Friday, July 29, 2011

Short Stories: Challenges and Triumphs - by, Sarah Ballance

Happy Friday my dear friends! I hope this final work day of the week finds you all well. Sarah Ballance is here again, this time discussing the challenges and the triumphs of writing a short story. Please stick around and learn more about her short story, Hawthorne, a charity novella that benefits the victims of the Japan Earthquake 100%

As with this blog post and all others that Sarah and I visit on our tour, a comment enters you for a chance to win a fabulous prize, including a $10 gift card. This weeks card is to Amazon.

Short Stories: Challenges and Triumphs
by, Sarah Ballance

The shorter they are, the faster you hit the wall. Enough said? Okay, maybe not. But suffice to say the whole short story gig nearly killed me. If you've been following along you already know Elaina caught me in a weak moment with the deadline a whopping two months away. She mentioned "charity" and I thought, wow, even I can write 10k words in two months so I agreed. How hard can one little story be, right?


My biggest challenge—or at least the first one I thought of—was creating a connection to the characters. At first glance, ten thousand words doesn't allow for a lot of character development. This issue spilled over into plot. What kind of plot will capture readers' interest, yet remain simple enough to resolve in such a short word space? I'm sure I needlessly complicated things for myself by wanting it to be a suspense tale, but ultimately that desire led to the creation of HAWTHORNE.

As the deadline closed in, I found myself lamenting my predicament to my husband. His response was simple, yet brilliant. "Write a ghost story," he said. And his suggestion grew on me at epic speed. I've always loved a good ghost story, and as a writer when you add "the unexplained" to the plot, you don't have to do quite so much explaining. Viola! Compact plot. Granted, it's not that easy, but the thought eased the pressure somewhat. I had something to work with.

Then—oh boy—the end hit me. I clung to it until I could get to my computer, then I tore up the keyboard getting it down. At that point, it was just a matter of going back to the 500 or so words I'd written at the beginning and making some minor edits. Then, y'all, the words flew. For the first time in my short career as an author, the words came as fast as I could type.

In the end, HAWTHORNE taught me two things. One, I don't have to be afraid of short stories anymore. And two, it's possible for me to write more than, oh, two hundred words a day. Triumph indeed!

Yay! And am I ever glad Hawthorne did come to Sarah, what an amazing read!!! I am discussing this same topic over at Sarah's blog concerning my charity short, To Urn Her Love. Head on over and check it out!!!

About Hawthorne:


After a terrifying encounter with the unexplained, it took ten years and the news of her grandmother’s passing for Emma Grace Hawthorne to return to her childhood home. She sought peace in saying a proper goodbye, but what she found was an old love, a sordid family history, and a wrong only she could right.

Living in the shadow of Hawthorne Manor, Noah Garrett never forgot about Emma Grace. In a house full of secrets, his search for missing documents revealed a truth that could cost him everything. What he found gave Emma the freedom to walk away from the mansion, her heart free and clear, but at what price to Noah?


The car slowed to a stop and a decade's worth of memories tumbled onto the sun-blanched asphalt.

Hawthorne Manor.

The hand-painted sign hadn't changed in years. In the thick, damp air filling the Louisiana landscape, the wood display remain inexplicably unaffected. There it sat—every meticulously scripted letter as crisp and clean as the stark white walls of the manor it lauded, oblivious to the passage of time.

Emma Hawthorne tensed in the seat of the Mustang convertible, staring at her past with ice sluicing her spine Anywhere else, the view would have been gorgeous. The drive, lined on both sides with live oak laden with Spanish moss, was the South personified. At the end, Hawthorne Manor held court. Pristine, proud, the boastful antebellum home beamed, lording over its acreage.

But it harbored the unspeakable. No amount of time could erase what happened to her on the other side of the expanse of green lawn. Nothing could change what she'd seen there. Some might say she was crazy—that she'd imagined or invented the whole ordeal—but her scars were all the proof she needed. Whether the shadows lurking behind the fa├žade of the picturesque plantation were real or born of an overactive imagination, there was no way she was going back into that house.

