Category Archives: Storytelling

Yes, I Am

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NaNo_2019_-_Poster_Design_1024x1024 To order this beautiful poster print, use this link: NaNoWriMo Poster

Yes, I am taking part in this year’s NaNoWriMo event. It is kicking my buttocks and taking names.

For those who don’t know:

NaNoWriMo is a month-long writing challenge to get out the Great Novel you swear is in you.

  • Start a brand new Novel on November first;
  • write EVERY day during that same month;
  • Match, or surpass, the daily word goal they have set, just a teeny tiny bit under 1,700 words a day;
  • Ultimate Goal: 50,000 words that will hopefully lead to a brand spanking new novel.
    • Yes, 50K does not a novel make. Start it, write more, boom! Novel.

As of 11/10/2019, I have scribed 16,684 words of my “novel” idea, one that has been percolating since 2010. Yes, I know, not “brand new” 100%, but I’ve discarded so many ideas over the years of how to approach this. New start, new path. New. Don’t mention all the first chapter first drafts that I wrote, and deleted.

Don’t. Mention. Them.

I joined a Buddy Group. I signed up on the main site. Posted my daily achievements on the site and on FB. Procrastinated a bit (why do you think I’m writing this post?). And thought and thought, researched and thought, finally actually sitting in front of my WIP and adding more and more as the days pass.

Check it all out if you like. I am not discussing exactly what I am writing, but, sad to say, it is not The Abysmal Dollhouse. That is a major editing re-write that I’m taking a few steps back from. It’s a bigger job than I initially thought: to take the individual pieces and novelize them.

UGH!

If you enjoyed AD, I think you’ll enjoy the new WIP.

I’ll be silent here for the rest of November. For those who celebrate Thanksgiving, go celebrate.

Celebrate anything that warms the cockles of your heart. Fight for your right…to PARTAY!

Don’t drink and drive.

Upended, IRL

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Escher

Relativity by M. C. Escher

Upended, IRL

“Mabel, you’re upside down again.”

Daphne sighed, folding her arms tightly across her chest.

She was disappointed that the unusual was becoming the norm.

The sight of Mabel being upside down made it difficult for Daphne to understand: was Mabel aware of the problem?

Daphne tried placing mirrors in strategic locations to provide feedback to Mable.

Mabel thought that Daphne was confused about who was upside down.

The bell from the Ice Cream Truck rang out from down the street.

Mabel wasn’t sure if the sound came from the left or the right side.

It was just enough to remind her that chocolate was her favorite flavor.

Mabel got her coat and went out to the Ice Cream Truck.

When she got there, the Ice Cream man was upside down as well.

Daphne, right behind her, paid for the chocolate ice cream cone, clicked her heels, and joined the others, upside down.

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Notes:

For the past month, I have been leading an Intro To Creative Writing/Storytelling class. This was set up by an organization that offers hands-on explorations for the senior community in New Rochelle, NY (but is open to anyone in the area). In our final session, I closed the group with a Round Robin writing challenge. I gave them a prompt from #storyseeds cards, created by Laura Packer. I randomly pulled a card from the pack and used that for the opening line: “Mabel, you’re upside down again.”

Everyone wrote that down in their writer’s journal and then added the next sentence. Once everyone lowered their pens, the journals were passed to the right. That person had to continue the story with, again, one sentence. Pens lowered. Pass to your right. This was repeated until the writer’s own journal was in front of them. They had to option to add one more sentence (they all did) to tie the story up the best they could.

The entire group enjoyed this activity. It also gave them a piece of everyone involved to take home with them. That, in itself, created a beautiful close to our group. Community happens when you allow it and help it grow.

The above is from my journal. After the prompt, the first and last lines are mine. The rest is a piece where I can carry all of them along with me. All the stories were different. Most had whimsey and humor; a few took on a more serious tone in places. Different POV’s/ways of thinking coming together.

Keep writing.

