Three-sentence horror story: HONEYMOON

Hile, inklings!

If you recall, I recently wrote a three-sentence horror story for a flash fiction contest.

Sadly, I didn’t win. But that’s the breaks, right? Loss of hypothetical glory notwithstanding, the three-sentence fiction concept has continued percolating in my brain these several weeks and brought forth the richness of IDEA: Ima start posting three-sentence short stories here on a semi-regular basis, and y’all can let me know what you think of ’em. It should be great story-telling practice for me (and Grabthar knows I need it), and I hope it’ll be fun for you. Yay! Everybody wins!

Except for the cheetahs. They never prosper.

Of course, I might do this just the one time and then forget that I thought of it. (This might be what “semi-regular basis” really means.) Guess you’ll just have to hide and watch.

So, without further ado or adon’t, here’s my newest three-sentence horror story. Enjoy. (They won’t all be horror, by the way. The first two just happen to be.)

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HONEYMOON

by Courtney Cantrell

When he came to, it was pitch black.

His shaking fingers soon discovered that she’d gouged out his eyes.

But worse, no matter how he screamed, the floor beneath him would not stop writhing.

THE END

Three-sentence horror story: MOTHER

This story is my entry in author Chuck Wendig’s “Flash Fiction Challenge: Horror in Three Sentences”.

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MOTHER

by Courtney Cantrell

Once upon a time, there was a kind young woman who gained the power to know all and do all.

As she looked out across the helpless sea of her former fellow humans, she smiled.

They needed her, and she was going to take care of them.

THE END

Writing Prompts for Sci-Fi and Horror

Hile, writers all!

Remember last week when I told you about my friend and fellow indie Tony Healey’s call for sci-fi and horror short stories? Remember? REMEMBER?

If you don’t remember, I hope you’ll click on the link and peruse and ponder Tony’s invitation. This thing is gonna be a blast, and I can’t wait to see how it all comes together!

What? Oh, yeah. I’ve told Tony to count me in. Yes, I know I keep talking about blah blah writing time is limited blah. (Tell me if you get that reference; I’d love to hobnob.) But I’m thinking a deadline (October) might spur me on to finishing my WIP and getting a fairly decent short story together.

I’m thinking I’ll do a Grace and Jack story. Those two are always up for some sci-fi, and Grace pretty much put the spec in specfic. So we’ll see what I can cook up.

In the meantime, Tony has graciously provided a fabulous list of sci-fi and horror writing prompts. I think they’re all helpful — each one triggered in me a hey-I-can-do-something-with-this. But of course I do have some faves. Here are a few of them:

From Tony Healey’s “Some Writing Prompts”:

What is your favourite SF movie? How would you have made that movie even better?

What is the most effective Horror novel you’ve ever read?

Why did it work, and where did it fall down? How would YOU have tackled it?

What scares you? What keeps you awake at night? [Courtney’s note: I especially like this one, as I take it to mean more than the typical monster-under-bed, spiders, creepy-crawlies stuff. I take more as, you lie awake in the night wondering about the potential horrible death of your spouse or your kid and how you would handle that. Throw in something supernatural, and there’s a huge potential for horror there — more of a psychological nature than the creepies, which I think is infinitely scarier.]

Take the worst SF or Horror movie you have EVER seen. …How would you have made it…(to quote Court) CRAMAZING? [Also: Hey, I got quoted!]

Read 2 SF stories. Do the same for Horror. What did you like? What didn’t you like? How did they approach their subject matter?

A few things to think about.

A few things to think about, indeed! Click through to read the rest of the prompts and get to thinkin! And then get those fingers writin’ or typin’. There’s a specfic anthology to make!

ANNOUNCING: #Specfic #Horror #SF Short Stories Wanted!

Best-selling Far From Home Series author Tony Healey has put out a call for short stories. He’s publishing an anthology for charity in November and is taking submissions in speculative fiction, horror, and sci-fi. Here are the details from Tony himself:

TITLE: TO BE DECIDED

AGENDA: Charity anthology of Speculative / Horror / SF short stories with 100% of proceeds to go to The Cystic Fibrosis Trust

WHAT I’M LOOKING FOR: One short story per person in the speculative, horror and SF genres no longer than 10,000 words. They can be previously published work, provided you have the rights to allow me to reuse them. For unpublished new work, it should be the best you can get it, although all new stories will go through an editorial process.

