Category Archives: Fiction

A Christmas FlashDogs Story: The Director’s Cut

Last Thursday, I submitted a story to the weekly FlashDogs challenge. Each week, the FlashDogs blog posts a picture prompt and a theme around which participants write flash stories. There’s a 2,000 character (a little over 300 words) limit, but aside from these constraints, writers are free to write what comes to mind. This was the picture prompt last week:

There was no theme prompt, so we were free to roll with the picture.

The original story I wrote was 514 words long. I liked it, but it needed some serious abridgment for the FlashDogs challenge. I agonized over every word I chopped, but I got it down to 338 words, which was just enough to meet the character count. While I’m pleased with the edited version, I still like the original. I like the slower build, each line stringing the reader along until we get to the punchline. The edited version doesn’t leave as much room for dramatic tension. At least, I don’t think so.

You can decide for yourself whether you agree. The edited version is on the FlashDogs site. And here is the original, longer version:

The girl stomped snow from her boots as she climbed the stone steps of the porch. She knocked on the door as hard as she could wearing fleece-lined leather mittens. It was more of a thud than a knock, but it would have to do. It was too cold to hit bare flesh against solid wood. She was sure her knuckles would break. Footsteps, then the door unlatched and creaked open.“Yes?” A plump lady with silver hair, round glasses perched on the end of her nose, and a rosy smile greeted her. The girl grinned, and the lady’s rosy smile blossomed.

“I’d like to see Mr. Claus,” the girl said. The lady chuckled.

“Of course you do, my dear! Won’t you come in?”

“No, that’s okay,” the girl replied, her smile disappearing. “I have some private business to discuss. Better outside, I think.” The lady shrugged her shoulders.

“If you insist,” she said. “But it’s a mighty cold day. Not that we’re complaining. Nothing like a good chill to spur on the reindeer…” Her voice drifted as she disappeared into the house.

A few moments later, a familiar figure appeared at the door.

“Ho! Ho! Ho!” said Santa. “And what can I do for you, young lady?”

“Let’s take a walk, please, Mr. Claus. I’ve come a long way, but this shouldn’t take long.”

“Very well.”

“Are you well, Mr. Claus?” the girl said as they walked.

“Yes, very,” Santa replied, clearly confused.

“And the reindeer? All ready for tonight? Rudolf’s nose glowing nice and bright?”

“The elves are polishing it as we speak. Supposed to be quite a blustery exit from the North Pole this evening.”

 “Glad to hear it,” the girl replied. Santa was used to childish enthusiasm from girls her age, and this girl’s lack of it disturbed him a little.

“What can I do for you… Anneka, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it’s Anneka, Mr. Claus. Did you get my list?”

“I did,” said Santa. “It was quite… um… extensive.”

“But it won’t be a problem, right?”

“Well… not everyone gets everything they want, you know. I don’t want to spoil you.” Santa tried to smile, but something about the steely look she gave made his mouth falter.

“But this time, that won’t be a problem.” Before Santa could respond, Anneka stopped and took out her phone.

“Oh, wasn’t that a present a couple of years ago?”

Anneka didn’t reply. She removed her gloves, swiped the screen a few times, then held it up for them both to see. Santa’s eyes nearly popped from his head.

“Last year, Mr. Claus. You didn’t notice, but… I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus. Underneath the mistletoe. See?”

Santa grumbled. “Umm… yes… but I can…”

“It’s simple, Mr. Claus. Everything on my list, or this picture gets sent to Mrs. Claus. Do we understand each other?”

Santa grumbled.

“I didn’t hear you, Mr. Claus.” Anneka glared at the old man. “Do we understand each other.”

“Yes… umm… yes.”

Anneka pocketed her phone, put on her mittens, and walked away.

“Merry Christmas,” she said without turning.

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. Original or Edited…?

Birthday Flash!

Don’t worry, it’s nothing inappropriate. As you may have observed, I’m not doing the April A-to-Z Blogging Challenge this year. For the past three years, I’ve posted flash fiction every day in April for this challenge. This year, however, I wanted to work on stories I intend to sell instead. When I told my wife, she was a little disappointed (awww!), since she enjoyed the stories I posted in previous years. “As long as you post one for my birthday,” she said.

My wife’s birthday was on Monday, but I wanted to wait until today to fulfill my end of the bargain, since I knew articles would post on Tuesday, and I didn’t want her to miss it.