Unintended Consequences

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UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES

7c293f567878d204f3613fb0926af1b4--illuminated-letters-illuminated-manuscriptnce upon a time there was a household in turmoil. One sister, one brother, and a widow who had lost the will to keep her children proper. Her husband left her with the debt of the home and the banes of her life.

illustrated Every day the siblings fought, cursed, threw fragile items at each other, stole what they could and sold those items. They wound up at the village pub drinking until oblivion took them both.

illustrated But one day the widow unexpectedly left, never to return. By the end of the first week they tore through the makings of their home. What they couldn’t sell, they bartered. They ate, drank, and took care of their baser needs.

illustrated Because of that they soon ran out of money. The sister and brother had to vacate, unable to pay the house debt. With little more than a bag of clothing each, they set off in opposite directions. The sister vowed to never to see her brother again. He felt the same.

illustrated Because of that as they traveled, taking whatever work they could find. Without the sense to save what they could, the sister and brother would find themselves penniless soon after receiving pay. What wasn’t spent on food and alcohol went to gambling. Outside of the comfort and safety of the village they grew up left them adrift. Often robbed, both suffered beatings, and sometimes worse.

illiustrated Until finally, many months later, each sibling took root in a haven. Broken to their cores by this time, they each had the chance to rebuild their lives. Both found themselves welcomed and absorbed into the communities they now called home.

illustrated E coloredver since then each found acceptance, and love, in their ways. They kept their vows: they never saw each other ever again. As to the widow, she moved in with her sister and her family in a completely different direction from her children’s wanderings. She never heard from, or saw, them again. She lived out her life in bliss.

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Author’s Notes:

  1. The above was from #FlashFiction Prompt from my friends over at Fiction Can Be Fun. This time, the prompt was just this: A case of the law of unintended consequences. Rules are simple:
  • Word count: 500 – 1,500 (ish)
    Deadline: 2pm GMT on Friday 11th October 2019
  • Post your story on your site and link to it here in the comments below, or drop us a line via the contact us page and we’ll post it for you.

The proprietors of Fiction Can Be Fun, Debs and David, are working on a shared novel that I can’t wait to read (yes, I still would love to be a Beta reader for the two of you). I met them during the AtoZ Blog Challenge in April of 2018, and I’m glad we have remained in contact. Visit their page. Lots of great stories, challenges, and essays to sink your teeth into.

2) The words in italics after the illuminated letters is from an Improv technique I’ve used for years in warmups and in my workshops and school residencies. I recently found out that the style is credited to Kenn Adams, author, educator, teaching artist, and performer. He is the Artistic Director of Synergy Theater based in Islip, New York (but they do travel across the country).

The pattern for Improv, and what I used above, is:

  • Once upon a time
  • Every Day
  • But one day
  • Because of that
  • Because of that
  • Until finally
  • Ever since then

If running this in a warm-up or as a rehearsal exercise, the amount of Because of that would increase due to how many were in attendance.

And…sorry, Debs & David, the word count is only 321.

Points For Style

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POINTS FOR STYLE

The doorbell rang and Esther’s eyes flew open. She had been napping on the couch. There was a groan, followed by an “OW!” as she started to raise her head. The bell rang again. Esther yelled “I’m coming! I’m coming!” in a hoarse, phlegmy way.

Esther made multiple noises, verbally and bodily, as she leveraged her way to a sitting position. They mixed with the occasional muttered curse. An “Oh, shit!” punctuated the calliope of sounds. The library book she had been reading, before she nodded out, fell to the floor. The bookmark went flying free, coming to rest on the other side of the coffee table. Her back creaked more as she retrieved the book.

Grumbling, Esther forced her swollen feet into her pink mules. Getting to her feet was a feat. Her smart-aleck son called this her “Rice Krispee Olympic Maneuver. From Prone to Standing in 6.5 minutes, accompanied by snapping, crackling, and popping, the whole way through.

“Putz,” she muttered, the pain holding back the sometimes smile that comments made. Esther adjusted her faded baby blue housecoat and touched her thinning hair.

Something was hitting the door as she shuffled out of the living room to the main foyer. It was a consistent, rhythmic beat. Already, the vein in her right temple began to throb. Esther cursed some more under her breath, still loud enough for others to hear (though she denied it every time). She thought she was quiet. End of story.

Even though she thought she knew who it was at the door, she still asked: “Who is it?” Esther had to: she could no longer reach the peephole and peer out of it.

“It’s me, Grandma. Becky. I have to go to the bathroom!”

Esther tsked and winced as she began to unbolt the three locks and then unchain the door. The blood rose in her cheeks: she hoped none of the neighbors heard Rebecca. Esther loved her granddaughter, but it was times like this she wanted nothing more than to give her a little zetz.

