Category Archives: Writing

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Write, revise, pet the cat, submit, repeat.

Write, revise, pet the cat, submit, repeat.

I submitted a piece of flash fiction that I believe in to several journals and a contest. Nine months ago. Unfortunately, a well-written trendy novel with a very similar title was published five months ago. I received a rejection from one national market. I haven’t heard back from two others. I retitled the story and entered it into a contest. I received a nice response noting my writing skills, but no prize. I almost gave up on my piece.

Then... two weeks ago I received an email accepting the piece! The editors had received it, considered it, and ultimately accepted it based on my original submission on that rainy morning nine months ago. This taught me two lessons. One: Editors are very over-worked and need time to ponder work (as an editor at a small press, I can relate to this). Two: Never give up on a good story! Submitting work is daunting and when the rejections come in, can feel demoralizing. So I say, “Stay stubborn. Keep believing in that piece.”

I am thrilled to share my piece with you below. If you enjoy it, please rate it and feel free to share it. It will also be featured in an upcoming print edition of Dual Coast Magazine. I am very grateful to Dual Coast for this opportunity: http://dualcoastmagazine.com/gypsy-moth-summer-patricia-flaherty/

 

 

Creative Ideas Flowed at Writefest 2017

Discussing Flash Fiction with Kathy Fish

Writefest 2017 was a wonderful week packed with inspiring workshops and fascinating panels. Heartfelt gratitude to Layla Al-Bedawi and Holly Walrath for organizing the conference, and to all the volunteers who kept things humming along. I was honored to present an authors’ chat with flash fiction legend Kathy Fish! Skilled, modest, and creative, she offered helpful ideas and insights. She empowered me to experiment more with hybrid forms of flash fiction.

Reading my flash fiction at Cafe Brasil was also more fun than scary. The talented Julia Rios also read, and now I want to discover more of her work. Writer (and positive force in the universe) Jody T. Morse helped me woman the Spider Road Press booth during the Literary Journal and Publisher Fair. We spoke with many interesting writers who enjoy short fiction.

I can’t wait for Writefest 2018!

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Reading My Recent Flash Fiction

 

 

 

My Gratitude Book

Spider Road's New Collection of 4 Novellas & Bonus Flash Fiction

Spider Road’s New Collection of 4 Novellas & Bonus Flash Fiction

The first collection that I have curated since becoming a working mom comes out in less than two weeks! I am thrilled! And I am also a little nervous, very proud and pretty gosh-darned tired. I can’t wait for y’all to read the four unique and suspenseful novellas in here.

This book has been a literary journey taken with four talented writers who are clever, determined, responsive and willing to “kill a darling” word or two. I admire writers who take risks. I enjoy the work of authors who put a truly new slant on a satisfying standard. As an editor, I am grateful to writers who respond to questions about work and requests for help with promotion with consideration and enthusiasm. I recommend the fiction of these four writers. I also recommend hiring and/or working with these four writers if you ever get the chance.

The reader’s bonus flash fiction section makes my heart happy. The award-winning flash pieces featuring complex female protagonists will move readers. The editor’s bonus is that the award-winners and judges involved are also good people.

Another bonus-becoming a working mom has been amazing, gratifying, and humbling. We got my wee son into a wonderful Montessori program. Then he promptly picked up all the independently minded & skill building germs there, and he got the croup. Then he stayed home to get healthy and gave all his sweet boy germs and snot to Mama. So, as I watch the release of this wonderful book approach from behind my tray of chicken soup and vials of antibiotics and bronchitis-battling steroids, I want to thank some of the people who helped and are continuing to help Spider Road Press midwife this great collection into the world:

The writers. Skilled and brave souls all.

The Spider Road Press 2015 Kickstarter donors who generously funded the production costs.

The designers who did such amazing work. Heidi Dorey’s cover and David Welling’s interior design bring the stories to life.

Kessika Johnson-Spider Road Press worker bee and role model for caring working moms everywhere.

My husband! I can’t write the foreword to a new book and change diapers at the same time. Thanks, Papa Steve!

SRP’s deft consultants Lilia Fabry and Vi Moore.

My writing critique group. For every time I said, “Thanks for the feedback on my flash fiction. Can I ask you for a reader’s opinion on….” (Insert new idea about book design or book promotion).