But what to write about? I usually have a word or title prompt, so for today’s story, I turned to the trusty Random Word Generator. Here’s what it gave me:

  • square
  • curtain
  • cork
  • socks
  • capital

So, here’s my 200 word story using those five words. Happy birthday, wifey! 🙂

The Cheeder’s Dance

It’s the strangest square dance I’ve ever been to, but we haven’t been out for a month, and I don’t want Amy to think something’s wrong. Besides, she says the Cheeder’s Dance is legendary.

The caller, Mary Beth, leads us through some traditional moves, then

“Curtain!”

I’m confused. Is this part of her patter? I stand with the other guys, while the girls dance around us. Amy puts her hands in front of my eyes. Ah, yes—curtain. I get it. As her hands fall away, I smell something familiar. But we start promenading, before I can ask.

“Corkscrew!”

The girls remove scarves from around their necks and waists. Amy pulls one from a pocket in her skirt, then begins twirling it around my head as she circles me. I’ve seen that scarf before, but I don’t recall Amy ever wearing it. And we’re promenading again.

“Now then ladies, take your bleeders, let’s get capital with those cheeders!”

The girls in unison pull switchblades from their socks. Cheeders? It come at me in a rush. The scent on her wrists, the scarf… she knows.

There’s that perfume smell again.

The flash of a blade.

A tug of my hair.

Darkness.

Links and Stuff

Hello, again! Or if this is your first visit to my blog, HELLO!! Sorry–was that a bit too loud and overbearing? No… wait… come back!! *sigh* Well, I guess it’s just you and me again, Mum! 🙂

It’s all packing and cleaning here at Chez Smith as the hunt for that elusive right-house-at-the-right-price continues. We’ve looked at some more houses this week, a couple of which have promise, and one in particular everyone seems to like. Except I’d need them to come down on the price. I know everyone’s getting sick of me saying it (“What do you think, Dad?” “Very nice… now, if they could drop the price by about $40k, we might be able to afford it and still eat!”), but someone has to make sure we don’t fall into ruin for the sake of having nice digs. Those who are of a praying inclination, please feel free to offer petitions on our behalf, mostly for wisdom, and patience.

Sam the Cat’s loving all this new empty shelf space, though. We’ve often pondered what he looks like. A loaf of bread? An oversize Pikachu? It seems he thinks he’s the next “Game of Thrones” novel:

SamTheShelf

Can you believe it’s August already? I set myself two goals for the end of July: finish ALEXANDER HAMILTON by Ron Chernow, and finish another short story. As you can see from the review I posted on Wednesday, I completed the first of those goals, and thoroughly enjoyed the book. I also managed the second, which is good since I’m trying to write a short story every month. My hope is to build a little collection of them that I can submit to magazines. Having stories published in well-regarded magazines always looks good to agents, and can give a little bump to the finances, which is not to be sneezed at when you’re contemplating the size of a mortgage.

Forbes issued its list of the World’s Highest-Paid Authors. Now, I know we don’t write for the money, but many of us would at least like to make some kind of a living with our words. So, in a strange way, it can be encouraging to see authors earn lots of money from their books. After all, if these few can make millions, then isn’t it possible for many of us to at least pay the bills and buy food? To me, it was fun to see Veronica Roth on the list. I remember reading the blog posts when she signed with her agent, Joanne Volpe, now with New Leaf Literary Agency. And then her YA dystopian novel, DIVERGENT, was published to great fanfare. It became a bestseller, then the sequel came out, then there was talk of movie deals… and now she’s in the Top 20 richest writers list. Well done, Veronica!

What are your thoughts on writing and money? If you’re a writer, have you ever written for the money–even if it was just one short story to help pay a bill?

That’s it for now. Have a great week! 🙂

Zoo Gang

ZThis is my fifth April A-to-Z Challenge. The past couple of years, I’ve written 100-word flash fiction each day. This year I’m doing the same, only with a twist: each day’s story will be inspired by the title of a Paul McCartney song. Today is the last day of the challenge, so let’s finish up with…

ZOO GANG

Joe passed the beans to Amy.

“Where’s Rob tonight?”

“Working late,” she said, taking a spoonful. “So, tell me more about your squad. Rob hardly mentions it.”

“Not surprised,” said Bill through a mouthful of steak. “Iraq was tough.”

“But we bonded,” Joe said, nodding to Bill.

“Remember our gang?” Bill smiled. “You, me, Rob, Pete.”

Joe laughed, “Yes! We even gave ourselves code names. Who were you?”

“I was Gorilla,” said Bill. Amy smiled. Given Bill’s physique, it fit. “Pete was Monkey—that laugh. And you were–?”

“Panther,” Joe said. “Obviously.”

“What was Rob called?” said Amy.

“Cheetah.”

That’s it for this year’s A-to-Z Challenge! Thanks for reading, especially if you’ve been following my flash fiction for the past month. I hope you’ve enjoyed it.

“Zoo Gang” was the B-Side to Wings’ 1974 single “Band on the Run” in the UK.  It has subsequently appeared as a bonus track on CD re-issues of the albums “Venus and Mars” and “Band on the Run.” The piece was originally composed by McCartney for the short-lived UK TV series, “The Zoo Gang,” which ran for six episodes between April and May of 1974.

Here are the opening titles to the TV show:

Young Boy

YThis is my fifth April A-to-Z Challenge. The past couple of years, I’ve written 100-word flash fiction each day. This year I’m doing the same, only with a twist: each day’s story will be inspired by the title of a Paul McCartney song. So let’s continue the fun with…

YOUNG BOY

“Do you think William will be okay?”

“Yes, dear, I do.”

“Did he pack a change of clothes?”

“I’m very sure he did.”

“What about underwear?”

“Yes, even underwear. And his toothbrush. And toothpaste.”

“Does he have enough money, you know, for snacks and stuff?”

“Yes, I do believe he’s okay for cash.”

“That boy,” Tom said, smiling. “They grow up so quickly.”

Mary echoed his smile. “They do.”

“It seems only yesterday he was playing with his trucks on the carpet.”

“I know. And now he’s driving one of his own.”

“He’ll always be our boy, though, won’t he?”

Check back tomorrow for the last day of the challenge, the letter “Z”…

“Young Boy” is a track from Paul’s 1997 album, “Flaming Pie.” It was released as a single that same year, reaching number 19 in the UK charts. He is joined on the recording by Steve Miller, who plays electric guitar and supplies backing vocals.

X is for Heather

XThis is my fifth April A-to-Z Challenge. The past couple of years, I’ve written 100-word flash fiction each day. This year I’m doing the same, only with a twist: each day’s story will be inspired by the title of a Paul McCartney song.

Unfortunately, Paul has yet to write a song beginning with “X”, so I’m going to have to improvise a bit here. Those who are acquainted with McCartney’s life have probably already guessed what I’ve done. For the rest, let me explain. Paul was married to Linda for 29 years until her death in 1998 from breast cancer. In 2002, McCartney married Heather Mills, but this union ended in divorce four years later. Paul is currently married (happily, so it seems) to business woman Nancy Shevell, so at the moment, Heather is Paul’s ex. Hence, X is for Heather!

Since we’re playing fast-and-loose with the rules, let’s play fast and loose with the theme too. Paul wrote a song for Heather called “Heather” (his creative genius knows no bounds), so we’re good there. But I’m going to stray from the 100-word flash fiction and give you a poem I wrote about my cousin Heather when I was nine. My teacher, the amazing Mr. Cobbett, read us a poem by some famous poet about a family member. He then tasked us with creating our own little poetry books called “My Family,” in which we were to write poems about family members. I don’t remember any of the other poems I wrote, but somehow this one has stuck in my head for over 35 years. So I present to you:

HEATHER

My cousin Heather’s as light as a feather

Her arms are as thin as a pin.

She has long legs like clothes pegs,

And every race she would win.

(The accompanying illustration was of a giant feather with arms and legs crossing a finish line.)

Check back tomorrow for “Y”…

“Heather” is a track from McCartney’s 2001 album, “Driving Rain.”

Interestingly, “Heather” is also the name of a song Paul wrote for his newly-adopted step-daughter, and recorded with Donovan and Mary Hopkin in 1969, but never released. Here it is:

Waterfalls

WThis is my fifth April A-to-Z Challenge. The past couple of years, I’ve written 100-word flash fiction each day. This year I’m doing the same, only with a twist: each day’s story will be inspired by the title of a Paul McCartney song. So let’s continue the fun with…

WATERFALLS

The water cascaded like a thin net sheet, its wet strands forming cobwebs over the rocks. Masami sat on a bench listening to Yasu fall into Yoneshiro, the one giving life to the other.

