Friday Flash Fiction

Dave Stewart
Photo courtesy of Dave Stewart

Although I know from reading Dave’s story where this picture was taken, it first struck me as some place near home. That’s how I’m going to continue to see it, although its more exotic location is probably worth another story. This week, I’m staying close to home and recalling some of the legends we told ourselves as kids.

This story is in honor of my sister, Jan, who passed away four years ago this month. She kept me on my toes growing up. I miss that girl.

Word count: 101

Mind Games

“Someone died on that fence – that’s why it’s red. An evil ghost impaled them and blood went everywhere.” My sister spoke with authority. “Don’t walk by here alone or you’re next.”

I looked down at my shoes, scuffling dust as I sped up.

“You scared, baby?” I wasn’t a baby.

“See that note in the corner?” I had my ways of getting even.

“Yeah – so?”

Pulling it out, I studied it carefully. “It says ‘Beware, Jan. Beware.’”

Crumpling it, I stuffed the paper in my pocket and raced like a bat out of hell home, enjoying my short lived victory.

To see other stories, please visit the Rochelle Wisoff-Fields site here.
© Erin Leary

Friday Flash Fiction

Jennifer Pendergast

Jennifer Pendergast

I grew up hearing my dad’s colorful expressions. I realized as I got older that he’d modified them to make them kid friendly. He tried to spare our tender ears – at least, until he didn’t.

Word count: 101

Up a Creek

“You’re gonna be up Shit Creek without a paddle, my friend.” Dad slammed the phone down and took a handful of seed, throwing it in the wind. “If that rat-bastard thinks he can sell me a bagful of crap and get away with it, why I…”

Looking up, he noticed me standing there, mouth agape. “Sorry, son. You know, I never have shown you where Schitt Creek is, have I? We’ll plan that trip real soon.”

And with a sheepish smile on his face, he turned on his heel, the lousy bag of seed on his shoulder, heading purposefully to town.

To see other stories, please visit the Rochelle Wisoff-Fields site here.
© Erin Leary

Friday Flash Fiction

Doug Macilroy

Picture courtesy of Doug MacIlroy

This picture evokes a certain hunger, an emptiness that plagues creative types. I’m going to go with that as my theme this week.

Word count: 100

Missing Link

The pages mocked him with their blankness. Head in hand, he groaned deeply. With rewrites, he could move words around. It’s hard to work with nothing. His soul was as empty as the pages.

Hands poised over the keyboard, he plunged in. “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.” Typing on, “and bit him on the arse. Poor dog ran to the water’s edge to soothe his painful rear only to be pulled under by a gruesome phantom fish.”

Pure crap. But any words were better than none, or so he’d heard. All could be remedied with revisions.

© Erin Leary

To see other Friday Fictioneers, please visit here.

Ring in the New…

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As we come to the end of 2014, many people feel the pressure to do more – to set goals, to compare, to somehow quantify their journey in some meaningful way. I get that. I’ve done it. Even WordPress feeds into that by providing you with statistics on your site – which I find interesting and have shared in the past. But in looking at it now, another year wiser, I am not simply looking for quantity in my activity, but quality. Am I focused on the right things? Am I spending time where I need to spend it, not simply to boost my numbers?

On the whole, my blog had more visits and page views. That’s good. The bad is that I had a two month hole where nothing was posted and I was otherwise occupied with living my life – some of which included writing, but not blogging. Being a recovering over-achiever, I was annoyed to see that gap. I suddenly felt pressure to do MORE. Then I slapped myself back to reality and said “Not more, but better.” It’s so hard to stay on the path of quality when we are a hamster wheel driven society.

Yesterday, I had the luxury of being alone in my home for almost the entire day. That hasn’t happened in a long time. And I enjoyed it immensely. I did a few things on my chores list in order to justify my existence and get my Norwegian mother out of my head, then I made a conscious choice  to read as much as I wanted and to be as lazy as I needed. And it was wonderful. I enjoyed the peace and quiet, and realized I was completely comfortable, one cat curled up next to me, the dog at my feet, a cup of coffee at hand and a good book in front of me. I looked outside and saw blue sky and evergreen trees and had a moment of pure bliss. No one needed me, no one expected me, and I had nothing on my schedule that demanded my attention. That was a perfect moment. I need more perfect moments like that.

I doubt I could handle that much freedom every day, but as a once in a while thing, it was a treasure. On desperately busy days, I will look at it, like a scene in a snow globe and remember the feeling of being safe, warm, and just where I wanted to be and it will replenish me enough to carry on.

This year, as we countdown the final seconds, I will be thinking about the quality of my days and my writing. I want more perfect moments ahead and fewer crazy making ones. I want the right words to come, not just enough to fill a post or a page. I want to look back a year from now and know that I have done, if not more, then better. That’s the only goal I plan to set for 2015. It will have to be enough.

