Recycling Stories

Please welcome JJ Dare, friend and fellow Second Wind author. JJ writes thrillers (False Positive and False World), and is one of the collaborators on the Rubicon Ranch serial. Her Rubicon Ranch characters amuse me because they are so unrepentently manipulative and unabashedly malevolent. (How can they not be with such a father as Morris Sinclair?)

JJ is here to talk about recycling stories and finding a new purpose for them:

I’m in the midst of going through junk in my house and either trashing it, giving it away, or keeping it. I’m classifying junk as those things I have no immediate use for, things I haven’t used in years or have no idea why I kept them to begin with. I gave the cats an escape clause because they’re just too darn cute to put in the junk category. They’re useless, like a number of stories I’ve written, but I can’t seem to toss either the cats or the stories.

I’ve had some very good advice given to me the last time I bemoaned my many unfinished writings. One that kept coming up was for me to toss everything and start fresh. It sounds so good but it’s so hard to trash the stories I’ve given birth to. It’s like getting rid of a half-finished painting or musical score. I don’t have it in me to do it. I keep telling myself, I’ll finish this . . . one day.

I’ve come up with a solution. I was wondering what I could do with some of my incompletes and I hit upon an idea: I’ll quickly finish the stories that are at least halfway completed and combine two or three of these novellas into a novel. Sounds good on paper. A little harder to do in practice.

I started with three unfinished romances. I’m not a romance writer. I wrote these romances because I wanted to try my hand at every genre. I reread what I’d written and it occurred to me that these stories would be better classified as science fiction or horror.

I’m not a comfortable romance writer. Not because I have been denied romance in my own life, but because I’ve always viewed romance as a very private interaction between two people. To put that on paper unnerves me. When things unnerve me, I get weird. Hence, my romances are all off-beat and quirky. For the most part, though, the violence is low level and not too many characters die.

My comfort zone is action and suspense. I like to be on the go in my writing. For me, romance is a lot of faint female hearts, strong rescuing men and pining on both sides. That’s well and fine because fictional romance should be high illusion and a way to escape into a pleasant dream world where the male and female characters end up happily-ever-after after a reasonable amount of conflict.

For my type of writing, though, I pull from the quirky side of life (sometimes, my life). I love weird. I adore off-beat. Bizarre is a close personal friend of mine. Happy endings annoy me because I want to believe what I’m reading and happiness is a fleeting occurrence for all of us. I want a real-life ending.

I identify with strong male characters and equally strong female characters. I like no-nonsense and have a hard time writing fluff. Lately, my short stories and contributions to online collaborations have been my saving grace. I’m able to write quickly and decisively as long as I don’t have to think too hard about it.

But, I always come back to those things I have hanging around on my laptop. Trash them, give them away or keep them – I need to decide something because it’s gotten to the point where seeing them just sitting there accusingly has become depressing. The best hope, I guess, is to salvage what is salvageable and compile them as a collection.

One day I might broaden these novellas into full-length novels. But today, they will have to be Frankensteined into a patchwork monster of a book.

When you get stuck in a story, what do you do? How many unfinished stories do you have taking up space?


J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short stories and triple digit works-in-progress.

Current enthusiasm is sharpening intangible knives and co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch

Facebook addiction

My Short Story “The Willow” Has Been Anthologized!

My short story, “The Willow,” has been published in the Second Wind anthology Change is in the Wind. Reviewer Sheila Deeth says:  “Pat Bertram’s ‘The Willow’ haunts with its beautiful portrayal of love and loss.”

I hope you will read this story. It did what I wanted, capturing the essence of timeless love and the new life that comes from loss. You don’t even have to buy the book. I’ll let you download the anthology this week for free! To download the ebook, go to, pick the format of your choice, and then use coupon code HG57Y when you purchase the book. Your cost should be $0.00 (Offer expires April 17, 2012)

Excerpt from “The Willow”:

One summer day, shortly after their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, Gracie was curled on the couch, proofing the catalog for an exhibit of the new modernists, when Scott trudged into the room. Gladness at the sight of him sparked a smile as always, but something in his manner . . .  a hesitation . . . made her smile fade.

“Do we have any plant food?” he asked, his words slurred.

“There should be some in the garage.” She peered at him. “Are you okay?”

“I think I’m dying.”

Gracie bolted upright, heart pounding so hard it shook her body. “What?”

“A little plant food should help.” Scott started to walk away.

“Wait! Just wait a minute, Scott.”

He glanced over his shoulder, a questioning furrow between his brows.

“You can’t just drop a bomb like that and then leave as if nothing happened,” she said.

“What bomb?”

She stared at him for a second, unable to speak, but finally managed to croak out the words. “You said, ‘I think I’m dying.’”

“I didn’t say you were dying.”

“Not me. You. You said you were dying.”

“I said the tree was dying. You never listen, do you?”

The chill in his voice froze her. All she could do was sit immobile on the suddenly uncomfortable couch and watch him. He stumbled as he left the room, and his shoulder hit the doorjamb.

Fear, like fury, flashed through her body. Something was wrong with Scott. Terribly wrong. In all their years together, he’d never spoken to her in such a tone. She hadn’t even known he had such a tone. And that stumble? He was the most graceful man she’d ever met, walking on the high beams of his buildings as if they were earth-bound sidewalks.

She chased after Scott and found him staring up at the canopy of the globe willow. Golden leaves sprinkled down on him as if it were fall instead of just beyond spring.

“Do we have any plant food?” he asked, warmth and worry in his voice.

Gracie put a hand to her mouth to hold back a dry sob. Didn’t he remember that he’d already asked her about the plant food? “Maybe it’s time for you to get a check-up,” she said.

“Me? I feel good.” He grinned at her and held out his arms. “How about a little stress release, love? That’s all I need to make me feel great.”

Blurb from Change is in the Wind:

The assignment was simple: submit a short story dealing with change. The results were astonishing, engaging, and incredibly varied. The stories compiled in this volume range from taut action drama, to stealthy intrigue, to enthralling spirituality, to tangled relationships, to timeless love renewed—or lost, to angelic second chances.  No two of the tales are remotely similar, and yet they are linked in remarkable ways. Each story is tied it to all the others in the anthology with two exquisite threads. The first constant theme is redemption; in each case there is a transformation, often painful, that brings new beginnings, new possibilities and revitalized life. The second theme is love—timeless and true—expressed in a multitude of ways, but unfailing in bringing hope and newness. Change in the Wind is an extraordinary collection of marvelous stories from gifted, eclectic writers who draw us into their worlds and leave us wanting more.

Second Wind Publishing is starting a new short story contest. Perhaps you will be included in the next anthology! For information about this new contest, click here: Holiday short story contest