(I totally stole this idea from Chuck Wending. But I’m giving him credit so that makes it okay, right?)
Here’s the deal, Flash Fiction Fans!
Write an opening sentence.
That’s it. Post it below in the comments.
One sentence. Grab me, hook me, scare me, detail a scene, whatever you want. Any genre, murder, romance, you make the call.
The sentence can be any length. Don’t go crazy, and avoid obviously objectionable material – I know you will anyway – but other than that, let your creative juices run wild. Try to make it interesting. Compelling. Grab that reader’s interest – me, in this case. Hook the reader and make them (me) want to read MORE! Show me what ya got!
Then I‘ll select a few for the opening of a short story challenge for the following week.
You’ll get to choose one to start a new piece of flash fiction.
Author and friend of the blog Rachael Ritchie is an enthusiastic writer who has spared a few moments from her day to sit down with us.
It’s her birthday, by the way, so she’s giving readers a special offer. (Be sure to read to the end for that.)
Born and raised in Northern Idaho (with a seven year stint in scenic SE Alaska), Rachael says she drew inspiration from the picturesque places she grew up for imagining the fantasy world she creates in her books.
She writes stories she’s proud to share with her kids and you. While her goal is to entertain, she also wants to use her writing to inspire courage and compassion.
But as we’ll see, she’s a LOT more fun than her bio suggests!
Dan: Let’s start with the basics. Everybody wants to talk about their new book, so: what is the working title of your next book?
Rachael: The Treasonous. It’s working and staying. I’ll not be changing that one. I just adore it.
I like it! Where did the idea come from for the book?
From the characters. No wait. That sounds loony. It is a well orchestrated continuation of a subplot. Yeah, that’s it. It has nothing to do with all the voices in my head.
Ever think about just Treasonous? That’s got potential.
Yes, yes it does. Okay, I’ll consider it. Though the ‘the’ might help convey a particular meaning.
You are putting a lot of pressure on “the”
Hmm…this will take some serious thought. I may need to mull it over a glass of wine.
Speaking of wine, which is the more important of these two: write drunk, edit sober?
I fall asleep after one glass of wine, so editing sober is good.
One glass! Cheap date. We have a two drink minimum here, by the way. And while I get you that, is there a Mr. Ritchey? Just kidding. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript? And I’ll assume you weren’t drinking when you wrote it.
Uh…still writing it. First draft of the first one was about four months, though.
Four months is the golden rule for first drafts. What about actors? Who would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
No clue. I’m hoping some readers can help me out here! I’m totally picturing a movie deal, though, so get crackin’ on a great list of actors to pick from.
Which living author or blogger would you buy drinks for?
Dan Alatorre. Duh.
But just one, right?
Oh, no. I’d buy enough to make sure you divulge all your deepest darkest secrets and any supremely special writing advice you save for your inner circles.
That might take more than two drinks. Aside from your lack of alcohol tolerance, what makes you so damn interesting anyway?
I could lie, but…well, I’ll go ahead and fib a little. I am a jack-of-all-trades, like the Pretender but a girl. You saw that show back in the early 2000s, right?
Nope. Never saw it. Maybe I was busy drinking.
You are missing out. That’s all I gotta say. Man, I loved that show. The fib part of this is that I’m not perfect at everything I do. I do like to try my hand a lot of different things, like building decks, remodeling bathrooms, drawing realistic sketches, and such. I’m just not amazing at all of them like the dude in Pretender would be.
Well, so you aren’t amazing at 1000 things like a pretend guy on TV. Instead, you get to be amazing at being an author – and my favorite kind, an indie author. What is the best part about being an indie author for you?
I love being indie! The best part about it is I’m a control freak, and it feeds my inner perfectionist. You think that’s a joke? Haha No, you believe it with every fiber of your being.
I do. I absolutely believe you.
You are wise to do so. I should pause here for dramatic effect. I can be quite intimidating. Just ask my kids. Of course, I’m also my own worst critic and strive to continually improve my work.
That must make it hard to negotiate a raise.
You could say that. But, the small successes along the way definitely make it worth it.
I love being indie! The best part about it is I’m a control freak, and it feeds my inner perfectionist. You think that’s a joke? Haha No, you believe it with every fiber of your being.
