Silence Drips into Color


A woman soldier facing away from the camera holds a rifle.
The scariest thing in Desert Storm was when the gas alarm sounded and we evacuated to a foxhole. Did not know anything. Could not see anything.

Private First Class Anita Johnson’s greatest fear is dying,   After a gas alarm is called, she hides in a bunker, listening to the unknown and waiting for IT to happen.  Normalcy may be her only sanity.

A flash fiction story available from your favorite booksellers.

5 Fantasy Heroines


Cover for Five Fantasy Heroines

Five of Linda Maye Adams’ fantasy stories. The collection includes Writers of the Future honorable mention “A Quartet of Clowns,” the action story “River Flight,” the flash fiction “Healer’s Tent,” the action story “Booby-Trap at Beaver River,” and reader favorite “Words of Rain and Shadows.”

Available from your favorite booksellers for $4.99, including Amazon and Smashwords.

Baby Dolls & Aliens


 

Cover for Baby Dolls and Aliens

 

It’s the summer of 1976, when California is hot and dry, and Jenny is watching her mother wither away with the heat. Jenny tries to retreat to her backyard on a imaginary safari or a journey on the prairie.  But even dolls on adventures aren’t enough when the world is unraveling around her.

Available from your favorite booksellers for .99 including Amazon and Smashwords.

Flash Fiction For Your Reading Pleasure


I have a fantasy flash fiction story called “Light in the Window” posted over at Writer Unboxed for their contest.  Wander over if you’re interested, and vote for it if you like it.

I started this story with the intent to get all five senses into the story (hard to do with only 250 words).  Research was quick: I started with a place I’d seen, which was the Officer’s Hut at Fort Ward, Alexandria, which is a Civil War museum.  Most of the time when you see places where people lived in the past on TV, they’re huge (probably owing to the need for a camera and the actors to move around).

Then it was off for some quick candle research.  The writing was a bit more challenging, because I have to nibble at the words to get it to stay within the 250 word requirement.  I think of it as the show Chopped.  Sometimes you’ll see this one chef, and he’ll finish a few minutes early.  Then there’s usually a problem because he did finish too early.  So I try to use as much of the 250 words as possible to make sure I get everything in!

Story a Week: Week 4


This week I’m playing a bit of catch up.  I went to a science fiction convention in North Carolina over the weekend and just got back yesterday.  I knew this was scheduled, so I decided to do flash fiction.  The catch was that I had to get it done before Friday.

Goals for this story:

  1. Ramp up the style.  I was shooting for the literary genre this time, and style is a genre requirement.
  2. Write it in one sitting.

But, as it turned out, I did a bit more than I thought I would.

On the train, I was inspired to write a poem.  I haven’t done one of those in years, so why not?  I did not do much of any writing on the train trip up to North Carolina.  Honestly, it was just nice to be able to sit back and watch the world go by without having to race around and do stuff.  Trains have a way of slowing you down.

Then at the con, I attended the tail end of a workshop on writing organizations.  The panelists actually weren’t discussing the topic; it was more on being productive.  One of the hardest things for writers, especially part time with a day job, is that other things can interfere with it.  You have to make time for it, and usually goals of some kind are associated with it.

The typical goal is 2,000 words a day.  That’s tough for me as a writer who doesn’t outline.  Sometimes things pop into the story, and then I take them out as part of this creative process.  Word count can actually go into the negative numbers.  I also recently something in passing that said most of the writers who claim they’re hitting 2K a day probably aren’t.

Another type of goal is a project goal, like doing a scene.  That was also problematic for me because I don’t get ideas in order, so it is possible a scene may be unfinished because I haven’t gotten far enough into the story to fill things in.

But at this workshop, one of the writers mention Kim Stanley Robinson’s goal of five pages a day.  I thought about that.  Could I do that?  That goal doesn’t require the scene to be complete, not is it as subject to the ups and downs of not outlining.  So I went back that night and wrote 5 pages, and it was fun — something novel writing hasn’t been for a while.

But one thing I did do was I had to say not to worry about description, setting, and world building.  Those three things can turn a writing session into a nightmare of trying to make any goal.  I think some of it just that I haven’t quite processed what I need for the scene, and it takes more time.  But I’ve found that if I “leave it for later,” I end up with massive revision that affects the story itself.

