Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Wednesday Re-Wind / IWSG for March, 2013

Being the first Wednesday of the month also means it's time for another installment of the Insecure Writer's Support Group.

Hosted by the Ninja Captain himself, Alex J. Cavanaugh, the IWSG is a time for reflection and introspection about the things that, as writers, make us feel less than secure in ourselves and our writing.

Today I'm going to double up, just a bit, and throw in another Wednesday Re-Wind offering where I re-cycle 're-position' (as Mr. Koopmans might say :) ) an old post for newer followers, who might have missed it the first go round. 

Sharing my stories (again) ties in with some insecurities I have about people reading my stuff. I know that I'm by no means alone in this. It's something I think we all go through and is part of writing for public consumption. People, at some point, are going to read your work and not everyone is going to like it.

It's just a fact.

Back when I first started this blog I, of course, had zero people checking in and leaving feedback, so I felt o.k in posting my flash fic, short stories etc. here. Now, though, I'm getting a little bit of traffic and, honestly, I'm not sure just what sort of responses my stories will get. Not that I worry about people being mean or anything....this community is great and extremely supportive all around. 

I just, sometimes, fret about the constructive criticism falling more towards the criticism and less on the constructive. Not because people are looking to be cold or hard, but because my writing needs work. A lot of work.

I just wonder, though, if I have what it takes to get that work done. Doubts and insecurities abound, but I just have to keep plugging away and see if time will tell.

On that note, I'll shift gears for another Wednesday Re-Wind.  This story is in the same vein as the first Fortune Society tale, using the same pulp setting, some of the same character types, beats, and gags. This time, though, it's the ladies' turn.

The Fortune Society in: 

(Diamonds aren’t just a girl’s best friend…) 

Dramatis Personae: 

Aphrodite: Self-professed demi-goddess with the power to cloud men’s minds….with love. Blessed with mystical senses, she’s one of The Baron’s most capable Team Leaders.

Libby “The Librarian” Langley: Thanks to a near photographic memory and growing up in a library, if she’s read it….she knows it. One of the smartest people on the planet….also one of the most annoying.

Amanda Oakley: Just like her great grandma, Annie, Amanda is one of the best shots in not just the West, but the entire world. Always up for a challenge, there’s no weapon she can’t shoot and no vehicle she can’t pilot.

“Prima” Donna McGurk: A one time Olympic track and field hopeful, destiny took her in a different direction. Becoming one of the ‘Jet Set’, her lifestyle affords her to travel the globe, picking up all sorts of different skills while living the high life. Marrying a djinn (genie) didn't hurt, either.


“Just so’s ya know….ah ain’t likin’ this one bit.” Her twin .45s barked once and two goons jerked back and spun around, falling to the ground in a heap. 

“Duly noted Amanda”, Aphrodite said with a wry grin on her beautiful features. She moved a mass of thick, blonde hair from her face as she quickly turned to see another wave of Mr. Lee’s men approaching. “Orders are orders and clients are clients. Oh, and by the by, remember….don’t kill our lovely welcoming committee….” 

“Ah ain’t….just wingin’ ‘em is all…” 

A shrill scream to her left almost made Grammy Oakley’s favorite granddaughter, with the nerves of steel, flinch….almost. 

Glancing to the side, between shots, she saw four of Mr. Lee’s well dressed, hooded, goons slowly surrounding Libby. The smaller, thinner, librarian had her left arm out as if to shoo them away with a wave of her hand. Her right hand was digging into a messenger bag which slung over her left shoulder. 

Her shriek also got the attention of the fourth woman in the group. A larger than average woman, one that looked as if she spent a lot of time outdoors, lifting heavy things. The curvy redhead was engaged with two other hooded goons, kicks and punches flying as the two, even larger goons, looked to want to do her physical harm. A look of concern marring her attractive features, Donna grunted out “Let me show you fellas something I picked up in Paris, France…” and, with that, she spun on her heel twice and delivered two, hard, savate kicks to each side of the hooded goon’s heads….dropping them to the ground while she rushed over to give Libby a helping hand. 

