Posts Tagged ‘short story’

A Quickie….

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

Here’s a story for you. I originally wrote it as a guest post for a “Christmas Fire” blog theme.  Now I am sharing it with you.

 

Cumbria, England, 1811

Georgina Ellis pulled her cloak tighter around shoulders and told herself she would on no account look to her left. She did not want to see his home. She was not here to remember how big a fool she’d made of herself. She was here to be her father’s eyes and heart.
The cold cut through her, though she wore her warmest cloak and thickest gloves. When she was a child young enough to be held, her father would bring her here, just the two of them. He’d walk to the very edge with her in his arms, and they would gaze at beauty. He gave her a kiss on the cheek for pointing out the things she knew. To the right, their home.  A kiss. Colbourn Close, Lord St. Aubyn’s house, there, to the left, where she would not look.  A kiss. An eagle, Papa. A kiss. The river. A kiss. Mama’s grave. A kiss.
Here she stood today, with only her memories of those days. She walked to the edge of the escarpment. Right to the very edge. Until there was only air beneath the tips of her boots. A familiar tingle raced up the back of her legs. Her chest tingled, too, and her breath caught. As always, the sensation thrilled her. She did not look to her left. He did not deserve even a moment of her attention.
Why then, a tiny voice asked, does your heart pain you so? If she were over the heartbreak, she’d be able to look at his house. Wouldn’t she?
“For God’s sake, step away from there.”
The familiar voice shot through her and she had to gather herself before she trusted herself to turn. He stood ten feet from her. Close enough to see he’d not changed at all. He extended a hand. As if she’d touch him. She tipped her head to one side. “Oh, it’s you.”
St. Aubyn put one booted foot atop a protruding rock. The upturned collar of his coat was horribly dashing. She hated him for it. “It’s you.”
“How clever of you.” He was as handsome as ever, with his brown eyes and too strong nose. Alas, she was as foolish at twenty-five as she had ever been. She still loved him. She turned her back to him and wished him gone.
“Miss Ellis. Please. Move away from the edge. You’ll fall.”
“I shan’t.” She looked to her left and feigned shock and horror. “My God, Colbourn Close is on fire.”
“Tisn’t.”
“I’m sure I see flames. You’ve quite the Christmas fire going down there.” Smoke curled lazily from several of the chimneys. She watched the speck of a servant walking a horse from the stable block to the paddock. “Fly, sir, like the wind, or you will lose everything.”
“Have pity on me, won’t you?”
She turned around. Her knees were jelly. She’d been in society enough to know he wasn’t the most handsome man in the world, but even in London, he’d make a good showing. “I shan’t do that either.”
He stared at the ground, his hat in one hand. “Miss Ellis.”
“Lord St. Aubyn.” She curtseyed.
“Come away from the ledge.”
“No.” She gave him her back once more and took in the vista her father so loved.
“Please?”
With a sigh, she walked away from the edge of the cliff. She’d risked her heart for him and had been given a disappointing answer. It was not his fault he did not love her in return. He watched her march past him. She had her pride. Later she might regret feeling so very satisfied that he’d expected her to stop and she hadn’t.
He caught her arm, his fingers sliding down her arm until he had her wrist. She tugged, but he did not budge. In London, she had mastered the art of the killing glance. Ruthless now, she used it on him. “Release me, St. Aubyn.”
He didn’t.
“It’s Christmas day, and your house is on fire. Surely, you have better things to do than mock me again. Will you really risk everything for such poor sport?”
“My house is not on fire.”
“I assure you it is.” She yanked on her arm and his fingers loosened. She nodded toward the escarpment. “See for yourself.”
He scowled at her.
“You know I never lie.”
While he strode to the edge to see for himself, she hurried down the path.
“There’s no fire,” he bellowed. The wind carried his words away, but she heard them and walked faster. He caught up with her halfway to the bottom. She increased her pace. So did he. He spoke directly over her head. Drat the man for being so tall. “I owe you an apology.”
With every step she knew the best way to maintain her dignity would be to listen to him with an empty smile while he pretended to be sorry. At the end she could say, I accept your apology. Then she could go on with her life with all the loose ends neatly snipped. Except she couldn’t. Words stuck in her throat along with tears and resentment and hurt and the painful knowledge that she had loved him for as long as she could remember, and he had let her go on wearing her heart on her sleeve while he flirted with every woman in the world except her.
