Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Now for Nook and Kobo!

Yes, finally, you can get The Harrowing, The Price, The Unseen, The Space Between, and Apocalypse, Year Zero for Nook and Kobo readers.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Keepers LA - new paranormal romance series!

In 2011 I was thrilled to be asked by the mega-talented and generally amazing Heather Graham to join forces with her to write a paranormal suspense trilogy for Harlequin Nocturne. The Keepers series follows a special set of humans with heightened powers who are charged with the ancestral duty of keeping the peace between mortals and the subcultures of paranormal beings who hide in plain sight among humans in cosmopolitan cities all over the world.

The first Keepers trilogy is set in New Orleans, co-written with sister thriller writer Deborah LeBlanc, and chronicles the individual stories of the MacDonald sisters: vampire, shapeshifter and werewolf Keepers, who fight supernatural crime while trying not to become romantically entangled with the beings they are sworn to protect.
(Read more about the first Keepers trilogy)
Now the series is back, with a new set of Keepers working to keep the peace between the supernatural Others and those crazy humans in Los Angeles. Three cousins: vampire, Elven and shapeshifter Keepers Rhiannon, Sailor, and Barrymore Gryffald wrestle with their new Keeper duties in a city where the mortals can be as deadly as the paranormals. Joining us for the new series is the fabulous Harley Jane Kozak, who knows a little something something about Hollywood.

Heather, Alex, Bob Levinson, Harley
Heather and Harley and I actually have a not-so-secret life together: Harley and I are part of the cast of Heather's Slushpile Players and band, that perform and play for numerous conferences and other venues around the country, including Heather's unmissable Writers for New Orleans Conference, held every December in the best city in the world. Over the years Heather has managed to rope us into playing Wild West vampires, zombie strippers, space aliens, and my all-time favorite: pink flamingos. In fact, you might say that teaming up to write a paranormal series is one of the more sedate things we've ever done together.

I’ve asked Heather and Harley to join me to introduce the books and answer a few questions about writing the series together.
+ How did the idea of The Keepers L.A. come about?

Heather: The Keepers exist to "keep" the status quo between the human life that moves along in happy bliss and the denizens of the underworld who are certainly stronger and many ways and have some very scary talents and/or habits. Our first question to one another was, if you were different and trying to blend in, where would you least be noticed? First go round, we all said, "Hm. New Orleans!" This go round, especially with Harley in the mix, we all came up with "Hollywood!" Harley has worked an "A" list acting career there, Alex has worked as a screenwriter and an activist in the Writers Guild, and my daughter Chynna graduated from CalArts and is pursuing the dream--seemed like, hm, yes! Hollywood. If there's a third go around, my next inclination will probably be my home state and city, Miami, Florida. Trust me! We're pretty oblivious down here. If you were a different species or an alien life form, we'd just all think that you came from somewhere else in the Caribbean or Central or South America.

Harley: I have no memory of how it started, so I'm glad Heather remembers everything. Although I was born in Pennsylvania and did a small stint in North Dakota and even smaller ones living on location as an actress, I've only really lived in 3 places in my adult life: New York, L.A. and Lincoln, Nebraska. Hollywood was thus a no-brainer, because I don't think Heather and Alex would feel qualified to take on paranormal creatures living in Nebraska. 

Alex: You're right, Nebraska would be a stretch for me. I was nervous at first about the idea of writing L.A. because I know it so well as a real place, not an urban fantasy setting. But Heather and Harley hit on the perfect catalyst for the story: the cousins live in this magnificent, if run-down, old Hollywood estate in Laurel Canyon built by a magician friend of their family. That was so true to L.A. but so timeless, I instantly understood how the whole story world worked.

+ Is it true you three only know each other because Bob Levinson was looking for blondes for the first Thrillerfest awards show?

