Thursday, February 16, 2017

A Tale of Two Short Stories

As most of us do, I made great plans for the start of 2017.  First, there were two anthologies I wanted to submit stories to, both with deadlines of January 31. One had to involve murder and travel. The other had to include some kind of eclipse. I didn't have any bright ideas for an eclipse story but murder and travel seemed easy so I tackled that one first.

I came up with a nice murder with my killer trying to get away with a piece of expensive jewelry. My plot wove around him getting through airport security by hiding the jewel in an animal carrying crate that was going on the same flight. And I added a fun twist of making the animal in the crate a goat - who ate the jewel. I was in the polishing stage (polishing the story, not the jewel) when my goat advisor (hi Maria!) informed me that the goats eating metal was an old wives' tale and they really don't.

Hmm. Scratch one short story.

No worries. I made some adjustments. The goat became a dog. The airline became an Amtrak train. My killer would retrieve the jewel from the crate in the baggage car. I wasn't quite finished with this one but it was coming together nicely when I went to check something on the Amtrak web site...and discovered they don't allow animals in crates in the baggage car.

Well, poop.

Fine. Scrap the animal angle. Now the murder takes place in a nursing home. I'll have a snow storm. Everyone's snowed in. He's stuck there with all these police investigating the murder and searching for the missing jewelry.  I came up with a clever (I thought) way for him to get caught. Alleluia. It works. Just got to fine tune it and send it in. No animals. No Amtrack. I had written the travel element out of the murder and travel story.


Back to square one. New setting. New characters. New murder. No jewelry. Definitely some travel. I fired it off to my critique group with time to spare. Well, time for that story. I had pretty much given up any thought of writing the second one. Remember, the one with the eclipse?

Friday, January 27. I'm on my way to my grandson's bowling match and an idea pops into my head. An eclipse story. I grab my trusty digital recorder and dictate the whole thing. I like it. But my weekend is booked solid and the deadline is Tuesday. When am I going to write it? 

Monday morning found me at my desk, typing like mad. By that afternoon, I had it posted on my crit group site along with some serious begging for anyone who could take a quick look. While I waited, I did the final format and polish on the travel story and sent it in Tuesday morning. Meanwhile, four of my wonderful crit partners came through with their usual quality input and I did a bunch of serious editing. When all was said and worked. I liked it. At 10:37 on January 31, I hit send on my second short story.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I didn't get back to blogging in January as promised.

As for the past couple weeks - I've been down with the flu. But as John Astin used to say on Night Court, I'm feeling much better now.  (Let me know if you get that reference. I guessing most of you are too young.)

Okay, I've got one quick joke for you.

In a dark and hazy room, peering into a crystal ball, the fortune teller delivered grave news:
"There's no easy way to tell you this, so I'll just be blunt. Prepare yourself to be a widow. Your husband will die a violent and horrible death this year."

Visibly shaken, Laura stared at the woman's lined face, then at the single flickering candle, then down at her hands. She took a few deep breaths to compose herself and to stop her mind racing.

She simply had to know.

She met the fortune teller's gaze, steadied her voice and asked,
 "Will I be acquitted?"

(I love that one.)

 And I couldn't forget your "aw".

Yeah, I know you said it. (Those eyes. Those eyes.)

One other note...
I have to wish my grandson Cooper a very happy sixteenth birthday today.

 Love ya, Coop.

So how about you? Ever have a short story fight you tooth and nail? Did you recognize the Night Court reference? How has 2017 been treating you so far? 

Interesting Fact for Today:

Q.... What do bulletproof vests, fire escapes, windshield wipers, and laser printers have in common?

A... All were invented by women.


N. R. Williams said...

While reading this I had a brilliant idea which you can totally steal if you want.

Toupees now come with clips that can be attached to the scalp, or so I've heard. So the jewel thief puts the jewelry under his toupee, adds a cap just to be on the safe side and is struck by high winds on his way out the airport door in (name that town,) with police officers standing right there. Off goes the hat. His hair spikes up like that funny picture of Trump and the jewelry slips out.

Happy Birthday Coop.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Don't you hate it when reality doesn't line up with your fiction?
Awesome you did get the one story written and sent in time.

Maria Zannini said...

Glad you're feeling better!

re: Night Court
LOL. I am definitely that old.

And good for you for getting those stories in. Sorry the goat didn't make the cut. They're better escape artists than epicureans.

Happy birthday to Cooper!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi LD - stories must be troublesome - but well done on getting one finished in time. Handsome grandson - goof for him! The"aw" .. yes! and that joke - that's great ... well what happened next?!

Cheers and continue on feeling better ... Hilary

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Oh no! It's good that at least one of the stories worked out and yo got it in on time.

Happy birthday to Coop.

Stacy McKitrick said...

