Flash Fiction, Carnival Edition

nbvyt7L0What a week! So I blew off a little steam at the hula-hoop rockabilly break-the-blog revival at JD Mader’s Unemployed Imagination. Maybe you’ll join us next Friday for a little two-minute (give or take) flash fiction. Here’s one of my pieces from this week. I hope you’ll also roll on over and check out what the other writers threw down. So much fancy word-dancing in one place.

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The kid with the Harry Potter glasses had an arm on him—the only worrisome prospect Joey had seen all night—but three tries, no dice. “This game is rigged.”

Joey smirked. “Tell it to someone who makes more than five bucks an hour. Next!” But the troublemaker didn’t move. Just pressed his lips together and gave him the stink-eye. “What? You casting a spell on me?”

“I want my money back!”

“Beat it, kid. Go get sick on corn dogs or something. You had your chance, let someone else take a turn.” He grinned at the tiny red-haired girl behind him. “Step right up, little lady, three chances to knock a bottle down, three chances to win!”

“It’s rigged,” Harry Potter said to her. “You’re not gonna win.”

She pursed her lips at him. “Says who?”

“Says physics, that’s what. The bottles are weighted on the bottom. The balls aren’t heavy enough.”

“Jeez, kid.” Joey pressed his palms into the counter and leaned forward, trying to look menacing. Not easy in the stupid candy-striped vest management made them wear. “Trying to make a living here. You think my various vices and devices come cheap? Now step off and let the lady try.” He hooked an eyebrow. “Unless you’re afraid she’s gonna show you up.”

The kid stood straighter. “I’m not afraid.”

Still eyeballing Harry Potter, Joey rustled up three balls and smacked them down in front of the girl. She gave the boy a testicle-withering glare, fired back and bam-bam-bam, three bottles toppled over.

Mouth falling open, the kid reached for his back pocket. “I wanna try that again.”

Joey stuck out his palm.

Six tries later, the boy groaned in disgust and skulked away.

When he was out of view, Joey beckoned the little girl forward and slipped a five into her hand. She dropped her gaze to the bill, then back up at him. “You promised seven.”

He slid her a grin and added another couple of bucks to her take. “You learn quick, sweetheart,” he said, tugging on one of her braids. “One day you’re gonna make Mom and I so proud.”

———–

Laurie Boris has been writing fiction for over twenty-five years and is the award-winning author of five novels with another on the way. When not playing with the universe of imaginary people in her head, she’s a freelance copyeditor and enjoys baseball, reading, and avoiding housework. See what’s on sale this month here.

Want to join the mailing list and learn about special deals and upcoming releases? You can do that here.

Are Likable Characters Important in Women’s Fiction?

laurieboris:

Interesting. I don’t need “likable.” Relatable, yes. Interesting, yes. Makes me root for her to learn some hard lessons through the story, absolutely. What do you think?

Originally posted on A Writer's Path:

Women

When the moderator of a recent women’s fiction panel asked me if I expected to be friends with the protagonists in the women’s fiction I read, I had the oddest reaction: my mind went blank. Madly scanning my mental spreadsheet of great fiction in an effort to be truthful, in front of an auditorium full of avid readers I would have been happy to impress, I could suddenly recall no protagonist in any book I’d ever read. Could I think of characters who were compelling, closed off, quirky, troubled, clever? Sure. But I had never thought to sort any of them into the column titled “friends.”

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Authors Behaving Badly: The Desperately Seeking Attention Edition

MonkeysToday I read a column in a newspaper I won’t name about an author who trashed book clubs in general and in particular, the group of women who had invited her to visit their meeting and talk about her book. I don’t get it. If a book club decided to read one of my books and wanted me to speak with them, I’d be honored and thrilled. I’ve done it before, and I’d definitely do it again. After passion for writing, connection with readers is one of the biggest reasons I’m in this thing. So I didn’t understand this woman’s behavior. And then, sadly, I did. File this one under the clickbait folder—a provocative headline designed to entice you to click on over and get outraged enough to share it with your friends. And share, and share, and share.

I’m not playing. Not my circus, not my monkeys, as the wise old Polish ladies used to say. All that article did was invite me not to share that author’s article. Or buy her book. I’ve already forgotten her name.

I admit that getting attention—the good kind—is tough for an author. Look at all the things books are competing with: video games, binge-watching Orange is the New Black, social media, actually going out and spending time with other human beings. Some days I feel like the short guy at the end of the bar waving my five-dollar bill in the air—I’m attempting to make some noise, but I don’t think I’m ever getting my beer. So I can understand the temptation to do something a little crazy to get a few eyeballs. Desperation can lead to some pretty terrible things. (Believe me, I’ve binge-watched Orange is the New Black, too.) But I don’t want to do anything to risk alienating that connection.

