Flash Fiction Friday: Deja-vu!

Today, I’m participating in the Déjà vu Blogfest hosted by D. L. Hammons. The purpose of this blogfest is to give exposure to blog articles we’ve written over the past year that we were particularly pleased with, or that didn’t seem to get as much attention as we think they deserve. Each participant re-posts their favorite blog today, and everyone on the Linky List (see D. L.’s blog) hops around visiting these masterpieces. It’s a good way to get to know other bloggers, and to give neglected posts some attention.

Regulars to my blog will know that I was particularly pleased with the flash fiction stories I posted for April’s A-to-Z Challenge. Since it’s Flash Fiction Friday, it seems only right that I re-post my favorite of these. But since it’s only 100 words long, I’ll post two of them.

Here’s my favorite of the stories (or pieces, since they’re not all strictly-speaking “stories”), originally posted April 19:

Query

Dear Ms. Price:

Angela was a hard-nosed literary agent with a flair for snark, and a rejection count as large as the national debt. Then she received the query she couldn’t turn down. The email threatened her life if she didn’t say yes, and the sender had attached the 150,000 word manuscript. There was no name at the bottom, just the signature, “I know where you live.”

TWO DAYS TO LIVE tells the story of Angela’s search for the writer who would try to kill her—and probably will. The 150,000 word manuscript is attached.

I know where you live.

 

And as a bonus, here’s a rare piece of poetry from me (I don’t do poetry, as a rule). Originally posted April 8:

Grandfather

Grasping hands and guiltless joy, gurgles and grins.

Sparkling eyes and a line of drool.

Is he happy to see me, or does he need to be changed?

Without words,

these innocent gestures are so vague.

If only he could talk,

tell me what he wants,

tell me how he feels,

that he wants me here,

that he needs me.

that he loves me.

 

All I have are these grasping hands, these gurgles and gummy grins.

A reminder of how I used to be

many years ago.

An echo of what I might become

a few short years from now.

 If you enjoyed these, you can find all my other A-to-Z flash stories under “April 2014″ in the Archives on the right, or you can download them as a pdf document HERE.

Now, go visit some other Déjà-vu bloggers!

What’s Up Wednesday Christmas Edition

I’m calling this the Christmas edition since it’s probably the last WUW I’ll be participating in this side of Christmas. Unless something happens worthy of a WUW post next week. But I’m not anticipating that, so let’s stick with the plan and see what happens. What’s Up Wednesday is a blog meme devised by sisters Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk as a way for writer friends to keep in touch. Want to be a part of the fun? Visit their blogs to find out how, and visit other participants on their Linky Lists.

What I’m Reading

I’m currently reading RUNNER by Patrick Lee. It’s a thriller featuring ex-Special Forces Sam Dryden who, while out for a night-time run, comes across a twelve-year old girl who is also running–for her life. He rescues her from her pursuers, but it appears there’s a whole organization hunting her down. Dryden takes her under his wing and risks his own life protecting her while they find out more about the people chasing after her, and about the special ability she acquired while she was being held by them…

This is a fast-paced novel, and the story gets more and more interesting the deeper you go. I’m enjoying it. Definitely R-rated for occasional profanity and sexual situations, though Lee tries not to be salacious in his descriptions, giving just enough information for you to get the idea what’s happening.

What I’m Writing

Aside from the flash fiction (see the previous four Fridays), not much. And that’s okay. This break is helpful.

I have to include a writing goal now? Hmmm… I had an idea for another short story I’ve been kicking around. Maybe I’ll set myself the goal of actually making some notes on it, develop the idea a bit more on paper. See if it could work. Not too ambitious, I know, but I’m supposed to be taking a break.

What Works for Me

Being my own writer. What do I mean by that? I think those of us who write and are seeking publication often look to published writers, and those working in publishing, for guidance on how to be a writer. And what we hear are things like, “You need to write at least 1,000 words a day,” or “If you’re not writing daily you’re not a writer,” or “If you can do something else, do it, because the writer’s life isn’t for wusses.” And there’s some truth to all of these. But we can get hung up thinking that if we don’t live up to this standard in some way, we’re failing.

The thing is there are as many different types of writer as there are writers. And some of those comments mean more to some people than others. If you’re young, and looking to writing as your sole means of making a living, then you probably need to listen to the voices in the previous paragraph. Those who are older, and perhaps have families and good jobs, however, will want different things out of their writing career. It may be a secondary income source, or something they would like to see happen but are fine if they remain unpublished. That doesn’t mean they’re not as dedicated to their writing, or they won’t be as prolific. It just means they go at their own pace, and have a different perspective on the whole life-work-writing balance. I’m definitely in that latter category. I have a good job and a large family. I don’t need to be published to earn a living, though the secondary income would be helpful. I enjoy writing, and get a deep sense of satisfaction when I write a good story. It’s certainly something I’d enjoy spending more time doing–even perhaps doing full-time. I plan to write another novel, and more after that. And hopefully an agent will take an interest, and I’ll become a published author. But my life is already rich and full and enjoyable, so it’s not something I need in that sense.

What Else Is New

Christmas! My favorite time of year. I love the whole atmosphere of Christmas–the music, the decorations, the shorter days, the colder weather, that sense of reflection, nostalgia, and appreciation for life, friends, and family. And, of course, the food! And while Christmas itself isn’t new, every year is a new Christmas. My oldest daughter turned 21 on Monday, so it’s the first year she’ll be able to enjoy an adult beverage if she so chooses. It’ll be my sister-in-law’s first Christmas at their new house, and we’ll be there to celebrate with them. It’s also Sam the Cat’s first Christmas with us–possibly his first Christmas period.

Speaking of Sam, here he is with his preciousssss:

Sam_and_the_Cat_Food_sm

Have a wonderful Christmas, everyone!

Music Monday: All Is Well

This has to be one of my favorite Christmas songs, from one of my favorite CDs. To me, Michael W. Smith’s 1989 “Christmas” album represents the man at his best. The guy’s made some good music in his career so far, but this album is in a league of its own. The track I’m featuring today, “All Is Well,” is especially marvelous since it captures the atmosphere as we might imagine it on that night in Bethlehem, starting out simple and peaceful, and ending with an angelic chorus.

The song was written by Michael W. Smith and Wayne Kirkpatrick (who, incidentally, went on to co-write Eric Clapton’s song “Change the World”–the theme to the movie “Phenomenon”). The recording features The Nashville Festival Orchestra conducted by Ronn Huff, who also did the choral arrangement. Michael doesn’t sing or play on the song. It’s performed entirely by the orchestra along with a boy’s choir and a cathedral choir (a young chappie named Nathan Wadley is the soloist, fyi).

For those who are interested, it’s in E major. The chords are basically: E – Emaj7/G#, C#m – G#m/B, A – E/G# – D – Am7b5 – B7 // E – Emaj7/G#, C#m – G#m/B, A – E/G# // Amaj7 – E/G#, Amaj7 – E/G#, Em/G – D/F# – Bsus4 – B7. Then at the end, for big climactic build-up, it goes to: C/G – D/F# – C/E – D – C – Bm7 – E.

One part I find particularly nice is the Amaj7 – E/G#, but if you play it straight like that, you miss so much. It comes at about 1 min 14 secs into the song, and you hear there’s actually a “passing note” for want of a better description. Let me scrawl it out on manuscript paper for you:

AllIsWell

I love the way that sounds, the slight dissonance, and the drop to the minor. Wonderful!

When I was at university in the UK, my roommate in my second year was a huge Michael W. Smith fan and had all his albums on tape, including this one. That’s where I first heard it. The day after Christmas, 1990, I flew to the US to visit my then-girlfriend for a few weeks. While out shopping with her, we came upon the CD of “Christmas,” cut-price, if I recall correctly (it was no longer Christmas, after all). Twenty-four years later, the girlfriend is my wife (and has been for the past 23 years as of yesterday), and I still have and enjoy that same copy of Michael W. Smith’s “Christmas.”

Here’s the song for you to listen to. Enjoy!:

Do you have any song suggestions for future “Music Monday” features? Maybe you want help figuring out a song, or you’re just interested in what I might have to say about a particular piece of music. Just mention the song in the comments, or you can tell me via Twitter or email.

Flash Fiction Friday

The next installment of our flash-serialized story (word count: 224):

Revenge?

I had misgivings about Anan’s assassination, and I wanted to know why she was so dangerous. But I was hardly going to launch a vendetta against my employer for killing a seemingly harmless young woman. Even though they forced me to jump a chasm in full winter gear and left me to die on an ice ridge when I failed to carry out the mission. I would do the same for them in a heartbeat.

That’s the code I gave my signature to.

I was about to ask my kidnapper what mutual vengeance he had in mind, when there was a loud bang. The helicopter shook as if hit by a giant baseball bat. The lights flickered. There was Arabic shouting and the pounding of boots on the metal floor. I tried to sit up to get a better view of what was happening when there was another hit.

“We’re under attack,” the young man said coming over to me and helping me up. “We need to move you somewhere safer—”

Then another jolt slammed me and my captor onto the opposite side of the helicopter. My ears were ringing; I could feel darkness encroaching on my vision.

Just before I passed out for the third time in two hours, I had the distinct impression that we were falling from the sky…

… and that’s where I’m going to leave this story. It seems a bit mean, but the plot is developing in a way that deserves more thought. Perhaps I’ll end up writing the novel. If so, consider this an extended teaser. I’ll be sure to let you know if that ever happens.

Next week, I’ll be participating in D. L. Hammons’ Deja-Vu Blog Fest, where we re-post a favorite blog article from this year. Since this will be on Flash Fiction Friday, I’ll choose a couple of my favorite flash stories from this year.

Sam the Egyptian Cat

It’s been a few weeks since I posted a cat picture, so here’s a new picture of Sam. My 14-year-old daughter took this shot of him sitting on top of a cello case. However, she neglected to turn off the flash, creating a rather interesting effect. Sam was already posing like one of those Egyptian cat deity statues. The flash completes the image I think he was trying to convey:Sam_Defender_of_Cello_smBeware all mice and spiders that try to enter…!

 

Music Monday: Happy Xmas (War Is Over)

Since today is the 34th anniversary of John Lennon’s death (at 10:50 pm ET tonight, to be precise), it seems appropriate for today’s Music Monday to feature one of the most beloved (and one of my favorite) of his post-Beatles tunes. The song has a clear anti-war message, and given the fact it was released in 1971, the main target was more than likely the Vietnam War, though it could apply to any conflict. Unlike other “protest” songs, however, there’s an optimism to the words: “A very merry Christmas, and a happy New Year; let’s hope it’s a good one without any fear… War is over if you want it.” Rather than venting about the atrocities of war, John and Yoko take the path of gentle exhortation: “For black and for white, for yellow and red ones, let’s stop all the fight.” It’s a perfect blend of a great tune and a simple message, just right for the Christmas season.

Here’s the song, courtesy of YouTube:

If you want to play along on your guitar, the chords are fairly straight forward. Simplified, the chords are: A, Bm, E, A, then D, Em, A, D. The chorus chords are: G, A, Em, G, D, E. If you want to play a little more closely to what’s happening on the record, here are some pictures to help you with the verses. The finger position circled in red is the one that moves. For example, in the first picture we have an A major chord where the note on the B-string is played first on the 2nd fret, then it’s open (there’s no little number “2”), then on the third fret (see the little number “3”), and finally back to the second fret (“4″):

“So this is Christmas…”

A“And what have you done?” (Red circled note is first on the third fret, then open (no little “2”), then on the fifth, then back to the third. The line across the 2nd fret is a barre):

Bm“Another year over…” (Red circled note first on the second fret, then on the first, then on the fourth fret of the D-string, then back to the first):

E“And a new one just begun.” (Back to our original A chord):

“And so this is Christmas…” (No little “2” because the second note in the sequence is the open E-string):

D“I hope you have fun…” (No little “1” because the first note in this sequence is the open E-string):

“The near and the dear ones…” (There’s no little “3” because that’s the open B-string):

Aii“The old and the young.”

DI hope that makes sense. Listen closely to the original recording and you should be able to figure it out. If you have any questions or comments, please use the “Comments”!

Flash Fiction Friday

The story continues (word count: 291):

Images drifted through my mind. Ropes dropping behind me. Figures descending to my icy ledge too quickly for me to react. It dawned on me that the helicopter was a getaway vehicle just as the chloroform on the cloth that now covered my mouth took effect.

The loud drone of the helicopter blades broke through my subconscious and brought me around. It also didn’t help that the world kept lurching, like I was on an endless rollercoaster. I was already used to hard floors, so that didn’t bother me, though I could do without the plastic ties around my hands and feet. I tested them, but they were on tight.

“Our guest is awake,” I heard a voice say. I slowly parted my eyelids and turned my head in the direction of the voice. Boots came into my field of vision.

“Welcome, Mr. Jackson. Nice to have you on board.”

This voice was male, young, and with a heavy Middle Eastern accent that my foggy brain refused to place.

“If this is how you treat your guests, you could do with some etiquette classes,” I fired back. My host grunted.

“You have a reputation,” he said, kneeling down beside me. “You are not… safe.” This was true. During my time in Special Forces, I had been captured twenty-eight times, and escaped twenty-seven. None of my captors survived. And only one time did I need to be rescued.

“And you risk your life because…?”

The man laughed, then leaned over me. He had a thin face, dark close-cropped hair, and stubble on his chin. That was all I could make out in the dim light.

“Because we both want the same thing.”

“We do? And what would that be?”

He smiled.

“Revenge.”

This is beginning to sound like a novel I’d enjoy reading! I wonder what happens next? Seriously, I have no clue. Come back next week and we’ll all find out together.

Music Monday: Christmastime Is Here!

Not only is this a true statement, but it’s the name of one of the pieces Vince Guaraldi composed and performed (with his trio) for the Charlie Brown Christmas special. It features lots of intriguing chord changes and, of course, Vince’s dazzling jazz piano. One of my musician friends at church and I have been figuring out the chords, particularly to the middle section.* So far, the best we can come up with for the first two is a Dbmaj9 to a C+/Gb (it then goes to an Am7, then to–I think–some kind of Ebdim to a D7, then a Gm7 to an F+(add4)/Db to a C11 to a Gbmaj7… I think). If anyone wants to chime in with their suggestions, feel free. In the meantime, enjoy the piece as we enter into the Christmas season!

* Sure we could look up the sheet music, but it’s more fun (and more educational) to work it out by ear. After all, unless the sheet music has come from the composer, the person transcribing is just as likely to get it wrong as anyone else.

Flash Fiction Friday

More of our story (see the past couple of Fridays to catch up). This week’s installment is 282 words long:

The air around me was cool, like the walk-in freezers I used to frequent as a teenaged grunt-worker for a meat wholesaler. I could still see the lines of animal carcasses hanging in that cavernous room. Pigs, deer, cows, skinned and gutted. I remembered the steel walls, the harsh white light, and walking down the aisles pushing the dead animals, making them swing.

There’s a body hanging from a hook at the end of the aisle. A woman. Blood on her baggy white shirt, her head to one side, her face obscured by long dark hair. She turns. Anan…

I opened my eyes and took deep, frigid breaths. I was I still alive, and I could feel the ground beneath me. Sunlight from the gash above reflected off snow packed walls. There was barely a foot between me and the wall to my right. To my left, a sheer drop. This ledge had broken my fall. But I was at least fifty feet down with no means of climbing.