So what I did was type notes in the file where I thought the description should go (and counted as part of the 5 pages).  The notes were all different.  Some were just like “Describe this character.”  Others had notes of things to make sure I did, and things to avoid.  There were some where I got additional ideas and put those in as well.

I ended up doing another 5 pages the following day and 10 on travel day.  Writing 5 pages like this took maybe an hour because I didn’t have to stop and think about describing stuff.  I could just add notes and come back to it.

We’ll see how it goes in the coming weeks.

 

Week 2 of Story-A-Week


Two weeks ago, I finally declared an emergency.  I’ve been struggling to work on a novel for a while.  My intent was to produce both a novel and get short stories submitted.  Neither was really happening.

Time was not the issue.  I could make the time.

The problem has been that my job is a currently a creative drain.  We just had a reorganization — really, do I need to say more?  I think they’re the one thing all employees really hate, and ours will probably take a year to work out the bugs.

So I can get home and need two hours before I can even attempt writing, and sometimes I end up in front of the computer for another two hours and not much to speak for it because I just can’t wrap my brain around a large project like a novel.

Even when I got to the weekend, I needed time to decompress by going out to places and just getting out.  Meanwhile, my head’s going, “But all that is writing time,” and I’m thinking, “But I need me time, too.”

Then I got Jay Lake’s Writing Rules.  He passed away a few weeks ago, but the rules are one of his legacies.  One of them was a typical one I’ve seen: Finish a project a week.  Then I saw this part:

Length is irrelevant.  This is important for two reasons — time management and idea sizing.  Even on a terrible week with sick kids and overtime at work, you can carve out an hour somewhere to rip off a 500 word flash piece.  Then you’ve met your goal.  On an easy week, you can work on a novella.  This helps you meet the goal more consistently, where a word-count target would be in greater jeopardy.

I could do that.  Flash fiction is very manageable and regular short stories can be done on weeks when things are less of a creative suck.  So I’m going to set aside novels for right now and do a story a week, each with two goals.

For Week 2, I did Flash fiction, contemporary science fiction/time travel.

Goals:

  1. Don’t go dark: This has been a problem I’m battling since I veer toward such dark ideas that I can’t sell them (as in small situation resolved; big situation not resolved).
  2. Get temperature into the story: As a pantser, I tend to leave out a lot of the details, like the setting .  So I picked an element to make sure I did something with it.  In this case, I used the humidity of Washington, DC that we had last week.

 

 

 

My First Mystery!


Cover for The Secret in the Old Attic
This is a great cover, promising adventure and danger for our intrepid heroine.

When I was growing up, I devoured all the Nancy Drew novels at my library.  I’d always go to that back corner where they were shelved and scan the yellow spines to see if there was a new book out.  I graduated to other mysteries, like Kim Aldrich, Trixie Beldon, and Phyllis A. Whitney‘s Gothic mysteries.

I also wrote short stories about a girl like Nancy Drew who solved mysteries.  Her name was Sharon McCall, and she was a lot of things I wanted to be: athletic, long, straight hair.  Years later, my mother blurted out that she hadn’t liked “That terrible Sharon McCall.”  This was something she should have kept to herself!

But once I started writing for publication, I veered away from mystery.  I’m not good with details, and mystery is all about the details.  But the ideas class I’m taking is forcing me to put details into the openings that I tended to ignore, as well as look at new forms of inspiration.

So when I saw a photo prompt with a pro rate mystery magazine, I decided to try for it.  I noted three prominent things about the photo and made sure all of those got into the story.

Since the magazine issue has only male writers with about male characters, I did a female character and I also made her a private in the army.  That’s not a type of character everyone else is doing.

By the way, did I mention this story couldn’t be any longer than 250 words?

Of course, this evil little voice keeps saying that the story isn’t right, though it’s never specific.  So I banished that voice and sent the story off.

10 Stories in 10 Weeks


Three orange kayacks navigate the Potomac River, with buildings in the background.
Potomac River off the George Washington Parkway.

These last two weeks I was lazy.  I finished Story #9 and submitted it, but I didn’t do the blog post.  It must have been the heat.  We’ve been in the three digits with lots of humidity.  Makes it hard to even think!  It cooled off a bit today, but all next week, we’re going to be scorched.

Story #9:

This was flash fiction off a prompt and turned into a surprisingly complex story about zombies.  But when I finished the story, I wasn’t happy with it.  I couldn’t tell you why.  I just wasn’t happy.  In fact, I kept thinking that I should hold the story back and not send it out until I figure out why I wasn’t happy.