EXPLANATION: I am looking to put together an anthology of speculative, horror and SF stories to raise funds for The Cystic Fibrosis Trust.

As this is a charity anthology, I cannot offer any form of payment. You will be submitting your work in the knowledge that it will be used to raise money for a charitable cause. However, you will be able to publish your story elsewhere, independent of the anthology. And, if the anthology is as successful as I hope it will be, you will gain free promotion of your own work from its sale.

I am in contact with an artist I have admired for years, who worked on numerous famous book covers in the 70’s. I’m hopeful that he will allow me to reuse a piece of his for the front cover.

I will be contacting several well known authors, both traditionally and independently published, to see if they will be willing to either contribute a new piece of fiction, or allow me to reprint something already published.

Note that in the case of work being reprinted where it has already been published, I will accept it ‘as is,’ i.e. there will be no edits required or requested.

The anthology will be professionally edited, formatted and will have a professional cover. It will be a Kindle exclusive. There will be regular updates on my site www.tonyhealey.com regarding how many copies of the anthology have sold, and how much has been raised.

HOW TO SUBMIT: Email me at tonyleehealey@gmail.com with ANTHOLOGY in the subject line and your story as an attachment. The deadline will be the end of October, 2013 for a January 2014 release.

So, there you have it, folks. Get your short story engines revved up and let those writing fingers fly!

Arachnophobia

It was this big. I swear.

It was this big. I swear.

Me: Horror is feeling a tickle on your thumb and looking down to see a spider crawling on it.

Ed: Did that happen?

Me: Yes.

Ed: To you?

Me: Yes.

Ed: Just now?

Me: Yes.

Ed: I apologize.

Me: Thank you. Now kill this earwig for me.

________________________

(This is not to diminish what’s going on in my city right now. I needed a moment of comic relief.)

I have a To-Read List. Let me show you it.

Once upon a time, in case you’d forgotten, I shared with you my To-Read Shelf.

Go on. Click through, look at the pic that goes with that post, and then come back here.

Now look at the pic that goes with this post. Please to be noticing the only slight difference.

This is many words.

Some of those books are even still the same ones that were on the shelf last December. *sigh*

And you know what’s worse? The Shelf isn’t the only place where I store books I want to read.

Since September 6, 2011, I’ve also kept a written list of book. And today, Ima share that with you, too.

Do note, my dear inklings, that the To-Read Shelf and the To-Read List contain mostly different titles. The Shelf holds books I’ve acquired to read. The List holds books I have yet to acquire.

Again… *sigh*

Such is the Writing Life: so many books to read / write, and so very little time.

Anyway, without further ado or adon’t, here ya go. The List is heavy on the sci-fi and fantasy (surprise, surprise), but if you look closely, you’ll find some classics and some non-fic tucked away in there, too.

Courtney’s To-Read List

begun September 6, 2011

This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti
My Soul to Keep by Melanie Wells
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
Shadows in Flight by Orson Scott Card
Sisterhood of Dune by Brian Herbert
Sorceror by James Byron Huggins
With Fate Conspire by Marie Brennan
The Princess Curse by Merrie Haskell
The Taker by Alma Katsu
Stealing Faces by Michael Prescott
Terroryaki by Jennifer K. Chung
Those Across the River by Christopher Buehlman
Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
Night of the Living Dead Christian by Matt Mikalatos
Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby
Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel
Beta Test by Eric Griffith
My Life as a White Trash Zombie by Diana Rowland
Wild Seed by Octavia Butler
Winterling by Sarah Prineas
Devil’s Lair by David Wiseheart
The Rook by Daniel O’Malley
Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed
Divergent by Veronica Roth
The Bible Made Impossible by Christian Smith
The Troupe by Robert Jackson Bennett
Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire
Starters by Lissa Price
The Alchemist of Souls by Anne Levy
The Maze Runner by James Dashner
Above by Leah Bobet
Indigo Springs by A. M. Dellamonica
Enchanted by Alethea Kontis
God Behaving Badly by David Lamb
Silence by Michell Sagara
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Kop Killer by Warren Hammond
For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund
The Best of Evil by Eric Wilson
Thieftaker by D. B. Jackson
Skylark by Meagan Spooner
Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines
The Grass King’s Concubine by Kari Sperring
Clockwork Angel by Kevin J. Anderson (story & lyrics by Neil Peart)
Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman
Dracula, The Un-Dead by Dacre Stoker & Ian Holt
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
World without End by Ken Follett
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
The Worthing Saga by Orson Scott Card
Club Dead by Charlaine Harris
Paul of Dune by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson
Sandworms of Dune by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson
Beyond the Shadows by Brent Weeks
Wizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind
Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings
Zombie Notes: A Study Guide to the Best in Undead Literary Classics by Laurie Rozakis
Death: A Life with George Pendle
A Scanner Darkly: A Graphic Novel by Philip K. Dick
Prey by Michael Crichton

