The Last First Time wins prize!

The Last First Time cover

I am delighted to announce that my short story, The Last First Time, is the Second Place winner in the 2017 Bethlehem Writers Roundtable Short Story competition!

I wrote this charming story during a Short Story Intensive workshop led by my good friend, Mary Robinette Kowal (who you may also know as one of the hosts of the Writing Excuses podcast), and am pleased to share it with you now. You can read it free of charge on the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable website.

Enjoy!

2017 Bethlehem Writers Roundtable award

Mother of the Waters in “Beneath the Waves” collection

Mother of the Waters coverWhen I was invited to write a story for the Beneath the Waves collection, I knew that I didn’t want to write about the same sea-creatures everyone else would be writing about. Instead, I let my mind drift back to a vacation in the Caribbean a few years ago, and let my search through myths and legends lead me to the warm waters – with results I hope you’ll enjoy reading as much as I enjoyed writing!

In the spring of 1810, the death of his father – and discovery of an unknown uncle – sends fifteen year-old Samuel Harlowe from his simple life in England across the sea on a journey filled with dangers and wonders he never imagined.

And when a kraken attacks his ship, Samuel must choose to whether to let his crewmates perish in the watery depths, or to pay the price demanded by the Caribbean goddess, Mami Wata, the Mother of the Waters.

Available as part of the Beneath the Waves bundle, on BundleRabbit, or from your favorite ebook distributor (Kobo, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or iBooks).

One Magical Christmas in “The Very Merry Christmas” collection

One Magical ChristmasAround my house, we usually hold off on the holiday decorations until (much too late in) December, but since I just *happen* to have a story in this great holiday collection, I thought I’d break with tradition and share it with you now!

The short story, One Magical Christmas, is part of The Very Merry Christmas Bundle, a collection of twenty holiday-themed short stories.

Nick wants to plan a festive Christmas surprise for his girlfriend, Emily. Easy enough, right?

Wrong!

Finding a street vendor in Manhattan with a nice tree on the last Friday before Christmas – a huge challenge. And the tree he does find comes with some surprises of its own.

Available as part of the Very Merry Christmas bundle, on BundleRabbit, or from your favorite ebook distributor (Kobo, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or iBooks).

The Very Merry Christmas Bundle

The Night of Brahma in “Visions of the Apocalypse” anthology

Fiction River - Visions of the ApocalypseI’m not a huge fans of apocalypse stories – but when the opportunity presented itself to write a story for the Fiction River anthology, Visions of the Apocalypse, edited by John Helfers, I accepted the challenge,  and The Night of Brahma was the result.

People have been predicting the end of the world almost since the beginning, with speculations about the actual nature of mankind’s demise varying widely across the board. This led me to ask, ‘what if they’re all right?’– and as soon as the question formed in my mind, the structure for the story appeared, as if the universe itself had struggled with the same question, and we’d both suddenly discovered the answer.

Working with John was an amazing, educational experience. I am very proud of The Night of Brahma, and hope you like it, too!

 — Leigh

Paper Craft is back!

Digital Fiction - Horror collectionIf you missed my short story, Paper Craft, when it came out in the Ragnarok anthology, That Hoodoo, Voodoo That You Do, I’m happy to announce that it’s making a second appearance over on DigitalFictionPub.com

I also have to brag a little, and post this review quote:

“…Paper Craft by Leigh Saunders, was a perfect way to round up the anthology. I loved the way the story was structured, alternating between the past and present, and thought the ritualistic element was fascinating.

I also couldn’t help but instantly like the main heroine, Tracy. She’s not a witch, or a sorceress, or a Voodoo Queen. No, she’s a woman using her extraordinary gift to help those around her. The final image of the story was beautiful and magnificently described, and will no doubt stay with you for a long, long time…” 

S. R. Manev, Amazon reviewer

Browse on over to Digital Fiction Pub – and you can read Paper Craft and a whole lot of other great, short fiction – absolutely free!

Can’t beat that!

Heaven’s Flight in “Alchemy & Steam” anthology

Alchemy & Steam, a Fiction River anthology, containing the story Heaven's Flight by Leigh SaundersI got into Steampunk because of the cool costumes and nifty gadgets – and then started reading about the amazing worlds they “came” from. So when I had the opportunity to write an original Steampunk short story for the WMG Fiction River anthology “Alchemy & Steam” (edited by the fabulous Kerrie L. Hughes), I couldn’t resist!

My story, “Heaven’s Flight” adds just a drop or two of magic to a world where gears and clockworks rule the day – and introduces some characters I guarantee you I’ll be writing more stories about.

ISBN 978-1-56146-627-6
ebook, $6.99
Trade paperback, $15.99

Available wherever you like to buy books!

Paper Craft in “That Hoodoo, Voodoo, That You Do” anthology

That Hoodoo, Voodoo, That You Do containing my story "Paper Craft" by Leigh SaundersOnce in a while, I write creepy dark fantasy, just for the fun of it. Yeah, I know, I clearly have a twisted sense of humor. Go with it.

So when I saw the anthology call for “That Hoodoo, Voodoo, That You Do,” (published by Ragnarok Publications and edited by Lincoln Crisler), I couldn’t resist the challenge: write a creepy, dark ritual short story, that leaves the reader going “but what if…” and makes them go check out what might be hidden in their own attic. I’m proud of “Paper Craft” and hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it (and if you’re looking, it’s the last story in the collection).

And isn’t that just an awesome cover!

Available in paper and pixels, wherever you like to buy books!

