Flash Fiction, Freelance Edition

file0002054526820Poor, sad, neglected blog. Today I want to share something I wrote for “2 Minutes. Go!” on JD Mader’s Unemployed Imagination website. I love our Friday flash fiction fiestas. Maybe next week, you’ll come over and play with us. Here’s what we wrote this week—great, short entertainment for nada! Nothing. Zip. Just your eyeballs. Bwa ha ha.

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The Freelancer

After typing “I didn’t know how else to tell you,” no more words would come, no matter how hard Delilah pressed that mental pencil against the cells in her brain that were supposed to perform those functions.

Maybe there was something wrong with her. Maybe in her sleep, the karma skulking around her corners had unhooked her battery, cut her brake lines, slashed her tires. Because she cranked out assignments like this every damned day. Okay, it was a strange freelance gig, but she thrived on the strange, the out-of-kilter, the anything-but-normal. In this world of have what you want when you want it, why not throw down a few bucks on PayPal and hire someone to write that break-up letter, to give that bad news, to tell that idiot who won’t leave you alone to take a hike? They were even fun, mostly. How many people were paid, and paid decently, to exorcise the vitriol out of their heads? Her husband didn’t make much; it was nice to have a few bucks of her own; and because she’d never see her clients, or the results of her work—all was carefully monitored to shield the writers’ identities—it was relatively easy. But the screen where she was supposed to load her latest assignment remained blank.

Hoping for another blast of inspiration, she reread her instructions: “Want to ask my wife for a divorce, she’s always working, I fell in love with someone else, really crappy with words.” Yeah, that didn’t help. In fact, it just made Delilah angry. The light stuff, the snarky stuff, the hey-roomie-take-a-shower-once-in-awhile stuff, that was fun. It was an act of kindness, if you looked at it a certain way. But when it got heavy like this? Now it just felt wrong. Damn it. She’d already claimed the assignment, so she had to file or lose her five-star ranking. But this was the last one. She’d be happy to write about bad breath and chewing with your mouth open and PDA, but no more missives about shit getting this real.

So she sucked in a breath and began typing a version of Breakup Template #3. When it shaped itself into something she could almost live with, she pressed the submit button and went straight for the wine.

Two glasses later, her husband working late, she followed up to make sure the deposit had gone into her account. Then checked her email.

The first message began, “Dear Delilah, I didn’t know how else to tell you…”

Flash Light

iStock_000005733150XSmallWe all have our ways of blowing off steam and mine’s in the writing, particularly in the hula-hoop rockabilly break-the-blog revival going on at JD Mader’s Unemployed Imagination. Maybe you’ll join us next Friday for a little two-minute (give or take) flash fiction. Here are a few of my pieces from this week. I hope you’ll also roll on over and check out what the other writers threw down.

Continue reading

Mindfulness and the B Word

iStock_000006823591XSmallIt’s alarming enough to have something growing on your body that’s not supposed to be there without the added joys of waiting for a professional to tell you what it is and what should be done about it.

Several times in my life, these stowaways have required a biopsy. So far, most have been benign or at least precancerous, and they were handily dispatched. Right now I’m wearing a bandage on my left temple while a recent removal is healing. It’s benign, which is one of my favorite b-words.

But don’t fret—I’m not here to get all TMI about icky skin things.

It was the wait that got me thinking.

I’m sure it’s not intentional on the part of the office staff to leave me hanging overnight to call about test results in the morning. Not the first time that’s happened, either. But there I was, alone in the house with a message I couldn’t return, an answer I didn’t have.

I did the human thing for a few minutes and worried. What if I wasn’t lucky this time? I’m from a family of fair-skinned people who have dermatologists on speed-dial. What if it required more treatment, more cutting, more money I didn’t have?

And then it hit me.

I’m alone in the house. My husband works from home. I’m almost NEVER alone in the house. And there I was, wasting that precious time and energy with worry about something I couldn’t control. Something I didn’t know. Something I couldn’t, at that moment, know, unless I felt like getting my stalker on and paying a visit to the dermatologist’s office, and perhaps the local jail.

I smiled.

Then I bopped around the house doing my bad Annie Lennox impression, had a conversation with a few of my characters to work out a few of their issues, then sat down to edit for the rest of the evening, without a thought that my style of reading aloud would bother anyone.

If I’d spent that evening coiled like a spring, regardless of the test results, I’d have regretted it. Learned from it, maybe, but regretted it.

Score one for living in the moment and not letting the worry win.

