My inspiration for this poem was the Russian fairy tale Morozko (Old Man Winter). This was my first and only attempt at a Sonnet. (June 2007)
You’re a vision in white; lightly sun-kissed.
Your touch can be soft and your rhythm slow.
You take my breath away with your crispness.
Your name echoes with the breeze, Morozko.
I met you in the bitter woods that day.
Your trick question I answered with the truth.
Please tell me, what was I suppose to say?
To blatantly lie would have been uncouth.
Your mood changes from slightly cool to harsh.
Your nature is biting; naturally cruel.
Your icy winds went straight through my cold heart.
You gave me chilling death, my sister jewels.
Respect Old Man Winter, father would say.
I’ll pay my respects…in the month of May.
Don’t Take Critiques at Face Value
After NaNoWriMo, there will be a lot of novel exchanges. So I just wanted to point out a few things I’ve learned about critiques over the years of receiving and giving them. I’ve also observed some really upset writers, and I’ve attended writer groups who only allow positive feedback … which to me, is useless.
Besides these famous quotes,
“The first draft of anything is shit.” ― Ernest Hemingway
“In writing, you must kill all your darlings.” ― William Faulkner
“Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.” ― Neil Gaiman
I’m sure you’ve heard that you have to develop a thick skin. So what does it mean to have thick skin? For me, I have to remind myself not take the critique at face value nor take them personally. Bad critiques are not the ones that come back with lots of notes; the bad ones are the empty ones that say everything was perfect … because it’s not. (See Hemingway & Faulkner quotes) There’s always something that can be improved.
You want your novel/chapter to come back completely marked up. And the first reaction to getting copy back that looks like someone rewrote your story, is probably going to be either, “I should have caught this; I’m a horrible writer.” or “They don’t know what the hell they are talking about.” Most likely, one of those thoughts, or something similar, will go through your head. Let it. It’s normal, but you have to get over it if you’re going to make your story the best it can be.
After you’ve read over the critique and are finished cursing, think about any notes as a whole. Mull them over. Do you agree with them? If yes, awesome. Do the necessary tweaks. If No, whatever you do, don’t automatically disregard them. If something takes the reader out of the story, makes them stop reading to write a note, something is wrong. (See Gaiman quote) Maybe the comments will give you ideas for a new direction or fill in a gap somewhere else.
On one occasion, I didn’t agree with what a writer friend said about my character’s career choice. After thinking it over, I decided that my friend’s opinion would work great as the character’s father’s opinion on the same subject. This set in motion a lot of other changes too.
Furthermore, If you don’t know why a critiquer/editor changed something, (even something as small as a comma) asked them why they changed it, or look it up. Learn from your mistakes so you don’t repeat them. And guess what? Sometimes even the grammar pros make mistakes. So it is really important that you take control of your story.
But you know what? This is your story, so you can choose not to change anything suggested, and you should look at critiques as such … suggestions. Suggestions you will take into consideration. And as you ponder, also consider that not everyone enjoys reading the same genre, and not everyone knows your style. (I’m guilty of choosing to use incomplete sentences, and I like starting my sentences with conjunctions – these things always get marks. *shrugs*)
Also, remember to thank your critiquer, no matter how crazy you think they are. You asked for the critique, and they used their time (the more marked up the copy the more time they took) to do you a favor. And if they are a writer, you can get always get them back when it’s your turn to critique. Mwah ha ha!
Love and Laughter,
If it Weren’t for Bad Luck
A Rumpelstiltskin Inspired Short Story by Dorlana Vann
from “Supernatural Fairy Tales” short story Collection
I walked through the front door a little after midnight. Jana sat on the couch in the darkness covered by the quilt from our bed, the images from the television flickered on her solemn face. “Oh, you’re up,” I said and gave her a kiss on the cheek.
“I want to talk to you, Trevor.”
When I caught a glimpse of deep concern in her eyes, I immediately thought something had happened to the baby. “Is Ethan okay?”
“He’s a handful to deal with by myself… but he’s fine.”
“Good… good.” That’s all I needed to know; I could go on to bed because anything else could wait until morning. “Well, goodnight.” I turned and walked down the hallway. But I didn’t get very far.
She yelled after me: “I hired a P.I. today!”
As I stormed back into the room, fear flushed my face. “You did what?” I stood over her. “Why would you do that?” When I realized my hands had a death-grip on my hair, I tried to relax but still couldn’t control my fidget.
“Because every time I try to talk to you, you walk away. I want the truth. I deserve the truth. Where do you go every night?”
“You know I’m out drinking with the guys. I’ve told you a thousand times.”
I watched her jaw tighten, and through her teeth she said, “Why are you lying to me?”
My heart raced. Had she found something? “What makes you think I’m lying?”
Jana tossed the blanket off her lap and stood up. I tensed my body, prepared for a slap. She eased to her tiptoes, so we were face-to-face, breath-to-breath. “You don’t smell like a bar,” she whispered. “For a man who has been out drinking all night long, you certainly are sober. You don’t drink at home. Why the hell would someone pretend to be a drinker?”
I plopped down on the couch and rubbed my face hard with my hands. “Why are you doing this? Why can’t you just leave it alone?”
“Leave it alone? This is our marriage!”
I had nothing to say, nothing to offer.
“I give up,” she said. “I’m just going to ask, since you can’t be a man and just admit it. Are you cheating on me? Is there someone else?”
An affair. It would be a simple enough explanation. “Would that be something you could forgive me for?”
“Wait a minute. That’s not it, is it? Shit… I can see it in your eyes. Trevor?”
“Just do yourself a favor. Do our family a favor. Call the private detective, and call it off. Let me protect you. Don’t you see? If I tell you, I don’t know what will happen. I’m afraid you’ll never forgive yourself.”
“What? Forgive myself? What are you accusing me of?”
I looked at her, exhausted, tested, tears filling her eyes. It had gone too far. I knew she would probe until she found the answers. And I knew that it wouldn’t look good if a P.I. came back with pictures. Jana would just draw her own conclusions. Conclusions that would end our marriage, and I had lost too much to let that happen. I inhaled and then exhaled slowly. “You tried to sell Ethan.”
“I had to buy him back,” I said. “Now I can’t catch a break.”
“Just stop it. Stop it…”
“You wanted to hear this; so here it is.” I stood up and grabbed her hands. “Luck, like anything else, can be bought and traded. Before we met, you made a deal with Luck. Because you had such horrible luck, you agreed to trade your first-born for what you thought was really good luck.”
“Really?” She pulled away from me. “I don’t know what you’re doing—”
“After we were married,” I said firmly, “After we were pregnant, you told me what you did. You told me how you found out too late that good luck was just an illusion; that there were only three types of luck: extreme, medium, and weak. With extreme luck, really good things happen but so do really bad things.”
“Maybe you haven’t been drinking,” Jana said, “but something is wrong with you.”
“You told me you tried to take it back, but it was too late. You had already given up all rights to our unborn child, before we met, to some couple with medium luck.”
“This is crazy, Trevor. Do you know how crazy this sounds?”
“I thought so too… at the time. But still, I asked you where I could find this luck guy. Even though I didn’t believe you, never believed a word of it, I went there. And after I found the guy, I still didn’t believe he was who you thought he was. But for your peace of mind, I made my own deal…” I had to think hard. As time had passed the details had faded. I knew it was only a matter of time before I would completely forget… just like Jana had.
“What kind of deal?” she asked with impatient sarcasm.
“I remember asking if you could just give back the money you had won in the lottery. But that had already happened. He said something like he couldn’t erase time. I had to make a new arrangement so that I could keep my son. He called it weak luck, but it’s worse than that, it’s no luck at all.” I shrugged my shoulders because I knew that even if I would have known the outcome I still would have done whatever I had to do to protect Ethan.
When I looked at Jana’s face—her puckered lips and firm jaw—I knew she hadn’t believed a word I had said. But I had to finish. “I gave myself a little test all the way home that night; I flipped a quarter. Even after it never landed on what I said it would, I didn’t believe it. As each day passed, I pushed the limits a little more. You know, I had to see if it was real. I kept testing my luck, until it became an obsession. Until…” At this point, I couldn’t look her in the eyes. I cleared my throat of my sudden panic and then whispered, “I’d lost everything.”
“What do you mean?” Her words trembled.
“I’ve lost everything that was left from your lottery winnings. All of our savings.”
“No, no, no… this isn’t happening.”
“I’m sorry. I just keep thinking that I have to have some portion of at least medium luck. That’s where I go! To try and win it back.” Suddenly, it became so clear. This could be good. Together we made medium luck! “You can win it all again. All you have to do is buy another lottery ticket, or we could go to the horse races.”