The talents at SkipJack Publishing. For learning all the the nitty gritty, only sometimes pretty, truth of indie publishing. And then generously sharing it. And sharing it. And always being open to exchanging ideas.

The Houston Writers House & The Houston Writers Guild. For all that they do to support local presses and emerging writers.

Writespace Houston. For maintaining a creative haven.

The stellar, crunchy, loyal Goddard College MFA in creative writing community. For more than I can say in this list.

Jody T. Morse-for bursting onto the Spider Road Press scene with talent, an open mind, creative ideas, and enthusiasm just when the book launch process sped up. Girl, I owe you a bottle of wine for weathering the storm with humor and grace.

Our beta readers-both generous and honest.

Enos Rusell-eBook style whisperer. And a patient, patient writer pal.

My family & close friends. For all of your love, loyalty and support. If good karma counts, y’all will be rewarded with champagne and cheesecake in the next life.

EQ Heights Cafe- For fueling the process with mocha hazelnut lattes & good vibes. And for being so nice to my messy wee son.

As I snuggle under the multi-colored quilt my friend Amber made my husband and I as a wedding gift, and dream of boxes of fresh-smelling books, let me say to everyone on this list, everyone I’ve forgotten, and all my fellow lovers of books…

 

Thank You!

 

If y’all are interested in supporting feminist, indie publishing and great fiction by preordering Approaching Footsteps, please visit Spider Road Press: http://spiderroadpress.com/book-store/ 

 

 

Guest Blog: Birth of An Intriguing Novel

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Spy novels? Aren’t they a bit macho? Until recently, that’s what I would have said if a woman writer told me she was excited about writing a novel about espionage. I would have thought of male characters and car chases. I would’ve noted the loyal male readers (like my dad). I would have argued that novels in which the political operatives and terrorists crash into the emotional lives of everyday people, such as Edna O’Brien’s House of Splendid Isolation, made for a better read.

I would have been wrong. Yes, you should read Edna O’Brien’s excellent novel. But no, spy novels are not just about macho thrills. Case in point, Houston author Mel Algood recently published a gripping, sarcastic, violent novel about espionage and revenge, Blood on the Potomac. I had the pleasure of reading it as it progressed and loved her jaded female characters and their twisted humor. Mel joins us on the blog today to give her impressions of birthing her first book.

The Birth of Blood On The Potomac

Matthew Hale, ex-navy SEAL, joined Erebus at his friend, Jack’s, insistence. Now Jack has been murdered and the newest member of the private spy organization, Samantha Locke, seems to be the key to uncovering the truth behind Jack’s death. Samantha Locke, rogue assassin, has one goal in life, to find her father’s killer. Blackmailed by Erebus to work for them in exchange for the identity of the woman she’s hunted all her life, Samantha finds herself falling in love with her hunky handler,Matthew Hale. As they sift through the web of lies, their passionate attraction draws them closer together. But can they ever truly trust each other? Will their love help them find the truth, or will it tear them apart?

The story of Samantha Locke and Matthew Hale took time to reach readers. Which made the night of my book release even sweeter. The night started off as many spring evenings in Houston-pouring down rain. Thankfully by the time my handsome man Israel and I made it to Gratifi Kitchen and Bar, in the heart of Montrose, the water abated. The weather reminded me of my personal experience while writing the novel. There were pitfalls, and a fair share of challenges, but after three years, my novel was finally available to the reading public.

I was excited when I saw that the menu had named a drink after my debut novel “Blood On The Potomac,” which proved delicious. The venue was crowded, and when I read scenes from the novel there were gasps and laughs at the right times from the audience.

The people that joined me on the evening my novel was released ranged from old friends, fellow writers, and avid readers that were excited to start reading. One of the attendees-a college student and talented author told me that after I read the infamous ‘roof top’ scene in the ‘Looking Glass’ chapter she “couldn’t stop reading even after you did. I just had to find out what happened next!” Gratitude swelled in me that so many people came to support me.

The most memorable moment for me was when someone made a toast to me, easily one of the people who has known me personally for the shortest amount of time. Sherrie along with several of my co-workers from Green Apple Salon- Montrose, http://www.greenapplesalons.com came to the event just a few blocks from our salon. I was elated that they attended-a friend mentioned that no one from my previous salon attended any of my previous, yet numerous, writing events. My fellow hair stylist, Sherrie, stood up, and tapped a knife against her glass. She called the room to attention and began to speak. Her words were moving, and the night was long, thus I can’t quote anything for sure other than how she concluded her toast of love and admiration with “you are a true artist, Mel, and we love you.”