I sent it out anyway.

It got accepted and will be published in an upcoming issue of Fabula Argentea.

Story #10

This came from an idea I got while in Virginia Beach: a soldier and a mermaid and merged with not one, but two writing prompts.  The first one was “voices in the fog” (honestly, isn’t that a cool one?), and the second was a photo of a rocky shoreline.  The setting became California, and the story on grief and loss and hope.  And mermaids, of course.  It was a very strange story.  Still not sure what I think of it, but it’s on sub, too.

Reflections on what I got out of doing this

It was a little tiring creatively.  At the halfway point and near the end, I was worn out.  I’ve burned myself out creatively before, so that’s always in the back of my mind.  Pacing myself is definitely a skill I have to learn so I don’t end up having to take long breaks to recover.

But I also found that the ideas got more varied the further into the challenge.  I started out with ideas I already had and stories I could redraft.  It was a safety net to get me started, so I wasn’t going, “What do I write?  What do I write?” (though that still happened!)  I started out with fantasy stories, and ended up doing some mainstream stories as well on topics that I would have never expected I’d do.  It was just the way the ideas went, and I followed them.

One of the challenges was that the longer stories of around 3K were harder to do in the week, or at least with the time I was giving them, since I didn’t want them cutting into novel time.  Flash fiction became the “go-to” story, but admittedly, those are harder to find paying markets for.  But at the same time, the strict deadline meant I just wrote and produced a complete story for submission.

What’s next?

One of the things I’ve come to realize is that all this focus on social media and promotion is pretty useless without any stories to sell.  So my focus has been shifting to get more out there and doing less social media, especially Twitter, which I have never liked.  Stories are the real promotion, and that’s what I’m focusing on.

Week 8: 10 Weeks of 10 Stories


A large tree branch lays on the ground
When I first saw this tree branch, I thought an entire tree had fallen. The branch is taller than me.

All this week we’ve had a lot of heat and humidity.  That always comes with a thunderstorm, usually about 4:00 in the afternoon — just in time for everyone to start getting on the road home.  We had a huge storm blow through, and a tree or branch always comes down like the one above.

The heat itself became the inspiration for this week’s story.  Unless it’s raining, I always go outside to write at lunchtime.  It’s hard doing that when it’s so humid.  I was sitting at my netbook under an umbrella and trying to motivate myself, which was very hard because the heat just sucked the energy out of me.

So I set the story in Southern California, on the same date, but in 1973, and it became a story about the roles of women.  One of the things that my parents always expected was that my father would die first, so he made sure insurance was taken care of.  But neither asked what the next step was.  My mother couldn’t do any of the basic things that would have been required.  It was an expectation of the times that the man would take care of everything, and the woman would raise the children.  But things like divorce and death get in the way.  So this story was from a child’s perspective of her life about to change because of this.

It ended up being a very different story than what I usually write.

See the other weeks of this:

Week 7: 10 Weeks of 10 Stories


A gray squirrel pauses on concrete steps.

I’ll admit — I’ve been thinking, “Wait a minute!  I still have three stories left?”

The first group of these I pulled mainly from existing ideas or stories that I had tried before.  I’m now into coming up with new ideas, and that’s where it’s been more of a struggle.  They don’t always come easily.  In fact, I should have abandoned my first novel long before I really did because I kept thinking that I didn’t have any ideas for a new one.

So I pretty much picked something and ran with it, for another flash fiction story that kind of surprised me as to how it came out.  I’m not still not quite sure what I think of it.

The “something” I picked was an event of sorts that happened to me in the early spring.  It was one of the passing moments that catches your attention because it’s so strange.  A construction company had started work digging out the foundation for a series of condominiums (all $500K at up.  Yikes!).  They put a tunnel over the sidewalk — a plank roof supported by a pipe structure.

That morning I was walking to the farmer’s market, and because it was early spring, we still were getting due on everything.  The pipes were dripping wet.

This guy comes from the opposite direction with a real bouncy walk.  Suddenly he bends under one of the railings — hardly an interruption really — and then walks again.  Then he does the same thing, and now I see what exactly he’s doing.

He’s licking the dew off the pipes.

Weird.

But I turned it into a story about grief, and I have no idea how that happened.

See also: