Tag Archives: Short Stories

About Audio Books

I have come slowly to audio books.

While I love to listen to music on my iPod while doing this or that — pulling weeds, washing dishes, puttering around — I have always thought that reading should be a quiet activity, a reward for having pulled weeds, done the dishes and done all the necessary puttering.

But I’m changing my mind about that.

Lizard Wine Audio cover

Several of my books are now available in the audio format, and I have discovered that I enjoy listening to audio books. My favorite way to listen, of course, is still sitting quietly–so I knit and listen. But I can also listen while pulling weeds, doing the dishes and puttering.

Lizard Wine is now available as an audio book, narrated by the astonishing Voice of America, Jim Tedder. This is one of my perennial bestselling thrillers, and Jim brings a very nice depth of emotion to the narration. You can download a sample and then decide whether or not you are interested in listening to more.

Baggage Check, my latest thriller, is also available, narrated by Roger Wood.

baggage check audio cover

Lizzie Borden, of course, is also available as an audio book. As is my very first book, When Darkness Loves Us.

Lizzie audio cover

Sadly to say, my time to read for pleasure has shrunk in the past few years, but with audio books, I can “read” while driving, and while I’m doing almost anything else.

And, like browsing in a bookstore, I can “sample” a book before I buy or borrow.

Audio books have changed the way I read. I’m sorry that my life has come to this type of multi-tasking, but that is the current state of affairs. Maybe some day I will have a hammock and the type of leisure time to while away the day with superb fiction, but that isn’t my world today.

The point is, whether I have headphones or a tablet or paper book in my lap, whether I’m listening or reading, I’m still engaging with wonderful literature.

And that is my lifeblood.

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Moxie and the African Queen

I’ve been experimenting with publishing some short fiction on Amazon.com for the Kindle.

The latest short story I posted was “Moxie and the African Queen”, a sweet little read for kids of all ages. Inspired originally by Alexis America, whose beautiful watercolor painting still hangs on my wall, my daughter and I collaborated on the bones of the story for an anthology called Great Writers and Kids Write Mystery Stories, illustrated by the incomparable Gahan Wilson and edited by Jill Morgan, Martin Greenberg and  Robert Weinberg.

I buy stand-alone short stories from Amazon, and am interested to find out if anyone else does. This is the fourth short story to appear in this form. Apex published “Music Ascending,” IFD published “Crosley” and I previously published “Charlie’s Grave.”

Check them out. They’re $.99, and as always, if you like what you find, please post a review on Amazon.com.

And if you want, I have some far darker pieces I could post. Let me know.

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Some of My Latest News

A quick update on what’s been happening.

First, my newest book, York’s Moon is available at Amazon.com and on my website. The launch party will be at Tsunami Books, 2585 Willamette St., Eugene, OR, April 17, 3-5pm. Come celebrate!

The trailer is up on the Candyland website! It’s very dark and creepy.

“Honing Sebastian”, a short story, is available as a podcast at PodCastle.

“Music Ascending”, a short story, is available as a stand-alone.

When Darkness Loves Us is in audio production.

I just got back from a great vacation and am now back at work.

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Adventures in Fiction–Mexico Style!

It was an honor and a privilege to teach the fine art of fiction along side my pal John Reed for his first annual Adventures in Fiction–Mexico Style! writing retreat last week in Zihuatanejo, Mexico.

The week began Sunday afternoon in the third floor open-air classroom in the Hotel Casa Celeste with an exquisite catered reception, then all of us, including spouses, went to dine on the fine Mexican cuisine on the beach, under the stars.

Monday, we got to work, writing hard and fast, having sessions on structure, character, marketing and fielding all manner of questions. The participants each wrote two complete short stories and we critiqued them all in a marathon session on Friday.

It’s always my hope and intention that with every class I teach, each participant picks up a golden nugget or two to carry with them throughout their writing career. This time, I picked up more than one, both from Mr. Reed and from the articulate and probing questions from the participants.

After a hard week of work (amidst all that is wonderful about Zihua), we ended with a celebratory dinner. Then we went our separate ways with fresh  knowledge and new friends.

