Friday, January 27, 2012

Flash Fiction Challenge: Deserted



Welcome to the fourth weekly flash fiction challenge of January!!  Here are the rules:
  • You have one week to submit if you want to be included.
  • You are up to challenge yourself AND win a copy of either my short story, Nothing Lasts Forever, or a copy of my giant book of poetry, Bony Fingered Limbs.  Just let me know which you'd prefer, should you be chosen!  :)  It will come to you via email as a PDF file, DRM-free, so you can send it to whatever e-book-reader-device you may prefer.  ALSO, If you win so often you run out of choices, I will offer my services in editing something of yours, so there is always incentive!
  • Your word cap this week is 1000 words, so it's a little shorter, like last week!  That makes it a bit harder, but I think you can do it!  We'll work our way down shorter each month until we're awesomely churning out quickie stories like pros.  It is a good thing.
  • Your challenge for this week is something I am calling Deserted.  Let the photo above be your inspiration!
  • Get me your submissions by Midnight next Friday morning, 2-3-12, Mountain Standard Time.  Link us your story in the comment area!  Put it up on your own blog, or on a public note on Facebook or in a Google Document file.  Somewhere so we can all see it.  Make sure you link your story!  Just  to be sure it's not passed over by accident, missed, or not included in the contest!  Thanks!

Anyway!! Let's see what you've got!  

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Hands Free Monkey, the Jungle Monkeys Challenge

This was written for this week's flash fiction challenge, Jungle Monkeys.  I decided to go with an almost true story, written from my crazy son's perspective.  This is the story of my kid (names changed per his direction), and this picture shows the jungle gym where it all went down.  Silly boy antics, away!  



 Hands Free Monkey

Frankie looked around, but nobody was there to see what he was about to do. The other kids were running crazily, and his sister was across the playground, flipping around like she always did. Frankie was always quiet. He'd learned being quiet meant the babysitters only glanced his way occasionally, and he could be sneaky in his early daredevil stunts.
He waited for the moments when nobody was watching, and then he pulled stunts he'd been planning and dreaming up for weeks. He didn't want to reveal his secrets until they were perfected, so he waited, and he practiced, and he smiled at each small success, though nobody else saw them. Yet.
That afternoon he was going to work on something he was calling Hands Free Monkey. He had devised a way for his backpack to hold his body weight up, and he planned to use it on top of the monkey bars: The green set that looked like it was made entirely up of iron ladders, and shaped to be a great big box.
Frankie meandered over to the set and his friend, the babysitters' son, followed him. Frankie was sufficiently boring, though, and the other boy ran off to play a game elsewhere, leaving the little daredevil all alone with his plans. He smiled.
He took great care climbing up to the very very top. The backpack on his back had his homework folder and lunch box in it. He probably still had a bit of sandwich left over that he couldn't finish at the lunch table. He didn't really remember, but if there was a bit of sandwich left, he wanted to eat it for a snack later. So, he had to be careful.
Once he reached the top of the jungle gym, he sat up there, watching the babysitters' eyes carefully, looking around to see if any other kids were watching. The woman called out, “Be careful, Frank, okay?”
“Okay!” he hollered back to her, and she turned to run down her youngest son, who had just made a break for the parking lot.
It was his chance! He pulled one arm out of his backpack carefully, then slipped beneath the bars with his body, leaving the bag on the other side of the bars. He lifted his shoulders and slipped his arm back inside the shoulder strap, leaned forward for a moment to test the holding-up power, and when he didn't slip, he grinned. It was time.
Frankie let go of the green bars first with his hands, and felt instantly like he was flying! He grinned wildly, arms held out stiffly to the sides, and pretended to be an airplane. “VROOOOM! CRASH! BOOM!” He made shooting sounds, diving airplane sounds, bombs dropping sounds. He leaned to one side, then the other, flying through enemy airspace.
And then there came a sound that Frankie didn't make. It was an awful sound, a sound that told him something was terribly wrong. It was a ripping sound. He felt his backpack seam tear above his body, and fear flashed over his face. Before he knew it, he was falling.
He landed, hard, and the air left his body. He felt strong arms lift him, saw fear in the dad babysitter's eyes. He felt a hand press firmly into his head, and the man scooped him up and ran with him. Frankie's eyes were closed, so he didn't see where they ran to, but he heard a familiar voice talking with the babysitter man. The school was still open, and when he could see again, Frankie saw they were sitting in the nurse's office.
The nurse's face was grim, she told the receptionist to call the boy's mother at work, and she dressed his wound. It took a very large bandaid to cover the spot. He heard her say they needed to watch him, and the parents should take him to the hospital as soon as they could. The man thanked them for their help, washed his bloody hands, and walked with the boy back to the playground.
His sister stood there, worry covering her face. He smiled at her concern, because it proved she really did like him. His dad arrived home early from work, took him and his sister back to their house. He sat with them, made dinner, watched Frankie's eyes every so often, and at bedtime, he determined the boy was just fine, and sent him to bed.
The next morning, their mother was home from work, and she changed the wound's dressing. Her husband hadn't looked at it the night before, because Frankie always made such a fuss about changing his bandaids. He whined and cried for ages both before and after, because he didn't like the feeling of the glue being ripped off with his skin. When the dressing came off, Frankie watched her eyes, as his own filled with tears.
His mother's eyes widened in horror. There must be something terribly wrong for her to look that way. Maybe he was going to die. She shook her head, and picked at the wound. It hurt! He wanted her to stop, but she told him she had to get the rocks out. Rocks?! In his head!? No wonder she looked unhappy.
But then, Frankie began to think about it. It was his very first war wound, earned in the heat of battle. The gaping wound should have been stitched, but by the time they discovered that, it was too late. So, sticky sterile strips and a few weeks later, Frankie stood at the mirror, admiring his shiny new scar.
He smiled proudly at his reflection and made himself taller. It was better than he hoped for: He had been a real airplane, in a real war, and he had the proof. He really was going to be a daredevil, and he didn't even have to wait until he grew up.   

