Always Time for a Story: Short Story Month Is May

I’ve stumbled across another commemoration of interest to me. I have no idea who names these “official” dates, but they succeed in focusing some public attention on their distinctive topic. This one is Short Story Month, which, in case you don’t know, is May.

A short story is, by definition, fiction. It drives me crazy to hear wanna-be writers describe a work as “a fiction short story.” Don’t need the term “fiction.” Still, better to talk about short stories than not, even with a superfluous word.

Superfluous words are what short stories don’t have. They enable us to read tales about imaginary people, events, locations minus the length of novels or novellas. Why does this appeal? As we become more inundated with electronic media, videos, selfies, instant photos, self-published discourses, and every form of communication ever dreamed of, some of us feel we’re losing control. Our time is not our own.

But short stories abbreviate their length. While writers hate to be limited by rules or even guidelines, short stories are, indeed, shorter than novels. They still have characters, settings, themes, and conflicts. Some have mystery, romance, puzzles. So they have essentially everything a novel can have but in a manageable amount.

I’ve heard of book clubs whose members are so strapped for time, they’ve turned to only reading short stories. The best writers in the world have created short stories. They’re handy to read when you’re traveling and are squeezing in some recreation on a trip. It’s easy to be introduced to a new writer in a short story. Their succinctness has an appeal all its own. Another favorable point: publishers and publications are starting to post free online short stories to encourage readers to sample their wares.

The day when a writer could actually make a living writing short stories is long gone. The market, however, is still strong, if you don’t mind creating for extremely low pay or, even more likely, none. Literary journals are the home for most.

If you’re interested in my short stories, I have links on my website to some you can read.

Take some chunks of time this month to sample new short stories or re-visit old ones. “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson, “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” by Ambrose Bierce. “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe, the list is fascinating and apparently endless.

CHESTNUTS ROASTING, JACK FROST NIPPING, YULETIDE CAROLS KAZOOING

 

Most families have holiday traditions, enjoyed to a greater or lesser degree depending on the people and paraphernalia involved. These can develop unintentionally. For example one friend’s father-in-law-in-law (meaning he’s her son’s connection, not her own) has established a practice of spending the entire day bad-mouthing and swearing over national Democratic politics. Hardly conducive to pleasant conversations, let alone good will. My father’s was to give my mother a pair of flannel pajamas. Hardly romantic.

Whatever yours includes–midnight church service, caroling, roast beef for dinner instead of turkey, opening one gift on Christmas Eve, decorating with ugly candles passed along from grandmother–the list goes on endlessly. You can get sabotaged by rituals if you allow them to become dictates. One friend was so turned off by her partner’s insistence on perfect decorations that she gave up all holiday signs after she lost him.

For years my family’s tradition was tootling on kazoos. I can’t say enough good things about kazoos. Anyone could play one almost immediately. Even my tone-deaf husband joined in with no embarrassment. Laughter abounded, overflowed, and made our stomachs ache.

Seems to me the birth of the practice was the radio or record player booming after the holiday dinner, and guests began humming and singing along. Lacking a piano, organ, or guitars, I longed for some method to increase our volume and coordinate the melody. I can’t recall why I had a stock of several dozens of kazoos many Decembers ago, but I pulled them out and distributed to anyone who’d take one. The music from electrical equipment quickly became overpowered by the strength of the live performers in my living room.

Easy to play were the oldies “Jingle Bells” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” However, we quickly mastered playing parts and playing in rounds. I don’t know how we had the breath to keep the concert going. We seemed to break down in hysterical laughter as much as we made music. Each person tried to toot louder or more dramatically than his neighbor.

“If you can hum, you can play” is the advice of kazoo aficionados to novices. The mistake of most newcomers is to blow like you would a trumpet, but the player’s voice needs to vibrate in order to make the membrane inside the kazoo, which amplifies the notes, quiver. This membrane can tear or stretch, but if you’re as dedicated as I am, you’ll learn you can replace it with tissue paper or even plastic wrap cut to the correct size. YouTube has videos that offer instruction if you’re a rule klutz.

The highlight of our holiday performances? Nothing can match the musical thrill of the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s Messiah played in parts on a dozen kazoos. It beats a production from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir because you and your family and friends are playing it. Those who prefer can sing the tune in parts of harmony.

Kazoos appeared on the American scene in the mid- to late-1800s. However, they’re related to a number of membranophones, instruments that modify the player’s voice through vibrations. They have waxed and waned in popularity and still sell in the millions. I personally prefer the timbre of the traditional metal variety, but plastic versions appear in most toy stores.

Prepare yourself for the holidays. But if you miss your opportunity, don’t wait until next year. National Kazoo Day is January 28. The perfect time for you to become active in politics as well as music. You can join the continuing campaign to have the kazoo declared the USA’s national instrument, a well deserved honor because it’s certainly the most democratic

 

Kiss me, I’m Irish!—what are we honoring when we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?

saint_patrick_window        Despite my name (and as far as I know barring furtive inroads in the night), I have no Irish blood or ancestors. However, I married a man who’s 100% American-Irish and soon I became steeped in the history, literature and outlook of the bold Fenian men and women who once struggled for independence and still support republican principles. St. Patrick’s Day, that annual reminder of all Irish, invites everyone in the US to become part of the fest, as I did. But what, really, are we celebrating?

Not green beer or rowdy parties. Neither fist fights nor silly hats. From St. Patrick and down through the centuries, the Irish struggled to break from traditional and abusive powers to establish new, sometimes radical, systems of government and society. They took centuries to create a separate government for a part of their island and homeland, at times educating their children under bushes because they were prohibited by the Brits from sending the kids to established schools. They were passionate about preserving their culture, their freedom, their self-determination.

Accomplishments accompany passion. History, indeed life and people around us now, support this idea. Many other qualities, too, such as hard work, creativity, and vision may be important. But passion drives the whole kit and caboodle. Those with passion might ignore the limitations of law, tradition, even human biology (think of Edison and da Vinci, notorious for short sleep cycles) to pursue their dream.

If we translate this passion into fervor behind a social movement, we see similarities. Those committed to their vision ignore deprivation, poverty, separation from families and friends, violence, imprisonment, even death. St. Patrick certainly did. And people can legitimately feel this decision is justifiable. The caveat: can this commitment cross the line from positive to destructive?

Terrorists are driven by zeal, but most of us agree they go waaaaay too far. There is a line beyond which violence and coercion usurp whatever good might occur from supporting their beliefs. A passion for what’s right, however that’s defined, a group’s protectiveness of its people and principles presents a quandary for any social or political unit working for change. Including the Irish. The IRA promulgated thousands of deaths and injuries while pursing their goal of an independent Northern Ireland.

I’ve pondered the question, “How far should someone go in defending his beliefs?” and decided I deplore all violence and coercion. Instances like 9/11, Sandy Hook, Isis attacks, Charlie Hebdo should not occur. Obvious? No. “The difference between a terrorist and a freedom fighter is a matter of perspective: it all depends on the observer and the verdict of history,” said Finnish environmentaist Kaarlo Pentti Linkola. And US Senator and presidential candidate Barry Goldwater said in 1964, “Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice. Moderation in pursuit of justice is no virtue.”

I disagree. This St. Patrick’s Day I’ll be ready to swap spit with those passionate about their principles, but not those willing to fall into violence and terror. I think Saint Patrick would be of the same mind.

 

Courageous Women, Honorable Men Blog

blog-logo-silhouettesI’m appearing on writer Cynthia Woolf’s blog starting today (6/3/15), http://cynthiawoolf.com/?page_id=2919, discussing why read fiction? where are the heaving bosoms in the work? and other insights. I’ll give away a book to one reader who comments. Cynthia writes commercial fiction with historical settings.

NEVER ENOUGH ROMANCE IN LIFE: YOUR NEXT FAVORITE BOOK – BLACK FRIDAY THROUGH CYBER MONDAY ROMANCE BOOK SALE!

