New Things for a New Year

You may have noticed two tabs missing from the Home page of the blog, replaced by two new ones.

My beloved Flash! Friday micro fiction weekly contest is no more. The moderator decided it was time to focus on her own writing. I’ll miss my weekly dragon queen’s offerings, but at least she stopped for a reason I can understand.

I hadn’t participated in Friday Fictioneers in quite some time. It’s still a lively and vibrant site and definitely a place to go if you want to practice writing short, short, short fiction, as in, 100-word fiction. I feel that between Flash! Friday and Friday Fictioneers, I learned a great deal about flash fiction, and I want to move onto something new.

To show I haven’t given up flash fiction, take a look at the new tab “RSC Mini Stories.” Journalist and author Jennie Coughlin has started posting a daily photo prompt using Rory’s Story Cubes on her Instagram account. She posts her own mini-story there, but I’m using the photo prompt to write some flash fiction on my blog. There have been seven prompts so far, so seven mini-stories for you to read.

The other new tab on my blog is “Haiku.” I’ve loved the Haiku form since I learned it in high school and college. I’ve recently learned, however, that the five-seven-five syllable set-up is bogus because of the differences between written English and Japanese. A modern, American haiku is still three lines (maybe) but is generally between ten and seventeen syllables. So, I’m going to give a haiku a day a try. Because 2016 is a leap year, that’ll be 366 haiku–if I’m up to it.

I’m going to use Rory’s Story Cubes for this as well. Each day, I’ll post a picture of three cubes, and I’ll write a haiku based on my interpretation of them. And that the fun thing about Rory’s Story Cubes: They can mean whatever you want them to mean, and your imagination can run away with itself.

I encourage you to join me in both endeavors and post your mini-stories and/or haiku in the comments on each of my posts. And let’s have fun.

Unpublished–WTF? (Part One)

I haven’t blogged in a while. My apologies. There was the run-up to the holidays, the holidays, a six-week-plus bout of the flu, then a set-back in my writing career which had my finger hovering over the “delete all” option in my Writing folder on my hard drive. Then, I realized the only way to cope with that set-back was to write about it.

Once Upon a Time

Anyone who writes knows how hard it is to send stories out into the world of contests and literary magazine publication. Most of the time, those stories get rejected, some with a modicum of hope (“send us something more”); some with not so much as an acknowledgement of receipt. The rare time something gets accepted is such an ego boost, we can live off it alone for months. This is the validation every writer craves.

I recently had a two-fer: I wrote a story for a contest, and it not only won but earned an offer of publication. Double validation.

BTW, I’m not mentioning the name of the contest (to protect the innocent) nor the name of the magazine (so I don’t give the guilty any inadvertent publicity).

I said yes to the offer of publication, of course, because I’m not at the point in my writing career where I can casually turn such things down. If I’d known then what I know now… Except, well, I did my research. Not only did I discover this particular online magazine had a low acceptance rate, i.e., difficult to break into, according to Duotrope, but publication in it was a qualifier for membership in the Science Fiction Writers of America. The positives were adding up, and I was looking forward to my story being published early this year.

The Story

Sometimes when you’re writing a story, you get a feeling about it, that this is one which has a future, one which is special. I had that feeling as I wrote “Dreamtime,” a 500-word story for a flash fiction contest and based on a photo prompt. The photo itself was of the interior of a didgeridoo, a unique perspective, to say the least. I researched the history and manufacture of the didgeridoo, and at some point the unnamed narrator of my story began to speak to me. This is the first thing he said:

“In dreams on walkabout, my ancestors in the rock paintings come alive and descend to my camp.”

Yeah, I know. Pretty amazing. He continued, telling a story of playing a didgeridoo passed down over the generations, then getting the idea to look at the stars through the didgeridoo. He imagines another dreamwalker on another planet doing the same thing. When he returns to his day job at a radio telescope installation, he “listens” for that other’s song, and he also realizes he is the perpetual outsider there, being the only one of aboriginal descent. He understands as well, that one day, he’ll die and return to the earth. When our sun expires millions of years from now, his atoms will be scattered to the far ends of the universe to create another dreamwalker ancestor, who will be painted on rock. He finished his story this way:

“Then, in dreams on walkabout, I will descend and dance around a fire.”

I set it aside for a while, mindful of the contest’s deadline; then, I dusted it off and did some editing. This was a story which resonated strongly for me, but I researched to assure I got the history and the culture correct. (I have a degree in history; research is my be-all and end-all.) If something was slightly off, I realized that in writing fiction, I had a certain amount of dramatic license, especially for a piece which had both a fantasy and a sci-fi tone.

I was happy with it, happier than I’ve been with a lot of my short stories. As I said, I thought this story had a definite future. I submitted the story. I knew it was strong enough to be a finalist, and it was. What I didn’t expect was to win, but I did. The offer of publication was icing on the literary cake.

What could possibly go wrong?

Apparently, everything.

To be continued in part two.