Heather: Yes, we were introduced by Bob Levinson! I will be grateful to him for many things--he's a brilliant, wonderful man--but that he put the three of us together was amazing. I think that first day I felt as if I'd just met best friends that I'd known all my life. We can be miles apart for months and months--and it's still the same, incredible to see one another, as natural as if we'd never been apart. You can see people daily and not have that kind of bond. I'm so grateful!

Harley: Yes, too true. Before meeting her, I'd seen Heather on a panel at the Romantic Times conference, and was wowed by her (naturally). And of course I'd heard of Alexandra Sokoloff (doesn't that sound like a Russian Princess?) I remember thinking, when Bob floated the idea of the three of us, "I hope they like me" -- just like kindergarten. And by golly, it was like kindergarten -- and it still is. Whenever the three of us are together, it feels like playtime! How could I not want to write a series with Heather and Alex?

Alex:  We do owe Bob for life. We just can’t ever tell him that. I had the exact same “I hope they like me” feeling. I’d read Heather’s books for years, and of course I’d seen Harley in just about everything. In fact, I once won a nice chunk of money in a “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” style movie trivia party game because I knew Harley had starred with Bill Pullman in a film called “The Favor”. So obviously, it was destiny. Meeting Heather and Harley for the first time, it was completely like we’d always known each other. I couldn't believe how real they were!

The Killerettes, with Bob Levinson

+ What would you say makes you uniquely qualified to write about supernatural mayhem in Hollywood? 

Heather: The uniquely qualified here really goes to Harley and Alex--although once Chynna headed to L.A., I definitely became qualified to write about LAX. Seriously, I definitely spend enough time in L.A. and Hollywood, although I admit I'm pretty sure my daughter became a "valley girl" before I actually understood exactly where the valley was. But I also have a young friend who is one of the most amazing "fabricationeers" I've ever met; she works for Legacy Studios and she's been kind enough to bring me through her work place--it's amazing! Robert Downey, Jr.'s Ironman suit is next to a werewolf is next to a mummy is next to a giant rat is next to . . . .

Alex: Wow, I want to go see! L.A. does have the greatest costumes. Me, I’ve lived here most of my life, but this was my first time setting a book here. Which is crazy, because it turns out it’s so much easier to write a place that you know as well as I know L.A. I can make fun of it with absolute authority and also show off the truly dazzling aspects of the city. And having worked in the film business I had no problem whatsoever populating it with vampires and werewolves and shapeshifters and Elven. No stretch at all.

Harley: In the early 80's I was flown from New York to Palm Springs to do a week's work on location (as an actress) and I was such a yokel that until I was on the plane I actually thought I was heading to Florida. I was confusing Palm Springs with Palm Beach. (Geography is not my strong suit.) I've never forgotten that first time, the plane landing, the sight of palm trees, the feel of the air, so different from anywhere else on earth, the eerie quality of the afternoon light. I came here for another job in 1985 and didn't intend to stay, yet here I am. I can truly say I love L.A.

+ What most fascinates you about the paranormal? To what one influence in your life do you attribute your fascination with the possibilities beyond the "known world?"

Heather: My mom was Irish and immigrated with her family. My grandmother watched my sister and I sometimes and was the world's most incredible story-teller. She had tales about pixies, leprechauns, gnomes, giants, and all kinds of things that went bump in the night. She really used to warn my sister and I to behave or the "banshee's be'd getting you in the outhouse." Her stories were so good we trembled--and didn't realize until we were teenagers that we didn't have an outhouse.

Alex: My dad was my influence, totally. He was a scientist, a complete rationalist, but he grew up in Mexico City, and Mexico is just steeped in magical realism.  When I was a kid Dad would tell us ghost stories as if every single moment of them actually happened. He was so factual in every other aspect of his life that I think I got confused about reality.  Or maybe it was Berkeley that did that.  One of those. And as to what most fascinates me about the paranormal - it's exactly that place where the paranormal and reality meet that I love to explore in my books - the blurry line between what may have been a paranormal experience and what may just be a psychological interpretation. Or drugs. Or just plain crazy.

