short fiction


I know, I haven’t been here much. I haven’t been anywhere much. I owe people email, I have a pile of bills to pay. I allow myself two hours a day to do something that isn’t working on book six, but otherwise I have imposed hermit-status on myself.

That means I stare at book six, open on my screen, and I’m not allowed to look at anything else.

It’s working. Slowly, but it is working.

What I really need is Sister Maria Therese, who could instill in me the absolute need to stay on task. With just a glance. I could report to her classroom every morning at eight, and you had better know that I’d be putting out ten thousand words a day.

On other fronts: I have news. There’s a pub date for Pajama Girls: February 14, 2008. Yes, that’s Valentine’s Day. The date may change, but probably not. I should be seeing the first cover art in the next couple weeks. I am looking forward to it, because my editor’s impulse (which I share) was that the hardcover edition needed a visual approach that was more modern and edgy. So no more magnolias and mansions on the cover.

I am very proud of Tied to the Tracks, but if I had anything to do over… okay, two things:

I’d lobby harder for a different kind of cover art;
I’d leave Lydia Montgomery out of the book altogether.

You’re wondering why I’d dump Lydia. Here’s the reason: My intention was to have Lydia work her way up to a leading role. You saw her very briefly in TTTT, long enough to learn something about her personality and goals at age eighteen. In Pajama Girls there was (at one time) a whole storyline that involved Lydia. A minor storyline, but one that provided a contrast to the other two (major) storylines.

Except Pajama Girls was way over wordcount, and I had to make some cuts. Lydia’s storyline was the obvious victim. I’m not happy about this, particularly because it means that there’s no real reason to have given Lydia such a crucial spot in TTTT.

What I’m thinking at this point is that after Pajama Girls comes out, and when time permits /cough/ I’ll pull together all the Lydia bits into a short story that I’ll make available here at no cost. That will make me feel better, even if nobody reads it. But I’m hoping people will.

Now I’ve used twenty minutes of my two hours, and I really do have to pay those bills.

the nature of the writing beast

The writing of fiction requires a kind of benevolent Machiavellian thinking. The end (a finish, publishable short story or novel) justifies whatever method you use to get there. Of course this excludes stealing or plagarizing or poisoning somebody so you can steal their fantastic manuscript (I’m thinking of the movie DOA, Dennis Quaid as the one who was poisoned).

However. If you have to plot scene by scene, if you don’t plot at all, if you stand on your head because that’s the only way the next sentence will come to you — if it works for you, it works.

This is all by way of saying that my methods may strike you as completely unsuitable or silly. And for you that might be true. They work for me.


First Annual International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day

Tomorrow (April 23) is the first annual International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day, but I put aside the time to get something organized this afternoon, and so I’m going to jump the gun. I doubt I’ll be the first.

Thus, this small offering: three short stories. All have been published, all have been revised since publication. They are all contemporary. The second of the bunch is pretty dark, so be forwarned.

Clicking on the cover will start the download of the pdf document (2.5 MB).

In which I am, once again, too subtle

I have heard from a couple readers over the past few months who have been disappointed in the role Miss Zula plays in Tied to the Tracks. These readers like Zula better than the main characters and would have liked the story to be more (or entirely) about her.

This is a compliment, in a way. But on some level it does frustrate me because my intent was to present Zula as a bit of a mystery. All the clues are there, all the information you need to piece together her story — but you have to look for them. Some readers didn’t get this.

I thought about stringing together all the chapter openings that deal, directly or indirectly, with Zula to see what people might make of that, but I stopped myself for a very good reason:

If you have to explain to your readers what you intended, you’ve failed. There are two possible reasons for this failure:

1) you didn’t write the story well enough;
2) the reader wasn’t reading closely enough.

When I’m teaching creative writing I always focus on the first. When I teach a piece of a novel or a short story, I focus on the second. In this case I must assume this is all my fault. But it’s also a little sad that I failed to make this part of the story work the way I wanted it to.

Hint: Zula’s entire name is Zula McGuffin Bragg. There’s a hint in that name, but nobody has picked up on it, as far as I can tell.