Taking a few steps back after “The Great Unlocking, another of her son’s quips, Esther grasped the doorknob. She turned it, bit her lip as arthritis in her hand flared, and opened the door. Her mouth dropped open as Rebecca skittered in.

“Hi, Grandma” rushed forward, followed by a cheek kiss and running into the apartment. Esther heard the bathroom door slam shut and the lock click.

The front door was still open and Esther still had her hand on the doorknob. A noise from down the hall startled her. It was Beverly, taking a bag of garbage to the incinerator door. They made eye contact, nodded, fake smiled at each other, and as one opened a door the other one closed hers.

Esther locked the bottom lock. She was back in the living room, sitting on the couch when she realized that she hadn’t bolted the other two locks. Nor did she re-chain the door.

She heard the bathroom sounds then. Flushing. The sink water turned on full blast, then off. The bathroom door unlocked and Rebecca came into the living room. Esther’s eyes roamed up and down the teenager.

Becky saw she was getting The Look. She sat down in the wing-back chair that had always been her favorite seat when visiting. She crumbled into it, threw both of her legs over the right chair arm, and sighed.

“What?”

Esther’s son warned her: “Don’t make a big deal out of this,” he told her over the phone. “This is not the ‘Big Fight!’ It’s a phase,” he emphasized. “She’s not hurting anyone. Do not start,” he demanded. Esther gritted her teeth at this memory.

She stared at her granddaughter, her Rebecca. Her Shayna Maidel. Her pretty girl. She stared, and in her head repeated: “it’s only a phase.”

Rebecca’s hair was dyed ink-black, cut short and spiky. All white face makeup. Exaggerated black mascara and eyeliner. Dark purple lips. A short red plaid skirt, legs showing through torn black stockings. Those horrible black Doc Martins. Her tee-shirt was one of her father’s that he got from a concert: T-Rex, faded black, with the sleeves torn off.

“Darling,” Esther said behind a strained smile. “Is that a dog collar around your neck? With spikes?”

Becky nodded her head.

Esther nodded hers.

They sat looking at each other for a bit.

Finally, Esther sighed.

“Bubala, are you hungry?”

Becky smiled, got out of the chair, and said: “Yes, grandma. Here, let me help you.” She moved to Esther’s side, knowing her grandmother. It took a moment, but together they got her standing.

“Oh shit!” they said in unison, and then went to the kitchen for a nosh.

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Author’s Notes:

The above is from another writing group I am a member of. Today’s prompt was the above title: Points For Style. Style can mean many things, and the writers today took the prompt and delivered very different interpretations. Some very thoughtful, some amusing. We wrote for less than an hour and then shared. Hope you enjoy my piece.

I AM RUNNING A FOUR WEEK CREATIVE WRITING PROGRAM

Starting on Friday, October 11th, I will be leading a Creative Writing/Storytelling workshop, from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm.

Held in New Rochelle, NY (lower Westchester County), the workshop can be reached by car or by the Metro-North Train stop (New Haven line). It is accessible to any of the five bouroughs of NYC, Westchester County, Rockland County, lower Connecticut, and Northern New Jersey.

Primarily created for the newly retired community, the sessions are open to anyone wanting to flex their creative writing muscles.

For full information and to sign up, please click on the following link:

Storytelling 101: An Intro to Creative Writing.

If you know anyone who would benefit, I’d appreciate it if you could pass this on.

Thank you!! Hope to see some of you there.

Grassy Fields

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Grassy Field

There are sixteen words for love. Showing love is limitless. How either is perceived, the depth that it touches or bounces away, can change, depending.
 
Depending on the moment, the time of the day, or the year. Depending on the weather that has moved on or that envelops you in the now. Depending if it was heartfelt or only going through the motions. Depending if it was a complete and utter lie. It all depends.
 
She sits on fallen red and burnt orange leaves, leaning against the trunk of the tree, staring out across the open dale. Before her the grass bends to the right. The same breeze sends tendrils of her long brown hair in the same direction. Strands wrap themselves across her cheeks and nose. It is a soft reminder that she needs a trim, letting things go.
 
The hunter green fisherman’s sweater is large on her. It falls below her waist and over her hands. She is happy she chose this to wear today; cocooning herself inside, the tight cable knit blocking out most of the chill. She pulls the collar up and over her nose, the smell of last night’s first fireplace usage buried deep in the skein.
 
Another gust and her hair is flung over, and into, her eyes. Both hands pop out of her sleeve cover to secure the hair, forming a loose braid. She knows it won’t hold.
 