Harley: My grandma. She was my mother's mother, Scandinavian, and came to live with us when I was a baby. She read coffee grounds and tea leaves, had precognitive dreams, and the occasional visit from recently dead people on their way to the Other Side. And read fortunes in playing cards (along with playing a mean game of rummy). 

+ How was working together on a project for you?

Heather: The most fun ever that someone could pretend to call work!  When we'd sit together, ideas would flow, we'd laugh, we'd think. I think our first real hash-through day was in the lobby of the Universal City Sheraton. They film there frequently and the walls behind the check-in desk are covered with pictures of stars from the silent era on. I think if I was asked to walk on water with Harley and Alex, I'd be willing to give it a try!

Alex: There’s such a past-life feeling to it, really. I sometimes forget I haven't actually lived in a magical old Hollywood mansion with Heather and Harley; it seems like something that happened.

Harley: Same. Every time I drive down Laurel Canyon and come to Lookout Mountain, I crane my neck, staring at "our" house and half expecting to see Rhiannon, Barrie and Sailor pulling out of the driveway.  

Keeper of the Night - by Heather Graham

New Keeper Rhiannon Gryffald has her peacekeeping duties cut out for her—because in Hollywood, it's hard to tell the actors from the werewolves, bloodsuckers and shape-shifters. Then Rhiannon hears about a string of murders that bear all the hallmarks of a vampire serial killer, and she must confront her greatest challenge yet. She teams up with Elven detective Brodie McKay and they head to Laurel Canyon, epicenter of the danger, where they uncover a plot that may forever alter the face of human-paranormal relations.

Keeper of the Moon  - by Harley Jane Kozak  

Lust. Elven Keeper Sailor Gryffald's body quivers with it, but is it a symptom of the deadly Scarlet Pathogen coursing through her bloodstream or the proximity of shifter Keeper Declan Wainwright?

Sailor and Declan have had an uneasy relationship ever since they met, and now things are about to get a lot more complicated. A killer is stalking Los Angeles, intentionally infecting Elven with the deadly virus, and now Sailor and Declan must work to keep the supernatural peace while bringing the murderer to justice. But, in doing so, these powerful denizens of the Otherworld find themselves straddling a fine line between lust…and love.

Keeper of the Shadows  - by Alexandra Sokoloff
Coming May 1 - available for pre-order

Barrie Gryffald's work as a crime beat reporter is risky enough when she's investigating mortal homicides. But when a teenage shifter and an infamous Hollywood mogul are both found dead on the same night, her Keeper intuition screams, Otherworldly.

Reluctantly, she enlists her secret crush, Mick Townsend, a journalist with movie-star appeal, and together, they dig up eerie parallels to a forgotten cult-film tragedy. But it may be too late. With a cast of suspects ranging from vampire junkies to the ghosts of Hollywood past, no one can be trusted. Least of all Mick, who may well prove to be as unpredictable as the Others Barrie is sworn to protect....

Keeper of the Dawn - by Heather Graham    
Coming July 1 - available for pre-order

Alessande Salisbrooke has been warned about the legend of the old Hildegard Tomb - how human sacrifices are being carried out by the followers of a shape-shifting magician. As a Keeper, Alessande understands the risks of investigating, but she can't shake the nagging feeling that the killings are tied to a friend's recent murder, and she can't turn her back.

With the help of Mark Valiente, a dangerously sexy vampire cop, Alessande narrowly escapes becoming a sacrifice herself. But as the bodies continue piling up, completely drained of blood, one truth becomes all too clear: life is an illusion, and no one-not even those you care about the most-is who they seem.

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Unseen: Book Club discussion questions

Thanks so much for choosing The Unseen for your book club discussion!  Below you will find a set of discussion questions to get your meeting going, and some history behind the book.

One of my very great pleasures in book touring and book club appearances is that I get to hear other people’s real-life ghost stories and psychic experiences. I hope that your book group will be able to use the book as a jumping-off point to share your own stories (I find a little wine can be a great help getting those stories flowing! Chocolate also works...).