I lay there for ten minutes weighing my options, which were essentially two: live or die. I could try to find a way out, or I could throw myself off the ledge. Option two sounded attractive for a while. Then I remembered Anan.

I wanted answers. And I wouldn’t get any at the bottom of the abyss.

It was then I heard the faint sound of a helicopter. I sat up and gazed through the opening at the sky. The drone of the rotors was getting closer. I let myself nurse a glimmer of hope until I remembered…

Only one person knew I was out here. And he had left me for dead…

To Be Continued…

What’s Up Wednesday: Thanksgiving Edition

m4s0n501

It’s the day before Thanksgiving here in the US, so it seems fitting to do a quick stock-take of what’s going on in my world right now. If you want to join in this blog meme, check out the sites of its creators: Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk. There you will find how to participate, and a Linky List of today’s participants.

What I’m Reading

I finished EVEN by Andrew Grant (see my Goodreads review HERE), and started into SECRET WINDOWS by Stephen King. This is a follow-up to ON WRITING published by Book-of-the-Month Club back in 2000 which gathers together in one book various articles and lectures from King on the subject of writing. It even includes two pieces he wrote for his brother’s “rag” back in 1959. As with ON WRITING, King is very unpretentious and up-front when discussing his success and what he goes through to produce a novel. Let me throw out a paragraph for you from the essay “On Becoming a Brand Name” (p. 47), where he’s talking about writing his first published novel, CARRIE:

I persisted [writing CARRIE], not out of any noble motivation, not out of any glimmerings into the future, not even because my wife had asked me to, but because I was dry and had no better ideas. If I had had one, I would have dropped CARRIE in a flash. I pushed my way through scene after difficult, sticky scene, taking little if any pleasure in any of it, only doing the most competent job that I could. When I finished, I had a novella that was nighty-eight single-spaced manuscript pages long. I think it would be fair to say that I detested it. It was neither fish nor fowl; not a straight story, not strictly a fantasy, not strictly science fiction. The length was wrong and the ending was terribly downbeat. My considered opinion was that I had written the world’s all-time loser. The only thing I could say about CARRIE was that it had a beginning, a middle, and an end, and that for some crazy reason my wife liked it better than anything I’d written before.

I’m thankful for books, the ability to read, and living in such a literate country and an age where there is an abundance of good books to read. And for the fact that many of those books are on my shelf.

What I’m Writing

As I mentioned last week, I’m taking a little hiatus, writing only flash fiction, and concentrating on catching up with reading while my short story percolates for a while, and while I decide what my next novel will be.

I’m thankful for the ability to write, regardless of how well my skill compares to that of others. Being able to compose thoughts and ideas, and create stories and worlds out of words is a divine gift unique to us. May I never take that for granted.

What Works for Me

Again, as I said last week, this time of reading and learning from what I read is much needed, and definitely works for me. I’m taking stock of my writing journey thus far, and charting a course for the future. I’m not going to say everyone should do this because each person’s journey is as individual and unique as each person. But it certainly helps me.

I’m thankful for all the writers, both in print and online, who take time to share their wisdom and stories that I might learn and grow, both as a writer, and as a person.

What Else Is New

I’m taking the week off work, so it’s been nice to relax, get up late, spend more time with the family, and not feel the pressure of trying to accomplish my day’s goals in a few short hours. Tomorrow, I’ll enjoy a Thanksgiving meal with my wife and kids, and later we’ll play Doctor Who Monopoly and watch some Marx Brothers movies. My youngest is especially excited about that (she loves playing games AND the Marx Brothers).

I’m thankful for family and friends, food and fun, and having the time to enjoy them all.

I’ll close this week with a cat video. This is Sam, the latest addition to our family, digging in the water bowl. There is nothing in the water bowl except for water, so I have no idea what he thinks he sees. He either has a very lively imagination, or maybe they’re putting wacky weed in Iams now… who knows!

Have a wonderful week, everyone. And a happy Thanksgiving to my US friends!

Go to top
%d bloggers like this: