Tag Archives: Short Story

Four Somethings and A Sixpence by @RumerHaven!

Welp, it’s been a loooong time since I first OMGed my fool head off over this story winning a contest. The anthology it was to appear in never reached fruition, however, so when I was through holding my breath, I finally queried elsewhere and found this bride a nice home to hang her veil. ūüôā
*
Adult Contemporary Romance
Available February 3, 2015
from Vagabondage Romance

SUMMARY:
One wedding. Six participants. Be they sitting in the pews or standing at the altar, bearing witness in person or only in spirit, each of them knows something about the unsmiling bride.

Go ahead‚ÄĒoffer them a sixpence for their thoughts, and they’ll make you these vows:

  • One would love to declare this woman his ‚Äúawfully wedded wife.‚ÄĚ Verbatim
  • One fears what she already has and will have to hold‚ÄĒif not from this day forward, then soon.
  • One takes her to be richer, not poorer‚ÄĒand for that reason wants to scrub the toilet with her toothbrush.
  • One is better for what she told him this morning, worse for betraying a friend to get to this point.
  • One worries whether today finds her in sickness or in health.
  • And only one already knows‚ÄĒwith certainty‚ÄĒthat not even in death will they part.

Whether they speak now or forever hold their peace, they all give the bride a little something she didn‚Äôt register for. With romance, resentment, faith, fear, mystery, and the mystical, Four Somethings & A Sixpence is a loaded yet light read just in time for Valentine’s Day!

Add it to Goodreads.
Available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and batteredsuitcasepress.com.

RAFFLECOPTER:
In celebration, Rumer is giving away 4 free ebooks of this 9,000-word novelette, and a lucky 5th winner will receive the ebook PLUS an authentic silver sixpence coin struck by the Royal Mint in London! RSVP at the Rafflecopter for your chance to win (runs from 2/3 – 2/14):

Rafflecopter Giveaway

AUTHOR BIO:
Rumer Haven is probably the most social recluse you could ever meet. When she‚Äôs not babbling her fool head off among friends and family, she‚Äôs pacified with a good story that she‚Äôs reading, writing, or revising‚ÄĒor binge-watching something on Netflix. A former teacher hailing from Chicago, she presently lives in London with her husband. She made her authorial debut in 2014 with the novel Seven for a Secret, where historical fiction meets contemporary rom-com. Rumer has always had a penchant for the past and paranormal, which inspires her writing to explore dimensions of time, love, and the soul.

Author Links:
Website: http://www.rumerhaven.com
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8379833.Rumer_Haven 
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Rumer-Haven/e/B00MU2NXXW/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_book_1
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/RumerHaven (@RumerHaven)
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/rumerhaven

 

 


NaNoWriMonkey 2014

Hellooooo! And brrrrrrrrrr! The season has officially shifted—the temps are dropping, the days darkening, and lattes everywhere are getting infused with pumpkin spice whether they like it or not. I can smell Halloween in the air, and the day after that will be…National Novel Writing Month!

Now, I won’t pretend that I’m the most consistent, most winningest NaNoWriMo participant out there, but this year especially, I have a lot to be grateful to this event for. Those who’ve followed me awhile might recall my virgin yet Herculean (if I may say so myself) NaNoWriMo effort in 2011, when I first started in the middle of the month and still met my 50,000 words! The craziest thing about what I churned out over those couple of weeks is that I salvaged most of it as not pure and utter crap—I don’t credit my command of the craft for that so much as the OUTLINE I had going into it. I wasn’t writing purely off the top of my head but with specific plot points in mind for Manuscript #2, which gave me the destination to aim for even if the path I took was allowed to roam (which is really when the magic happens, I think…when you let go and just immerse and write, which leads to tapping into your storyworld so directly you almost feel like you’re just transcribing what already exists, not something you’re creating—see my NaNoWriMo follow-up post for more reflections on that experience).

In any case, what I salvaged from NaNo 2011’s 50,000 words can now be found in the novel that was published this year. So needless to say, I bow down to NaNoWriMo as a worthwhile endeavor no matter how ready or not you are. I’ve been itching to get back in the game ever since and attempted to last year, but I couldn’t knock my editing hat off to wear my writing one for long enough. And, granted, I wasn’t prepared with another WIP outline at that point; in lieu of that, I was going to try my hand at an anthology for all the miscellaneous paranormal ideas I have floating around. I did manage to write almost 8,000 words for¬†one of those stories, which was in response to a call for submissions that had opened at the time. The publisher was looking for urban legend retellings, so I cranked out¬†Bloody Hell, Mary!¬† It wasn’t accepted and certainly not the best I could do, but I appreciate the practice it gave me as I try to warm up my writing muscles for Manuscript #3…

…which is my NaNoWriMo goal for 2014. I still need to shape my next novel idea into an outline, but I’ve written a crapload of notes and wrote my first chapter yesterday. If I can start to find my groove over the course of October, I’m hoping November will be the month when Manuscript #3 gets officially underway.

