If you like short stories and/or poems, or if you like to have a book around containing them…you know, for those short spans of time between
other things…then you will enjoy my anthology, Twisted Vine. I am providing the Introduction here to help you decide. You can “purchase” it for free as the Kindle edition on Amazon from now until Thursday, Feb. 27. Just click on the picture to see the contents listing on Amazon. Don’t forget to “Look Inside.” This is one of those books you won’t feel compelled to complete in one sitting, but gradually over time.
As you read each story or poem, make a note about it. When the book is completed a review with comments about what you liked or didn’t like will be appreciated by all those potential customers looking for the same thing you have enjoyed – a book of shorts and a few poems to pass those moments when waiting to be called into the doctor’s office, or the plane to arrive, or the short subway ride to work.
Many authors start out writing short stories and sending them out for periodical publication. I gave it a try, but I quickly grew impatient with the idea of being at someone’s mercy as well as keeping track of all I’d written and sent out. I’m well organized, but absent-minded. So, instead, I wrote them, sent some to contests, but set most aside as I worked on various novels, leaving some unfinished.
Now, in this early twenty first century, the publishing business has faced a dramatic change. Some fear the iconic book will disappear. Well, maybe, but not for a few decades yet. Star Trek did predict it, but their adventures are set in the twenty-fourth century. Books will become rare and collectable items long before then.
This new publication-age is marked by the staggering number of hopefuls who self-publish. This is a term that always held a negative connotation. It’s a very difficult stigma to overcome. In the past self-published authors may have been those whose works didn’t measure up to a publishing house’s standards, except there were several now famous authors who started that way. Some even started their own publishing companies to accomplish their goals ~ Virginia Wolff, for instance.
I am one of the current self-publishing adventurers. I love the freedom it allows, but I must admit it has its downside. I am solely responsible for getting my books out there to the public and getting them sold, or else no income for, sometimes, years of labor. So far, the income has been like a single drop of rain in the world’s vast oceans. And it hasn’t rained in my published world very often.
The marketing end is hard enough, but trying to be so many people makes me wish for a cloned self. Even better, I’ve asked two of my dogs at different points in their separate lives, “When are you going to become a person and help me with all this?” Ah, no response, unless you accept a wagging tail as a hopeful sign.
With the rapid advancement in electronic readers everyone with any version is now a “book” enthusiast, and that’s a good thing. But, also, now anyone who has written anything can connect on the Internet and make an electronic book, or e-book with their written story and by-line. What a thrill.
Many of these are actually short stories. Think of it, a short story at your fingertips. Once hooked many move on to longer works: the novellas common for Young Adults, then a new division emerging, New Adult for the twenty-something age group. But they are reading. That’s what’s important.
My only disappointment is so many read at such a low-grade level most books are “dumbed” down for the audience. It doesn’t hurt to keep a dictionary nearby. I always did, but learning new things has always been exciting to me, including learning new words. So, I don’t “dumb down.”
None of this has changed the negative stigma for self-publishing much, but the good stories and excellent writing coming out of this has sparked an awakening with the established publishing houses to check in on the action. With all the independent online publishing companies it’s getting to be stiff competition.
It also makes everyone a potential best-selling writer. Several popular books started out self-published. Once noticed by a publishing house it’s picked up to cash in on its popularity. It certainly takes the extraneous jobs involved in self-publishing and puts it into others’ hands so the author can write and edit. That would be a relief.
So, here, I’m publishing many of my short stories and poems. I allowed those marked with an asterisk, to be the four included in the anthology, ‘Tis the Season, published by White Bird Publication, an independent publisher, for benefit of the East Texas Writer’s Association. I hoped in sharing my writing with local readers it would create an interest in my novels.
With this, my own anthology, Twisted Vine, I hope to accomplish the same thing. Maybe those who are always in a rush, with only a short time to read, will become curious about me as an author and look for more. There is plenty more, so please look.
As for the stories themselves, let me give you some tidbits. Twisted Vine, this book’s namesake, is a romance with a twist in time. Sometimes you get to know a character and like them enough to wish their dream will come true. You wonder how it will ever happen for them. This is one strange instance.
Duel Seasons in Time, a romantic suspense, was a strange dream inspiration where the horse tells the story. Again, there is a twist in time as two timelines connect with the same individuals involved, reborn in a second timeline, to correct a mistake made in the first. It begins near the end as the story advances backwards.
The two flash fictions, that is, very short stories, were both created from prompts. The Tickets is a vignette from a mother’s day. It started from a prompt in Writer’s Digest and a neighbor’s idea. Traveling Sands, with its bit of magic, is from a prompt provided by my writer’s club vice president for our monthly contest. It placed second. They’re both just a little bit of fun.
I did build a story on a winning first sentence for Sweet Cherie Pie. It’s a man’s dilemma with his job and romance, beginning with the sentence I sent in from a Writer’s Digest prompt (#33): write a first sentence of 25 words or less using the words lucky charm, calamity and Silly Putty. The editors chose it from four thousand as one of the top ten. The readers placed it as number five. It was quite a jolt. Until I received the announcing issue I had no idea. It kept me from quitting at a time when I was very discouraged about many things in my life. Writing turned out to be the one thing I could hold on to.
For the story I embellished the first sentence a bit, so it introduces the main character more clearly. It leaves you with the decision of what type of pie is in the package at the end.
Another romance, Childhood of Arrogance, occurs this time on campus. College memories, a dream and creative thinking brought this one about. It has a strong female character leading her male character into a position of choice.
Final Season was written specifically for ‘Tis the Season, but was not chosen to be included. It speaks of things on my mind at the time and took possibilities from real life. As we all get older we wonder what our elder years will be like. This is a reflection of my idea for mine. Too Old to Stay is another reflection with my decision to stay on my land until I was too old to manage it. That day is getting closer.
If you are a fan of David Tennant’s Doctor Who, you will appreciate The Message. It is a follow-up story, a romantic suspense, written in poetic meter, to one of my favorite episodes. See if you can guess which one. I had a poet on the Writer’s Digest site suggest I make it a novel. I think it works well this way.
Sometimes stories have false starts, like my “Horses” series. It was a story I wanted to write for nearly twenty years. Once started, I couldn’t make it work the way I wanted. I did have a good prologue I made into a separate short story with Writer of Time. The rest of the story may become another short story or novella sometime in the future.
All the poems included here are from previously published novels. O My Heart! is the poem included in the second story of Painted Tree: Two Novellas, titled If I Could Only Sparkle. I Dream of Horses is part of the main character’s feelings about her horses and the visions she senses in the first book of my trilogy, Where the Horses Run, Book I, Mass Extinction. Once entered in a contest the judges gave these comments: nice visual; creates good viewed images; the hooves are so vivid; the ending makes its point.
In Book II of the trilogy, Sacred Hills, there is the poem Almost Midnight. In the same contest judges differed on their view. A perfect score was accompanied by this remark: I am very impressed with this piece of work! Keep it up! Another, obviously not knowledgeable of the zodiac, the precession of planets, or our galaxy’s center being a black hole, or even Einstein’s quote – God doesn’t play with dice – stated, good up to departure to a different set of images at the end…so it’s unclear to this reader. It was still given a high score. The low score judge, also apparently without knowledge of the previously mentioned information, provided this comment: the real meaning is obscured…high-sounding poems through all the ages have missed the target among the average readers.
Did s/he say, high-sounding? Does that put it in the category of past poets, maybe even famous ones? Well, I could only assume. Whether I was correct or not didn’t matter. It boosted my confidence.
When writing there can be back stories or vignettes created within the main story. I have added the entire stories here for a few of these which the main novel stories couldn’t handle except in reference. Some are actual excerpts. Now you will know the whole story if you read the novels. They include these vignettes:
From my trilogy, Where the Horses Run, in Book II, Sacred Hills is a truncated version of The Last Ride, telling of Many Water’s last day. It also appears in its entirety in the prequel, Realms of the Earth. Once considered for the first chapter for Book I of my trilogy, I entered it in a contest as the beginning of my story.
These comments were complimentary, leading me not to abandon it, but also upsetting, as I will explain.
Pretty decent concept…; the character…is a vaguely realized Native American stereotype ala Dances with Wolves; writer uses internal, at time[s] stereotypical, dialogue to fill in background in a fairly unobtrusive manner; writer does an excellent job of establishing a locale even if it further reinforces the character stereotype.
I had footnotes at the time which this, and many writer-judges, don’t approve of in a fiction so much was later incorporated into the story. Also, the compliment of being like the movie mentioned was more important than the judge’s uninformed reference to that movie as “stereotypical.” The judge was mistaken because Native Americans considered Kevin Costner’s movie the first realistic display, and not stereotypical as all previous depictions of their lifestyle and people were. He was made an honorary member of the Lakota nation for this honest historical outlook, which I must add, was based on a book which was historical in nature, but about the Comanche.