Your-next-favorite-book-Promo-pic-1-bigJOINING TOGETHER WITH AUTHORS FROM COLORADO ROMANCE WRITERS TO kick off of the super serious shopping season with Black Friday.

Whether you’re shopping for presents for your book club or you need some escape time from the holiday hustle and bustle, we have the books for you.

Seven of my fellow authors and I have gotten together to offer you a whole slew of romance books on sale for the next four days.

No matter the genre of romance you love, we’ve got something for everyone, from paranormal, to mystery, erotic to sweet, novella to anthology to full-length, and they’re all only 99 cents each!

Here’s our Black Friday offering especially for you. We hope you enjoy each and everyone of them, but remember, the sale only goes to Cyber Monday.

Ghosts of Christmas Past: A Haunted Holidays Novel by Jessica Aspen

Jen MacNamara flees the Christmas wedding of her best friend and cheating fiancé and runs to the country to spend the holiday alone. It’s the perfect plan, until her unexpectedly sexy neighbor and landlord, Nate Pierce, insists on bringing the holiday to her—complete with a Christmas tree, hot chocolate, and an unexpected kiss. And that’s not Jen’s only problem.

The cozy country farmhouse is already occupied by something evil. Now Jen’s nights are spent wrapped in sensual dreams of a past life, and her days growing closer to Nate as they solve the mystery of the malevolent ghost that haunts not only the house, but also wants Jen dead. Click a link below to get it now!

Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Ibooks, AllRomanceEbooks, Add to your Goodreads shelf. Visit Jessica at www.JessicaAspen.com

Curvy Temptation: Curvy Love Book One by Aidy Award

Curvy girls deserve a happy ever after too. Vanessa hasn’t let her curvylicious plus-size body keep her from having a solid career, great friends and a crappy love life. Oh, wait – yeah, her sex life blows, and not in the fun way. A string of unsatisfying relationships and a best friend who drags her to a BDSM club help her step full swing into her dirty thirties.

Cade the stoic Dom, always in control but never in love, is drawn to Vanessa’s size 20 submissive streak. He can’t keep his hands (or his tongue or any other part of his body) off this voluptuous new sub. But Cade’s the one person everyone has told her not to develop feelings for. This Alpha male drops his subs the moment they express deeper feelings for him. What’s a girl to do? She’ll have to dump his ass before he discovers how she feels or be the curvy temptation he can’t resist.

If you like curvy girl BBW romance, a hot alpha hero, and some BDSM power exhange between a sexy Dominant and a new submissive, you’ll love this book! Click a link below to get it now!

Amazon, B&N, iBooks, AllRomanceEBooks, Kobo, GooglePlay  Visit Aidy at www.AidyAward.com

The Christmas Gift by Leslee Breene

An Ebook short story for the holidays! In 1883, Miriam Cole travels to Denver at Christmas to deliver her orphaned baby nephew to her married sister. The sweetness of his touch upon her cheek makes her heart tighten. When the time comes, how will she ever let him go?

“With both verve and delicacy, Ms. Breene reminds us that miracles are indeed possible.” ~ Jane Choate, RWA author of Keeping Watch – Harlequin Love Inspired.  Click the link below to get it now!

Amazon  Visit Leslee at www.LesleeBreene.com

A Vampire’s Fallen Christmas Star by ML Guida

It’s the week before Christmas but the last thing Jayden Kye wants to do is celebrate. He blames himself for his twin brother’s death. He hikes up to Rainbow Lake to make peace with him, but Jayden slips down a snowy embankment and impales himself on a tree. He is dying.

Eleanor Baines has been a vampire for over a hundred years but she’s never been tempted to turn a human before. Now, facing the sexy rock star, she has a choice, let him die or let him live. She finds herself with a head-strong rock singer who breaks all the rules.

