You never see it coming

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It happens on a Sunday. You slept late and you’re just getting up, reaching for that first cup of coffee and then you see the flash reflected on the cabinets—and as you turn around, you’re trying to remember if there was supposed to be a storm—but then you hear a boom so loud and crack it’s the last thing you’ll never hear again and just then you feel the great and terrible wave of it bone-thrumming-through you, and every other living thing and dead and just as—

This has been an edition of the Sunday Photo Fiction Prompt, hosted by Al Forbes. To read more flash fiction or to submit your own, click the blue froggy button:

Now a confession: this was actually a piece I wrote over the summer while attending Anthony Varallo’s 500-Word Story workshop at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival. It was the first thing I thought of when I saw the prompt. The piece is a little experimental, what with the second person and the use of a run on sentence that turns into train of thought, but I was inspired after reading the many superior examples in Micro Fiction: An Anthology of Fifty Really Short Stories (a book I highly recommend for the flash fiction lover in your life).

Apologize for the rerun to anyone who reads my blog the person who reads my blog. I’m trying to limit my blogging time in order to finish my novel The Kwan Factor. I’ve got an editor lined up in early 2017 (the amazing Kelly Dwyer!) and need to wrap it up before the end of December. Much to do!

Anyway, all best my lovelies. Thanks for stopping by and have a cozy holiday season.

Positive thinking

Positive thinking is taking that moment when it’s its 3:45 am, and the dog is pacing in the hall and thinking:

Whee! I have lots of time to write today

instead of thinking

Shit. Another day: short of sleep, with only a tiny fragment of time to chase the dream, and then it’s off to work–then bills–then laundry–and the evening gauntlet of activities; only to be followed winter, and growing old, and finally death.

And then I remember: donuts!

Do you remember that?

 toy soldiers

“Did you see on the news that a dozen soldiers stormed a school in Chibok?” I asked, but you hadn’t. And I told you about the war going on there, the massacres, and the families torn apart. I told you about the refugees, and how the boys are made to fight before they’re old enough to shave. And you said you hadn’t heard, but did I hear the Hawks beat State by thirty-nine points? And you said that it’s sad—but you find all that news depressing—and you just can’t live like that. And I said I hope we never have to.

This has been an edition of Sunday Photo Fiction, hosted by Al Forbes. To read more stories inspired by the prompt or to submit your own, click the blue froggy button:

 

Just a Skiff

 

PHOTO PROMPT © Georgia Koch

PHOTO PROMPT © Georgia Koch

 

He learned to crab before he learned to walk. Always told that story: him and his dad coming all the way back from Green Turtle in full gale on that skiff—him only ten and his pop drunk as a lobsterman’s payday.

Today the air was sinking fast, dropping clouds low on eastern skies.

“I’ll be home by high tide,” he’d said. But tide had come and gone, leaving a line of seagrass high on the beach dotted with strange-eyed fish.

“I was born on the water,” he always said.

He was going to die on it too, she realized.

This has been an edition of the Friday Fictioneers, hosted by Rochelle Wisoff Fields. To read more stories or to submit your own, click the blue froggy button:

The Life and Love of a Fleet-footed Fuchsia Fairy

blooming fuchsia

blooming fuchsia

The life of a Fleet-footed Fuchsia Fairy was never easy, Herman reflected as he shook out his stamen wand and moved on to the next blossom.

You had to have patience, and an eye for detail. You had to be quick and stay out of sight of Unbelievers.

It was thankless too. For you had to open each and every flower in turn, even the blossoms that no eye would ever look upon. And he did too—for the hummingbirds. Well, for one particular hummingbird.

“Hi Mazie,” he said, blinking, for the light was behind her. Even so, she was every iridescent shade of forest and ocean and sky. She hovered for an instant and nodded appreciatively at the blossom he’d coaxed open just that morning.

“I thought you’d like that one,” he said. He realized he was blushing, so he flapped down to a lower branch, which had some new buds that needed tending. From there he could watch her.