The slimmer woman, who bore a striking resemblance to Myrna Loy, seemed to have recovered her wits. Quickly, she pulled her hand from her messenger bag and, in it, was a large can of Morton’s salt. She flipped the lid up with her thumb and spun in a circle, dousing the goons surrounding her with the white flakes while they, in turn, proceeded to burst into flames. 

“Wights” she said, catching her breath and moving away from the now dying, open flames. 

“White, black, Asian, Moroccan, who cares?”, Donna said, her eyes still wide in amazement. 

Giving her a confused smile, Libby shoved the salt can back into her overstuffed bag. 

“No….they’re called ‘wights’. If you check the small amount of skin that shows between their cuff and gloves, it looks gray and scaly. Added in the slight stiffness of their movements and the rabid fervor in which they follow orders and you can tell they’re the newly deceased. 

Donna just shook her head as she glanced over Libby’s shoulder, then ran over to Aphrodite as more goons approached. 

“What? You didn’t know that?” Libby called after her. 

“Hey Boss”, Amanda shouted as she continued pumping lead into shoulders and knees, the goons were being slowed, but not halted and there were more waves pouring into the large room, “ah’m runnin’ outta lead here!” 

Giving her a slight nod, Aphrodite concentrated on the moving throng approaching her from the glowing circle of energy on the wall. Their arms out, fingers flexing, they prepared to rend her limb from limb. Shoving another mass of thick, blonde, hair from her face, she smiled and pursed her lips. She extended her arms wide, her clingy tunic fluttering in the air that was coming from….somewhere, no one was quite sure as there were no windows in the room containing England’s crown jewels. She began to levitate as she surveyed the mass of tuxedo clad, hooded, figures approaching….her strappy sandals leaving the ground. 

“That’s it boys, come close and feel the love!” 

Aphrodite began to glow and the air filled with little sparkles of light. A wave of that same light rushed over the approaching goons, halting them in their tracks. They just stood there as if unsure what to do next. 

“Dazzling…” Libby murmured in awe. 

“This won’t last long, ladies, so grab what we came for and let’s hop the next chariot out of here. I sense the Beefeaters are on their way.” Aphrodite said, still holding her arms out wide, a look of concentration etched on her pretty face. 

“Ummm…just where, exactly, is the thing we’re here for?” Donna asked, looking at the vast and varied types of jewelry and cases in the room. 

Libby pointed to the far wall. Sitting on a small pedestal under glass, a tiara made of bright diamonds shone in the darkness. 

“Right there. I once read that the Princess’ crown was placed near the back of the room as to not take away from the Queen’s jewels.” 

“You’re sure about that?” Donna said as she sprinted over to the case, bashing in the glass with a gloved fist before Libby could confirm. 

“Of course, I’m sure. What? You didn’t know that?” Libby asked while Donna just rolled her eyes. 

With the tiara in hand, Donna yelled “Got it!” and made her way over to a still floating Aphrodite. Libby and Amanda, salt can and guns holstered respectively, followed suit. 

“Ah still don’t like workin’ fer that lil house painter fella….gives me the creeps.” Amanda intoned as they huddled up. 

“Well, we’re not so much working for him as we are against him. He only thinks we’re doing him a service. Uncle Adolph’s blind faith in supernatural artifacts will, one day, be his undoing.” Aphrodite smiled. “This may look like a princess’ crown but, in reality, it’s the Crown of Verwechslung….the Crown of Confusion. His so called ‘scholars’ were a touch off base on this one. Once he puts it on, his judgment will be forever clouded and, the best part is, he’s paying the Society for doing it.” 

“What? You didn’t know that?” Libby nodded towards the other two girls who had perplexed looks on their faces. “Mr. Lee’s after it to give to the Empress of Japan, hoping she’ll finally accept his proposal of marriage.” the librarian added. 

Again, Donna rolled her eyes. “Put it on? What makes you think he’s going to wear a girly tiara?” 

“Oh, there’s intelligence out there that says Hitler has some…let’s say…odd traits.” Aphrodite said, though clenched teeth, the smile fading as she continued to concentrate. “Good thing these…wight things still seemed to have some vestiges of manhood still left in them…” 

Libby nodded again, opening her mouth before Donna cut her off. “If you say it, I’m gonna throttle you…” 

Libby, promptly, closed her mouth again. 