Knowing that others appreciate your gift for the written word is the greatest gift I’ve ever received. Thank you to all my friends, family, and the readers that attended any past or future event-without you I’d be telling stories to myself. Thank you for helping me bring Samantha and Matthew into the world.

You can purchase my debut novel Blood On The Potomac on Amazon or from Inklings Publishing at www.inklingspublishing.com. Check out updates on my blog, melalgoodauthor.com, and follow me on Twitter @MelAlgood.

Ongoing Passion: The Joys and Challenges of Writing A Series

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What’s so special about writing a series? Today I sit down with a best-selling author to find out exactly that. Affable, talented and driven, Pamela Fagan Hutchins is a pro at writing best-selling romantic mysteries featuring engaging characters. Her fans can’t wait to see what will happen next to her feisty heroines. I gave my sister one of her mysteries for Christmas two years ago, and now she looks forward to a P.F.H mystery every birthday and holiday! Engaging series are satisfying to readers (like my sister) and sometimes easier to sell to agents and publishers. But how do you keep readers hooked and keep telling a tight story??]

Pamela, what are the two best things about writing a series peopled with strong characters?

Readers engage with and follow characters far more than they follow an author who told a good story. So if I can write a great character or characters, the reader will develop an attachment, even a relationship with that character that they want to continue. Think about the success of authors like Sue Grafton with Kinsey Milhone or Janet Evanovich with Stephanie Plum. Their characters’ names are as well known as the authors.

As an author, I enjoy sitting back down to start the next book in a series with strong characters. I look forward to spending time with them, to seeing what trouble they’ve gotten themselves into, and—most of all—to seeing them grow in the latest installment. Give me a series with strong, complex characters who experience authentic personal growth in each installment, and I’m yours forever.

You teach helpful workshops on creating great scenes and authorpreneurship. Imagine that you taught a class specifically about crafting an exciting fiction series. What challenges would you point out to writers?

Each book in a series needs to be able to standalone on its own merit, so it’s more important to write one really great book than a series. I find my readers don’t like to be “forced” to read the next book either. They want to feel compelled from within to read it, rather than having a cliffhanger where they don’t know the ending unless they continued. I also find readers who read my books in reverse order or start in the middle. The only way that’s possible is if your books can standalone.
Readers expect that if you use a character they’ll appear again in later books, if they don’t die or go to prison. Write characters with the potential to play further roles down the line, then use them in interesting ways. Readers welcome them back like old friends, or hiss and boo when the villain reappears onstage.
Series writers must not repeat themselves in terms of plot, but they must absolutely be consistent on the details of their characters and worlds. Keep a style sheet/series Bible to keep it all straight. You’ll thank me later.

Can you think of themes common to the books in your current series? For example, readers & reviewers have noted that the themes of transformation, tenacity & grief reoccur in my stories in Trail Ways Pilgrims: Stories and Our Space. Which issues do you rest from book to book?

I explore two common themes in trying to write strong characters within a rich setting while still pacing and delivering a pulse-pounding mystery.
The impact of regional history and culture on our contemporary views of spirituality
In Going for Kona—What Doesn’t Kill You #4—the protagonist, Michele, learned of Itzpapalotl, a knife-winged butterfly goddess in Aztec mythology, from her Mexican grandmother. Her father nicknames her Itzpa, and the mythology exerts a powerful influence on her in the novel.
The role and self-view of modern women in family and relationships
For instance, in Heaven to Betsy—the fifth book in my What Doesn’t Kill You series and the 2015 WINNER of the USA Best Book Award in Cross Genre Fiction—Emily loses a husband to divorce and a baby to miscarriage, moves back to her hometown, and begins trying to adopt as a single woman. It’s a confusing and painful time for her, and she has to figure out who she is, at the same time as she has to learn to care less what others think.

Speaking of your current series, your readers are excited that you have
a new novel coming soon. What’s it about?