She was so beautiful.

This has been an edition of the Sunday Photo Fiction Prompt, hosted by Al Forbes. To read more or to submit your own, click the blue froggy button:

 

Katrina and the Ann Street Players’ Last Gig

shopping cart in a parking lot lake

PHOTO PROMPT © Janet Webb

 

Last time I saw JT he was heading south on Dorgenois, with a case of beer on one shoulder.

“Where you headed?” I asked him.

“Me and some guys gonna ride it out down on Ann Street.”

“At Big Chief’s?”

He nodded. I could picture it: JT, Albert, Shorty…Big Chief on bass. All them guys, jamming louder than any hurricane. “You oughtta join us,” he said.

But Gran Marnier was all alone up in Goodbee, so’s I was headed up to board her windows and hit the grocery.

Never saw any a them again. Sometimes, I wish I’d stayed.

This has been an edition of Friday Fictioneers, hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. This week’s photo courtesy Janet Webb.

To read more takes on the prompt, or to submit your own, click the blue froggy button:

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Nothing never started gets better.

Or, what flash fiction can do for your writing life.

Nothing never started gets better.

Look, you should see some of the crap I’ve written, including the above.

As a writer who has all too often marks progress with decreasing word counts, as one who has a black belt in self-sabotage, and as one who will snag on a single word choice and spin myself silly, I have managed to learn something, in spite of myself.

Nothing never started gets better.

(You would think by now I would have found a better way to say that.)

What I’m trying to say is here’s what writing’s like:

Most of the time, finished work is a hard-won collage of brief inspirations, grueling transitions, struggling metaphors and delicate passages that shine upon the polishing. At least once every eon, I’ll write something that I love. I grab a pen, scribble something down, then sit back and read it and think: Yeah. Then, I’ll read it again and probably twelve-dozen times, and then aloud at whisper-level, and then to a chair, and then to the cat, and then to my spouse, and still manage to think: Yeah. And if I’m really, really lucky, I can even read it myself again a couple years later and think: You know, that was all right.

This almost never happens.

Okay, it maybe happened once.

Most of the time, finished work is a hard-won collage of brief inspirations, grueling transitions, struggling metaphors and delicate passages that shine upon the polishing. And the things is, if you are writing novel-length works, this takes a vast amount of time (or, if it doesn’t, I hate you). This is time spent alone, in a far land, with no destination in sight. Which is why I’ve learned to love flash fiction.

Flash fiction is creative crack

Flash fiction is creative crack, a palette cleanser, a weekend getaway crammed in a morning. Instant gratification. A quickie in the shower. And in spite of all the fun of that, it’s also a refresher course on writing you can fit into any given morning.

I write scads of them. In spite of the radio silence on the blog these days, I’ve been filling up my personal cloud with the stuff. Generally I’ll write at least one a day. Just because. Because I am a slow and recalcitrant learner in need of constant reminder how this works—how to feed and nurture this writing beast.

Here’s a secret: Ninety percent of the time when I look at the photo prompts on Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers or Al Forbes Sunday Photo Fiction, I blank. I can’t think of anything.

The sacred act of taking an intangible thought from the space between your ears and committing it to a page does something. It’s a promise, it’s a vow, and once it’s out there, stuff happens.But still, I push myself and think no one’s watchingjust do a sentence, and so I do. And it’s almost never any good and doesn’t wind up in the final piece. But still, that act is magic. The sacred act of taking an intangible thought from the space between your ears and committing it to a page does something. It’s a promise, it’s a vow, and once it’s out there, stuff happens.

Because once it’s out there, it makes me think of something else, and maybe it’s completely unrelated but it’s enough to make me scrawl down a few more sentences.