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Weekends... they suck away my SOUL.

Weekends.  They drain a person.  When that person has to work all weekend, that is.  The "weekend" is not MY break time.  It's my work-a-lot time.  At the "real job", not at writing.

The best I can do to come close to writing on said weekends is to read.  Read things that make me forget about working all weekend, at least for a little bit.  I'm currently reading A Wise Man's Fear, which is pretty damn awesome, by the way.  Name of the Wind was really good too, and incidentally was Patrick Rothfuss' very first published novel.  10 years in the works from what I hear, but his first.  Just shows that taking your time on something can really pay off.  :).  I lament that book 3 is not yet out for this series, but I shall wait like everyone else.  *tear*

Before that I was reading the Game of Thrones books.  I'm on book 3, there.  Before that was a smattering of other stuff, but I've read a LOT more since I started reading on my Kindle.

Anyway, so I generally don't have time on the weekends to read the contest stuff, because that requires my laptop and Scrivener so I can take notes on each mini story as I read...  and my laptop is too massive to fit in my locker at work.  That and I'd probably spill soup, or whatever my lunch of the day is, on my lovely laptop.  And it wouldn't really like that very much.

Generally speaking, I have Tuesdays off.  I will try and get the contests read and judged before I make myself go to bed on Tuesdays, but probably won't have any time to read much before then...  unless I miraculously have a day off during the weekend.  That is not likely, considering the size of my department and how every person is needed on the weekends.  It happens every now and then, but it's not a common thing at all.

SO!  I'm reading right now, I promise!  I'm recovering from the long crazy running around that happens on the weekends.  It's a lovely quiet afternoon right now, and reading is my job.  I am collected, don't smell like hot dogs or pizza anymore, and can sit for 5 minutes without someone needing something.  Until school is out anyway.

*desperate sad sad laughter fills the room*  

Friday, January 20, 2012

Orion's Belt, Sand Palace Challenge

I wrote this last night and fell fast asleep just before I could get it up here.  I didn't know if it was actually done or not until I went to re-read it just now, and turns out I DID finish in time!  I just fell asleep before I could post it.  Not that it matters to anyone but me, since I don't count my own stories in the challenges...  anyway!  This is for the one that ended early this morning:  Sand Palace.  Enjoy!  



I originally planned to make this a children's story, like a kid's book.  I will have to go through and edit the phrasing and make sure the words are understandable for younger readers, and maybe do a little illustration...  but I like the story!  Anyway.  Shutting up now.  *nod*



Orion's Belt

It was a morning like any other. I woke spluttering, my perfect home flooded yet again. I ran out as fast as my eight legs could carry me and dove into the water, hoping I would not be sucked under with the sand yet again. When I was safe from the threat, I allowed myself to rise to the surface, knowing what I'd see: my lovely home being washed away grain by grain, yet again.
The tide always took my homes away with them. I knew it would happen. I couldn't help myself. Every day when the children came and built their castles in the sand and left them there when their parents dragged them away, I would take my pick of the lovely structures and settle in for the night.
Some of the buildings were certainly sturdier than others, and I tried to pick the best of the available spaces. I loved lying there, looking up at the stars and watching them pass slowly across the night sky. My parents had instilled a love of the cosmos in me from when I was just a tiny crab, barely old enough to go skittering across the sand. They'd loved walking on the beach at night, claw in claw, naming each constellation, and dreaming of the children they would have some day.
The stars scattered across the sky had been the inspiration for our names, in fact. My parents called me Orion and told me I was named for a warrior in the sky. My sister Lyra and brother Leo knew their sky signs too, but I always thought mine was the best of them all.
I watched my wonderful house be sucked back to the sea, and wondered if I was the only crab in the world trying to make a living up on land. Probably the only one trying to live in castles of sand, anyway.
The other crabs made fun of me, but I felt the way sand could dry, hard as stone, and knew if a house was built properly, it could make a suitable home. It just needed to be far enough away from the shore to stay out of the tide, but close enough to have the good fine sand that washed in every day, and easy access to the water for sculpting.
The big problem was the humans who liked to build with sand were usually children. Or adults working with children, who then allowed the children to make grievous errors in engineering. What I needed, I knew, was an adult with a plan.
As it happened, while I floated there and pondered this, trucks pulled in. I watched as huge blocks of sand were brought in and set up. Areas were marked off with rope, and crowds began to gather. I watched as long as I could, curiosity eating away at me. What was going on? Why were they bringing more sand here? They were ruining my beach!
Eventually it became too much and I went to find others to come watch with me and figure out the mess. Sebastian, the old crab who was like a grandfather to me, told me he'd seen something like this before. When he was a young crab, he enjoyed snacks the humans let fall into the sand, and he liked to sneak up on land and have his fill. One day big blocks like those arrived, and he watched as the humans spent hours working. When they were done, huge statues and scenes were left behind.
I thanked him for his wisdom, he grumbled and swam away, but my friends and I sat watching as the sun crept across the sky. Some of the humans made skyscrapers, domed buildings, and regular human houses like the ones built all along the beaches. Others made images of people, mermaids with fish heads and human legs, or carvings of ships at sea. But the one that drew my attention most of all was a sandcastle, nay, palace, at the end of the row.
It was the biggest structure like it that I'd ever seen. Towers all over, hundreds of tiny sculpted windows, and best of all, it was hollow inside. I could actually live there! I crept closer, watching, waiting, biding my time, and when the crowds dispersed, castle builder upset after losing the contest, I took the opportunity to run inside and take a look.
From the tallest tower I watched the sky grow dark and waited. The first star popped out, and I closed my eyes and wished with all my might, “Please let this one stay.” When I opened my eyes, I saw the rest of the stars pop into view. I had wished on the middle star in the warriors belt. My warrior's belt. I went to bed knowing it was a good sign.
The next morning, I woke to sounds of the waves lapping, and scrambled out of bed. I waited for them to crash down the walls, but there they stood. I walked up the tall tower and looked around carefully, sure that my new home would flood soon like all the rest. But it didn't. I looked out of the tower to the rest of the sculptures, and they all melted away into the sea. All of them but my castle.
That night I thanked the star in the middle of the warrior's belt, and it winked at me. I was reminded of a story my mother told me, how she asked the stars for what she wanted more than anything in her life, and how the stars had answered her.
I knew, then and there, my mother knew a truth. She knew, and she tried to tell me. The stars can give you what you want, she once said. She'd asked, after all, and the stars had given me to her. Once, I laughed at the idea. But now I knew too.

