Reading in the cold

The East Coast is being throttled by Winter Storm Jonas.  The road in Durham is iced over with an inch or two of sleet. There is some snow mixed in there, too, for flavor. I have POWER though. Electricity is the best. Sleet is much better than freezing rain when it comes to that.

My dog Simon – who will be sixteen in February – is spending the snowstorm curled up by the fire.

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Me – I’m catching up on my reading! First, it’s the THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND by Kathryn Holmes. Afterwards, I’m going to start on BOUNDERS by Monica Tesler.  Then, PAPER WISHES by Lois Sepahban.  Snowstorm reading is the best reading – especially while beside the fire with an old dog.

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And book three of The Last Dragon Charmer is titled….

REALM BREAKER (The Last Dragon Charmer #3)!!!  The title still could change but I don’t *think* it will. I’m revising REALM BREAKER now. I got a great editorial letter from my editor and good input from my agent, so my brain is full of ideas. IDEAS! Lots of then. Thanks to Jocelyn and David for those. I feel a bit overwhelmed, too, but mostly feel sparkly and amazed that I’m working on book three! Honestly, I don’t know how I managed to write three books.


I have lots of work ahead of me. I have to edit and think and make the draft better. There is so much work to do. So much work to do.  That’s how I feel at the beginning of a revision, or a draft, or a story. Writing is hard! And fun…definitely fun, too.  But also HARD…

Lisa Simpson Writing

Flash Fiction Fantasy For Fun

Also, ain’t alliteration awesome. Anyway…

Flash fiction is fiction shorter than a short story. I couldn’t find exact agreement on exactly how much shorter than short stories flash fiction should be. After reading some different things, I decided to go with Grant Faulkner’s ‘less than 1000 words’ definition which is nicely described by him here in the NY Times opinion pages.

lightning strike slow mo

That being said, part of what I talked about at my first author visit was writing without expecting it to be perfect or necessarily good before the first, second, third, or even fortieth revision. It’s easier to write when not encumbered by expected perfection. It’s okay with me if what I start with is somewhat terrible.

It occurred to me, too, that if I kept it short and flashy, I could do some writing at author visits and with the kids and people attending. Then I thought, hmmm, I should probably write some flash fiction on my own first. Practice a bit. So I decided to sit down, write some six-word fantasy stories, and not worry about quality…

Sadly, I couldn’t think of any six word fantasy stories at first.

I did, however, come up with a six word memoir. Here it is in all it’s six word glory:

I teach. I write. I smile.

There aren’t any dragons in it, but I think it counts as a six word memoir.  Then I started thinking about how if I change one word, it takes on an entirely different meaning:

I teach. I write. I try.

I teach. I write. I cry.

I teach. I write. I scream.

I have to admit, at this point, I was greatly enjoying my six word memoirs. So, of course, I decided to go dark. (Please note the six word stories below are actually fictional.) Here are my dark ‘memoirs’

I teach. I write. I lie.

I teach. I write. I kill.

Interestingly enough, I became inspired enough to try some six word fantasies. Here are my first two:

The crown falls. I catch it.

The crown falls. We are free.

I also saw a piece of flash fiction on twitter that started with ‘last words’.  I realized I could write lots of flash fiction six word fantasy stories by starting with those two words and adding four other ones:

Last words: Dragons have big teeth.

Last words: She can’t summon lightning.

Last words: But unicorns are friendly.

Six word stories turned out to be fun AND addictive. It was difficult, but eventually it was time to increase my word count. I wrote a story that took an entire paragraph. I’m not sure how others will like it, but it was my favorite thing I wrote during my flash fiction experimenting.  And I don’t think it would have come to me if I hadn’t first written I teach. I write. I smile.   So here is my flash fiction fantasy that’s more than six words but many words less than a thousand:


Her dark hair is singed and her shoulder is red from a dragon’s bite. She still clutches her broken sword. She doesn’t know she’s dead yet. They rarely do. The driver tries to explain as she steps onto the bus.

“I didn’t lose,” she says.

“Maybe not,” the driver says, “but you still died.” He motions her to take a seat. “I’m here to take you to what comes next.”

She frowns like she doesn’t believe him, but she walks back to the third row and slumps into the seat. They never argue too much.  

He drives to the corner of Main and Bramble, then slows for the next passenger.  He’s not surprised to see the dragon. It has scales that look tougher than metal. Half a sword is buried in its chest.

The driver waves the dragon aboard, and points him toward the larger area in the back.

As the dragon passes the swordswoman, he reaches into his chest, pulls out the half a sword, and hands it back to her. She takes it. Neither speak.

The dead have no enemies.

Wee! Book Three!

Right now, I’m working on book three in my THE LAST DRAGON CHARMER series. Actually, I’m procrastinating – for just a moment – to update this blog. Technically, I am writing, though.

Anime writing

I made the most complete outline I’ve been able to create for this particular book. Outlining is a skill I want, but one that doesn’t seem to come naturally to me. But I *believe* I’m getting better at it. My goal is to be able to generate detailed plans for all future books that I write. Hopefully. Maybe. Someday.

That toward which I write.

I know that title doesn’t make much sense. I was trying for something pun-ny up there. It still kind of amuses me and if I can’t amuse myself…  Anyway, I live in North Carolina, I grew up in NC, and I generally reach towards my laptop or walk towards the car. But I could also reach toward (no ‘s’) my laptop or walk toward my car.  The second way sounds odd to my ears so I go towards things. I was shocked to learn in copy editing that both are correct, and the one used at Harper is ‘toward’.  So henceforth my characters will go toward.

Deadline Dreams

Whenever I start editing or have a deadline approaching, I start having dreams.  Not dreams of success or staring up at copies of my finished books. (I have those dreams, too, but then I’m typically awake and staring off into the distance.)  No, these are nighttime, wake you up, tense dreams.

The latest had terminators in it.  Not the Schwarzenegger versions, but newer, even meaner ones. They hunted me and I hid in the second floor of a bookstore. But I couldn’t get away because some of the terminators had broken into the first floor and others had surrounded the building.  It’s a new version of an older dream I used to have where Freddy Krueger of ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ fame used to chase me around my living room.

I’ve had other dreams where I’m in a high rise in Atlantic City – on the fortieth floor – and the ocean waves are so huge the water is hitting against the windows and the panes start to crack. Sometimes, though, I’m in Oak Island, NC, in a rental house.  I see the waves in the distance. They get closer and closer, and bigger and bigger, until they break over the house.

Then there’s the ‘War of the Worlds” type dream. In it, I’m me, but not me. I’m in a closed off bunker hiding away from the invading alien force that’s overtaken the planet.  Only after years of being stuck inside, supplies have run out and I (and my bunker mates) have to venture out. Then we start fighting aliens only there are about ten of us and a billion of them. I’ve also had a similar dream where an invading human army has overtaken the world.

There’s a hopelessness to these dreams, but I never stop running. I suppose writing and revising are similar. The tasks can seem so overwhelming at first but bit by bit I get them done.

Sometimes, I’ve fallen back asleep too soon and the dreams continue in a long, meandering way. In the Oak Island one, the houses were destroyed, the island was flooded, and I wandered through the water looking for survivors. In the alien one, the bunker people and I found and joined the resistance.

Actually, the terminator and Freddy Krueger ones weren’t that scary.  In them, I just felt frustrated. I wanted them to stop chasing me. Just like those deadlines.