Archive for July, 2014

Flash Fiction post #5| Good Neighbors by Sonya Rhen

Welcome to Flash Fiction Month.  This will be my final short story posting for this month.  I hope you have all enjoyed the varied stories by my guest bloggers.  Today’s story is one that I wrote for a Mystery short story contest for PNWA.  Enjoy!

Good Neighbors

by Sonya Rhen

 

It was dark when Connie heard the knock on the door. Her neighbor stood, flashlight in hand, bundled against the wind in an overfilled brown coat. Her hair blended into the hood, except for the grey roots.

“Connie, I came to see if you were all right.”

Connie hadn’t remembered the woman’s name. After living across the street from her for a year, she was too embarrassed to ask, “I guess the power’s out everywhere.”

The street was dark. The wind whipped into the house. It must have woken Harley. She was at the door howling, a recently chewed shoe lying at her feet.

“No, bad dog!” Connie shook her finger at the little black dog. “She likes leather. I can’t get her to stop chewing on it.”

“I should get a dog. There’s no one else to look after me,” the neighbor replied.   She leaned in, “I always lock my doors and windows. Someone has been trying to break into my house. They tried several times last week.”

Connie smiled politely and picked up the wiggling Harley, “Dogs make good pets.”

“Lock your doors and keep warm,” the neighbor turned to go back across the street.

“Hopefully, the power will be back on soon.”

Sometime during the night the power came back on. Connie got up and turned the lights off. Back in bed Chaz was snoring loudly and Harley was curled up by his feet.

The next day Connie baked up a batch of chocolate chip guilt cookies. She would be neighborly. She leashed up Harley, grabbed her keys and cell phone. It would be good to go for a walk before Chaz got home.

The ground was littered with branches, fir needles, leaves and pinecones. All was quiet. Connie’s drive was empty. Chaz normally rode his bike to work, but with the stormy weather he took the car.

Except for her neighbor across the street the rest of the neighbors worked. A strange van was parked between the two houses across the street. The neighbor’s car was in the drive.

She knocked on the door, but there was no answer. She knocked louder. Harley sat next to her on the doorstep chewing the slack leash. Connie felt uneasy. Her hand hovered above the door handle for a second. She grasped the handle and turned, surprised to find that it wasn’t locked.

“Hello?” Connie was about to step into the house when her progress was halted, “Oh!”

A tall thin man blocked the doorway. His face partially obscured by the door. “What do you want?” his voice gravelly from years of cigarette smoking.

“I brought these for…,” Connie held up the cookies, but was at a loss. She should really make more of an effort to learn her neighbor’s name. “I brought cookies.”

“Thanks,” the man said quickly reaching out a grimy hand he had been wiping on a towel. He seemed to hesitate, “Mom will love them.”

The cookie exchange completed, the man closed the door. Connie felt jolted, her nose just inches from it.

“Well, Harley, let’s walk.”

They walked down the street, the small black dog stopping every few feet to pick up a new branch or pine cone. By the end of the block Connie’s mind was racing. She didn’t believe that he was her neighbor’s son. Surely, the talkative woman would have mentioned it.

Connie looked down. “Good potty,” she cooed, “what a good girl!”

She looked at her phone and punched in a few numbers. With her hand in her pocket she walked back down to the end of the street and marched up to the door. She knocked again. This time the man opened the door himself.

“Who did you say you were?”

“I’m the son.”

“I didn’t catch your name?”

“John.”

“I didn’t think she had a son.”

“Well, um, I’m her step-son,” he fidgeted with the door knob.

“Okay,” she let the leash go slack in her hand and she gave Harley an imperceptible nudge. The dog scampered into the house easily slipping between the man’s legs. Connie pushed past the man, “So sorry.”

There was no sign of the neighbor anywhere. She caught sight of Harley with her nose buried under the recliner. What she saw caused her to press the “Send” button and she took her hand nervously out of her pocket. She scooped up the dog and practically buried her in the folds of her coat.

Connie hurried across the street, slammed her front door and bolted it. “Bad dog,” Connie took the knife out of the dog’s mouth. The blade was caked in dried blood with small teeth marks in the leather handle. She could hear the faint sound of sirens getting closer, “Why can’t you stop chewing on leather?”

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Flash Fiction Month post #4 | The Banquet by Vanessa Deroo

Welcome again to another post for Flash Fiction Month.  Today I have fellow Goodreads author Vanessa Deroo.  Read the gripping short story below and then click the link below to read more of her writing.  Enjoy!

1,2,3

Can you see me ?

4,5,6

Can you see me now ?

His little face smiling at me, his blue eyes shining. He looks like me, when I was a kid, when I used to climb everywhere, searching, exploring, experiencing. Pure joy.

The woman sitting next to him is beautiful, red-headed, and she has the most exquisite smile. She’s my wife.

Are we going now, Dad ? Are we going to the banquet ?

They both smile, and I am terrified.

This is usually the part when I wake up, trembling, panicking, because I know what it means and I have no way to stop it.

4:56. Sleep is over.

I am not married. I don’t have kids. I live in a small suburban town where everything is quiet. I am not really a party animal. I like the peace of my two-bedroom house. I read a lot, I watch TV. I go to work, I read the paper. My life is pretty normal.

And every night since January, I dream of a family who isn’t mine. A family who dies, no matter what I do.

It happens all the time : first, We’re in a big mansion, and a grandmother (my grandmother ? I don’t even know) announces she’s going to the banquet, and everyone nods. But I know something is wrong, I don’t know what exactly, but there’s something off about this mansion, this family and this old lady who looks at me with the deepest sadness in her eyes. We then enter the dining room, and the old lady lays in a coffin, her gray hair covering her face. That’s the banquet, for her. Cut to a sunny family day with a beautiful redhead who smiles at me all the time, and a tiny mini-me. The kid must be 6 or 7, and we’re all hiking and I see them walking, and all of a sudden the kid mentions the banquet, and I know I’m going to lose them all. The terror that fills my stomach is unbearable, and I wake up just as my wife and the kid climb to the banquet.

I thought it was because of a movie I watched before bed. But no. The first time it happened, I watched Sherlock on BBC, and even if there are a lot of riddles, it’s not that scary. The second night I watched a Disney movie. On the third night, I read a book.

My dream family was still here, still waiting to be killed.

I searched in every dream interpretation book, I spent hours in the library reading psychology stuff. I went online reading forums that freaked me out. But nothing about a banquet. Nothing.

I then tried to remember if I knew my dream wife, the redhead. Never saw her in real life. Not a colleague, not a friend from school. Not a friend’s wife. She seems to live only in that dream. Nothing about the old grandmother either.

The worst part is that I think about this dream all the time. I try to imagine what happens after I wake up. But I can’t. I freeze everytime I reach the part where the kid runs to the hill. What’s behind the hill is a mystery. One thing’s for sure, it brings death.

Every night, I try to sleep a little longer, but my subconscious is as scared as I am, and I wake up alone when some people I don’t even know are trapped.

And it drives me crazy.

1,2,3

Can you see me ?

4,5,6

Can you see me now ?

I feel the sun on my face, and she’s next to me and she smiles, Don’t wake up, I repeat to myself, don’t wake up, not now. She talks to me, and I can’t hear her, and the kid is playing right in front of us. Soon he will ask. He will ask about the banquet and he will disappear, and she will too, and I can’t let it happen, not this time.

I try to concentrate on my wife, her lips and what she says to me. No sound. She’s beautiful. Pale, delicate, she looks like an actress from an old movie in black and white. At times she reminds me of someone I might know, somewhere. Something about her is violently familiar, and then she’s a stranger again. But I have no time to decode what my brain is trying to say. She looks at me with a furious intensity. She still speaks silent words. She still smiles, but there’s a glimpse of panic in her eyes when she mouths « help us ».

Our kid protests when I grab him as he climbs the hill, his little body trying to lose my grip. He wants to play, but I can’t let him die. I can see my wife running down the hill and I follow her, and at this point, my instinct tells me it’s the right thing to do.

The beautiful redhead wife races, it seems like an endless run. I don’t know where we are. I don’t know what’s behind the hill. I don’t know where the grandmother is. I have flashes of something I have never seen before, like a big cocoon made of flesh and something else I can’t describe.

And then I realise it’s not a « flash ». The creature running in front of me is not beautiful and pale anymore. And she’s leading me right to the banquet. I feel it.

As we run, I can feel the kid becoming lighter in my arms. And lighter, and lighter, until there’s nothing to carry anymore. I feel the same panic in my bones, the same terror in my stomach. This time, there is no fear of losing a family. This time I am scared to lose myself.

I wake up in my cold room, the dark welcomes me like an old friend.

4.56am.

Tomorrow there will be no waking up.

Vanessa Deroo is a French-but-British-at-heart writer whose stories play with music,magic, ghosts, lost romances and Dark sides. She loves short stories, comics, YA and chocolate and is currently writing a novella. For more info, check vanessaderoo.com.

Join Us in Seattle!

Fellow writer, Elizabeth Fountain, will be there. I’ll be there as well signing my books, Space Tripping with the Shredded Orphans and Requite Me. Hope to see you there!

Elizabeth Fountain, Author

Every year, the terrific folks who put on the Pacific Northwest Writers Association conference host a Friday night autograph party. Open to the public, readers (and fellow writers) can meet their favorite authors, talk about books, buy a book, bring a book to get signed, and hob nob with others who love writing and reading.

This Friday, join us at the Hilton Airport Conference Center near SeaTac airport, starting at 8:30pm. PNWA is ready for “over sixty award-winning and NYT best-selling” authors to be at the party with their books. I’ll be there to sign copies of An Alien’s Guide (available at the on-site conference bookstore, or at Amazon, Smashwords, etc).

But don’t be surprised if you join us and find, at that moment, I’m not at my assigned seat – because at heart I’m a reader. It’s quite likely I will have wandered over to meet one of those…

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Flash Fiction post #3 | Dancers by Rowena Wiseman

Welcome to Flash Fiction Month where my guest blogger today is fellow GoodReads author Rowena Wiseman.  Below is her short story with such vivid imagery.  I was honored to guest blog on her site about my writing a few months ago.  You can click on her blog and read my interview there or check out her other stories on Wattpad.  Enjoy!

Dancers

They danced to the same tune in a contemporary ballet company when they were younger. He used to lift her, his hands holding her thin waist, her rib cage revealing each breath. She was waxed bare. Her face was painted in a theatrical mask, her red lips always poised in position, her dark curly hair neatly trained.

They got married and even though he wanted to keep on touring, she wanted to have children. He knew it would be the end of their career. Two boys came, contorting her body in ways she’d never moved before, although she had moved in many ways. Her stomach sagged, her bottom fell, he never saw her ribcage breathing again.

Hair started growing everywhere – creeping down her thighs, under her arms, whiskers under her chin. She left blood spots on their sheets and didn’t do the laundry for a month. Her makeup went past its use-by date and had to be thrown in the bin. They were doing menial jobs and could only afford necessities like food and school uniforms for the boys. They were renting a flat in an area they hated. The boys shared a bunk in the second room and fought all the time.

She grew fat like her mother. She hated her body, her life and she started to hate him. Everything was so boring, there were no lights in her eyes when she moved. When she cried, no one applauded her theatrics. No roses were gifted to her after a performance.

Somehow she met someone. They’d known each other before and he still remembered her old body. She told her husband, ‘I’m moving out. I want the boys 50/50.’ She packed her old touring suitcase and went to live in silence half the time. But even this drama in her life wasn’t enough. It felt flat, empty, tired, sad. Her new man was a disappointment too. And she still couldn’t find her stomach.

 

Rowena Wiseman

Rowena Wiseman

Rowena Wiseman writes contemporary fiction, children’s stories and a blog for writers trying to get published www.outofprintwriting.blogspot.com.au You can read more of her microfiction on Wattpad at http://www.wattpad.com/story/12521925…

 

Flash Fiction post #2 | The Picture by Will Macmillan Jones

Welcome to Flash Fiction Month guest post.  Today I have fellow GoodReads author Will Macmillan Jones with a fun  piece about a portrait.  Read about why Will thinks Flash Fiction is important and then read his short story below.  Then take a minute to check out his other writings on the link to his website.  Enjoy!

Hi, for those of you (all of you) who don’t know me, my name is Will and I’m an authorholic. That is I’m compelled to write and stopping me would be injurious to my health, maybe even fatal. (At least, that’s what I used to tell my ex when she reminded me that the lawn needed cutting or the dripping tap needed fixing, etc etc etc.) Today, I want to extol the benefits to all of us writers of regularly writing flash fiction, stories of no more than 1000 words – and sometimes less.

I’ve been writing flash fiction for over three years now, and it is a wonderful discipline. One of the worst habits we can get into is neglecting to think about the impact of each word we write. It’s fantastic isn’t it, to get an afternoon or an evening when the latest work in progress is open on the screen, we are in the zone, and the words pour out. We write and write, and when we finish, we look at the word count and feel smug/satisfied at the progress we have made. But really, have we? How many of those words would a good editor (and you do have one, right? Don’t believe all those blogs that swear blind that you can edit and proof read your own work!) red pencil as just verbiage, likely to bore or disengage a reader?

This is where flash fiction comes in as an excellent discipline. When you need to tell a complete, engaging story in less than 1000 words, every word counts. Every word is doing a job, not merely filling space. If the word count is really tight, let’s say under 500 words, then you start to pay closer attention to the structure of your sentences: the positioning of a verb, for example, can add or delete to the total word count. As an exercise, take the last sentence you wrote and try moving either the main noun or the verb around: recast the sentence two or three different ways, and see how the total number of words needed can change: it may not be a big change, but when every word counts, it may be important.

When I’m talking with other writers, I always recommend writing a piece of flash once a week: try it, give yourself a tight word count (I once submitted four stories into an anthology where every story had to be exactly 416 words, excluding the title. A lot of my writing friends did the same, and we all enjoyed the challenge immensely) and you will see how your writing starts become tighter.

Flash fiction has other uses for you in your writers toolbag as well. It is a great stimulator of the imagination. I’ve always argued that imagination is like a muscle – the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets. Nothing strengthens your imagination than having to write a different story every day for a week, for example. Let’s say you have writers block: go and write two or three pieces of flash fiction, and your mind will run off in different directions, and you might be surprised how a new approach to your story emerges. Save the pieces you write: they may be good enough to show to anyone: but in each one is a germ of a new story. I have two books coming out shortly, each of which began as a 1000 word story: but there was so much in those words that I knew the story could form the basis of a much longer work. An added bonus for you, however you look at it.

Finally, there are competitions now for flash fiction, too: lots of them. Competitions are great fun, and can also give you some great exposure as a writer. Last year, one of my pieces won The Northampton Literary Group’s National Flash fiction competition. The accolade was lovely – and so was the cheque. I might not win another, but that’s still a great comment to put on my author’s website.

So, ladies and gentlemen, there you have a brief explanation why I am such a fan of writing flash fiction. Yes, the money. No, really it’s because it keeps my imagination stimulated and provides me a constant source of new writing ideas.

Will Macmillan Jones

www.willmacmillanjones.com

 www.willmacmillanjones.wordpress.com

Will Macmillan Jones

The Picture

The picture hung in the window of an art gallery in the arcade. Every day I walked through the arcade with its myriad of tiny exotic shops on my way to and from the station. As the arcade was narrow and roofed with curved glass for natural light, the reflections of the passers by merged with the reflections of the goods on sale in the various windows. Sometimes I had fun with the curved glass, making silly faces that bounced backwards and forwards across the street, from shop window to shop window. Other shoppers would snigger at me but I sometimes caught them doing the same.

