Tag Archive | Maggie Duncan

Fire&Ice Sol 7/19: WINNERS

§ Rebekah says: I’ve always loved Mondays; there’s something so clean-slate and hope-filled about them. Maybe this week I’ll hit my writing targets. Maybe this week I’ll check those tiresome tasks off my list… This week I’ve a new one to add, as the ice dragon and I have each just committed to run 87 miles by our (American) Election Day Nov 3. (Whyyy did we do this? Shhhh, Self: that’s a Thursday-type question.) For now, it’s still sweet Monday, which at Fire&Ice means celebrating your stories. So Happy Monday, friends. We’re delighted to see you!

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Quick note on judging: Six pairs of judges across multiple nationalities and genres are taking turns reading your submissions (meet the judges here). As soon as each contest round closes, your stories are first stripped of all personal info before being sent on for judging. This represents our effort to maximize every story’s chances, whether it’s the first or hundredth story you’ve written. ♥ 


SOL 7’S JUDGES SAY:

Sinéad O’Hart:  Well, whew. What a crop this week. With prompts as good as these, and a wonderfully wide word count, it’s hardly a surprise that so many gems tumbled out of the story-sack. Thank you to everyone who submitted for trusting us with your work. Every time I have the honour of judging Flash! Friday it’s a privilege, and this week was no different.

The first story I want to make special mention of was the very first to cross my path – Bill Engleson‘s “A Final Flame.” I read this tale with no small amount of emotion, as to me it was about a woman at the end of her life, having suffered with a terminal illness (possibly cancer), and with the subtext that her loved one had done their best to end her pain. In the past few days, I lost a beloved family member to cancer, and so this story hit home in a special way. Sometimes, art truly can heal.

Other sparkling tales that caught my eye included James Atkinson‘s “The Breath of the Final Dragon” – such a fresh take on the dragon-fire idea, with some incredible imagery (‘lashes alive with parasites’), and a great take on the prompt of Justice. I also loved Voima Oy‘s “King Lear in the Federal Plaza,” with its evocative writing and great use of the prompts. My Sir Terry Pratchett-loving heart really enjoyed “Inspector Counterweight and the Percussive Goblin” by Geoff LePard; those characters would be more than at home in Ankh-Morpork! My Good Omens-loving heart also enjoyed Laurence D‘s “Ezekiel,” which was a fun homage to Pratchett and Gaiman’s masterwork. Mark King‘s “Where Her Soul Goes to Walk” was an important, excellent, and moving commentary on race relations and the lives of marginalised people, as was “Afire” by Michael Seese – powerful and meaningful work, a privilege to read. Maggie Duncan‘s “Kholodnoye Pravosudiye” was one of my favourites, barely missing out on an Honorary Mention. It was elegant, cold, brilliantly controlled, and I loved the subtle ‘eternal flame’ – the one burning in Gavrilla’s heart.

But, judging is a two-person process, and consensus must be reached. Luckily, Craig and I were on the same page (almost exactly) when it came to our top picks. Choosing winners and Runners Up this week was more a case of two old dragons sharing pleasantries, rather than a duel to the flame. So, without further ado…


Craig Anderson: How did time go so quick that we are back in the hot seat? Feels like just moments ago that we were judging the first round of most excellent flash fiction, and suddenly a new batch of awesome was delivered to our virtual dragon’s den. Just as before you all made it tough to pick a favorite, but it is certainly a nice problem to have when you are literally spoiled for choice.

As before, Sinéad was an absolute pleasure to judge with. We both had a long list of favorites, which made it easy to find the overlapping stories that caught both our eyes. We’d also both landed on the same winner independently, which made things a whole lot easier!

