Struggle, fight, but keep the story moving

Can I make a confession?  I have never suffered from “writer’s block”.  For all the fiction, non-fiction, intelligence reporting, and documentation I have written, I have never been intimidated by the blank page or empty display screen.

However, in the spirit of full disclosure, I have struggled with format, with wordsmithing, and trying to impose my will on that of my characters.  Over the years, though, I have learned that writing something is better than writing nothing.

In my current effort, a novel I have tentatively named ‘Clarice’, I am struggling with how to proceed.  Do I write the story to my other stories, continuing to create a sort of interrelated dystopian universe, or rework the eighty-two pages written so far to be something new?  The characters are fighting me on this.  They seem to know where they’re going, but they haven’t as of yet condescended to reveal their destination to me.  They have hinted that it will be a little town called Cartersville, Florida—but that’s another story entirely.

And while we’re at it, I chose the name ‘Clarice’ as a placeholder until I discovered the heroine’s real name—44,726 words later the name hasn’t changed.  The problem is that I can’t hear the name Clarice without immediately thinking of sweetmeats, fava beans, and a nice Chianti (Damn you, Thomas Harris!).

If you have a favorite name for a girl born into poverty in coal country, let me know.  I’ll have a talk with Clarice and she might agree to change her name to benefit the story.  Who knows?

So, how do I handle it when I’m struggling with my characters?  First of all, I don’t discard anything.  This way, if I need to, I can easily step back to an earlier version and keep writing.  Whenever I’m done writing for the day I save the current file with a unique revision name both to my local drive and to the cloud.

The next day, I save the file with  a new name and start working.  You can see from the image what I mean.  If you aren’t quite this disciplined, that’s fine.  I’m pretty anal about it after spending one career as an intelligence analyst and another as a  technical writer.

The point is to keep writing.  Write every day.  Write something.  Then fight your way through until you arrive at the story your characters want to tell.  Don’t worry about it being clean or being perfect.  There will be plenty of time for editing and finessing the mechanics.  The story is everything.  Without the story, you might as well leave the page blank.

© Copyright 2017 by Kevin Fraleigh

Passing The Time With Research

Okay, so what’s the best way for a writer to pass the time when he’s recovering from a second heart surgery, research of course!  And watching the X-Files on Netflix.

My current line of inquiry has to deal with the relationship between Theosophists and Nazi Occultism.  The stuff I’ve found–both on the internet and in legitimate academic papers–is a mix of facts, theory, and myth, as you might expect.

For a fiction writer, all this is pure gold waiting to be harvested.  This isn’t a new area for exploration and exploitation by any means.  Thousands of books, movies, graphic novels, and plays have been generated with storylines based on the occult, Nazis, or some combination of both.

Typically the Nazis are evil and the occult aspects are sinister, all very stereotype. The challenge is to work the fantastic into a storyline that isn’t just black and white, good versus evil, and set in a world that is both recognizable and empathetic to the human condition.

I have the shell of the basic story written.  Every time I turn a corner though, I find some other aspect or avenue to explore, something else to give the story depth and a greater sense of reality. 

So now that I  have a few days, which I must see as an opportunity and take advantage of, I will keep researching and pushing ahead with the story.

Are you doing the same?
© Copyright 2016 by Kevin Fraleigh.

So I Had Surgery A Few Days Ago…

So I had surgery a few days ago and my wife heard me in the kitchen.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“I was walking to get some exercise and noticed the paper towel holder was empty,” I said, “so I was replacing them.”
“You’re not supposed to be doing that,” she chastised.
“Alright,” I responded, “then I’m going back to my office to write the great American novel so I can make millions with spin-off movies and soundtracks and fan fiction will appropriate my characters and violate the established canon of their universe.”
And I thought, wouldn’t that be cool!
© Copyright 2016 by Kevin Fraleigh.

The Last Pope of Antioch

Here’s something I hope you’ll like and will comment on, an excerpt from a novel I’m working on called The Last Pope of Antioch. Be sure to let me know what you think of it.  Thanks!