Here are some thoughts and questions to get the discussion going.

1. As I write about in The Unseen, parapsychologist Dr. J.B. Rhine’s wife and colleague, Dr. Louisa Rhine, conducted her own long-term study for the Rhine lab, in which she gathered thousands of accounts from all over the world of psychic occurrences and followed up with interviews, from which she isolated several extremely common recurring patterns of psychic experiences, such as:

+ Crisis apparitions: in which a loved one appears to another loved one at a moment of extreme trauma or death.

+ Precognitive dreams: dreaming a future event.

+ Visitations in dreams: a dead relative or significant other coming to a loved one in her or his sleep to impart some crucial bit of information.

+ Sympathetic pain: in which a loved one feels pain in a limb or elsewhere in the body when another loved one is injured in that place (often this is birth pains that a female relative will experience when a daughter or other female relative goes into labor).

Questions for the group: Have you or someone you know ever had a paranormal or psychic experience?  Did it fall into one of the above categories, or was it something else?

2. One of the themes of all of my books is that people are inexorably drawn to their greatest fear, and many of my books climax with the main character forced to confront his or her greatest nightmare in the flesh (or sometimes, spirit!).  Psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud called this tendency the “repetition compulsion.” He believed that all human beings are psychologically compelled to repeat early childhood traumas until we can finally transcend the situation.

In The Unseen, do you see Laurel being drawn to repeat past traumas?  Do you see yourself or people in your own life struggling with the “repetition compulsion”?

3. As an author, I often dream story ideas, so I try to write my dreams down every morning to make sure I remember them.  Many reported psychic experiences also occur during dreams.  (One example that fascinates me is that many people dream that they are ill,  and the exact specifics of their illnesses, long before any medical practitioner diagnoses the illness.)  The Torah says that “A dream uninterpreted is like a letter unopened.” 

Do you remember your dreams?  Have you ever dreamed something precognitively?

4. Do you believe in an afterlife?  Do you think ghosts are the real spirits of the departed, or do you think they’re psychological manifestations of our own desire to see a loved one again or learn something from them?  Or something else?

5.  There seems to someone in almost everyone’s family who is known to have “the sight” or “visions” or “dreams,” like Laurel’s grandmother and her Uncle Morgan.  

Is there someone in particular in your family who has that reputation? Is there a family ghost story that’s been passed down?

6.  I get many e mails from readers about the ending of The Unseen. Some people are disappointed that I don’t specifically explain what caused the haunting of the Folger house. Other people think the ambiguity of the ending, the convergence of many different forces and explanations, is the best part of the book.  

What did your group think about the ending?

I am available for Skype appearances and am also happy to answer questions from the group in the comments here on this page.

If you would like to read more about the real-life haunted mansion that inspired the book, here’s some history and photos:



Pretty much the first question an author is ever asked about a book is: Where did you get the idea for the book?

Well, The Unseen is a book that has been percolating for a long, long, LONG time.

Since my childhood, really.

I’m sure a good number of you recognize these:

The Zener ESP cards.

I don’t know about you, but just the sight of those images gives me a thrill. Maybe I mean, chill… because it’s all about the unknown. Do we have that sixth sense, the freaking power of extra-sensory perception, or do we not?

Parapsychologist Dr. J.B. Rhine said we do. All of us. And in the late 1920’s, on through the 1960’s, he used the brand-new science of statistics to prove it, in controlled laboratory experiments that made him a household name.

I have no idea how I first came to hear about this, but then again, I grew up in California, specifically, Berkeley - and astrology and Tarot and meditation and anything groovy and psychic was just part of everyday life.

And it was very, very early that I first heard of Dr. Rhine and the ESP tests. In fact, my sister the artist made a set of her own Zener cards when we were in just fourth or fifth grade. I swear, it was in the air.