What’s something most readers would never guess about you?
That I’m a complete ham and love to laugh.
That’s a very admirable quality. It’s hard to make me laugh; I don’t know why. But I think it’s great when other people laugh easily. Do you use that in your work?
I wish it were as easy to make other people laugh. I might look at it as a personal challenge to make you laugh some day. I wonder what your humor weakness is. I’m terrible at writing humor, but I’m great at laughing at myself and having a good time. It’s good to see the humor in life.
I agree. There are funny things everywhere if you know how to look.
Besides writing, what are your favorite things to do?
Read out loud, do laundry, sketch, clean the bathroom, hike, wash dishes, hang out with my kids, mop, travel (not that I ever get to do this), go to the doctor…this list might be partially false.
I won’t ask which parts, even though I’m curious. Why do you think some authors sell well and others don’t?
Popularity of genre. Hard work. Making connections. Good marketing skills. A recognizable brand. Just being memorable. Offering something of value. Tenacious will to succeed. Then on the flip side: expecting everyone to come to them. Not making connections. Not having a clear genre or marketing. Unable to offer something of value. It’s so hard to really know for sure what makes one successful and another not when you see two people do the exact same thing, but only one finds success. There are sooo many more factors that play into the scenario.
I think you’re right, there’s a lot of hard work and a little luck, but success favors the tenacious.
What’s the strangest place you’ve gotten a great story idea? Describe it in detail. Inquiring minds want to know!
Okay, it’s not strange, but it’s the strangest story I can think of at the moment.
That will work.
I was sitting on the couch texting with my mom about my lovely grandma. Grammy’s nose was leaking brain fluid out a pin-sized hole in the lining (for realz).
Maybe I shouldn’t have asked for you to describe it in detail…
That’s what editing is for. J Don’t worry, I won’t get too gruesome. They’ve repaired the hole where it had worn thin, but talking about it got me to thinking about a story.
I’m gonna go get another drink; you keep talking about the brain leak. I can hear you from over there.
Grab me one while you’re at it. Purely in author-mode, I got to thinking what if it was actually some kind of brain-lining eating bio weapon that had been released into the atmosphere (or water or something) for some nefarious purpose? What if some anti govt or even a govt agency was the perpetrator? That’s just a scratch-the-surface sort of start to a story like that and probably not one I’d write, though I thought it had potential. It doesn’t really fit the genre I am currently writing in.
That was probably the most unique thing I’ve ever heard – and the most horrible. I envision nightmares for my readers. (Sorry, gang.) Let’s change gears. Can you wash light and dark clothes together?
Can I? Yes. Should I? Probably not, but our water is so hard here it doesn’t seem to make a difference. Water softener doesn’t even remove the gray tint of my whites.
Have you ever turned a bunch of stuff pink in the washer? I can’t recall ever having turned a load pink, but I have covered everything in purple crayon. I didn’t put the crayon in the pocket, though! I swear I was framed.
I found a lipstick in the dryer once. Aaaaaall over the dryer. I decided to mow the lawn and let my wife “find” it.
I can’t help but laugh! How’d that go for you? I bet she was THRILLED to discover it.
Well, it’s not like it was my lipstick.
Melted crayon is just as fun as lipstick in the dryer.
“Melted crayon is just as fun as lipstick in the dryer.”
I have a five year old, so that’s coming, I just know it. How does the crayon-in-the-dryer episode of Pretender end?
The best (read worst) part is that it hardens on the surface and adheres with terrible vehemence. See, I almost feel like it has a life of its own, crayon is so tenacious.
I’ll be sure to mow the lawn that day, too.
What “person” do you like to write in? First Person, Third Person, etc. – and why?
Third person, usually. I suppose it’s because I don’t love books written in first person.
I find books written in first person kind of hard to read. I’m critiquing one for a New York Times Bestselling Author and every chapter jars me. I see, I get, I run. It’s awkward to me. Especially since the MC is a 17-year old girl and I’m reading about “my skirt” or “the safety pin holding my bra closed” or whatever.