Flash Fiction Challenge: Jungle Monkeys



Welcome to the third weekly flash fiction challenge of January!!  Here are the rules:
  • You have one week to submit if you want to be included.
  • You are up to challenge yourself AND win a copy of either my short story, Nothing Lasts Forever, or a copy of my giant book of poetry, Bony Fingered Limbs.  Just let me know which you'd prefer, should you be chosen!  :)  It will come to you via email as a PDF file, DRM-free, so you can send it to whatever e-book-reader-device you may prefer.  ALSO, If you win so often you run out of choices, I will offer my services in editing something of yours, so there is always incentive!
  • Your word cap this week is 1000 words, so it's a little shorter, like last week!  That makes it a bit harder, but I think you can do it!  We'll work our way down shorter each month until we're awesomely churning out quickie stories like pros.  It is a good thing.
  • Your challenge for this week is something I am calling Jungle Monkeys.  Let the photo above be your inspiration!
  • Get me your submissions by Midnight next Friday morning, 1-27-12, Mountain Standard Time.  Link us your story in the comment area!  Put it up on your own blog, or on a public note on Facebook or in a Google Document file.  Somewhere so we can all see it.  Make sure you link your story!  Just  to be sure it's not passed over by accident, missed, or not included in the contest!  Thanks!

Anyway!! Let's see what you've got!  

Monday, January 16, 2012

Editing, a necessary pain

I managed to knock out 3 chapters of my NaNoWriMo book last night.  Line editing.  Boring.  Necessary.  Sigh.

I am not a huge fan of editing, I'll admit, but it certainly is not a step I am willing to skip and neither should you.  But how do you edit?  How do you know something is finally DONE editing?


How do you edit this mess in the first place?
  • Go through and line edit.  Look for spelling and grammatical errors.  Fix them.  If you can't see them, ask someone who is a grammar-head to do it for you.  Pay them if you must.
  • Go through it again, and read it aloud.  READ ALOUD!  I mean it!!  If the words don't flow off the tongue easily, fix it until they do.  If you can't read it aloud smoothly, it doesn't read smoothly.  Period.
  • Go through it again, but this time, look for your theme.  What were you trying to SAY with your words?  Be sure it is clear throughout.  Elude to it early on, but be sure your message comes through clearly.
  • Go through it again, looking for your plot.  Does it rise and fall like it should?  Does every character's PERSONAL plot rise and fall like it should?  Even the secondary characters should have a plot line.  Write it out if you must in order to see it.  Be sure every person (as well as the story) has a beginning, middle, end.  Crescendo, resolution.  Is it satisfying?  Fix it.
  • When you're sure your plot, theme, grammar, and spelling are good,  go through it at least one more time to catch the little things you missed the first 18 times through.  There is always something to catch.  A typo, a word that is a word but is the WRONG word for the moment.  (to, too, two...  your, you're, yore, etc)
  • When you are satisfied and cannot see any more issues within your own work, this is the time to pass it on to others to read and critique.  Even if you don't agree with them on their notes, take them into consideration.  Their opinions matter.  They are, after all, on par with your readers later.  If enough of them say the same thing, consider it heavily.

    In the end, the decision of what to DO with their notes is yours, of course.  But don't be hasty.  Fix what needs fixing, and then go over it again.  Read it aloud again.  


How do you know when it's done?
  • Well, to be honest, nothing is ever truly done being edited.  There is always something that could be tweaked and fixed and made better.  There's always something you can do more on.  But there is a time to stop, even though a thing is not 1000% perfect, and it is important to know when that is.
  • When you can read through it and are happy with how it reads, feel you have been clear in your theme, and your plot lines are right where they should be...  when you read through it aloud and nothing trips you up, when you can find nothing else to fix and you have considered outside opinions, it is time to send your baby off.

What now?

Well, this all depends on what you plan to do!  