Real Life into Fiction

Typewriter - Once upon a timeThink about your favorite novels. There might be a ripping good story and great writing, but I bet it also stars characters that leap off the page. Even if the characters inhabit a fantasy world and have two heads and green fur, they feel as real as the person sitting next to you. That being feels…real to you. You care what happens to she/he/it. Ever wonder how writers do that? I can’t speak for all writers, but here are a few secrets some of us use to take our real life experiences into fiction. Continue reading

Flash Spring Forward

431px-Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-C1015-0001-012,_Tokio,_XVIII._Olympiade,_Ingrid_KrämerIt’s been a while since I flashed you. So here are a few of my contributions from Friday’s Word-a-Palooza and barn-raising also known as 2MinutesGo at JD Mader’s blog. As usual, only lightly edited for your protection. ‘Cause that’s the way we roll. If you’re in a writing mood, maybe you’ll come by next week and play. Or at least read the awesome, awesome writing going on there.

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Once a Pantser…

Typewriter - Once upon a timeEver since it dawned on me some thirty years ago that the short story I was writing had the potential to be a novel, I’ve been an enthusiastic and dedicated pantser. I’d follow some interesting characters around, taking notes, until something resembling a narrative arc bubbled up. I’d follow that thread until the story was told and then on subsequent drafts, shape it together into a plot, like a lump of clay on a potter’s wheel. (And no, I did not just think about Patrick Swayze in Ghost. Okay, I did.) Continue reading

Thump

Cardinal_2I am a dreamer at heart. There. I’ve admitted it. I’ve tried to deny this for years, doing the practical things humans do, fretting about getting good grades and finding the right mate and how to keep a roof over my head and food on my table, marching in painfully uncomfortable lockstep with the other grownups. I put that uniform on when I need to—food and shelter are not to be sneezed at—but the wool itches and the vest constricts my breathing and let’s not talk about how the crotch rides up on those ridiculous trousers.

Right about the time I began to worry whether I’d let the uniform become a permanent part of my epithelial cells, sort of like a Simpsons character, this weird little cardinal started attacking my back deck.

Male Northern cardinals do this sort of thing, I’ve heard. They are territorial, especially during brooding season, and when they see their own reflections in shiny things like windows and car mirrors, they think it’s a rival bird and attack. Over and over and over again.

We named him Napoleon.

I did the things people suggested to make him not see his reflection. Decals on the windows, dangling distracting strips of things from the glass…everything short of covering the sliders with white sheets, which the spouse nixed. I’d rather have a thumping cardinal than a husband grumbly that the lack of natural light coming into the house might kill his cacti. And his mood.

Eight months later, well past normal brooding season, he’s still flinging his winter-fluffed body into my windows. But in the beginning, my little dreaming heart wanted to tell stories and make meaning out of it.

My first flight into the nature of his arrival was that he had come to teach me something. About perseverance, perhaps. Or how to survive getting hit on the head over and over and over again, a common way of life for freelancers and indie authors.

Thump.

Next I entertained the possibility that the meaning was a little more subtle and archetypical. He represented something. A message from a friend, sent on a wing and a prayer, perhaps. (I apologize for that. No, I don’t.)

Thump. Thump.

Then I attempted communing with him. While waiting for my coffee to brew in the mornings, I’d inch up to the window, watching the proud set of his banged-up beak, the determination in his shining black eyes. He liked the sound of my voice, or at least did not fly away from it. At this point, Husband considered that I might need professional help, or a hobby, but I ignored him. Instead, I went deeper and imagined his story. I let him tell it from his point of view. In the first, he had come to save me from my itchy, semi-permanent uniform, a sort of cage I’d locked myself into and did not realize I could leave. Next, and I admit I might have been a little loopy that day, maybe from the repeated percussion of a determined cardinal banging up my house, he’d been sent by a Disney princess to be one of those magical cleaning birds but was continually frustrated that he couldn’t get inside the window.

Thump. Thump. Thump.

I latched wholeheartedly onto the next theory, relayed to me by several Facebook friends. Some say that an appearance of a cardinal means that you are getting a message from a loved one who has died.

Then I was all about what the message might be. From my mother-in-law, watching over us? Telling me to clean the house and fretting that my husband is too thin? A friend who likes that we’ve hung one of his paintings in the hall and hopes we’re happy? Someone else? Don’t get me wrong; I appreciate the love from beyond, but those windows are going to need some serious power washing come spring.

I know that my time with Napoleon on this plane is limited; I know that some think I’m making too big a deal of what might be a simple avian instinct gone awry. But his presence gives my little dreaming heart something to thump about. And now, instead of rattling my imagination for meaning, I spend a little time with him, send out a thought-beam of kindness and compassion, and say, “thank you.”