Ha ha, I’m imagining you dealing with those issues, and it’s too good not to laugh a little again. Of course, it’s difficult to get into a real seventeen-year-old girl’s head. I should know. I was one. When it comes to books, though, I would rather feel and see things from a slightly distanced perspective. It gives me more freedom to use my own empathetic tendencies without being told by the author how I should feel as the character. Does that even make sense?
It makes complete sense.
Of course, that seems to influence the tone I enjoy writing in as well.
Speaking of enjoying things, I hear you have some very exciting news! Can you share it with us?
Spoilsport. Tell us about your blog, then. How did that start?
It started for several reasons, but basically because I used to write long “notes” on Facebook. I’d hear quite regularly, “you should start a blog.”
I did that, too! I think a lot of us did back in the day.
But I was thinking, man, wouldn’t that be pretentious of me?
I totally get that. I felt the same way when people said it to me. My blog probably cut years off my learning curve as an author, and helped me develop a thick skin for criticism because you could see the Facebook posts do well or not based on comments. So you resisted blogging…
That’s so true! I hadn’t considered it that way at the time, but then I became a writer and thought, I really should have a blog. But I’m only a little pretentious. Promise.
We’re writers. We have to be a little pretentious.
How do you decide on a title for your book?
I feel it. No. Just kidding. Titles are one of my favorite parts.
Really? Most authors find it difficult.
I like naming things. I like giving drive and purpose with a name. All our names mean something, or at least they did until we started making up names just ‘cause we liked how it sounded at the time. Book names and character names are kinda the same. I decide by thinking about the overall plot and theme of a book. For the books I write, a title needs to be fairly short and somewhat catchy. The Treasonous is the first one not to sound too girly, though. Haha
Not at all! What about editing? How has you experience with editors been? Feel free to name names if you like your editor.
I love my editor, Susan Hughes. She’s tough, but seems to “get” me and my voice. She works so hard to clean up my prose without changing my meaning or intent. I’ve loved every bit of our working relationship.
That’s awesome. What inspires you?
People. Real people who love and sacrifice for the sheer purpose of caring for another. I’m totally inspired by acts of goodness in the face of hardship and evil.
Most writers are a bit shy. Is that how your friends would describe you (shy), or do you have your readers fooled?
Snobby (but in the stronger vernacular) is how I’ve sometimes been described.
Really? That’s… not great, probably.
It’s usually phrased:
“Rachael, I thought you were a b&#@h until I got to know you . . . .”
I think you get the idea.
Yeah, I hear that myself on occasion. It takes us authors a while to open up sometimes.
I really don’t mean to be so aloof, but shy is probably the best way to describe it. I can’t seem to open my mouth without sounding like an idiot, which I really don’t think I am. This makes it nerve-racking to talk, especially to people I barely know. But once I’m fairly certain you won’t go running the other direction, then I open up like a fake can of peanut brittle.
Well, you’ve never struck me as an idiot! And I like your sense of humor and go-getter attitude.
Thanks, Dan! That means a lot. And thanks for letting me come on your blog. You’re a fun guy to chat with, and you serve great drinks. Plus, I find your blog helpful and encouraging, so it’s been a real treat to be here.
The Beauty Thief is the first book in Rachael’s YA series called Chronicles of the Twelve Realms. While she considers the books fantasy because of some of the elements of the stories, they read more like historical fiction. Book two is on its way to completion. She also has a middle grade book started that she hopes to find time to finish, too!
“I’m going to make both ebooks free on my birthday (Feb 25) on Smashwords, which will effect BN, iBooks, Kobo, and some others…whoever carries Smashwords titles. They won’t be free on Kindle, though. I can only discount them to 99c each.” There you have it, folks! Grab Rachael’s books during this special promo offer – and be sure to leave a nice review!
Author, book reviewer, and blogger, Robin Leigh Morgan joins us today to discuss changing genres. Robin is a member of theRWA [Romance Writers of America] and the SCBWI [Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators].
CHANGING GENRES by Robin Leigh Morgan
Some of us who have chosen to write fiction come from a variety of places. And by “a variety of places,” I’m not referring to a physical location; I’m referring to our writing experiences.