Part One: The Red Convertible

1
The red convertible flew down the dusty, empty road like flame seeking something to ignite. The driver concentrated on his task. Seeing far beyond his horizon, far past his destination, he stared out through the waves of heat reflected from the road surface, sunglasses wrapped around his face seeming to form themselves to the contour of it. His face was angular, giving the impression of sharpness. Although it had been days since he had shaved, his pockmarked skin, possibly an artifact of the ravages of youth, showed no sign of stubble. The truth of it was that he had never developed a beard, so common in other men, and he counted himself lucky to be spared the razor, that dragging of sharp steel across unprotected flesh.

It may have been a reflection of light off the red convertible, complete with a red interior, but his skin had also taken on an unnatural redness. It was redness from more than just exposure or windburn. The redness stayed with him and was part of him. Contrasting with the redness was a gold ring that complimented his left ear and a dark, flat, wide-brim hat turned low in the front to shade his eyes.

He drove on through the wasted land, never turning, never stopping, never caring for what or who might either be by or in the road. Had there been a what or who, he would have simply gone around or through, never slowing, never losing his fix on that which his sight, not his eyes, showed him. His eyes sometimes failed him, but his sight was perfect. With his sight he saw the city, but before the city was—

2
The small town, it’s stick buildings little more than a flashpoint in the sun, stood as the last habitation before the hundreds of miles of borderland that separated the wastelands from the city. The wastelands were death. No one enters the wastelands and no one ever leaves was the old adage. The borderlands offered at least the possibility of life. And yet there he was, about to leave the wastelands, the cloud of dust generated by his flight still drifting across the scorched earth.

He brought the red convertible to a halt in front of what, in another life, may have been a hotel or saloon, but now it was a little more than a façade, a former shadow of itself. Despite its appearance, it seemed to offer respite from the glare of the hardpan and the suggestion that there might be drink. He sensed that there was life here, the smell of it was undeniable. If there was life, then there had to be water, or even better, hard drink. And if it was here, he would have it.

He was right about the life, of course, within the building were people―old, gray, frighteningly thin―dressed in rags, remnants of a time even before their remembering. Shadows within shadows, their existence was survival. Each breath was their work, every drop of sweat a cost. Trapped by their circumstances, they hid within their prison, terrified of the light. Their prison had been their home, a boarding house in the beforetime, now it was their coffin.

At his coming, the tremor of his engine brought them to the windows, disbelieving their own senses. And suddenly it was there and the very sight of it filled them with trepidation. Bright red body, chrome wheels, immaculate tires, it was something so alien to the people, so foreign, even to the concept of it, that they dared not even consider approaching it. So they stayed inside, hidden back against the shadows until he emerged from it. It was upon his emergence that the people turned from awe to trembling.

Had there been one still, or for that matter had there been one ever, one might say that he was dressed for Florida. But of course, there was no Florida, and not to anyone’s knowledge had there ever been. There was only the here and now, the hot dry hardpan of the wasteland. Yet there he was, with his leather deck shoes without socks, white khaki slacks, and a brightly flowered shirt, loose and airy. All these were clothes foreign to this where and when, a rash display of color foreign to this drab world of dust and dirt.

In a moment he was standing in the boarding house doorway. With the open door, light and heat burst in from the street, temporarily incinerating the shadow. He walked through the door, staring into the shadow, and squinted his dark green eyes together in an attempt to focus. As the door closed, the shadow regained its dominion.

Around him was noise, at first almost imperceptible, then it rose to a shuffling and the unmistakable sound of several someones trying far too hard to be quiet. Those sounds were followed by animated mumbling, but he could make out a few words. There was the word “stranger”, the word “red”, and the word “dangerous”. He didn’t like that at all. He didn’t come here to make trouble, just to get what he needed and leave.

The room he entered had, perhaps, been intended as a foyer with a sort of welcome desk facing the front door, but now there were several dusty tables with chairs between the desk and the door. This suggested to him that at some point in time the tables had been necessary to accommodate an overflow beyond the normal capacity of the dining room. The extra tables and chairs certainly weren’t needed now as the entire population of this town, including him, could probably be seated at two tables.

He picked a table in the center of the room and, after blowing the dust away from the seat, sat down.