  • Do you want to go the traditional publishing route?  Find an agent.  Don't try and send your stuff off to different publishing houses yourself.  Get an agent and let them fence the project for you.  That's what they're there for.

    I have not bothered finding my own agent, so I'm not the one to direct you in this path.  But there are plenty of posts out there by people who can!  Research!  Scott Eagan has a pretty awesome blog about this side of things.  Namely the finding an agent bit.

  • Do you want to self publish?  Format for e-book reading, or have someone do it for you.  Design a cover or have one designed for you, and don't forget about copyright laws with photos you might be using.  Set yourself up on Createspace if you want to publish one at a time, etc.
In any case, the editing was the point of today's fun little post.  The rest is for another day.

I know it seems like a lot of work.  I'm not going to lie to you.  It is.  It's tedious.  It's boring.  It's infuriating.  It's frustrating.  It might make you want to quit.  If you can't hack it, be prepared to pay someone else to do all this for you.  It will not be cheap.  But it is necessary to do a thorough edit if you want your work to be readable, or in any way good.

So!  Get to it!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Flash Fiction Challenge: Sand Palace



Welcome to the second weekly flash fiction challenge of January!!  Here are the rules:
  • You have one week to submit if you want to be included.
  • You are up to challenge yourself AND win a copy of either my short story, Nothing Lasts Forever, or a copy of my giant book of poetry, Bony Fingered Limbs.  Just let me know which you'd prefer, should you be chosen!  :)  It will come to you via email as a PDF file, DRM-free, so you can send it to whatever e-book-reader-device you may prefer.  ALSO, If you win so often you run out of choices, I will offer my services in editing something of yours, so there is always incentive!
  • Your word cap this week is 1000 words, so it's a little shorter, like last week!  That makes it a bit harder, but I think you can do it!  We'll work our way down shorter each month until we're awesomely churning out quickie stories like pros.  It is a good thing.
  • Your challenge for this week is something I am calling Sand Palace.  Let the photo above be your inspiration!
  • Get me your submissions by Midnight next Friday morning, 1-20-12, Mountain Standard Time.  Link us your story in the comment area!  Put it up on your own blog, or on a public note on Facebook or in a Google Document file.  Somewhere so we can all see it.  Make sure you link your story!  Just  to be sure it's not passed over by accident, missed, or not included in the contest!  Thanks!

Anyway!! Let's see what you've got!  

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Hippie Gypsy: The Gypsy Woman Challenge

I wrote this for this week's flash fiction challenge, Gypsy Woman.  The goal this week was 1000 words with the following picture as inspiration.  I also ran with a funny idea from a guy at work who wanted me to write a strange sci-fi - superhero story thing for him.  So I combined the two as my own weird personal goal.  I kinda like it!  Anyway, here you go!  



The Hippie Gypsy

James and Jerry were old friends, but more than that too. They had been fighting crime with their super secret superpowers for ages, working retail on the side as a cover. Who would suspect people who rang you out at the store led such double lives? It was perfect.
The two of them would wander about at night, their superhero costumes in brilliant colors hidden beneath their street clothes, ready to spring into action and don their masks at any sign of real trouble.
One such night, they were wandering in an old part of town and turned down a small alleyway. They passed a garden shop with a miniature garden out front, and a shop whose door was covered in neon signs: Palm Reading, Fortune Telling, Tarot Cards, Psychic Readings. Jerry smiled and stepped up to the door, as the OPEN sign glowed luminously.
James rolled his eyes, “Those people are all fakes you know,” he said, but Jerry was not dissuaded.
“Not all of them. My grandmother traveled with a gypsy family for a while when she was in Europe and said there were a lot of things she saw that simply could not be explained away,” he shrugged, pulled the door open, and stepped inside. James followed reluctantly.
“Well, don't expect me to fall for it,” he said, lowering his voice, sounding almost reverent, which was amusing since he was a nonbeliever.
Colorful cloths hung over the lamps, softening the light, and the edges of the open room were lined with shelves. They had varying items on them, ranging from boxes of different types of tarot cards to incense and crystals in several sizes. As the two stood waiting, one more uncomfortably than the other, there was movement in the back room.
“I'll be right with you,” the voice of a young woman called out, with a surprising lack of accent. Most places like that, the women who ran them faked an accent if they didn't have a real one. Interesting.
When she appeared, the woman's age and appearance both were startling. She couldn't have been more than twenty, and she was dressed more like a hippie than a gypsy, but the knitted shawl with long fringe could have gone either way.
“What can I do for you?” She asked, amused at the mixed reactions she got, pale blue eyes twinkling.
“I wanted to get a reading if it's not too much trouble,” Jerry smiled easily.
“Sure thing. Crystal ball, tarot, or palm?” She tipped her head to the side curiously, her jet black hair swaying.
“Crystal ball. I have heard the same thing from palm for ages now and I had a tarot reading not too long ago. I'm curious about the distant future and what it holds,” he answered, and she ushered them back to the smaller room behind the main one.
She gestured to two chairs on one side of a small table with a cloth draped over it, and as the two sat, the woman went to a shelf with varying sizes of crystal balls, and retrieved the largest of them all.
When she sat and closed her eyes, she said calmly, “You must close your eyes and clear your mind. Think about what it is you want to know of this 'distant future'. Your future wife? How many children you will have? Where will you live? Picture the object of your desire, clearly.”
She waited patiently for Jerry to do as she asked, and James rolled his eyes. They should be out, watching for trouble, using their super speed and strength for good, not wasting their time. He was about to stand and say as much, and go back outside when the woman added, “You are a part of this now, James. You must stay until it is over.” She hadn't opened her eyes, and he hadn't moved. His eyes widened and he sat back in his chair, eyebrows raised. They hadn't given names.
“Do you have it?” She asked, and Jerry said yes. “You may open your eyes and gaze with me into the ball,” she said quietly, leaning forward, searching within its flawless form.
James saw nothing, but when she told them she saw dark clouds, fire, and danger, Jerry nodded fervently, insisting he saw it too. She saw death all around, and escape for few. Jerry would do what he could to save as many as he could, but he would have to save himself eventually.
It would tear him up inside to leave behind people he loved, but there would be nothing for it. If he wanted to live, he would have to find and board the vessel called Deliverance. Jerry nodded solemnly.
She continued on, saying the road would be long and hard from that moment on, but he would find purpose, doing what they always did, helping people, saving them. He and his partner in fighting crime. The two of them would just have to find another way to go about doing it.
James' eyes widened yet again at that. She knew. There was no way for her to know. But of course, her talk of the world as they knew it ending had to be a mistake.
He had brushed it off, laughed about it. But the day came when nuclear holocaust forced the human race to the stars, and James and Jerry boarded a vessel called Deliverance to escape their dying world. They did continue to save people, though super speed and strength were both useless out there in the black.
Reminiscing one afternoon, as though it were possible to tell time of day out there, Jerry laughed, “And you said gypsies weren't real.”
“I still say she wasn't a gypsy. She was a hippie, just one with a talent,” he snorted and continued repairing his bright purple suit. It was, after all, the only one he had left.

