Spooks, Revelers, and Lovers

I love Halloween, New Year’s, and Valentine’s Day. I really go in for dressing up and putting on a show. I love the big parties and intoxicated kisses at midnight. I love the unabashed celebration of romance. But I like it to be classy and tasteful– not sultry or vulgar. Not overly sweet or insincere. Oh, and I love, love, looooo-ooo-oove FOOD– candy, desserts, and savory meats with carb-filled sides!

Halloween is just around the corner (Happy Birthday, Baby Brother!), and then before you know it there’s First* Thanksgiving, Second* Thanksgiving, (Third*) Actual Thanksgiving, First* Christmas, Second* Christmas, (Third*) Actual Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and our anniversary followed shortly thereafter by Valentine’s Day.

*The first, second, and third iterations of the food holidays are required due to integral parts of my family working “X weeks on, X weeks off” and missing the actual holidays. No one complains about the need for so many food holidays, though!

So, in a spirit of holiday cheer, I have been inspired to undertake a project for the four nieces between the ages of 5 and 7. I want to write a story for them, have it published, and give them a stuffed companion that goes along with the book. Last night (and the night before), my mom and I sat down and sewed four little fleece monsters with fairy wings. They turned out way nicer than I expected (considering that I free-handed the “pattern” and still haven’t mastered sewing a straight line). I used cheap fleece from Wal-Mart, and I had the stuffing from a project I failed to complete last February. I’m so proud of how these little monster fairies turned out!

Monster Fairies Full Size

To make them, I free-handed a monster shape on a piece of paper, which turned out terribly asymmetrical. So, then, I folded a sheet of paper in half and free-handed half a monster. When I cut the shape out, it was much more symmetrical. I just made little shapes for the extra pieces– hearts for the monster bums, circles for the eyes, triangles for teeth, and wings. I sewed the embellishments on first, and then sewed the monsters, wrong-sides together and flipped them inside out. Here’s what they looked like with the faces staged:

Monster Fairies Ready to Sew

I seriously can’t even sew a straight line yet, and this was super easy to do. The monsters are really forgiving if you have imperfections, and the fleece was stretchy enough to hide the many mistakes I made. I may never pay for stuffed animals again!

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Review: Ashmore Grief

Rating: 4 Stars (Read it and then share it with a friend!)

I recently entered a drawing for a book called Ashmore Grief by D. A. Cairns on goodreads. I honestly can’t remember how it ended up on my radar, but it made it onto my goodreads list, and so it needed to be read. I “won” the drawing, but the smashwords discount code didn’t work for me. I emailed the author to let him know that it didn’t work, and then I bought the book the old-fashioned way. Being unable to remember why it made my list and remembering absolutely nothing about the book, I went into the reading experience as blind as any new reader could be. I enjoyed the story, and I think you you should read it and share it with your friends.

The first chapter of the book was a little technical with lots of boat-speak, but by the time I made it through the second chapter, I couldn’t read it fast enough. The author does a wonderful of explaining the details of each scene, and even though there were two main characters with names that started with the same letter (a well-known “don’t” to avoid confusing your reader), I was never confused about who I was reading about when discussing Mark and Matt. In fact, there was only one spot toward the end of the book that made me wonder if it was self-edited or professionally edited. I was easily able to discern what the author meant, and only made a brief note to let the author know that it was a little unclear.

This story deals with some really serious topics– immigration, sexual exploitation of very young women, politics, assassination, and so forth, and it happens to take place a few years in the future in Australia (one of the places I would love to visit one day). Despite all of the serious topics, it’s a feel good story. The author handled the story with tact, and I never felt like it needed a trigger warning, even though it could have easily crossed the line from serious to traumatic. I was surprised with how the story lines wound together, and I was reminded of George R. R. Martin’s talent at making me feel ashamed of the characters I love and pity for the characters I hate.

I loved the story–when I wasn’t reading it, I was constantly thinking about it. I read it on my Kindle, and I was glad for the “dictionary feature” because I didn’t know a few of the words. It wasn’t a difficult read though– just a man with a better vocabulary than me using words that concisely conveyed his intent for the scene.

I related to one specific part of the story a lot– where the woman needs to discuss something, and the man can’t sort his emotions out to explain it. He just wants to let the topic sit until it fades into insignificance without dealing with it directly. She pushes, and it all goes south for a while. Finding myself in love with a man who finds the option of letting things fade away until they are inconsequential, several parts of that scene hit home for me. It brought up old arguments and hurts, but I found empathy, too, for the man in the story who wanted to tread so carefully on a big topic that he couldn’t face it head on.

On the topic of immigration, especially illegal immigration, I find that a lot of people in my circle respond with a callous attitude. It’s not our problem. Send them back to their own country. You’ve probably heard the news and can come up with better examples than mine. This book was obviously well-researched before it was written, and I think it helps us remember that the people we label as “illegals” are actually people. The story fully acknowledges that illegal immigration is a problem, but the answer isn’t to cold-heartedly refuse people who are desperate. The story really demonstrates the struggles faced by the immigrants who know they have given up everything for a long-shot and even better (I think) the conflict felt by the military soldiers and police officers who do border patrol.

If you’re looking for an inexpensive e-read, I highly recommend Ashmore Grief by D. A. Cairns. You can get it on smashwords or Amazon. It’s a fun read!

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Reflections on work and my favorite authors

It’s no secret that Terry Pratchett is my favorite author since the day Evelyn Brown lent me a copy of Soul Music by Terry Pratchett in 1998– in Mr. Ross’s AP Calculus class, no less. This led me to a book– Good Omens, written by Sir Terry Pratchett  with an author I’d never heard of. That unknown-to-me author was Neil Gaiman, and though Mr. Pratchett has a very dear place in my heart, Mr. Gaiman is quite simply, followable. He’s active on twitter, facebook, tumblr, and his blog. He’s in the public often, alone and with his fabulously named wife Amanda Palmer. He’s on Ted Talks, YouTube, and in the news. Even if we aren’t the sort to go completely fangurl over a celebrity, he’s the sort of celebrity that seems to invite the attention. It’s as if he’s decided he’ll be a celebrity, and he’ll encourage the masses to be creative, wise, and kind.

Some time ago, I found myself feeling quite disappointed in my job. I thought I was trading my previous career as an accountant who was definitely under-compensated and over-worked for a new career as an auditor where I would be appropriately challenged and compensated. Unlike every reasonable person in the world, I did not look at my job title of “auditor” and think to myself, “How utterly boring!” I looked at my job and thought, “This sounds perfect– always something new and exciting and with complicated maths!” My excitement and glee was quickly shut down, then clamped down, nailed shut, submerged in wet concrete, seasoned, sacrificed, and drowned in a terrible and deep sea. I have two words for you: Data Entry. Auditors do tons of data entry.

Resentment grew, and I found fault with everyone and everything at work. And then, New Year’s came, and I found something I had forgotten: Mr. Gaiman’s New Year’s wishes.

And, most importantly (because I think there should be more kindness and more wisdom in the world right now), that you will, when you need to be, be wise, and that you will always be kind.

I realized that I had not been wise, and I certainly wasn’t being kind to myself or to anyone else. So, I began reminding myself that I should always be kind, but if I must, I could be wise instead. I find it very difficult to do two things at once, so I figured that the universe would understand if I found it impossible to be both kind and wise. I began interrupting my monologues tirades with a simple explanation to whomever I had been speaking, “Sorry– I don’t have anything kind to say, and it would probably be wise if I just stopped talking.” This self-interruption continued for months, and it even got a few laughs. My friends even started asking me if I was being kind or wise when I put my opinion on display for the world.

And yet, even with my decision to be kind at the very least, and if not kind, then wise, I did not enjoy my job anymore than when I found fault at every turn. I found my answer and a profound sense of peace in the famous words of Sir Terry Pratchett’s dwarf-raised human watchman Carrot, “Personal isn’t the same as important.” Personally, I’d like my job to be the way I envisioned it, but the important part is that I am gainfully employed, treated well, and competent. I envisioned my life as a Venn Diagram, pictured below, and suddenly, it all made sense. The thing that was missing from my was not an intersect between the Work circle and the Things That I Enjoy circle– the Writing circle was completely absent from my life. I wasn’t writing and hadn’t written anything in ages.

