I've been working on a couple of short pieces for Still Moments Publishing. They have a magic-themed anthology coming up, one called Snowbound Hearts, and one for Valentine's Day. I sent them two pieces, one called Crossings, and the other called Honolulu City Lights. Okay, I totally stole the second title from the old Keola and Kapono Beamer song, which has always been a favorite of mine. I'm not sure it actually relates to the story as much as it does to the time that the story was set, if that makes sense. It was a popular song in the '80s, and the story was set in the early '90's, and most of the action takes place at night. It works in my head, anyway.
Crossings is the piece I'm losing sleep over. Part of the problem comes from the fact that the story is set in the Sister-verse, Sister being one of my WIPs that I'm getting ready to overhaul. It's been great to get back into that world and get to know some of the characters better, but after I finished the first draft, I had the strong sense that what I'd written wasn't really a short story, but maybe the first three or so chapters of the sequel to Sister. Oops.
So I sent Crossings off, and a couple days later it came back with the comment that the ending was too abrupt. Lesson learned - a romance can't end with the heroine walking off into the sunset, leaving the hero behind. It might work for the end of a chapter, but not so much for a short story. So I took the dog for a walk and came up with what happens next. Fate separates them, but then brings them back together and it's wine and roses time. Or something like that.
And then they sent it back again, with another request for work on the ending, and could I please bring in the heroine's parents - who so far have existed in the most abstract way possible. Like, she's alive, therefore she must have parents, but they abandoned her at birth and their identities will be known somewhere in the Sister sequel. Probably.
So....I took the dog for a walk and came up with another idea, one that gives her a family, without actually naming Mom and Dad. In the end, she and the hero ride off into the sunset together to look for them, or thereabouts. That will hopefully satisfy SMP (who are lovely, lovely people and I'm really thrilled that they like the piece enough to keep working with me on it) but still give me the flexibility to make her parents a surprise when they show up in book 2...or book 3.
What I don't want is to end up with a short story that readers NEED to understand the action in book 2 (think Charlaine Harris and Definitely Dead, which makes a whole lot more sense if you've read the short story One Word Answer). I know it can work - there's a Kim Harrison novella, I think in the Dates From Hell anthology, that's illustrates the relationship that Ivy and Kisten shared before the action in the Hallows series really started, and there's a LKH short story in Strange Candy that shows a definite warming up in the relationship between Anita and Jean Claude. It's a snap-shot of one night between books, and a cool story in itself, but the series still works if you haven't read it.
So why am I nattering on about this? Because now I'm nervous. I can't decide if this situation is third time's the charm or three strikes and you're out. I've told myself that if they don't end up taking Crossings, I still have the first few chapters of my book 2, and I have a much better understanding of the characters and how the world works as I go into the re-write of Sister. This is really a win for me. I have until 12/31/11 to get Crossings together, which gives me plenty of time. It would be so cool to get a taste of the world out there to see how it flies!