Here’s the principle: take a pack of twenty-five Zener cards, five sets of five simple symbols: a circle, a square, a cross, a star, and two wavy lines, like water. Two subjects sit on opposite sides of a black screen, unable to see each other, and one subject, the Sender, takes the pack of ESP cards and looks at each card, one at a time, while the Receiver sorts another set of cards into appropriate boxes, depending on what card s/he thinks the Sender is holding and communicating.

Pure chance is twenty percent, or five cards right out of a deck. Because if you have five cards, chance dictates that you would guess right 20 percent of the time.

So anyone who scores significantly more than 20 percent is demonstrating some ESP ability. (The Rhine lab generally used 5 sets of cards for each test run).

You can try it online at any number of places, including here.

And seriously, don’t we all – or haven’t we all at some point – think we have some of that? It’s kind of seductive, isn’t it?

Now, what Dr. Rhine was doing with these Zener cards was truly revolutionary. By the 1920’s the whole world, pretty much, was obsessed with the occult and spiritualism, especially the idea of life after death and the concept of being able to connect with dead loved ones on whatever plane they were now inhabiting.

There were many factors that contributed to this obsession, but two in particular:

1. Darwin’s publication of THE ORIGIN OF THE SPECIES, in 1859, which began a worldwide anxiety about whether there was any afterlife at all… and a fanatic desire to prove there was… especially among some scientists, interestingly enough.


2. The Great War, or as we know it now, WWI, in which so many people died so quickly that traumatized relatives were desperate to contact their lost – children, to be blunt - infants, as in “infantry,”underage cannon fodder – and have some hope that they were not lost for eternity.

The Great War really kicked spiritualism into high gear.

This was the age of “mediums”, most of whom were total frauds, con artists who used parlor magician tricks to dupe grieving relatives into believing their lost loved ones were coming back to give them messages – for a hefty price.

Well, (after a brief stint in botany and an abrupt switch to psychology) Dr. J.B. Rhine began his career debunking fraudulent mediums. His commitment to the truth won him a reputation for scientific integrity and a position at the newly established parapsychology lab at Duke University in North Carolina, the first ever in the U.S., where Rhine and his mentor, William McDougall, embarked on a decades-long quest to use the brand-new science of statistics and probability to test the occurrence of psychic phenomena such as ESP and psychokinesis (the movement of objects with the mind).

Using Zener cards and automated dice-throwing machines, Rhine tested thousands of students under laboratory conditions, and by applying the science of statistics to the results, came to believe that ESP actually does occur.

Rhine’s wife and colleague, Dr. Louisa Rhine, conducted her own parallel study, in which she gathered thousands of accounts from all over the world of psychic occurrences and followed up with interviews, from which she isolated several extremely common recurring patterns of psychic experiences, such as:

Crisis apparitions: in which a loved one appears to another loved one at a moment of extreme trauma or death.

Precognitive dreams
: dreaming a future event.

Visitations in dreams: a dead loved one coming to a loved one in her or his sleep to impart some crucial bit of information.

Sympathetic pain: in which a loved one feels pain in a limb or elsewhere in the body when another loved one is injured in that place (often this is birth pains that a female relative will experience when a daughter or other female relative goes into labor).

The Rhines’ daughter, psychologist Sally Rhine Feather, has written a fascinating book on the above called THE GIFT, which was extremely helpful in my research for The Unseen.

Now, most people who read about the paranormal and parapsychology, even casually, are aware of Dr. Rhine and his ESP research. But most people are not as aware that researchers in the Duke lab also did field investigations of poltergeists, starting in the late 50’s and early sixties.


I don’t know about you, but that just rocks my world. What ARE they? Are they the projected repressed sex energy of frustrated adolescents? Are they ghosts? Are they some other kind of extra-dimensional entity? Is it all just a fraud, a fad, perpetrated by people who wanted media attention before the advent of reality TV?

So I’ve always wanted to so something, sometime, about the whole Rhine/Duke/ESP/poltergeist thing.