This Venn is My Life

This Venn is My Life

Since my Venn Diagram epiphany, the writing circle is present in my life, and I have found that I am able to concentrate better at work. I get bored less easily, and I have even discovered ways to enjoy what I am working on. It’s as if the universe knew, way back in 1998, that I would need the influence of Sir Terry Pratchett and Mr. Gaiman to get through my job in 2013 and find a sense of peace in 2014.

And a big thank you to Ms. Evelyn Brown with your long, thick blonde hair and fantastic taste in literature, wherever you are!

 

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NaNoWriMo in T minus 24 days

National Novel Writing Month a.k.a. NaNoWriMo begins November 1. I usually do it. I’ve got one idea that I really like that started as a short story for my sister in the mid-2000’s. It’s been a NaNoWriMo for a couple of years since then, but it never gets finished. It gets to 18,000 or maybe 33,000 words, and then the story, tentatively titled Dragons of the Sun, fizzles.

But…

I was just reflecting on if I want to participate in NaNoWriMo 2014, and if so, how fully I want to participate. I realized that I do actually have a beginning, a middle, and an end in mind for Dragons of the Sun. That’s exceptionally rare for me. I even have a couple sub-plots in mind, which might be a first for me. And before anyone gets up in arms over breaking the rules, NaNoWriMo is totally okay with old projects as long as you only count the words you write for the current period.

I got my handy-dandy notebook out, and I penned my beginning, middle, and end (BME). Then, I penned the BME for my sub-plots (one of which is pictured below).

A beginning, middle, and end

My handy dandy notebook with my beginning, middle, end, and the key that ties it into my main plot.

And, so I have decided that I will participate in NaNoWriMo this year, but I’m concerned about the level of committment. 50,000 words has eluded me every year, so I am inclined to abandon the literal goal of the project to embrace the spirit of the movement (and I think I can call it a movement when over 700,000 people participated last year). I have a few options in mind for this year’s NaNoWriMo– all of which can be modified so that I actually create something, even if said creation does not comprise 50,000 written words.

Option 1: Write Dragons of the Sun to 50,000 words, but have the stories, chapters, and characters outlined in advance. I say to write this story to 50,000 words because I’m quite certain it will require at least 100,000 to be told.

Option 2: Write a children’s book for my nieces with homemade stuffed animals to accompany the story.

Option 3: Write additional tall tales for my compilation of tall tales tenatively titled My Dad is Paul Bunyan.

People wonder why anyone is inclined to participate– why is it that NaNoWriMo is a blip on our radar in September? Why is it that NaNoWriMo is a decision that must be made before Halloween each year? Why on earth would we devote every moment of our spare time to writing what will probably just turn out to be not only a failed endeavor, but a poorly-written failed endeavor?  Well, simply put, there’s nothing that special about NaNoWriMo, on its own, and it is not enough to convince me that I should write or participate. It’s actually all of the community-type stuff that goes along with it. Neil Gaiman convinces me I should write. My friends and family who ask me why I’m an auditor and not a writer convince me to write. That girl with the 365 Poetry Project inspires me to write.

NaNoWriMo is about community. Sure, it churned out Water for Elephants, but that was a statisical anomoly. It’s not about writing the next great novel or making it big. It’s about creating something. We’ve got a set amount of time, and unlike life, we know that the time alloted to us is exactly 30 days. We give it everything we’ve got to spare, and at the end, we don’t get a million dollars or a publishing contract. We get satisfication that we did it. We created something– even if it is is poorly-written. Maybe we’ll make a friend or find that crazy, rabid fan we all dream of. Maybe we’ll walk away with one more item checked off our bucket list, and maybe we’ll finish still a mile shy of the finish line. Maybe we’ll try again next year.

