Fiction Friday on Saturday: Amazon Kindle Storyteller Contest

The Mormon Missionary's Mistress

My 19K word novella.

This novella has been in my cache for almost twenty years. As there isn’t much of a market for novellas (or novelettes), I decided it was time to give it a final edit and get it out there (but not for free). Even if I don’t win the contest, it’ll feel good to have finally made this available somewhere. Rereading this was like reaquainting myself with an old friend. 

Though I usually post short poems based on my book, Because of Mindy Wiley, this novella stars one of the minor characters (who has a major impact on the protagonist in the book; after all, her name is in the title), so it is related to my other Fiction Friday posts.

From the glacial terrain of Bear Creek, Idaho, to the lush landscape of Deep South, Florida, Elder Cather, a Mormon missionary, meets Sister Wiley, a three-time divorcee, current temple wife, and mother of a teenage daughter. At the risk of being caught with their temple garments down, facing excommunication by the Church and shunned from the only life they know, they fight against the rules imposed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints by living life on their terms. However, Elder Cather will learn a heartbreaking, coming-of-age lesson from the fickle one who accepted his greatest gift. The Mormon Missionary’s Mistress is a hypnogogic trip with a heavy hit of magical realism and a dose of spiritual occultism. It is a Southern Gothic horror with shades of Shirley Jackson, laced with the absurdity of extreme religiosity prevalent in the American Deep South. It is the story of the sexual fever that grips young men who must think only of God, the sexual frozenness that grips middle-aged women who must think only of their husbands, and the dire consequences that can result when these two forces meet.

Keywords: magical realism, Gothic horror, Deep South, coming-of-age, Mormon, LDS, Bible belt

For more information about the contest: https://www.amazon.co.uk/b?ie=UTF8&node=12061299031&fbclid=IwAR2HcEbfeepSgy5MlM1OLrfwpAPzu047MMfU5T7GAQHsj9ZPJG0yVqD8-2w

5 Ways I’ve Used Minimalism to Improve my Writing

Instagram screenshot

My Instagram posts

Instagram: Poetry Unfiltered

Every Saturday and Sunday, I publish a “Post-It-sized” poem on Instagram. I used to feel that I had to make each poem “pop” with the use of filters until I realized that such was unnecessary. I could feel the seconds being wasted, trying to come up with just the right filter, so I started screenshotting my poem with my phone via Google Docs and publishing it as is with the hashtag #nofilter. I realized there is a certain beauty in stark white and bold black. Coming up with appropriate hashtags take enough of my time.

Images are (Almost) Everything

Because I blog a minimum of twice weekly, it helps to recycle images, especially with my recurring features: Micropoetry Mondays and Fiction Fridays. For Monday, if my theme is “The Lighter Side” or “Opposites,” I use the same graphic; eventually, I will design my own logo for Micropoetry Monday, so I can ditch the stock photography all together (I’ve already scrubbed my blog of most of it). Because Fiction Fridays are all excerpts from my book or poetry based on it, I use the same graphic. Even when it comes to LinkedIn, rather than using a stock photo, I use my business card in basic black and plain white (without my personal address or telephone number) and an eye-grabbing headline. However, since I’ve discovered the Medium Daily Digest’s publishing platform (https://medium.com/), which is lot more attractive than LinkedIn’s (and not about boring corporate culture), I use an abstract photo—usually a close-up of something loosely related to the quotation I paste over it.  (And my quotes are always original.  There is enough recycled content out there.)

Strunk and White + Stephen King = Needful words

Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style is one grammar book that changed my writing (and maybe my life). It is what I call a hornbook for all writers. I applied its principles to my writing when I worked for my community college newspaper for several semesters, which helped me with conciseness (though I would still try to sneak in the Oxford comma). In On Writing by Stephen King, King says to “Kill your darlings”; I say you have to kill your characters (meaning the alphabet kind). Writing also helped me chuck 99% of my adverbs; nothing beats “he said” or “she said.” You want those dialogue tags to be invisible. I credit these two books and my experience as a student reporter in helping me get the job as a clarity editor for Grammarly.

Social media < Writing, Editing, Submitting

When I started my blog in October 2013, I thought I had to be as omnipresent as possible when it came to social media, but, after an incredible amount of spam I received on Twitter and people following just to get a follow, I ditched it and Pinterest, too. Facebook, Instagram, Goodreads, and LinkedIn is enough for me. (Often, what I post in one place gets posted in another). What time I used to spend trying to brand myself on all those social media accounts I could be spending building my vocabulary, submitting to actual publications, etc. I don’t have time to engage with all my followers — I need readers who aren’t writers. After more than three years of posting my Wednesday and Poem-a-Day prompts (in April and November) for Writer’s Digest on their blog and mine, I realized it was time for me to move on, which simplified my writing life even more. I needed content I could write ahead of time, so I could schedule it to publish on my blog at a later date. 

Submissions: Kitchen-Sink Theory Does Not Apply

I used to think I had to flood the market with submissions rather than focus on a handful of publishers. Targeting your publications gives you time to read and study them; submission guidelines alone will not provide intuition into what the editors are looking for. I have since discovered that my work would not be considered literary, so most small presses would not be a good fit; I have a better shot at larger publishers because of their more mainstream content. If I pick up a journal and don’t “get” any of the poems, then it’s the wrong publication for me; if I pick up a magazine and don’t enjoy any of the stories, then it’s not a good fit for my writing. This keeps me from being overwhelmed with reading material.

100-word pitch to Harlequin’s “So You Think You Can Write” contest

rose and veil

Brian Schlaes and Sarah Lawson want a child. Sarah believes had they met ten years earlier, even though both were different people, they would have grown together and become what they were supposed to become. They get an opportunity to start over—to gain nine years of extra memories at the expense of one. With the help of an angel who calls herself Aphrodite, they will be placed in the same place at the same time, nine years before when they met. They risk everything for the chance to fall in love a second time, but will others get in the way?

Query letter to “Missouri Life” magazine

Paul and Eleanor

My paternal grandparents, Paul and Eleanor Booker

Dear Editors,

“Poplar Bluff” is a memoir of the fondest kinds of memoriesthose from childhood. It is a juicy slice of small-town American life, which includes a history of P.B., peppered with anecdotes and salted with sweet remembrances.

For several years, I spent all my summers with my grandparents in P.B., with my aunt, uncle, and cousins next door. I didn’t have that kind of luxury or history in Pensacola, Florida—the luxury of having family close by and a shared history in the place where I lived.

“Poplar Bluff” is also a coming-of-age essay, where the memories are as golden as the tones in a vintage photograph, and the present is as stark as Technicolor. It is also a love story of loss and moving on from loss. 

Poplar Bluff, as I remember it, is representative of a simpler timebefore Facebook and cell phones and other devices monopolized our hours, when kids played outside and entertained themselves.

It is a story of the wonders of summer through the eyes of a child.

My parents were into genealogy during those seasons of my life, and so I have them to thank for some of the more factual content, but the parts I believe will resonate most is the story only I can tell.

I believe anyone who has ever called Missouri homeand those who have chosen it as their homewill find something worth remembering in “Poplar Bluff: A Memoir.”

About me: I am married and the mother of a five-month-old baby girl. In addition to being a full-time, stay-at-home mom, I am the unofficial family storyteller. I regularly blog on issues of freelance writing, marriage, and motherhood. My current project is a collection of children’s nursery rhymes, unofficially titled, The Treasury of the Sara Madre. I am also a member of the local writer’s group, WriteOn! Pensacola.

Thank you for your generous time. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Warmest regards,
Sarah Lea Richards