“Barkeep!” he shouted to the shadows. “Whiskey for me and my friends. And water for my pony.” He spoke with a gritty brogue.

The shuffling and murmuring in the shadows grew more pronounced. He drummed his fingers on the table, not impatiently, but as if keeping time with a tune only he could hear. No, he was not impatient. He knew they would come to him eventually. They had to. They always did.

From the murmuring, from the shadows, came the first to be drawn. A tremulous, barely audible voice.

“Ain’t no whiskey nor water,” said the voice. “None since the beforetime.”

The beforetime. A quaint reference to the mythical time before this and all the worlds changed, he thought. And the thought brought him a tenuous grin. It was all myth to them and it would remain so. Their miserable lives were full of myths, like whiskey, ice cream, and God. When you have nothing else, myths fill the dark, empty, scary places in the lives of the lost.

“You may not have whiskey, but you must have water,” he said. “If you are alive, you must have water.”
The voices murmured were again punctuated by shuffling feet.

“Ain’t enuf ta share,” said the voice. “Ya bitter go now for the dark come.”

“Good advice,” he replied, “but I must still have water. Haven’t you heard that man cannot live by bread alone, he must also have water?”

More murmuring, more shuffling feet.

“God,” said the voice. This time he spoke more confidently. “Must have God.”

“God?” he asked, and then followed with, “No God, just water.”

“No water,” said the voice

“No whiskey. No water. No God,” he said flatly. “Are you ghosts that you have nothing, want nothing?”

“Not ghosts, alive all,” said the voice defensively.

He smiled now, as genuinely as he was able, disarmingly so.

“Then show me you are alive. I have not seen anyone in weeks,” he said. “Would you not share yourselves with a stranger?”

There was more murmuring and in the murmuring was fear. Their fear was palpable. He could feel it like a buzz in the air surrounding him, and he was glad for it. The fear made him strong and them weak. Fear opened the empty places so he could fill them with—

3
Darkness, more darkness than Kef Haener had ever experienced. And cold, even amid the one hundred and ten degree heat, he was chilled. He stood among them, suddenly struggling for breath with a thousand times his weight pulling him downward, down into a dark chasm within himself, down into the dark and the cold. In his terror he cried out.

“Stop! It hurts!” Kef screamed. “The dark. The cold. The…” He stopped screaming suddenly, because there was something else in there with him. He stopped screaming just short of naming it. His cries turned to pleas. “Make it stop. Oh, God, please make it stop.”

“No God,” the stranger said affectlessly. “No god can stop it, only I can. But you need to be emptied before you can be filled.”

Kef had fallen backwards violently, as if pushed, back into the small cluster of men and women in the shadows. In falling he knocked over a table and several chairs, creating a general tumult that scared the others and filled them with fear that the same thing would happen to them. They pulled back from Kef, not understanding what was happening. They could not comprehend his terror, could not conceive how the stranger was responsible, but were sure that he was. They shrank even farther back into the shadows while Kef began to gather himself. He stood, wobbly at first, but stood unaided, and then slowly, deliberately walked forward towards the stranger.

“Kef,” said the stranger, “if you would look behind the desk, I believe that there is a closet. In the back of the closet there is a panel that, once pressed, will open to reveal a trove of little treasures. And a bottle of whiskey. If you would bring me the bottle of whiskey with some water, I would be extremely grateful.”

Kef didn’t know why, but he was no longer afraid of the stranger, in fact he wanted to please the man. When the stranger requested the whiskey and water, he had no other thought than to comply. He found the bottle of whiskey and from a jug hidden behind the desk he poured a glass of water. He poured the precious liquid without thinking, without considering that it was all they had. One partially filled jug of water for all of them to share. The others, still afraid to show themselves, watched with horror as what little they had was presented to the stranger. Their horror turned to an impotent rage as Kef set the glass and bottle down.

“Leave the whiskey with me,” said the stranger, “but the water goes to my pony.”
“Pardon?” Kef looked confused.

“My little red pony.” The stranger made a waving motion towards the convertible. “The radiator must need water by now. Just check it and fill up the radiator if it’s low.”

Having never seen a convertible, much less a radiator, Kef stood there dumbfounded, unable to express his confusion.