And as for dear, sweet Manuscript #1…it’s hangin’ in there. I’ve revamped its opening chapters quite a bit and would like to tighten its second half around a more cohesive story arc. We’ll see. I know she isn’t going anywhere–which is both a relief and just what I’m afraid of. ūüôā

All right, gang, so who’s with me? Who’s planning to get NaNoed this year? Write on!


The Lazy Way to Write a Blog Post…

…copy/paste something you’ve already written. ūüôā

Okay, so we’ve established by now I’m not the most reliable of bloggers, and now I’m not following through on my promise for this post to be about 1st-person narration. Fact is, I haven’t prioritized time for thoughtfully compiling thoughts/excerpts on that topic, but I will, I will…

What I have been prioritizing lately—FINALLY!—is my second manuscript. I’ve been close to the end for months now, but, just like with my first manuscript, the characters’ voices went quiet. I probably should have pushed through anyway, but I didn’t, and now I’ve got them all screaming in my ear. So, when I have free time (or blow off work to create pseudo-free time), I am writing the rest of my novel. And giving advice to friends to get them started writing theirs!

Which brings me to my lazy post today. The novel-esque email responses I just inundated my dear friend with this week as she prepares for NaNoWriMo as a first-time writer. Here goes:

Q: How do you narrow down an idea? I have a million…

A:¬†[First of all, I thought, “Lucky girl!” It took me ages to generate even one idea for my first manuscript.]

Evaluate each one for how easily you think you could run with one for an entire novel. Do some have nicer complexity than others? Are they more appealing for you to research and live with for a long, long amount of time whereas others you might tire of or not be able to develop very far? And is there just that one that really, really speaks to you from the inside…you can’t get it out of your head, it gets you excited because it’s so original/meaningful/interesting/etc., you can already see the setting and hear the characters, it is THE book you were meant to write?

You can also try writing little vignettes for each idea and see which one takes off, inspires the most possibilities. Foregoing an idea at one time doesn’t mean it can’t be revisited at another, either as another book or as a short story.

That’s always another avenue—write several short stories and compile them in an anthology. With short stories, you can also submit them individually to contests and publications (e.g., magazines, anthologies, e-zines, etc.), which builds a publication history you can cite in your novel’s query letter down the road. It’s a great way to earn credibility. I only wish I could be more prolific that way. ūüôā

One blog that I follow is www.milo-inmediares.com. The guy (Milo) is a maniac about writing/submitting stories based on Ray Bradbury’s early discipline of writing and submitting one story a week to get his start. Milo helped create the Write1Sub1 blog, too, to encourage others to write one story a week or month so that, at the end of the year, you have a large collection to work with, not only because getting published is such a numbers game but also to have that accomplishment for yourself. It’s a proper repertoire. Anyway, in either his April 2011 or April 2010 archives, he blogged every day about one new publication to submit stories to, in case you wanted to explore the short story option with all your different ideas.

Regardless of what length you write, just remember every story has an arc: exposition builds to rising action, which reaches climax and descends with falling action toward a resolution. The major climax occurs late in the story (and resolutions shouldn’t be too dragged out). There must be some sense of ongoing internal/external conflict that builds and builds before getting resolved in the end, but minor conflicts along the way help build tension, too—subplot helps add complexity/depth. I’m hoping to blog in the coming month about some stuff on story progression. Oh, and the NaNoWriMo organizers are so awesome—they provide so many great resources and pep talks along the way. It’s such a special experience, and I’m so happy you’re doing it!

Q: So much to take in, I feel far from prepared for this. The issue is I have no actual ideas, I have had no time to even think about them, develop them.

A: [Okay, so I obviously misunderstood her first question, thinking the exact opposite. And, yeesh, leave it to me to overdo it regardless…here was my attempt to backpedal.]

Oh no! I didn’t mean to flood you with info. There are just all sorts of options for wrestling down an idea. How to approach it varies for everyone. It’s really just a matter of what makes you tick.

When I first considered ideas, I didn’t have one to hold on to either. I started with what I loved to read—and that’s a top tip I’ve heard from authors since: write the book you want to read.

So I thought about how I love ghost stories of the Gothic variety, yet also liked the modern edge of supernatural stories like The Time Travelers Wife. I also thought about how whenever I read or watched a ghost story in a book or on film, the story always went a different way than my expectations had hoped for. So then I thought about what consistently caused my disappointment and jotted down in a journal all the elements I would love to see in a story, what, for ME, would be intriguing, atmospheric, and frightening. I just had pages and pages of all this related and random stuff, and then I started to research the topic from different angles and recorded my findings in the journal, too. Then, as slices of story started to occur to me based on what I’d brainstormed/researched and really wanted to feature in the story, slowly but surely the dots started to connect.

And a lot of it comes from just writing it. I told you about subplots before, but sometimes those just occur as you go along. Secondary characters appear out of nowhere because you start to see them or instinctively know that your main characters would meet them in a certain situation or whatever. I at first created this one gal simply to give my protagonist a friend at school as it seemed unnatural for her personality to not at least form an acquaintance. But then as I wrote this other person, suddenly she started behaving oddly and became a mystery unto herself. That was purely spontaneous writing, and then the strategy and planning came in afterwards when I had to determine why she was acting that way, what new role she could play in the overall scheme.

My point is, so much comes to you when you finally just start to write. That’s the spirit of NaNoWriMo—it doesn’t give you time to think about it much; you just have to write and keep going, keep pushing forward and forward and then sort out what you’ve got when you’re done. No one comes out of it with a polished and complete novel. And it might not even be a novel but a free association of ideas that spins off in tangents. The ideas could first come through THAT process, and it could serve as a way of finding your writer’s voice, too, so you can determine what tone to approach your book with.

You just don’t know until you write, so forget what I said for the time being about story arc and outlining and whatnot. Just take what time does come to you on a day to scribble out something. Practice describing your daughter as she plays with something. Write an entire paragraph about her disgusting boogers now that she’s sick! Pretend your house is the setting of a story and describe it for a reader to “see.” Maybe write about a funky dream you recently had. If you get in the habit of writing a little something creative every day, it really warms you up and gets you into a groove. It’s exactly the same thing as exercising, you know? The more you do it, the more energized you feel and the more you want to do it. And just like there’s a runner’s high after pushing past a certain distance, there’s a writer’s one—that’s why I keep harping on this one point: write! If you can tap into that weird mode where it’s almost like the story already exists independent of you and you’re being chosen to tell it (it’s a little haunting but so wild!), you’ll get it and so many inhibitions about the task will drop away.

So what do you think, have I steered her okay? Is it better for a first-time writer to go into it with more structure or less as they find their voice and creative footing? What other advice would you give?


Write or Get off the Pot(tery), Monkey!


Greetings, all! I managed to fall out of my tree again, having traveled 4 out of 6 recent weekends and hosting a close friend all last week right after the excitement of the royal wedding, and now I’m prepping for a 2-week trip to the States (split between Chicago and New York) as of this coming Monday. On top of this, I’ve had both my editing assignments fall back in my lap, so have been trying to sort those simultaneously.

I did manage to revise and submit my manuscript¬†in time for a fiction contest in the midst of all this, but otherwise still feel the need to sit down with it properly and tend to its story arc¬†before more serious querying. I’ll have to share with you the feedback I’d received at the writing festival, but what remains now is my own personal criticism of my protagonist’s development. Once my days extend to 36 hours apiece, I just might get to revisit that at some point…

Anyway, today’s post is sponsored by Eda Pottery. ūüôā¬†I mentioned before that I was going to write vignettes for each pottery piece my sister-in-law Marlena creates for her new brand, as inspired by that particular item. Well, I’m pleased to announce that she’s already started displaying pieces for sale at her Eda Pottery¬†website and on¬†Etsy.com.¬†I’ve also started posting my vignettes here on the blog, which you can find at:

thefallenmonkey.com/human-persona/eda

I’ve written a dozen so far, just little bite-sized bits with the corresponding pottery photos and links to Etsy if anyone’s interested in purchasing!¬†My friend Joanna who was just visiting me is also a writer and good friends with Eda’s mastermind, so she may join me in writing for the brand as Marlena continues crafting her pretty pots.¬†

In any case, as you’ll see if you check out that link, I’ve added “Primate Portfolio” to my main menu¬†as another way of throwing my fictional poop around. If you hover your cursor over its categories, Eda and fanfic titles will appear; otherwise, they’re also linked to their applicable category pages. When I’m feeling confident enough, I’ll perhaps post a chapter of my manuscript…it has a little ways to go yet…

All right then. Off to edit someone’s else’s manuscript. Hope you’re all well and am looking forward to swinging back into your blog trees, too!


The Second Coming: If at First You Don’t Succeed, Write and Write Again

Image from etsy.com

I’ve got lots and lots of material to share and will do so in the coming days (or weeks, more realistically, given the bat-shit craziness of my sheh-jule these days…). And what I’m noticing right now is that my writing life is experiencing a rebirth of sorts that has me coming back for SECONDS…

To start, while the jury is still out on the POV issue plaguing my first editing project (see “POV for Vendetta“), I’ve been assigned my SECOND PROJECT, which is already presenting issues of its own. In this case, the author is safely applying 3rd person limited across different characters by only shifting POV in new sections and/or chapters. However, its story arc is sagging in the middle due to a repeating element that flattens it out through lack of variety. In future posts, I’ll speak to both my editorial comments on this specific manuscript as well as¬†pacing a story in general.

In the last couple weeks, I have also been mapping out a SECOND MANUSCRIPT¬†of my own! Idea remnants that got left behind as I finished my first manuscript have inspired another story line altogether, so I’m working to apply all I’ve learned from my many, many mistakes on manuscript #1 to what will hopefully be a better planned and executed #2. Outlining the plot from the get-go is a first for me, as I’d nearly written myself into a hole the first time around and didn’t know how to bring it all together (see “Fraying at the End“). So while ms #1 accordingly still needs a lot tender lovin’ care, ms #2 is providing my mind a healthy diversion for a while. Having a second project in the pipeline also keeps me from placing too much pressure on that first one navigating its path to publication. As presenters at my workshop said last weekend, hardly any new author’s “debut” novel is actually the first book they’d written.

Speaking of workshop, I got a SECOND WIND for tackling both¬†the manuscripts I’m writing and editing by attending the Festival of Writing in York this past Saturday and Sunday. In addition to two ten-minute one-to-one meetings with a literary agent and published author (the latter being Charles Darwin’s great-great-granddaughter, no less), I attended several workshops on topics like plotting, pacing, and marketability. It gave me gobs of food for thought, so I’ll share what smattering of notes and resources I can with you.

Finally, while I admittedly didn’t churn any creativity out during the month of February for Write 1 Sub 1, I feel I’ve gotten a SECOND CHANCE¬†this month thanks to my sister-in-law, as fate would have it. This ridiculously talented lady is a graphic designer by day and painter, photographer, and potter by night. Her latest endeavor is to create a website for her lovely pottery, and instead of presenting each with an ordinary catalog-type description, she’s opted to pair them with short stories inspired by their design and function. So guess who’s the lucky gal who gets to write these?! I’ve written five short-short pieces so far with five to go (as far as I know), so hopefully these will be appearing online by mid-April. While I still aim to write stories for submission to literary publications in subsequent months, I’m hoping this gig at least covers me for March.

All right, time to shut my yapper. Just a preview of more posts to come after I take a SECOND to catch my breath… ūüėČ

What’s on your writing agenda these days? Any writing firsts or seconds to celebrate this month?


On the Borderline

Oh goodie, this is a fun one—a game of sorts for those days when you fear the tap to your creativity has run dry and you just can’t write. ¬†Well, you can. ¬†Given some direction—rules, if you will—you might be surprised when you spring a leak ūüôā

The Prompt:

Page 41 of Room to Write asks us to choose one of the following words:  fence, road, boil, or fall.  Then:

1. Write the first words that come to mind when you think of your chosen words. ¬†Write them in a list form until you hit the bottom of the page (or your computer screen…I decided to do 20).

2.  Keeping the list in the exact same order, develop a story in which every line uses one of these words.

Response:

He rode the fence on the issue.

Sure, he realized the importance of establishing boundaries,

but was this something to fall under such restriction?

He was already on the border of sanity as it was.

One thing he was never good about was choices,

options that left him speculating which path to take and leaping to cynical conclusions as to what menaced him ahead on each.

In this way, even the gift of choice wound barbed wire round his psyche

and threatened to strangle his pride with the chain-links of fear he entangled himself within.

He never was a man of conviction, willingly crossing picket lines to not rock the boat with authority

and practically tying their strings onto himself as if he were some wooden puppet,

his thoughts and actions the property of someone else, always.

Facing the crossroads that he was now, he tried to envision vast farmland

dotted with livestock and caressed by the open breezes.

In this vision was also a garden; yes, there must be a garden in the back,

serving as the division of pleasure and labor,

where his legal troubles could be checked at the gate and all he would know of the world was a blooming fortress.

He then frowned at the way even his fancies imposed a natural barrier around him,

and wondered if he wouldn’t constantly need something to hold him back—balancing on the precipice of order and chaos as he was—

yes, something that would keep him penned in for his own protection and the safety of the world below.

He struck a match against the brick ledge, the final demarcation he would draw.

Reflection:

Today is definitely one of my days of feeling groggy and uncreative—there’s so much to take care of on all levels of my life, so my preoccupation with it all is almost paralyzing me into doing none of it. ¬†In light of these kinds of days, I really appreciate an activity like this that confines me within a short set of rules; for as much as I think I’m a creative spirit, I’ve always functioned well within parameters. ¬†Maybe that’s why the word “fence” is the one that leapt out at me ūüôā

Anyways, if you ever find ¬†yourself in a writing funk, I can promise you this is a good way to shake up your stagnant creative juices; there’s no pressure to how this sort ¬†of piece will turn out, just that you follow the rules and keep on to the end. ¬†Maybe it’ll go straight to the rubbish bin, maybe you’ll actually pull something from it to recycle in another work. ¬†Who knows, but this took me less than 10 minutes, so surely you can afford that little bit of time to see what results. ¬†It also has potential as a good lesson in working with motifs/extended metaphors in following through on a theme.

So, obviously I use these writing prompts to get me going, but I’m curious about YOU. ¬†What is it that gets your brain-blood flowing and inspired to write again during periods of creative dormancy?


Friday Fan-Fiction

From the ages of about 7 to 27, I was pretty sure that John Hughes had ruined my life.  The depictions of idyllic love in his high school-romance classics left me forever pining for the day my Jake Ryan would come:

Ah, yes, Sam and Jake. ¬†Jake and Sam. ¬†The unattainable scenario I never got to realize when I myself was a 15-year-old bridesmaid at my older sister’s wedding. ¬†With a mouthful of braces and ankles teetering on high heels (perpetually negotiating their stability as I adjusted to a rapid growth spurt), when I stepped out of the church that day, alas, no heart-throb was to be seen leaning against his red sports car to whisk me away from my averageness.

But this isn’t about Sam and Jake. ¬†Let’s roll back that preview and focus on the peripheral character also riding that bus, a.k.a. “Geek Girl #1” as she’s named in the credits.

Played by Joan Cusack, this character¬†shows up but a handful of times in John Hughes’ 1984 film, Sixteen Candles. ¬†In the movie, this teenager has no dialogue, no name. ¬†So, in writing a “coming of age” story some time ago, I decided to give this girl an identity, a voice, and speculate on her plight‚ÄĒbasically, give her a story of her own to celebrate the¬†inadequacies that the film exploits for comic relief. ¬†I’ll share a preview of it here (the rest can be found at FanFiction.net).

If you’ve ever seen the movie, you may remember her as the girl at the water fountain…

Geek Girl #1

or,

From the Periphery of the Drinking Fountain

Just trying to get a little water‚Ķcrap, I’m thirsty. Yet my face is dripping wet. Soaking with fresh, otherwise drinkable water that is only going to evaporate and fall to earth again to quench other people’s thirst. But not mine.

I remember drawing a diagram of the rain cycle once‚Ķit was for a project in grade school, complete with arrows indicating the flow of the process‚Ķyou know, how the rain falls and replenishes lakes and rivers and helps flowers grow, then up it goes, back into the sky as vapor, and so on and so forth. I had drawn these huge downy clouds that had smiling faces. So did the flowers; they were daisies. Everything in my diagram smiled, actually, even the disproportionately gigantic bees buzzing around those god-forsakenly chipper daisies. The ‘A’ I got on that project had me grinning as big as a badly drawn bee for my entire journey out the classroom, down the hall, through the main entrance, and into the‚Ķrain. As if on cue, lightening sliced through very un-fluffy, scowling clouds just before one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand, three-one-BOOM. Drenched. No umbrella‚Ķcold‚Ķface dripping‚Ķyet so thirsty‚Ķ

“Ya finished?”

