a series, which I do. Two of them, in fact. I have offered the first book of each, The Persephone Cole Vintage Mysteries and the Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries, for free. The hope is that if the reader likes the first free book, they will go and buy the others at normal cost.

I've heard of other authors who participate monthly in the free giveaways and have had great success. Some offer their works for free or 99 cents, both for a limited time. I have joined the group. I don't know if I can do it monthly - have I mentioned this ain't cheap? - especially if you do a free mystery. That category is at the top of the pay scale, coming in at my yearly shoe allowance.

With Amazon's Kindle now offering Kindle Unlimited as an option for its readers, I have no idea how it will change the Amazon/Bookbub marriage. Kindle Unlimited, copying Netflix's monthly charge for unlimited DVDs, is now offering free, unlimited book reads for a similar monthly charge. Will that affect the free book promotions? I have no idea. But I'm in it, folks, I'm in it. And I feel like I'm sitting at a blackjack table in Vegas. Winner takes it all. Loser selling small.

Any opinions?