Friday, February 29, 2008


I did it! 9,988 words, and it is away to Realms of Fantasy.

Good luck, my Nightingale!

Thursday, February 28, 2008


Only 51 more words to go!

I suspect these last 51 words will be a great deal harder than the previous one thousand seventy-three words, and to be realistic, I would be wise to cut a few more than that.

Friday, February 22, 2008


I've managed to cut 910 words on the first run through. That's darn good!

But, I still have 214 to go.

Now I start getting vicious.

Thursday, February 21, 2008


So, I have this story, see...


Don't we all!

This one, "Nightingale," is an adaptation of a less-familiar Grimm tale, Jorinda and Joringel. The problem is that it rounds out at more than 11,000 words. Have you ever tried to sell a story that long? If so then you're feeling my frustration. Most markets don't even consider works over 5000 words, let alone 10,000, and I've pretty much exhausted the potential markets that might be interested in an 11,000 word story. So I have to cut. I have no choice.

The good news is, I feel like the story holds enough potential material to develop it into a novel, which I'm working on. The bad news is that I'd really like to sell the short story, too. Which means I have to cut.

But it's such a good story! Wow! It's a good story. I keep leaving it aside to let it steep awhile, then coming back to it and reading it and thinking, "Did I really write this?" (Remember the bit about me compartmentalizing information?)

So I'm beginning the process of cutting.

So far I've only managed to cut token bits--an average of 10 or 12 words per page, when I really need to be averaging 30 per page in order to cut it enough to bring it down below that magic 10,000 word mark.

So, here are a couple of links to some good articles/blogs on cutting:

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Submission Jungle

I have been fortunate in the past few months to have received a number of rejections.

"HUH??" you say.

Let me explain.

There are rejections, and then there are REJECTIONS. I'm not getting REJECTIONS anymore, which means the markets I'm sending to don't mail me back a form letter that basically says, "You just don't cut it, honey." Instead, I'm getting personal, positive rejections that say things like, "We liked your story but...", or "Great story but...", or "We'd like to see more of your work..." or even BETTER--"Great story but the ending just didn't feel right to me. But please send more!" I like it when they take the time to tell you why they didn't buy the story. That's the HOLY GRAIL of rejection letters! And I've gotten quite a few of those.

Of course you can't guarantee that a form rejection means the market didn't like your stuff at all. Many times it simply means that the market is too busy to send anything but rejection letters and acceptance letters. I've tried to avoid those markets. Especially now that I'm working as a slush editor.

Now, back to submitting, and maybe I'll start getting more letters that say, "We loved your story and want to buy it!"

Monday, February 18, 2008

My first published story

This story was first published at, back when they paid $10 per story. It was not only my first publication, but it was PAID!

A little background on this story: It was born as the result of a writing challenge at Orson Scott Card's Hatrack Writer's Workshop--which is a fantastic online community for speculative fiction writers dipping their toes into the pool of the writing world. It's free, supportive, friendly, informative, with a good mix of new and experienced writers. But back to the challenge: we were challenged to rewrite an assigned fairy tale in any way we chose. We could simply flesh out the original story, write a prequel or sequel, take the basic elements of the story and come up with something entirely new. Whatever. More than anything it was an exercise in formulating story ideas.

We ended up with an astonishingly broad range of stories--from a space opera in which the bridge was a passage between two stars, to a mainstream work in which the grumpy downstairs neighbor is irritated by the tapdancing girls upstairs, to the development of a whole new fantasy world in which all the fantasy creatures live on one side of the bridge and the 'real' world exists on the other.

This one, "Trip Trap," was mine:

By Suzanne Vincent

Trolls? Sure I hunted trolls. Lots of 'em. Hundreds of 'em. Hairy beasts always lurking under bridges and scaring folks.

But that was a long time ago. No more tripping and trapping over rivers in fear of having your brains sucked out by one of them smelly buggers. Nope. Not no more. Extinct, they are. EX-STINKED!

And I was there when they drug the last one out of the water and beat him to death, right there in the mud of the riverbank. He put up an awful fight, screaming and hollering and trying to take one of us with him. That's how I got this here scar. Ugly, eh?

But it was me what had the honor of gutting him out and lighting fire to the remains. You had to burn it. All of it. And anything what didn't get burnt had to be kept away from the other bits for a few hours or the demon could come to life again.

See that there? That's his hide. Damn thing bucked and twisted for half a day before it died. Makes a nice bit of carpet, but it took months to wash the stink out of it. Hair's all soft and fine once you clean all the mud and sticks and bugs out of it, too. And now it's mine. My prize. Fitting that I should have it, being a descendant of Billy Bob Gruff himself.

