Handbags, Books...Whatever

Handbags, Books...Whatever (http://www.vickibatman.blogspot.com) is the website of Vicki Batman, sassy writer of sexy and funny fiction. Handbag lover. Avid Jazzerciser. Mah jong player. Yoga practioner. Movie fan. Book devourer. Choc-aholic. Best Mom ever. And adores Handsome.

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Psst--Spilling the Secrets to writing Shorts, Marilyn Puett, Janice Curran, Cara Marsi, and Vicki Batman

Question: Let's get to the nitty gritty: tell about yourselves.

Janice: Hi, all! Thanks for stopping by Vicki’s blog today. And thank you, Vicki, for having me. I’m no expert, but I do love doing what I do, and to me that’s the most important part of any career. For the curious, I’m a freelance writer, short story author and aspiring novelist. You’ll find my stories in Woman’s World, The Forensic Examiner, New Love Stories Magazine and all but one of the True publications. Count me RWA all the way!

“Home” is with my social worker hubby and our two kitties in the U. S. Northeast. In addition to feeding my reading habit, I adore networking with writers and other industry pros at www.facebook.com/janice.curran. Friend me!

Marilyn: After I graduated from college, I swore I’d never read another book. Then I discovered romance novels and rekindled a long-buried desire to write. I’m a member of Heart of Dixie Romance Writers and have served Romance Writers of America on both the local and national levels. A founding member of The Writing Playground, a website for aspiring writers (www.writingplayground.com), I live in my empty nest in north Alabama and dote on my granddaughter.

Cara: I'm a former corporate drone and cubicle dweller with a romantic soul. I crave books with happy endings and I love to write about strong heroes and feisty heroines. I credit my love of romance to the old thirties and forties romantic comedies I watched on late night TV growing up. In addition to short stories, I'm published in full length novels - traditional romance, romantic suspense, and paranormal romance. I live on the East Coast with my husband and a fat black diva of a cat named Killer. My husband and I enjoy traveling and I love to write about the places we've visited. I'm on Facebook: www.facebook.com/carolynmatkowsky. Please friend me.

Vicki: I've had a bunch of different kind of jobs and I think that's great because I've been able to incorporate elements into my stories. A friend challenged me to write and so the story begins. I've sold fourteen stories to the Trues and LongandShortReviews.com. On Wednesday I sold "I Believe," a sexy magical to Noble Publishing. I admit, I'm having a lot of fun and learning tons. Visit me at http://vickibatman.blogspot.com/. and on facebook.

I began reading romances at age 14 when my mom borrowed Emilie Loring books. Anyone remember her?

Cara: There is something familiar about the name Emilie Loring. I must have read some of her books back in the 70's, but I don't remember them.

Janice: No, sorry.

Question: How did you get to writing short stories?

Janice: The first story I vividly recall having a hand in writing was “Jet Fever.” My seventh-grade classmate and I, then both football fans, penned ourselves into the tale involving the real-world Jets and the fictional first females to play on a male pro team. (Romance writer in the making! ;-) I joined RWA in 2007 and learned about fiction opportunities I could pursue while working toward my dream of becoming a novelist. I sold my very first submission to True Confessions in August of that year.

Marilyn: While playing around with the idea of writing a novel, I discovered the confessions magazines and studied the market. Color me surprised when my first story was purchased in March of 2006. I’ve sold thirty-five more plus a half-dozen short feature articles -- at least one to all of the Trues plus a story to the last issue of the now-defunct Bronze Thrills magazine. I’ve also sold to an e-zine called Chick Lit Review and two flash fiction stories to Long and Short Reviews. I appeared in the 2008, 2009 and 2010 Bylines Writers’ Desk Calendar and my article “Short Shorts – Not Just a Fashion Statement” was featured on the Writing for Dollars website.

Cara: I always admired any writers who could write a short story, but I never thought I could. I finally tried one, called "Chef's Choice." That story was torture to write, everyone and her sister critiqued it. Imagine my shock when New Love Stories bought it. Then I found out about the Trues from Vicki and tried my hand at another short. And I sold it! I love writing short stories. I may give up novel writing altogether to concentrate on writing short stories and novellas.

