Heart

heart-772637_640I’d like to share a story inspired during this week’s Two-Minutes-Go on JD Mader’s Unemployed Imagination blog. Great writing happens there. Maybe one week you’ll come by and play. Because it’s fun. And fun is good.

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Heart

He didn’t recognize the purple-inked handwriting on the note he’d plucked from beneath his windshield wiper. Maybe his eyes were whacked from staring at computer code all day. So he blinked again, and again, and saw only the same few words in the tiny and most likely female script: “I heart your car.” A black cloud descended over his thoughts as he shook his head and crushed the slip of paper in one pale fist. More jokes. He drove a beat-to-crap Honda Civic that wasn’t even born in this century, hardly the stuff that inspires women to verb a perfectly good noun like “heart.” And if this writer of purple prose knew who owned the car? Yeah. Game over. He saw how they reacted to him. Women whispered when he walked past, gave him a wide berth in the hallways, as if afraid they’d catch something. A computer virus. Nobody wanted to talk to the dorky code guy. He wasn’t all smooth and sexy like the dudes in advertising or sales. No. He sat in the basement under the fluorescent lights and drank cold coffee and wore Spiderman socks.

Maybe he should rethink the socks.

He tossed the crumpled note on the back seat of his car.

When he turned, a girl was standing there. He jumped, and pressed a hand to his heart, which from her sudden materialization, had started to verb.

“Sorry,” she said, the left side of her mouth lifting for a second. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”

She was pretty. Her hair was long and dark and neatly parted on the side. Her glasses sat crookedly on the bridge of her nose, and he couldn’t explain his desire to straighten them. He opened his mouth to say something hopefully clever, maybe to ask her name or if she was new because he’d never seen her before, but his mind felt like a giant intersection, all the strings of words confused as to which had the right of way.

She gestured to his car and said, “I have the same one.”

That explained the note. He looked up, across the neat rows of parked vehicles, and as if to assist him, she pointed. “I keep thinking I should get something newer,” she said. “But then I’d have to find new bumper stickers, and I don’t know that they make any like that anymore.”

She kept talking, something more about her car, but he had followed the line of her finger. One of the stickers read, “I’d rather be watching Firefly.”

And then he smiled, and his heart really started to verb.

Two Minutes Go: Spring Break Road Trip

Strange golden smoke taking away from coffee seedsHappy Friday, everybody! JD Mader is having some technical trouble today, so Two Minutes Go is at my place. So, pull up a chair, pour yourself some coffee, and enjoy. Or, as he so eloquently wrote in the bit I stole from his website:

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!

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.

Here’s one to start us off.

“He is always the smartest man in the room.” That’s what everyone used to say. Best student, best and brightest, all spit-polished and gleaming, walking tall in a beam of God-ordained sunlight while occasionally he wafted a little my way, as if in pity, as if sometimes hit with a sliver of consciousness that the good lord was lavishing too much goodness upon him and it was unfair to do that to humankind. Not once did he lack for something clever to say; not once did the hems of his pant legs not break crisp and perfect over his shiny shoes. But I knew differently. I saw her. Picking up his dirty socks as if he didn’t have human feet that sweat and stank. She smiled when she did so. Most of the time. Most of the time like a Disney princess in training. And then I skipped a class. Came home to the room I shared with Mr. Inevitable. Maybe she didn’t hear me come in; maybe for a second she was transfixed by one of those dirty socks, reexamining her life in a way I never thought her capable. I always thought guys like that grew to a certain age and God handed them one of these women, who had been similarly groomed to serve, and I felt pity for these women in the same way Mr. Sunbeam pitied me and the other paltry citizens of the planet. She and I, we’d never really talked before. Nothing more than the hellos and goodbyes in passing, the nods of recognition, her shy smiles that attempted to explain why she had a key to our room. It was not for nefarious reasons, certainly not the commerce of key juggling my friends and I had performed for our girlfriends. She was there to serve him in a more Godly manner. And serving him was what she was about that day, until I found her sitting on the bed, clutching one sock between her knees. Tears gleaming in the one beam of sunlight he’d left behind, a shining path of enlightenment down her bruised left cheekbone.

Halloween Anthology: Boo! Volume Three

Screen shot 2015-10-11 at 6.28.13 PMHappy Sunday! Halloween is almost upon us in North America-land, and with it comes the release of the newest Boo! anthology. Boo! Volume Three contains thirteen Halloween-inspired tales by an eclectic mix of authors, including Ann Cathey, Jen Daniele, Erin McGowan, LB Clark, Mala Rheston, Kristina Jackson, Rich Meyer, David Antrobus, and JD Mader.