“Hmmm,” mulled the stranger, “I can see where you might have a problem with that.” He stood up. “Grab the jug of water and come with me.” He motioned for Kef to follow him as he walked towards the door, whiskey bottle in hand. Kef followed obediently, although still not completely understanding why.

Outside in the terrible glare of the sun, the stranger unlatched the hood and explained to Kef about an automobile. The reservoir for the radiator was low and the stranger instructed Kef how to fill it. As Kef poured the water into the reservoir, angry, confused faces watched from the shadows through dust crusted windows.

Kef lowered the hood and was about to go back inside the boarding house when the stranger motioned for him to wait.

“You don’t need to go back in there,” he said. “Their destiny is no longer yours.” Kef didn’t understand what the stranger meant by that, but had no desire to question it. He turned and walked obediently back to the car.

The stranger stood for a moment staring at the boarding house. He shrugged his shoulders as if whatever he was contemplating had concluded without real resolution. Still holding the whiskey bottle, he screwed off the lid and held it up to his lips, taking a deep draught. He turned to Kef to offer him a drink, but then pulled it back as if thinking better of it. Next, he removed a rag that was lying on the dashboard of the convertible and tore off a strip which he soaked with whiskey. He shoved the whiskey soaked rag down the neck of the bottle. Taking a match, one perhaps saved for this specific purpose, from his pocket, he struck it and set the rag on fire. He watched the fire burn for a moment, then with an overhand pitch threw the bottle in a perfect arc, smashing it into and through the open door of the boarding house.

Immediately the dry timber building was an inferno. There was barely enough time for those left inside to realize they were dead, no time for anguish or prayers. Within minutes there was only ash and ember.

Kef’s reaction of horror was real, if delayed. He had known that others would die. He had known that from the moment the stranger walked into the boarding house. The others were different, somehow lesser, like bit players that existed only to keep him occupied until the stranger arrived. It was the suddenness of their deaths that shocked Kef, the sheer suddenness. And now he was alone with the stranger.

And now they were in the convertible, flying towards the borderlands at what Kef believed to be an unimaginable speed. The vehicle, the red pony as the stranger called it, moving almost soundlessly on the road, was something totally foreign to Kef. Yes, there were those that talked about such things, about how things like that existed in the beforetime, long ago before the world changed. As foreign as the concept of the red convertible was to him, one might have well described a moon landing, ice cream, or God.
© Copyright 2014 by Kevin Fraleigh.

Read My Stories For Free!

I’ve been looking for a new outlet for my longer, full length stories so I thought I’d give wattpad.com a try. If you haven’t been there, wattpad bills itself as a world of unlimited stories. For the reader, wattpad is a place to discover new authors and read some really exciting work.

For the writer, the site is easy to use and well organized. Posting a story is quick, as is notifying the wattpad community that you’ve posted new material. You maintain complete control over your content and can update/edit at any time. You can even build the story while the community follows along, providing comments and suggestions.

And it’s free to join, read, and publish.

Wattpad is a social platform that encourages conversations about writing.  The idea is that by reading and commenting on other people’s stories, they’ll reciprocate by reading and commenting on yours. The comments generate buzz and buzz gets more people to read your stuff.  This will be the most difficult for me as I have very limited time to be on-line either reading or commenting.

Nonetheless, earlier this week I posted “Grayson’s Mountain” (originally published in eFiction, November 2011) just to see how it was received. In the near future I will post a few more previously unpublished stories. Hopefully I will get some constructive criticism, and maybe even some compliments.

If you are a writer, and in it for the money, there is something to keep in mind before posting to wattpad, or even to your blog. Some magazines will consider those posted stories as previously published and will not consider them for publication.  Consider this carefully before posting. Once it’s out there, it’s out there.

On the other hand, if your main goal is to get your work out there to share with the world, then you might consider posting to wattpad. It seems like a great community to be involved in. Publish and be heard. The stories don’t do anyone any good sitting in your virtual trunk!

Are there other writer and reader friendly sites that are similar to wattpad? If you know of any, why not share? We can all benefit from the opportunity to start conversations about writers and the stories they create.

