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

Beset By Techno-Trials

Fandango’s challenge for today: TRIALS

Very fitting, seeing I am having serious trials with Word Press on my PC. In the first place the computer is slow to load and obey any commands. Secondly, blogs I click on, wanting to read the latest post, often come up squashed to the left side of my screen so I have to click on the title to make the blog come up normally. Sometimes it just won’t.

I don’t see LIKE buttons on anyone’s blog, just a tab saying “Loading…” Worst of all, I can’t customize or access my dashboard to make any changes. I don’t know what ails the thing; it works fine in with all my other programmes.

Thankfully it’s business as usual working from my laptop, everything comes up as it’s supposed to, including the WP Administration. Are any of the rest of you having trouble with WordPress or is it really all in my PC’s electronics?

You’ll notice the lovely header I put up yesterday in memory of our recent snowfalls. I’ll soon have to replace it, though, as the temp today is supposed to be 7̊C ( 44 F) and on Sunday 11̊C. (52 F) I was just hoping for a smidge of sympathy from the WP crowd. 😉

Now here’s a chuckle for you. We writers have our TRIALS and one of them is wandering metaphors that settle in the wrong part of the sentence. Actually this perfect illustration comes from the book Sixth Cabin, A Writer’s Retreat Mystery by Kathi Daley. This is a very interesting cozy mystery with a rare — SPOILER ALERT! — relatively happy ending. And fine editing except for this one eye-catcher:

What the Well Dressed Burger — or Jack — is Wearing…

I sat in the waiting room with Jack eating a cold hamburger wearing a dress that cost more than my first car.

Of Traffic, Tangles, and Tangents

Fandango’s word for today: TRAFFIC

Ragtag Community prompt: COMEBACK

Word of the Day challenge: SCINTILLATING

Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day: WELTSCHMERZ

Autumn’s Goings and Comings and Goings

The snow that fell on our land last week disappeared and fall made a little COMEBACK —until Sunday night when fluffy flakes drifted down on us. Monday our land was white with snow again and all but the very hardiest of our summer bedding plants are stiff.

TRAFFIC news from Calgary yesterday, after the city was beset by its own cloud system and got smacked with 40 cm (16 inches) of snow in twelve hours:
many flights cancelled; 251 collisions reported; 80 city buses stuck or having mobility issues. (The transit system hadn’t put snow tires on yet.)
The city of Edmonton sent thirty snow-plows and other nearby cities have also sent plows to help clear streets.

Traffic news from here is mostly avian:
On our trip to Saskatoon yesterday we passed a couple of fields along the road that were dappled with black and white. I had to look twice: it wasn’t snow after all. I’m guessing at least a thousand snow geese in the first flock and another thousand in a second field nearby, half of these settled and half milling around in one big tangle above them. I think this is the greatest number we’ve ever seen in one gathering. They appeared to be enjoying SCINTILLATING conversation with their fellows.

When the sun shines on milling snow geese they can appear like a sparkling, mostly white cloud. Rather than in clear vees like Canadas, snow geese fly in a number of vee shaped streams that seem to tangle and untangle as they go. The birds come in a mix of true white and “blue morph” varieties, often mingling with Ross’s and other geese. As I’ve said before, they make an amazing sight spread out over ten acres or so!

And on the way home we saw many vees of Canada geese southbound. It seems this latest snow has given the geese a very clear “Time to Go” signal. We’ll be looking forward to their COMEBACK next April.

Weepy Weather

Ragged leaves offer their last respects to summer,
altogether expired now. No wake will be held.
I bring the eulogy, north wind brings the mourning,
the rain brings tears enough for us all.

According to M-W, the word WELTSCHMERZ means:
1) mental depression or apathy caused by comparison of the
actual state of the world with an ideal state
2) a mood of sentimental sadness

This describes to a T how I feel when I look outside. The “ideal state” is a long, lovely fall. Not snow. Not yet! I remember all those promises of “global warming” we heard a decade ago, and see winter settling in at the beginning of October. But this too will pass— for awhile.

It’s not that I want to knock the ideal of conservation, being responsible caretakers of the planet and not polluting nature until it can’t recover. But climate predictions come and go with the wind, I’ve observed. Speaking of wind, there’s a stiff, cold one blowing today. Our cats aren’t very brave to venture out.

At any rate, the general “sad to see summer go” adds its tones, along with an “I’ve accomplished so little this year” sigh, making for a tangle of feelings. A mild case of weltschmerz? I wouldn’t dare toss that word around amongst the unlearned, though, lest folks think I should be quarantined or put out to grass at the Funny Farm.

Avoiding Fruitless Tangents

I try to decide priorities, but there are so many tasks that need doing. Some days I think I should just carry on as I have been and live with the frustration. Surely it will pass? Other times I think of major changes, like giving up my goal of writing books and be content to communicate with the world via my daily blog post. I wonder if I should abandon writing altogether in favour of keeping on top of housework and sewing. Indecision can be an obnoxious little tyrant!

Lately I feel like I’m sitting on the brink of some big decision and dare not jump for fear of breaking something. Like Robert Frost, I see several forks in the road immediately ahead and I must soon choose one — but I can’t decide which. A To-do List wafting down from Heaven would be nice. 🙂

People say, “Which is the most important task?” and I say, “ALL of them.” Plus, I’m so inclined to pick activities that bring the most emotional payback — or back pats — but this activity may not be so important. Dear friends, say a prayer for me. I feel in need of courage and wisdom.

Inspired Thoughts

Today’s Ragtag Community prompt word is INSPIRE. Such a nice, neat word. What better prompt to inspire a blogger to write a post?

I will confess, I haven’t been greatly inspired today, having gotten back some negative critiques on the short story I posted yesterday over at the Critique Circle. Not that I think the critiquers were wrong or unfair, but it hits me that I’ve been estimating my writing skills higher than they merited. My stories have flaws, too, and three people now have said there are just too many characters in this one to keep them all straight.

It’s kind of like having your manuscript returned by an editor with the standard form letter. Welcome to the wonderful world of writing: all your darling’s shortcomings pointed out. Critiques are good for a writer, I know. Kind of like a padded cell is good for you when you’re feeling like you can fly like the birds.

Oh, hey. I’m supposed to be talking about inspiration here!

I was inspired yesterday as I looked through Pixabay for a suitable image to use as a cover on my next book. I was all enthused about Fine Details and the cover I’d picked — and posted last week — but thumbs went down when I showed it around. “Too plain,” said some. “Too different from the norm for flash fiction covers,” someone else explained. So I searched Amazon and concluded this was true.

Back to my inspiration. I came across the following picture and since my granddaughter, age twelve, was sitting nearby, I called her to have a look. Somehow this scene just begged for a tale-spin, so between us we started imagining a story around it.

Reading

Pixabay photo

What might this unique creature be reading? Maybe he gets interrupted, a pal phoning or UPS ringing the doorbell. Who — and why? What does he do next? Or maybe his mom is calling him, but he want to finish his story.

This is what inspiration is all about. I saw another picture today that likewise inspired me. There must be something really witty one could think up to go with this upside-down bird. Nothing has come to me yet, but maybe it will inspire you.

Macaw

Pixabay photo

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?)

Of Fall and Fine Details

This morning from my kitchen window I noticed three birds clinging to a leafless branch on a treetop, the sight of which inspired this haiku:

how brave those three
birds still clinging —
facing autumn’s gale

Much as we might wish to cling to summer, autumn has definitely made its appearance in our land. The crops are coming off and the golden brown straw left to hold the soil in place; the maple trees are golden already. Nights are cool, and during the last few days we’ve gotten the rains we wanted.

Hopefully now the Fire Ban will be lifted in our township. For a few months now we haven’t been allowed to light any fires outdoors, including in BBQ pits and such. This month local volunteer firefighters have been called out to several grass fires started by balers as farmers were harvesting hay. Sunday Sept 2nd some of our firemen left straight from church, responding to a fire east of here. About 150 acres — half of it in standing wheat crop — burned, along with four round hay bales.

The hummers left us a couple of weeks ago. Last week the second batch of barn swallows came out of their nest to enjoy the clear blue skies. For the first few days the three newcomers played in the air above our yard, then ventured farther, touring the woods and coming back to roost at night. I was out just after supper together with the cats, and the swallows came buzzing around us. Obviously they weren’t happy seeing cats so close to their residence.

It’s been awhile since I posted anything significant but I decided that if I didn’t get something written I might develop chronic blog-atrophy.

It’s not that I haven’t been writing. In fact, I’ve spent hours at the computer this week commenting on other writers’ work. Last weekend I was investigating the possibilities for having my own short stories critiqued and came across a site called Critique Circle. It It looked interesting, so I signed up and started writing comments on the stories posted.

Basically, anyone may join, and post a story they’ve written once every two weeks — but first they must critique others’ stories. In fact the system works somewhat like that old song about working in the coal mines: you do one days’ work and the company store charges two days’ pay for your groceries. 🙂 I’ve gotten .5, 1, 1.5, and 2 credits for doing various critiques, but it cost me 3 credits to post my story. So participants need to keep writing critiques (of 300 words or more) if they want to post anything.

Which is quite fair, really. I’m not griping. This approach keeps people from “taking” without putting anything in. (And it suits me because I enjoy doing editing. 😉 I do try to be gentle, though.) The “rules state that “critters” shall be encouraging and helpful to new writers as well as more experienced ones. No “Your story is blah!” comments.

I’ve posted one flash fiction story already. The first critique I received dealt mostly with grammar and punctuation — some of which I would contest. The second was an overall “Liked the story.” The third one was worth its weight in gold! It was written by a fellow who’s had a number of short stories published in literary magazines and such. He really knows his stuff and pointed out half a dozen things I SHOULD HAVE seen myself.

The stories I’m working on now are for my upcoming book of flash fiction. And now that I’ve registered it and gotten the ISBN, I can post the cover I’ve chosen (from unsplash.com.) What do you think?

The next design issues: choosing a font style and “outside border or no?”

Abstract cover.all