Now, don't you go sneering at me. All high and mighty and talking about the pity of losing a whole species. You listen to wisdom, son. There's just some species what don't belong on God's earth. And trolls was one of 'em.

You're too young to remember. Too young to have seen one livin'. Fearsome devils, they were. Grow bigger than a horse some of 'em. Sharp nasty teeth all yella' and green, and breath what smelt like rotted meat, seein' as how that's what they ate. After they sucked the brains out, anyway. Them critters wouldn'ta cared one wit about your bleedin' heart compassion for the plight of their species. Might even think it made you taste sweeter. He-heh!

Sure, I know the story. Been passed down in my family for generations. Nowadays though, you uppity young folk tell it all twisted up. Try to make them trolls out to be the victims of the bloodthirsty Gruffs.

Oh, all right. All right. I'll tell it like I know. Like it was. Like my Great-great-great-granddaddy Gruff writ it down.

Great-great-great-granddaddy was the oldest of a long string of kids. He was one of them what started out kinda scrawny, but worked hard and built up his muscles and et' his veg'tables. But, like every kid, he was scared of them trolls. They liked kidmeat, special. Hunted our kind out when they could. It weren't safe for no kid to sleep under the stars, like so many young kids like to do nowadays. You done it yourself, I'd wager. Hah! I knew it.

Well, you can thank my Granddaddy Gruff for that. In his day there weren't no kids sleeping out under the stars, nor wandering off by theirselves. 'Cause any kid what did weren't a kid much longer. You get me?

Now Granddaddy, being the oldest, had a certain amount of responsibility for the young ones. And he was mightily proud of it. And it was just this pride what got that troll into more trouble than he bargained for.

As she always done, Great-great-great-great-grandnanny sent Billy Bob on out to keep an eye on young Billy Joe and younger Billy Ray. They was always keen on makin' trouble, them two. Regular black sheep. If'n you asked me, I'd say Billy Ray and Billy Joe was a might jealous of Granddaddy Billy Bob, what with him being the eldest and the biggest and the strongest.
The fact is, they resented their nanny sending Billy Bob out to look after them, like they was skeeter legged kidlings. I figure the only reason they crossed that bridge from one side of the meadow to the other was to make Billy Bob mad.

Billy Ray, all cocky-like and poking his tail into the air, crossed over the bridge first. Granddaddy saw him go. He didn't get mad, but he watched him all the way. Cause even though Billy Ray and Billy Bob was too danged stupid to be smart, Billy Bob knowed to be wary of trolls under bridges.

Well he was just a settin in the shade, keepin' one eye on his brother and nibbling on his veg'tables with the other, when he seen Billy Ray stop on the very top of that bridge and kinda hunker down. Granddaddy got to wondering at that, and started on real slow acrosst the meadow to find out what the trouble was. But then Billy Ray stood up tall and went on acrosst the bridge without a hair out of place.

Granddaddy thought nothing more on it, 'til Billy Joe went on acrosst the bridge and the same thing happened. Granddaddy was real puzzled by this time. Something about that bridge, he figgered. So instead of just going back to his veg'table nibbling he decided to take a good look at that bridge and just what it was Billy Joe and Billy Ray'd found so darned interesting.

He says in his mem-wars that he started on acrosst the bridge and heard some splashing in the water underneath. Just like Billy Ray and Billy Joe'd done he kinda hunkered down to have a good look, and don't you know his blood run cold at what he seen. The ugliest, fearsomest troll what ever slunk 'neath a bridge.

“Your name Billy Bob Gruff?” the troll said.

Granddaddy Bill swallered hard and nodded.

“Your brothers says you're the biggest dang'd kid in all of God's green earth. That so?”

“Some might say so,” Granddaddy answered, kinda wary-like.

Then that bastard troll laughed. He laughed and reached up one long hairy arm real slow and easy and says, “Then you oughta make me one fine supper-—kid brains and rotted meat.” Then he licks his lips real slow and his red eyes start to gleamin' and he opens up that reeking mouth with all them sharp teeth and Granddaddy Bill, well, he done panicked.

He don't even remember rightly what all happened—just that awful stink and getting covered with mud and falling into that cold mountain water. Then that troll let out a beller what sent kids and billies and nannies careering in every direction. They musta thought young Billy Bob Gruff seen the last of his mortal abode. But Granddaddy come a stumping on out of that riverbed, wet and muddy and shaking like a newborn kid and there's a dark streak of troll blood polluting the water behind him. And what do you think? There's that troll's head stuck on the end of one of Granddaddy's horns like a ugly, hairy orderment.