Jayden discovers everything he thought he knew is wrong. His best friend and lead guitarist are legendary vampire killers bent on killing him and Eleanor. He must learn to trust Eleanor, a total stranger, to survive. When his manager kidnaps Jayden’s mother and threatens to kill her, Jayden is forced to kill his best friend, or hand over the woman he loves. Click a link below to get it now!

Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Ibooks  Visit ML www.MLGuida.com

The Butterfly Connection by Sandra S Kerns

Murder, encryption, and corporate espionage bring two strangers together to break codes and years of silence to solve a very personal case.

Wanted for the murder of her stepbrother, Emma Simms is on the run. She has to convince her brother’s reclusive partner in the FBI to help her find the real killer. If she can’t, she’ll end up in prison for killing the one person who ever believed in her. Her car breaks down just short of her goal and then a car tries to run her over. If not for the blaring of a driver’s horn, she’d be dead before she even gets a chance to talk to Artemis Jones.

The minute he pulls to the side of the road Artemis knows he’s in trouble. The woman is obviously out of her element. If he didn’t miss his guess, the car he scared off was aiming to run her down. He doesn’t need the trouble of helping a woman in distress, but he can’t turn his back on someone in need. It doesn’t take long to learn she’s not so much in distress as spitting mad and loaded for bear. Unfortunately, the bear she’s hunting is him.

Can the two of them put aside their distrust of others and themselves long enough to find the real murderer? Can the passion they discover survive the truths they find along the way? Click a link below to get it now!

Amazon, B&N, iBooks, Kobo, GooglePlay  Visit Sandra at www.SandraSKerns.com

Heart-Strong by Bonnie McCune

Headstrong. Rachel Kinsey fits the description perfectly. The divorced soccer mom may be ditzy and as sympathetic to losers as a charity, but she knows what she wants. A man completely different from her unreliable ex-husband and the outrageous characters she’s usually doomed to attract.

Enter Jim Landers, the ideal candidate. An accidental encounter introduces her to the tall, dark attorney who loves soccer and kids. The only problem? He’s not prepared for a ready-made family and a woman as comfortable as a beloved sweater rather than a beauty queen. A woman whose kindness, enthusiasm for life, and unguarded honesty may disturb a man who values order, perfection, and serenity.

She should show him how much he means to her, but rejection from an absent father and a capricious ex-husband may have ruined Rachel’s ability to connect to Jim. Will she risk herself, her son and their future by revealing how much Jim means to her?  A touching, tender tale full of gentle humor, about thinking too much and feeling too little. Rachel must learn to be heart-strong in order to find her soul mate. Click the link below to get it now!

Amazon  Visit Bonnie at www.BonnieMcCune.com

The Boy and his Wolf by Sean Thomas

Tanner never thought he’d be back in Amber Pines or back in Dash’s bed. But four years and 1,000 miles wasn’t enough distance to make him forget the power of first love. Sure, he spent his time training with one of the world’s top Hunters and he’s no longer the scrawny teenager he used to be. But now that his former pack is threatened, Tanner is again involved in the dangerous life he thought he left behind.

Do Tanner and Dash have a second chance or has his werewolf made his heart as impenetrable as his body? With an all-out battle raging, Tanner must find his place in the new Amber Pines or be shut out forever. If you’re looking for Teen Wolf meets Queer As Folk, you’ll love this book. Click the link below to get it now!

Amazon Visit Sean at www.SeanThomasAuthor.com

Three Strikes in the Let It Snow Anthology By Holley Trent

The one woman the “Dark Dom” Max Fletcher wants is the one who doesn’t want him back. But magic has been known to happen during the Den of Sin’s Winterball. There, if he can warm his sometime-submissive Giselle’s heart for the night, he may be able to win her for good.

Read this sexy story and five more steamy holiday romances, including offerings by New York Times and USA Today bestselling authors, will keep you warm through winter’s coldest nights, so Let it Snow. Including Suzan Butler, Emily Ryan-Davis, Cari Quinn, Vivienne Westlake, Sadi Hallar, and Holley Trent. Click a link below to get it now!

Amazon Visit Holley at www.HolleyTrent.com