“Awright, Donna….yer up….” Grammy Oakley’s favorite granddaughter said, “git us outta here.” 

And, with that, Donna held her left hand up and removed the expensive looking leather glove that covered it. A huge diamond, wedding, band sparkled on her ring finger. She kissed and whispered to it…. 

“My love, I wish us home.” her voice taking on a haunting, sing song, tone as she spoke.

The four women began to shimmer and fade from sight. As they glowed brighter, Libby cocked her head towards Donna. 

“ many wishes do you have with that?” 

“I honestly have no idea.” Donna smiled wistfully and winked. 

“So then….we could’ve been stuck here and….” Libby gulped. 

“What? You didn’t know that?” Donna winked, patting Libby on her cheek.

Aphrodite’s hearty laughter was the last thing heard as the four women blinked out of sight

So, what are your writing insecurities?

Would you like to see any more tales involving The Fortune Society?


Sheena-kay Graham said...

Fortune Society all the way!! Posting your stories for others to see can be very nerve wrecking but a story unseen is a story unread. You have to decide if that's ok with you.

Elise Fallson said...

First, you definitely have what it takes to be a writer and get the work done! Yes getting feedback is a bit scary but over time your writing will improve because of it and you will grow as a writers. This is something I have to keep reminding myself of all the time. (:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Hopefully they have more wishes - an you more to write!

Al Diaz said...

I hear you on your insecurities. I think it is a good idea that you repost again all those stories that no one got to read when you started. Good you're doing it now. I say keep them coming.

Anonymous said...

Mark, I enjoyed your fiction! Yeah, there are a few things...but nothing that can't be easily remedied. I really liked how you drew from actual history and wrote about the g'daughter of Annie Oakley, but beware when dealing with real people, though. What year is this supposed to take place? Annie died in 1926. So (unless time travel is involved) words, phrases, and things have to be prior to that. Goons seems to be a word that is used later in time. "Colt 45 Peacemaker" would be a better phrase to use...puts us in that time frame and reads a little less awkward.

Great job, though. I enjoyed your story. I played Frank Butler onstage. Had a blast.

Nickie said...

I try to remind myself that criticism helps my writing grow stronger. It can be hard to hear the negative things, but sometimes that's exactly what we need to hear to improve. I think of it like pruning a tree -- constructive criticism chops off the unhealthy, ugly bits and lets the story flourish.

I love the diverse cast you put together for your Fortune Society.

jaybird said...

I always want to spew when I share the stuff I write. Every once in a while, someone will come along and tell me that stuff is pretty darn good, and it makes me feel a whole lot better about posting it.

Keep on plugging along. The more you put it out there, the easier it gets :)

Suze said...

Look for someone who will tell you you're great no matter what. And then listen to that person. Criticism abounds. The people who fuel our belief in the fact that we have something worthwhile to share are golden. Find that person. Be that person. Make no apologies for needing it, giving it, seeking it and finding it.

Onward, Mark Means! Sending you my best vibes today!

ilima said...

I could be an award winning NY Times bestselling author, and I'm sure I'd still feel insecure about that book and my writing skills every time I hear about someone picking it up. That's part of being a writer, I guess. Take what will help, sluff off what won't, and keep trying to grow. :)

Elsie Amata said...

I love your re-wind stories since I'm a newcomer to your blog. I'm so insecure about my writing, no one outside of my family has seen my WIPs yet!

Mina Burrows said...

All writing needs lots of work. It just does.

I liked TFS. :)

Nicki Elson said...

What a totally fun mix of characters!

I think the strangest thing about writing is that we yearn to be read at the same time we fear it. Glad you're facing that insecurity head on because your writing is wonderful & deserves to be read.

Mark Means said...

@Sheena: "a story unseen is a story unread"...hmm....very good point and definitely something to think about.

@Elise: Thanks very much, I appreciate that! Agreed..if we don't know what we're doing wrong, we can't correct it.