There are some of us who have enjoyed writing since we were children, and each year, by writing something in school, it improved. For some of us, it continued until we graduated college and began working. Some of us entered the work force taking jobs, which required us to write, whether it was procedures, handbooks/manuals, or news stories. But all of these are non-fiction, and each one has a set of “rules” that need to be followed to write something well enough to be acceptable.
As for myself, while my regular job did not require me to write, for eleven years I wrote articles [commentaries/viewpoints] of what was happening in my community and my feelings about it. When I started to write these items, my writing skills were not honed. I didn’t have my ideas organized in a tight manner, although my writing had been informative. By the time I’d written my last item, I’d become quite adept at it.
making the transition from non-fiction to fiction, I’ve had to learn a new set of rules on how to write. Most of these involved dialogue, showing not telling…
When I started to write fiction, I somehow drifted to writing a contemporary romance story with a paranormal element running through the storyline, but after almost 9 years I still hadn’t completed it. That is, until someone suggested I should try writing for a much younger audience, which is what I did; cumulating in my first YA Paranormal/Time Travel/First Kiss romance novel entitled I Kissed a Ghost.
I had to learn not to be overly descriptive of something, but allow my reader to create the image for themselves in their minds.
Anyway, making the transition from non-fiction to fiction, I’ve had to learn a new set of rules on how to write. Most of these involved dialogue, showing not telling, where before I just told. I now had to learn about the use of tags. I had to learn not to be overly descriptive of something, but allow my reader to create the image for themselves in their minds. In the beginning I found it hard to break my old writing habits. Now I’m finding myself with these habits essentially gone. The biggest issue I still have and am trying to get a good handle on, is POV [Point of View]. Regardless of what’s happening or being said it has to be in one character’s perspective, and you can’t flip-flop between two characters within a scene. There needs to be a transition from one character to another.
Click HERE to enjoy the rest of the post and Robin’s amazing insights.
My friend Molli Nickell, a veteran of the publishing world with over 30 years experience in the big leagues, drops by to impart a few nuggets for those of you pursuing the traditional publishing route, but there is wisdom in her words for indies, too.
Writers: your query AND your blurb need to SELL your product.
That’s a whole different skill set than writing a story.
What prevents writers from becoming published authors? The culprit is the query letter. Arrgh! I understand the challenge, which is why I sent you a link to my Query Letter template on February 7. Use it to help you figure out what you need to put where in your query and why.
writers, including you, don’t give yourself enough credit for what you’ve accomplished (or are accomplishing)
It seems to me that writers, including you, don’t give yourself enough credit for what you’ve accomplished (or are accomplishing) as you work your way through your novel or non-fiction project. At some point, every one of you voluntarily jumped onto the story-teller learning curve. You took classes, read how-to-write books, attended writers’ conferences, and studied with critique groups as you expanded your skills.
And then, you edited and polished your manuscript as you prepared to share it with the world. Wowzer! You discovered dozens upon dozens of virtual outlets where books and articles and blogs and magazines, could be shared in digital form and free. And of course, lurking in the background, was the option to go through the intense learning curve called “self-publishing.” (More about that in another post).
Despite this plethora of opportunity to share your work for free, most of you want to become traditionally published. Your book would become proof positive of the path you’d traveled from initial concept to finished manuscript. You want that author business card, with your name and then name of your partner, the publishing company that took a chance on you and produced your manuscript into a book.
My experience continues to be that most writers want the traditional experience. And, the one thing that blocks most of them is the ability to write an effective query letter. I’ve heard it said (whine!whine!whine!) that writing a 350-word query letter is more challenging that writing an entire 75,000-word book. I understand this feeling.
shift your mindset from “telling” to “selling.”
The query is difficult because it requires you to think differently. To shift your mindset from “telling” to “selling.” I’ve never met a writer who could do this effortlessly, who could just plop down in a chair and “whip” out a query. It doesn’t happen. For everyone, regardless of skill level, writing a query takes a certain amount of practice and the patience to revise, revise, and revise, through several drafts. Eventually, writers who are determined to master the query, do it.
practice even when your manuscript is in rough draft format
Hint: It’s never too early to begin learning how to write a query letter. I suggest you begin to practice even when your manuscript is in rough draft format. You know your story. You have the format, so what’cha’ waiting for?
Maybe more guidance.
