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.

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.


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.



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.”


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.


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.

Flash Fiction, Freelance Edition

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?

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.


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 “Flash Light”

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.