Also from Book II is an excerpt titled Gran’dad’s Jeep. It was almost deleted from the story. It’s included here as a last minute entry in case it ends up deleted from the novel. Trent’s ruminations are set up with bits from the preceding part, slightly adjusted for this publication.
From the same trilogy, Book III, Ciphers, and also in its prequel, Realms of the Earth, in its entirety, is Sni Taniya, Lakota (Sioux) for Invisible Tribe. It tells how and why the tribe became separated from the Lakota nation. It may also be told in the Horses spin-off, Within the Sacred Circle.
I am no expert with the Lakota language, but have presented it here and in my novels in the best way able based on the extensive and often conflicting information available. I hope not to offend anyone by an error in its use, spelling or translation.
Honey of the Wild Bees serves only to introduce you to the full story of the druid turned grey wolf spoken of in the excerpts here from Realms of the Earth. It’s an old Celtic tale I reworked with elements of my own, already written story. I use the fabled Manannan’s name in my novel, but with my “earlier” form (Mannan), suggesting the Sea God of the Isle of Man is the same character.
If you look up this story’s title you may find it’s one of the most beautifully written stories you could ever read, especially knowing it was orally transmitted for ages before being written down. I have found this to be true of most ancient tales I’ve read. I don’t think my changes detract too much from the original.
The Blade, part of Realms of the Earth, suggests a creator and source of a King’s sword of legend, and a knife with the same attributes appearing throughout the Horses book series. Entered as a short story in the same contest as the poems it received these comments from the judges: very well written; an exceptionally well written fantasy about a fictitious sword and the powers imbued within it…highlight[ing] the special aspects of the sword’s metal. It’s very creative. The strength in this piece lies in the richly compelling descriptive passages, especially of the sword smith, Dastur, engaged in his craft.
Meredythe’s Warning, an excerpt from Realms of the Earth, gives an ominous feeling for the need to warn a future generation of her dream/vision.
Another excerpt from Realms of the Earth is a part I call Jana’s Vision. It reveals not only what she (and Meredythe) foresaw which changed the course of her life, but the world she lives in. It contains a reference to a few of Tolkien’s sites within his legendarium, to suggest, as he wished, his pre-historical time really existed. Most of the Celtic names are real, but three I created. To know which ones you may have to read Realms of the Earth as they are referenced specifically during a trying incident.
And Quetzal, A Dragon Legend, also from Realms and truncated in Book II of my Horses trilogy, tells of the dragons found in our land in antiquity. I was unable to locate the true Native American legend I’d read of so I created my own version, complying with known history and archeology.
Finally, the short poem, Evernow, is an explanation of the between worlds Jana speaks of. It is also referred to in Books II, Sacred Hills and III, Ciphers of the Horses series as well as being part of Realms of the Earth. In fact, Book III, Ciphers, and the prequel have a strong connection. I expect to release them almost simultaneously.
You might assume The White Witch is contained in Realms of the Earth, but it is a separate story here, giving a continuation to the lives of the characters in that story which is only a truncated summary in the novel.
In writing my Horses trilogy I have come up with some spin-offs. Miracle Belle is the only short story, but it contains the poem, In the Valley of Doves, also in Books II and III. The story is about a little girl’s secret about her horse – a horse her father worked hard to create after all the horses in the world disappeared.
Many scenes in my novels and several short stories come from dreams I’ve had. They may not be the dream exactly, but are built upon something in the dream. This is especially true of Thunder Town. It’s a fun place, like a carnival, with strange activities, but it is burst upon and chaos reigns. My daughter thought it was weird and interesting. I tried to make it sound like the old 1940’s and 50’s detective stories, but set in the future…a future of a different type of terrorists and shootings. How could I envision such a thing? It was difficult to write, and re-write.
Another such story is Paradise, I Reckon. I even sent this one off, under a different title, for consideration in another anthology, but it was declined. It has been rewritten so many times I can’t count, so I hope you like this final version. The Wanders was originally part of it, but it works fine alone. They’re set in a bleak future where some of the changes in the world can’t be explained.
With these tidbits on each story I hope the experience of reading them is deepened, and you might consider another of my books sometime. Ask your local librarian to order a copy.
Judith Victoria Douglas