One last thing―don’t forget to jump to wattpad and read “Grayson’s Mountain”.  And be sure to let me know what you thought of it.  Thanks!
© Copyright 2014 by Kevin Fraleigh.

Man Killed In Chipper Accident

I ran across an article on-line yesterday about a man in Davie, Florida, near Miami, who was pulled through a wood chipper. Not one of the small ones, mind you, but the big industrial kind the professional tree trimmers use. Although it was just one man and local incident, the story was gruesome enough to be picked up by the national news services. Personally, while horribly tragic, I found it inspiring in a fiction writing kind of way.  After all, the witnesses to the tragedy couldn’t explain how the man wound up ground up. But maybe there is an answer.

______________________________________

The morning was clear and dry, but the heat of the day—and with it the Florida humidity—enveloped Duke Henley like grease from a hot skillet.  All in all though, the day held the promise. Henley, the crew foreman, was in fine spirits. Using his limited Spanish, he even joked with the crew. They were just day laborers, but they were damn good workers. Henley had used them before. He had even recommended to the boss that they be brought on full-time. He thought that if they did well on this job, he would try again to get them hired.

This job—the “big trim” as the town council called it—was in preparation for the annual Cartersville Hurricane Festival. The festival commemorated the devastating 1926 hurricane that all but leveled Cartersville and celebrated those who lived to rebuild it. And rebuild it again in 1947 and 1960 and 1992. The citizens of Cartersville were nothing if not resilient. But some wondered if there wasn’t something more to it, something that had to do with that terrible Clairmont Hotel that burned during the storm of ’26. It had been twenty two years since Hurricane Andrew, and many thought their time was about to run out.

For the sixth year in a row, the town had awarded the tree trimming contract to the TreeShred Company.  It was their job to ensure all the trees lining the streets of Cartersville were picture perfect. TreeShred ran a well organized and efficient operation. The company used experienced teams for each stage of the job. First came the survey team to decide what had to go and what stayed. Then came the trimmers who actually cut the limbs and left them by the curbside. The trimmers were closely followed by the chippers. Duke Henley’s crew was one of five working in various parts of the town. His chippers fed the limbs into a chipping machine that would reduce a limb twenty-inches thick into dust in a matter of minutes. The dust poured into the back of a dump truck which took it away to the town landfill. Following the chippers was a clean-up crew that made sure the streets looked better than when the first crew arrived.

Jose Martín, Javier Guzman, and Tito Franks worked well together. They had worked many odd jobs, just whatever was available, before getting hired by TreeShred. It was physically demanding work, but it was honest labor and that was important to them. They wanted to be known as exemplary citizens. More than that they wanted to actually be citizens, something they couldn’t be now.  But that was okay, they had faith that better times were coming, for them and for their families. And they liked working for Señor Henley, he was a good man. Even though his Spanish was poor, they laughed at his attempts at humor anyway.

It was because of this—the feeling that everything was going so well—that the true horror of what happened next never really translated.  It all happened so quickly, no one actually saw it—or no one remembered actually seeing it. The chipper was running. Tito was operating the controls—his hand inches from the kill switch. The kill switch would automatically shut down the chipper if there was an accident. TreeShred was keen on safety. Jose and Javier were feeding in a large branch, nothing unusual though. They weren’t even using the winch.

Then suddenly Javier was gone. It was like a belt had been wrapped around his waist and jerked him off his feet onto the feed table. He was able to utter a single cry of astonished horror before the razor sharp blades tore into him, digesting him, mixing him with shredded wood, and discharging him as a wet, crimson dust.

The Cartersville Times headline read “Man Killed In Chipper Accident”. After describing the circumstances, including the fact that Javier was fed through the chipper, the writer included the statement that the victim was deceased before the police arrived.  The Times has always had a penchant for reporting the obvious. But while reporting the obvious, the reporter missed the one thing that could have saved them all.
© Copyright 2014 by Kevin Fraleigh.

Visioning Dystopia, A Mental Exercise

I have a mental exercise I do as I’m driving down the interstate, rather than simply enduring that all too familiar, all too painful, commute.

As I drive I look around me―at the landscape, at the other cars and trucks, at the people, especially the people―and I wonder, as they move through their self-absorbed lives, if they see themselves as they really are, dead.  Dead, perhaps not in this here and this now, but most certainly in some where and when, they are dead.

And in that where and when they are not moving through the ash-gray landscape, but rather sit rotting in the rusted and burned out hulks that were their vehicles and their lives.  At some point, of course, they were moving, clinging in vain to the hope of salvation, but at some point they stopped, in fact everything stopped, never to move again.

But I move past them―well, not me exactly, but some other me―careful not to breath in the horror that was their end and despairing that I was not among them, rather than cursed to meet my destiny in terrible solitude.

Sometimes the exercise is just that, an exercise in envisioning another where and when.  But on good days the memory of the vision stays with me and grows to be added to the half a million or so words I’ve written over the past few years.  Slowly those visions and words are morphing from a trilogy into a cycle of, so far, five novels, a novelette, and several short stories.  So far only the Any Tomorrow trilogy has been published, but the others will hopefully be released sometime in the near future.

What about you?  How do you morph your reality into your fiction?
© Copyright 2012 by Kevin Fraleigh.

My Wife Won’t Read My Stories!

Although she regularly reads my blog, my wife, Malette, isn’t comfortable with the horror/fantasy genre.  She likes other things.  One of her favorite writers is Johanna Lindsey.  And that’s okay, different strokes for different folks, as they say.

But there are times I’m envious of Leo Tolstoy whose wife, Sofia, was his secretary, proof-reader, and financial manager.  And she rewrote his drafts every night and recopied War and Peace seven times before it was finished. (source), I can’t complain.  She grants me a lot of latitude.  She knows that writing is important to me and she gives me time to pursue it.  The problem is the subject matter.

I know there are those who pump out formulaic pulp fiction of the genre du jour, but to me writing is about more than just putting words down on a page.   The subject matter is something I am drawn into, not something that is created the way you might write a procedural computer manual, step by step without an emotional component.

Writing can be intensely personal, even if it’s veiled in the actions of a character.  Not everyone is comfortable with subjects like rape, murder, torture, and suicide.

Writing can be disturbing, even unnerving.  Not everyone is comfortable with graphic violence and sex, even though it is integral to the plot.  One review of my first novel, Any Tomorrow: The Calling, focused so much on the violence of serial killer Henry Turner, that it missed mentioning the final pivotal third of the book!

Writing can be challenging, causing us to question what we hold as unquestionable truths, such as our faith in God or lack of it.  Fantasy can even make us question our sense of reality by blending the fantastic with the plausible and fiction with physics.

So, do I wish Malette would read my books and partner with me on their development and publication?  You bet.  I think it would be a great experience for both of us.  But I can certainly understand why she doesn’t.  No matter how close you are as a couple, sometimes there are roads you must travel alone. The journey of the horror writer requires that I travel that road alone.

And, although she has never mentioned it, there may be a bit of unconscious trepidation that I may need to act out what I describe, you know, to make sure I get it right.  After all, if I can describe something like how thirteen year old Henry Turner discovered the pleasure of death, wouldn’t you feel a little nervous?

Henry wanted to feel good.  Then something happened.  Something terrible and wonderful.  Henry acted, initiating a series of events with a quickness he did not realize he was capable of.  Señora Amaya, although thin and wiry, was no match for either Henry’s speed or strength.  In a moment, Henry pushed down on Señora Amaya’s right leg, increasing pressure on the gas pedal, bringing the sedan to almost sixty miles per hour.  Then he simultaneously released her seat belt, reached over her to open her door, and pushed her through it.  She didn’t fall out completely, holding onto the inside door handle for her life.  The sedan immediately began to slow.  Rather than pushing her further out, Henry twisted the steering wheel to bring the driver’s door in line with the oncoming traffic.  The delivery van from Fredrico’s Market, Best Meats In Norwalk, swerved to avoid collision, but it was too late.  Evidently Señora Amaya realized this also, because a moment before the front of the van ripped the door from the sedan’s frame and cut her in two, she let out a scream filled with such terror that Henry for a moment lost his breath.  Henry felt horror, excitement, and arousal.  He was conflicted, but in the deepest recesses of his mind there was that voice.  It was always there, and perhaps had always been there, just below the white noise that constituted the day to day life of a child.  It had been there waiting.  And now it spoke reassuringly.  Henry had taken his first blood and the voice promised him there would be more.

Henry didn’t think about the wet stickiness in his underpants, all he felt was the hardness.  He looked into the driver’s seat, at the remains of Señora Amaya, with a cool consideration.  Any other thirteen year old would have screamed his lungs out, but not Henry.  He just sat there, looking at what was left of her.  The EMTs said he was in shock, the erection just part of it.  Happens sometimes, they said.  There was an investigation, of course, but no one could believe that Henry, wonderful, smart, loving Henry, could be involved with Señora Amaya’s death.  It was all just a terrible accident.  (From Any Tomorrow: The Calling)

On the other hand, I also wish I could write something that she could enjoy, say, a good light historical romance.  Maybe something with a beautiful Amazon queen named Xentocha who captures hunky conquistadors and makes them her slaves, but in the end finds love with the wealthy, but arrogant Don Diego who sacrifices everything to be with her.

Maybe I should try that.  Maybe I should just keep things as they are.  What do you think?  Trying to write something so far outside my comfort zone would be a real challenge for me.  Would you be comfortable taking on a challenge like that?

####

Now, on an entirely different subject, I’ve mentioned before that eFiction Magazine has a great community of writers and readers, many of whom participate in the writer’s workshop.  Last week I submitted another short story, called “Smashing Mailboxes” to the workshop for comments.  I do this because I know I can count on the eFiction community to give me support and solid criticism of my writing.  Once the story has been edited through the workshop, I’ll submit it for publication.

If you are an indie writer, whether you write short stories or novels, regardless of genre, be sure to check out eFiction Magazine.

Shameless promotion: My novels, Any Tomorrow: The Calling and Any Tomorrow: The Curse, are available from leading eBook distributors such as Amazon, Smashwords, and Barnes & Noble.

If you would like to share your ideas about what I’ve written, feel free to contact me either on the blog or using other social media.  Thanks.
© Copyright 2011 by Kevin Fraleigh.

Final answer? Well, maybe not…

Okay, so it may sound like I’m back peddling, but comments by Catana to yesterday’s post gave me reasons to reconsider my plan for a whole series of books from my original novel.  She provided links to a couple of blogs that suggested that the ideal length for a novel is more like 80K to 110K words.  Those are reasonable figures and I could certainly split my novel into a trilogy.  Based on my novel’s current word count, if I combine the Books 1-5 I’ll have 78,730 words. A minimum of 80K seems doable. It just so happens that there is a natural break at the end of Book 5.

The publishing industry still seems to be driven by the paper paradigm.  The other thing I noticed in links (here and here) Catana provided was that while the ideal length for a novel may be 80K to 110K words, there don’t really seem to be hard industry definitions, except what the market seems to decide based on sales.  And when it comes to novels that will only be eBooks, the maximum figure is sort of out the window since the price of paper is no longer a concern.

I guess that’s one of the main reasons I’m going eBook.  I’m tired of having someone tell me that they won’t consider my novel because it’s not what’s selling today.  Of course, I may get the same message when my number of sales for the Kindle is zero, but that’s a message from the readers.  The readers are who you write for, not for an agent or publisher. If it’s a sign of rebellion against authority, so be it.

By the way, my trusted companion, the OED online, defined “novel” as: a fictitious prose narrative of book length, typically representing character and action with some degree of realism. The Merriam-Webster dictionary online was more specific: an invented prose narrative that is usually long and complex and deals especially with human experience through a usually connected sequence of events. Neither one actually defined a novel’s required length. “Book length” and “long” would not stand up as metrics.

Does the label (novel, novelette, novella, short story, or flash fiction) matter?  Sure it does. We like things in boxes, prepackaged, and shrink wrapped so we can be sure we get our money’s worth.  Whether you let someone else set your requirements or if you decide for yourself, the bottom line is that you need to meet your reader’s expectations for content and value while remaining true to the story you want to tell.
© Copyright 2014 by Kevin Fraleigh.