My mind is already spinning to figure out how I can get this into my schedule. I could ask my boss if he minds if I come in two hours late every day in November. I could spend my entire lunch break writing. I could do it on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays only– spending at least 8 hours per day on writing. I could take a week at Thanksgiving. I could start drinking energy drinks again and trade three hours of nightly sleep for writing and Red Bull.

So, if you’re inclined, join me for NaNoWriMo in 24 days! Get your plot lines simmering and start your character sheets! Let’s create something– even if it’s poorly-written and has a wandering plot that never really seems to end.

 

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What’s keeping us from being writers?

No one wants to hold down a regular, full-time job and be an auditor in their spare time as a hobby, but many people have regular, full-time jobs and are writers in their spare time.

Being a writer doesn’t require a certain level of education– just a certain level of skill. You might argue that you have to pass eighth grade grammar lessons to be a writer, but that’s not true. Some of the best story tellers I know can’t differentiate “site” from “sight.”

Being an unemployed writer who is searching for a job doesn’t mean polishing up your resume and dressing up in a nice suit for formal interviews. A lot of times, it just means writing more and emailing your written words to one person or another.

But once you’re an employed writer, what does your day-to-day routine look like? I mean you’ve got what is essentially a desk job, but it’s not always an office job.

I tried “living the dream” during two consecutive three-day weekends, and I have to say, it was a nice life. I got several short stories written– one of which I am really, really proud of. The first two days, I started out by going to a coffee shop on the other side of town. I ordered a large breve with sugar-free vanilla syrup, and I sat down. I started out by reading– The Long War by Terry Pratchett on day 1 and reddit on day 2. Then, after a period of time, I put on my headphones, put on my Ellie Goulding station on Pandora, and I began with a blank Word document. Time passed, and words appeared on the screen. On the first day, I intended only to stay for an hour or so, but it was 1 PM by the time I was ready to deal with other things. The second day, I invited a friend to join me for conversation and catching up. Minutes before she arrived, I found myself typing as fast I could because the thoughts were flowing nicely in my head. When I glimpsed her out of the corner of my eyes, the thoughts dried up and I began wondering what she had been up to recently.

On the third day, I decided to save my $5 coffee. I heated up some milk and frothed it before adding it to a sugar-free chai latte concentrate. Then, I sat down and did some reading on reddit. It took me two hours to get to the point that I was ready to write. And when I started writing, it only lasted an hour or so before the dishwasher shut off and the dryer dinged. I wrote a little more that evening, but mostly out of a feeling a guilt because I did not write very much that morning.

The following weekend, I didn’t write at all on the third day. I was tired from a long day of being out and about. The first two days of my weekend were at home, and they went about as well as the time I tried writing from home the weekend before.

So my homemade chai latte costs less than $1, but I get so little writing done. I’m distracted by the dishes, the laundry, the vacuuming, and the many other domestic tasks that make my house a comfortable, inviting home. Getting out to the coffee shop takes me away from all of those things, costs several dollars in coffee and gas money, and I find it so much easier to focus and stay on-task. The seats are uncomfortable, and there are so many people and children coming in and out. It’s like my mind is set on filtering out all the activity going on around me, and I’m able to really focus on what I’m writing… even if the story is turning into a drama that I really don’t enjoy.

I wish I could figure out what it is that makes the coffee shop a great place to write and bring that to my home. I wish I could take it to my work as an auditor. So many days, I show up at work, and I have all these plans for what I will accomplish that day. But then 11:30 rolls around and I’ve been at work for 4 hours… it’s lunch time already, and I still haven’t actually gotten anything finished.

So what is it that keeps us from being writers? I think the most obvious answer is just “life” in a very general term. Many forms of entertainment (including reading and TV) are designed to put information into our minds, but writing forces us to take information from our minds and put it elsewhere. For me, I’m easily distracted, and I feel a strong sense of responsibility to my family, my home, and my friends. I have to find that perfect balance– where there’s enough going on that I’m forced to focus (just slightly) on writing to the exclusion of all else.

I’ve got competing hobbies, as well! Sewing, biking, reading, camping, cabin-building (or dreaming of it at least), cooking, and sooooo many more! Has anyone started getting excited for November? It’s National Novel Writing Month!