Vicki: I credit my friend who asked me to critique six of her short stories she wanted to submit to Woman's World magazine. I guess osmosis set in because I wrote one, then another, and another…. I haven't stopped. I want to sell to Woman's World and to anthologies.

And I'm with you, Cara, I haven't done anything but dabble in a book since. Why do you feel that way?

Cara: Short stories give more instant gratification. I can write one quickly and feel I've accomplished something. I have a lot of characters and plots jumbling around my head. Sometimes those plots aren't enough to sustain a full novel. It's such a great feeling when I finally give life to those characters, and even better when I get a contract for the story. At the end of 2009 I tried my hand at writing a novella. I loved writing Murder, Mi Amore. More instant gratification, and it was fun to write. I sold that novella to The Wild Rose Press. It was released December 2010. I liked writing the first novella so much, I've recently completed another one.

Vicki: I agree. Sometimes, I feel too antsy. I am quickly satisfied with writing shorts.

Isn't it cool we met through our short work and have become friends?

Marilyn: I still remember meeting my first fellow Trues writer at an RWA conference – Atlanta in 2006 I think. What a thrill! We’re all part of this special sisterhood and meeting face to face and doing the “southern squeal and hug” was terrific. I’ve met more since then and am sad I won’t be in NYC this summer to meet new friends and see the old ones again.

Janice: Absolutely! One of the biggest thrills for me as a writer was attending my first RWA national conference and getting to meet some of the really great people I’d become acquainted with online.

Vicki: I'll miss you, Marilyn. And Marilyn taught a confessions class which I took a couple of years ago. I met both of you last year and to quote Jan, "one of the biggest thrills." I met Cara in SF? Is that right, Cara?

Cara: It is cool to meet fellow Trues writers. Vicki and I met at National in DC in 2009. I didn't go to SF. We met while waiting for an elevator together and noticed our name tags. We recognized each other from our Elements RWA online chapter. When Vicki mentioned she wrote short stories for the Trues, I said something about wishing I could write short stories. I can't remember how the conversation went, but Vicki promised to send me the link to join the Trues loop. She kept her promise and I can't thank her enough.

Vicki: You're making me blush.

Cara: I love the writers I've met on the Trues loop. Everyone is supportive and helpful. I hope to meet some of you in person someday.

Question: Where do your story ideas come from?

Marilyn: Everywhere! I’ve used experiences of crazy family members, built stories around an online news story headline, let the muse run wild after viewing a photograph, wrote my own version of why someone was selling family antiques on Craigs List and been inspired by various and sundry television talk shows and documentaries.

Cara: From everywhere. I'll get an idea from something I see on TV or read in the newspaper. One time my aunt, who's been in the theater, told me a sweet story about the daughter of a friend of hers. The young woman wanted to be an actress but didn't make it. She came home to take care of her ailing mother and reconnected with an old love. That story became "Homecoming of the Heart," published in the January 2011 issue of True Love. I've been making up stories in my head all my life. Writing short stories allows me to give voice to those stories. Sometimes I'll take a snippet of something that happened to me and expand it into a short story.

Janice: Most often a character or title or situation pops into my head, and I pursue it. The story doesn't always come together in the way I first imagined. But as long as I end up with a finished piece, I'm happy!

Vicki: If Handsome keeps doing and saying crazy things, I'm set for life. I've found inspiration in a recipe, Handsome's ties, crazy drivers -- the imagination takes flight!

Question: What is your voice? Are your stories more "confessional," i.e., sin and repent or more "romantic?"

Marilyn: I started out more confessional, but because I love romance, I began to lean more toward that side. I enjoy matchmaking on paper.

Janice: Definitely romantic. I've been told I have "voice," but no one ever explained what they meant when they said it. lol. To me, it's the way an individual writer "turns a phrase." I tend to approach story conflict with humor, and I think that comes through in my phrasing.

Vicki: I'm funny, sweet. Good internal pov. Lot of dialogue. My stories are romantic, not confessional.

Cara: My voice is definitely romantic.

Question: Any tricks up your sleeve which apply to writing shorts? Any advice?

Marilyn: I’m not sure there are any tricks. Just keep your eyes and ears open so you won’t miss the story ideas that are out there in everyday life. In ON WRITING, Stephen King wrote that there’s no idea bank or story central where you can withdraw a plot. Story ideas are everywhere. Our job as writers is to recognize them when they show up.

My advice is to study the market and to be persistent and consistent. Submitting regularly greatly improves your chances of a sale. If you do this and still don’t sell, see if you can find someone who has sold short fiction and ask for their help. Be willing to pay for that help because they’re taking time from their writing – from their source of income. Remember that the editing fee you pay today may pay off in the future with contracts. I had a writer send me a few pages of a short story and ask why I thought it didn’t sell. It was targeted for the Trues and was written in third person. It also had numerous grammatical errors and misspelled words. It was obvious to me the writer had not studied the market (the third person issue) and didn’t understand the Trues editors are not there to correct your grammar and spelling. When I gently pointed out these issues, the writer became argumentative, which brings up another piece of advice. Don’t be a diva.

Janice: I don’t think I’m qualified to give technical advice because I’ve pretty much just studied editors’ wants, stayed alert for opportunities and winged it. But I can share some of my personal beliefs regarding the writing “mindset”:

Attitude is everything. I set out believing if I put my mind to it, I would be published, and I was. And I will continue to be.

No experience is wasted. On the long, meandering route from hobbyist to writing professional, I toiled in such colorful settings as a burger joint, garbage company and post office—and all added to my stories. I got the idea for my first submission from my food processor manual!

Learning is a lifelong endeavor. I have a BA in English/Writing Concentration, but I learned more about building a career in fiction writing thanks to my RWA membership. Craft books, online classes, conferences and workshops, writer specialty groups—any of them might provide the light-bulb moments needed to succeed.

Vicki: I treat my work as a job and sit my butt in the chair to write every day. And if I'm not writing, I'm thinking about writing. But it is never a chore! Writing is fun for me. I like to play What if???

I agree with Janice, there's lots of past I put in stories which I take advantage of. I am also in tune to stimuli -- for example, Handsome says something crazy and cha-ching! A story develops.

Having someone critique my work pushes me to a higher level. I strive to write fresh.

Cara: No tricks. Writing in any length is hard work. Short stories need the same ingredients as a novel: hero and heroine the readers can relate to, a conflict keeping them apart, strong and deep emotions, and a satisfying ending. I agree that a writer must keep on learning. And you need to read a lot to learn. Having said that, when I wrote my first Trues story, and sold it, I hadn't read a confession story in about 40 years. All I remembered was that they were in first person and were filled with angst. Writing that story, published in the Fall 2009 True Experience, was the first time I'd ever written in first person. And I loved doing it. My story was a romance, not a sin, confess, repent type story. I'm a romance author and that's what I love to write. Since that first sale, I've read dozens of confession stories.

Question: What's next for you?

Marilyn: In 2008 I finally wrote that novel and it has been requested by Harlequin. A second novel lies unfinished on my hard drive with a goal to complete it and send it off later this year.

Janice: I’m excited to have a short story scheduled for publication in the April 2011 issue of True Romance. It’s tentatively titled “Fool for Love.” I’m also getting a category-length draft into shape for submission. Positive wishes welcome!

Vicki: Congratulations, Janice, on the True story! And Marilyn, I look forward to hearing good news from you! I have signed a contract for my sexy magical, "I Believe." And have a few more shorts to put finishing touches on for the Trues.

Cara: As mentioned, I just completed a novella, a sweet romance (sweet meaning no explicit sex) set at the Jersey shore. Next, I plan to write a sensual novella about two former lovers snowbound in a cabin during a blizzard. What I like about the novellas is that I don't need to write a lot of characters and I can have one plot. I've also started another story for the Trues. I'm snow-deep in promo for my two just-released books, the Wild Rose novella and a full length paranormal novel. Writing novellas and short stories feeds my creative soul and leaves time for the hated, but necessary promo.

Thanks for having me, Vicki. This has been fun.

Janice: For me, too! Thanks for the congrats, Vicki. Good luck to you and all my writer friends!

Vicki: Thank you, Cara. This has been fun.

And now, bring on your comments or questions.


Anonymous said...

I'd just like to add for anyone interested in writing for either Woman's World or the True publications, there are a couple of great Yahoo writer support groups you can join that are dedicated to those subjects.

Subscribe here: WWWriters-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

And/or here: TrueWriters-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

< I have signed a contract for my sexy magical, "I Believe.">

Great news! Congratulations, Vicki!


Melissa said...

Great interview, ladies!! Loved seeing what's up next for you. :) Best of luck and Congratulations!

Anonymous said...

Great to see good things coming for you, too, Melissa. Congratulations! Feel free to share the pertinent info. :-) Thanks for stopping by.


Cara Marsi said...

Vicki, thanks for having me. It's an honor to be featured with such talented writers. Reading the blog has energized me to get busy writing more short stories.

Maeve said...

Excellent and informative post! I admire writers who successfully write "shorts". Tight, concise word-weaving is an art.

Elizabeth Essex said...

I want to ask pesky (but hopefully not intrusive) question about how writers of shorts can be recognized as "PAN" by RWA. Clearly you are all professional writers, submitting your work and being accepted by these various publishers, but RWA seems geared towards novelists almost exclusively, with a specified dollar amount that must be earned before you are 'published' by their standards. Have any of you been able to qualify as PAN under these guidelines? Do you see that changing with the advent of e-books and other, newer methods of distribution?

ArkansasCyndi said...

very interesting.

I love writing short...mostly because like Cara, I like the instant gratification. Love reading shorts too, for the same reason.

Great chat, ladies

Liz Lipperman said...

Wow, so much talent in one blog. I am jealous of anyone who can tell a story in so few words. It sounds like all of you truly love what you do..and that's the key to being great at it.

Vicki, I'm so looking forward to reading the sexy short story.

Sheila Tenold said...

Thanks for sharing, ladies! I sold a short in 2010 to New Love Stories, but, unfortunately, they've folded. Boo Hoo.

I will check out the Trues and see if my new short finds a home.


Melissa said...

Thanks so much, Janice! I'm new to all this promotion stuff. LOL "Faithful Deceptions" available now: Amazon and Barnes and Noble.


Playground Monitor said...

I'm late checking in to the party. We had tornado watches and thunderstorms last night and I was up way too late, which meant I slept way too late this morning. ::sigh:: One of the joys of living in the south.

I didn't mention in the interview, but I'll be teaching the class on writing for the Trues in June. You can get more info on my RWA Chapter website in the Workshops section.

Thanks, Vicki, for the opportunity to be here. I am in great company.


Donna L Bolk said...

I remember Emilie Loring, I was in my teens when I discovered her. I hit gold a few years ago, went to a yardsale, and someone was selling all her Loring books, talk about traveling back in time. Now, reading her books (as an adult) I believe she was ahead of her time.

Cara Marsi said...

Wow, thank you all for commenting. I'm in RWA PAN because my very first published novel was with Avalon Books. My advance met the RWA guidelines. My other novels and my shorts wouldn't have qualified me for PAN. I like being in PAN because I can judge the RITAS every year. It's fun to get all those free books. I know RWA has to set certain qualifications for PAN, but selling short stories, especially as many as Marilyn has, should qualify a writer for PAN. After all, we're professional writers who are getting paid for our work.

I know New Love Stories has folded. I'm sad about that. I spoke to the editor on the phone about a month ago. He said they're considering bringing out the 13 issues they published in a digital format.

I've submitted to Woman's World but haven't sold to them yet. But I'll keep trying.

Thanks again to all of you for posting.

Playground Monitor said...

I can answer the PAN question. PAN requires you get either a $1000 advance or have a combination of $1000 in advance and royalties for an eligible novella or novel. Eligible novellas or novels must be at lest 40K in length and not be from a vanity press or be self-published.


Anonymous said...

Elizabeth, I'm PRO, based on novel-length. It's anyone's guess how things will play out in the future. All I can say is that, in my opinion, the organization's board truly has writers' best interests at heart. In the short time I've been a member, I've seen the "rules" evolve to reflect the times, and I don't expect that trend to stop. I'd suggest discussing your questions with your chapter's PAN rep or the national PAN liaison, Terry McLaughlin. You never know where it might lead. :-) Good luck!