Monday, January 9, 2012

So you go to post your lovely story...

and you review it and it looks PERFECT. Then you hit enter and it messes. Everything. Up.

Your indents are there sometimes but not always, leaving a giant text wall on the screen. Your words all run together like you don't know what a paragraph is or how to hit tab.

You go to fix it but don't know how or what to do. And it irritates you. So you either leave it up all messed up and feel the idiot... or you delete it because you won't put your name on something that's so screwy-looking.

Yeah, I've been there. This is what I've figured out that works!!

  • You can fix that one of two ways: You can either simply put a space between each paragraph (shift + enter if you're on Facebook)
  • You can edit it in your word program. Highlight whole thing (or you can set it up when you set up the program to start), format, paragraph, indent (add one, 1", .5", whatever). Then at the beginning of each paragraph, backspace and it will fix itself. When you copy/paste after you're done, it should keep its indent formatting. (This does not appear to hold on Facebook if you are posting in notes.)
  • Paste the whole thing into Notepad. This strips off all of the formatting stuff. Copy again, and paste into the HTML setting. Switch to "what you see is what you get" and make it look how you want it to. But know that your indents won't stay. Doing this method, you're best off hitting enter and making blocky paragraphs.
Anyway. Formatting is fun. But it's good to know some basics at least! Hopefully this helps if you are having trouble!

    How do I judge my contests?

    I assume some of you wonder! So here is the general criteria!



    • Grammar and spelling: Up to 5 stars- A couple errors is fine, but the fewer the better. Use spellcheck if you must. And work on your grammar skills too! The more polished your first drafts are, the less editing you'll need to do later! I promise!

    • Is it a complete story?: Up to 5 stars- The idea is to have a complete story with a beginning, middle, and end. Working on getting this down with short stories and flash fiction pieces like these challenges will help you IMMENSELY with your longer works. I promise!

    • Is it within the theme?: Up to 5 stars- If not or it wasn't written FOR the picture, it doesn't count. For one of the challenges, not remembering which exactly, I had someone give me an old story of theirs for the challenge. The idea is to challenge yourself, not just WIN. If you want to use an old story you came up with before, at least tweak it to fit. Don't just give me something you wrote 5 years ago and call it good.

      Also within this is the word count bit.  If it's well over the given word count, it loses points/is disqualified.  I do know different counters are different, and give a little leeway for that, but keeping things concise is another difficult part of writing, and is something we need to strive toward!

    • Is the story original?: Up to 5 stars - If the idea is stolen, it will count far far less. The idea is not to piggy back on someone else's ideas. The idea is to come up with something original. If you don't read any of the other entries before you post your own, that helps with keeping yours nice and original. :) Fanfic is one thing. Copying the heart of the story is another entirely.

    • Is the story interesting?: Up to 5 stars - If it doesn't interest me or draw me it, it won't make the grade. You want to be able to grab people's attention from the get-go. You want to wow them, surprise them, keep them turning the pages. Practice with the short stuff really does help!



    So there's the general idea. You can earn up to 25 stars. The closer you are to the goal, the higher your number will be. I'm also going with my personal "likes" here, of course, but I do try and be objective!


    Anyway, so if you're wondering how to improve, look at the 5 categories above. Do you lack somewhere? Where can you improve? Use it next week to help your story along!!

    Sunday, January 8, 2012

    Alan Moore has good thoughts.


    Good stuff.  Watch it twice.  Like.  Favorite.  Save for later.  *nod*.

    Weekend almost over.  Brain break coming tomorrow afternoon.  I can't form real thoughts in the meantime.  Still need to read the entries for the Message in a Bottle challenge.  Want to have my real brain back before I tackle that.  I have not forgotten you!  I should have a winner selected by tomorrow night.  <3

    Friday, January 6, 2012

    Flash Fiction Challenge: Gypsy Woman



    Welcome to the first weekly flash fiction challenge of January!!  You know the rules:

    You have one week to submit if you want to be included.