As for my own favorites, I particularly enjoyed Marsha Adams‘ “They came for me at dawn,” which spoke of a dystopian world where only a few humans remained. I love the little hints of what might have happened, always teasing the wider story, while focusing on one very specific punishment. I also loved Firdaus Parvez‘s – “The Wind,” for the swift punishment dished out by the diminutive hero. I’m such a sucker for underdogs, and Hawa fit the bill perfectly. “Sleep Well Tonight” by Edison Arcane contained a whole backstory in its brief length, and the ending was very satisfying. Plus I’m also going to sneak in a mention for Geoff LePard‘s “Inspector Counterweight and the Percussive Goblin“; I too immediately thought of STP, and that is high praise indeed!

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Singular Love by Helen Laycock

SO: This story was so fresh and interesting, with an interesting and engaging perspective that drew me in right away. Well executed, with excellent details like the blood on the character’s thigh, which let the reader infer the subtext. A story with a whole world in it, skilfully drawn.

CA: I loved how this one started, which such powerful imagery of the women all moving in sync, like white smoke. That great imagery continued throughout, with the flames gently cradling the bundle, and the meandering blood, all painting such a vivid picture of a horrifying scene. The ending added a great punch, and twisted the whole tale on its head.

The Devil’s Kitchen by Steph Ellis

SO: Again, a story which immediately leapt off the page with its fresh perspective, and one I loved because of the almost throwaway line: ‘At least they’d buried her husband where no one would find him’ – narrated so casually, yet this line is the pivot point for the whole story. Masterful!

CA: This one jumped out for squeezing not one but two twists into its brief length. It starts so casually, like a walk in the woods, so good natured, and then the casual mention of dead bodies flips the whole thing on its head. Suddenly our campers become villains, and you worry for the person that they run into, but then the story twists again and karma comes back around quickly.

RUNNER UP

Legend Renewed  by MJ Bush

SO: Craig and I both loved this one. As well as its excellent use of the prompts, this story is evocative and moving, and it is a perfect example of the type of flash fiction I love so much – a story that works perfectly just as it is, but one which shows the reader a whole world. I loved the perspective, the centuries of lore and legend and the years of heroic duty; the crashing-together of the old and the new (the world might be technologically modern, but the old monsters remain), and the final image, the ancient tool being brought back into service, the light beating back the monsters of the dark. Excellent work.

CA: I really enjoyed the way this one spoke to the nature of legends, with the story slowly shifting over time, but the core pieces staying the same. Then it shifts gears, moving towards modern convenience, until everyone forgets the reason that the legend existed in the first place. It isn’t until that modern solution fails, and the old monsters return, that they receive such a sudden reminder, and they go right back to the old ways. A great analogy for our world these days.

And now: it is our pleasure to present to you our

FIRE&ICE WINNER

PHIL COLTRANE!!!

for

Astraea

SO – Again, my fellow judge and I were unanimous in our choice! I am a sucker for SF stories, and this one was a masterclass. A tale of a battle in space, at a time unspecified, but which could be mapped onto any Earthbound conflict, it drew me in and held me. The conversational tone: ‘The war began (as such wars do) with men who neglected the lessons of history…’ was a powerful beginning to a story which culminated in the destruction of a planet in a ‘blast of searing plasma’. What clinched this for me (as well as all the other things I love in a good piece of flash – brilliant characters, the power of the story to both stand alone and show us a larger world, and emotional heft) was the excellent ending, with an old-tech weapon being used in a new-tech world. Such an interesting and clever detail, the perfect showstopper ending for a perfect story.

CA –I loved this one right away, but I am a sucker for great sci-fi, so when Sinéad had short-listed it as a potential winner too I was absolutely thrilled! As with all great sci-fi it has a great mix of old and new, of history and imagination. The repetition of (as such wars do) was such a great way to bookend the global conflict in just a couple of sentences. So much is conveyed in so few words, it is a masterclass in cramming an entire history into a handful of words. 

‘My memories fuelled my nightmares for a century’ is another great line, which paints such a vivid picture about the nature of the war, and how nobody truly won. It shows us how the MC feels about the atrocities committed in the name of war. The use of water and fire, of symbols of mercy and justice, was a great touch, and the gut punch ending of the unspoken third option was the perfect way to wrap up this tale. Wonderful flash!