@Alex: Heh, oh I think she will and, I guess, that will mean I'll have more to write, as well :)

@Al: Thank you and I'll see what I can do :)

@M.L: Mike, thanks for the tips and I hadn't thought about any of that, really. I was leaving the time frame a bit nebulous, mentioning Hitler could put it in the 30s or 40s. I -really- like the idea of making the guns Colts...again, something I didn't think of, but wish I had. If it were more than some flash fic, I would have probably been a bit more in depth, but great points and thank you!

M. J. Joachim said...

So many twists and turns! Yes, definitely keep the stories coming...:)

Mark Means said...

@Nickie: Pruning is a great way to frame constructive criticism and I'll have to remember that. Thank you and I always like group efforts where the members are completely different (for the most) part from each other.

@jaybird: You're exactly can be nerve wracking, but it's great when someone tells you "well done."

@Suze: Wow, thank you....your comment made my day..seriously :)

@Ilima: Very wise words...thanks!

@Elsie: Thank you and same here....I've only shown one person my wip and that was my wife. Maybe after I polish it up, some...

@Mina: Yes, that's definitely true and thank you...they're fun to write :)

@Nicki: Thank you very much and I really appreciate that! Criticism is something I'm fine much, though, might be another story so I think it's a good idea to start small and work my way up :)

Mark Means said...

@M.J: Thanks and I'm sure I can probably put a few more together :)

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I love your cast of characters. Very imaginative.

C. Lee McKenzie said...

Very brave to post to the public like you do. Yay for you! I fall in to the category of readers who liked what I read.

nutschell said...

great Idea to RE-position old posts:) lovely to see your writing!

Tyrean Martinson said...

You are a writer! Say it, breathe it, believe it! You definitely have what it takes!
I would love to read more about the Fortune Society! You have some intriguing and fun characters there, and I think I would like to read more about their plan to thwart Hitler.

Warning: Hopefully Constructive help: I would love to see/feel the scene a bit more - for some reason I didn't know they were in the same room as the crown jewels until the latter part of the scene. A little more description would be helpful for me as a reader. (Plus, that's something I struggle with too, so it's something I noticed)

I loved your characters and the way you show their personalities throughout the scene. I liked how they worked together, with each of them having a role and a purpose.

BTW - I hope that was helpful and not hurtful. I think you are a great writer!

Michael Di Gesu said...

It takes a great deal of time and determination. The talent is there, you just need to cultivate the skills and TIMING is EVERYTHING!

Suzanne Furness said...

It brings me out in goosebumps when I post a writing extract. But facing the fear is a good thing, right? I look forward to reading more of your work, Mark. Go for it!

Nancy Thompson said...

When I wrote my first novel, I did everything wrong, but it wasn't drafted with the intent of publishing it. When I realized that it what I wanted, I set out to learn everything I could about the craft. And that helped get me published. But I'm still learning. And as I write my second novel, I can't help but think how much easier it is, but I also know the standard will be higher this time. So no rest for the weary! And if it makes you feel any better, that fear of others reading your work goes away. The fear of how they judge never does though. *sigh*

Maurice Mitchell said...

A fun story Mark! I say post the rest.

celeste holloway said...

Mark! You rock! I love that your writing is action packed and fast paced. I'm surprised you have an insecurity about people reading your work because it's great, but I do understand how you feel. It's that old demon, doubt. We can chase him away, but he always comes back. We just have to stop listening and know that each time someone reads our work, it'll get that much better! :) Thanks for sharing!

The Golden Eagle said...

I love reading your re-positioned posts. :)

I don't post fiction on my blog nearly as much as I used to, either. I'll create things for blogfests, but novel material typically stays in the novel and off the internet.

Lexa Cain said...

It's hard for anyone to get criticism of their art, whether constructive or not. The best thing to do is join a group. Giving critiques is as helpful to your writing as receiving them.
There are some great online communities, like and Absolute Write where you can find a group. Good luck! :-)

Shell Flower said...

I really enjoyed the playful jabs and character development in this piece. Your writing is funny, and that's hard to do. I'd watch the commas, though.

Anyway, yes, critique is hard to take, but I've found that being in a critique group and experiencing how right my group is about what they say has really helped. Plus, it does feel good when someone "gets" you.

Mark Means said...