Especially not for a dead woman.

Sparing a glance in the rearview, Emma steeled herself against a trembling in her hands that threatened to overtake her body. She released a pent-up breath, her heart settling into a less acrobatic rhythm at the thought of leaving. She didn't have to stay here.

Let the South win this one. She was going home.

A split second after she decided to go, something caught her eye. She blinked, trying to see through the swaying canopy of leaves and moss, certain a figure stood atop the widow's walk straddling the roofline of the house. But no one—

Something brushed the car, rocking it. Swallowing panic, Emma tried to tear her focus from Hawthorne Manor, but fear kept her from looking anywhere else. Time and distance hadn't done her any favors; she was a fool for coming anywhere near this place, much less with the ragtop down.

The car rocked harder. The something refused to be ignored.

Fighting the grip of panic tightening her throat—fighting the ghosts of her past—Emma forced herself to look away from the house, toward the intrusion over her left shoulder.

The first thing she saw was an aged set of gnarled fingers resting on the door, blue automotive paint showing through an ugly translucence.

The second was the face—withered, centurion, and expressionless. Haunting.



Emma screamed.


It couldn't be her.

Noah Garrett tore down the drive, slapping through a muggy afternoon haze comprised of mosquitoes and humidity. He couldn't know that scream, but he felt the connection the moment the sound of her fear pierced the thick air.

Emma Grace.

The one reason he allowed himself to stagnate on the old plantation, long after life and reason moved on without him. Long after she had.

A blue Mustang sat at the end of the driveway. He wondered if it could be hers—even as he knew it impossible—but she was nowhere in sight.

He slowed to a trot. The sprint left him drenched with sweat and not entirely disappointed his imagination had gotten away from him. His dream of one more chance to see Emma Grace had never included himself as a dripping mess. He wiped the moisture from his brow, fast concluding the car must belong to a tourist. They often parked at the end of the drive and took pictures of the condescending mansion most thought beautiful. He assumed the intrusion seemed small to their frequent guests, but the constant ding of the hidden bell announcing a visitor could drive a man to the edge.

As if losing Emma Grace hadn't already accomplished that.

Noah closed in on the convertible, giving the nearby grounds a cursory look. The lawn was meticulous, the beds overflowing with sprays of purple garden phlox which trailed around the bend in the road and disappeared. A riot of white and rust-red irises backed the smaller purple flowers, their leaves deep green and glossy. Overhead, Spanish moss swayed only occasionally atop a maze of live oak, more likely a result of a passing swarm of insects than an actual air current. The land was still. If there were tourists snapping photos of the historic plantation—or doing anything else—he didn't see them. But someone had been there, the seemingly familiar scream so real.

Wasn't it always?

Resigned to another night alone with his memories, Noah pivoted.

And found himself nose to nose with Emma Grace.

Astounded, he opened his mouth, then closed it. He wanted to reach for her, but his arms refused the notion; they hung uselessly by his sides, the effort futile. His mouth wasn't much on cooperation, either. Finally, he found his tongue. "Em—"

Her expression cut him off. Green eyes wide, skin pale, her small frame shaking, she spoke. "I saw her, Noah. She's back." The words, nearly soundless, seemed to catch in the thick air. Lingering. Threatening.

And ripping the heart from his chest.

Want to know what happens next? Follow these links, make your donation today and find out! Astraea Press, Amazon

Already bought your copy of Hawthorne or To Urn Her Love? Please click HERE to fill out a simple form for your FREE Thank You gift. Sarah and I really want to show our appreciation for your support.

Thank you!



  1. Oh my gosh! Now I have to come up with the money to buy both! I just love a good ghost story! And I need to show support to my cousin....

  2. Hi, Diana! I'm so thrilled to see you excited about these titles. I hope you LOVE them!

  3. You will LOVE Sarah's story, it is such an amazing read!!! Thank you so much for checking out our stories! And read what you love and interests you, either title supports a good cause. :-D

  4. I sincerely hope that you are continuing to have much success in selling both books for your charities! And kudos to your publishers!
    kacbooks at hotmail dot com