 

 

 

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Review: Holly Lisle’s Writing Flash Fiction That Doesn’t Suck (Week 3)

Rating: 4 Stars (Definitely read this and share with your writer friends!)

I made two other posts after I finished each week’s course (Week 1, Week 2), and now I’m done with Week 3! I have three good short stories completed.

Overall Review

If you’re a writer who is struggling to actually write, then I highly recommend Holly Lisle’s Writing Flash Fiction That Doesn’t Suck course. I don’t consider myself a particularly creative person, and I know that my story telling skills are at a novice level at best. The How to Write Flash Fiction That Doesn’t Suck course helped me get new ideas out of my head and onto the screen. That’s right– new ideas! These aren’t the stories that are still rattling around in my head at night. These aren’t things I thought of years ago or something I saw in someone else’s writing that I wanted to spin differently. I had 15 entirely new and original ideas for short stories. I haven’t completed all 15 short stories yet, but I will. I have already submitted one to a science fiction magazine, and I hope they consider it a worthy post for their publication. If not, I’ll be happy to share it on my blog, and I’ll write something better for my next submission.

Week 3 Course Review

True to form, the third week of How to Write Flash Fiction That Doesn’t Suck is really, really basic, and yet, it works exceptionally well. Now, Holly’s course explains that you should be writing 500-word short stories, but my stories have needed twice as many words to get there. Using the course, the first short story I wrote is called Leaving, which is a story about a battered woman who needs to get her children and herself to a safe place. This is nothing like anything I would ever sit down and *want* to write, but I did sit down and write it. It’s got a beginning, a middle, and an end. The ending was really hard for me, and I hacked over 1,000 words off the ending before I was finished with the story.

So my opinion of Week 3 is this: I have thoroughly embraced the basics of writing stories over the course of my month-long trial of Holly Lisle’s program. I am really tempted to buy some of her other courses just because this free thing worked so well. However, I’m going to hold off until I have the other short stories that I started completed.

 

Oh, and I shared this with my work friend, and she’s on vacation now. She printed all the courses and took them with her on vacation. I can’t wait to see her stories when she gets home!

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Leaving

Leaving

My eyes scanned the room, searching for gloves and hats for my sleeping twins. Thankfully, my children didn’t stir throughout the entire ordeal of dressing them in bulky snowsuits. Their dad, who was passed out and still holding his precious whiskey glass, was completely unaware that his life was changing as he slept. I looked from my husband to my children, smiling at the little tufts of brown hair curling out from under their hats. Moose watched me and whined in anticipation of going for a ride. The bullmastiff weighs almost twice as much as I do, but I couldn’t leave him. Gabe’s rage knows no reason, and poor Moose would have cowered until the beating stopped.

I tilted my hips to better balance a child on each side and squeezed my babies tightly as I tugged the diaper bags and my purse onto my shoulders. Clicking my tongue at Moose was just as good as if I had said, “Let’s go for a ride, boy.” For a moment, Gabe looked peaceful and loving, but then the soreness in my arm and the fatness of my lip reminded me of the truth.

My cold hands found the car seat buckles troublesome. I gently closed the Jeep doors, but it sounded like the doors slammed shut to my ears. The engine struggled to start in the cold, and I stared at the front door, expecting Gabe to ruin yet another attempt to leave. I reached for the headlights and then thought better of it… better not chance the lights shining into the living room or being seen by the neighbors.

When I finally got to the last road in our suburban neighborhood, I didn’t realize I had been holding my breath until the air rushed out of my lungs. For several seconds after the light turned green, I gulped the cool air. I turned on my headlights, and as I made my way to the highway, I relished that my children would never have a fat lip from their dad. My happiness was tinged with grief because of all the good things my children will miss out on without a father.

My Jeep felt sluggish in the growing layer of snow on the highway. My eyes stung from straining to see through the falling snow, and I decided that it would be best to check for a severe storm warning. I slipped my fingers into the front pocket of my purse to grab my cell phone. I didn’t find it right away, so I tugged my purse into my lap. It made me nervous to take make my eyes off the road, so I counted two seconds of looking in my purse, five seconds of watching the road, two seconds of looking in my purse… My phone was not in my purse.