“No! Stop it!” She reminded me of a cat in defense mode: hunched back, hair on end, eyes wild, claws loaded. “I can’t believe you would make up such a ridiculous story so that you could blame me for you losing our son’s future? You don’t have bad, weak or whatever luck, Trevor, you have a gambling problem.”
“What? No…” I wondered how it had happened. How had I become the bad guy? “I know it’s hard to believe. I didn’t believe you when you told me, either. But I gave you a chance.” My body had begun to shake. “Just think about it for a minute. I know the memory of meeting him fades for a reason or everyone would be at his door. But there has to be something there. Think Jana, think!”
“You need help, Trevor. Are you willing to get help?”
“What I need is for you to believe me. How many times have you said it yourself ‘Your luck sucks’? How many times has everyone said it? I traded it for you, for Ethan, and that’s why the car keeps breaking down, the lights turns red at intersections, the reason I have lost so many jobs.”
“What? You’ve lost jobs? More than one? You don’t work for Laurence anymore?”
“It’s been six months.”
She stood with her mouth open as tears streamed down her face. I took a step to comfort her, but she held up her hand and said, “Tell me his name and where I can find him.”
I closed my eyes trying to think again, trying to recall.
“What is it Trevor? Give me something. Is it John? Peter? Frank? Larry?”
But his name had left my memory months before. “I can’t. I don’t know,” I said without opening my eyes. The soft breeze told me she had left the room.
I sat on the couch, waiting for her to go to sleep, thinking we could talk it through in the morning. Maybe as she slept some of the memories would return. But a few minutes later, she walked past. When I looked up, expecting another confrontation, she stood at the open front door, her back to me, Ethan asleep in her arms. And then she said, “Good luck.”
If It Weren’t for Bad Luck is one of the short stories included in my collection: Supernatural Fairy Tales – which is FREE Amazon worldwide until Friday November 15, 2013
Just wanted to let y’all know that my fairy tale inspired paranormal short story collection will be free all week. Go grab a copy over at Amazon (worldwide). Here is a little as to what you will find:
There are 9 short stories, which were inspired by classic fairy tales – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, The Emperor’s New Clothes, Rumpelstilzchen, The Little Mermaid and more. These short stories are not retellings of the original tales but were inspired by them. They are paranormal themed stories about vampires, ghosts, mermaids, witches, etc., in genres ranging from romance to thriller. And fair warning: they don’t always have a happy ending.
Supernatural Fairy Tales – a collection of paranormal short stories by Dorlana Vann
The cover is by the creative team of Liz Shipe & Perry Heideman of Reconstructing Grimm . Art director, Liz Shipe, and photographer, Perry Heideman, along with many volunteers, recreate fairy tale scenes in urban settings. They do amazing work and have produced scenes from Snow White, Peter Pan, Little Red Riding Hood, Wizard of Oz, and more.
Fairy tale inspired paranormal short stories. fairy tale + paranormal element = supernatural fairy tale.
Below are all the titles with the story inspirations.
If You Feed a Wolf – Inspired by Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. This is one of my favorites because it was experimental. I just let myself be free to write without a real plan. As far as what I took from the original story: it reminded me of how I feel in dreams – so some of the things that happen in this story are taken from my actual dream journal.
The Vampire’s New Suit – Inspired by The Emperor’s New Clothes. I just like this one because it’s fun.
Blueberry Eyes – One of my very first supernatural fairy tales. I’m not going to say which fairy tale this one was inspired by because it would give away the ending.
The Gift – Inspired by The Ghost of Christmas Past from “A Christmas Carol.” This one was one of my favorites because I wrote the entire story backwards – line by line – It was my daughter’s idea to write it that way because I was stuck. I also like it because it is my first and only western – and it has a touch of steampunk and ghosts.
If it weren’t for Bad Luck – Inspired by Rumpelstilzchen. You see, I have this theory about luck..
Muse – (Also published in The Inferno under the title What You Know.) Inspired by Prince Ariel from “The Fairy Tales of Madame D’Aulnoy.” I had to do a lot of research on birds for this one. One of my darker pieces, but I like it.
His Soul Inspiration – (Originally published in Enchanted Conversation ) Inspired by The Little Mermaid, this is my last supernatural fairy tale short… to date.
Quiet on the Nightingale – (Also published in AllRomance eBooks Newsletter) Inspired by Jorinda and Joringel. A little sexy but mostly fun.
Forbidden Beach (Also published in Silverthorn Press) Inspired by Thumbelina, this short story is probably the truest to the fantasy genre of my stories and also the creepiest.