    You are up to challenge yourself AND win a copy of either my short story, 
    Nothing Lasts Forever, or a copy of my giant book of poetry, Bony Fingered Limbs.  Just let me know which you'd prefer, should you be chosen!  :)  It will come to you via email as a PDF file, DRM-free, so you can send it to whatever e-book-reader-device you may prefer.  ALSO, If you win so often you run out of choices, I will offer my services in editing something of yours, so there is always incentive!

    Your word cap this week is 1000 words, so it's a little shorter, like last week!  That makes it a bit harder, but I think you can do it!  We'll work our way down shorter each month until we're awesomely churning out quickie stories like pros.  It is a good thing.

    Your challenge for this week is something I am calling Gypsy Woman.  Let the photo above be your inspiration!

    Get me your submissions by Midnight next Friday morning, 1-13-12, Mountain Standard Time.  Link us your story in the comment area!  Put it up on your own blog, or on a public note on Facebook or in a Google Document file.  Somewhere so we can all see it.  Make sure you link your story!  Just  to be sure it's not passed over by accident, missed, or not included in the contest!  Thanks!

    Anyway!! Let's see what you've got!  

    Thursday, January 5, 2012

    Prince Pirate Charming: Flash Fiction

    I wrote this for this week's Flash Fiction Challenge, Message in a Bottle.  Had to make it shorter than the last few weeks' offerings this time, which wasn't nearly as difficult as I thought it might be!  Good stuff.  Keep it Simple, Stupid!  Ahem, sorry, talking to my own self.  ;)

    Anyway, here be your story.  Enjoy!  Yeargh!



    Prince Pirate Charming

    The morning sun began to rise over the ocean, dancing its rays across the surface of the water, gleaming and golden. Annie crept out of the beach house as quietly as she could, which was no easy task with the enthusiasm of Asteroid, her white and black splotched mutt of a dog. Annie's daughter Elizabeth had picked the dog out at the humane society three years back, and was insistent she'd take care of him all by herself.
    As suspected, after just a few days, the duty fell to Annie instead. At first she had been upset, but time passed and now she and the dog were fast friends. Asteroid was her running companion, and they always had a huge amount of fun running the beaches before they were sullied by footprints.
    Hers was a small town tucked in by a little cove, rarely visited by outsiders, and the quiet was a treasured anomaly. The beaches up and down the rest of the North Carolina coastline were packed with sightseers, while their towns' series of beaches were happily quiet, left untouched by the tourism.
    The cove itself made for less than advantageous tides, making it a poor place for surfers, though sometimes they would show up and try their luck. They never stayed long. And because of the lack of tourists, there were really no tourist shops either, just the usual supermarkets and gas stations, libraries and churches. All in all, Jeddison was not a terrible place to live. Annie had lived there all her life, and she had always loved it there.
    Well, “always” is a strong word. There were moments in her childhood that made her want to run away. The moment her father walked out and never came home. The moment the doctors told her they were sorry, but her Mama died in the church fire. The moment her Aunt Maye came to take her home with her. Annie hated that house, the way it smelled of moth balls and lemon scented cleaner. But she was only twelve and didn't have a choice.
    Annie walked the dog down to the water, and looked around to be sure they were alone before unclipping his leash. He wasn't a dog to run off or bite people, so she never saw the harm in letting him have a bit of freedom. She urged him on, and laughed as he ran, hair flopping all about. For an hour they ran together, dog running ahead, turning to be sure she was with him, and running on again.
    She laughed when he stopped to play in the foamy waves as they rose and retreated. He always did seem to think he could catch each bubble if he tried hard enough. After a while, though, he tired of his game and busied himself with digging in the wet sand where some lone sea creature burrowed out of sight, trying to get back to the sea.
    When she got within shouting range, she paused to catch her breath and called to him. The dog perked up and ran back toward her, lope growing slower. The dog was getting tired, and it was about time to turn back. But as he neared she saw it wasn't the usual sleepy dog run. He had something in his mouth, and was bringing his treasure to her. When he drew close, he lay his find on the ground and sat, tongue lolling happily, watching her.
    At first it looked like a root beer bottle, but upon closer inspection, it was a small wine bottle. Too light to be full, but cork shoved back in place. Common litter. She shook her head, picked it up, and took it home with her to discard. When she set it on the porch to rinse off the sand, though, she noticed the sunlight didn't shine through it properly. Something was inside.
    Curiosity piqued, she retrieved a corkscrew from the house, said good morning to Darren and Elizabeth, who had risen for the day, and retreated back to the wide porch. The cork was pushed down deep in the neck of the bottle and sealed with some kind of wax, which made it difficult to get it all out in a single piece. Annie ended up breaking it up, having to shake out bits of the cork, and had to fight with a pair of pencils to retrieve the rolled up bit of paper she found inside.
    Darren found her sitting on the porch later that morning, stunned, just staring at the note she found by pure chance. The messy handwriting of a sad little girl was apparent even without reading the words themselves. It was a note to Prince Pirate Charming, begging him to come get her and take her away from “this place”. It was signed Annie Houston. She had long forgotten tossing the bottle into the ocean, but there it was in her hand again, and with it came all the emotion of the sad and lonely summer when her mother died.
    Her husband sat beside her, held her hand, and listened as tears streamed down her face. She choked back sobs as she told of a little girl all alone in the world, no one to love her. Her aunt seemed cold and distant after taking her in, and she felt unwanted. Now she understood her aunt was overwhelmed, suddenly responsible for a child while grieving a sister.
    Annie just wanted to be whisked away and had created Prince Pirate Charming as her own personal savior. Annie had always wanted to live on a pirate boat.
    Darren smiled at her and said softly, “Well, I may not be a prince or a pirate, but I do hope you've outgrown your desire to run away.”
    You couldn't get rid of me if you tried,” she smiled at him through her tears and brushed off the bottle. She decided she wasn't going to throw it away after all.




    Free Copies of Nothing Lasts Forever and Bony Fingered Limbs!

    Free on the Kindle store from January 5th - Jan 9th.  If you would be so awesome as to pick up, read and review, that would be wonderful!  Sales count toward ratings, and reviews help other people find these things to read!


    Pretty please, if you use Kindle or a Kindle Application at all, pick up my stuff, read and review for me!!  Help a lowly beginning writer out!  Thank you so much!!  I really appreciate it!


    Nothing Lasts Forever, a short story about girls in high school, and the aftermath of an accident.


    Bony Fingered Limbs, a pretty good sized collection of poetry.


    I know they're not up for too much in the first place, but the free promotions do help sales!  So spread it around!  Link!  Read!  Review!  Tell me what you think here, or ask questions you may have!  Hopefully it all makes sense, though!


    I remain yours, forever grateful.  ;)  Now off to write my challenge story for the week!!

    Tuesday, January 3, 2012

    The Girl in the Cup: Flash Fiction

    This was written for last week's challenge, which I missed due to family in town.  But I wrote it as promised, and here it is!  Better late than never!  Enjoy!





    Amy yawned and rolled over in bed, wishing she didn't have to go to work. Not the closing shift again with all the rowdy college students who never tip and always leave a mess. But it was noon, and she couldn't stay in bed much longer, so she got up and got herself ready, ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and fed the cat on her way out the door for her hour long commute. As ever, her shadow of a friend, Lisa, followed her silently, and Amy wished she would go away.
    On the train, she listened to her music and tried to ignore the grifters who frequented the cars with their cup and ball game. She was not stupid enough to fall for the “wowed first time winner” act, but she did try and follow the ball, and got it right half the time. Still, she never bet money on it. She never had extra cash to wager anyway, and when she saw the same people in the same act with the same “wowed first time winner” later that week, she was glad she hadn't.
    She thought about stopping the gullible woman who fell for their game, but shook her head and looked out the window instead. Not her business. People shouldn't be so stupid. Lisa, as ever, was nearby, watching the exchange, expressionless.
    Amy climbed off the train and clambered down the steps to the street, glanced both ways twice, and ran across the street to the bus stop she needed for the next leg of her trip. Lisa followed, humming. Amy ignored her.
    She wished for the hundredth time she had been able to just get a position at the Beanery that was on the same street as her building, but it was always fully staffed, whereas the one in the center of three college campuses downtown was not. That one employed college students, who, by default, tended to be less reliable than their adult counterparts uptown.
    She arrived at work ages later, and wondered what the muse would bring out tonight. She never did know. The people she worked with saw her coffee artwork as beautiful and inspiring, something to live up to, but she couldn't tell them the truth. It wasn't her who made the pictures in the foam. It was her ever-present friend, Lisa. It wasn't their fault they couldn't see her.
    Amy pulled her vivid orange apron over her black shirt, tucking the apron neck beneath her collar so it sat properly on her, and washed her hands thoroughly in the sink. Her manager briefed her on the day, set her up for the evening, then left. The night shift was Amy's territory. Not that she liked it exactly, but it was a job, and she should be thankful to have one at all.
    The afternoon passed into evening seamlessly, then died down once the usual after dinner coffee crowd made their way through. She was humming to herself and cleaning the dishes when the door opened, bell clattering, and a crowd of generally conservative and clean-cut college kids walked in.
    She recognized them immediately as regulars from the church around the corner and wanted to hide. They were always nice, but thought leaving tracts about saving your soul that were printed to look like money were the best tip they could ever give. Little did they know the change from each of their orders could make a real difference in her pocket.
    Still, she put on her smile and served each and every one of them, making the drinks to order, dipping and swirling the spoon in the foam when she was done, and handing off the liquid artwork. It wasn't until the last one of the group sat down and they started to compare notes on their images for the evening that she realized she'd made the same picture for each of them, and they took turns looking at her curiously.
    Amy hadn't really paid much attention to what she had done, but she squeezed her eyes shut and tried to picture it. All she came up with was a fuzzy face. She turned her back to clean out her milk pitcher, hoping to keep the foam from setting, and she jumped when someone said, “Excuse me.”
    She stilled her heart and turned around to see a new girl in their group standing there before her. “I was wondering, how do you know this girl?” she asked and gestured to the cup she'd brought up and set on the counter.
    Amy glanced in long enough to see what she had done, and hid her surprised to see Lisa's image looking back at her. She shrugged, “I don't know. I didn't really think about it much today.”
    The girl nodded slowly and looked over her shoulder to be sure they were alone before she continued. “It's just... she looks like one of the girls at my school. She's been missing for a year or so now,” she began, but trailed off. She took a deep breath and added, “She was my friend.”
    Lisa wandered over by the other girl and looked at her sadly. Amy made herself not look at Lisa and spoke again, “No, I'm sorry, I just dipped the spoon and it came out that way. It wasn't meant to look like any real person.”
    “But you do this every week. You make all different designs, they told me. There has to be a reason we all had the same one today,” the girl's heart visibly fell, and Amy felt bad for her.
    “I was just messing around, seeing if anyone would notice. It wasn't meant to be any real person. I'm sorry if it upset you.” The girl nodded and took her seat, but left the coffee on the counter. The rest of the time the group was there, she sat and watched Amy work, clearly trying to puzzle it out.
    Amy took the cup carefully to not disturb the artwork, and stared into it for a while, feeling like she was being pulled into the coffee colored eyes on the face, losing herself to all else. Why was Lisa putting herself in the cup? She didn't say anything to her when the girl came up to ask about her. What did she want? How could she help her spirit find peace and finally move on if she wouldn't talk?
    It was Lisa's playing in the foam that started their location's art themes. It just happened one day, the day after she'd come to Amy, months ago. Her boss thought it was clever and told her to keep it up. Lisa wandered into her line of sight, breaking her train of thought. The spirit girl gave her a significant look, then pointed out the door. They'd gone and she hadn't even heard the bell.
    Amy ran out the door, and called out, “Wait!” just before they disappeared around the corner. The thin girl turned around, but the rest of the group continued on, oblivious. “I do know her. Just not like you think. People never believe me, so I don't like to say anything,” She said, shaking her head. “Come back inside. I think she's ready to talk.” The girl looked confused, but followed.
    Amy made her a new cup of coffee without any design in it, and they sat in the corner booth again. The girl introduced herself as Jen, and Amy told her story. Amy explained that she had always been sensitive to spirits, but most of them would pass on their messages through her and vanish. Lisa had been different. She'd stuck around much longer than any other spirit Amy had dealt with before. She stuck around, probably waiting for a face she knew. Stuck around waiting to let her friend know she was gone.
    Once the basics were out of the way and Jen didn't get up and leave, Lisa came over and told her story through Amy. She told how she was invited to a party on a boat, and went despite having previous plans with Jen. She drank too much and fell over the side of the boat, but nobody noticed. She spluttered, alone in the dark, as the boat left her there. Her last thoughts were of Jen, wishing she'd just stayed home and kept their plans.
    The thin girl sat, face in her hands, and sobbed. Lisa had been her best friend all her life, they'd gone off to college together, and now she was left to face the world alone. Amy gathered her up, and hugged her fiercely, telling her she was never alone. Jen and Amy ended up talking all night, and quickly became friends. Lisa hung back and watched it all before she vanished into the ether, a smile on her face. Her job was done. 

