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.