Maybe I shouldn’t have come here today,” she says to the field. ‘Maybe this wasn’t the best idea I’ve had.” She waits, still against the tree trunk. “No answer, huh?”
 
A short burst of chilled air hits her in the side of the face, sending her head back, bumping into the bark behind her. She laughs, touching the spot that she is sure will produce a small bump. She tilts her head back, her eyes moving away from the green to the blue.
 
The sparsely clouded sky has shifted in density and speed. White masses move past, some forming into larger floating islands. Off in the near distance a few of these are growing dark. The wind is picking up.
 
The tree sheds more leaves. As they drift down and around, she notices a bright red one tumbling down towards her. She watches its approach. It sways and circles, finally placing itself on the upper part of her face, covering her eyes.
 
Picking up the stem, she runs the opposite index finger over the edge of the leaf. A piece flecks off. Brittle. She twirls the stem, the red shape going in and out of focus. Her movements, at first, are soft and slow, an imitation of the leaf’s descent. She increases the force, now sharp and jagged. Finally, encircling the leaf in her hand, she closed it into a fist. Crushed, tiny red flakes get brushed off her hand as she stands.
 
She walks away from the tree to stand at the edge of the grassy field. She reminds herself why she came here, why she came on this particular day.
 
There are sixteen words for love. She thought she had said them all.
 
She thought she had shown love in a myriad of ways.
 
She thought it all depended on how it was received.
 
She walks back to her car, burrowed deep into the cable knit fisherman’s sweater.

They Ran

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Photograph by Shari Marshall ©

THEY RAN

Propped up by the blasted wall, seven faced their executioners.

Each of the seven different from the other, facing seven of one kind, their weapons raised.

“This is war,” echoed in seven languages, “and you ran. No excuses. No pleas. No last words, signs, or prayers. Nothing. You ran. Others of your kind died. It would have been the same if you aimed at them yourselves and fired.”

A nod. Of the runners: three fell; one cut in half; one shattered; another fused into the wall; one vaporized.

Seven colored fluids pooled; the only mix allowed beyond the Rim worlds.

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Author’s Note: The picture above, by Shari Marshall, was a prompt posted on her page, Writing is Communication. The prompt was to use her photo, created your tale on your own blog, then post a link to your story in her comments section.  We each see what we see in the photo. This was my take.

I also did this as a Drabble (100 words exact). Beyond posting a link, and using the photo prompt, you can go anywhere with the photo.

Give it a shot.

Pun intended.

My Hot Fling With Ashton Kutcher: Flash Fiction (Prompt)

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FLASH FICTION PROMPT

MY HOT FLING WITH ASHTON KUTCHER

Top-down on my Shelby Mustang Convertible, white canvas snug against the red cherry finish, Ashton and I cruise along Route 1. Food was the topic of discussion, led by the intermittent growls from our stomachs. There was a stretch of road where they held a deep conversation, with each expressing a point vs. counterpoint on which fast food death-pit we were passing at the moment. Ashton and I laughed after the fifth such conversation, holding out stomachs more to quiet them down than to ease the aches.

The stereo was on 11 since we drove in the open air. Our playlist was Spotify controlled, a created loop aggregated through hours of controlled listening. Ashton skipped a couple of tunes I only heard one or two notes of, settling on Flo Rida and smiling. He had the remote and the wheel. I was fine until a K-Pop pop was “suggested.” Thus began the 1.3 mile Battle of the Remote, which I won by telling a very bad pun. I switched the playlist. Little Willie John, followed by Robert Johnson. The Blues moved us along, cool wind in our hair.

“Turn left at the next light.”

I was The Navigator on this part of our road trip. I took the role seriously, as did Ashton in his role as The Driver. The Navigator calls the shots, is always right and gets the last word in where the traveling winds up.

A gear shift and a sigh came from my left. I looked over: Ashton gave me the side-eye, which made me chuckle. He had a destination he wanted to get to; it was just without any definite time constraint. That wasn’t for the sigh. I had nowhere to be, nowhere to go, and he knew that.

“You could have let me drive, y’know,” I told him.

“Yeah, I should have. But, ” he smiled, “you are a maniac when you are aimless. So…”

“So, yeah.” I let a few blocks whiz by. “There. Turn right.” I pointed in my most Captain Obvious way. Ashton did without braking. “Good boy!”