And then a few years ago my significant other handed me a column torn out of the newspaper about a lecture on the Duke campus called: “Secrets of the Rhine Parapsychology Lab” and said, “You should go to that.” Because he knew I liked that kind of thing, but he had no idea that I’ve been obsessed with Rhine since I was – seven, eight, whatever.

And I did go to the lecture, and I was stupefied to learn that after the parapsychology lab officially closed in 1965, when Dr. Rhine reached the mandatory age of retirement, seven hundred boxes of original research files were sealed and shut up in the basement of the graduate library, and had only just been opened to the public again.

Is that a story or what?

All those questions that instantly spring to mind. Why did the lab close, really? (Well, in truth, Dr. Rhine retired. But what if…) Why were the files sealed? Was someone trying to hide something? And most importantly - What the HELL is in those boxes? SEVEN HUNDRED boxes?

So you know that question authors love: Where do you get your ideas?

That’s where I got my idea for The Unseen

But it all started with a childhood obsession and years of random research on the subject that suddenly caught fire with some specific field research and one choice factoid.

And now it’s your turn to tell me!   Have you ever experienced a crisis apparition, a precognitive dream or visitation, or sympathetic pains? Or do you know anyone who has? Do you believe these things happen?  Or do you have an alternate, rational explanation?

- Alex


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THE UNSEEN reviews:

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Love is Murder - now out in paperback!

The International Thriller Writers' romantic suspense anthology Thriller 3: Love is Murder is out in paperback this week.

Edited by Sandra Brown and Allison Brennan, featuring stories by Lee Child, Heather Graham,  Sherrilyn Kenyon, and a whole lot of other great authors.  And me.

As you can see from that lineup, it’s going to be a bit more heavy on the suspense than on the romance!

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I had no premise at all in mind when I was asked to do a story for Love is Murder. I said yes because - well, seriously! It's not like I could turn this opportunity down - with that lineup of writers, I was going to do whatever it took.  But when I actually had to sit down and write something, I was in a very difficult place emotionally and I wasn’t feeling very romantic. Suspense I can do in my sleep, but love wasn’t the first thing on my mind. So I asked myself what would be a romantic escape, the kind of fantasy setting that I think really helps deliver the experience of romantic suspense? And the first thing that came to mind was my first trip to the Bahamas. We Left Coasters don’t generally do the Bahamas – we tend to go to the far closer paradise of Hawaii if we’re in the mood for an island, so the first time I was in those other islands it was truly an overwhelming experience.

I knew I could do the sensuality of that setting justice, and then I decided not to fight the emotional place that I was in, but rather use the experience of heartache and devastation as a jumping off point for  the story. And once I’d put a wounded character into that lush setting, everything started coming alive – it’s just the magic of the process. I also took a huge hit of inspiration from the image of the Tarot Queen  of Cups – that card was a touchstone for the main character, the Macguffin, and the whole story.

I layered water imagery and the theme of Atlantis and precious objects and art throughout, to make a kind of dreamlike  modern fairy tale (which I won't talk too much about because it's too easy to give away a short.).  

People often ask me to blog about how to write a short story. I find the question difficult because I very rarely write short stories. For me it’s every bit as hard to come up with a great idea for a short story as it is for a novel, so my feeling has always been: why not push through and  MAKE it a novel (or script) which will serve as an income stream instead of just a fun advertisement for your books that ARE income-producing?

That may sound pretty crassly commercial, but writers have to be practical if we want to eat.

(And I don't think that it's a coincidence that the art of the short was at its zenith back when short story authors were paid an actual living wage for their efforts. An older author friend told me what she was paid for a short story in the 60's and OH MY GOD. Seriously.)

