Truly Bad Date? Share It and Win!

by Monica Shaughnessy

broken-heart-1316091“Love them or hate them, we’ve all had first dates…”

That’s the opening line of our blurb for First Last Forever: A Collection of First Date Disasters, and I think it’s one most people can identify with, no matter the culture or country. Even arranged marriages begin with a “date” – the wedding date! As we near the most romantic day of the year – Valentine’s Day – this is the perfect time to discuss such matters of the heart. Do you, dear reader, anticipate first dates with dry palms and nerves of steel? Or do you look forward to “getting them over with” so that the second date can begin, the date where you can relax and be YOU, the YOU that wears Converse high tops with dresses and puts Sriracha on pizza and sings off-key to “Ex’s and Oh’s.” (that’s not ME, I swear).

Before writing my own stories for the anthology, I didn’t give much thought to my past. I already had some plot ideas involving situations I’d never been in, like speed dating. No “plumbing the depths” necessary. But then this post arose, forcing me to catalog all of the firsts I could remember, starting with (eeek!) high school. After rummaging through the dusty filing cabinet in my brain, I came up with some truly awkward moments.

Take a look at my top four dating fiascos. I bet you’ve been in a few yourself:

  1. The Set-Up – “Oh, honey, he’s a nice boy, and we like his parents. You only have to go out with him once.” Oy. The small talk on this date was excruciating. Spanish inquisition-type stuff. But the joke was on me, because years later this frog turned into a prince.
  2. The Stand-Up – “Where could he be? Let me check my dial tone. Maybe he tried to call and couldn’t.” Mmm hmm. Bad connection. Gotta be. For anyone under the age of thirty, “checking your dial tone” equates to pinging your BFF with a desperate text asking if she’s receiving because he just. isn’t. answering.
  3. The Sit Down and Shut-Up – “Who is this guy? Certainly not the guy who asked me out. Because the guy who asked me out stopped talking long enough for me to to say yes.” This date was the OPPOSITE of the Set-Up. Too much talking. So much that I hardly got a word in edge-wise. By the end of the evening, I knew every possible thing about him…and he barely knew my name.
  4. The I Give-Up – “We should just be friends. No? Well, we should try. Really. Friends. You’re not getting the hint. Will you stop? Sigh. I guess one date couldn’t hurt.” Sadly, I have been on more than one of these. I am clearly a sloooow learner.

I’m sharing these to get the ball rolling, dear reader. Between now and February 10th, we’re hosting a contest to give away a copy of First Last Forever. We’ll select one winner randomly from the comments below. And I’m expecting my fellow Space City Scribes to stop by and share their embarrassing stories as well. You will, won’t you, ladies?

YOUR TURN: Tell us about your truly awful first date or funny first date or romantic first date, and you’re automatically entered to win a copy of our book. Thanks for reading! And good luck!

 

Holiday Goodies from the Space City Scribes!

by Monica Shaughnessy

I envy you, dear reader. You’ve already completed your holiday to-do list, haven’t you? If not, I bet you’ve completed half. Want to know how many people I’ve crossed off my gift-giving list? Two. TWO. If I didn’t have Amazon Prime, I’d be sweating my jingle bells off right now. And let’s not forget the biggest dilemma of all – deciding what I want for Christmas. People need to know, and they need to know NOW because they’re trying desperately to cross me off their list. If I don’t answer quickly enough (ie, before December 24th), I will certainly receive reindeer leg warmers or a battery operated pen that blinks when you write or a gift basket filled with cheese that doesn’t have to be refrigerated. Ho-ho-ho.

So forgive me if this post is quick and to the point.

This holiday season, the Space City Scribes are offering discounts and freebies to our blog readers (and all readers):

Monica Shaughnessy (that’s me!) marked down most of her Amazon.com books to 99 cents for the remainder of December:


Mandy Broughton is offering ONE free digital download from iTunes/iBooks in December, the book of your choice:

To receive your download coupon, email her:
To: Info [at sign] CypressCEUs [dot] com
Subject line: Free Mystery [insert title choice here]

Artemis Greenleaf marked down several of her titles to 99 cents for the remainder of December:

K C Maguire is offering a FREE piece of flash fiction for our blog readers. She manages to blend sci-fi and sexy in this stunning short about a man who’s desperate to please his android partner. Click here to read “Holo Imitation.”


And last but not least, we’ve marked Space City Six: Houston Stories from the Weird to the Wonderful down to 99 cents.

Like the holiday season, our offers end on January 1st.

Thank you for your readership and your support. We hope you remember to treat yourself before the new year. You deserve it! Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go shopping.

Story Structure 101 – FREE CLASS on 9/13

by Monica Shaughnessy

The plot thickens...no, it's just oatmeal.

The plot thickens…no, it’s just oatmeal.

Ever wonder why some stories drag or meander and some stories suck you in from page one and take you on a thrill ride? Well, dear reader, it’s all about the plot.

Since I’m preparing a presentation on structure for an upcoming series of Houston writing workshops (read to the end of the post for more details), I’ve got a bad case of the plots. No, it’s not as disgusting as it sounds. Really. Stick with me.

 

If you learn the basics of the three-act structure, you’re making good progress.

3-act

 

(courtesy of Elements of Cinema)

But no so fast! What about genre? Each brand of fiction has its own conventions.

Science fiction and fantasy are normally plot-driven. The worlds and their complications are just as important as the people who inhabit them, and the story usually revolves around a tight structure. Yes, we want Commander Xletia to succeed, but we’re are just as invested in whether or not Planet Nebulon survives the nuclear holocaust. Oh, my!

Thrillers, too, are usually plot-driven, as are one-off mysteries. But a mystery series? That’s highly character driven. Who solves the mystery is as important as the mystery being solved. We can’t hang with a detective we don’t like, not for six books. Romance and literary fiction, too, heavily rely on their characters. This doesn’t shift the structure, but it changes the way books are plotted.

Wait! I haven’t even begun to talk about picture books!  Yes, there’s a formula for that, too.

Or how about Young Adult? Don’t even think about writing one without a romantic plot or subplot or you’ll be dead in the water. And the story’s got to move, baby, move, or so says R. L. Stine in an article last year.

And if your head isn’t spinning enough, let’s talk about novels in verse. You’re not thinking of rhyming, are you? That’s so nineteenth century. But are they plotted the same way as regular novels? In a word: yes. Just because you decided to cut your word count doesn’t mean you can skimp on setting, structure, and characterization.

These are the deep waters of novel writing, not for the casual hobbyist. Even if you’re the kind of scribe who lets the plot unravel organically, either by luck or by strong character motivation, your novel must find its way into some sort of structure (beginning, middle, end) by the final draft in order to be enjoyable by the general public (and no, your Cousin Tito’s cellmate doesn’t count).

Yes, yes, now I’ll get on to the part about FREE…

My fellow Space City Scribes and I will be presenting at Maud Marks Library in Katy, TX in a couple of weekends (9/13) and we’d love for you to come out and learn more about structuring your WIP. A few of us will also be talking about traditional publishing in October and self-publishing in November. It’s going to be a great series of workshops!

See you there!