“I am in love with you, Miss Ellis.” His words rang out. Sharp. Determined.
She stumbled but caught herself and kept walking. The road was in sight now and she could see he’d tied his horse to the back of her carriage.
“I was an oaf and a fool. Selfish and proud.” His legs were a deal longer than hers and now that they were nearly to the stile between the field and the road, he had the advantage. He matched her stride for stride. “Vain. Stubborn. Blind. Cruel to you, who deserved so much better.”
She whirled on him and jabbed a finger at him. “Don’t you dare pity me. I am not a pitiful woman.”
“No. You are not.” He looked her up and down, then stuck out a hand to help her over the stile. “Foolish. I was a fool.”
“You said that already.” Her coachman sat up straight while her groom tucked a flask into his coat and jumped down from the top of the carriage. “However, with all your many faults, I feel I can forgive you the repetition.”
“A bloody damn fool.”
“You will not curse in my presence, sir.” Her groom glanced the other way and reversed course to the other side of the carriage. Her coachman coughed once and pulled his hat lower on his head. “Finney, do fetch Lord Aubyn his horse.”
St. Aubyn moved close. Too close. “I told myself it wasn’t possible that the woman my father wanted and expected me to marry would ever be woman I wanted to marry. You were perfect, he always said. Beautiful and polite and amusing. Even I could see everyone is happier around you.” He towered over her, staring at her, eyes flashing. “You’d settle me, my father said. Make me a better man. Naturally, I told him to go to hell. I beg your pardon.” He bowed. “And than I  said much the same to you, I’m sorry to say.”
She sucked in a breath. “Finney?” From the other side of the carriage, her groom let out a groan. “Do please let’s go. We ought not detain Lord St. Aubyn while his life goes to ruin.”
St. Aubyn slapped his palm on the carriage door and sent poor Finney a glare that put her killing gaze to utter shame. “I am sorry for that. For everything. For all the wrongs I did you.” He put the fingers of his other hand to her cheek and turned her head to his. “Miss Ellis. My dearest. My darling.”
She put her hand over his mouth. “I’ll thank you not to say what you don’t mean.”
He twisted his head, and she dropped her hand. “I shan’t. I won’t.”
“Liar.”
“Never. I’ve learned my lesson. I am in ruins if you leave again. While you were gone”—He shook his head—“when you left, my life diminished. I didn’t notice right away, it came on so slowly.”
“Nothing but ashes when you return home.” She couldn’t think anymore why she thought she liked tall men. St. Aubyn was taking up all the space.
“I’d think, there’s an amusing thing that’s happened. Miss Ellis will want to hear that, and I’d realize I couldn’t tell you.”
“A shame you were so deprived.” Coward that she was, she could not bring herself to look at him. “I do love a good story.”
He snorted. “You know you’re most often in the middle of them.”
“Nonsense.”
“I’d tell some other woman she was beautiful and think she was no match for you. You cannot imagine how that enraged me.”
She patted his cheek. “Poor man.”
“You took my heart with you when you left. Impossible, I said. It’s impossible I could love you so desperately.”
“Yes. As you once told me. At great length.” One of the servants coughed while she held her breath and prayed for her heart not to leap from her chest. “Not now, Finney. I believe Lord St. Aubyn is groveling.” She whispered, “Aren’t you?”
“Yes.” He held her gaze, and she was back on that cliff.  Soaring. “I am.”
“Go on, then.”
“I was in love with you and was too stubborn to admit it.”
“You haven’t run out of money, have you?”
“Not a bit.”
“You might have told me, you know. When you realized you loved me.”
“Did none of my letters reach you?”
“I didn’t read them. Why would I?” In fact, she had burned every single one. Tossed them into the fire with vicious joy. “I don’t correspond with gentlemen who break my heart.”
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” With each word, his head came closer, his mouth came closer to hers. Her legs went weak again. Here she stood on solid ground and she felt herself at the ledge again with a shiver of excitement turning the backs of her knees to air. He said, “But I’m not sorry I love you.”
Finney coughed.
“Yes, St. Aubyn.” She put her hands on his cheeks. “Yes. I’ll marry you.”
“Even if my house has burned to the ground?”
“Even if.”
He gave her the sort of slow smile that had always stopped her breath even when it wasn’t directed at her. And now? She could scarcely breathe. “Do you know,” he said. “There’s just nothing I love more than a good Christmas fire.”