Hell to Pay is the seventh book in my What Doesn’t Kill You romantic mystery series. In her third and final turn as one of the series’ protagonists, big-haired paralegal and former rodeo queen Emily has her life back on track. Her adoption of Betsy seems like a done deal, her parents have reunited, and she’s engaged to her sexy boss Jack. Then client Phil Escalante’s childhood buddy Dennis drops dead, face first into a penis cake at the adult novelty store Phil owns with his fiancée Nadine, one of Emily’s best friends. The cops charge Phil with murder right on the heels of his acquittal in a trial for burglarizing the Mighty is His Word church offices. Emily’s nemesis ADA Melinda Stafford claims a witness overheard Phil fighting with Dennis over a woman. Before he can mount a defense, Phil falls into a diabetic coma, leaving Nadine shaken and terrified. Meanwhile Betsy’s ultra-religious foster parents apply to adopt her, and Jack starts acting weird and evasive. Emily feels like a calf out of a chute, pulled between the ropes of the header and the heeler, as she fights to help Phil and Nadine without losing Betsy and Jack. It’s a pulse-pounder of a book, but with lots of heart and humor. I love this one.

Your What Doesn’t Kill You character-driven series features strong female protagonists, and readers enjoy the woman’s adventures all the way through to the end of that character’s journey. Do you have any advice to emerging writers about how to keep each new book in a series fresh?

This is actually a really important question to me. I have had series in the past that I fell in love with, but lost interest in after three or four books, because the characters didn’t grow. In series, especially in mystery/thriller/suspense series, we tend to focus too hard on plot and forget that it is compelling, complex characters who readers follow. Give your protagonist and other main characters interesting stories that keep evolving with your series. Personally, this is the reason that I decided to create a revolving cast of protagonists in my fictional world for my series. I only want to write books where the protagonists experience personal growth and development. I’ve capped it at three books per protagonist, which I think of as a three-act structure, where those three books as the three acts in a larger story in that protagonist’s “life.”

Thanks, Pamela! I can’t wait for my copy of Hell to Pay to arrive. And, don’t worry, sis, you are getting a copy for your upcoming birthday, too.

Hell to Pay, and all the fun, fast-paced romantic mysteries in Pamela Fagan Hutchins series are available as ebooks and books on Amazon and ibooks, as well as in bookstores. To find out more, read Pamela’s fun and informative blog (bonus: you’ll learn about her cute baby goats): http://pamelafaganhutchins.com

“Tides of Impossibility” is Fantastically Fun

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Today I’m happy to interview C. Stuart Hardwick, the science fiction author and witty coeditor of the recently released fantasy collection, Tides Of Impossibility. (I’ve been writing about this collection lately because I am thrilled to be experimenting with this new genre and to be included in this diverse anthology.) C. Stuart Hardwick is an L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future award winner who combines Golden Age optimism, adventure, and fun, combined with modern social themes. A southerner from South Dakota, he now lives in Texas with his family and dogs, and has been known to wear a cape.

So, what elements contribute to a great fantasy story?
The best stories are about interesting people in interesting circumstances changing in interesting ways. That’s what we tried to put into Tides. Even when the “people” are witches or fantastic creatures, you still look for recognizably human motivation and growth.

One of the things that drew me to scifi was how readily it skirts reality to act as a lens through which to view ourselves. Fantasy can fly further afield, as it were, and this can give the author even more editorial leverage, but storytelling isn’t just social commentary. Great stories can be heart rending, hilarious, or just plain fun, but what makes us care about them, I think, are characters, relationships, and struggle.

Who are your top three favorite fantasy writers?
I loved the Harry Potter books, and Tim Powers’s On Stranger Tides is one of my all-time favorites. Whether you loved or hated the last Pirates of the Caribbean movie, the book (on which it was only loosely based) is far better. And to that list I’ll add my friend Randy Henderson, who’s debut, Finn Fancy Necromancy is just plain fun.

What was the experience of coediting Tides of Impossibility like for you? What was the biggest challenge posed by the project?
The biggest challenge, really the only challenge, was finding enough time. The hardest part of editing an anthology is selecting the stories. Kyle was very organized and all the authors we selected were responsive and accommodating, so it was a real pleasure to put together.

Any reader can take something from a good story, but some people think, “Fantasy isn’t my genre.” What can the reader who is less familiar with fantasy fiction expect from this anthology?
I call that the Tolkien effect. So many people loved Tolkien and so many set out to imitate him, that the band of oddball adventures making plans over tankards of ale has become as hackneyed as the line “It was a dark and stormy night.” Well rest assured, modern fantasy isn’t just recycled Tolkien, D&D campaigns, and pixie dust. The Tides anthology offers a diversity of tales, from medieval to surreal, lighthearted to positively dystopian.

It’s a great collection and I’m honored to be a part of it. Thanks for discussing your experience with it. What other projects do you, as a writer and editor, have in the works for 2015?
Happy to discuss it!

I’m drafting a novel that’s a sort of City of Ember meets The Hunger Games, which I hope to have ready to market this summer. In the meantime, check out Galaxy’s Edge magazine, issue 14., where my story appears along with those of Robert A. Heinlein, Larry Niven, Nancy Kress, David Brin, and Alan Dean Foster, among others. Galaxy’s Edge is edited by the inestimable Mike Resnick and filled with scifi and unique and quirky fantasy far afield of the traditional fae and dragon fare. My story, “Luck of the Chieftain’s Arrow,” is a good example, about an elemental spirit that learns about love and loss as the copper it’s trapped in is passed down through human history.

I’ll be sure to check that out. Thanks again.

Tides of Impossibility will be for sale at Comicpalooza in Houston (5/22-5/25) and is available now from Amazon.com.
Coming in April, 2015...

Back Cover Dreams

When I was a tween, mass was a mystical celebration, but the bookstore was my secondary church. The colorful displays of award winners and best-sellers, the crisp pages and new-book smell, I loved them all. I would enjoy the cover art, read the blurbs and then turn over the books to drink in the tempting back cover copy. In particular, I would look at the author photo with a mixture of awe and envy. This author had not only gotten their hair to behave (the daily struggle of my pre-Frizzease existence) in a formal picture, but they had written an entire book. A book that someone liked enough to publish! Novelists and authors of short story collections were just as cool as Blondie, and even a little smarter.

This week I was pleasantly surprised to find my photo on the back of the fantasy anthology, Tides of Impossibility. I have to admit, my inner tween bounced with glee. I write for the love of the story, and because characters keep popping into my mind and nagging at me until I let them run on across my keyboard into my prose. In the long run, it’s about, as Jean Rhys famously wrote, “feeding the lake.” In fact, the fiction containing the most of my love, fear and vulnerability, Trail Ways Pilgrims: Stories, only exists in eBook form, so it has no back cover. As a writer, I know that a little old cover photo doesn’t mean that much. Many talented writers from my Goddard writing program, some far better writers than me, have never been published in any book.

But my inner tween, daydreaming in the bookstore in Harvard Square, delights in this moment.

Tides of Impossibility benefits the Houston Writers Guild and can be purchased from Amazon.com.http://www.amazon.com/Tides-Impossibility-2-K-J-Russell>
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“Tides of Impossibility” Brings the Fantastic to Life


What elements contribute to a great fantasy story?

That’s the question I posed to KJ Rusell, the talented speculative fiction author and co-editor of the new fantasy anthology, Tides of Impossibility. I had a lot of fun writing my first fantasy story, “Puca Dawns,” which is included in the collection. I wrote it while thinking about how a child whose everyday life is dangerous might confront an unusual, and possibly menacing, mythical being. However, as a fantasy newbie, I sought out my editors to get their take on the genre….

1. Welcome to my blog. In your experience as an editor, writer & reader, what elements contribute to a great fantasy story?

Great fantasy is great literature. If I run into someone in the industry who really harps on how literary stories are better than genre fiction, I like to ask them what exactly the difference is. What makes “magical realism” okay for mainstream literary journals and not “fantasy”? Somewhere in the sea of confirmation bias, the best answer I found was that it’s the intent; in literary fiction, fantastic elements need to be a metaphor for something. Of course the person who gave me that answer thought they were excluding most fantasy, but they really weren’t. Great fantasy lets us look straight at things that less speculative stories have to turn crooked and skim over. Fantasy is an excellent tool for exploring and commenting on reality, and great artists know how to use their tools.

2. Who are your top 3 favorite fantasy writers?

I can’t think of any writer who writes straight fantasy without dipping into horror or sci-fi occasionally, nor vice-versa. For that reason I’d challenge that Lovecraft is my favorite fantasy writer, and a hard counter to the idea that there’s no such thing as an original thought. I think Tolkein goes without saying, so I wont. I’m just going to run away from this question before I start listing off great writers typically associated with horror or sci-fi, like Poe and Frank Herbert.

3. What was the experience of editing Tides of Impossibility like for you? What was the biggest challenge posed by the project?

Stuart, my co-editor, was great to work with, and he really helped simplify the organizational challenges of the job. This freed me to focus more on the actual content. While all of the writers brought fully formed stories to the anthology, a few of them were revised from start to finish before the anthology was ready to go. This is normal: an editor is expected to squeeze as much potential out of their writers as they can, and even great stories can sometimes be better. This is a unique challenge, very different from editing my own stories. I can’t just tell an author to rewrite their story according to how I want it. I have to make the writer see the unfulfilled opportunities and trust the writer to fill them out. This worked out really well, as some of the revisions the writers did were better than anything I could’ve suggested.

4. Any reader can take something from a good story, but some people think, “Fantasy isn’t my genre.” What can the reader who is less familiar with fantasy fiction expect from this anthology?

We open with Elfanticide by Lisa Godfrees and T.J. Akers, and here’s a great example. The story has a very sardonic humor to its characters and plot — a noble who is so annoyed with one particular elf that he convinces the king to exterminate the entire elven race — and it’s absolutely not something that would be funny in a non-fantasy setting. If you tried to set this story in the real world, it would be too political and grim. It wouldn’t work. Godfrees and Akers understand the tools of the fantasy genre and use them exquisitely to make this story what it is. All of the writers in this anthology use the genre to its utmost.

5. Thanks so much! What other projects do you, as a writer and editor, have in the works for 2015?

Tides of Impossibility was produced with the Houston Writers Guild. The HWG is moving forward with starting their own press to produce more work in-house, but I’m not currently attached to any upcoming projects with them. For now, I’m taking a step back from editing to work on my own writing. My big project right now is my upcoming novel, The Dusty Man, which is hitting print in May. My eBook, Atargatis, is now available on Amazon. I am also presenting on panels and at tables at Comicpalooza in Houston next month. I’m hoping to meet a lot of readers there.

Good Book Alert: I was fortunate to read the first half of Russell’s Atargatis in a writers’ critique circle and I highly recommend it. I am not usually a fan of more technical science fiction, but I found the story exciting, well-crafted, and introspective. I can’t wait to see how it ends! Speculative fiction readers, I encourage you to download this intriguing eBook from Amazon.com.

Blessings of Book Release Month

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The release month push for my ecollection, Trail Ways Pilgrims: Stories soon rumbles to a close. I hoped, I rejoiced, I worried, I focus-grouped, I advertised, I strategized, I thanked, I prayed, I pleaded, I danced, I worried more. I even faced down the rat hole of my “earnings” during tax time and agreed to price the collection at 99 cents for the first month (ending on 4/11). I desperately wanted to help readers find my characters and to love, or despise, them as much as I do. But now, like fidgety kids on a blue rug in kindergarten, my stories need to make their own friends.

Now is the time to thank the universe for the blessings that got me through the intensity of the release month juggernaut (in no particular order):

-My family. They listened to me ramble about the fellow travelers and events that inspired the stories. Over the years, they read drafts of the stories and made a suggestion or two. They considered and reconsidered eBook covers I didn’t end up using. And then, God bless ‘em, they actually helped me promote my eBook. That’s love. (A special thanks to my mother-in-law Julia, who always cheers me on, even though genetics didn’t leave her stuck with me.)
-My beta readers and advance review angels. There’s chocolate fondue in the next life for the busy, wise folks who provide smart suggestions and honest reviews. In a timely manner, no less! You’ve earned your heavenly marshmallows and chocolate.
-Stevie Wonder and the guys from UB40. It’s easier not to stress about Amazon sales when you’re jamming out.
-The wisest critique circle in Texas. Y’all make killing my darling almost fun.
-My readers, possible readers, eBook shop browsers, and word geeks everywhere. Your consideration of my stories means more than you know. Seriously. Mumsie always said that what comes around goes around, so hopefully I can support a professional or a charity that matters to you someday.
-My teachers from Goddard: the writers of Kilpatrick, Jeanne Mackin, Susan Kim,
Jan Clausen and the Pitkin Review crowd. “Trusting The Process” bloody sucks, but, to my annoyance, it works.
-Pudding. Enough said.
-Writers who share the spotlight, read each other’s work and cross-promote. “Cross-promotion” looks and sounds like a word, but really it’s a magic elixir.
-The genre-writing powerhouses dubbed The Women of Mystery and stewards of the HWG. (See above.)
-Poorly behaved cats. When your orange and white, bobtailed cat falls asleep on your keyboard, it keeps your ego in check.
-The generous teachers of my unofficial book-marketing-by-fire course: Pamela, Eric and Nicole at Houston’s thriving SkipJack publishing.
-Anne Lamott, for writing about ignoring the negativity on “radio station KFKD.” Crucial to know that other writers share your crazy.
-The improbable rosebushes by the garage. I never remember to water them, but somehow, on the strength of last month’s handful of Miracle-Gro and a generous helping of grace, they bloom.