When you want something bad enough, you make it happen! Congrats on getting both stories out. Now you can breathe. Until the next one. :)

Kaye George said...

I'm very glad you got the eclipse story done in time and turned in! Maybe you can find a place for the one you came up with that has no travel. Good luck!

Mason Canyon said...

Congrats on getting your stories submitted. Sounds like you've got some material for others stories leftover. I do remember Night Court. Hope you're feeling better and a belated birthday to your handsome grandson.

Julie Flanders said...

Yay for getting the stories submitted! That's awesome. And Happy Birthday to your handsome grandson. Hope you're feeling better now.

Carol Kilgore said...

Awww ♥

I'm so with you on your writing journey. Been in similar situations. Congrats to you for keeping forward motion and not giving up.

You are a writer.

Arlee Bird said...

Since I never watched Night Court I didn't get the reference. But the line did remind me of something I've heard somewhere else that I can't recall.

A writer has to be flexible I guess, but that's part of the fun sometimes. I wrote a story about an eclipse when I was in middle school. The premise was kind of original but the eclipse plot device was ripped straight out of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.

Loved the joke. Thankfully I rarely get my wife that angry at me.

So far 2017 has been pretty good. At least I haven't been sick yet.

Arlee Bird
Tossing It Out

LD Masterson said...

Nancy - you should run with that idea. I bet you'd do a great Jon with it.

Alex - Actually, I got both in. One on the morning of the last day and one with under a half hour to spare.

Maria - Yay, you remember Buddy. And I'm sure I'll have a place for goat in another story.

Hilary - Hey, you called Cooper handsome, awed at the aw pocture, and liked my joke. Comment trifecta. Thanks.

Diane - I fear my little tale was too confusing. You're the third commenter who thought I only got one story submitted. Actually, I got them both in, one just under the deadline. Now we'll see what happens.

LD Masterson said...

Stacy -Thanks. And I'm already eyeing a couple new anthologies. Maybe I can get head of the time curve this time.

Kate - ME, TOO. (I'm saving that news.) And I do hope I can find a home for that other story. I liked it.

Mason - Thanks. I was a big Night Court fan. Do you remember Harry's dad Buddy? (I've finally broken down and gone to the doctor. In fact, I'm typing these comments in the waiting room.)

Julie - Thanks all around. (See my answer to Mason just above.)

Carol - Thank you. That's always a good thing to hear.

Lee - I think everyone's first thought when they think of an elipse story is Connecticut Yankee. You should find some old Night Court reruns sometime. I hope your good health holds.

Heather R. Holden said...

Oh, yikes! Sorry that travel story ended up being such a headache to write, and that you didn't get any inspiration for the eclipse one till the very last minute. Really impressed how you were able to complete and submit both despite all that, though! Congrats!

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

That's some super work under pressure. Good luck with those stories. Love the joke.

Lexa Cain said...

I thought all your story ideas were great! Yay to you for getting both stories out in Jan. Good luck with those subs! I remember Night Court, but not the John Astin character. Yes, I said "Aw." Happy Birthday for your gridiron grandson, big yay for women inventors, and have a great week!!

Jemi Fraser said...

Great job on the short stories. I have zero success writing shorts. The ideas start strong and fizzle out and I'm left with no ideas or one that turns into a novel :)

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Congratulations on getting BOTH stories completed by deadline! I loved hearing about the changes you had to make based on pesky facts that didn't agree with what you wanted to write. (Then again, these days, "alternative" facts are becoming more the norm...)

I'm definitely old enough to remember "Night Court," and we used to watch it all the time, but unfortunately, I'm also old enough to have forgotten your point of reference... :(

LD Masterson said...

Heather - Thanks. Isn't is strange how some stories require some many labor pains and others just pop out.

Susan G/K - Thanks, on both counts.

Lexa - John Astin played Harry's long lost father Buddy who Harry found out had been in a psychiatric hospital for years. The running joke was Buddy talking about something bizarre he had done then telling Harry "...but I'm feeling much better now". Probably not PC by today's standards but they always portrayed Buddy as a very gentle soul with his own unique wisdom.

Jemi - Hah! Got you on the Aw. I've only recently started doing much with short stories but they're a nice break when working on a novel.

Mike Keyton said...

Maria - the 'Goat Whisperer'. I bet you fisted the wall, Glad though that you're writing again and feeling much better. A belated happy new year.

And sorry for not getting here sooner. Truth is, for a time, I thought you'ld stopped blogging.

LD Masterson said...

Susan F.S. - Thanks. I try not to give in to using alternate facts but this one was a challenge. And check my answer to Lexa above for an explanation of the Night Court reference.

Mike - Yup, Maria's pulled me up short on goats, roosters, and all manner of barnyard beasties. She's much better than Google. And I did wander off for a time. Trying to stay on a weekly schedule again. Thanks for coming by.