Tuesday, July 27, 2010


This month I'm going to try something different--mix it up a little.  I'm going to post the 4 top finalists, then let the readers decide which one should win.  This is an experiment, so let's see how it turns out.  Depending on how it goes, I might keep it this way or switch it back or change it again, who knows.  Inevitably my only goal is to give writers a place to get their work scene. Deadline is Saturday, July 31st.

Below are the 4 finalists and there's a poll to the right with the corresponding letters to vote for.  Good luck to the finalists and thanks to all who submitted there was some terrific scenes which didn't make the final 4. 

A- Leah Petersen:

She brought her lips to his again. “I love you,” she murmured, her lips whispering against his.

He stiffened and pulled back just enough that she could see his face. His eyes were wide.

And why not, at such a shocking declaration? She was young, and beautiful, and heir to lands and titles and fortunes. And what was he?

He was dead.

His body slid to the floor with the gracefulness she’d loved in him. The life in his eyes was already gone. It had been very quick. She was accurate in everything she did.

She slid her knife from his breast and wiped it clean on her own skirt. All of the other times she had used the clothes of her victim and what did it matter to them? But this time it mattered, to her.

Matthew would make her pay for this, make her howl until she had no more voice and still he would hurt her. She hadn’t failed, she had defied him.

She could have made the boy suffer, as she’d been told. She could have made him die slowly and in terrible pain. She knew she was capable of it. So there was some victory in this. That she had killed her lover quickly and painlessly not out of weakness, but by choice.

She stood and looked down at him.

One tear escaped and she brushed it away, not realizing that she’d replaced the tear track with a smear of his blood.

B- Lindy Rahn

They picked up her things and began along the pier towards the Sydney Aquarium, holding hands. Luke’s grasp made her feel safe and comfortable. It was the one thing that had been missing and now she had it back.

‘How did you find me?’ she asked, curious. After James, Flora had made very sure that she would only be found be those she wanted to find her. A very small list of people had access to her whereabouts.

‘As soon as Juli cancelled the wedding, I ditched my job and went back to Perth only to discover that you’d taken leave and were off travelling. I’ve been following you ever since with the help of PJ and Louise. They forwarded me the emails you sent to them.’ He held up his Blackberry waggling it in the air. The wonders of modern technology. Then he regarded her sternly, ‘you know, if you were a regular twenty something it would have been easy to find you… I could have just checked your Facebook status or sent you a text. But not you. Tell me again why you don’t have a mobile phone?’

Flora was silent. They both knew she didn’t trust mobiles anymore. Still, she smiled, ‘Well, it’s lucky I’m not a regular girl. Then you’d never have loved me.’

‘What do you mean ‘loved?’ I love you more than I ever did, even though I never said it… and Flora?’


Luke fell to his knees. There, in the middle of the queue to see the seals, he gazed up into her aqua eyes as the crowd around them began to clap and cheer. ‘I don’t ever want to be apart from you again. I want to marry you.’

Flora could feel the tears welling. ‘Is this the part where I say ‘yes’?’


‘Hmm. Well, alright, but on one condition.’

‘Oh God.’ He hoped she wasn’t going to make him dress in some stupid top hat and tails or something. ‘What?’

‘We need to go back to Enrico’s before the wedding so you can learn to waltz. Your timing really sucks.’

C- Cyndi Tefft

A hazy sheen of smoke was visible in the moonlit room, wispy tendrils silently jostling one another for space on the ceiling. “Oh shit!” I cried, my mind finally coming up to speed. I leapt out of bed and raced down the stairs. The acrid stench of smoke filled my lungs and burned my eyes as I grabbed the fire extinguisher from behind the refrigerator. I batted at the smoke with my free hand and it taunted me, moving away and then quickly circling back. I pulled the pin on the extinguisher and squeezed the handle, praying that it would work. A spray of white foam poured from the container and I swept it back and forth over the base of the flames.

My eyes were watering uncontrollably and I squeezed them shut, focusing all my energies on putting out the fire. My arms and legs began to shake as the extinguisher spit out its final droplets of foam. I scrambled over the floor toward the door, tripping on the footstool and knocking my forehead against the hardwood floor. Crawling on my hands and knees, I strained to make it to the door to the outside deck. The suffocating pressure in my chest held me in place and I reached out in desperation before my arm fell limp and all strength was gone.


I called to him in my mind with my last conscious thought, then surrendered to the dense grey fog that consumed me.

D- Ali Koomen

“Is it you? Is it really you?”

The girl nodded. “My name is Mallory, and you are my mother.”

Geneva’s hand went to her mouth. It was impossible to take her eyes from her daughter’s face. Eventually, she recalled Scott’s presence and turned to him. “Scott, I don’t—”

“Please, don’t be angry with him,” Mallory said. “I knew I was adopted--when I was twelve, I found the adoption papers. I have always known something was missing. I’ve always wanted to find my birth parents, and now you have found me.” She paused, her voice heavy with tears. “Scott told me about how young you were, and how he wanted you to get an abortion. But you were so brave, travelling to a country halfway across the world. I’ve had a wonderful life, almost a fairytale existence, something I would not have known had you not been so courageous. Thank you, for loving me so much, for being so selfless.”

Geneva looked at Scott. “Thank you,” she whispered. He nodded his head in acknowledgement.

Mallory looked from one to the other. “I think that you two need to continue to find your way back to each other. If nothing else, could you do that for me?”

Scott looked at Geneva, and she could see the old daring-do in his eyes. She turned to her firstborn, and said what parents have said since the beginning of time, when they’re not completely certain of the outcome:

“We’ll see, dear. We’ll see.”

Sunday, July 18, 2010

WAITING (Guest Post by Luke Romyn)

Here's what you need to know about Luke Romyn:  He lives in Cairns, Australia, between the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest. He's an extremely talented writer (I read The Dark Path and slept with the lights on for two weeks).  He spent 15 years in the security business only to jump into the most insecure business available--publishing.  Below are his thoughts on the subject of WAITING: 


Every writer who has tried to get their work published in any way, shape or form knows what I’m talking about.


Aspiring authors, prepare yourself for the wondrous world of limbo which exists between completing your work, polishing it to perfection, submitting it to whatever or whoever you have chosen will be honored with receiving such a wondrous gift of imagination and skill and –




Sometimes you’ll get that letter. You know the one. It’s the stamped, self addressed envelope you sent away with your submission, which you yearn to open and yet dread to see what it’ll say. We always open it, hoping it’ll say our dreams are about to come true.


Your world crashes down around you and you never, ever want to write another thing ever again, but being the eternal optimist you are you send off another submission the next day… and the next time… and every time you get that rejection. Because you’re a writer.

Writers are not only people born with perfect diction, nor are they always fantastical wordsmiths who can create vistas beyond the imaginings of mere mortals by threading their multi-syllable words together in such ways to break through new barriers in the art of articulation.


A writer is something else entirely. A writer wakes each day yearning to express themselves through words, their mind and imagination screaming for release through the power of strikes on a keyboard or the scribbling of pen on paper. Other skills which they may require can be learned, but the heart of a writer remains the same, regardless of their background, ethnicity, education or religion.

Because they are the ones who will fight through those rejections, battling self doubt and endure the endless –


– forever with the hope that one day, just one time, that letter will contain the one word which will have made all the pain and stress worthwhile. Three letters each and every writer universally yearn to hear:


Wednesday, July 7, 2010


Over the years I've seen discussions in magazines and on blogs about the intrinsic difference between a short story and a novel.  This might seem trite but the answer is more than just length.  A short story is usually one or two scenes.  That's it.  And don't waste your time telling us he had green eyes and brown hair and a cute mole on the tip of her earlobe.  The clock is ticking.  You need to begin with a conflict.  The protagonist has to overcome a challenge and we'd better discover that pretty soon.  Normally short stories are around 2500-3500 words, so don't dilly-dally.  I'm not saying you can't set the scene with a full moon or a distant howl from a coyote.  That's okay, as long as it's taking us somewhere. 

I've been fortunate enough to have published quite a few short stories (many are available in full on my website) and everyone of them starts with dilemma.  A clairvoyant patient visits a psychiatrist because she hears aliens discussing the destruction of the planet.  A man gets arrested because he can't handle the stress of his job and that's the only place he can find respite.  These are just two of the ideas I turned into stories. 

The novel, however, requires an entirely different pace.  Now just because you have more time to develop your characters please resist the temptation to describe your protagonist through a glance at a mirror, or someone commenting on their green eyes, brown hair, or cute mole on the tip of her earlobe.  You'd better start with some form of conflict pretty quick and keep that tension going throughout the novel.  The difference is the conflict probably won't get resolved for a few hundred pages instead of fifteen.  Does anyone know what Jack Reacher really looks like?  We know he's big, and that's about it.  Lee Child doesn't waste time with such insignificant details.  We know the shape of the road he's travelling because it will become useful at some point forward.

Now all of this pertains to most genre fiction, so don't get all tangled up trying to make sense when it comes to romance novels, because that is a completely different animal all together.  Let's face it, the details of someone's anatomy are usually the most important part of the story.

Of course the best advice is to study the short story before churning one out.  There's plenty of great fiction in today's literary magazines and journal's.  Just remember, start strong and finish strong.  What did you think I was going to say on a blog named Strong Scenes.