Congratulations, Phil! Here’s your winning story:

ASTRAEA

The war began (as such wars do) with men who neglected the lessons of history. I was an innocent boy with romantic notions of alien planets, great battles, and mighty heroes.

The war ended (as such wars do) in tears, and firing squads, and a vow never to forget. Never forget. My memories fueled my nightmares for a century. Even after I escaped the jail, fled the planet, buried my past deeper than my victims. At night I saw those purple eyes of a girl from Astraea — eyes that watched her family and her future die in a blast of searing plasma.

One day I saw those eyes again, in daylight. They held me entranced as she approached. We stood at the memorial: rippling waters and roaring flame.

“I could turn you in,” she said without preamble. “I should. Though a lifetime ago, justice knows no age.” Her face was pale as mine had been that day. “But the flame falters. Life, I see, has wearied us both. Mercy. Or justice.”

“So which will it be?” I asked. “The water? Or the fire?”

I never saw the pistol — only the glint in her eyes.

“The earth.”

Spotlight: Maggie Duncan 2

MagMaggie Duncangie Duncan?” you say. “That name sounds awfully familiar.”

Well, of course it does! Maggie’s a four-time Flash! Friday champ AND the winner of Flashversary II. She’s a member of my very own beloved Shenandoah Valley Writers, as it happens, and TODAY is the launch of her latest work, The Better Spy. We’ve already interviewed her here in two parts (here and here) for her Flashversary win, which means today we can skip past the basics and dig right into the SPY STUFF.

I trust you’re already following her on Twitter and at her blog. Next up: read today’s fun interview and leave a comment: Maggie is generously GIVING AWAY a copy of BOTH The Better Spy and My Noble Enemy to a randomly selected (by me) commenter.

Let’s jump in!

If I’ve done my math right, this is your FIFTH published book, starting with Fences in 2012 and continuing through today’s release of The Better Spy. Tell us a bit about your journey.

It’s actually my sixth. I won a small publishing contract in a contest back in 1999 and had a collection of short stories published, Rarely Well-Behaved. However, in 2012 when it went out of print and I regained the publishing rights, I polished up the stories and re-issued them in two collections, Fences and Other Stories and Blood Vengeance. Spy Flash came out in 2012. Blood Vengeance and Spy Flash are “linked short story” collections, meaning the stories stand alone but are part of an over-reaching arc in the book.

I’ve always known editing, beta-readers, editing, proof-reading, and editing are key to a successful book, but I reached the point with both My Noble Enemy and The Better Spy, where I was changing words just to be changing them (aka “happy to glad” changes). At some point you have to tell yourself, let it go. (Cue theme song from “Frozen” here.) The effort pays dividends in the end, though, and that’s what I’ve taken away from my personal publishing history, as well as when I was a magazine editor.

The Better Spy is a collection of stories; My Noble Enemy, which just released in May, is a novella. Just how insane have these past three months been for you? How have you kept (haha) your sanity? What made you choose the story-collection and novella formats to tell these particular stories?

The Better Spy is a novel in stories, which is similar to linked stories, except the linkages are closer, tighter. The Better Spy focuses on the aftermath of a specific spy mission in a main character’s life, and most of the twenty-three stories would be considered flash fiction. Only a couple exceed 3,000 words.

Yeah, the last couple of months I’ve often asked myself, “What were you thinking?” But it just worked out that way. For My Noble Enemy, I wanted to do something longer than a short story, and I wanted to bring a secondary character to a conclusion. It wasn’t quite enough for a novel, but it fit a novella perfectly. Besides, I’d never done a novella before, so… And if I’d written a novel about the subject matter of The Better Spy, it would be about 300,000 words long. Hitting the highlights of the time period using short stories was the way to go. 

Several of your books feature your beloved superstar spy couple, Alexei and Mai. Will you please introduce us?