Of course the head weren't dead yet. It were squawking and bellering and cursing a black streak, and that muddy headless body sat there in the stream looking for all the world like a two-legger child throwing a tantrum—with its arms folded all surly-like and its back hunched over like it were moping up a storm.

Now there weren't no one in them days what didn't know how to kill a troll. Common knowledge, that's what it was. Even though it were usually a knight what came to do the actual killing, but Granddaddy didn't have the benefit of no knight that day.

Grandaddy had to keep a'running round that meadow for three hours 'cause that body didn't stay setting there in the mud long. It got up and started after Grandaddy, trying to get its head back. And all the time that danged head kept a'bellering and screaming for its body to get the hell outta low gear and catch up.

Three hours! He-he-heh.

Anyways, the head finally stopped screaming and the body dropped to the ground limp as a rag and everyone stood around just gawking.

Granddaddy's mem-wars say they all started into cheering and jumping about and kicking at the clover. And it weren't just that the troll was dead. No. That weren't it at all.

It was that one of them—a kid, no less; just on the verge of billyhood—done it.

I tell you what, word spread from meadow to meadow faster than a coonhound on the chase and before long it was war. All out war. Billies against trolls. Everywhere, billies against trolls. Even across the oceans the billies learnt of my great-great-great-granddaddy and took heart, and six generations later I had the honor and privilege of ending what Granddaddy Billy Bob started all them years ago.

Only one thing sticks in my craw.

It's a damn shame my boys won't never know the satisfactication of sending a troll to the burning lake of hell where they belong.

Damn tragic. Damn tragic.

Killing Ogres just ain't the same.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Where do I begin?

Welcome to my blog.

I am a woman who wears many hats, but the hat I wear here is that of a writer.

I have traversed a long and winding road to be able to call myself that--a road with plenty of rough patches and delays.

I wonder, sometimes, whether anyone cares about the path one travels to becoming a writer, but I'm going to give it to you anyway.

I was a child with much imagination and plenty of time alone in which to let it wander. Stories followed me everywhere. Of course in my stories the hero was always perfect and always had all the answers to every trouble in the story. In writing lingo, we call that kind of hero a Harry Stu--or in the feminine vernacular, a Mary Sue--or in the JK Rowling vernacular, a Hermione Granger.

But despite the presence of so many stories and so many characters who peopled them, I rarely thought of writing those stories down. Why? I don't know. Perhaps because I despised school and all it stood for--including writing, and reading. In high school I had a friend who wrote stories. Stephanie. I wonder what happened to her. I haven't spoken to her in a very many years. She peopled her stories with...US! She talked to us about her stories and let us read them. She read voraciously and talked about what she read. Her enthusiasm for the written word infected me, but that infection would take a long time to show its symptoms. At the very least, under Stephanie's influence, I read more. And as I found and read books that affected me deeply I wished, somewhere deep within my mind and heart, that I could do that, that I could write like that, that I could affect people like that, make people FEEL!

In junior high a teacher also contributed to that one-day fever. He did what every junior high school English teacher did--he gave his class a writing assignment. You know the kind of thing. The University literature influenced tripe in which one must make as lengthy and detailed a description as possible of some uninteresting piece of their life or surroundings. And, with my usual lack of applied effort, I completed the assignment (I didn't complete many assignments in those days) and turned it in, and to my utter surprise, and in a moment that I will never forget, he told me that my writing was very good, excellent, that I should write more. He gave more such assignments and continued to heap praise upon me, even though I didn't do as well as I might have in other elements of the class. He treated me with respect. Thanks, Mr. Gill.

It was at that point that I discovered that I had a talent.

To any young persons reading this blog, take this to heart: I will forever regret NOT having made a concerted effort to develop my writing talent to a greater extent while yet young. I see myself aging, I see myself wanting to be a published writer, I see many other gifted young writers who are fifteen years ahead of me in the writing game because they applied themselves while young. I am now old enough that I can justifiably wonder whether I will have a book published before I am dead or too feeble of mind and body to manipulate a computer keyboard.


But I digress.