She felt a presence beside her and at her back.

Masami breathed steadily as a hand started on her leg, and another slid over her shoulders.

She focused on Yasu’s strength.

Barely a flick of the wrist, her white stick connected with the head behind her. Her elbow found seat partner’s chest, and the stick found his crotch. She heard feet running.

Peace again to meditate.

Check back tomorrow for “X”…

“Waterfalls” is a track from Paul’s 1980 album, “McCartney II.” It was released as a single that same year, reaching number 9 in the UK charts.

Here’s the music video based on the radio edit:

This is the complete album version of the song:

Venus and Mars

VThis is my fifth April A-to-Z Challenge. The past couple of years, I’ve written 100-word flash fiction each day. This year I’m doing the same, only with a twist: each day’s story will be inspired by the title of a Paul McCartney song. So let’s continue the fun with…

VENUS AND MARS

José looked back at Sonia. Her fists were balled, her breathing heavy, her face noticeably flushed. The boys walked on ahead of her.

“What’s the deal, Marco?” he said, glancing again to make sure Sonia was out of listening range.

His friend shrugged his shoulders. “She’s a fiery one, you know,” he said, half smiling.

“You crazy, man.” José shook his head.

“I know. So, I asked her to marry me.”

José stared at his friend. “Serious?”

“She said yes.”

“Then why–?”

“I forgot the ring… kind of.” Marco looked back at Sonia. “She’s so beautiful when she’s mad.”

Check back tomorrow for “W”…

“Venus and Mars” is the title track of the 1975 Wings album. The song was also released as a single, along with the song “Rock Show,” in both the UK and the US.

 

Used To Be Bad

UThis is my fifth April A-to-Z Challenge. The past couple of years, I’ve written 100-word flash fiction each day. This year I’m doing the same, only with a twist: each day’s story will be inspired by the title of a Paul McCartney song. So let’s continue the fun with…

USED TO BE BAD

I always wanted a restaurant, so when the place came up for sale, I couldn’t resist.

I can forgive a dark past; I hope the locals can, too.

I cleaned and repainted the mildewed walls. The furniture had been taken as evidence, so I had space for booths.

I hauled away the rusty old appliances and installed shiny new ones. I replaced the bloodstained kitchen counters with marble. I trashed the chipped, dull knives and bought professional-grade Wusthofs.

Call me sentimental, but I just couldn’t get rid of the old ice box.

After all, that’s where I kept the bodies.

Check back tomorrow for “V”…

“Used To Be Bad” was written by McCartney and Steve Miller. It appears on Paul’s 1997 album “Flaming Pie” where he performs the song as a duet with Miller.

A to Z Catch Up #3

April is just flying by with less than a week to go on the 2016 April A-to-Z Challenge. If you don’t know what that’s about, click the link to find out. Those of you who have been visiting over the past few weeks know I’ve been posting 100-word flash fiction stories inspired by Paul McCartney song titles. Yes, there are enough Macca tunes to cover the alphabet… well, almost. Were you surprised by Q? There are some tricky letters coming up, so stay tuned!

Here’s where we’ve been:

This Week Last Week Previously
One of These Days
Pretty Little Head
Queenie Eye
Rainclouds
Stranglehold
That Day Is Done
I’m Carrying
Junk
Keep Undercover
Live and Let Die
My Brave Face
No Words
Another Day
Backwards Traveller
Coming Up
Distractions
Every Night
Fine Line
Girlfriend
Hope of Deliverance

There won’t be another “catch up” next week, but there will be a “Reflections” post sometime in May. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading these stories. They’ve been fun to write. This blog will return to normal programming in a week.

Here are some other A-to-Z blogs I’ve enjoyed:

  • Word Wacker: Celia Reeves has been posting haiku puzzles.
  • TheArtOfNotGettingPublished: Susan Brody has been providing examples of 16th century (and older) predecessors to modern inventions. Her purpose is to show that we moderns are not as clever as we might think.
  • Jen Seriously: Jen’s posts have been inspired by the International Spelling Alphabet (you know, Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta…)
  • Maybe it’s just me…: Andrea has been blogging about movie soundracks that matter to her.

Tomorrow’s A-to-Z post will be… a 100-word story based on a Paul McCartney song that starts with U. And that’s all I’m saying for now. If you want to know what song I chose, come back tomorrow! 🙂