Alexei N. Bukharin is a Soviet defector who came to work for a super secretive U.N. espionage organization. He also works for an internal Soviet cabal called the Red Circle, whose goal was to bring down the Soviet Union from within, so at times real people on both sides of the Cold War appear in my writing about him. When his partner of many years moved up to management, Alexei became the training agent for nineteen year old Maitland “Mai” Fisher. Her mother was a Bletchley Girl in World War II, the famous British code-breakers, and her father was an operative for British Intelligence, but they joined the same U.N. spy group as Alexei when it was formed. They were killed when she was five, and she was raised by her guardian, a spy master, who recruited her when she was sixteen years old. She often says, “Spying is in my DNA.”

Oh, and they’re married, so I can spice my stories up with a little marital discord and make-up sex. 😉

You’re known for thoroughly researching whatever you’re writing about. Without setting the authorities on us, can you tell us how you went about researching for this latest book?

What I write I call historical thrillers, and my degree is in history, so I love to research. In fact, it’s another time when I have to force myself to stop. So, most of what appears in The Better Spy is based on historical background on the IRA activities in the 1980s. Because I made up my own espionage organization, the United Nations Intelligence Directorate, I don’t have to rely on CIA or other organizations’ protocols — I got to make up my own. So, we shouldn’t be in trouble.

That said, I do a lot of reading on some very odd subjects. Just the other day, I needed to know what a noise suppressor for an AK-47 looked like, so that should leave a footprint of some sort for the FBI. Just kidding. Not really. Yes, kidding.

From James Bond to Jason Bourne to Maxwell Smart, in spy fiction it can seem that the juiciest roles are men’s. First: based on your research, is that an accurate impression? If so, do you see it changing? If not, please illuminate us! And (a related) second: Can you point us to other women spies in fiction that readers might enjoy meeting? and third: who are your favorite spy writers to read?

Yes, I’d agree with that, which is why I rarely read current espionage fiction. I usually end up grinding my teeth in frustration. It’s already changed in mystery writing, courtesy of Sara Paretsky, Sue Grafton, among others. It’s changing in the thriller genre, more slowly, though. I think it will eventually change in espionage literature, too, because the reading demographic in that genre is skewing more to women, and women want to see strong women characters.

As I said, I don’t read much espionage fiction, actually, because I don’t want to be derivative. I mainly read LeCarre and Alan Furst, and because they write Cold War and between-the-world-wars historical thrillers, respectively, their women characters are generally in the support role and reflect the time period or the country they’re based in. I’ve read all of Ian Fleming, years ago, and recently re-read Casino Royale. I was frustrated by the sexism, even though it was indicative of the time Fleming wrote it. However, Fleming has the day-to-day routine of espionage down pat, and I think he would have been dismayed at the way his character of James Bond has become so flamboyant. A flamboyant spy doesn’t last long.

What drew you to espionage as a literary genre?

I’ve always been fascinated by espionage, likely from my pre-teen obsession with “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” television show. (There’s a reason Alexei is a Russian!) I like exploring the moral dilemmas covert operatives face, the blatant manipulation, the ability to fool people, all for what they think is a greater good. During the Cold War, we were told the KGB had only an evil intent, but in the post-Soviet era when many KGB operatives wrote books or moved to the U.S. and cooperated with U.S. intelligence agencies did we discover they spied for the same reasons we did: national security. They thought, just like us, they were keeping their homeland secure. Fascinating stuff. Fascinating people, and quite often more mundane than you’d expect. They have mortgages, car payments, day care expenses, like the rest of us.

You’ve also won some recent accolades, such as your based-on-real-life “Blood and Guts,” which semifinaled in the NYC Midnight contest and just last week WON the Blue Ridge Writers’ Fiction contest. Tell us more about that! 

