Fire: A Fierce Foe

Aspiring Author Sammi Cox offers her Weekend Writing Prompt HERE.

I haven’t done one of these before, but Dale’s post got me enthused. The challenge is to write a seventeen-word story using the word IGNITE.

Such a short story is the tip of an iceberg, where you know there’s a whole chunk hidden under what you see on the surface. Here’s my offering, and I hope you get a glimpse of the larger story.

“We think a tossed cigarette ignited the ditch grass.” The despondent farmer watched as his wheat blazed.

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This is a very real threat in dry years here in the western prairies. Our son-in-law is one of the volunteer firemen and has been called out different times to crops and hay fields ablaze. One Sunday morning half a dozen of our younger men left in the middle of the church service to go fight a fire.

Not a reality: You wouldn’t see a farmer standing there watching while his crop burned. The local farmers and volunteer firemen are out with tractors and loaders, working for hours, plowing or scraping fireguards to contain the blaze to one field.

This summer was so dry our municipality put a ban on ALL fires, including all outdoor BBQ pits and such, in case a stray spark would ignite a blaze. One of the main causes of fires in our area, however, are the sparks that fly from passing trains, igniting the long, dry grass along the train tracks.

Flashes of Fantasy

The grass was white with frost this morning, but the sun’s still warm enough to dry it up fast. The temp today is supposed to reach 12 C. Nice!

Re: Techno-troubles I mentioned yesterday

Same story, sad to say. This morning Fandango’s blog came up squashed left, but a click on the title brought it back into normal focus. Word of the Day prompt came up just as it always does. Clicking on the Ragtag Community e-mail got me nothing. The link appeared in my browser strip, but a blank screen. I tried three different ways to access it and got a blank screen each time. Just now when I clicked on the e-mail notice again, the blog came up fine.

So I never know whether Word Press and my computer will cooperate or not. I’m thankful I can still post, but this situation may well require a trip to some t-expert for an internal exam.

Of Flash Fiction and Fantasy

As I mentioned before, I’ve been working at compiling a book of flash fiction stories. But perhaps I’m laboring under a false ILLUSION that my JOVIAL, “happy-ending” stories will sell in today’s market? To study the competition out there, I’ve downloaded several e-books of short stories and read a number of flash fiction tales online. Judging from what I’ve read so far, I’ve concluded:

— Flash fiction stories today are, for the most part, NOT upbeat.
Yesterday I read one tale about a ragged, grizzled fellow sitting in a bar mumbling to an imaginary friend. (Himself in the mirror, I guess.) He rehashes his guilt because he’d ignored his father’s middle-of-the-night moans — the dad was often moaning — and the father died. He sits there until the bartender tells him to go home, so he goes back to his empty apartment. The end.

—Endings are often tragic. Sweethearts walk away. A loved one dies.
Like the one about the guy sitting in a café half-listening to the general BURBLE around him, when he sees a woman walk past the window. There’s something about her… It’s love at first sight! He follows and catches up to her just as she’s standing in front of a store window. She turns and smiles. He smiles back. A terrorist bomb explodes. He comes out of it with minor injuries; she’s killed. It ends with his wondering “Why do things happen this way?”

—There are often fantasy or supernatural elements.
This is getting to be quite common all across the board. Like someone in a coma after an accident, sent off in body (and perfect health) to accomplish some goal. Strangers/angels appear and disappear. That kind of thing.

—There’s often a reverse twist to the tale.
A technology wizard is feeling bored one morning, so he finds an ingenious way to hack into the city’s traffic signals system. He turns all the lights green and is entertained by the resulting chaos. After awhile he finds the repetition of car crashes and sirens so boring.

A fellow driving home from work sees a beautiful rainbow and thinks of the old story of “a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.” He pulls out his phone to send his wife a quick picture, loses control, his car crashes and he dies just a few feet from a shining pot of gold. Talk about heartbreaking!

My Well Dressed Hamburger’s Adventure

This morning my mind’s been spinning out a story that will incorporate a lot of these elements. Because I’d rather see upbeat endings for people, I’ve been working on a tragic ending for the “well dressed hamburger” I mentioned in my last post. A lachrymose tale indeed! (For those who like obscure words.)

Yes, total fantasy — but it’s given my imagination a good workout. Plus, no people have been injured or depressed in the weaving of this tale. Mind you, some younger folks may find my sense of humor deplorable or laughable. (Pardon the pun.) 🙂

Have I made you curious? Another element of flash fiction can be an unsatisfying ending, one that leaves you hanging, not knowing how the situation turns out.