I smacked my hand to my forehead, recalling how I carefully placed my phone on the changing table so I wouldn’t forget it. I could hear my husband’s insulting tirade just then, “What a half-baked gesture leaving was!” I didn’t have what it takes to raise kids on my own—I couldn’t even get them to Wisconsin without driving into a snow storm.  How would they learn good common sense without a dad? My pulse thundered in my ears and tears squished out of my eyes.

I wiped tears from cheeks, and I steered the Jeep out of the exit-only lane, not that lines in the road really mattered under 8 inches of snow. The slight angle made the Jeep fishtail. The feeling of losing control of the Jeep strangled all of my self-doubt and left only the resolve to take this snowstorm one highway mile at a time. I glanced back at the sleeping twins and smiled at Moose in the rear view mirror. The whole Jeep rattled as it bounced over pot hole in the middle of the road, and I felt the backend of the Jeep spin around. I steered into the turn, but I was already sliding backwards into the median. So much for four-wheel drive and studded tires. Time slowed as the median gave way to a steep riverbank. I gripped the steering wheel uselessly as the Jeep tilted backwards, and Moose yelped as the flipping vehicle tossed him around with all the unsecured items. I hung upside down as the Jeep came to rest. The twins cried softly, looking like little puppets hanging from their car seats.

Slowly, my ears picked up on the sound of rushing water all around. In that moment, I knew we were dead. I had committed us all to a wet, freezing death, and no one would find us until spring. My eyes darted to the window to see how high the water was, and I realized that we must have landed upside down on top of a frozen section of river. The water was harmlessly flowing under and around the ice. Moose licked at the twins and whimpered as he moved toward me. I saw headlights on the road, and my gratitude for my life and the lives of my children was destroyed. Gabe had followed me, and now he would drag us back.

A man kneeled down next to my window and I saw only Gabe’s drunken face, contorted in rage. My throat burned with a scream of raw terror, and my children gave up great cries of their own.  After a moment, reality filtered through. It wasn’t my husband… It was the kind, ruddy-cheeked face of my neighbor, Jack. Jack, who had so often been my supporter, who had provided ice packs and bandages for falls down the stairs, who was now my rescuer.

I pushed on the door, and Jack said through the glass, “Sorry to frighten you. I saw you sneaking away with no headlights, and I was worried. I’m not sorry I followed you now. Let’s get you guys out of here.”

“Oh Jack! I’ve never been happier to see you!”

It seemed to take an eternity to get clear of the Jeep, but after a while of sitting on the side of the highway in Jack’s truck with the heater cranked, Jack asked, “Well, I don’t know what gave you the courage to leave, but I’d like to know if I can drive you somewhere? You sure picked a heck of a night for a getaway.” My parents were expecting me in Wisconsin the following day, and I fell into an exhausted sleep as Jack continued driving north.

 

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Review: Holly Lisle’s Writing Flash Fiction That Doesn’t Suck (Week 2)

Rating: Review in Progress

See my final review!

I was browsing Reddit, and came across an Ask Reddit thread about things Redditors will never completely get over. One story, about a writer who stopped writing due to childhood bullying touched me, and I read through all the comments. One of the commentors suggested a 3-week class by a woman I had never heard of: Holly Lisle’s Writing Flash Fiction That Doesn’t Suck, and even more importantly, the commentor provided a link to the course.

Week 2 Course Review
Week 2 starts out with another extremely simple exercise–  very similar to that first-grade exercise which initially made me feel patronized and slightly insulted my intelligence in week 1’s course.  But don’t be put off by it. If you follow through, magic happens! Your beginnings solidify into stories very quickly.

I’m not done with week 2 yet… partly because I have 15 stories instead of just 5, and partly because my sheer excitement is a hindering factor in my productivity. I am writing! Looking at my word document, I’m seeing all these words on the page, and these stories are coming to life. I’m just working on the “set up” for the middles, which is broken down into very simple instructions. The ideas are pouring out of my mind, at least when I can pull myself away from reading what I’ve already written. I feel so excited about my stories already.