Signs started popping up for various coastal beaches as we headed along the road. I must have let out a noise of interest because Ashton began to lightly curse under his breath. He’d seen the signs as well. They weren’t ominous signs, just ones we both knew were time killers.

I noticed something up ahead on the right that lit me up. Directing Ashton to pull over and park forestalled any argument that might have been forming. As the engine pinged down, we looked to our right. Frank’s Brick Oven. Just what our growling tummies ordered.

The driver door slammed shut, and Ashton joined me at the curb.

“You knew about this place?” he asked.

“Nope. Kismet. Synchronicity. That Old Pizza Magic. Food. Yes?”

“Yes.”

Ashton had a much longer gait and got to the door first. He stopped mid-step in. I had to squeeze by, a little shove working. I froze, too, as the aroma assailed our nostrils and sent them flaring. Laughter greeted us from a waitress who was standing in front of the counter and from the counter guy behind it. I answered their laughter with a huge smile. Ashton did as well, adding “Two, please.”

Our stomachs agreed as they gurgled in complicit harmony that sent all four of us laughing.

Debbie was our waitress, shiny and new out of High School, waiting for Freshman Year at Quinnipiac College to begin. If I said that she was smitten with Ashton, I’d hold the world’s record for understatements. She did get our orders; well, Ashton helped a bit, thereby pointing out I was sitting opposite of him. Once she unglued her eyes from him, the table for two was firmly acknowledged by Debbie. I still took that as a victory.

We placed our orders: a Keto Kale Kumbaya veggie mess for Ashton while I asked for a spicy Italian meat monster. Water was fine for both of us, but Ashton asked for slices of cucumber in his, hold the ice. Debbie sighed as she took the menus from us, more so when she took Ashton’s. “Of course, Mr. Ashton” giggles got only gigglier when he told her to just call him Ashton.

I might as well have been invisible.

Both of the pizzas sent our senses into overdrive, the smell first as Debbie approached with them and then the taste with our first bites. I got another side-eye from Ashton when my pie was put down. I had already looked askance at his. We had a few rules, and this was one of them: at the meal table, our “No Proselytizing” sign went into effect. It made our respective digestions easier and let us remain friends.

We ate. We talked. We commiserated and joked. Debbie and the counter guy, Sal, got their autographs and selfies (I even got into one, a little off to the side). As Debbie was clearing the table, I ordered two large cheese, cut into 16 slices. To go. That got me my third side-eye, although this one was straight on. It’s not an easy thing to do, but Ashton nailed it. My hands did the talking, patting the air down, as I tried to settle my face into neutral. I shrugged my shoulders. Ashton let it be.

We paid, left a generous tip, and took the steaming pies to the car. I handed them to Ashton and raced to the driver’s door. As he was getting in, he was going to put the pies behind him in what Ford laughingly called a “back seat.”

“Hey!” I blanched. “Not on the leather!”

Ashton nodded, placing the very hot pies on his legs, balanced so between hands and knees for the lesser of potential pain. He understood what the Mustang meant.

Pulling away from Frank’s wasn’t easy, but carrying the goodies we had helped. I drove down the road a few miles until I saw the next beach sign. I glanced over at Ashton: he was staring off to the right. You could just see the glint of the Sound in between the flashes of the houses and trees. He didn’t even try to be The Navigator. He knew.

We found a parking spot two and a half blocks from the beach. I took one of the pizza’s from Ashton as we made our way. As we got to the entrance path eyes started turning our way. I nodded to Ashton our destination: a rocky outlook with a slight crest that led right to the roiling waves. He was looking around, making eye contact and returning “Hi’s” and “Hello’s,” but he acknowledged where we were going.

Along the way, I opened up my pizza box, offering a slice to anyone who passed by or approached. Ashton followed suit. Once emptied, a couple of kids took the boxes off our hands. We could hear them arguing over who was going to keep Ashton’s box, even though I told them he had handled both in the car.

We sat on the rocks for a long time. Ashton finally remembered he had a destination in mind, and that I had not.

The sun was setting behind us as we got in the Mustang, turned the engine on, and let the Blues wash over us.

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Author’s Note: THIS WAS A PROMPT. Repeat: THIS WAS A PROMPT.