Good news. More detailed query letter “how to” is posted on my website. Here’s the link. Take a look and get going.
During Molli’s 30+ years in the biz, she’s been associated with the big players including
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On Facebook messenger, Saturday morning at 10:30AM, to two friends – critique partners:
Me: Bet you guys don’t have signs like that at the park by your house!
Friend A: Don’t molest alligators?? Some of you Floridians have serious issues.
Me: I love that sign.
Friend B: Lolololol. You should tweet that.
Me: Everybody says the same thing about it. Molest? It’s for when the Canadians visit. (Friend B is Canadian.)
Friend A: Yeah it’s the tourists who get all molesty with alligators. I bet someone was totally gonna molest an alligator, saw that sign, and was like “Well, shit.”
Friend B: Hahahahahahaha
Friend A: There’s a sentence I never thought I’d say.
Friend B: Foiled by a sign. Again.
Friend A: Not today, gator molester. Not today.
Me: Best part: it’s by the playground at the park!
Friend A: Daddy, what does molest mean?
Me: So we’re thinking about warning molesters… And protecting the freaking thing with dinosaur teeth. And claws. Meh. The kids can take care of themselves.
Friend B: Hahahaha.
Friend A: This is starting to feel like a Foxworthy joke
Friend B: Floridian kids at a playground being warned off molesting alligators.
Me: The dragon-like creature with a three foot long mouth? Gotta help him.
Friend A: If you’ve ever been deterred from molesting alligators by a sign…
Friend B: The funny thing is, there’s gotta be a guy out there who TRIED to molest the alligators to begin with, right? Why else would they need the sign?
Me: Keeping the Tourists on the straight and narrow.
Friend A: And it was placed before feeding. Bigger problem.
Friend B: Hahahahahaha
Me: It reads like a sign that was poorly translated. Like you see in foreign countries.
Friend A: Engrish
Friend B: It was probably put up by someone who immigrated to the US, who is currently missing his “member” but is too embarrassed to say how he lost it. He put the sign up in the dead of night. Poor guy.
Friend A: Man, if there had only been a sign!
Friend B: Thank God he’s saving others from a similar fate. He’s the real hero in this story.
Friend A: Hahaha!! Alligator molester = the real hero.
Me: He limps off into the sunset. My work here is done.
Friend B: Hahaha. I’m dying. He should have immigrated to Canada. We just have cows
Friend A: And “don’t molest the moose” signs.
Friend B: MAYBE IT WAS HIM. You should check that out.
Me: Some county administrator had to approve that sign.
Friend A: They approved it bc it’s hilarious
Me: “We will entertain people for years with this sign!”
Friend A: LOL. The guy put it up. “Uh, we need to put up this sign. Because of reasons.”
Me: It was his last day. Yep. Approved. See ya. He does highway signs now. Big promotion. No left turn? He invented that.
Friend B: Bwahahaha. A man hated by everyone. He lives in hiding. People with pitchforks have tracked him down a few times. He evades them by sneaking right hand turns.
Me: You can’t get to his house. No left turns and all one way streets. Thwarting all law abiding citizens. The perfect crime. The perfect hideout. Here’s another reason to hate: 73 degrees, low humidity; perfect weather at the non-alligator molestation park.
Friend A: That’s gator molesting weather.
Friend B: Totally.
Friend A: Good thing there’s a sign. PS they should call the park that.
Me: The gators can sleep peacefully here.
Friend B: They should probably increase the size of the font.
Me: Why? Do you think alligators can read?
Friend B: Just to make sure no one misses it, in gator molesting weather.
Me: It’s Land O Lakes recreation center.
Friend A: The butter park.
Friend B: Land o alligator that USED to have a really good time – before someone put that sign up.
Friend A: Now he has nightmares and twitches all day.
Me: I got interrupted. I was going to say, before texting became a big thing, LOL was how this area was abbreviated. It kinda is again with that sign. Poor twitchy gator.
Friend A: First the molesting and now he has to live at LOL park.
Me: We have no proof of actual molestation. But some of the seagulls walk funny. Better to be safe.
Friend A: hahaha!!! Dan, control your people.
So, you know – yet another reason to join a critique group.