Fandango’s Prompt: ILLUSION
Ragtag Daily Prompt: BURBLE
Word of the Day Challenge: JOVIAL

Parker’s Book Report

Parker drummed on the notepad with the tip of his pen. Mr Oswald told them he wanted to see “an honest book review mentioning at least three positive points.”

“Guess I can say it’s well written — as far as the actual writing goes.” Parker mumbled, and scribbled the words on his pad. The story flowed naturally, no glaring faults, no plot holes. Now, what else?

He tapped the book with his pen and wondered if “Nice colors on the front cover” would pass for one positive point. He sat up in his chair and stretched his arms above him. The screen on his cell phone showed 10:00 and this crummy book report was due for Lit class in twelve hours. On teacher’s desk, neatly typed, no spelling errors.

Was it interesting? Maybe — in a stretch. Okay, the story was interesting enough to keep a reader hooked. Worthwhile reading? Two thumbs down. What were people supposed to get out of reading this garbage, anyway? The impression that cops were brutal, corrupt — murderers even? Great take-away.

Parker’s Dad was a cop. His older brother was in police college. Every day cops like his dad put their lives on the line to keep the peace, catch the bad guys and lock them up. To try and prevent gang wars and pick up the pieces after. His dad had a couple of serious scars from knife-wielding toughs. He knew that many a night when some big operation was afoot Mom walked the floor until she heard the garage door open and knew Dad was home.

He read the author’s name on the cover and scowled. If someone breaks into this guy’s house, who’s he going to call for help? If some scammer empties his bank account, or some drunk driver plows into him on the way home from work, who’s supposed to deal with it? But he makes big bucks writing this story where the main character’s a violent ex-cop, police joke about beating up suspects in detention, and in the end the murderer turns out to be a greedy cop trying to get his hands on the bankroll he thinks the victim stole.

Parker felt like snapping his pen in half. Instead, he set it down and wandered to the kitchen, where he pulled a can of pop out of the fridge.

With all the books out there, why did Mr Oswald assign this one? He’d sounded so pumped about it. “Great example of a flawed hero,” he’d told them. “You gotta like this guy, warts and all.”

Oh, no, you didn’t. Did Oswald think they needed to get more of an attitude toward cops than most kids have now? Or maybe it was on the curriculum and Oswald was just getting paid to rave about it.

His dad walked into the kitchen right then and threw an arm over his shoulder. “Up late, buddy?”

“Got a book report to write for tomorrow’s Lit class. Can’t get into it.” He pulled the tab off his pop can and took a drink.

“Like the book? Was it worth reading?”

Parker shrugged and turned his free thumb down. “A book about a bad ex-cop. Had to retire because he couldn’t control his temper. Fantasizes about smashing peoples’ faces when they make him mad. You know what they say nowadays. ‘We need to see heroes with faults’ and all that.”

His father grimaced. “Well, I’ll admit it’s tempting to give some petty crooks with an attitude one good punch. You catch them robbing a store and they start wailing that a criminal record will mess up their life. It’ll be all your fault if they can’t get a job now.” He rolled his eyes. “Like, couldn’t you figure this out before you got caught?”

Then he gave Parker a light slap on the back. “But, like we say to the perps we haul in, ‘Why don’t you just tell the truth.’ The good Lord didn’t make you to be a herd animal. Be respectful, point out the positives where you can, but if you think the book is trash, say so. And say why.”

“Even if I get, like 20%, for this review because I don’t ‘get’ the hero?”

“Even if you get 20%. But get it done by the deadline. That you can do.”

Parker grinned and headed back to his room. Okay. Here goes. He picked up his pen to scribble a few ideas — and suddenly his words were flowing. He nodded in satisfaction. I’m gonna make this!

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Fandango’s one-word challenge: DEADLINE
This prompt has led me into quite a tale today! I won’t tell you which book Parker was writing a  review on. As you can probably tell, I can’t recommend reading it. 😉

Best If Cut

Word of the Day prompt for today: SUCCINCT
Merriam-Webster says: marked by compact precise expression without wasted words

Like A Jewel, Best If Cut

Publisher John Murray was known as a man with a sense of humour. He read through a manuscript from an aspiring author one day and wrote this encouraging note of critique: “Sir, I have read your manuscript and it is like a precious jewel. And like a precious jewel, it will sparkle the more if cut.”

Flash Fiction Alters You

Two years ago I joined Friday Fictioneers, a group hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. The goal is to write a hundred-word story in response to the photo prompt she sends around every Wednesday. One hundred words means barest bones. Every superfluous word goes. Every phrase that can possibly be omitted is deleted.

TMI

This paragraph comes from a cozy mystery I started reading and abandoned. Remember that a mystery, by definition, is built on tension. A writer has to keep the action moving, the readers on edge. All the unnecessary description of the room, the carpet, the furniture, slows this particular scene down to a crawl:

My mind registered a familiar ring tone and I reached for my navy faux-leather handbag, the one I’d bought with the gift certificate Mom gave me for the trendy new fashion store that just opened up three months ago at a nearby mall. I rummaged around, feeling my wallet, a few tissues, and several small spiral notebooks I carried for jotting down bits of poetry before I pulled out my shiny pink cell phone, now steadily tinkling out the tune to “Fleur Elise,” my favorite of all the tone options on this phone, hit the tiny green Talk button and said “Hello.”

Sum total: a female answers her phone.
(Her Mom is calling to ask if she’s seen her sister.)

Succinct version:
I grabbed my ringing phone from my purse. “Hello.”
Mom’s voice sounded worried. “Sue, I can’t reach Patty. Have you seen her lately?”

Word count: 23
I could have to cut out the purse, though the purse tells readers it’s a cell phone and she isn’t at home. This type of editing is terrific practice for “writing tight,” which is the kind of writing that sells these days.

Mark Twain’s succinct writing advice:
“When you see an adjective, kill it.”

Mini-Review for Mini-Tales

Beginnings and Endings: a Selection of Short Stories

© 2017 by Jane Suen

This book contains four short tales, nothing profound or suspenseful; just everyday scenes in the lives of several people — and one growing thing. A quick read, interesting and well edited. I noticed several wordings that made me wonder if the writer’s first language is English, but over all it’s very well done. Makes you want to read the longer background story or the “what happens next?”

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Going through my Kobo e-reader this afternoon, taking a look at the books I’ve downloaded. A number of these are coming from new authors, giving away their books in the hopes the recipients would write a review. So I’d best do my part. 🙂

Of Books and Titles

Hello Everyone. This morning I’d like to tell you about author Dan Walsh and one of his books, The Deepest Waters. I’ve read a number of Dan’s books, including this one I’d give a five-star rating. It is one REALLY good read, both for the story part and for the historical angle, being based on a true incident. Here’s part of his blurb on Amazon.com  :

“What began as a fairy-tale honeymoon in 1857 for John and Laura Foster aboard the steamship S.S. Vandervere becomes a nightmare when a hurricane causes their ship to sink into the murky depths of the Atlantic. Laura finds herself with the other women and children aboard a sailing ship while John and a hundred other men drift on the open sea on anything they could grab as the Vandervere went down… Laura must face the possibility of life alone and meeting her new in-laws without their son if she ever reaches New York.”

As he says on his website, the publisher has recently returned the rights to his book and he’s just re-released it as an indie e-book. For the next five days, until MAY 1ST, you can pre-order a copy for only $2.99; after that the price goes up to $3.99.

Now for a personal note:

Since free books abound…and I want to promote my own writing and my books as well… I’ve been considering putting out a another book of short stories — mainly flash fiction tales I’ve written — and putting it out there as a free e-book. For the past couple of days I’ve been trying to come up with a title for this book and decide which stories I want to include in it.

This isn’t as easy as it may seem, since I have to do a check on Amazon for similar titles. Flash Fiction Stories and Tales from the… have been used so many times a person would have to scroll through dozens before they came to my book. Whereas some other titles I check out bring up books with the same title, but sometimes a quite different genre.

I like birds. How about The Wandering Tattler? 🙂 I like the word Kaleidoscope — indicating a variety — but then so did a dozen other writers. I could borrow from Dan’s title and call my book, In the Shallow Waters, but it doesn’t really grab me. Does anyone have a great title suggestion for a few dozen non-themed flash fiction tales?

Meanwhile, it’s spring in our land. The grass is beginning to show a green tinge and the trees are budding. Our early birds all got the memo at the same time; last Friday I saw robins, snow geese, and sandhill cranes one morning; Saturday I saw an avocet at one slough, two great blue herons at another. That really surprised me; you don’t often see them at all around here. These days snow geese are constantly flying over in flocks of several hundred, and making the fields white where they settle. I think we prairie folks live for spring!