I have never met Mr. Kutcher, know very little about him beyond what the tabloid press and Twitter say about him, and this piece, hopefully, keeps in the spirit of what he is about. At no point was this meant to demean, start a rumor, or any of the other silly nonsense that the internet is kinda-sorta known for. Now, if it had been his wife Mila Kunis instead, I probably would have chosen that, but…ahem…well, it wouldn’t be here on Tale Spinning.

People: chill.

At one of the two (three?) writing groups I attend, we were asked to write up to FIVE story titles with the caveat being that NONE OF THE STORIES ARE TRUE. We each shared two or three of our titles and then got to choose from any (or none) of those offered.

I took “My Hot Fling With Ashton Kutcher” simply because it would have been the LAST thing ever in the whole wide world I would ever write on my own. Nothing against Mr. Kutcher: he seems like a nice guy, and I honestly respect that he went before Congress and spoke against Human Trafficking and some other humanistic ideals he espouses.

When we read our pieces to each other, the response to this was very gratifying. I’m doing much more off-line writing at the moment AND trying to organize the 20th Anniversary of Don’t Hate Us Because We’re Funny: Benefit Against Violence and Hate Crimes (more on that soon: almost done with the website, but click on the link above to go to our Facebook page).

Hope you enjoyed this. Something different from me. Comments are always welcome.

KingCon: Haverstraw Library’s annual comic convention! Saturday, August 3

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I have been honored to be a panelist at a

Modern Speculative Writing Program!!!

Speculative Fiction is a genre of fiction that encompasses works in which the setting is other than the real world, involving supernatural, futuristic, or other imagined elements. It includes Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Magic Realism, and so much more. Speculative fiction writing takes the imagination as far as it can go, and then some.

Located in beautiful Rockland County (less than an hour northwest of NYC), the Haverstraw King’s Daughter’s Public Library is holding their annual comic convention, KingCon. Yes, the pun fits.

Taylor Voght, author and MFA at Manhattanville College, will be our moderator as we delve into what makes Speculative Writing so attractive, contemplate the nature of sequential narration, and share what inspires us to write as we do.  Sitting beside me will be noted authors and editors Michelle Levy and Gerrit Overeem.

This is Haverstraw’s SDCC and NYCC, just without the mile-long lines!!

I hope you can make it. If so, stop by after the panel and say ‘Hi!’

SATURDAY, AUGUST 3, 2019: KingCon!!

Haverstraw King’s Daughters Public Library
10 W. Ramapo Road
Garnerville, NY 10923

Modern Speculative Writing

1 pm – 1:30 pm, Community Room
For all ages. Speculative fiction requires using your imagination to create entirely new worlds, and it has never been more popular! In this panel, learn from science fiction and fantasy authors Taylor Vogt, Stuart Nager, Michelle Levy, and Gerrit Overeem on how to write your own speculative fiction novel. All attendees will leave with the tools to write their own story!

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Diggin’ in the Dirt

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Diggin’ In The Dirt

“Bosworth, pass the pickax, s’il vous plait?”

“Oui-oui, mon sewer,” Bosworth sniggered. He wiped a grime encrusted hand across his brow, flicking droplets of dirty sweat across Mrs. Katherine Thiswhistle’s less than pristine tombstone. The moon’s refracted light was in full display, the threatening clouds still a way off. Bosworth could make out the old lady’s name as well as the inscription that hadn’t eroded: “Just put your lips together and blow.”

He had no idea what that meant.

“Here, Alf. I hope we’re done soon. This god-awful heat and humidity are wiping me out. Can’t afford that, y’know. Daphne is waiting for me, y’know.”

Alfie accepted the pickax, taking it with a jerk out of Bosworth’s outstretched hands. He kept his tongue in check, letting his instincts to berate the youth pass. “Not worth a hell of a mountain of beans,” he muttered under his breath. In the long run, Bosworth wouldn’t have heard him: when Alfie brought the pickax swinging down a large clang rang out, filling the three-foot depth they had already made.

Pain shot through Alfie’s fingers up to his shoulders. A hard swing and a hard hit. His hands were ablaze. Alfie leaned the tool against the moist earthen wall and shook his hands out, flexing his fingers. He let out a short string of curse words; Bosworth heard them and began laughing.

He peeked over the edge of the broken ground. “What’d ya hit, Alf? Sounded a lot harder than wood on its way to rot.

“Well, get your ass down here and help me find out!”

Alfie’s filth covered face accentuated the blazing whites of his eyes as he stared up at Bosworth. He heard the gulp, as he expected, and knew a point had been understood. Finally. He reached up, grabbed a double handful of pants leg fabric, and pulled.

Bosworth’s “HEY!” ended as he landed onto the grave dirt, just missing the hard object.

“Quiet, you. We need to go quieter now. The last thing we need is Old Gal Dink to wake from her Scotch dreams. Then she’d be…”

“I know. I know. ‘… She’d be screaming her blamed head off that the Ghoulies was eating her babies.” Bosworth got off the ground, wiping his hands on his pant legs, wincing a bit when he touched where Alf had grabbed him.

“Need your arms and back, not your mouth, boy. Not your mouth. Let’s see what we have here.”

Bosworth started to say something, but he realized it would be pointless. Alfie ignored him, probing the disturbed ground with the tip of the pickax. He made a display of running the tip in a circular outline, a perfect “O,” or so he told Bosworth. He instructed the boy to take up the shovel that he had abandoned earlier. “Let’s find the depth of this thing. Gently, s’il vous plait.”

Bosworth sighed, sick of the faux French, but did as he was told. The dirt moved under their probing, filling in as soon as one or the other moved it around. The bottom edge wasn’t too deep, about two manhole covers thick; Bosworth took Alf’s word for that. He was tired, pissed, and wanted to be gone.

The light was dim, or disappearing completely, with the speed of the clouds now passing overhead. Trial and error ensued, but as they used their separate tools edges their purchase points discovered. Alf grunted approval; Bosworth smiled, hoping this would bring this night’s work to an end.

“On three?” he asked.

A cloud scooted by, enough for Bosworth to see Alf nod.

“OK,” Bosworth began, “one, two…”

And he almost fell, again, as Alfie jumped the count. Alf’s side jutted up, knocking into the spade which went into his right leg. The whole thing sent him off kilter.

“What the hell, Alf. We said three. What happened to three?”

To get the shovel off of his leg, instinctively Bosworth dug down. He pushed, levered up, and evened out.

“Lift it, B. Lift it. Now!”

Taking the order, Bosworth’s teeth clenched, sharing the weight running through his arms, shoulders, and back. As they lifted, the dirt sloughed off, leaving an opaque circle etched and ridged. It became clearer as the clouds moved off, leaving the reflective rays from the moon shine at their fullest.

Bosworth’s attention was riveted on the disc in his hands, so much so that he hadn’t realized that he was now carrying the majority of the bulk. Alfie did have hold of it, but he pushed at an angle, the face of the disc towards Bosworth.

The circle became radiant. It soaked up the diffused light, going bright and ultra-violet. Bosworth’s eyes erased in an instant. He did not see that the etches and ridges shone as distinct runic figures and symbols. He did not feel the heat sear into his blistering skin. The sting of a million light particles meant nothing to him; he did not feel the bones in his fingers crack and shatter, nor his humerus, radius, ulna, and on and on. They broke. He was gone.

Alfie had already jumped back, his eyes tightly shut, face pressed into the damp earth wall. He felt the painful sensations as they ran across his back, but he still smiled even as he howled. The disc made a distinctive thump as it hit the dirt, taking the light with it.

Alfie did a backwards duck walk to free himself. He was digging the dirt out of his nose and ears while he spat out the bits that wormed their way into his mouth. Once clear, he called out for Bosworth, but knew he’d get no answer. He stood, leaned both hands on the top of the grave, and said a quick prayer.

He was unsteady for a few moments: same as it ever was. Alfie cleared any remaining muck from around his eyes and opened them.

Alfie looked down, waited, and then sighed deeply. Nothing moved except for his antsy feet.

“Well, Katherine, summer help, eh? Next time. I’ll choose better next time.”

Three Ships, Aye

Standard

prompt-4-abandoned-ships

THREE SHIPS, AYE

“Again!”

“Oh, Scotty. Really?”

“Please, Grandpa?”

Sighing, Grandpa begins…

The night brought a storm, unlike any other. The sailors of the three ships, every one of them, prayed to whatever they prayed to as they were tossed back and forth. Too many were tossed overboard by the heaving waves, men and women becoming one with the sea waters. The three captains could not spare the time to worry about any one person: they had hundreds to try to save, but it was the three ships that were their lives and it was the ships they cared for most of all.