This is the point where I usually decide it’s hopeless. I go take a shower or walk the dog. And that’s when it gets amazing. Because while I’m doing the other shit, the real story happens. All of a sudden the whole thing pops into my head: how to fix what I’ve already written or an even better concept that never even thought of. And while I’m standing there dripping, I scribble down notes on that notebook that I keep just outside the shower for such emergencies. And by the time I’ve done four or five rounds of revisions I actually like it: find some merit or something to be proud of and presto—another edition of Friday Fictioneers.

Most of the stuff I write is pure crap. Clumsy, trite, awkward, stupid, half-formed, grammatically incorrect and painful to read. You probably noticed. But the thing is, I have managed to learn something, even in spite of my attempts to do otherwise:

Nothing Anything you never started gets any better.

Like thinking you’ll win the lottery without ever buying a ticketI used to think ‘I’ll write’ when it’s all fully formed in my head and good enough to commit to the page. Because god forbid I write crap, that it’s wrong, that I have to change it, because well, I thought that’s how it worked. Like thinking I’d win the lottery without ever buying a ticket.

So my writing friends, lost in the wilds of your novels (and you know who you are), if you’re not on flash fiction yet, give it a try.

Whatever it is you need to learn, it’s in there. Flash fiction is the crash course on the thing that’s missing in your work, that thing you need to learn. And if it’s not, it’s at least entertaining. Sprint-training for the creative heart. So come on, you—yes you. Give me twenty words, or a hundred or two or three and see where you wind up.

You can’t improve what you don’t write.

Happy writing.

Father’s a Drunkard

Copyright -John Nixon

Copyright -John Nixon

 

We didn’t get many strangers in White Oak them days—not since the mine closed.

“What can you do?” Chet asked, and his whiskey tipped in the glass as he leaned back in his chair.

The man had a derby hat and a fine collared shirt as white as January, with a garter on each sleeve. “I can play piano,” the man said.

And he played it right pretty too—sat down and played Clementine and Father’s a Drunkard, and one so pretty, sad and sweet I’d a given a week’s wage just to hear it again.

I don’t know why Chet did what he did.

This has been an edition of Friday Fictioneers, hosted by the amazing Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. This week’s photo courtesy JohnNixon. To read more or to submit your own, click the blue froggy button:

 

A Man, a Deer, and a Hairpin Turn in the Road

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It’s not every day we have a chance to reinvent ourselves.

He jumped, as if the words had been spoken aloud, but there was no one. And nothing—nothing except the sharp curl of road, the overturned convertible and smoke belching out from the undercarriage in larger and larger clouds. How had he survived? He checked himself once more: a gash on his knee and a cut on his ear from when he’d flown free from the car. But aside from that, he was fine.

He studied the vast empty valley in all directions and realized no one would be by for hours. And damn, his car. No insurance, three payments behind. And then there was the matter of the forty-minute daily drive to the only job in three counties that would hire him. He was so fired.

And Sheila. What was that always she said? If you ever drink a drop and lay a hand on that wheel, don’t bother ever coming home.

The gas tank made an ominous thunk. He thought of the struggle of holding this wreckage of a life together. He could do so much better.

He should.

He turned, and started walking–off the road, and into the wild unknown.

This has been an edition of Sunday Photo Fiction, hosted by Al Forbes. To read more or to submit your own, click the blue froggy button:

Here be Treasure

Thanks to Piya Singh for this week’s photo prompt.

Thanks to Piya Singh for this week’s photo prompt.

 

Dwarves. I not be talking the human-born sort that find their way to a hearth and home from time to time. No, I speak of the legendary kind, with antlers and dew claws. The kind they haven’t had in these parts since the Daisy Age.

But the earthen cups, the wooden platters, the bubbling grobpot over the fire told a different story. I lifted a cup, still warm from morning break, tipped it to my face and breathed. Tamsen and jiminy-root. These were Gilded Dwarves. “Men,” I say to the ones inside. “Out to the woods. Find cover and wait.”

This has been an edition of the fabulous Friday Fictioneers, hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, this week’s photo courtesy Piya Singh. To read more flash fiction or to submit your own, click the blue froggy button:

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