Guest Post: Andrew Joyce and his Stories

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If you haven’t run across Andrew Joyce in your blog travels, he’s a prolific writer of short stories and novels. He’s here at the Mirror to share a bit of his writing journey, and if can entice you, sell a book or two. His latest book, a collection of short stories, is on sale today for $.99. Take it away, Andrew:

Hello, my name is Andrew Joyce.

I have a new book out entitled Bedtime Stories for Grown-Ups. It is a collection of short stories I’ve written over the years. Inside Bedtime Stories you’ll find tales of fiction and nonfiction. There are all sorts of genres within its pages, from westerns to detective stories to love stories and just about anything else that you can imagine. Some of the stories are dark and some are lighthearted, but I hope you’ll find them all captivating.

Okay, now that I’ve got the commercial out of the way, I can get down to something Diana and I thought I should talk about. Namely, my experience writing short stories versus novels, and why I chose some of the stories included in the book.

First, a brief history of the modern short story:

Magazines had been around for a while, but were never widely distributed until the early 1900s. That’s when future novelists such as Jack London, Ernest Hemingway, Louis L’Amour, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Raymond Chandler, to mention just a few, honed their writing skills by writing short stories for monthly publications. They all thought the stories would be a one-time shot and that would be the end of them.

Long after they and their novels became celebrated, their short stories were collected into anthologies and published. I’ve read every one of those collections. My point is, they all wanted to write novels, but while they were writing their first novel, or in between their first and second, they wrote and sold short stories as a way to keep the wolf from the door.

Not that I’m putting myself in their class—no friggin’ way! I’m just saying that I, too, started out writing short stories, but they were not for publication. I wrote them because I like to tell stories. My earliest short stories were just emails to friends, telling them of my youthful adventures. They were all true, but because I led a somewhat colorful life way back then, the emails read like fiction stories. When I ran out of stories about myself, I started in on writing fiction.

Just for the hell of it, I threw one of my early nonfiction stories up on a writing forum on the internet, and it was granted the honor of being included in a print anthology entitled The Best of 2011. I even got paid for it.

That prompted me to try my hand at writing a novel. I had read an article about the Great Sioux Uprising of 1862 and it outraged me. I had never heard of it before, so I started doing research and that research led to a 164,000 word novel (eventually edited down to 139,000 words). It took about two years to research and write. To entertain myself when not working on the novel, I would write short stories, but I never did anything with them. They just sat in a file folder.

So anyway, I set out to get an agent to help me publish my recently completed novel. I sent out about a million query letters. But in the publishing world, anything over 80,000 words for a first-time author is heresy. Or so I was told time and time again when I approached an agent for representation. After two years of research and writing—and a year of trying to secure the services of an agent—I got angry. To be told that my efforts were meaningless was somewhat demoralizing, to say the least. I mean, those rejections were coming from people who had never even read my book.

So you want an 80,000-word novel?” I said to no one in particular, unless you count my dog, because he was the only one around at the time. Consequently, I decided to show them City Slickers that I could write an 80,000-word novel!

I had just finished reading Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn for the third time, and I started thinking about what ever happened to those boys, Tom and Huck. They must have grown up, but then what? So I sat down at my computer, banged out REDEMPTION: The Further Adventures of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer in two months, then sent out query letters to agents.

Less than a month later, the chairman of one of the biggest agencies in New York City emailed me that he loved the story. We signed a contract and it was off to the races, or so I thought. But then the real fun began: the serious editing. Seven months later, I gave birth to Huck and Tom as adults in the Old West. And just for the record, the final word count is 79,914. The book went on to reach #1 status in its category on Amazon—twice—and it won the Editors’ Choice Award for Best Western of 2013.

I wrote two more books before I finally got my original novel published. And in all that time, I continued to write short stories. You see, I don’t own a TV. So at night, after working on a novel all day, I’d bang out short stories, mostly for my own entertainment.