They knew it was their fault, for setting onto the unsettled waters that night. Warned, the three ignored the then possible danger for the chances presented to them. A win is what they needed, badly, and so caution was forgotten for what could be. They paid for their single-mindedness, more than any of them thought was due.

“Grandpa?”

“Yes, Scotty?”

“Why?”

“You ask that question every single time, and the answer is always the same, kiddo. Greed, and ego, make people do some very stupid things.”

“My teacher says ‘stupid’ isn’t a good word to say.”

“That, in itself, is… sigh… never mind. People do stupid things. Ok?”

“Yup.”

“Now, the ships…”

The waves rocked up and dove down, pockets of watery walls that closed in on the three ships. Two were hit head-on, while the other crushed inwards. The screech of the metals mixed with the roar of the storm, drowning out the wails of the sailors. That it didn’t go under, then, was a miracle that no one noticed. The other ships were being battered senseless at the same time. The ocean rose and took control.

When dawn came, it was hidden by the still raging storm. There was no breaking in the skies, but only upon the roiling waters. Any left alive noticed nothing more than the buffeting, the pain, the need for it all to be over. One captain was already gone, not surviving the crushing, and one other had lost any cognizant capability. Others tied that captain to a chair on the bridge and left. That captain’s eyes glazed with dark waters.

“The third captain, Grandpa!”

“Why don’t YOU tell me? You know the story.”

“…”

“Scotty?”

“I. I like the way you tell it.”

…..

“Grandpa?”

“I love you, Scotty.”

“I love you, too.”

The third captain pushed on. There was no other way except to give up and accept what the sea and the storm demanded. This captain was seen in every part of the ship, urging, threatening, working alongside the crew. They threw themselves into a new fervor of working to save themselves and the captains’ ship. There was nothing to be done beyond their drenched space to keep going.

Finally, nature settled. From pure rage to utter stillness, the three ships were still afloat. Weak shouts went up across the bows. The sea moved the ships together, grouped in a battered trio of wounds. The sun blazed down, no clouds obscuring the burning heat.

From still day to night, the seas propelled the ships. Most on board were unable to process what was happening: none of the equipment worked, most of the crew injured, in one way or another. During the night, more died.

Come the morning, those left found themselves beached. The waters had receded, the sea water unseen, leaving all three ships sunk in sodden sand. The survivors went ship to ship, rescuing those they could, leaving those that were beyond help.

The lone captain stood, ankle deep in the wet shore, with the remaining sailors spread out. They looked at the tilted ships, renewed their prayers, and left. The captain was the last to look away but joined the others from behind as they made their ways to a life different than what they had hoped for.

“The end.”

“Grandpa…”

“Yeah, Scotty?”

“So?”

“You know, kiddo. You know. I’m getting tired. You should be, too. Time to turn off the light and get to sleep.”

“Grandpa. Please.”

——

“Please.”

“Fine.”

They followed without a thought. They went without care. Their goal was senseless, and their deaths even more so. The destruction they found were caused by being heedless of the signs, of ignoring anything but their wants. Not needs, their wants. And if they learned anything from any of this hubris-and I’ve already explained hubris to you, twice, tonight, so forget it-it did not show in any of their actions.

So, they were doomed. Doomed to do what they did, to do it again. Maybe in a different way, but still, in the end, they did it again. And again.

“Stupid.”

“Yes, stupid. Get some sleep, Scotty. Love you.”

“Love you too, Grandpa.

Grandpa?”

“Yes?”

“Don’t do anything stupid. Ok?”

“I’ll try not to.”

*********************************************************

Author’s Note:

The above comes from a photo prompt posted on Fiction Can Be Fun.

I have mentioned my association with Debs and David (who co-write their blog) before, having met them during the 2018 AtoZ Blog Challenge. You’d do yourself a big favor if you followed them and have the pleasure of enjoying their writing. Their WIP is going through its final stages and I, for one, can’t wait to get my hands on it.

If you want to join in on the writing prompt (and I strongly encourage it), here are the “rules”:

Any style, any genre, just nothing NSFW – otherwise the world is your oyster.
Tell us your tale …

Word count: 500 – 1,000 words
Deadline: 2pm GMT on Friday 12th July 2019

Post your story on your site and link to it here in the comments below, or drop us a line via the contact us page and we’ll post it for you.

So, join in. Write. You’ll be glad you did.

PS: if anyone cares, I wrote this while listening to The Essential Leonard Cohen. Who do you listen to while you write?