Two-Minutes-Go Extended Road Trip

file0001863294772Well. Apparently I failed to break the blog last week, so while JD is giving Santa Claus a lift to the North Pole on his motorcycle, I felt duty-bound to step in again. That’s the new cover story for the NSA. Don’t tell them I said that.

Or, in a passage 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:

Ezra barely slept that night. The decision had been forming and unforming in his mind, sparking him out of fitful catnaps as he weighed the consequences of each choice. As he slurped coffee and stared into his squinty-eyed reflection the next morning, he knew he couldn’t leave it to a simple coin flip. There was right, and there was wrong, and he might lose his job or worse, but when he laced up his boots and ground step after step into the frozen earth on his way to the factory, he knew what had to be done. He was careful to greet his coworkers the same way as always, with smiles and backslaps and the same, tired jokes. Pushing out enthusiasm that he didn’t feel, because if they sensed anything was different, they might suspect. He might be called out to face the Big Boss, who surely would ask why the change in attitude. And then he could not lie. He was not bred for lies. When he took his place at the assembly line, he had to crush his hands into fists to hide the shaking, and when the aproned worker to his left seemed to notice this small gesture, he laughed and said, “Must be the cold,” and she handed him a pair of fingerless gloves. He would probably miss her the most.

The bell rang, signaling the start to their shift, and the conveyor belt began to move. Ezra sucked in a deep breath and steadied himself on increasingly unsteady legs. Heart pounding in his oversized ears, he let the base assembly pass him by. And then another. He knew it wouldn’t take long for them to notice; one elf not doing his or her work was bound to gum up the operation and fast.

A light flashed. The line supervisor called his name. The room went silent. Ezra waited, hands raised, as if in surrender. He cleared his throat and swallowed, then spun to face the head elf.

“I don’t care,” he said. Forcing more strength into his words. “Put me on dolls or trains or teddy bears. Or banish me from the workshop. But I’m not making toy guns anymore.”

Two-Minutes-Go Road Trip

writerWhile JD is wading some mountain stream in search of Moby-Trout, or at least that’s what he told me to say when the FBI come by asking questions about him, he’s entrusted our Friday flash fiction fandango to me. No Black Friday crowds here. Just a place to share some words.

Or, in a passage 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:

The air cooled a few degrees, and that’s when I knew she’d arrived. So I snuck up the back stairs, and at a safe remove on the balcony, I readied myself to eyeball the intruder. Rumors had been flying about her—her beauty, her feline grace and charm that belied a volcanic temper. But before any polite introductions could be made, before we could circle each other and stake our claims, I had to see for myself. Evaluate the potential trouble.

And she looked like trouble. Green eyes widening, she flattered the hosts while scoping out the room, hunting her next mark. I knew that game. My muscles went on alert, a ripple of tension beneath my skin, tiny hairs standing on end like tiny field agents reporting to command. No. Boundaries must be set. There could be no room for misinterpretation, here. This was my turf. I’d been deftly ingratiating myself to these people for years. I had them just where I needed them, each step of the plan clicking neatly into position, and I could not allow some slick interloper to get between me and what I deserved.

They were calling for me. I set my expression. Welcoming, but cool. Calm, but alert. One that spelled delighted to meet you, my dear, but no need to make yourself comfortable, because I’m sure you won’t be staying long enough to even learn what kind of soaps are in the powder room.

Ready, finally, because I would not be rushed, I sashayed down the stairs. And on the second from the bottom, I froze. She had her nose in my food dish. In. My. Food. Dish. The hairs on my back shot to attention. I did not care a whit how lovely she was. This meant war.

Flash Fiction Smashing Pumpkins Edition

pumpkinA story I wrote for this week’s 2-Minutes-Go was partially inspired by actual events. Four years ago, Hurricane Irene wiped out many of the Hudson Valley’s pumpkin patches, among other devastation. Pumpkins float, in case you weren’t aware, and when the flood waters rose in New Paltz, the crop at Wallkill View Farms was washed into the neighboring river, disappointing children and amusing reporters for miles around. On a recent drive, seeing all the jack o’ lanterns on the front stoops, I was reminded of the news footage of the renegade pumpkin flotilla.

——-

The wind picked up. Eyeing his quarry as he wobbled on the east bank of the Wallkill, Pete threw out his arms and prayed for balance, his slick dress shoes doing a piss-poor job against the wet grass and the mossy rocks. This was supposed to be a quick trip. A fast dash up the Thruway, pick out a pumpkin at the big farm market, return home triumphant. A hero to his little girl, not so little anymore. But the old farmer had just lifted his raggedy eyebrows and laughed at him. “There go your pumpkins,” he said, waving a hand toward the swollen river. “Guess you don’t read the papers much, huh.”

And indeed, there went the pumpkins. A recent flood had turned the Springtown flats into a lake and, lighter than they looked, the gourds had left the building, so to speak, turning the Wallkill into a giant bob-for-produce tub.

This was ridiculous, Pete knew as he stood on the bank, the old farmer’s bark of a laugh piercing his memory, that this rash action would not make her forgive him. Would not erase the narrowed eyes, the huff, the slamming of the door. He’d tried so hard to get to the school in time to see her solo last night, but it was like the world had conspired against him. Meeting running late. Then traffic. And the goddamned rain. Now, silence from his only daughter. Before the divorce, they’d take their yearly pilgrimage to the valley, to the farm market, and she’d delight in picking out her own jack o’ lantern pumpkin. But this year, she couldn’t be bothered. His fault? Her mother’s? The adolescent need to distance herself from her parents? He didn’t know. Maybe all three.

He focused on one of the orange globes, bobbing in what looked like approachable distance. It wasn’t too bad, didn’t look like it had been damaged in its slalom along the rocks. He inched down the slope, knees shaking, his hand going for the security of a fairly strong-looking sapling.

“Come here, baby,” he crooned, stretching as far as he could. His fingertips were nearly brushing it when his feet began to move. As if they were fresh-waxed skis on the diamond slope. He knew he was done. That he was powerless to stop. He knew in that way that lengthened time, that had him windmilling his arms in an ineffectual, cartoonish attempt to change…nothing.

And then all he felt was cold. Cold water, seizing his lungs, pressing against his flailing arms, until his hands hit…something smooth. Something round. Something solid. He hugged the object as if it were his retreating daughter, as if it were the only thing standing between him and that slamming door. When they finally dredged him out, shivering with hypothermia, minus one shoe and laughing maniacally, he was still clinging to the pumpkin.

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.

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.

———-

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.

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.

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.”

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

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.

—– Continue reading