It’s interesting because when I committed to writing fiction, I told myself that I wasn’t going be the woman writer who exploits my family’s stories, but just about every story I’ve had published has had a hint of my family history. “Blood and Guts” got me through round two of the 2014 NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge, and the judges’ feedback was very positive. I liked the story a lot because it is based on how my father got his Bronze Star in World War II, so I polished it (I’m always polishing stories) and submitted it to the annual Blue Ridge Writers Contest. I wasn’t sure how it would be received, but the judge was a Gulf War vet who liked the fact I got the military “stuff” right. Blue Ridge Writers is a chapter of the Virginia Writers Club, so the story will go forward to the state-wide Golden Nib Contest. Fingers crossed.

What’s next for you????? What are you working on now–can we expect to see a lot more of Mai and Alexei?

I’m working on another novella! It’s called “The Yellow Scarf” and is about the Yugoslavian civil war of the 1990s, specifically the sniper war on the city of Sarajevo. Mai and Alexei, and a personal tragedy they suffer, are the principal characters. I’m also getting a literary novel ready to pitch to agents. It’s called Supreme Madness of the Carnival Season, and it starts with a couple who are renovating a room in an old house and find the bones of a baby inside a wall. In the ensuing search for who put it there, many secrets come to light.

And yes, I have at least ten novels in various stages of development involving the spy missions of Mai and Alexei, including one set in the present day where Alexei is a house-husband and Mai is the head of the United Nations Intelligence Directorate.

THANK YOU, Maggie, and mega congrats on today’s release — we’re all wishing you tremendous success! To you readers: thanks for joining us. Please leave a comment or question below, and on Wednesday we’ll randomly draw a name to win a copy of BOTH of Maggie’s latest works, The Better Spy and My Noble Enemy.

 

Sixty Seconds IV with: Margaret Locke

Ten answers to ten questions in 20 words or fewer. That’s less time than it takes to burn a match*.

(*Depending on the length of the match and your tolerance for burned fingers, obviously)

Matchlight

Our newest Flash! Friday winner is Margaret Locke (four cheers for Lady Locke!!)Read her winning story here. Note that this is her FOURTH spectacular win!!! Be sure to check out her winner’s page to read her previous winning stories and interviews & then come back here to get to know her better. And yes; a four-time FF winner gets as many words as she wants!

1) What about the prompts inspired your story?

I don’t know. I looked at that photo prompt, all modern city and steel, and thought, “How the heck am I going to get a farmer into that?!” The ‘grandfather as farmer’ image came first, and then the idea of change over generations and time that wasn’t really change–for all their differences, they were the same. I ran with that.

2) This is your FOURTH win!!!!! your first three were Sept 2013, Nov 2013, and Jan 2014. Talk about that for a minute. You had just started writing flash in July 2013, and became only the 3rd person to have won three times, which is amazing! You’ve also earned countless accolades since then. But it’s been a long stretch between third and fourth wins. What’s motivated you to keep writing?

It wasn’t fun. I’d like to be able to say I don’t give a hoot about winning or mentions, but I’d be lying. I watched people who’d started writing long after I joined FF race ahead of me in their number of wins (*cough* Tamara Shoemaker and Foy Iver *cough*), and had to battle a bit of envy, I admit.

But it came back to commitment, and pleasure. Commitment, because I’d made a promise to myself to participate in FF as often as I could, to ensure that I wrote at least something new every week, even only 200 words. Pleasure, because it’s darn awesome to craft a mini-tale week after week.

On results day, I’m always a bit sad if I don’t get mentioned — must be some ego mixed in with my insecurity, after all, as embarrassing as that is to admit. The rest of the days, I realize the true prize is in the creating, in the community, in the connection with fellow writers. Frankly, with the sheer amount of staggering talent participating week after week in FF, I was completely shocked to win again. Y’all are fiercely good, peeps.

3) How has your approach to flash fiction changed since you started? Has your flash writing itself changed?