It was not until High School that I really began to enjoy books. I remember being exposed to Ray Bradbury, who is still my favorite author. I remember feeling as if I were reaching into the minds and hearts of people I could relate to. I remember language teachers seeing something in me that I had never seen in myself--a bright young woman with a mind waiting to be filled with something meaningful. And they filled it. They encouraged me. They complimented me. They inspired me. Thank you to Mrs. Thompson, my Latin teacher, who I T.A.ed for. She treated me as an equal. She showed me that literature was something to be adored. Thanks to Mrs. Spackman--now a Utah State Legislator--who pointed out to the whole class that I had deeper understandings of what I was reading in literature than even I suspected. Thanks to Mrs. (oh, gosh, I forget her name!) who exposed me to Ray Bradbury in 10th grade. Thanks to Mrs. (oh, I forget her name, too!) who served as adviser during my year working on our school's literary magazine. She let a bunch of gawky, geeky, intrapersonal kids create freely. Thanks to Mr. Felt, my journalism adviser, who gave me the confidence to believe in my writing and helped me--a very shy and inclosed personality--to make myself known in a larger world than I thought I wanted to be, and for helping me find out that it's pretty cool to be noticed for something positive that I had done.

But then I left high school and much of what it had been for me--including that circle of friends. I took a year off, and without being assigned to, I rarely wrote anything. Then college. But, as I said at the beginning of the post, I wear many hats, and I chose a different hat than the writer's hat for college. I pursued a degree in the visual arts. But something in me kept me connected to the writerly part of me. I filled my elective hours with literature classes, a history of English class (which was fascinating, and I can still remember how the professor pronounced the name of the author of the textbook, with a long lazy round-mouthed "AW", preceded by a pouty lipped "B" and just the slighest hint of pronunciation to the 'gh' at the end. (A History of the English Language by Albert C. Baugh and Thomas Cable--a fascinating book) I even took a creative writing class in which I did very well. I also always scored well on essay tests and report assignments.

But my college experience was marred by a couple of faults on my part.

Firstly, I am not an interpersonal person. I have a very hard time feeling as if a) people really want to spend time sharing their brains with me and b) I want to spend time with other people. I'm largely a solitary person, and have to force myself to do things like say 'hello.' I don't need other people around to feel secure or happy. I don't need to be entertained. I don't need to have company. When I want company, I'll seek it. So when a professor invited everyone to drop by his office for a visit, I never applied that to myself. I always just assumed he meant it merely as a politeness. I have since learned that the opposite is most often true of other people, particularly those who choose to teach for a living. I probably missed out on some valuable conversations and insights.

Secondly, I possess a certain brain function that often keeps me from connecting. It is this: My mind tends to compartmentalize information. That's a pretty good filing system, I suppose, and I tend to be an obsessive organizer, even though I'm not a very efficient one--ie. the paper clips that I use to mark places in my music books are ordered in rainbow color order, but my house is often cluttered. The problem with my compartmental brain is that I put things away so thoroughly, that I often don't retrieve well. I can write something on Friday and not recognize it as my own writing three days later. I almost got myself in hot water in a college lit. class when the professor used my essay test as a particularly excellent example of analysis of the material. I not only did not remember having written what he quoted, I could not have even summarized what the essay said. I wrote it. It went into the file. I would not have been able to remember it without reading it, in its entirety, again.

I seem not to be quite so afflicted with my fiction writing, but still I will come across a paragraph or a story beginning that I don't remember having written.

Anyway, I completed college, married, had children, let life give me many new hats and focuses, none of which involved writing much of anything.

Then something quite odd happened.

For all of her shortcomings as a writer, I have to give JK Rowling her due. It was Harry Potter that got me writing again. This is how:

I had become a fan of the HP books. I had read them all--up to that point (book 4, if I recall)--and enjoyed them with my two older children. We even read them all aloud as a family.

One day I was sitting in a parent meeting at my children's school. One woman who was frankly dismayed at all the HP hubbub, had heard of 'some guy' who had written a HP sequel in his impatience waiting for Rowling to get her butt in gear producing HP5. She said you could find it on the internet.

I went home that night and found not just one, but thousands of HP stories. It was my first introduction to fan fiction. I read a few and found them abysmal. I had matured far beyond the level of the Mary Sue's of my childhood, and these stories were almost all Mary Sue's, poorly structured, plotless, teen sex-fantasy laden works. Among them were a few--very few--that held my interest. I decided that I could do better than that--so I did. I started to write a short story. Four months later I had completed a 69,000 word fan fiction novel that wasn't half bad, and had discovered that, dammit, I could still WRITE!!!

And so it began.

That was 2003.

Since then my progress as a writer has been slow--mainly because of my many hats and the attention they require. But I now have two stories published. I have many more seeking publication, and have been privileged to attend Orson Scott Card's Literary Boot Camp.

You can find my most recent publication here: