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

Heart’s Ease

The HeartsEase Tea Shoppe was almost deserted when he stepped inside that morning. Lianne, who was filling salt shakers, looked up when the little bell at the door tinkled. She rolled her eyes when she saw the hopeful smile Mike beamed at her.

“Is it just happenstance that he shows up now, or has he been watching for a slack time? Persistent he is.” Lianne grabbed her order book and walked over to the table he’d chosen.

“May I take your order, sir?” She felt the corners of her mouth wanting to curve into a smile, but she ordered herself to smarten up. She was not falling for this guy’s charm.

“Hello, Sweetie. Fancy meeting you here.”

“I doubt if there’s anything fancy about it. I’m thinking just plain persistence. Weren’t you in here last week, too?” She glared at him sternly. If only the corners of her mouth would stop trying to turn into a grin! She waved her pen at him. “May I take your order please.”

He put on a dejected look. “Do I dare order coffee in a Tea Shop…since I’ve dared to come in here in the first place? The waitress doesn’t seem friendly.”

Lianne glanced at the only other occupied table, where two elderly ladies were having tea. She saw one of them adjust her hearing aid. “All the better to hear you with, my dear.” She tried to hide the smile that came with that thought.

When she looked back at Mike, he was grinning mischievously. “Can you find me a sweet cookie with a heart on top,” he asked her, giving a wink to the tea grannies.

Lianne heard a little twitter from the other table and heard one woman say, “We’d be able to see out the window better if we moved over a bit.” Both ladies slid their chairs over as far as they could in the direction of Mike’s table.

Lianne rolled her eyes. She gave Mike an exaggerated frown. “Can you hurry up and order.”

He chuckled. “Now, Lee. Is that any way to treat a paying customer? Why, I might even buy a cinnamon roll and leave you a big tip when I leave.”

“Perhaps I should leave you a big tip, too.”

“If you can tell me how to impress a girl I’m madly in love with.”

She slid into the chair across from him. “We have a special Healthy Harvest whole grain bagel with low-calorie spread. It has no sugar, no cholesterol, no spices, no cream cheese. It’s perfect for people with heart problems.”

He sighed and put his elbows on the table. “I was hoping for something with dates in it.”

Lianne laughed in spite of herself. “You’re a nut.”

The two old ladies at the other table giggled between sips of tea.

“Just think of me as a big teddy bear with a huge attraction to a certain honey tree. I can’t help myself; I just keep coming back, hoping. If you give me some heart’s ease here, I promise I’ll straighten up and make something of myself. And I’ll always treat you right, Lee.”

“So you say. But what if…”

A shrill voice from the next table interrupted her. “For pity sake, young lady, give the man a chance!”

Lianne grabbed a white napkin off the table and waved it in the air. “Alright, Mike. Let’s talk about it.” She glanced at the two ladies, both of them nodding and wearing big grins. “After work,” she added.

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Fandango’s challenge word for today: HEART

When Two Adjectives Go Walking…

As I wrote in my last post, I’ve spent a fair bit of time this past week over at Critique Circle reading and commenting on various stories posted there. Of course this brings thoughts about improving one’s writing — which will now spill into this post.

I’ve posted my own story and gotten seven critiques. WONDERFUL! Being critiqued has been good for me. For one thing, I’ve had to go back to grammar books and other published authors to study up on the acceptable use of commas. Tricky little things. When it comes to separating clauses, there seems to be no uniform rule of, “Yes, one here,” or “No, none there.”

One of the things I often note in my critiques is the overuse and/or duplication of adjectives. Some genres tolerate more descriptive adjectives than others, but I do like the advice I once heard from some well known writer:
“Imagine you’re buying your story words for $1 each. You won’t want to buy more than you need.”

If you had to pay for words, you’d want to make sure each word is doing its job. You won’t want to pay for a bunch that need others to lean against because they don’t say enough on their own.

Mark Twain: “When you see an adjective, kill it.”

I’ve modified this bloodthirsty ink-thirsty version and adopted this maxim:
“When two adjectives go walking, flatten one.”
A little less gruesome, don’t you think?

Last year my husband enrolled in the Jerry Jenkins School of Writing and we both benefited from his lessons on “Becoming a Ferocious Self-Editor.” He gives demonstrations along with explanations, taking the first page of someone’s story and hacking it to pieces showing how it can be tightened.

When it comes to adjectives, he quotes another writing guru — sorry, I forget who — saying: “One plus one equals one-half.”
The idea being: when you use two adjectives, you weaken the effectiveness of both. Choose the most powerful and cut the other.

For example: The neat, tidy little cottage sat at the edge of a tenebrous, spooky forest.
I’d go with tidy, which means neat. A cottage is automatically little, so cut that, too.
Tenebrous means dark or murky — and dark murky places usually are spooky. Spooky places are usually dark and shadowy. Pick one or the other — preferably the one most people will understand.

Tom was a pompous, dictatorial boss who loved nothing better than ordering his cowering underlings around.
Dictatorial means ordering others around. Don’t throw this word away, though. Chances are, it will fit in nicely elsewhere.

Raiva was a loquacious chatterbox, always running on at the mouth.”
Here you have not only and adjective repeating the noun, but an adverb clause saying the same thing.
I’ve cut loquacious. Erudites like big, fancy words but the average reader may get a bit (cut qualifiers, too) ticked off if they have to stop and look up loquacious in the dictionary. A few fancies may be okay, but don’t make a practice of throwing in humongous, supposedly-impressive words.

I just read a piece which included the word pulchritudinous. My first thought was “ornery” but I decided to look it up and be sure. According to vocabulary.com:
“Even though it looks (and sounds) like it would describe a disease or a bad attitude, pulchritudinous actually describes a person of breathtaking, heartbreaking…beauty.”

Most readers will guess. They’ll read “Joe had a contentious nature.” And they’ll think, hmm… Sounds like content. Must be Joe’s easy-going.” If you do use an unusual word, give the reader a clue in the context.

But I digress. Let’s get back to Raiva the blab. Cutting the excess, all we have left is, She was a chatterbox. Or, Raiva was always running off at the mouth.

Instead of telling this fact, we could show it like so:
Pam and Bev sat in Bev’s living room drinking coffee when they saw Raiva coming to the door.
Pam nudged Bev’s arm and said, “Here comes Miss Mouthpiece.”
Bev rolled her eyes. “Gossip, her specialty.”
(Or, “Advice her specialty,” depending on which impression you want to convey. And check if it needs a comma after Advice. Or not?)

Mini Fiction Mix

For the past few days I’ve been choosing stories for my next book of mini fiction tales. Yesterday I applied for the ISBN. As soon as I get that lined up I’ll announce the title.

Some of the stories that appear in the fiction section here will be included in the book, such as the one about the Multi-tasking Motorist. And here’s one of my Friday Fictioneers posts that I’ve reworked and plan to include in the upcoming mix.

Harbour

Image from Pixabay

Harbour Secrets

From the third storey of the Customs Office Marv Sallens stared down at the busy harbour scene below, watching ships of every size streaming in and out of the busy port. “I wonder how many ships down there are running drugs,” he muttered.

Andy turned to his senior manager standing by the window. “What makes you…. Oh, hey. I’m really sorry, Marv.”

Marv gave a quick nod and turned to go, an icy anger replacing his usual grin. Stepping through the exit door he suddenly stopped and slammed his fist into the door frame.

Chance, the junior clerk looked up, shocked. Marv flexed his hand and walked out without another word. Chance turned to Andy. “What was that all about?”

“Last week they found Marv’s grandson and his fiancee dead in his apartment,” Andy explained. “They’d taken that new street drug…the one cops have been warning the public about.”

Chance swore softly. “I’ve heard about that one. Powerful…but I’ve heard it’s pretty risky. So that’s why Marv’s so torn up.”

“His grandson got his PhD this spring and just landed a great job. Apparently they were celebrating.”

Chance shook his head, seeing again Marv’s hand hitting the frame. He thought of his own parents, imagined how they’d react to something like that. A few minutes later he headed for the toilet…and flushed four white tablets.

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Comments and critique welcome. 🙂

Wise-Crackers Everywhere

The Word of the Day prompt for today is UBIQUITOUS, so I’ll re-post this humorous item as my response:

Wise-crackers are ubiquitous. If you don’t believe me, just use a word with more than one meaning. Someone is sure to pop a joke on you.

If in sympathy for neighbour Mabel’s gout, I should happen to let slip a “Poor Mabel,” someone is sure to comment that “Mabel just got back from a two week trip to Bermuda. So she can’t be that poor.”

If I chance to say, “I forgot to feed the fish” I’m apt to hear, “Feed them to the cat. Then you’ll never forget again.”

The other day when I said I was going to pick up some flour at the store, dear hubby had to say it: “But not another African violet. We have a dozen already.”

Last week when I had such a nasty cold, I told my Dad that my nose was running constantly. “Better watch it,” he said. “If it takes up jogging you’ll really be in trouble.” You can just imagine what I’d hear if I admitted that my foot went to sleep.

Sigh…

Even the poor innocent children get dragged into this. My sister snickered when I told her “I sent some cookies with the boys in sandwich bags.” Really! She knew what I meant.

Last week we were invited to my cousin’s for supper. As we sat around the table, someone mentioned reading that City Council was hatching a plan for a new Civic Services Administration Building. Uncle Harry was right on it. “How many Counselors does it take to hatch a white elephant? And how are they going to pay for this?”

My cousin’s five-year old, eyes aglow, piped up, “They could sell rides on the elephant. Then they would get lots of money.” By now I’m sure the tots at her playschool have heard all about it and are clamouring for their white elephant rides. Which proves that old adage: Small pitchers have big ears.

Is there no nostrum, no magic elixir for this aggravating ailment? Yesterday I told a friend, “We had Joe & Jane for Sunday dinner.”

And she–my very best friend!–asked, “Baked or fried?”

The Write Practice Writing Contest

Attention Fellow Writers:

If you haven’t heard about the Fall Writing Contest starting soon over at the Write Practice, CLICK HERE to find out all about it. You start with a writing prompt, submit a draft, and get feedback from the writing community so you can polish your story before the final judges’ decision is made.

AND the folks over there are doing a special giveaway this time around. The entry fee is $50, but they are giving away three Premium Entries. If you share this info on social media, you get another “entry” for each friend who enters. (I’m not entering this year—other projects on the go — but I want to spread the word so you others can check it out.)

The giveaway will officially close on Tuesday, August 28, at midnight Pacific time, so if you’re interested in entering the fall writing contest, or other writing instructions and challenges, hop over to The Write Practice and read the details.