I snap my head to the right with a “Huh?” only to wince over my brainless error. Have to control those reflexes.

“Jesus, use a sink to wash your face, people drink from that!”

Jolted from my meandering thoughts, I mutely step aside from the drinking fountain and weave my way back toward the gymnasium, guided by the amplified bass tones of the music, since a translucent film of fused hydrogen and oxygen atoms now obscures my vision. Dabbing my mouth with the printed fabric skirt of the lady embroidered on my sweatshirt‚ÄĒa sixteenth birthday gift from Grandma‚ÄĒI muse to myself, yeah, I suppose people do. No wonder I can’t. Just a few more minutes and I know my face and sweatshirt will be dry. Unfortunately, I know by then I will not have succeeded in evaporating with the water.

And I’m still so thirsty. Parched. I lament the futility of water fountains.

It’s because of the neckbrace, you see. Yeah, as if you could miss it. Three more weeks caged inside this contraption, three at the very least. I suppose I’m already used to my head’s considerably limited range of motion after having to wear headgear day and night for the entire two years I wore braces‚ÄĒmost people don’t have to wear it publicly like that, but my orthodontist declared my overbite to be uncommonly severe. Oddly enough, he still carries the plaster cast of my teeth around with him to assorted dental conventions. I would feel a trifle violated over that if having some sort of distinction didn’t feel kind of flattering. The whole thing has the essence of immortality, if you think about it‚ÄĒthat cast is a statue, like fossilized evidence of my very existence‚ĶI mean, dental records are the primary means of identification for decomposed bodies, so, in a way, teeth are our identity.

And such are my allotted 15 minutes of fame, all used up on an overbite I no longer have. At least my teeth can chalk one up for posterity.

It was when I was leaving the dentist office after having my braces taken off, actually, when I pulled out of the parking lot without looking in either direction (force of habit thanks to the headgear) and rear-ended a pickup truck stopped at the adjacent red-light. The damage to either vehicle was minimal, but I received a case of whiplash evidently bad enough to warrant this harness. Yet another ring of metal to invade my lower peripheral vision. That is what my English teacher would call “ironic.”

Uh oh. Cough resulting from dry throat ready to strike…must suppress spasm…

*cough* “Ow.”

I can’t help but vocalize my neck pain at times like these. The popular kids usually take a breather from their regularly-scheduled self-absorption to snort in mockery over my not-even-very-exclamatory exclamations, but that isn’t as embarrassing as when I do somehow manage to stifle my coughs, and the convulsion instead travels up my nasal passages to produce an unpredictable yet always audible sound that has them rolling every time. For someone so unnoticeable, I sure get noticed at more times than I would prefer.

Like now, for instance. The one time I really want to conceal myself, really want to pine in the privacy of this doorway, and here’s this at-the-cusp-of-pubescence freshman staring me down. Just gawking at me from one foot away through his darkened shades like some sorry Cory Hart poser. My face is pressed so close to this wall, with any luck I can just crawl inside of it right now and escape out the other side into an alternate universe where I’m like some Princess of Narnia who was born with a perfect bite‚Ķbut the repelling force of this dude’s gaze compels me toward the opposite direction. Whatever, time to pluck myself away from this weed defiling my wallflower garden and brave the dance-floor.

Huh, there’s Samantha characteristically sulking in my pathway. Naturally another superb hair day for her short red tresses. I guess my hair isn’t all that bad, but I always have to pull it back tight with a rubberband so it doesn’t get caught in the head apparatus du jour. Even so, its matte, muddy color has nothing on the vibrancy of Rubylocks over there. And just look at her dress‚Ķclassy and perfect as always, delicate as a daisy. Though I have to squint with that water still stinging my eyes, I can just make out the matching pumps.

Penny-loafers are the highest heeled shoes I own. My growth spurt seems to have occurred earlier than everyone else’s, so I’m way too tall, and tall isn’t cute‚ÄĒat most, it could be construed as exotic, maybe, but never cute ‚ÄĒso I compensate by avoiding heels and curling my shoulders inward. That seems to help. Besides, Dad refuses to let his little girl look like a “common prostitute,” so sometimes I think I’d be safer getting caught in possession of crack and firearms than nylons or makeup. So here I am, at my first high school dance (even though I’m a sophomore‚ÄĒagain, consult The Widower’s Handbook of Social Graces for the Budding Teenage Girl, the comprehensive, unabridged version) and stuck wearing this sweatshirt over a hand-me-down dress from my cousin, because God forbid that I bare my arms like Sam gets to with her angelically alabaster complexion.

And yet she pouts to her friend the same way she did at her locker earlier today, just before homeroom. Something about her family forgetting her sixteenth birthday and life just getting shittier‚Ķuh, yeah, Red. Then there was the bus ride home‚ÄĒhere she had the smartest guy in my physics club falling all over himself to impress her, saturating her ego with his deluge of compliments, but she gets all haughty and tense, as though struggling to ignore the persistent drip of Chinese water torture.

Girls like her just rinse and spit. They’ll spit out a mouthful and have the nerve to complain that they’re thirsty.

To think Ted had skipped our after-school physics club meeting today hoping to encounter Sam on the bus so he could ask her to the dance. I heard him say so to my brother, Bryce, a freshman like Ted who is also, incidentally, his best friend. I ended up bailing on the meeting myself to discover the outcome of this wooing. As pleased as I was to find that he’d still be going to the dance stag, as insanely thrilled that he chose to talk to me once Sam got off at her stop (even though I guess I was the only other person left on the vehicle), our entire one-on-one time was spent exalting her “vogue” style. He exalted, anyway; I just smiled and mentally nodded (since I can’t actually move my head up or down). My tongue is usually tied when I’m around guys anyway, but it was bitten hard this time to contain my slight difference of opinion in an agreeable “uh, yeah.” I’m sure he was awed by my eloquence, but the unwavering optimism in his eyes, that sparkle in his braces, was enough to scorch any hopes I had that maybe tonight he’d look in the general vicinity of some other girl‚Ķsomeone friendlier‚Ķmore intelligent‚Ķmore enigmatic in her quiet, less attractive, and somewhat physically handicapped way.

Someone thirstier.

[to be continued…]

So, if you got this far and are still “thirsty” for more, read the rest at FanFiction.net! Otherwise, I’m playing hostess with the mostess to out-of-town visitors, so will likely be out of commission on the blog for several days.


OMG-ing my fool head off

First of all, I’m immensely amused at the fact that my last entry was on “discipline,” and it’s taken me days to get my bum in gear to write another post!

Yeesh…the week got busy on me as I try to wrap things up before heading back to the States (FYI, I’m a Chicago gal currently living in London)¬†for a visit with family and friends, a time during which I expect to be out of commission for writing/working overall. ¬†In any case, the reason I am OMG-ing relates to a previous post in which I expressed my excitement over getting one of my letters published in a book collection. ¬†That, in turn, inspired me to enter a short story contest that so happened to extend its deadline, so I could still give it a go. ¬†The general theme to address was “The Wedding.” ¬†So, folks, the results are already in, and….*drumroll*…I won first place! ¬†Adrenaline surged through my veins, and I thought my heart would leap out of my chest…I’m just gobsmacked and so appreciative of those darling judges who have humored an amateur writer and will be making a dream come true in publishing my work. ¬†It’s my very first time being published for my fiction, and I’m going to continue working hard to ensure it won’t be my last. ¬†I already feel so grateful for this blog, as these little exercises that I might spend 5-10 minutes on here and there have been enough to get my ideas flowing and discipline me to write creatively on a more consistent basis. ¬†This week’s performance, however, not being a stellar example…

In my defense, I’ve had a lot of reading and note-taking to conduct in preparation for a weekend writing conference that I’m departing for tonight. ¬†I honestly learned of it by accident because of this blog–because I follow Bonni Goldberg’s writing prompts in her book Room to Write, I had Googled the title to grab a link for one of my earlier posts weeks ago, and in doing so stumbled upon a UK¬†organization of¬†same namethat holds bi-annual conferences at a country estate-turned-hotel up in Northern England. ¬†This just looks way too up my alley, so I signed on and am getting giddy to hop on that train out of the city. ¬†In any case, this March workshop addresses reading as writers–I think we all know that the more we read, the better we can write by virtue of interacting with examples of good writing or evaluating what we don’t like about what we read. ¬†We were assigned to read three novels of rather disparate styles (The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, Blackbird House by Alice Hoffman, and Let it Bleed by Ian Rankin) and take note of three things we learned about writing from each, so I’m looking forward to this sort of book club taken to the next level in analyzing these texts in relation to our own writing projects. ¬†Hoping to obtain some very solid advice on how I might approach concluding the last quarter of my work-in-progress…I will most definitely report back here on any pearls of wisdom shared.