Year In Review – a look at my journey as a writer

I like to look back in December on the year that is ending – and when I think about this blog, I think about my goal of being a writer. It was here that I declared that goal to the world. I can say that I am closer now than I have ever been. In fact, there are some days when I willingly accept that is part of who I am and not just a game of pretend. I write a lot – and I am working on it in one fashion or another every day.

Over the past year, I’ve been busy – working full time, taking care of family, organizing and throwing a wedding for our only daughter – basically, a full plate and a busy life, all by itself. That’s just how I roll – busy is a usual state for me.

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I added a new twist to the mix this year by volunteering to be an intern for a Literary Agency. That has added a lot to my load, with the expectation that I’d read and review about two manuscripts a week. Some are short (35K words) and some go on for three times that long. My reading and blogging time has taken a hit – but I’m learning some really valuable lessons in the process.

As an intern, I’ve read 45 manuscripts in the past 8 months. I took a few weeks off while on vacation and around Laurel’s wedding, but my average is about 1.5 per week. Of those, 41 were fiction and 4 were non-fiction. The genres were all over the map – some took me way out of my normal zone, but that’s a refreshing exercise. My average reader’s report was about 2,250 words long for a total of 101,250 words. That’s a boatload of writing. Heck, that’s a fair sized novel.

I’ve learned a lot more about what makes a good query letter and have honed my ability to spot good writing versus crappy writing versus solid writing. There’s an indescribable something that good writers have that makes their manuscript stand out. I have had that experience only 2 times so far out of 45 – one time, it was something I thought I’d like and was pleased when I did, the second time, it was something I was sure I would not like and found it was wonderful. So – reading a lot of different authors’ works gives me a better insight into my own. I’m not a bad writer. I’m pretty good. But I have things to learn as well.

Out of these 45, I recommended 21 for revise and resubmit, 18 for rejection and 6 for representation. I don’t know if that’s what ultimately happened – I’m not in that part of the loop – but I do know that I find myself rooting for the writers and may be a little over generous about the revise and resubmit. I empathize with their plight.

I queried my completed manuscript to 20 agents, had 6 requests for partials that turned into 1 request for the full. It is still in the revise and resubmit zone. I got it back from the agent who’d requested it and am now trying to figure out how to incorporate the suggestions.

I’ve also been working on a new story. It’s at about 60,000 words and has kind of taken over my brain. I need to figure out if it’s worth pursuing or if it’s just a pile of words. So far, I think there’s a pony in there somewhere. I’ll keep digging.

I entered 6 writing contests and didn’t win a single one – but was a finalist in one and an honorable mention in another.

honmention

A piece I wrote years ago was accepted into an anthology and is now available on Amazon.

DBD      DBD2

I participated in a Blog Tour and enjoyed learning more about how others approach their writing. It was a fun exercise and I am looking for more opportunities to expand my network with other writers.

I finalized a writing project that I’d been working on for over a year. It was a Guide to Mentoring handbook based on my experience as a mentor during my career. I put it together and shared it through our company’s mentoring organization and it has been provided to many of our new hires as they join the company. I feel good knowing people are reading it. I continue to write articles at work for our various platforms and provide editorial services where needed.

Last but not least, I continue to try to do the Friday Flash Fiction piece and was successful about half the time this year. I have not been a very good blogger, but I have not abandoned it, either. I will aim to be more dedicated in 2015!

All in all, it was a busy and good year. I have had a chance to learn, I’ve honed my own writing skills and I’ve stretched myself in new directions. I feel good about the progress I’m making, even though there are many days when I kick myself for not writing more regularly. I think that’s part of the writer’s process. We like to kick ourselves. Just for fun.

I have a sign in my home office the simply says “Believe”. I put it up there, feeling slightly ridiculous, because what are the odds that I could really make the transition to being a writer? But I look at it and every now and then I find myself smiling. I am making this happen. And I do believe. I do.

Believe

Scenes from a marriage

It comes to me in pieces – fragments of my life that are like a patchwork quilt, well-worn and soft with age. Remnants of memories lay up against one another; each evokes its own truth. It is the composite that makes it work – the individual memories are insufficient to make up the whole pattern.

“Mommy, what does divorce mean?” my almost six year old son asks one day. I am at the ironing board, ironing his father’s handkerchiefs, a job I only did to be a good wife, and hated for its tedium and futility. No one cared they were ironed. No one but him. For me it was a way to prove I was a caring wife who still tended to his needs, but I was building resentment, square by perfectly folded square.

My heart froze a little. Had he somehow telepathically picked up on my resentment? Was he asking because he could see into my heart and knew that I had been thinking about just that for some time now? Why would this word be on his mind? I asked my son where he’d heard it and he said on TV.

“Oh.” I said, and thought of all that word meant to me. His father, having lifted his head out of the newspaper, replied a little too smugly, “That’s when two people decide they no longer want to be married. It’s something you’ll never have to worry about, son.” The smugness in his voice was what did me in. He sat there, behind his newspaper, self-satisfied and confident.

