Friday, August 16, 2019

Flashback Friday: In Urgent Need of a Plot

It’s not the traditional Flashback Friday, but then that hop has died, so I can post a flashback whenever I want. This one resonated with the struggle I’ve had getting a recent story to write itself. I wrote this in 2013, while on vacation in Canada.

In Urgent Need of a Plot

Carleen gazed moodily out the window of her favorite cafe at a street devoid of all interest.  Nursing her latte with her right hand, she clutched fiercely at her pen with the left.

"Must. . . write. . . short. . . story," she muttered between teeth clenched in an unbreakable spasm.  She worked her jaw as though you could force a story out like a recalcitrant turd.  In a way, you can, but the results are similar: unsatisfactory and stinking.

A story needs pivots.  Conflict.  A twist.  So far, all Carleen had was two people drinking coffee in a cafe.  It could have been anyone.  The couple at the next table, for example.  Carleen considered them.  A fair-haired man in his 30s, and a younger woman with wavy brow hair and an uncertain smile.  What was the conflict in their lives?  Carleen strained to hear their conversation, but was disappointed to find it mundane, with no sign of conflict beyond the vexed question of whether they should get refills on their coffee.

Moved by an impulse she didn't give herself time to examine, Carleen began to watch the man intently.  Soon he began to shift uncomfortably, and to glance at her more and more frequently, and with a more puzzled look.  Her pen began to move.

"He knew I was watching him, and he knew me, too.  I could see that, as clearly as I could see that he didn't want me to let on.  It had been what?  Seven years since the cruise?"  She hesitated.  What would the woman do if she knew about their liaison?  Surely that would introduce conflict!

Before she could stop herself, Carleen had laid down her pen, smiled at the man, and stood up.  Stepping over to their table, she held out both hands.

"Hjalmar!"  I would know you anywhere!  I have such wonderful memories of that cruise we were on together!

The man gave her a look of utter horror.  Then he pasted on a sickly smile, and said tightly, "my name is Mark.  I'm afraid you must be mistaken.  I have never been in any cruise, and I'm sure I've never seen you before."

The girl also looked at her in consternation.  "Mark?  What does she mean?"

"Nothing, my dear.  Just a case of mistaken identity.  Right?" He added with emphasis, looking at Carleen.

"Oh!" She said, flustered.  The fluster was genuine. What was she doing??! But her words continued the story.  "I'm so sorry.  I really shouldn't have intruded, but I was so certain. . . " She let her voice trail off.  "But I must have been wrong."  Even as she said it she gave "Hjalmar" a look that said they were both lying and both knew it.

Then she went and sat back down, her heart pounding.  She picked up her pen.  She needed only to write down the argument that ensued.  Now she had conflict, with a vengeance!  It culminated with the stereotypical slap in the face, and the girl stormed out.  Forgetting her own role in it, Carleen felt only the delight in a perfect scene.  And their language had been so colorful!

She was gathering her things, congratulating herself on a scene so brilliantly and easily produced, when she felt someone behind her, and turned to find Hjalmar/Mark standing there.

"Very well, Marta," he said with the slight Scandinavian accent she had so clearly imagined.  "As you have frightened off young Sally, perhaps we could take up where we left off?"


©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2019 As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated!

Monday, August 12, 2019

Guest Post today! Author Ronel Janse van Vuuren

Today, while I'm busy with visiting my family, Young Adult author Ronel Janse van Vuuren has come by to offer some thoughts on the special pleasures of the novella. Ronel is the author of Once... Tales, Myths and Legends of Faerie; Dark Desires, The Fae Realm, and more, including her latest release, Magic at Midnight.

Power of Novellas

When you ask someone how they are, the standard answer has become: “I’ve been incredibly busy!”
“Busy”. That seems to be what we all are at any given moment. Work, children, relationships, hobbies, exercise – we are kept quite busy. Unexpected things happen and we have to somehow fit it into our busy lives.

There are ways to be less busy, of course. Hiring someone to do your laundry/clean your house/cook your meals/take care of your garden/chauffeur the children/pick up your dry cleaning/answer your emails: the list is endless on how you can outsource the stuff that eats up you time. Freeing you to do more work. To be more “busy”.

But we need to take some time for ourselves. We need to set boundaries. Maybe it’s that hour before bed, or waiting in line/at the doctor’s office, taking a break in the afternoon, or that hour in the morning before anyone else wakes up.

How do we fill that hour just for ourselves? We escape into another world: we read.

Regular length novels, read at a pace of an hour a day, can take a week to get through, leaving the reader in constant anticipation – or worse – adding unnecessary stress.

But a novella can be read in two hours. It offers an escape and a proper conclusion. In other words: a fulfilling read.

That’s why shorter reads are becoming more and more popular on online stores. Novellas can come in ebook, audiobook and paperback. They can come in series, standalone or standalone-in-series. They come in any genre and for any age group (well, those that have long novels).

Novellas fill the void, help those with “no time to read” and brings back the delicious escape that only stories can bring.

“Magic at Midnight” is one of these powerful novellas. Magic, intrigue, conspiracies, romance – what more do you need? There are pegasi, princesses and whispers of war. And did I mention that you can read it in two hours?

Even if you can only find five minutes for yourself a day, you can fill it with reading pleasure. And you can still look “busy” if you really want to.

About the author:
Award-winning author Ronel Janse van Vuuren mainly writes for teens and tweens, though she is known to write mythology-filled short stories for anthologies aimed at older readers. Her dark fantasy works, usually full of folklore, can be viewed on her website and on Goodreads.

Ronel can be found tweeting about writing and other things that interest her, arguing with her characters, researching folklore for her newest story or playing with her Rottweilers when she’s not actually writing.

All of her books are available for purchase from major online retailers.

Sign up to be notified of new releases, giveaways and pre-release specials – plus get a free eBook – when you join Ronel’s newsletter

Connect with Ronel online:
Amazon author page
Ronel the Mythmaker, Website of Dark Fantasy Author Ronel Janse van Vuuren

Title: Magic at Midnight
Author: Ronel Janse van Vuuren
Publication Info: May, 2019. 98 pages

Publisher's Blurb:

Amy has only known one life. Now she needs to put it all on the line to save what is precious to her. Can this simple farm girl survive court life? Can she stop a war from burning down her world? And what of the mysterious princess of Hazel Wood and her covert glances…? Not to mention the prince of Acacia Wood who might or might not be involved with the prophecies ruling their kingdoms. With mysteries and secrets threatening the life she longs to return to, can she separate her feelings from the mission?

Friday, August 9, 2019

On the road again

This was supposed to be an excited "gone hiking" post about heading into the Canadian Rockies for a few weeks. Sadly, I developed a bad case of plantar fasciitis (if you don't know what that is... consider yourself lucky indeed), and won't be hiking for the next month or two, at best. But we're off to visit the family in Seattle, so there's that :) 

Since we are staying closer to civilization, I'll have wi-fi more often than I'd expected, but since I'll be busy, I've lined up a guest post, as well as a few pre-arranged posts of my own, and am letting the book reviews go a bit.

Please forgive me if I'm slow responding to comments, but I will get back to you!