Where else can you get that much talent and spooky fun for just 99 cents? Proceeds go to charity, and this year, the DB Collective has chosen The Turtle Island Restoration Project, an organization dedicated to protecting oceans and marine wildlife.

Thank you for your time. I hope you enjoy our stories.

 

 

 

Two Minutes Go ROAD TRIP!

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.

Hi, y’all.  JD had to go do some things to make the world a better place, so he handed me the keys for this week’s flash fiction rave and quilting bee. So make yourselves at home, kick off your shoes, raid the fridge… or, in the man’s own words that I stole from his website:

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!

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. 

Here’s one, a little longer than two minutes, to start us out:

The air teems with humidity, drafted from the open ocean, and the scent of mud. Always the scent of mud. It’s a beautiful aroma, the smell of money in the bank. George fills his lungs with it, presses a hand to his chest and smiles. Some scowl when he takes out his camera to shoot a stranded motorist, a mother risking her life to scoop a bawling child out of harm’s way; when he hands out his business cards, they accuse him of preying on destruction, on distress, to scare people into hiring his company at usurious rates. But he’s performing a public service, really. To repair, you first have to document. You have to show the possibilities, show what can happen if you don’t heed the warnings, if you let your children run around in this mess or don’t buy enough insurance. Mother Nature could be a raging bitch, could snap a hundred-year-old tree like so much kindling. So what if he feels a rush of righteous indignation when it crashes atop a car he could never afford? Hell. Maybe after the season, he’d buy one of those sweet rides for himself. Park it somewhere nice and safe, nowhere near the trees.

He thanks the wisdom of fishermen’s gear as he wades into a street-turned-river, teeming cocoa-brown with that heady aroma of moving earth, aiming for what looks like a good shot of a kitten clinging to a forked branch caught momentarily around the pole of a stop sign. From the roar of rushing water, a cop’s voice barks through, telling him to get the hell out of there. But he doesn’t listen. Just smirks: you do your job and I’ll do mine. Damn, the shot is perfect. Distressed little thing, eyes huge, fur matted. He raises the viewfinder to his eye, already seeing it on the cover of the next brochure, on the home page of the website. Something scrabbles beneath his feet and in the next second he’s off them, and in the sudden movement bobbles the camera, his hands lunging for it like a juggler in a strong wind. A curse is the last thing that leaves his lips as the current sweeps him away, bashing his head into a concrete retaining wall before carrying him downriver. The kitten, finding purchase in his stout back, plunges in her claws and rides his inert body to safety.

The Last Rejection Slip

Typewriter - Once upon a timeI’m no poet, but I had a little fun writing this during JD Mader’s Flash Fiction Friday. There’s so much great writing going on at 2 Minutes: Go. I hope you’ll check it out. And maybe next week, you’ll come write with us. Or read what results.

——–

The Last Rejection Slip

Dear author, confidentially,
I’ve had the opportunity
To peruse your latest tome
About the final sack of Rome
Or was it romance in the air
Between two alpha billionaires?
A clone of the latest big bestseller
Paranormal fortuneteller?
A steampunk Valley of the Dolls?
Amish gangsters and their molls?
While it’s brilliant, shows such pluck
It won’t help me make a buck.
Sorry for the frank report
There’s just too much mail to sort.
So thanks but no thanks, author friend,
And with this query I will send
My suggestion you self-publish
Check out Facebook, Twitter, Bublish.
If you do well, please advise
Because I’d like to cut my ties.
See, there’s a novel in my head
(Seinfeld meets The Walking Dead.)
I’m dying to get out of here
Publish more than once a year
Write the book I damn well please
And get bigger royalties.

2 Minutes Go Road Trip Redux

Cardinal_2During the night, the Mader signal shone through the fog into the night sky, and our hero put on his cape and sped away to fight for truth, justice, and the right to wear vintage clothing…and hats. Lots of hats. So he gave me the keys and his secret burrito recipe, and 2 Minutes Go is happening here today. Or, in Mr. Mader’s very words, which I stole from his blog:

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!

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.

——-

What? You miss the uber-cool orange background and the motorcycles at JD’s place? No worries. You can hang with Napoleon. Or just close your eyes and pretend. Vroom. Here’s a bit from me to start us out:

The ocean swallowed her whole. That’s the myth, anyway, the news story of the day, the collective shrug of a young nation with jazz on its mind and better things to do than investigate the disappearance of a pirate ship that had kidnapped a flighty American heiress in Dubai and taken her to a fate one could only imagine. You’ve been studying this lost cause for your dissertation—another lost cause. You’ve been studying her. Newsreels, microfiche, cracked and yellowed pages of magazines, the presses of which had long been dismantled or melted down and made into other things. Yes, the clothing – more like costume – looked frivolous and altogether impractical, unlike your up-and-run ensemble of jeans and T-shirts. And to the casual gazer, the smile would appear as if she didn’t have a care deeper than which bit of fluff to wear for dinner. But the eyes. They were smart. They held secrets. They told stories. You’d dug for them. You were relentless. Then your advisor called you into his office. Suggested a different angle. Suggested you’d been working too hard. Hinted at obsession. Problems at home, perhaps? Biting at the inside of your cheek, you thanked him for his concern, said you’d think about it. And then you had the dream. She was calling to you. Three nights straight, she called for you. Told you where to find her. So real, like you could reach out and touch her rouged cheek, her flapper jewelry that would now be called vintage and go for a mint. You took the plane ticket and left the note, because you could not bear to deliver the news in person and watch another face soften with concern, another pair of eyes attempt to hide their disapproval. Now you mash your toes into the hot sands of the desert by the ocean, waves of heat warping the margins between sand, sea, and sky. A bit of something down the beach sparkles in the sun. You dig. It’s battered, tarnished…but it’s real. A necklace, pearls embedded in a delicate, broken web of silver. Vintage. Hers.

What IS Flash Fiction, Anyway?

IdeaI’ve been writing flash fiction for a while now, and I love it. I began with Indies Unlimited’s weekly flash fiction contest and really enjoyed the writing challenge of winnowing a story down to the required 250 words. Then JD Mader was cool enough to open up his blog on Fridays to anyone who wanted to set a timer and try a little spontaneous flash. (Okay, sometimes we forget the timer.) I was hooked. I was so hooked that as the stories piled up, I thought about putting out a collection.

But based on some of the reader response, and a question from my father, I realize I left out one very important component: What the heck IS flash fiction, anyway?

Because she’s so good at explaining things (and because she wrote a really succinct post about the five elements of flash fiction), I’m going to leave it to one of my fabulous Indies Unlimited fellow minions, Lynne Cantwell.

As a general rule, flash fiction is considered to be less than 1,000 words long….Flash is a recognized format for fiction, with elements that each story ought to include.

1. A plot. To be clear, a flash fiction piece is a complete story. Just like a longer piece of fiction, your flash piece needs a beginning, a middle, and an ending. I saw one website that recommended writing an outline for each flash story. I think that’s going a little overboard; your outline could end up longer than the story. But if your story doesn’t have an ending – if, say, you find you’ve written a scene that could be part of a longer story, or even part of a novel – then it’s not technically flash fiction.

2.  Characters. You don’t have a lot of space to describe your characters, obviously, but readers should still be able to tell them apart. Use telling details that you can describe in a few words. Keep your character count low, and stick with one point-of-view.

You can read the rest of Lynne’s post on Indies Unlimited.

Here’s an example of one of my flash fiction pieces. I’d never written anything science-fictiony before, so this was a fun challenge.

Fitting Rooms

She strolled past a sign that read “Fitting Rooms” and caught a glimpse of the engineer’s handiwork in a reflective surface.

They’d done a good job.

She looked like most of the other human females she’d passed in the shopping mall. Hair like the others, a suitable length, the same vacant stare she’d emulated with the help of the simulation program. Now all she had to do was keep fitting in, and wait for the signal to start the next phase of her mission. They hadn’t told her what that was, and despite her queries, they still would not explain.

In fact, her trainer had taken her aside and said it was dangerous to ask twice, so she’d stopped.

Her attention was drawn all of a sudden to the collar of her shirt. Her reflection’s hand rose to straighten it, and she noticed that it was a different style than the type worn by the two females who’d just exited the rooms. That didn’t seem right. Maybe the engineer had made a mistake and had given her the wrong simulation.

She glanced up again at the sign on the wall. Perhaps this is where you go to be more fitting. So, following the lead of another, she grabbed a garment and disappeared behind the curtain.

That was when she felt the vibration. The chip implanted in her brain had been activated. Finally, she would know her purpose and how she could help her planet—but why was the vibration so loud? And that whine? It hurt…hurt…so sharp she gasped and dropped to her knees. The human females began to circle her, eyes questioning, hands reaching out, and as her consciousness ebbed away, the edges of her vision going black, she heard the faintest of voices in her mind: Independent thought detected…independent thought detected…indepen…

——-

Have a great weekend!

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