    Monday, January 2, 2012

    Flash Fiction Challenges... what's the point?

    I had the idea the other day, but I've been kind of busy.  My parents were in town to celebrate a just-a-little-late Christmas, and were here until early this afternoon.  And kids have been out of school and driving us all a little batty.  Thursday they go back.  It will be a long few days...  >.<

    Anyway!  I had this idea for this posting and may not be quite as coherent about it all as the day I thought of it.  But here you go.

    The point of my little fiction writing challenges!  Why do I do these?  Why do I host them?  Why do I try and get other people doing them too?  Why are the prizes my own work?  Here's my line of thinking on the subject:


    Why do I do the challenges in the first place?
    I started doing the challenges for myself.  Because I need to work on my beginning-middle-end. I need to work on my conflict and resolution.  I need to work on being concise.  I need to work on getting better about deadlines.  So I decided to prompt myself and get myself working at least weekly on something fictional.


    Why do I host challenges?
    Well, largely because I can.  If I'm going to challenge myself to do this, I want it to be READABLE.  So I write mine, then post it for the world to see.  This makes me work harder than I might if it was just for me and nobody would ever see it until I'd edited it 100 times.   I figure if I'm that way, other writer-peoples will be too.  So I share my ideas and try to spurn yours.




    Why do I try and get other people doing them too? 
    I like having people kind of keep me accountable on keeping these going.  If it's just me all by myself, it's a lot easier to procrastinate and put things off again and again (I'm a fucking expert at that!).  I need someone to kick me in my enormous ass if I don't get moving for one week.  I haven't slipped up yet, at least on posting the challenges.  I didn't manage to get last week's done on time, but I do plan on writing it.  And then writing this week's too.  *nod*

    But I like to think someone would notice and care if I missed a week, and yell at me for it.  There, you have permission to yell at me if I miss one.  You can quote me on it if you must.  ;)




    Why are the prizes my own work?
    Because I am a lowly upstart writer and that's what I have to offer, mostly.  If you win a few times over and don't have anything else I can send you as a prize, I'm happy to edit something for you, within reason.  I have a family and I work outside the house too, so I only have so much time, but if you win, it's only fair you earn something, eh?  :)

    Also, maybe it's a little bit selfish or self-serving or whatever, BUT, I also figure getting my work into the hands of other writers is something like free advertising if the people who read it happen to like it.  You are free to post reviews on Amazon if you happen to win, finish something, and feel the need!  :)

    SO, if you are thinking about hosting your own challenges, that's my little bitty distracted line of thinking on it.  At least some of it.  I'm sure I have 1800 more reasons floating about in my head but I can't think of them right this second.  ;)

    Anyway!  Get to work!  I see you over there.  Yeah, you with the cookies.  Get yourself a cup of tea, cocoa, or coffee, and get to work!  No, put down the remote.  Put away Facebook.  Buckle down.  At least for a little while.

    You'll thank me for it later.  Promise.