Yet whenever I reached the art gallery I would stop and peer at the portrait of a young girl. She was pictured in the first flush of her beauty, a sweet smile on her lips, her head lowered slightly so that she seemed almost to peer upwards through her auburn hair. Her dress swelled and flowed and when the light twisted, to me, she seemed almost to move.

The label below the frame said, simply: ‘Portrait of a girl’ with no artist listed or named. I did go into the shop to enquire, but the price – well let’s just say it would take me a long time to earn that much money, let alone spend it on a painting by an unknown artist, however captivating. For it was captivating: at least to me. I found after a week or so that I couldn’t walk back to the station without passing the gallery. If I tried, I felt uneasy, insecure, and when I got home I had no appetite and slept indifferently and with disturbing dreams.

At last I decided that I must break this spell, and stayed away from the arcade for a week. A whole week, it felt like a lifetime. Then following a very long day in the office, I was hurrying to catch the last train home. A violent storm raged the skies and rain and wind battered the glass of the arcade as I followed the damp footsteps of the last lone hurrying commuter.

Rounding the corner of the arcade, I glimpsed a figure that moved against the glass of the gallery window, and seemed to shimmer. Panting, I followed the wet footprints that led towards the glass – and stopped. The footprints led through the glass to the painting, and I shook to see the girl gaze adoringly into the eyes of a lover. ‘Portrait of a couple’ read the label.

 

Flash Fiction Month post #1|The Old Man of Ramblin’ Road by Victoria Farnsworth

Today I have fellow Goodreads author Victoria Farnsworth.  Please check out the Goodreads  page for more from this fascinating writer and former clown.   Enjoy!

Victoria Farnsworth

Victoria Farnsworth

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7844007.Victoria_Farnsworth

http://liveanextraordinarylife.weebly.com/

 

The Old Man of Ramblin’ Road

 

The old man lived at the end of Ramblin’ Road, in an old shack that was barely standing. Since the road came to a dead end where the path to his front door began, it was impossible to miss his house, if you took the right turn off the highway.

 

He was a kind old man who took his daily walk down Ramblin’ Road, out to the highway, then left, and on into town. He bought a few groceries, then walked back to Ramblin Road, removed his mail from the box, and walked back to his shack.

 

Everyone in town knew the old man and where he lived, but no one ever bothered to visit or phone him, if he even owned a phone. One day, the old man didn’t come to town. The store keeper was concerned and began asking customers if anyone had seen him. By the end of the day, not one customer had seen the old man.

 

The storekeeper had a family, and duties kept him from driving out to see if the old man was okay. The next day at the store, still no old man. Three days passed before the storekeeper managed to drive out to Ramblin’ Road and down to the old man’s shack. He parked his car at the end of the road and walked up the path and onto the rickety porch. While knocking on the door, the storekeeper looked around and made a mental note that someone should come out and give the old man a hand.

 

No one answered the knocking, so the storekeeper called with a loud voice, “Is anyone at home?” There was still no answer. He gently tried the front door; it was unlocked. The storekeeper opened the door and stepped inside. He called again, “Is anyone at home?” There was no answer. The storekeeper was beginning to have a very uneasy feeling that something bad had happened.

 

Cautiously, he walked through the front room into the kitchen. A few dirty dishes were scattered on the counter and table; a skillet with some remains of fried eggs still sat on the stove. He called again, “Is any one at home?” With no answer, he felt he had no choice. He started to walk back to the front room where he could enter the bedroom. He was so afraid of what he would find. As the storekeeper passed by the refrigerator, he noticed a hand-written note held by a magnet.

 

I won the lottery and I won’t be back!

 

***************************************************************************

Here is the same story only written as micro fiction.

 

The old man who lived at the end of Ramblin’ Road left after winning the lottery and is never coming back!

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