I think a healthy dose of skepticism is good, but my skepticism about this course has been completely reversed! I’m in the area of barely controlled excitement, and I feel the urge to go through all of Holly Lisle’s classes based on the sense of accomplishment I’ve gotten just from this course.

Fortunately, I also have week 3’s course already, so as soon as I am done with Week 2, I can hop right into Week 3!

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The beginnings to short stories 11-15

Based on the “How to Write Flash Fiction That Doesn’t Suck” model I started several weeks ago, I’ve written the beginnings to 5 more short stories. Let me know which ones you’d be most interested to continue reading. The middles happen during lesson 2 and the ends happen during lesson 3! The beginnings to Story 1 through Story 5 are included in my review of the “How to Write Flash Fiction that Doesn’t Suck” post. Story 6 through Story 10 can be found in my previous post. As I complete various stories, I’ll update the beginnings to link to the finished story. As always, I love reading feedback, so leave a comment, tweet me, or email me!

Story 11:
“Annika’s mother’s is the last woman alive who was actually born on Earth, and if Annika wants to go camp out and spend her days staring at her mother’s home planet, then that’s what we’re going to do.”

Just finding the policy took considerable resources. No doubt, the man’s bewildered stare was as much politeness he could muster as he struggled to figure out a good way to explain this to his superiors. Europa was fairly peopled, but all of the satellite’s resources were devoted to converting methane to oxygen for its people. I hoped that the bureaucracy would feel some loyalty to Annika’s mother who is partially responsible for our colonization, to Annika’s many brilliant contributions, and even to my own contributions. The technology that brought us to Europa from Earth had not been improved upon, so I expected the trip would take at least 35 days… if the ion propulsion systems and solar sails hadn’t been dismantled already.

Story 12:
I grew up on Disney stories… on Princesses and Prince Charmings, on Fairy God Mothers, Evil Step-Mothers, and Wishes Upon Falling Stars. Well, I turned out not to be a Princess, and the man I loved was no Prince Charming. My God Mother couldn’t cure me with a wave of her want, and as for Evil Step-Mothers… mine is a saint and my best friend. I’ve never seen a falling star, though, and just once before I go, I’d like to see one. It seems we always want what we can’t have, and the first thing to go was my eye sight.

Story 13:
In every crime, the perpetrator makes seven mistakes. If I can find even one of those mistakes, I can usually find the Perp, too. But this… this crime scene is too perfect. In my profession, it’s common to think of the “perfect crime scene” and recount all the mistakes others have made… mistakes you learn from to make sure you’d never repeat them yourself. I can’t find that one mistake I need to find the Perp. No finger prints, except my own. The nearest house is my own. No tire marks except from my car. The woman’s head, hands, and feet are gone, and her body burned almost to the point of incineration.
Why can’t I remember where I’ve been for the last three days? And why won’t Aubrey return my calls?
I’m just distracted, that’s all. This isn’t the perfect crime scene. I just need to push away all distractions and focus. Focus.

Story 14:
The tiny human stared impolitely, which irked me, but given my treatment over the last millennium, I prefer the attention of a rude gaze over uncaring indifference. Or worse… comments uttered in full hearing distance, “I wish they’d move that rusty old heap. What is it supposed to be anyway? A lizard with fish scales?”
The tiny human kept staring, and I kept thinking of all the injustices. The neglect. The disrespect– a group of hooligan boys tried to pry off my head! Look at me! I’m covered in rust. My shining steel scales are breaking away, and my sharpened talons are now a pile of iron dust.

And how the young boy stared. And stared. And stared. My temper, and my jealousy got the better of me, and before I knew it, the little remaining moisture within began to heat. And then it began to steam. With glee, I exhaled a blast of hot steam… only it came out more as a huff, no doubt due to rusty plumbing!

