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Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Accidental Short Story

A topic that's come up in my writing group is blogging. (Apparently I'm the resident "expert".) I invited one of the members, M.J. Lovgren, to try her hand at writing a blog post. Let us know what you think... 



I saw myself as a novelist, and pooh-poohed short fiction – even though I loved reading it. Then I started writing short stories by accident. Here are some of the things I learned.

Making things shorter can be difficult. As Henry David Thoreau observed, “Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short.”

A novel, by its very nature, allows the writer more time and more room. Short stories have to entice the reader and make a point within the same rules – a beginning (inciting incident), a middle (main story), and an end (climax and denouement). They just have to do it faster.

Even the definition of what is “short” can vary.  It can be as concise as flash fiction or almost as long as a novella. I’d put Alice Munro in the second category. (And she won the Nobel Prize for short stories.) Yet, one of my favorites is “Dinosaur,” a lovely 300 word tale published by Flash Fiction Online and The Sun.

Here’s the accident part.

I didn’t start out to write a short story. I simply wanted to take a little side trip to discover more about my novel’s antagonist. A nasty piece of work, William was (and is) a middle-aged sociopathic killer. I just couldn’t grasp what made him tick, even though I had done plenty of research. It is generally thought that sociopaths (aka psychopaths) are born not made.

So I tried writing about him as a pre-teen. His anger and frustration with his next door neighbor, Mary Ellen, came pouring out of the computer. The short story is set in the same place and time I experienced as an eleven-year-old tomboy. But this time it’s William and Mary Ellen climbing the trees in the vacant lot behind my house. What happens next told me how William viewed the world and what motivated his actions.

This is one way to develop a back story and biography for a main character – something we are continually advised to do. Approaching this in the usual way, i.e. answering standard questions about the character, didn’t work for me. I found it tedious and boring. But turning this exercise into a short story made me immediately understand this character who had been so elusive.

So, if you find you’re stuck trying to make a character come alive, and the conventional methods don’t work, try writing a short story about him or her. You might like it!

Posted by M.J. Lovgren

...And for what it's worth, I've read a good portion of this novel, and William is... scary...

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Time & Circumstance by Theresa Milstein

Today we welcome Theresa Milstein to the blog for the release of her new book, Time & Circumstance. She's been kind enough to give us a "what if?", and scroll to the bottom to enter her contest. 

What if you could control time? What would I do?

If I wanted to control time for my own gains, I could buy stock in Apple when it was low or something like that to make me rich. Then I could write full time, have a cool place to live in the city, and a nice house on the beach.

Or if I wanted to control time so I had more time, I could slow it down and finish all the to-do items on my list. My stress level would go down. Weekends could be mine again!

If I could control time, I would love to relive special moments. One example is the trip my family took to Paris many years ago. We each picked on thing that we wanted to do. My daughter chose the Eiffel Tower. Her face lit up when we rounded a corner and it first appeared before her. I took a photo to capture it. My son chose the Arc de Triomphe. I enjoyed watching him stare at all the details up close. The last night we ate at a restaurant that served all of our favorite foods. I would love to relive that trip again.

Many poems in my collection are about recollecting a poignant period of time in my life: “1986,” “First Apartment,” “Un-Perfect Moment,” “Measure,” “Concert,” and “Summer Song.” For me, writing vignettes help me capture those all-too-fleeting moments.


“The trunk of this family is lost to history / Photo fragments remain as shadows”

With subtle wit, and poignant imagery, the unrelenting passage of time connects the vignettes in Theresa Milstein’s Time and Circumstance. This reflective collection of real and imagined poetry and prose, speculates on an erratic childhood, the uncertainty of adolescence, and the reality of parenthood, through flashbacks of love lost and found.

“This everyday, why again, sometimes / ignored tune has measured time in notes, / seconds, minutes, days, years, and so it goes. / It’s a measure of the man he will become.”

TIME & CIRCUMSTANCE is available.







About the author:

Theresa Milstein writes middle grade and YA, but poetry is her secret passion. Her vignette collection, TIME & CIRCUMSTANCE, will be published by Vine Leaves Press in March 21, 2017. She lives near Boston Massachusetts with her husband, two children, a dog-like cat, and a cat-like dog. For her day job, she works as a special education teacher in a public school, which gives her ample opportunity to observe teens and tweens in their natural habitat.


Leave a comment, and you’re eligible to win a prize during my blog tour! 

1 $25 Amazon gift card
1 signed paperback copy
1 ebook

Answer the question:
“If you could relive any moment in time, what would it be?”


Extra entries if you share on Facebook or Twitter and link it to me.
@TheresaMilstein on Twitter.
@Theresa Milstein on Facebook
#ReliveMoment or #TimeandCircumstance

Winners will be announced on April 5, 2017