That’s why I write novels and that’s why I write short stories. But some of my short stories are not that short. Some are over 20,000 words. Many are in the area of 10,000 words. I do have a few that are no more than 100 words. But I would have to say that the majority of my stories fall into the 2,500 word category.

My current book came about because my editor hounded me for two years to put all my short stories into one collection. Actually, it was supposed to be a two-volume set because there was so much material. I fended her off for as long as possible. I didn’t want to do the work of editing all the stories—there were a lot of them. But she finally wore me down. Instead of two volumes, I put all the stories into a single book because I wanted to get the whole thing over with. I had other books to write.

Bedtime Stories is comprised of 218,000 words. I couldn’t fit another story in if I had to. Yeah, for an eBook I could have, but the print book already had 700 pages and was three inches thick, so I kept a few stories out. And it’s a good thing too. The ones I left out, I didn’t think were up to par. One cannot hit a home run every time one’s at bat.

In the month since I published Bedtime Stories, I’ve written at least ten new short stories. But please don’t tell my editor.

Andrew’s Bio:

Andrew Joyce left high school at seventeen to hitchhike throughout the US, Canada, and Mexico. He wouldn’t return from his journey until years later when he decided to become a writer. Joyce has written five books. His first novel, Redemption: The Further Adventures of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, was awarded the Editors’ Choice Award for Best Western of 2013. A subsequent novel, Yellow Hair, received the Book of the Year award from Just Reviews and Best Historical Fiction of 2016 from Colleen’s Book Reviews.

Joyce now lives aboard a boat in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where he is busy working on his next book, tentatively entitled, Mahoney: An American Story.

Bedtime Stories for Grown-Ups: 

Bedtime Stories for Grown-Ups is a jumble of genres—seven hundred pages of fiction and nonfiction … some stories included against the author’s better judgment. If he had known that one day they’d be published, he might not have been as honest when describing his past. Here is a tome of true stories about the author’s criminal and misspent youth, historical accounts of the United States when She was young, and tales of imagination encompassing every conceivable variety—all presented as though the author is sitting next to you at a bar and you’re buying the drinks as long as he keeps coming up with captivating stories to hold your interest.

Comprised of 218,000 words, you’ll have plenty to read for the foreseeable future. This is a book to have on your night table, to sample a story each night before extinguishing the lights and drifting off to a restful sleep.

Mr. Joyce sincerely hopes that you will enjoy his stories because, as he has stated, “It took a lot of living to come up with the material for some of them.”

The Light and Dark of Sarah Brentyn: Guest Post

Sarah Brentyn swears she’s an introvert on the verge of becoming a recluse, and yet she’s one of the stars of the blogosphere – hilarious, clever and outgoing, commenting, visiting, guest posting, writing, and managing two blogs (in addition to a real life). Her posts are full of the humor and sarcasm of a natural wit, and yet, her book of flash fiction, Hinting at Shadows, is a foray into the darker, deeper emotions and struggles of the human journey. Sarah is a conundrum. Who is this woman? I invited her here to answer that question and tell us about these sides of her writerly self.

Sarah Brentyn: Living in the Light, Writing in the Dark

I’ve been asked how it is (or why it is) that I write a light-hearted, pseudo-humorous blog then turn around and pen some seriously dark fiction. I’m here to answer that question.

I am Dr. Jekyll.

Okay, I’m not. Or I could be. You don’t know.

Buckle your seat belts. We’re in for a bumpy ride. I’ve no idea where I’m going with this.

Here’s the thing about me. I’m a conversational writer. People often say I write in a stream of consciousness narrative. That’s fair. I do. It’s why I like pantsing. (In the writing sense, that is. I’d never pull your trousers down to humiliate you. No, I would not.)

