Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG. Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience, or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.
February 1st question –If you are an Indie author, do you make your own covers or purchase them? If you publish trad, how much input do you have about what goes on your cover?
I have done both. I love making covers. I’m not bad at it, but it is time consuming getting it right and genre specific. It requires research of the genre, finding and purchasing the right images, and then getting the program to do what you need it to do to make the cover look good and comparable to other book covers in the genre. Things don’t always work the way you imagine them or the program just won’t do it sometime. I will probably buy my future because really just don’t have time, unless I am not happy with what is offered to me.
I created the book cover for my flash fiction collection on Amazon. It is a collection of flash fiction in my world of Moon Hollow, and fantasy series Magic Born or Magic Cursed? The shorts of ideas of a story that I am building the series on. Some of the things and ideas will change in a novel, but the characters and their essence will remain the same. I have the discover draft finished for the origin story short, and have started planning the first book in series.
Currently I am working a series I will release this year, 2023. Midlife Ghostwalker: Katje Storm a paranormal women’s fiction. It has been a lot of fun to write. I am in the process of revising and expanding an outline I wrote for the novel on Medium. You can learn about that here. I am also working on the short story that will be a free story to my newsletter and optin.
I wasn’t what anyone would call a nice person. I was grumpy, sarcastic, and I’d earned every scar on my body in ways that would make most people have a nervous breakdown.
But nice or not, there were some things you didn’t ignore – not if you saw them and had the power to act. And the hint of power I could feel from the woods demanded action.
“I do believe in fairies, I do, I do…”
I pinched my nose when I heard that half-whispered chant on the breeze.
Damn Peter Pan to hell. The whole play was pure fey propaganda.
I could feel a trickle of power coming from the woods, surprising in the sheer uncontrolled strength but also in the desperation behind it.
Whoever this kid was, they’d managed to crack open the edge of reality like an egg.
Not an easy thing to do.
The whispered chant slipped though the woods, thinning the barrier betwixt and between. I tried to hurry, but my cane was sinking into the soft earth, which was giving my hip hell.
“I do believe in fairies, I do, I do.”
I grimaced. Yeah, I believed in them too, which was why I had a ziplock bag full of salt and mixed with iron oxide in my pocket.
The thing about fairies is that sometimes you ended up calling a unicorn. And sometimes you encountered a redcap. Even the Seelie court was fairly dangerous if you didn’t know what you were doing, and a completely disproportionate number of fey creatures would just eat you if you were in their way. No muss, no fuss.
I arrived and saw a rumpled child in a jacket that was far too light for the weather. Skinny. Frail.
Faintly glowing with power.
I think it was a she.
I glanced at the kid, with very little to indicate whether it was a boy or a girl…not that I knew much about kids, but even with the short hair and clearly mismatched secondhand clothing, there was something delicate.
I clinched my jaw.
They fey liked pretty things.
The sickly-sweet smell of farie power burned my nose as I ran toward the child, casting shields and recklessly spending as much power as I dared.
I dove between the child and something reaching for her, handful of salt and iron making a quick circle.
I pulled the child to me. “Be still.”
“She called us.” The hissing sibilants wound their way from the shadows. I saw the child’s eyes widen.
My lips twisted as I stared into the undulating darkness. “I doubt it was you that she had in mind.”
The darkness inside the shadows laughed. “She didn’t specify.”
I didn’t comment on that. The foolish child hadn’t – an oversight which had once led to any number of children disappearing and never being seen again.
My hands trembled. “Called or not, you can’t cross the circle.” If I could keep them busy until the power faded, they’d have to leave – they couldn’t survive in this magically dry area without power – a lot of power. I looked down at the child.
She didn’t look like much.
Whatever was sitting in the shadows wasn’t fooled by her scrubby appearance. The kid had some serious magical firepower – and all the hallmarks of being completely untrained.
I had a pretty good idea of what was waiting in the shadows, and it wasn’t interested in raising the little girl as a changeling.
It would probably just eat her.
The child was completely terrified and clung to me like she hadn’t been the one calling the thrice-damned things in the first place.
I felt pressure behind me, the hair on the back of my neck raising. I tossed a pinch of salt and iron over my shoulder instead of looking – more than one type of fairy could use the faith of the action against you – the act of looking back lent it power it didn’t ordinarily have. Tossing salt over the shoulder was just good luck – and probably where the superstition came from.
I heard a hiss from behind as the iron fillings and salt hit it.
The child pulled on my sleeve. “What is that thing?”
I kept my eyes on the formless mass. “Hush. Stay still. I will explain later – if there is a later.”
Have I mentioned that I wasn’t good at dealing with small, unfinished humans?
Because I am not.
I felt the power began to dissipate and fed what little power I had left into the shields – it would cost me in a few moments, but I had a terrible feeling that – yep. I felt a jarring attack on the shield as the fey thing in the shadows clawed at the shields with brute force in a desperate attempt to finish what he’d started.
My eyesight dimmed as my hip gave out and I sunk to the forest floor, clutching the child to my side as the shield compressed around us. The rift in between healed- and the fey – realizing that his chance to return was ebbing, fled as the rift sputtered out of existence.
I looked at the child from my seat on the ground. “That was a very foolish thing to do.”
Then I promptly passed out.
I woke up hours later. A cheery fire was burning to one side and the child was poking at it with a stick.
“You should have gone home.”
“No home to go to. And besides, if I had left you, the gators would have eaten you.” She offered me a suspicious-looking bottle of water. I took a quick sip, then another.
“Someone is going to be worried about you.”
“Won’t.” I’m not much for mind-reading, but the word was packed with images that made me think the child was right.
I used a tree to haul myself up. “Put out the fire and let’s go home then.”
The kid looked up at me.
Sometime very soon, when my powers were topped off, the people from her memories would be receiving a visit from me. They would not enjoy it.
Every Christmas Eve we gather at my aunt’s house to exchange gag gifts. Unfortunately, I had to work on Christmas Day so could not stay the night. I had gotten to my aunt’s house late, so I was making the long three-hour drive home just before midnight.
My aunt lived in the country where neighbors were not visible to the eye. Mostly because she was surrounded by trees with a field or two poked in between.
The radio was still playing Christmas music, so I plugged in my iPod to listen to my cruising track. My headlights bounced off the whites lines, marking the edges of the ink black highway.
The night was so black and clear the stars peeked out like a million tiny pinholes across a deep never ending black velvety night sky.
Nights like these made me sure there so much more out there in the universe. I felt small under that dome yet connected to something bigger and more wondrous than I could ever imagine.
I flipped my car heater on low to knock the chill. The whoosh of warm arm felt nice on my arm and legs. I enjoyed the freedom of driving even at night. The time alone in the car allowed my mind to settle, think- and yes -imagine all kinds of wonderful stories I could write.
Winters in Texas were unpredictable. I left home this morning without my jacket with temperatures in the upper seventies. Tonight, there was a distinct chill in the air at fifty- two degrees.
My tires hummed, eating up the asphalt road snaking for miles through rolling black dirt farmland, fields of barley and oat, longhorn cows, and yes, some sheep. The houses set so far back off the road you could not see them unless they had lights on.
Some were just single trailers in vast fields of crop. Many had fence lined or tree lined driveways that went straight back for a mile or more.
My favorite was about half-way to my aunt’s house. It was an old house that had been around since the 1800’s and set off the road about half a mile. They decorated for Christmas, and you could see it a mile before you arrive across the open fields. I was on the last leg of my drive home.
There were no other cars. This late at night and on a holiday, the cars on these long highways were few and far between.
I heard a rackety-clack sound, followed by a loud knock. My little white Kia jerked as if something fell out from under the car.
The engine sputtered.
I coasted to the roadside. Turning the key trying to restart. I heard a couple of clicks than nothing.
I was grateful I always kept a flashlight in the car. I popped the hood. The engine looked intact. I shone the light on the dark road behind me. I saw nothing that looked like it had fallen out, but I guess it could have rolled of the road out of sight.
The night loomed darker and a little ominous despite the starry sky on the country roadside. There were no houses in sight from where I had rolled to a stop.
I fiddled with the battery and checked the water. I inspected my tires, which looked fine, despite the loud noise I had heard.
I went back to my car and tried to call for help using my cell phone. It didn’t work. No service. I walked a little ways from the car trying to get some bars, but did not want to go too far away.
It was then I realized I had forgotten to charge it before I left my aunt’s. I got back in the car to charge it. My car charger was missing. I always kept it in the car. Did someone take it? I searched the car, even checked the trunk.
Nothing. I guess I was walking if a car didn’t come by soon. I got out and looked up and down an empty highway and started to get back in the car to wait.
Held my breath.
The night lit like day, as I was pinned pointed by a oval light brighter than daylight. My mind screamed don’t look as I forced my eyes skyward despite the brightness. I expected it to blind.
The light fluctuated. I could just make out a saucer-shaped craft hovering above me. It’s radius at least a block wide. Multi-colored strobe lights danced in a circle around its circumference.
It was the beam from its center that created the illusion of daylight. A sharp piercing sound made me cover my ears. My stomach rolled, the room begin to spin, and then nothing.
I couldn’t move.
Was I dead?
How much time had passed? I had to blink a few times. I was staring up at bug-eyed- like lights, making think of a honeycomb. I felt cold to the bone.
My arms, legs, body were all free, yet I couldn’t move. I could see nothing holding me down. I lay on some metal bed-table.
Had they given me some kind of drug? My heart hammered. I caught movement to my right through my peripheral vision.
I must be dreaming. Tallish, steeple-like, white big-eyed bipeds were milling around the room carrying royal rainbow colored geometric-shaped boxes. I counted three, taking several deep breaths.
Yeah, I was afraid, but THINK!
I was a 911 Dispatcher, a first responder, for goodness sake. I’ve listened to horrible things and kept my cool. I could do this.
Another deep breath. Exhale.
I tried my voice and sounded like a raspy frog.
“Hey, I need some help. Can someone help me?
“Hey, I need to pee.”
That didn’t phase them either.
They probably couldn’t understand English. I was able to turn my head a little now.
I wasn’t the only human in the room. I could see other beds with small people in green and red costumes, also not moving. Children? The faces looked too old.
On my left lay a large deer with huge 5-point horns.
A jolly voice said, “I am afraid Juneta that Christmas has been abducted this year.”
“You know my name?” The sound of the other voice relaxed me a bit.
“I know everyone’s name. Including the aliens.” He chuckled. “Ho, Ho, Ho, Merry Alien Christmas!”
“Santa Claus? You’re not real.” Yet there he lay, prone like me in red suite, white hair and beard, and yes beer belly.
His blue eyes dance and his belly jiggled despite his prone state, as he tried to get his breath, and control his deep laughter.
It’s a pleasure to welcome
Author H. R. Sinclair here today as part of her tour from with MC Book Tours
featuring her book, OSCAR, THE APPREHENSIVE APPARITION, to be
released the first week of October.
This is a Chapter Book for
ages 5 through 8 but is a delight to read no matter your age. If you’ve ever
enjoyed Casper, then you’ll be glad you got to know Oscar.
Oscar, the Apprehensive
By H. R. Sinclair
Chapter Book for Ages 5-8
*42 pages, black and white
*Print book: 6.99
*Release date: Oct 3
Oscar the ghost dwells
happily in his cozy cottage, where he hides from creatures that lurk in the
dark. After a mysterious message arrives, he must find the courage to go out
and discover what’s waiting for him. Can he do it? Or will the monsters get him?
Oscar, the Apprehensive
available to purchase at the following links:
An expansive mini-guide for structuring your short story.
Structure and Character in the Short Story
Let’s talk about short story creation and structure.
· A short story typically has 1500 to a 7500-words. You need to always read and follow submission guidelines when submitting stories.
· Flash Fiction has around 500 to a 1000-words.
These tips tailored for — but not limited, to stories 3000 to 4000 words.
· You need a character with a deep need or desire. Something that they will fight or struggle to get or resist. They need an external need/desire and an internal need/desire. This need or want is intertwined with the character’s core motivation for their actions and choices, consciously or subconsciously, good or bad. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
· Your character needs resistance, and by that, I mean something, someone, situation or event, that prevents them from fulfilling their deep need or desire. This resistance generates conflict for the forward story movement.
Clarify and simplify your character’s personality with a one-word description tool to capture character essence while you write. Describe them with one word to help you create a concept in your mind to use as a guide. ex: hopeless romantic, avenging mailman, nervous bank teller, guilty father, cranky bus driver.
Decide on setting. Setting can be snow at Christmas, or in the middle of Walmart, or a rainy day Monday, or waiting for a bus at the bus terminal.
Or a situation can also serve as both setting, location, and generate general conflict ideas: A bank robbery or shopping for toilet paper during the Corvid19 pandemic.
Start a short story as close to the end and in the action as possible.
What is a story hook? Why use it? A hook is something that is special about your story that grabs the reader’s attention keeps them reading. A hook is story-based through ideas and concepts directly connect to the story world. Suggested reading: Active Hooks.
In short stories, the hook works somewhat like the inciting incident in novel plotting. You want to grab them in the first couple of lines or by the first and second paragraphs.
Use strong verbs such as batter, blab, growl, gush, shimmer.
The purpose of a scene is to show a moment in the life of the character within the story world moving toward the story end goal.
Story Movement — Rising Action
The rising action is a series of actionable scenes leading up to the climax of a story.
The word limits of short stories do not leave a lot of room for characterization, setting, and conflict. That means you have to be selective in word choice and limit your conflict.
The rising action begins at the beginning of any story. Actions and choices, when presented with resistance, move your character toward the story’s high point. (Novels structure refers to this as the climax — turning point.)
Short stories, unlike novels, will only have two or three of these moments until the turning point because of word limits.
Conflict In Story: Resistance
The purpose of all conflict in stories is to move the story forward toward the end story goal or scene story goal.
Conflict is NOT something random happening or daily routine.
Conflict is anything that stands in the way of your character reaching their greatest desire or need creating change within the character and/or outside the character or story world.
Conflict is generated and sustained through the choices and actions your character takes when blocked by the resistance, keeping them from the thing they desire or need most.
The High Point or Climax
The climax is somewhere in the middle of ANY story. Everything after that will be falling action moving the character toward the resolution or end story goal.
The climax is the highest pivotal moment or emotional point signifying a change in direction or heart in the story. It is the moment when your character realizes how much they have to lose.
It also clarifies and solidifies all rising action to this point leaving, no doubt why this is happening or happened.
The character is all in — no turning back win or lose.
In short stories, this is often the dark night of the soul too or followed, in short, by the dark night of the soul because of limited word counts. The falling action then is the events that move the story toward the end goal or resolution.
Falling action occurs after the climax and sets a tone opposite of rising action cueing the reader the end approaches.
In a short story, you may have two or just one falling action moment, conflict — resistance, before the resolution. The falling action is the journey to the wrap-up. You tie up loose ends giving the reader closure for the story.
A Summary of Short Story Structure
The beginning = Setup a character with a problem in setting
The rising resistance = A character faced with choices and prevented from reaching or achieving their deepest desire or need. (Obstacles to overcome internal and/or external.)
The climax= This is the highest point in the story. It is created by the rising action forcing the character to go all-in with no turning back.
The falling action = The journey and resistance to reach the end tying up all unfinished elements moving to the story resolution.
The resolution= The problem is solved through the characters, choices or actions, achieving their deepest desire or need or accepting the loss. All loose ends are resolved. It may also show a brief glimpse of the character in this new world created by their journey and choices.
Here are some free tools to help you create characters and guide story structure.
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