@Susan: Thank you! I, sometimes, use the same arch types, but in these stories they're intentional.

@C. Lee: Thank you very much, I really appreciate that!

@nutschell: Thanks a lot :)

@Tyrean: This was only a flash fic, so that's the main reason I kept the background to a minimum, but you're absolutely correct in what you're saying. Something I will definitely keep in mind for future stories, too :)

And, no, you were not being hurtful at all...feel to critique me anytime...I have a ton to learn. Thank you!

@Micahel: Thank you and, yes, timing certainly is everything :)

@Suzanne: Thanks! I think it's great practice for me to get used to criticisms. I like when someone sees something I don't...I always find that helpful.

@Nancy: Great point and I hope things like this can be a real learning experience for me. Thanks :)

@Maurice: Thank you!

@Celeste: Thanks a ton, that really made me feel great...honest :) I know I need work with my grammar and punctuation...I'm all over the map with that. I've found some free online courses I'm going to take and see if it helps :)

@Golden Eagle: Thank you and I know what you mean, though I'd be very interested in reading your stuff too.

@Lexa: I've been looking for a critique group in the area, with no luck so far. I might try an online alternative, though. Good idea :)

@Shell: Thank you :) I try to make it light hearted when the scene supports it. Oh yes, I definitely need to watch my commas as well as the rest of my punctuation. One of the areas I definitely need help with.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

What a fun cast of characters! Some good humor, too. Sure, keep the stories coming. It'll empower you. The first time you posted them, when the followers weren't numerous, was like a rehearsal. Now, you've got your audience. Go for it!

Ella said...

I enjoyed your story and do want more! It is hard to put yourself out there-I admire you~ I too need to be reminded of commas and such. I would love to read more :D

Keep going!

Shannon Lawrence said...

Constructive criticism is good, but it can be hard to take. I don't post fiction much on my blog, and then only when I'm participating in a blog hop of some sort. I agree with Al above that you should re-post those ones you did early on when no one was coming through.

Shannon at The Warrior Muse

Julie Flanders said...

I'm so glad you're doing these rewinds as I love getting the chance to read your stories now. I love Libby the Librarian being one of the most annoying people around LOL. Isn't that often the case with super smart people? :D

I so relate to the fear of sharing our writing in public. I wonder if it's something writers ever totally get over!

Anonymous said...

We all have things to work on in our writing. That's just part of it. But, the great thing about writing is that the more we do, the more we learn. :)

Thanks for stopping by my blog. Keep writing!


klahanie said...

Hi Mark,

Well done you for posting up your intriguing story. Yes, it would be good for you to post up more tales involving "The Fortune Society". However, just a note and I hope you understand, I think you should consider posting up a shorter version of your tales. Like a lot of bloggers, I read several posts per day and I try to take in what I'm reading in its entirety.

I don't have writing insecurities because I'm under no pressure and I write whatever. A lot of it is experimental and just a bit of therapy.

You be well and happy writing.

Gary :)

J.L. Campbell said...

Hi, Mark,
Every time we put a bit of our writing on display, we expose our insecurities. Good thing is that we have the courage to still keep moving.

I wouldn't want to run into your group of ladies and be on the wrong team.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Well, where's the rest of it?

Melissa Bradley said...

Terrific story, I was all into it and hated it when it was over. I want to read more. :)

Mark Means said...

@Susan: Thank you and I really like your 'rehearsal' concept...very inspiring :)

@Ella: Thanks a bunch and I will!

@Shannon: Oh yeah, totally agree. It can be hard to take, but I think it's still a great learning tool :)

@Julie: Heh, yeah, for some strange reason, I like writing 'annoying' characters...they're so much fun. I'm not sure if it's ever something writers get over, actually.

@Alexandra: So true...just like with anything..practice, practice, practice.

@Gary: Thank you, my friend, and I agree that writing can be great therapy, so you keep at it, as well. Take care!

@J.L: Totally agree and, no, I wouldn't want to be on their bad side either :)

@L. Diane: Still simmering in my brainpan :) I've been thinking, for a while now, about some more adventures. I'll have to put them in the 'things to do' file :)

@Melissa: Thank you much!

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