Like most people trundled through the American public school system, I was coerced into reading a selection of “classical” literature as a teen. Because I didn’t like the way it was taught in my district—all this emphasis on theme and metaphor the author might not even have intended—I didn’t enjoy it all that much, little goody-two-shoes rebel that I’d been. As much as I grumbled when teachers said that the tree at the end of the book meant crucifixion and the way the moon hung in the sky was a symbol of the protagonist’s ennui about his impending marriage, I loved reading. I loved the places a good story took me to and the opportunity to see life through someone else’s eyes. Without someone telling me what it all meant. Only now, some (mumble mumble) decades later, rereading some of those works, am I more deeply appreciating the opportunity I’d been given. Some students have had wonderful books like Moby-Dick, The Catcher in the Rye (banned as late as 2001), Cat’s Cradle, and The Sun Also Rises (also banned, and burned in Nazi bonfires) removed from their libraries and school districts. Some countries do not permit their distribution at all. Continue reading
We tried to break JD Mader’s website this week with our Friday flash fiction. Not yet, but we keep getting closer. It was a long week, and I kept sneaking away to pop out some two-minute bits. And a few more. And a few more. I don’t know if there was necessarily a theme in the ones I posted, but as I was reviewing them, it felt like I was working toward a progression of sorts. Continue reading
For as long as I can remember, I have been observing people. Not in a creepy, stalker-ish way, or at least not according to the local authorities. But as a watchful, introverted child attempting to make sense of the world, and later, as a watchful, introverted adult, still attempting to make sense of the world and my place in it.
People are fascinating. How they can say one thing and do another. How they are capable of great feats but falter at the smallest tasks. How they can smile at you and promise the world, right before crushing you under their heels. Continue reading
We’re at it again! This week’s Friday flash fiction fun at JD Mader’s Unemployed Imagination 2-minutes-go blog. Write for two (more or less) and post it for the world to see. Maybe you’ll join us next time. I swear, magic happens when we all write together. Here are mine. Lightly edited to be a little easier on the eyes. With a dash of cinnamon, cook until done.
His blue-jeaned legs swung from the crook of the tree branch, beating a tattoo against the trunk, and she could almost hear him calling her a pussy in his head as he smiled half-assed at her, gesturing with his nibbled apple how easy the climb had been. She didn’t care about girly things like manicures—piano lessons forever had cured that—so she dug in her stubby fingers and began the ascent. The sickly-sweet aroma swirled around her, of the apples that hadn’t made it to picking, the whir and whine of the bees in their confusion of something to pollinate, and straining her muscles, she pulled herself up, leaves catching in her hair, the scruff of the bark scraping her skin even through her denim shirt and pants. His grin widened as she joined him. The sun, dappled through the leaves, glinted off his aviator lenses. Sanctuary. At last.
The future waits but he does not know that yet. Life has been a series of steps he’s told to take, places he’s told to wait, tasks he’s commanded to complete. Choices? That’s not been part of the plan. Choices have been about small things: ketchup or mayonnaise on the french fries; go swimming or ride bikes. These new choices feel too large and terrifying, like he’ll pick the wrong one and be stuck on a bad path forever. End up like his mother. Worse, like his father. Drifting around, busking for change and smiles. Not knowing when he’ll come home. As the bus bound for the unknown pulls into the bay and opens its doors, his mother licks a finger and pushes a cowlick down and he cringes backward. “Mom.” His mouth forms a sneer. “Stop it.” And to his surprise, she does.
From nowhere, it seemed, the neighborhood stray tortie joined me on my walk. Dusk. Playing with me or trying to herd me or whatever feline trick she employed to bond me to her, she slipped serpentine in front of my legs, her mottled fur blending in with the asphalt, with the darkening night. Now just her too-big collar was visible, keeping me from tripping over her. She lifted her head up to mine, gave me a slow blink and bonked her forehead against my knee before letting me continue placing one foot in front of the other. Take me home, she seemed to be saying. We both knew that couldn’t happen. So we walked, her twining her long, skinny body around my calves, twitching tail, for the length of one property, two, before she slipped back into the woods.
She couldn’t explain why walking in circles helped. The rhythm of it, maybe, one after the other around the top of the driveway, the streams of rain trickling under the hood of her slicker and down her neck. It was something she could feel, unlike the stale air inside, unlike the same tired looks he gave her. Feeling that wet and cold sliding along the nape of her neck was like a jolt to her body that woke up the rest of her nerves; the smell of the ozone calmed her and made it easier to face what lay inside. Made it easier to lift her feet up the crumbling concrete stairs and face his puzzlement, his derision, the shattered drinking glass he refused to throw away. He wouldn’t throw anything away. It all had memories, it all meant the person who’d owned it stayed alive, somehow. But she also preferred to walk the circles outside because if she did them inside, she could see the glass, the shards stacked inside the jagged base. Throw them out, she said. Get rid of them. She didn’t want to explain why it was bad to have them around, why she couldn’t stop watching the glint of the fluorescent lights against the fragments. The words were too hard, too fractured, too broken.
Playing Charlie Cool, (the sequel to short story The Picture of Cool) is in final editing and will be available the first week of October or even sooner, if possible!
But you can pre-order a copy of the e-book from Amazon now, and it will be sent directly to your Kindle on the official “go live” day.
If you’re keeping score, the novel also catches up with the characters introduced in Don’t Tell Anyone. But no worries if you haven’t read that one—while the characters and situations overlap, Playing Charlie Cool and Don’t Tell Anyone are stand-alone stories.
I’ll post again as we get closer. This will include an excerpt, info about a print book giveaway, and (woo hoo!) our final cover design.
And don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter if you’d like the latest news and the occasional special offer. (I promise not to spam you.)
Thank you for your time, and now I’ll let you get back to your regularly scheduled Internet hijinks…
Another Friday, another two-minutes-go writing challenge over at JD Mader’s Unemployed Imagination site. We joke each week about “breaking the blog,” but I think this time we actually did it. Flash fiction bits were going up, comments followed, until…well, let’s just say that we kicked some serious interwebs. Here are three pieces I threw down. Hope you’ll pop over to that link and see some amazing writing by David Antrobus, Julie Frayn, Mark Morris, Ed Drury, Leland Dirks, Lynne Cantwell…hope I’m not leaving anyone out…and of course, our own wicked awesome Pied Piper. Enjoy. As always, lightly edited for your protection.
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I have no idea what happens some weeks when we get together to post our two-minute two-steps on JD Mader’s website. On Friday, this happened. Eight-nine comments. Spectacular writing.
Here are three of my pieces. Lightly edited, for your protection. [Note: language some might find objectionable.]