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Writing en masse

There is something to the idea that group synergy equals more than the sum of its parts.

Last weekend, twelve of us got together at a beautiful riverfront resort up the McKenzie River in Oregon to write science fiction stories. This weekend, like the annual ghost story weekends, required all participants to write a science fiction story in 24 hours.  We had some good chats about science fiction, and then at 7pm on Friday, after dinner, we all got down to it.

Saturday at 7pm, the dinner dishes done, exhausted yet energized, we sat in a comfy circle to hear the stories. It’s like having someone reading an entire anthology of excellent science fiction stories. We laughed, we shivered, we exclaimed, speculated, we clapped, we cheered. And then we realized that every one of the stories had certain elements in common. How could that be? There was no collaboration, no collusion. How could every single story have some of the same thematic elements? These were not things we discussed in pretrip meetings or over Friday night pizza and salad. They just happened.

I prefer to think that these things are in the ether. That our mind channels, when opened to the Great Creative Powers become not unlike an insecure internet portal. We wander around the grounds in the sunlight, pondering our stories, and those ponderings collide with another writer’s musings, and bingo! They both come up with a common solution for their outrageously different stories.

We’ve had this type of synergy before in these weekends. I’ve facilitated enough of them now that I thought I’d seen everything, but no. This was extraordinary.

And made every one of us eager to repeat the process.

Next spring: Fantasy Story Weekend.

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The Twentieth Annual Ghost Story Weekend

…is now in the history books.

I have to say, this was perhaps the best weekend with the highest quality stories across the board. Everybody really rose to the occasion. You’ll be reading some of those stories in magazines soon, I expect.

And now we turn our attention to Science Fiction Story Weekend this fall, perhaps in a new venue with accommodations more befitting our advancing ages, and the next Ghost Story Weekend next Spring, God willing.

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Speaking of Short Stories…

Fiction is about people in trouble. When the trouble is resolved, the story is over.

A short story is a piece of fiction under 15,000 words. It has all the requisite elements of fiction: a protagonist, an antagonist, and a major point of conflict. The bigger the conflict, the stronger the characters. The stronger the characters, the better the story.

Your protagonist is always a reluctant hero. He is flawed. He is dragged out of his comfortable world into uncertainty. He changes internally because he is forced to look at his flaws as a result of the conflict presented by the antagonist. This conflict is the stimulation to his character growth. There should be internal conflict and external conflict in every scene.

A short story conforms to all that is expected of fiction. It is comprised of three acts: Act One: the Setup, Act Two: the Complication, and Act Three: the Resolution.

Act One shows the protagonist before the trouble starts, in his comfortable world, but with myriad problems. Act One ends when the protagonist is so tired of avoiding the impending problem that he believes it is easier to fix the problem than to continue to avoid it. This is when he embarks upon his quest. By the end of Act One, all the major players have been introduced, as well as the major point of conflict.

Act Two complicates every tiny point of conflict introduced in Act One. At the end of Act Two, the protagonist and reader alike are certain he will never be able to fix the problem. This is the darkest moment.

In Act Three, the conflicts begin to resolve as a result of the protagonist getting smarter. In the climax, he deals, once and for all, with the external conflict, and he takes a good look at his internal flaws. This is when he either succumbs to his failings or overcomes them. The reader is cheering for him to overcome his flaws, but characters do whatever they do. The point is that he must look at himself and be changed by what he sees.

In the final analysis, readers will remember what happens to the protagonist internally, which is ultimately more important than what happens to the external problem.

A short story can be told from any point of view, can include any number of characters, can span any length of time. There is no room for subplots, so stick to one good guy, one bad guy, and one main point of conflict. Give your characters passion, memorable names, quirks, angers, frustrations and depth. Include lots of sensory imagery, so the reader can be in the scene with the character, and reveal your character’s nature through the use of facial expressions and gestures. Differentiate the characters from each other, and from you. Give them a serious problem, throw them off the deep end, and watch them work their way out of it, given who they are and what they do.

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