In any case, hopefully it will not be another 20+ years before I enter another writing contest–no, seriously!¬† I had just talked about my last one (in grade school, mind you) in my blog post, “The Impact of Words.”¬† Imagine my relief that the outcome this time round was the same ūüôā

In closing, I’m going to indulge my relative anonymity here with what I consider to be the first professional review of my written work, taken as an excerpt from the Fact, Fiction, and Folly blog. ¬†Why? ¬†Because I think I still just can’t believe it and am utterly humbled by the kind words shared, and need to remember them to keep my self-expectations high:

The writing is well done, the story keeps you reading and turning pages (on the screen, ha!). It pulled me right in, with super fast pacing, so there‚Äôs never one single moment of ‚Äėboring‚Äô or ‚Äėdescription‚Äô that isn‚Äôt necessary. No word is wasted, no emotion spared. We get to shift POVs in an expert way from several different players in the scene of one wedding ‚Äď and being ‚Äėinside‚Äô their heads, sort of the way a voice-over on television would be while all the guests are watching the wedding. It felt conspiratorial. It felt like we were eavesdropping on their private moments. It was simply fantastic.

The story title is “Four Somethings and a Sixpence,” and will appear in Accentuate Services’¬†Elements of Love anthology due for release this November. ¬†They have already published two previous anthologies, Elements of the Soul and Elements of Time, and coming out soon are Elements of Dimension and Rendezvous. ¬†All right, then, cheers for now—I’ve got a train to catch!


Ode to a Night-in-Jail (not really, but it could’ve been close)

I’m on a roll with other writing today, but so as not to entirely neglect the blog this weekend, I thought I’d post a wee little short-short story that I found in my computer files. ¬†It’s a true story, actually, that I wrote about my brother for his birthday, and it chronicles one crazy night we and our other two brothers had in the Windy City.

Context: ‘Keo Dog’ is a nickname his buddies gave him back in high school, and the setting is none other than the legendary Wiener Circle.


KEO DOG, with relish and a side of cheese fries

It was a brisk April day, an overcast day, a Windy City, too-cold-to-even-really-want-to-speak-at-the-Cubs-game day.  But who really needs to speak at a Cubs game anyway, other than to heckle the home team?  One man, at least, did speak.  This was a man who was never at a loss for words.  And he spoke of wondrous things indeed.  He spoke of a remote dwelling that burned fiery reds and yellows into the monochromatic greyness of our arctic environment.  He spoke of the abundance of culinary delights to be found there, and of the distinctive language the indigenous peoples uttered there by night.  Our frozen eyes teared up at the thought of this urban oasis; it can’t be real, we thought. Believe, he told us.

In fact, throughout the entire duration of the day, he continued to speak of this local legend, how it was no legend, for he had been there, he had seen it, and, most significantly, he had heard it. When the time is right, he promised us, I will show you.  Our southbound pilgrimage brought us progressively deeper into the realm of inebriation, dulling our senses and warming our extremities; but his focus remained keen, and his belly burned for one thing only.  For a moment my confidence in him faltered as he slipped into a margarita-induced coma TWICE while engaged in conversation with me, but I realize now that, as he nodded off into oblivion, slumping ever so slowly forward toward the tabletop, he was only reawakening within himself the vision of the dream to come but a few more blocks southward. It’s the greatest, he said, You’ve got to experience it yourself, he said.

His demeanor became all the more energized and self-assured as he continually described the surreal and foul obscenities that flew in the wind of the wee hours there…Everyone does it, he said, Even the venue elder and those in his employ; in fact, you may not even obtain what you seek there unless you join in the custom. While there was one innocent doubter among the group and another who appeared more preoccupied with parking-meter hurtles and leaving assorted personal possessions strewn about the city, this man stayed his course, and, oh yes, his goal would reach fruition.  As the warm light blanketed our faces and beckoned us inside, we heard the filthy vulgarities abound, and the man’s eyes glowed like smoldering coals as he cackled with wicked delight at the offensive display.

This was it‚ÄĒthe threshold of hell, and far too late to turn back to the refuge of Clark Street.¬† With a confident stride, he stepped to the counter, paused a moment to consider the luminescent options of temptation hovering before him, and, as we huddled in eager, almost nervous anticipation of what crude, ritualistic phrases would spew forth from his throat in the tongue of the after-hours natives‚Ķhis lips parted‚Ķand‚Ķin a meek, gentle voice, he sweetly articulated:

i’ll have a char dog, please??



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