My blog? I freewrite. Jot down whatever comes to mind. My life, writing, the world around me…  Since I simply sit down and write, it’s unfiltered me. Sarcastic and silly and, sometimes, accidently serious. (With tons of alliteration, apparently.) There are ridiculous posts where my inner child is peeking out and there are thought-provoking posts where my philosophical nature is showing. It’s a mish-mash. Or “eclectic”, if you want to be nice. It doesn’t fit into any specific category. I’m okay with that because, if you think on it, people don’t fit neatly into specific categories, either.

My fiction? I dig deep. Find those roots and rip them out to have a good look. Examine what lies beneath. Get inside people’s heads. Dissect the sticky center. (Okay, that’s gross. It’s more studying inner workings than wielding scalpels.) There are a lot of psychological struggles, tricky emotions, and shadowy memories in there. I’m obsessed with the anatomy of human behavior. And I enjoy exploring it in flashes.

What’s so remarkable about flash fiction is that you can hint at the stuffing inside the teddy bear or you can show readers the rip in the seam. Cotton fiber or bean pellets? What’s inside the story?

I want to make readers wonder what the hell just happened then decide for themselves three hours later because they can’t stop thinking about it. When readers engage, I’ve won. Huge. Like that impossible water gun game at the carnival that’s completely rigged and no one ever really wins. Like that. I got the biggest prize they have and now can’t go on any rides because I’m hauling around a unicorn the size of a VW Bus. But that’s okay. I have cotton candy.

With fiction, I create things I wouldn’t want to experience. Though I do anyway. Vicariously. I’m very close to my characters. They’re like family. (The ones I don’t dread visiting during holidays.) Their stories affect me but I’m not stuck in their reality.

I think it’s safe to say that I live in the light and write in the dark.

My (Diana’s) review of Hinting at Shadows:

A string of story pearls

I just finished Hinting at Shadows and had to rave a little about this book of short fiction. When Brentyn says short, she means short. Most of the stories are about 100 words, what I refer to as flash fiction. I enjoy flash fiction, but wasn’t sure about reading a whole book of it. I was pleasantly surprised, to say the least.

Every story is a pearl. The writing is exquisite and full of pathos with a focus on the poignancy of the human condition. Hinting at Shadows is the perfect title as each story is a tiny hint at a larger human story, one that is characterized by shadows – sometimes secrets, but more often complex feelings of loneliness, regret, longing, disappointment, and hope.

It would be possible to whip through this book in a couple hours, but I think it’s meant to be savored, just as one might read poetry. So that’s what I did. It’s perfect for someone who enjoys filling their free moments with words or someone who just loves beautiful writing.

Author Bio:

Sarah Brentyn is an introvert who believes anything can be made better with soy sauce and wasabi. She loves words and has been writing stories since she was nine years old. She talks to trees and apologizes to inanimate objects when she bumps into them. When she’s not writing, you can find her strolling through cemeteries or searching for fairies. She hopes to build a vacation home in Narnia someday. In the meantime, she lives with her family and a rainbow-colored, wooden cat who is secretly a Guardian.

Book Link: myBook.to/HintingAtShadows

Sarah’s Hang-outs: 
Amazon: Author Page
Blogs: Lemon Shark    and   Lemon Shark Reef
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Sally’s odd jobs and characters – The Cosmetic Department

Today, I’m welcoming author and blogger Sally Cronin to the Mirror to share one of her wonderful characters and tell you about her new book, What’s in a Name?: Vol. 2. Needless to say, I think she’s a superb writer, and this is one of my favorite chapters in her book, Just an Odd Job Girl. Take it away, Sally…

Thank you so much Diana for inviting me to share my odd jobs and the characters I met that now star in my stories.

The Cosmetic Department.

I had been working in one of our large local department stores as I waited to begin my training in the Royal Alexandra Nursing Service.

Following on from my six weeks over Christmas and New Year in the shoe department of the store, I moved downstairs to the cosmetic department.