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So, there you have it. The list is subject to change from one day to the next — admittedly, change by increase in length. I don’t think I’ve decreased it at all since I started it, mainly because other good reads keep dropping into my lap. Oh, and speaking of good reads Goodreads, you can always visit my page there to see what I’ve read and what I’m currently reading.

Back to The List, though: Which of those books are you interested in? Which ones have you read? Which ones have you already read and found UPDA* and why? Which ones would you warn me away from and why? Let’s talk!

*UPDA = unputdownable

Harlan Ellison, Alan Dean Foster…and Courtney Cantrell

YEAH BABY.

I’ve known for just over 48 hours, and I’m sure it hasn’t really sunk in yet. But, lack of sink-innage notwithstanding, I’m a-gonna blare it out to the world anyway:

Around Christmas of this year, I shall have a story in the SAME short story collection as HARLAN ELLISON and ALAN DEAN FOSTER.

As my friend Josh (who’s gonna have a story in the same collection) says,

“This is what we in the business call a pretty big deal.”

In case you’re unaware, dear inklings, Ellison and Foster both are so well-known in the sci-fi world, it would be downright silly for me to tell you about them here. Really that’s why God gave us Google and Wikipedia. Thus, if you go get Googwikified over these two gents, you’ll find out everything you need to know.

But. I’ll say this much: Ellison has been in the writing biz since the late 1950s, and Foster made me fall in love with him when I read his “Pip and Flinx” novels as a teen. If that gives you even a slight reference point for my excitement, we are good to go.

So! The short story collection in question is KINDLE ALL-STARS: RESISTANCE FRONT, the brainchile of one Bernard J. Schaffer.

Sometime around three months ago, Bernard put out an intarwebz call for short stories: He wanted to do a ground-breaking anthology to showcase independent authors in today’s e-media. The “resistance” aspect of the project refers to our collective determination no longer to let the traditional publishing model squelch our writerly voices. Bernard writes,

“Whole generations of authors have been lost to us because they could not penetrate the murky swamps of corporate publishing. I imagine all the works of art that we’ll never know of simply because the vicious cycle of query-letter, agent, synopsis, publisher, book-seller, and eventual consumer did not work out for that individual.

“When an industry coins a phrase like ‘Slush Pile’ to reflect their opinion of where your work belongs, you get a pretty clear idea of your place in their world.”

You might imagine, my darlings, that every word of this resonates with me. : ) Not only that, but the proceeds of the project all go to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. These people find kidnapped kids and fight child porn. No question that I can get on board with that!

So. Longish story shortened, I finished up the short story I’d been working on and sent it in to Bernard. He sent it back with edits, and I had a mild freak-out while my writer self dealt with the knowledge that I’d not only sent my work to a total stranger, but now he was asking me to change it. And I mean change it. The dude wanted me to clip an entire thread from the story. And it was a thread I happened to like. Zoinks.

In the meantime, I found out that Ellison and Foster both had donated stories to the project. So now, if I got in, I’d be getting in with Ellison and Foster.

Have I mentioned that this is kind of a big deal?

Here I am, trying to edit and re-write a story, and the deal just keeps getting bigger and bigger. No pressure, right? I had to get over myself — no, really, I had to get over my fear. Why does it always come back to that?

Fear holds me back again and again. This time, it was fear of rejection…and maybe even a little fear of success. I have no idea where all of this might lead. But some possible future paths aren’t necessarily grand.

But I sucked it up, did my re-write, sent it back to Bernard — and waited. Ten days, y’all. I kept telling people it wouldn’t ruin my day if my story got rejected in the end…but that was only a half-truth. I wanted this bad. And during those 10 days, the fear kicked in again.