Approx. 390 pages (100,000 words)
Categories: Anthology / Short Stories / Supernatural Horror
Release Date: January 26th, 2015
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-941987-30-8 / $20.95
ePub ISBN: 978-1-941987-31-5 / $3.99 USD

Write the next line…

Desert 03One of my writing mentors often says that the way to get past writer’s block, is just to  write the next line, even if you don’t know where it will take you. I often think of it as just taking the next step while staring out across the trackless desert sands from atop a camel’s back, but that’s just the image I’ve created for myself.

When I wrote Synth: Gold Record, the first 20K words and basic story arc leapt onto the page in two sittings. Then I putzed and frittered my way around through the next 15K words, kicking through the rocks and weeds at the edge of the desert for a v-e-r-y long time, staring out across the empty sands and letting them intimidate me. I had no idea where the story was going, other than one or two of the scenes that ended up near the end of the book. But how to get there…???

And then I tried just writing the next line. It sucked, and I later went back and changed it, but at the moment when I took that first hesitant step into the desert of the blank page, it didn’t feel so bad. So I took another step, and then another, and the story started telling itself again.

“Writing the next line” became “writing the next scene.”
“Writing one page a day” became days where I’d look up and realize I’d written entire chapters.

Yes, there were days during that journey across the desert of the book that I hesitated, looked back at the single line of footprints stretching behind me into the distance and forward at the drifts and dunes and blowing sand ahead and wondered where the story was taking me – and I left Brianna stranded in an avalanche or floating through space in a cargo ship full of screaming herdbeasts or lounging around in her mentor’s safe-house while I wrestled my doubts back into submission – and then I took the next step, wrote the next line, the next scene, the next chapter.

And six months after I wandered into the wilderness, I found my way out of it. The book was finished – another 105K words added to the 35K I’d started with, with twists and turns and situations and characters I’d never imagined.

Because I set the goal of “write the next line.”

MDesert 02y goal is more lofty now – it’s “one page a day” – and some days it’s difficult to find the time to write that single page. But if I meet that goal, I’ll have a book finished in a year, which isn’t too shabby when it comes to squeezing in writing time around the demands of a job and a life – demands I’ve let get the better of me in the last year or so.

Write the next line.
Write the next scene.
Write one page a day.

Odds are, meeting easily achievable goals like these just won’t be enough, and you’ll find yourself writing two lines, or three, or finishing a chapter instead of just a scene. Because storytelling is addictive, and once you let a story take root in your mind, it will keep dragging you back to the chair until it’s finished with you.

And, odds are, by the time the book is finished, you’ll look up to discover that other stories have taken root in the fertile ground of your imagination and are just waiting for their turn to take control of your fingers at the keyboard……….

Write on!

L

p.s. In case you were wondering, this little essay is just over 600 words long, slightly over two pages in manuscript format. It took me 25 minutes to write. And there’s still 23 hours and 35 minutes left of my day, some of which is unscheduled…

—–

p.s. 2 The article (below) is what got me thinking about this whole idea again today. It’s from a business perspective, not writing-focused at all, but applies to pretty much any type of goal you may find yourself struggling with.

Why You Should Set Goals So Simple They’re Laughable
Laura Montini | Inc. | Apr 15, 2014
http://www.inc.com/laura-montini/why-you-should-set-goals-so-simple-that-they-re-laughable.html
   …pledging to do something manageable is counterintuitive to most high-achievers. Instead, individuals are more likely to set [less-manageable] goals. “We create a situation somehow where A) failure is likely and B) failure is terribly, terribly devastating,” Forte said. But there’s an easy solution. In fact, it’s ridiculously easy…

Synth: Gold Record

"Memoirs of a Synth: Gold Record," a novel by Leigh SaundersI’m very pleased – very, very pleased – to introduce you to my good friend, Brianna Rei, the main character of Gold Record, the first full-length novel in the Memoirs of a Synth series. If you’ve read the short story, Firstdawn, you’ve already met Brianna, and you know that she’s smart, a little sassy, takes risks for a living, and is always on the run.

What you may not know is that she’s been pestering me for ages to tell her stories – and as you might imagine, someone with Brianna’s background has lots of stories to tell! (And yes, I’m already taking notes for the next installment.)

I hope you enjoy Memoirs of a Synth: Gold Record. It was a lot of fun to write – all 149,220 words (400+ pages) of it! In future posts, I’ll tell you some of the stories behind the writing of some parts of the book – if you have specific passages you’re curious about, drop me a note and I’ll be sure to tell you about those scenes.

Available on Kindle, Nook, iBooks, and Smashwords, $5.99

It’s all about perception

So I saw this delightful article about a photographer who takes creative pictures of the moon, and was reminded that so much in our experience of life, the world, or even a story is all about our perception of it.

A fairytale I read as a child illustrates the point: Once upon a time there was a spoiled princess (at least, that’s how I remember her). The one thing she wanted most in all the world was the moon. Obviously, no one could give it to her – deeds drawn up by the king’s solicitor didn’t satisfy, nor did any of the creative efforts of the rest of the court. It wasn’t until one insightful courtier actually had the bright idea of asking the princess what *exactly* it was that she wanted that the dilemma was resolved – to her, the moon was a tiny, silver disk, no larger than a penny, floating through the sky. So the courtier gave her a pendant with a tiny moon on it. The princess was delighted. Then the courtier asked what the rest of the world would do, now that there was no moon to light up the night sky. The princess laughed at him. “Silly man,” she said (or something like that), “A new one will grow, just like it always does each month.”

My perceptions of the world may color my stories, but my stories don’t generally reflect how I see the world, just some possible variations. Like the photographer playing with his moon photos, I just like to have fun with ideas, turning them upside-down and inside-out, and often being very surprised with just how the resulting stories turn out.