Share

The news, it is so close to being news!

Saturday, June 19th, 2010

The News Portion

I am working on the ending of the short paranormal story so for all of you who have been despairing of ever seeing that, take heart!

Carolyn Gives a Talk!

I gave a talk the other day to a writer’s group, which I entitled “Fitness For Fiction.” It was my first talk ever to writers. Years ago I addressed a large group of female attorneys about technology issues, which was when I discovered that I was not, in fact, terrified of public speaking. I expected to be. I was prepared to be. But when I was facing these women, I realized they were eager to hear what I had to say — and as it happens, I rarely am at a loss for an opinion.

Props!

I brought props to my talk to the writers — the cover flats I got from Sue Grimshaw of Borders Books, some writing books I’ve found useful. Not surprisingly, I was unable to find the books that were not helpful to me, which was a shame because they might well have been helpful to someone else. But I knew the names of those books. I also brought one of my notebooks, and the binder that contained my partially edited WIP. I also brought some ARCs and some magazine, all things that I got circulating through the room for people to take a look at while I was up there giving my opinions. Not the binder or the notebook. Some things are sacred to me and a WIP is one of them.

Methods of writing

The first half of the talk, I spoke about structured approaches to writing as opposed to methods more like my own. I was not, as you might imagine, able to go into great detail about structured approaches other than to relate what I have heard from writers who do lots of structured things. Extensive outlines, lots of notes, character bios, GMC charts, spreadsheets, cool uses of office supplies and the like. What I hope I got across was that as writers who were, for the most part, starting out, it behooves them all to discover the methods that work for them.

What, they asked, was a sign that a given method was not working? Good question. My answer was that not finishing a MS was a pretty good sign. If they found themselves floundering or continually working on the same 10 chapters, then perhaps one ought to consider trying something else because, obviously, their current methods weren’t succeeding. It was clear that some of them had heard “rules” and felt they had to be followed. Was it true, someone asked, that you should always bull through a first draft, never going back to polish or edit? I could see the question-asker was tense about the method — that she felt it something one had to do. As I hope you can guess, I disagreed. The answer to such things is almost always it depends.

If you’re writing and rewriting the same chapters without ever moving on, then yes, it would be worthwhile to try the blast through a draft method. But what if you’re more like me? Writing a first draft that quickly might end up being worse than useless. I, for example, need to discover my characters. What a waste of time, for me, if I write an ending before my characters are solidly formed. But they need to discover what works for them and what does not.

I do feel it’s helpful for even a pantser like me to keep some bare bones structure. A skeleton outline to help check for arc. A cast of characters so you can check for eye and hair color, and whether you have names that are too similar.

There are things you can do to help you see the MS fresh. If you have the luxury, set the MS aside for a month. A working writer on deadline isn’t likely to have the time. Reading on the screen and reading on paper are not the same. Print your MS and read through and edit. Then transfer your edits back to your file. Change the font so it looks really different.

Polishing and Editing

I also talked about polishing and editing. Check the arc of your story (a plotter or more structured writer, will probably already have done this in the planning stages) — the point, really, being that at some point in the process you should be checking the arcs. Do you have too many action scenes close together? Have you set up your high points by writing the quiet points? Have you checked for repetition of words and information? In general, say it once.

I relayed how I felt when I tried to fill out a GMC chart — so frustrating! I felt like such a failure because I had no idea what my characters internal or external motivations were. As it turns out, that’s something I discover in the writing.

Words, Lovely Words

Another subject of discussion, and one that is near and dear to me, is the use of words. A writer starting out is well served, I think, by taking a particularly descriptive scene and removing all modifiers from it. All the adjectives, adverbs and the like must go. Return only the ones required for sense. Now ask yourself if your image makes sense. If you were relying on modifiers to do the heavy lifting (which might well be the case in an early draft) it’s quite possible that the underlying structure is weak and does not, in fact, say what you intended. If not, fix it. And only then return modifiers if they’re needed to give your new and improved image the flavor you want. Do this a few times and it will become instinctive.

Use of strong verbs, not wishy-washy verbs. Helper verbs, the verb to be and gerunds are all indications that, here, the writing could be much stronger. But, then again, not every single verb should be strong. There’s a pacing and rhythm to the words, too. Give your strong verbs more impact by leading up to them with less strong ones or following them with softer ones. Favor the specific or the generic, subject to the same proviso about not overdoing it.

When you think you’re done, search through your MS for words ending in LY and ING and remove those modifying words unless they’re really truly required. Words like pretty and very are also good candidates for overuse. And every writer, and, probably, every MS, has a word or two that is overused. You undoubtedly suspect what that word is. Search and delete.

Read your MS out loud or have it read back to you. Retype it from the beginning.

Agents and Editors

I also talked about the role of agents and editors. I gave a couple of bad agent examples, and then some good agent examples. How, they wanted to know, can you tell if you have a bad agent? Well, ultimately, you don’t know if it’s a good fit until the agent is working for you, but before you sign, check the websites that keep track of these things. Do your due diligence. Contact clients. Ask to see the agency contract. Go to conferences and sit in the bar and listen to what the agented authors are saying. Don’t approach an author as if she has some obligation to answer your questions in detail. Be respectful. Keep your ears open. Go to the agent panels and listen to what they have to say.

Hubris

And, though it was not the last subject, I addressed the danger of thinking Writer A does this, so it must be okay for me, too. The point is to find out what kind of writer you are. By allowing yourself to use a given writing habit simply because some other writer does it, means you’re imitating and not finding your voice. It doesn’t matter that Writer B, for example, uses lots of modifiers. You are not Writer B. This sort of thing most often comes up as an excuse that is essentially this: I don’t need to write well because Writer C writes like crap and she gets published. If you believe that, you are in trouble, and if you don’t understand why that is so, then there’s little hope for your success. It’s good to take note of things other writers are doing. You can adapt, adopt, avoid and/or assimilate, but always be working toward finding yourself in your writing.

It was a fun talk and a great group of writers.

Share

Ooh, a short story — Did I crash and Burn?

Friday, October 16th, 2009

Author Cynthia Eden is having a Month of Monsters blogstravaganza for which I did a monstrous guest post. I wrote a short story. Yikes! Check it out. Heck, the whole month of monsters thing is awesome. Cynthia Eden’s Month of Monsters Blog What do you think?

Share