But maybe I’m just a long-form writer by nature. I wrote my first short story, The Edge of Seventeen, only because I was asked to contribute to an anthology I thought was a really cool idea – stories about marginalized superheroes (people of color, women), and I thought I could probably manage a dark story about an alienated high-school girl who has to become a heroine in horrific circumstances. She’s dreaming about a terrible massacre at her school, and becomes convinced that she can stop the shooting with the help of a popular boy, her secret crush, who is having the same dream. I wrote it, loved it, and it went on to win a Thriller Award for Best Short Fiction. But I couldn’t stop thinking about the characters and the situations and it just kept nagging me that there was a lot more to it, and last year I finally just gave in to that pull and adapted the story as a VERY dark YA thriller, The Space Between.

I was right – there was a whole hell of a lot more to it, including quantum physics and parallel universes, and I’m actually now going to have to continue the whole thing as a trilogy.

And now that I’ve written my dreamlike Bahamian cat-and-mouse encounter In Atlantis for the Love is Murder anthology, I’m having the same thing happen – I can’t stop thinking about the characters and what happens for them next, and I know I’m going to end up expanding the story into a novel which may actually turn into a series.

So my very infrequent attempts at short stories seem to turn out to be springboards for future novels.
Yet even though I don’t have much experience writing them myself, I can look at stories analytically and come to conclusions that may be helpful (writers, you know my prescription for everything by now – MAKE A LIST of ten of your favorites and see what the storytellers are doing and how they do it.)

I don’t read many short stories these days but I grew up compulsively reading Alfred Hitchcock Presents anthologies, and actively sought out stories by my favorite authors: Shirley Jackson, Daphne Du Maurier,  Ray Bradbury, Poe of course, and Stephen King.

The ones that spring to mind instantly are the horrific "They Bite", by none other than Anthony Boucher, for whom the unpronounceable Bouchercon is named;"The Yellow Wallpaper" - even more horrific in a feminist kind of way, by Charlotte Perkins Gilmore; "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson, to which The Hunger Games owes, well, just about everything. "The Birds" and any number of shorts by Daphne DuMaurier, she is just electrifying. Just about everything in Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles. And Stephen King's "The Mist", really more of a short novel, but we've already established that I like long. In fact, every single one of my list (except, I think, The Lottery) are shorts that have been adapted into full-length movies, so it's pretty clear what my taste is. 

I've noticed that ones that I love not only have enough going on to make a whole full length novel - they also have that great high concept premise, which usually includes a huge twist.  I really think that the essence of a short story is the twist, and once you have that, you can set up the story with a basic three-act structure: You have someone who wants something very badly (The Act I setup) who is having trouble getting it (The Act II complications) and eventually DOESN’T get what they think and say want, but they get what they really need instead. (Which creates the Act III twist.)

Because of the restriction of length, often all a short story really does is take a premise and set it up (Set Up is generally just Act I of a novel or film) and pretty much cuts directly to the chase: the final battle and TWIST. The Edge of Seventeen was basically that set up and then the twist. As a matter of fact, when I actually sat down to write the first draft of the novel, I found I used most of the story almost directly as written as the first act!

So with a short story, you have a beginning and an end, but not much of the vast middle section that comprises a full-length novel or film.

I think that's why shorts are so seductive (and arguably good practice) to more beginning writers.  It's pretty easy to write a first act.  It's the middle that's hard. (I may just have gotten myself in a world of trouble, we'll see!)

I did structure In Atlantis in three acts (I'd actually say that ALL stories are three acts, that's what makes them stories), but I'm very aware that the first two acts of the short would be no more than a first act in a full length novel, and that the third act of the short would still be the third act of a novel - with many more twists and action, of course.

But I'm perfectly aware that I may just be looking at the structure of a short that way because it allows me to fit the longer-form ideas that I have into the format of a short.

Another thing I think a short has to deliver - every bit as much as a full-length novel does - is the genre EXPERIENCE (or maybe you've noticed  I'm just a little obsessed with this aspect of writing, these days).

So do you read a lot of shorts? Do you write them?  How do you write them?  Is my "Act I set up, then cut to the Act III chase" resonating with you (as a reader OR a writer) or do you find yourself doing something completely different?


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