It’s not a good look. Plus I’d probably feel the need for a shower afterward. So I’m not going to wrap myself in Saran Wrap printed with my book cover. I’m not going to accost people on the street and tell them my fictional children are starving. I’m not going to comment on critical reviews. I’m not even going to put one of those “ethical author” badges on my website. Nothing against the authors who do that—I completely believe in being ethical, and I like what the movement stands for. But when I see one of those, I can’t help hearing my father’s voice in my head: “Never trust a guy who says ‘trust me.’”

Maybe it’ll take a little longer to get my beer, but I’m sure it will taste a lot better.

What do you think about these kind of ploys? Fair game in a competitive, do-what-it-takes world? The fast train out of author-ville? I’d love to have a chat about this.

—–

Laurie Boris has been writing fiction for over twenty-five years and is the award-winning author of five novels with another on the way. When not playing with the universe of imaginary people in her head, she’s a freelance copyeditor and enjoys baseball, reading, and avoiding housework. See what’s on sale this month here.

Want to join the mailing list and learn about special deals and upcoming releases? You can do that here.

 

Falling in Love with Characters in Cars

Don't worry. I always keep my eyes on the road during this process. Kids, don't try this home. Professional writer on a closed track.
Don’t worry. I always keep my eyes on the road during this process. Kids, don’t try this home. Professional writer on a closed track.

An interesting post by Martin Crosbie on Indies Unlimited this week spurred a few thoughts about my own relationships with my fictional characters.

When I’m writing, they have to feel real to me, as real as someone who might walk into the room and sit beside me. I have to fall in love. Or at least find some empathy. So I get pretty deep with that universe of people in my head. Over the years, I’ve taken a few of my writing teachers’ suggestions for ways to get to know these folks better. Guided meditations. Creative visualization. Imagine the shoes the character is wearing. Imagine slipping into their bodies. Light a candle and invite them in, as one writer famously advised. Once I got over the “are you kidding me?” factor, some of those devices worked pretty well.

Lately, I’ve been taking my characters for car rides. I don’t know why it took me so long to try this. When I was a kid, we lived thirty minutes from almost everything. The car was the venue for parental face time, for solving problems, for just looking out the window and getting a break from the routine of school and homework and piano lessons and Girl Scout meetings. And now? Okay, I like NPR, but do I really need to listen to it every time I get behind the wheel? Allowing more silence into my life has opened up that mental bandwidth for the characters to start talking.

So when I need to go a little deeper with a character, I invite him or her to come along for the ride. “Invite” being the operative word. Some are more willing than others; some play their cards closer to their chests and require a trust zone, a safe space. Or just some time.

I might have fallen in love with Charlie, my last protagonist, when he flopped down in the rocking chair next to my computer and poured himself a virtual scotch. But my new guy, a surgical resident, likes to ride shotgun. He has to push the seat back to make room for his legs, and he advises me that I’m overdue for my next oil change, but he’s really good company. He was recalcitrant at first, but he grew more comfortable with me, and when early critiquers suggested the story needed more of him, that it would only make the readers feel more invested in his journey, he was happy to oblige. But only because he believed it would help others. And now I’m totally smitten.

I used to worry that other drivers would look at me strangely when I took my characters out for a spin, but I got over that. Most people probably think I’m talking on my (nonexistent) hands-free cell phone arrangement. Thank you, modern technology.

Have you fallen in love lately, while writing or reading?

——–

Laurie Boris has been writing fiction for over twenty-five years and is the award-winning author of five novels with another on the way. When not playing with the universe of imaginary people in her head, she’s a freelance copyeditor and enjoys baseball, reading, and avoiding housework. See what’s on sale this month here.

Want to join the mailing list and learn about special deals and upcoming releases? You can do that here.

Viewfinder

640px-FirstChurchofChristScientist2One summer I took a photography class at the Art Institute of Boston and spent most of my free time roaming the city for interesting shots. During this week’s 2-Minutes-Go flash fiction fiesta at JD Mader’s blog, I remembered one of my favorite places, and this story popped up.

——

Viewfinder

A tiny finger poked my shoulder. “What are you doing?”

I’d been as still as one of the stones in the Christian Science Center’s courtyard for so long that it took a moment to remember. An even longer moment to figure out how to explain it to the pixie-faced girl who’d asked the question, then peered at my camera. “Watching the world go by,” I said.

She wrinkled her small nose. Obviously, I’d chosen the wrong words. “I’m taking pictures.”

“Why?”

I pegged the girl at about five, the perfect age for her spongy brain to fill up on information about the big issues, even if she couldn’t catalog and analyze them yet. I didn’t think she’d be interested in knowing that it made me feel connected to humanity, or reduced my stress level by giving me an outlet for my frustrated creative impulses, or even because I liked the way the waning sunlight played on the reflecting pool and the smooth, polished metal surrounding it. Or because I couldn’t bear to be in the house when he came by for his things so he could move in with his new girlfriend. “Because it’s fun,” I said.

“But why is it fun?”

