Tag Archives: writing

The 2015 April A-to-Z Blogging Challenge

Despite all my writing plans and the general busyness of life, I am planning to participate once again in the A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. This will be my fourth year, and for the second year in a row I’ll be writing 100 word flash fiction pieces for each day of the challenge. That’s 26 new stories in the space of a month. I managed it last year, and I’m quite pleased with how some of those stories turned out. If you go to the “Writing” tab and look under “Stories,” you’ll find my literary efforts from previous A-to-Z years. The first year I participated, I chose random topics. For the 2013 challenge, I wrote a short story every Monday. Last year was the first time I attempted a story every day.

Don’t know what the April A-to-Z Blogging Challenge is? It’s a blogging challenge (duh!) where participants blog every day (excluding Sundays) for the entire month of April. The “A-to-Z” part comes from the fact that each day’s theme is dictated by a letter of the alphabet, starting with A on April 1, and ending with Z on April 30. You can write on whatever you want, as long as it has something to do with the day’s letter. If you look at my previous attempts, you’ll get the idea.

Right now there are over 560 people signed up for the challenge, and I expect that number will double by April 1. So not only is this a great challenge, and a way to inspire your blog writing, but it’s a good way to get some broad exposure for your blog since all participants are encouraged to visit and comment on other A-to-Z bloggers’ blogs.

So, how about it? Are you up for a fun blogging challenge? The sign up Linky List is HERE. For more info about the challenge, see HERE.

Flash Fiction Friday

For today’s flash fiction challenge, I set myself a target of 200 words, and used a Random Word Generator to pull five words to use as part of the story. These are the words it chose:

  • feast
  • rubbish
  • wood
  • creeper
  • graffiti

Here’s my story (200 words exactly):

I made my way carefully to the bags that littered the ground, smiling inside. One man’s rubbish is another scavenger’s feast, after all. The thin white plastic tore easily under my fingers. Clothes. I pulled them out piece by piece, hoping to find something more substantial further in. Nothing but shirts and pants; stained, torn, patched, and worn.

The second bag yielded house trash; books— bent, creased, and mildewed; the cracked glass and splintered wood remnants of a coffee table; a crumpled McDonald’s bag; small paisley cushions, ripped open to expose yellow foam stuffing; chipped and faded ceramic ornaments of animals and people— a fox with a broken tail, a cat with one ear, an old man missing his walking stick.

Finally, I tried the armoire. It was stained, scratched with graffiti carvings, and now adorned with feather boas that hung like creepers over the sides and the unlatched doors. I gently pulled the doors open, trying not to get my hopes up. My heart sank to see empty shelves, save for a few moldy towels and moth-eaten head scarves.

I cursed the air as I walked away. That’s the last time I waste $1,000 on an abandoned storage unit.

 

Flash Fiction Friday

This week, I’m re-posting my entry for last Friday’s Flash! Friday contest. It didn’t win, and garnered only a couple of comments, but I liked it. So here it is!

The challenge: Write a piece of flash fiction (no more than 160 words) using this picture as inspiration:

My response (exactly 160 words):

The gentle hum of electricity seeped into Darren’s skin. His bones vibrated as every muscle, tendon, and nerve ending soaked up the waves of power from the box.

No-one else on the sidewalk could feel it. But Darren drunk it in like parched soil takes in water.

Three blocks ahead, stop lights flickered.

Two blocks behind, cars screeched to a halt as the lights suddenly flashed red. Darren heard the crunch of bumpers. He didn’t turn. He just smiled.

On the horizon he saw a plume of smoke. His fingers told him the stop lights had gone out completely on East Fifth.

Cars trundled to a stop on the street in front of him; drivers vented frustration with their horns.

Satisfied, Darren let go of the metal box. It would take about ten minutes for the electronics to right themselves. In the meantime, he could cross the road safely.

The same road that claimed his mother’s life a month ago.

Can I say a few words about rejection?

One of the biggest fears writers have to overcome is the fear of rejection. Indeed, fear of rejection is one of the biggest fears most people face in life, period, whether it’s rejection by publishers, agents, peers, a love interest, a prospective employer, and so on. For writers, this fear can be particularly debilitating since writers write to be read. As much satisfaction as the writer derives from putting words on a page, that joy is made complete knowing someone else is getting pleasure from his or her work. But this will never happen until the writer actually publishes his or her work in some way (online or in print). That means the writer must risk rejection. Bad reviews. People not liking his/her work. And one of the pitfalls of working in the Arts is that there will be people who don’t like your work. In fact, there will be people who hate your work. That’s not a possibility. That’s a guarantee. Just examine yourself. Do you like every form of music? Every band/artist you’ve ever heard? Every novel you’ve ever read? Every picture or movie you’ve ever seen? No. Some you love, some you like, some you’re dispassionate about, some you don’t like, and some you can’t stand. The power of Art is that it stirs emotions and evokes passion. That can be both a positive and negative thing, and Art doesn’t discriminate. It allows for both positive and negative reactions.

So rejection isn’t something a writer needs to avoid. It’s something a writer needs to learn to deal with. And you do that by sucking up your pride and letting people read your work. Such online flash fiction contests as Flash! Friday, or Janet Reid’s contests (like the one she announced today), are a good way to do that. Because the work is judged by people, they are subject to the whims of the judges. If you write sci-fi and the judges don’t like sci-fi, the chances are you won’t win. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enter. There may well be a number of people reading the entries that do like sci-fi, and appreciate your work. Hopefully they’ll write you some encouraging comments. But ultimately, you will learn from the discipline of writing flash fiction, and you will become more comfortable with putting your writing in the hands of strangers.

I’ve entered the Flash! Fiction contest a few times now, and haven’t even been selected for a runner up category. While I’ve been a finalist or winner in Janet’s contests a few times, there are many I’ve entered where my entry didn’t even get a “special mention.” That’s okay. The writing practice, the experience gained, and the skin-thickening that results is almost as good as winning. Almost.

Thoughts or comments–about the story, and/or rejection?

Flash Fiction Friday: Walk the Plank!

The YA Buccaneers are running an end-of-year “Walk the Plank” challenge. The rules require participants to compose a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long and starting with the phrase, “It was a great year, but I wish I’d…” Extra kudos to those who use exactly 200 words.

So here’s my piece for the challenge, and because I like the uber-challenge (and the kudos), it’s exactly 200 words long:

The Letter

It was a great year, but I wish I’d read Warrini’s letter.

It came with the usual New Year’s Eve Christmas cards and bills. As I walked back from the mailbox, I glanced at the red “Urgent! Open Immediately” printed on the white envelope, and stuck it at the back of the pile. It ended up on the coffee table, next to the TV remote, which I picked up and proceeded to watch a Downton Abbey marathon.

I moved it to the mantle when I went to bed that night, intending to read it in the morning. But I woke to a call saying I’d won the New Year’s Lottery. $10,000. Then there was the party, and the cruise.

It was April when I noticed the envelope again. Right before I got the call about my promotion, and the five weeks of training in the Bahamas.

I nearly opened it when I returned, but Julie called wanting to get back together.

Now it’s New Year’s Eve again. I finally read that letter this morning:

“Call me tomorrow or 2014 will be your last year.”

It was Warrini who cancelled my flight to New York on 9/11. I suddenly feel sick.

 

There’s still time to join in the challenge if you want–but only just! Check out the YA Buccaneers blog for details.

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!

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.

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.

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

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!