Joya said...

Great information, ladies! Marilyn, I love your idea of "matchmaking on paper. Cara, great advice about finding ideas to write about. Vicki, I completely agree about putting lots of dialogue in short stories--helps with pacing. Janice, your stories have great humor, so I'm not surprised to hear you like to include that in your writing.
Thanks for sharing and best wishes for continued success to all of you. :)Joya

Anonymous said...

Maeve, Arkansas Cyndi, Liz . . . thanks for the kind words. I know one has to be self-motivated in this field, but positive feedback is always nice! :-D

Sheila ... If you sold to NLS, you can sell to the Trues. To see what they're publishing, go here to find individual issues online: www.zinio.com. Best wishes to you!


Anonymous said...

Donna and Vicki ... Now you've got me curious about Emilie Loring! lol. I'll have to look for her books my next trip to the library.

Melissa ... I'm sure you'll be used to it soon enough. ;-) Thanks for sharing.


Vicki said...

Hey, Janice, Emilie Loring wrote wayyy back when. She was quite prolific. Even when she passed, her estate was able to publish more books until the 70's. I'm pretty sure I have all of them, a lot in hardback, too.

She wrote nice sweet heroines, sweet stories. Neat heroes. Every once in a while when I want something quick, I reread one of hers.

Anonymous said...

You always have something nice to say, Joya. :-) Thanks, and thank you for taking the time to stop by.


Playground Monitor said...

Like Janice, I'm a PRO based on a novel I pitched to Harlequin. And like her, I believe RWA has writers' best interests at heart.


Ari Thatcher said...

Great article! I also prefer writing shorts. It's harder I think to narrow your focus enough to be able to have all your elements, but so fun to be working with new characters so quickly.

Vicki said...

Thanks, Ari, for your comment. Writing short really satisfies me. I'd written 3 books before turning to this and I've never been happier.

grahamelizabeth said...

Didn't realize this was on until today--really enjoyed the interview with all you talented ladies.
I remember Emilie Loring, too, yes, wa-a-y back. I probably read most of her books as well as several other writers of that time period. When my life is very stressful, I love to get out my old books and forget the current world for a while.
Liz Graham

Adele Dubois said...

I enjoy writing novellas and agree that short story writing offers instant gratification. The competition for publication is fierce, so kudos to you for you success!

Best--Adele Dubois

Misty said...

I enjoyed reading all your secrets, ladies!

Congrats on your latest sale, Vicki. Good luck to all of you and may there be many more true confessions from you!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your post, Ari. I'm not ready to give up my aspirations of being pubbed in novel-length, but I do so enjoy the little successes en route--not to mention the cold hard cash! lol.


mary.j said...

Hi, Ladies.

I feel like I know you all from being on the Trues loop with you for a couple of years. I really found your descriptions of the way you write fascinating, because I am so not a romance writer. I've been blessed to sell nearly 50 stories to the Trues, but I tend to write about people with problems and how they fix them. Perhaps I'm more of the old sin, suffer, and repent type of writer. Thanks for blogging today. It was fun.

-- Mary Johnson

Susan Macatee said...

Great interview!! I actually started my writing career writing shorts for children, but the markets were so limited, I decided to try writing a novel, then ultimately moved from writing for children to writing romance. I did write a few novellas along the way, but wasn't sure I could get back to writing shorter stories. But I decided to give it a try and am now having fun writing short. I've sold four stories to True Romance and one to True Love magazines.

Vicki Batman said...

Thank you, Liz, for stopping by. Emilie Loring had her way which worked for about 70 books. I'd save those and Dick Francis from a fire.

Thanks, Maeve. I find writing shorts is about keeping the premise short.

Hi, Adele. I tend to agree -- all publications is tight.

Oh, Misty, it means the world to have your thoughts. I'm so excited!

Mary! How wonderful to have you stop by. Fifty!!! stories is fantastic. And hey, sin & repent has its place.

Pamela Stone said...

I remember Emily Loring. :-)

Vicki, contrats on selling your sexy magical. How cool. Can't wait to read it.

Lots of talent and great info here ladies. I so admire anyone who can write shorts. I wouldn't even be getting started. Ha!

Great blog.

Playground Monitor said...

Hi Liz! You've had quite a bit of recent success yourself with the Trues.

And congrats to you, Mary, on 50 sales.

I really wish I could get back to writing. My muse ducked and ran for cover during my divorce last year and is still very gun shy. :-(


AllureVanSanz said...

Yay for short stories! I love writing them, I love reading them, and I've loved getting to know each of you a little bit.

Thanks for giving up your time!

All my best,
Allure Van Sanz

Vicki said...

Allure -- how nice you posted. And I look forward to knowing you more. Keep reading those shorts!

Anonymous said...

That works for me with new books, too. ;-) Thanks so much, Elizabeth, for the kind words and taking the time to stop by. I know you're juggling many things, all of them challenging.


Anonymous said...

Adele, Misty, Susan, Allure ... How nice you all are! Thank you for contributing your thoughts to today's blog experience!

Mary J., wow, 50!!!! YOU should be the one giving advice. :-) Thanks for keeping the Trues loop going strong!

Pamela, just to put things in perspective for you ... I have LAST RESORT: MARRIAGE on my keeper shelf. Wanna trade places??? lol

For everyone writing shorts ... POWER ON!


Pamela Stone said...

Thanks, Janice. You are so sweet. I'm glad you enjoyed Last Resort: Marriage. I actually thought about trying to write shorts, but I just don't have the talent to do it.

Cara Marsi said...

I just got back from meeting with my critique group. I'm amazed at all the wonderful comments. Thank you all for visiting and for posting. It's so thrilling to have this kind of support from our fellow authors.

Michelle Miles said...

Great interview, ladies! I enjoyed reading about your exploits in shorts. ;) I certainly can't write them and I admire all of you for being able to do it. :)

Author said...

Thanks, Michelle. But you do write novellas. You are great!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Michelle! It's been fun, hanging out with my sister shortsters. :-)

Vicki, thank you again for having me. Best wishes to you, Cara, Marilyn and all the other writers who visited. May there be many writing successes in your future!


Shirley said...

I guess getting the daily digest on most loops, actually puts me "out of the loop" on some things. So as usual, I'm a day late seeing this blog.

Lots of great advice ladies. I also am a short writer, hoping for a novel contract one day.

Patricia Preston said...

Great post and writing short is fun. I can actually get it finished.

Kendall Swan said...

Vicki- you have the coolest interviews! And congrats on your novella.
Janice-thanks for posting those loops.

I write and self pub erotica short stories and love it. I was a big short story reader before even attempting writing one. I'm so glad to 'meet' so many short authors. Way to go, ladies!

On many other self publishing blogs I'm always the short story cheerleader. So on here, I'll do the opposite-- sort of.

Bundling some shorts and selling them as 99c ebooks is a great way to build readership--especially if u plan on writing longer later. I sell over 1k copies/mo of my short story ebooks. I have 19 titles under a few names, 3 of which are collections (so I can price them at 2.99 and get the 70% royalty).

E-reading is really bringing the short forms back in style and we can all benefit from it.

So, again, thanks for the great interview.

Happy writing, y'all!

Kendall Swan

Cara Marsi said...

Hi, Michelle, thanks for posting. I love your writing. And thanks, Shirley and Patricia.

Kendall, I'm with you on the self-pubbing. I have one novel I've self-pubbed and I'm selling close to 1K a month. I'm planning on putting out an anthology of shorts on Kindle.

Thanks again to everyone for commenting.

Anonymous said...

"I also am a short writer, hoping for a novel contract one day."

It's in your future, Shirley! :-) Thanks for the kind words and stopping by!


Anonymous said...

Yes, Patricia, that really is a nice advantage! :-D Thanks for commenting.


Anonymous said...

You're very welcome, Kendall. Thank YOU for the positive comments and great pubbing info. Makes you wonder if e-publishers are soon going to be a thing of the past with writers taking charge of their product like this. Wishing continued success to you!


vicki said...

Kendall! Thanks so much for posting. We definitely need to talk shorts real soon. You've had fantastic success.

Hi, Pat. Shorts are fast and fun and no sagging middle. Keep on writing.

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