Hrm. Good question. I’d like to think I’m improving, that I’m able to write a little more outside of the photo prompt box, but I don’t know … I feel as if my style is more or less the same; I either go the humorous route (which I love, but which never wins), or I end up writing stories that, to me, are a form of prose poetry. I do think I’m a bit better at getting close to that word target from the start, instead of having to trim away two-thirds of additional story!

4) You also served a round as a judge here back in Year Two. Overall impressions? Did taking a turn as a judge impact your writing?

I was terrified to judge. Terrified. That’s why I turned Rebekah down the first time she asked – I was a newbie writer; what qualifications did *I* have to judge anything? The second time she asked, I caved. I’m glad I did. The first turn was nerve-wracking, but I gained confidence after that.

The lasting impact of judging, oddly enough, has been that it’s made me more free in my writing, because I’ve realized exactly how subjective judging is. For me as judge, after taking into account grammar and form and prompt incorporation and all that, it often came down to which story made me feel the most, which one leapt off the page into my brain and wouldn’t let go. Serving as a judge drove home the fact that just because a story didn’t win doesn’t mean it isn’t an excellent tale. Incidentally, knowing that helped ease the sting of all those agent rejections–I kept hold of the idea that just because one person didn’t click with my story didn’t mean that nobody would.

5) Has writing flash fiction changed/affected your novel writing? how has it helped? has it created any challenges?

Flash (along with Twitter!) has helped me learn to “edit” more as I go. I’m a naturally verbose person, both when I talk and when I write. Having to cut out a lot of the filler to get to the main point, because I had such a limited number of words with which to do so, has strengthened my writing as a whole.

As for challenges? The biggest one, if I can claim it stems from Flash, is that editing a novel is a much longer and more laborious chore than editing a Flash piece. When I’m staring at a story that’s 100, 200, 300 words long, it’s easier to see the whole and see where things need fixing. When it’s an entire novel, I falter in that–and get frustrated that I can’t attack the editing and be done in an hour, like I can with Flash.

6) You’ve been a huge part of FF for a long time, since it was practically still a baby. Any thoughts on how the community has changed? how flash fiction writing has changed?

The community has gotten bigger, that’s for sure. And yet, at the same time, it’s gotten tighter. Many of the people who write for FF also write for other Flash contests. They get to know each other’s writing — and each other — well. It’s like a large family. I do occasionally wonder if that’s intimidating to newbies joining, but I’d like to think not, since so many people take the time and make the effort to comment on so many stories every week. By the way, my apologies, FF community, for not being as active with that in the last few weeks–I want to read and comment much more than I am, but this novel business is sucking up all my time! 😉

7) Now to some big stuff! You just published your FIRST NOVEL (for which we got to interview you! yay!!!). Now that you are a couple of weeks in: how’s that going? what’s marketing life like? any surprises? what’s been your favorite feedback so far?

Augh. The novel. Yes. It’s exciting, exhilarating, exhausting, frustrating, bewildering. I’m so painfully aware of how much I don’t know–what’s the best way as an indie author to get people to pay attention to the book, to get them to hopefully buy the book, leave a review for the book, spread the word about the book? I admit I’ve gotten swept up in it all. I thought I would stink at promo, because generally I don’t feel comfortable tooting my own horn–but here I am, blabbing about it too much, and pretty much anywhere I can. I’m giving myself grace for that, since the novel has only been out two weeks–but now it’s time to find the balance between promo, editing the next book, writing, and, well, being mom and wife. I do like having an excuse for my house looking this horrible, however.

I have been absolutely surprised and delighted by the positive response to the book itself — even from people who — *gasp* — don’t actually know me in real life, and therefore have no vested interest in sparing my feelings. Any review I get is great, but I admit, the first one that came in from a stranger was exhilarating. I was like, “Whaa? Someone I don’t know read my book, AND gave it 4 stars? My book? MINE?” Then a second person contacted me directly on my Facebook page to tell me A Man of Character was one of the best books they’d read this year. I started to cry. My book? MY book? The one no agent wanted, the one my critique group still found lacking in some ways (in my wonderful critique group’s defense, we’re all trying to find stuff to improve in each other’s work, otherwise we wouldn’t be a *critique* group, right?)? I know eventually there will be people who don’t like it. I know it’s got warts. I know it could be improved. But I’m basking in the reality that a) I actually published the book and b) at least a few people really like it. Dream accomplished.