The introductory sale price of 99 cents for my ecollection Trail Ways Pilgrims: Stories, currently offered for Kindle readers on Amazon.com, and for tablet and Nook readers on Smashwords.com, ends on 4/11/15.

Love, or Close Enough (A Story Excerpt)

1909844_32102491672_7617_nAsk any traveler – unexpected, imperfect alliances form abroad. In this excerpt from my short story, “The Wisdom of Oranges,” available now in my collection Trail Ways Pilgrims: Stories, a Canadian E.F.L teacher in South Korea negotiates the steep terrain of competing for the man she might love.

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…Soon the path surrendered into mud, shifting, sticking beneath the treads of my boots. I tromped through thoughts of the slim, twenty-two-year-old Lily, also known as Yeun Mi, teaching Matt the Korean words for “bicycle” and “eye glasses” and “teapot” and “kissing.” I had seen them once, slow dancing in the back of our regular room at the Noribong [or singing room], while all the other teachers drank or sang along to the yellow Oasis lyrics scrolling down the screen on the wall. She had been pressing her cheek to his when a newly arrived Singaporean teacher had sat down next to me and asked about my divorce.

The cool breeze, smelling faintly of plant hearts, blew across my exposed wrists, the back of my neck, and the bridge of my nose. Picking up my pace, I put distance between myself and Matt.

Yellow dust had crouched and waited. Suddenly, it fell on us in thin sheets. I coughed. My two American friends swore they’d been choked by the cloying, gold-colored pollution so badly last spring that our boss had sent them directly to the clinic. The headmaster had wished them a speedy recovery but no paid sick days.

“Cover your mouth, and you’ll be fine,” Johan, a Dane, said as he hiked past me. “I’ve seen it worse.”

Jagged rocks forced us first down, then sideways, then finally up as we descending-ly ascended. Mud gave way to exposed roots and the yellow dust fell in more diffuse patterns. Letting others pass me,  I stopped next to a large tree and calculated. To the right three slick, gray stones led directly to a wooden step. However, the tree’s branches hung over at a slight left angle, providing a natural handrail if the soil became too slippery. I veered left. An elderly Korean woman pushed past me with her hiking stick raised in complaint. I had taken too long to decide.

I pushed my legs into a jog until I could see the blue of Matt’s jacket. Behind me, snatches of French, English and Russian blended into a friendly din.

“He’ll leave her for the pretty, skinny tutor,” Carolyn huffed to a fellow Aussie. “They say it’s the exotic factor.”

“Sure, and she knows it. We’re all three kinds of lonely here.”

Summits cleansed. Jeongsusa at dusk wrapped us in a sweaty embrace. In the half light, the lotus flower-shaped lanterns, strung high above our heads on thin lines, danced like fire flies. Bells chimed. The prayers of the monks echoed. The musky scent of incense clung to the arm Matt threw around my shoulder.

“What’s your favorite book?”

“Whatever I’m reading today, Heart of Darkness, and whatever I start reading tomorrow,” I told him.

“You know, even back in Oakland, I think I’d ask you out.”

Blood rushed to my face. My fingers tingled in my mittens. As she pretended to be staring past us at the flowering treetops in the valley, Carolyn nodded at me. Among expats, this constituted high praise.

*

Learn what happens between this possible couple in my collection, Trail Ways Pilgrims: Stories. It is available now from Spider Road Press for the special introductory price of ninety-nine cents. Order yours today from Amazon.com or Smashwords.com (for tablet and Nook readers). For more information, see:  http://www.amazon.com/Trail-Pilgrims-Patricia-Flaherty-Pagan-ebook/.