I was nineteen, and into make-up, as most of my generation was at the time. This offered me the opportunity to sample anything that I wanted, within reason, as I was appointed ‘roving consultant’. This meant that I would be trained by the different cosmetic houses in their individual products, and on their regular consultant’s day off, I would take her place.

For example, one of the cosmetic firms offered a powder blending service to its customers. This involved checking the skin tones of the client and then mixing a specific blend of powders for their complexion. There was a base powder and about twelve different shades that could be added. We used a giant spatula to whisk the powder over the tissue paper with little pinches of the different shades added until the perfect blend had been achieved.

The combination was noted on the client card, and would then be made up to that formula each time the customer needed it. The variety in my new position made my life much more interesting and I loved working with cosmetics and perfume.

I had been in the position about four weeks, and was practising my powder blending technique, when a rather large, reddened hand stretched across the counter towards me.

‘Have you something that might tone this down a little please?’ said a rather deep voice.

I looked up, a little startled by the depth of this female voice, to be confronted with rather an arresting sight. She was very tall with broad shoulders that were draped with long blonde hair. She also sported a five o’clock shadow. I was rather taken aback, as this anomaly was something I had not previously encountered. My training and upbringing took over and I stopped staring directly at her face and concentrated on the hand still being proffered to me.

‘I think that we might have a foundation that would tone down the redness,’ I offered.

‘I can then blend you a powder to ensure that it lasts all day if that would help?’

She smiled at me and perched on the little round stool the other side of the counter. The following half-hour was both informative and enjoyable. My new customer was funny and totally unconcerned by her strange appearance. She introduced herself as Dolly and regaled me with her recent escapades on her path to becoming the woman she wished to be. One of these being the removal of hair on the backs of her hands and lower arms. Hence the reddened skin on show.

As I came to the end of her particular powder blend, she leant across the counter and motioned for me to come closer.

Slightly reluctantly, I leant forward until I was staring into large blue eyes, below rather bushy eyebrows that were considerably darker than the cascade of blonde hair.

‘My real name is Arthur’ she whispered quietly. ‘I have to dress and live like this for a year before  I undergo more treatment.’

This encounter was to lead to a rise in takings for the cosmetic department, as we became the best place to go for advice and products to enhance feminine beauty, for anyone who needed it.

Dolly became our unofficial PR agent, and I was invited to a party in a pub one night, where I was delighted to see all our advice and products being used to their full advantage.

What a lovely bunch of ladies and they taught a young woman much with their bravery and support for one another.

Dolly went on to star in my book Just an Odd Job Girl with some creative embellishments.

***

All the previous posts in the series can be found in this directory with links to my host’s blogs: Sally’s Odd Jobs and Characters

About Sally Cronin

sally wedding day 1980

My name is Sally Cronin and after working in a number of industries for over 25 years, I decided that I wanted to pursue a completely different career, one that I had always been fascinated with. I began studying Nutrition and the human body twenty years ago and I opened my first diet advisory centre in Ireland in 1998. Over the last 18 years I have practiced in Ireland and the UK as well as written columns, articles and radio programmes on health and nutrition.

I published my first book with a Canadian self-publisher in the late 90s and since then have republished that book and released ten others as part of our own self-publishing company. Apart from health I also enjoy writing fiction in the form of novels and short stories.

My latest book – What’s in a Name? – Volume 2

Our legacy is not always about money or fame, but rather in the way that people remember our name after we have gone. In these sixteen short stories we discover the reasons why special men and women will stay in the hearts and minds of those who have met them. Romance, revenge and sacrifice all play their part in the lives of these characters.

Kenneth watches the love of his life dance on New Year’s Eve while Lily plants very special flowers every spring for her father. Martha helps out a work colleague as Norman steps back out into the world to make a difference. Owen brings light into a house and Patrick risks his life in the skies over Britain and holds back from telling a beautiful redhead that he loves her.

My Other Books

Sally’s Contact Links: 

Books: Amazon Author Page

Blog: Smorgasbord Invitation 

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