I rode it out. Did other stuff. Painted a crimson dragon. Published a whole magazine. You know, the usual. ; )

Then, two nights ago, the final participant announcements rolled in over Twitter, and I was on the list. Even better, Josh was on the list, too. Spider Robinson Wisdom ruled my personal celebration:

“Shared pain is lessened; shared joy, increased -— thus do we refute entropy.”

I love it when entropy takes one in the kisser.

For the record, applying Bernard’s feedback to my story was fun, once I got over myself. (Strangely enough, I’m wanting to paraphrase Pumbaa from The Lion King: “once I put my behind in my past”; but I don’t think it really applies here.) As I trimmed and re-wrote and copypasted, I saw a startling new shape emerge from the story…and it was a shape I very much appreciated.

It was the shape of a story that was better for the changing. Having an editor’s feedback made me a better writer for the story. Who’d a-thunk? ; )

My horror short “If This Were a Stephen King Story” will appear in Kindle All-Stars: Resistance Front in December 2011.

“Few projects slung my way, these days of electronic idiocy and bad writing, can perk me up and get the fireworks. This is one of the best, sweetest ideas I’ve heard in years. Nothing but the smiles of Success are due the project, the people putting it together, and the good kids who will benefit from every penny garnered. I am 100% and a bag of marmosets behind it!”
— Harlan Ellison.

“Growing up, I had access to all the books I wanted to read, and they made my life. This is a project to benefit kids who have nothing. I can think of no better cause.”
— Alan Dean Foster

This really swings my verge, y’all. : )

Get Shorty

So, in case you haven’t seen me mention it on Twitter, I’m tickled pink to be involved in The Consortium‘s upcoming short story magazine publication.

In fact, I’ve been so tickled pink about it, I dug out the former prologue to one of my high fantasy novels, intending to use said former prologue as my short story submission. After a fair bit of clean-up, you understand.

But.

After some pondering and some hob-nobbing with fellow writerly types, I’ve come to the conclusion that said former prologue does not best serve my needs at this time.

I.e., as a “short story,” said former prologue sucks.

Dash it all.

So. There was only one solution.

Like Aaron recommended in his blog just last week, I cut the prologue. Again.

Instead of using the former-prologue-now-turned-former-short-story, I’m now writing a real, honest-to-goodness, gen-yoo-wine short story. For the first time ever.

Yeah, I’ve written “short stories” before — but they were more like interesting scenes instead of narratives with definite, short-story-like structure. In my previously penned short fiction, I have never practiced what I’ve preached, namely the principle of Learn The Rules First And Only Then Break Them.

In my short fiction, I’ve never bothered with the rules until now.

So, what rules am I following?

Well, first off, I’m obeying KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid. I’m sticking to one genre — high fantasy — instead of writing the kind of horror-fantasy-scifi-thriller-literary-fiction mish-mash for which I have a penchant.

Blast those penchants. They get me every time.

Where was I? Oh. KISS. Right. *mwah*

I’m also leaning heavily on the following structure, gleaned mostly from stuff Aaron recommends and stuff one of his master’s degree profs recommends:

  • Scene (1,500 – 2,000 words): protagonist in direct conflict with antagonist; protagonist sort of gets what s/he wants, but there’s a loose end or two
  • Sequel (500 – 1,000 words): protagonist reflects on emotional impact of what’s happened; this is also a good place for limited info dump; protagonist communicates the stakes to the reader
  • Climax (2,500 words): runs the gamut of protagonist’s Choice, Decision, Action, Dark Moment (in which all seems lost), Reversal (in which most [but not all] is regained), and Reward.

I started the story on Sunday, and I finished it this afternoon. The first draft clocks in at right around 4,300 words. It’s about 1,500 words shorter than I thought it would be when I started — but my hero kind of moved faster than I’d anticipated. Ah well. We’ll see if the next draft brings along more wordage.

This is a very new sort of writing adventure for me — one of which I’ve always been leery. I’ve never delved deep into short fiction because most of the time, my short stories go from cute little hatchlings to massive, epic, flyings beasts in the space of about two days. At least in my head.

So, come to think of it, I don’t need this new story to have a wordage growth spurt. It’s pretty fine and dandy at 4,300 words, thank ye kindly.

Part of this new adventure will be to write *more* short stories over the course of the next month or so. I’ll keep you posted on how that goes.

*sigh* What have I gotten myself into?

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What about you, dear inklings? Got a short story fetish? Got some short story fears? Let’s hear ’em! I’d love to know I’m not the only one with this weird hang-up. ; )