Story 15:
There are so few children anymore. When I missed my cycle, I was celebrated by the women and pampered by all. My people revered me and respected my husband. Every night, the men came to him to ask him his trick, just as the women inquired about my food and how I laid down with my husband.
When my belly grew round and fat, there was scarcely a moment in the day when I did not have four or more hands pressed to my skin. Every day, I worked my grain and baked my bread, and every woman wanted my bread for her fertility. So many hopes, all dashed in a blood-soaked moon day. I held him in my arms until he was cold, and now I bear his burden. No home, no husband, no people.

Overlook Sitting Juneau

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The beginnings to short stories 6-10

Based on the “How to Write Flash Fiction That Doesn’t Suck” model I started on Wednesday, I’ve written the beginnings to 5 more short stories. Let me know which ones you’d be most interested to continue reading. The middles happen during week 2 and the ends happen during week 3! The beginnings to Story 1 through Story 5 are included in my review of the “How to Write Flash Fiction that Doesn’t Suck” post.

Beginnings:
Story 6:
My wife loves tiny things. She loves kittens, puppies, guppies, and babies. When I proposed to her, I bought a1.5 carat diamond solitaire, and we had to take it back for a tiny sapphire heart set between two miniscule dolphins. When she said she wanted another baby, and another, and couldn’t we adopt the newborn twins she heard about at the hospital, I said yes and our family grew huge, one (or two) tiny babies at a time. I made plenty of money, and I never envisioned that I’d have trouble supporting 5 or 7 or 9 kids. I’d never make less… let alone none at all.

Story 7:
14 rows. 8 gates in each row. 1 dog in every cage is 112 dogs. This one has 2 dogs. 113 dogs. Empty. Empty. Empty. 3 dogs here. Empty. 111 dogs. Perfect number, 111. Loud. Loud. Silent. Loud. Don’t like black ones. Blue eyes belong on humans, not dogs. This one. He talks in dog talk. Not loud, just talking.
The gate is in the way. Ugh! Gate won’t move. This one. Dog talker.
“Would you like to see this one, Jack?”
The gate is open. “Aoouuuwwww. Aoouuwwwooww.” I talk in dog talk, too. We are dog talkers.
“What are you saying, Jack? Are you talking to the dog?”
“This is Bit. You are not a dog talker like Bit, like me.”
“Alright, Jack. Let’s go look at the other dogs. Maybe you will like another one.”
“No. I will talk with Bit. Not loud ones.”

Story 8:
Dodge. Right jab. Right jab. Left hook. Right jab.
My fists should be large and imposing walls of meat and bone at the end of arms thick with muscle and strength. Looking down, these pathetic appendages could nearly pass for the feet of a canary.
Just once, though, I’d like to feel the violence flow through my blood, the joy and the accomplishment of a well-executed hit. My adversary will reel backwards, before regaining his footing and returning the hit. My jaw will be like the rock that breaks ships, unexpected, unmoving, and unforgiving. They will call me The Hulk. The Rock. The Mountain. I will be strong and violent, unmoved.

Story 9:
The sun mocks me low on the horizon this night, just as it has every night since June 9. Blackout curtains. Sleep masks. Sleeping pills. One artificial night after another. Each a poor substitute for the true night, when the warming sun falls away to blackness dotted with billions of stars that give contrast to the dark. I should move to the equator, where even at the height of the solstice, there is still a true night.
A sandy beach, warmed by the sinking sun. A sun that will sink and sink and sink, turning the blue sky orange, purple, and finally black. I’ll find a warm spot, away from noise and traffic and buildings. No blackout curtains or sleeping masks. Just my thin soul and the sinking sun. I will lay down, wiggle my body until the sand cups me perfectly, and then I will sleep.

Story 10:
They held hands, stealing glances with one another as they ordered coffees in the late morning. That should be me. I should be with that handsome man. I bet his name is Timothy, but only I call him Timmy. But Tammy, that wretched beast, she stole him from me before he even knew what waited for him. Well, I’ll show her. That’s right, Tammy… Enjoy holding his hand because by the end of the day, I’ll have the life I always deserved. I don’t know how you stole it from me, maybe the government helped you or maybe you found a time machine, but I will stop at nothing. Timmy won’t even remember you by the time I’m through with you.

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