8) What other projects are you working on right now? what’s it like, trying to balance writing and editing AND marketing??

See question 7. In the past two weeks, there’s been no balance. I’ve been working on promo, reading about promo, sketching ideas out about promo, dreaming about promo. Pathetic and silly. Luckily, I’ve got author friends to keep me grounded and to remind me this is not the end, but the beginning, and the biggest goal is to write the next book. Luckily for me, I’ve got the next two written — but they’re definitely in first draft stage and need heavy editing. So that’s the goal for the summer: edit book 2, and send it to my developmental editor by–eek–early August. I’m not planning any truly new writing (except Flash! Friday, of course), but I DID find myself taking voice memos on future plot ideas and character sketches while out walking this week. Gotta love my phone for that.

If anyone has the secret to adequately balancing writing, editing, marketing, wifeing, mothering, sleeping, cleaning, grocery shopping, exercising, and maybe doing fun stuff-ing (sorry, had to keep the -ings going), could you clue me in?

9) What’s your favorite part of the novel writing process — outlining? character sketches? research? TRIPS TO LONDON? editing? sending it to beta readers etc? What’s your least favorite part, and how do you get through that?

LONDON! LONDON! LONDON! OK, back to reality. I do enjoy sketching out the plot and particularly the exhilaration that comes from writing that first draft. I love the creative process and the rush it gives me, of writing passages that make me giggle, of figuring out where the characters and story are going, (because you can bet they veer off from the plan) of writing “The End.”

I don’t like the editing as much — I always feel lost, trying to figure out what needs to be done, where the plot holes are, how to improve this, fix that. Some people LOVE the editing process, but so far, I’m not one of them. I’m hoping, however, that the next time around, I see it in a different light, because having gone through it numerous times for this first book — including a major overhaul after consulting a developmental editor — I’m now 100% sure that the book in its current state is MUCH better than the first draft, and that all those painful hours in the chair, staring at the screen as I struggled to figure out how to fix the story, were worth it.

10) Final thoughts, anything you’d like to share with the FF community?

Keep going. Keep writing. Keep lifting each other up. When you receive critique, or get overt criticism, take what you like, what is useful–and leave the rest. Don’t quit. Don’t give up. It’s OK to mourn, to feel stung, to doubt when you get negative feedback, agent rejections, bad reviews, etc. But if your heart drives you to write, if your soul drives you to write, if you can’t imagine life without writing, don’t let anyone stop you.

Egads, that sounds preachy. As if I know what I’m doing. As if I’m not going to burst into tears the first time someone trashes my book. As if I’m not going to feel stung the next time I send something out and get it back with tons of suggestions. As if I don’t fear rejection, ridicule, failure. Lord knows I do.

The biggest thing I want to say is THANK YOU. Thank you to Rebekah, for the way she sinks her entire self into making the Flash Friday community thrive. She is ALWAYS thinking about FF, you guys, always plotting, always wanting to make it better, to encourage people. Thank you to Maggie Duncan, for awarding me an honorable mention (though she knew me not at the time) the very first week I participated, which was the first public praise of any fiction writing I’d done, and which lit the fire in me to keep coming back. Thank you to everyone who’s commented on my flash stories–and each other’s Flash stories. I love it when writers work to build each other up, rather than tear each other down.

I’m not sure I’d be where I am–a published author–without all of you. Yes, I had starting writing my novel before I found Flash! Friday, but the positive feedback I got from other writers on my Flash kept me going and made me think that maybe, just maybe, I could write.

In the words of Sister Sledge, We Are Family. And I’m so thankful to be a part of it.