Time froze in that moment. A realization captured in time and I knew then that he and I had never been further apart. After fifteen years of marriage, thoughts of freedom flitted in and out of my mind daily. I longed for real change, and the only way, other than divorce, was if he vaporized. Poof! No longer in our lives. Hearing him state with certainty that divorce was never going to happen made me realize how bad things were. I felt so disconnected. So alone. I wanted to scream, but no voice came. And so I ironed. Fiercely.

The next piece is in the counselor’s office, where I finally insisted he join me. I didn’t want to; what I wanted was to run away and escape with my kids. I did it because I am good at trying to do the right thing.

“On a scale of 1 –10, how do you rate your marriage’s potential to last?” asked the counselor. We had been meeting together for months. She knew how far gone I was already. He answered “Ten– it will last forever.” I looked at the floor and said “Two.” I wasn’t sure I could stay married another day. He asks her if there is medicine that she can give me to make me happier. He thinks the problem is mine. I know that isn’t true.

Another fragment, this time in our bedroom. He wants to make love. I don’t. I tell him it is the only way he’ll really get this – I am not able to convince him how bad our relationship is. He is unhappy. He thinks sex will fix it. At least it makes him feel better. He sits on the bed and I tell him I need for us to live apart. That living together with all its hostility is no good for anyone. He cries. Not tears of regret, but tears of absolute bewilderment. How did this thing happen to him? He was losing his caretaker. In many ways, he now had to consider entering the world on his own. He was frightened. He wanted assurances it would be temporary. I could not give them.

Another square. The most painful. It broke the kids’ hearts and spirits that day. Sitting in our family room together with our young children, saying that mom and dad need to live apart because they are having trouble loving each other. Suddenly, the talking Simba the Lion says, “We’ll always be together.” And I look at my husband then and cry, for our lost future. My son says it is his worst nightmare come true. My three year old daughter pats her daddy’s back and tells him it will be all right. If ever there was a moment when I might have changed my mind, that one was it. It will always hurt to recall the pain we shared.

Moments blur. Sped up by emotions, all cycling toward the end. Losing pieces as they flew away in an attempt to keep my sanity. With all the unraveling, it’s hard to imagine that something was being created. It was the quilt of the end of my marriage, the start of a new life. The pieces are not stitched together, but flutter next to each other, gently reminding me of all that was and all that would never be.

Submission for I am Subject

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© Erin Leary

Five Hundred Word Fiction

Because some of you asked for it, here is the combined story of betrayal and revenge.  Let me know what you think!

Hay Fever

Walking down the village lane, the smell of hay brought it all back. Their summers spent on the farm, the warm afternoons in the hayloft, their moans the only sound disturbing the mice.  Anne shook her head at the long ago memory; at their folly, his hay fever, the sneezing.

She stepped up her pace to reach the pharmacy, not wanting to keep her husband waiting and make him crosser than he had been lately.  Jason’s allergies had been bothering him this week.  She hurried to him, taking his arm with a swift kiss on his cheek. Eyes red-rimmed and weepy, he cursed the hay truck as it passed.

“Damn hay – gets me every time” he said, sneezing loudly.

Suddenly, she knew where he’d been that afternoon.  Suddenly, she knew.

“Let’s stop by the school on our way home.  I meant to bring home some lab reports to grade.”

He grumbled, not wanting to miss his show on TV.  She assured him there was time.  They walked up the lane toward the old school house, hand in hand like the old days.  Anne’s eyes sparkled with energy and purpose.  She patted his shoulder as they entered the classroom.

“I’ll just be a minute, dear.” Wearily, he folded his long body into the chair.  He turned toward the window, scanning the playground, wild poppies coming into bloom along the edge.  The old school bell hung silent, its frayed rope at rest.

“It’s a lovely day, isn’t it, sweetheart?” Anne rifled through papers at her desk.

“Yes, lovely.  I quite enjoyed it, actually.”  Jason smiled slyly to himself, remembering.

“I’m glad, dear.” Malice laced her words, and as Jason turned back toward Anne, she struck the first blow.  With each downswing of the fire extinguisher came an accusation, tapping into the years of denial their marriage had required.  The dam broken, there was no going back. Anne kept hitting him in her rage, stopping only as he slumped in the chair. Urgently, she gathered her papers, cleared away any evidence of her presence and opened the acid drip on the chemicals she’d set beneath, knowing their volatility.

Striding away, Anne imagined him there, slowly coming to, eyelids scraping like sandpaper as he struggled to see clearly.  Head throbbing, he’d evaluate his situation.  Tied to a chair, towel stuffed in his mouth, trapped. She hoped his memory would clear enough to remind him of his transgressions: his betrayals, her revenge complete.

She wondered if he’d try to reach the school bell and call for help.  He could try rocking the chair forward, slowly, oh so slowly, inching his way to it.  Anne felt the fear as it would prickle along the back of his neck; he would by then recognize the smell of smoke and know hope was lost.

Smiling as she passed the fire station, Anne heard the explosion and the following siren.  They would not arrive in time.  And she would be long gone before they were able to identify him.

© Erin Leary