That one stopped me. What was “fun” about staring into a postage-stamp-sized pane of glass, lining up a shot, waiting for the right moment when the beautiful man turned his head just so as he walked beside the sentry of streetlights guarding the pool? Satisfying, maybe? But fun?

“Do you want to take a picture?” I made room for her to slip between me and the tripod.

Her eyes swept to the cobblestone, a finger pressed to her lower lip. Of course. She might think I’m some kind of freak. Stranger danger. “Or not,” I said.

She glanced up at me, and I could imagine the calculations going on in that spongy mind. If I was safe. If taking pictures of essentially nothing looked like fun.

“Can I take a picture of you?” she asked.

I looked like crap; I’d escaped the house to make way for him, so I was still wearing ripped jeans, grubby old flip-flops, and a stained T-shirt, my hair in the roughest excuse for a ponytail I could beat it into as I walked from the subway stop to the reflecting pool. But the light in the giant eyes made me melt a little, gave me a glimmer of hope that the world I’d been watching through my viewfinder still had some life in it.

Adorably self-important, as if she were a miniature Hollywood director, she told me where to stand and how to hold my arms. I did everything she asked. And as I was waiting for the shot, she tightened her hands on the camera and tripod and took off at a dead run.

Fuck.

I sprinted off after her, but in my ratty flip-flops, I couldn’t keep up, and she disappeared.

I stopped, staring off in the distance, my shoulders sagging forward. Oh, well, I thought after a while. At least it wasn’t my equipment. And knowing that was kind of fun.

——–

I hope you have a great week ahead. Just to let you know, most of my titles are on sale this month. Check here for the details.

Book Offers and Events

laurieboris:

Here are some special book promos I want to share with you. If you’re interested in audio books, you can download a whole bunch from Choosy Bookworm today (Saturday, June 27). Details below. Thank you

Originally posted on Nicholas C. Rossis:

Today, I thought I’d let you know of a number of book offers and events that take place between today and the end of July. I even take part in one – the Rafflecopter Extravaganza – with free copies of Pearseus: Rise of the Prince, The Power of Six and Infinite Waters – my latest, still unpublished collection of short speculative fiction stories!

Event #1: Audible Books

Audible books are all the rage, it seems. What better way to see if they work for you, than downloading a whole bunch of them tomorrow, on Choosy Bookworm?

From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's booksFor the first time ever, here is a Listen and Review Extravaganza sponsored jointly by Choosy Bookworm and eNovel Authors at Work.Ten authors offer FREE codes for downloading some extraordinary Audible Books. Listen on Your iPhone or Android! Authors will send you up to two codes for FREE listen…

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2 Minutes. Go! Road Trip Edition

Come on-a my house, my house, I’m-a gonna give you candy… Well, not so much. But I have something better. I’ve got JD Mader chained to a radiator in my basement and he’s letting me host the luau today! So…

Hey, writer-type folks. AND PEOPLE WHO JUST WANT TO PLAY BUT DON’T IDENTIFY AS ‘WRITERS’ – all are welcome here! Every Friday, we do a fun free-write. For fun. And Freedom! And for JD! (Jeez, I hope nobody can hear him screaming down there.)

Write whatever you want in the ‘comments’ section on this blog post. Play as many times as you like. #breaktheblog! You have two minutes (give or take a few seconds … no pressure!). Have fun. The more people who play, the more fun it is. So, tell a friend. Then send ’em here to read your ‘two’ and encourage them to play. 

I’ll start us off…

———

The doctor slips the SIMM card into your trembling palm. Amazing, how small they can make them these days. Not like the prototype the researchers had nicknamed “Das Reboot,” clunky with chips that needed re-seating every year, the video chattering and breaking down. You turn it around in the light.

“Nice, huh?” He crosses his arms over his chest, like he built the damned thing, like he ground the rock into silicon dust and poured the molds. It is impressive, though, but—

“And these are…” You suck in a breath. “Authentic memories?”

“Well. Given the state of the technology, as authentic as we can code. But I’m confident you’ll find that once it’s installed and the software is uploaded, the random selection of stepping stones from your life will equal or even surpass the significant memories the average person can access.”

You level your gaze at him, one question on your mind. His quick glance to his shoes tells the story. There is no guarantee that you will remember Eddie. Not the first time he smiled at you, the goofy look on his face when he asked you to dance. It’s all been fading away so fast. Already you can’t remember certain things. You know there were children; you can see that from the pictures. People tell stories about him, but it’s like they’re describing a television show; it doesn’t hook into anything that feels real, that feels like at some point, you were actually there.

“Tell me straight, Roger. All these years between us, you owe me that. What are the odds?”

He shook his head. “It’s not good, Lucy. But it’s something. I can get you on the schedule for next week, if the possible outcome is enough to hang your hat on.”

Your eyes ping wider. He wore a hat. Or at least you think he did. “Yes.” The smooth, cool device in your palm seems to sing to you, old lullabies, crooning in your ear during that first dance. “Sign me up.”