1 Photo, 50 Authors, 100 Words

Flash Fiction Anthology CoverThis anthology, which contains my 100-word story, “The Elusive Pursuit of Perfection,” is now available in eBook form for Kindle, and it’s only 99 cents.

All the stories in this collection of flash fiction are short, sweet, and oh, so good. This is a little book with big writing. You’ll enjoy it.

To purchase your copy, click here; then you can go to Authorgraphs and get a digital autograph from me (as Phyllis Anne Duncan) for your copy.

Fall Friday Fictioneers

Sunday, September 22, is the first day of fall. Fall! Fall? How did that happen, I mean, besides the obvious motion of the Milky Way, our Sun, and our planet? Wasn’t it just January?

Fall happens to be my favorite time of year. I like the crisp, cool air and the wonderful colors. I like the shift of light and the constellations predominant in the fall-to-winter sky. I love it when my BFF Orion returns. The season just seems to energize me physically as well as creatively. National Novel Writing Month comes up in the middle of fall, and I’ve never had a problem coming up with those 50,000 words.

Fall makes me nostalgic as well, remembering Thanksgiving and time spent with my Dad. When he was still in the Army, I counted the days until he came home for the holidays, and I had some disappointments when politics meant he got deployed to West Germany too often.

Friday Fictioneers LogoI think nostalgia came to mind when I saw today’s Friday Fictioneers photo prompt–a second-hand store, an out-of-date wedding dress, an elderly man. They led to the story, “Reminiscing,” something a little fluffier than I usually write. Yes, I can do fluff! As usual, if you can see the link on the story title, then scroll to the top of the page, click on the Friday Fictioneers tab, then select the story from the drop-down list.

And a wish of happiness and love to Friday Fictioneers original founder, Madison Woods, for her wedding this weekend. Gotta love those happy endings.

Bye, Bye NaNo! Hello, Friday Fictioneers!

Today is the final day of National Novel Writing Month–and now the real work (editing and revising) begins. All over the country as midnight comes and goes in various time zones you’ll hear sighs of relief and cheers of victory as NaNoWriMo-ers validate their word counts.

My NaNo region–Shenandoah Valley and Winchester Wrimos–is having a TGIO (Thanks Goodness It’s Over) dinner in Front Royal, VA, on Saturday, and it will be a great opportunity to meet some of my fellow WriMo’s in, you know, person. We can celebrate and commiserate and compare notes. I’m looking forward to it.

Next month for me brings the publication of my collection of flash fiction, Spy Flash, and there’ll be plenty of details here on the blog on when it becomes available as both an eBook and a paperback on Amazon.com. I will also have short stories appearing in two anthologies: The Blue Ridge Anthology 2013 and “100×100,” an anthology of 100-word stories on a single photo prompt, produced by the original founder of Friday Fictioneers, Madison Woods. Again, I’ll post details here on the availability of both anthologies. And just this week, I submitted a manuscript of flash fiction for Rose Metal Press’ fiction chapbook contest. All in all an exciting end to a Year of Writing Constantly.

Today’s Friday Fictioneers photo prompt is in line with the holiday season, but I went to the dark side. Again. Face it, there’s no escaping the fact that you can show me something absolutely innocent, and I’ll find something sinister. I no longer fight it but embrace it. It’s for the best. (Bwaa-hahahaha!)

My story this week is aptly entitled “‘Tis the Season,” and it may put you off your holiday shopping. (Heh, heh, heh!) If you don’t see the link on the story title, then scroll to the top of the page, click on the Friday Fictioneers tab, and select the story from the drop down menu.

A Bittersweet Friday Fictioneers

One of the most difficult things in the world is to come up with something unique, and one of the most satisfying things in the world is when that idea grows into something beyond your wildest dreams. In doing so, it can come to consume your life. Add to the fact you have a full-time job that pays the bills, and something has to give.

Friday Fictioneers, founded by Madison Woods, is evolving. Madison has decided to give up the reins to focus more on her own writing. This is something I totally understand. I gave up my dream job and retired to do the same. I should say that Friday Fictioneers won’t be the same without her inspiring photos and her unsurpassed enthusiasm, but in fact it won’t be the same. Change requires adjustment, but it is always good. Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, a Friday Fictioneer from the beginning, or close to it, will take the baton and run with it, and she’ll be a winner.

Madison will still participate as a writer, which is good because I look forward to her 100-word stories as much as I’m looking forward to buying the book she is editing, but I still get a sad sense of “The Queen is dead; long live The Queen.” One thing will always be true: There would have been no Friday Fictioneers, no on-line writing community with that name, no challenge to tell a story in 100 words, and a lot fewer writer friends I’ve made without Madison. This is something she can look back on and declare, with pride, “I did that.” And for that, we Friday Fictioneers are all forever grateful.

Probably because it’s the season, today’s story involves some political commentary. If you’re offended by knee-jerk, bleeding-heart liberalism, then you probably shouldn’t read it–just remember, flame me, and you end up as a character in a story, and in that story you’ll meet a nasty end. Just kidding. A little.

The story is “An Inverse Relationship,” and if you’re the first one to guess, and provide the answer in a comment, which classic work of fantasy I derived the title from, I’ll send you a free copy, signed and personalized, of my book Blood Vengeance. 

If you don’t see the link on the story title above, scroll to the top of this post, click on the Friday Fictioneers tab and select it from the drop-down menu. Support Friday Fictioneers by reading and commenting on others’ stories. You can get to them by clicking on the icon after the end of my story.

Friday Fictioneers and Place

All the photos we’ve used for these months of Friday Fictioneers have had a sense of place, but on occasion that “place-ness” is not just the fact that a photo has to be a representation of somewhere. It’s an actual place.

Today’s photo for me evoked exotic locales, narrow streets and alleyways of the Old World. If you look close, in the photo you’ll see footprints, and the great perspective the photographer (fellow Friday Fictioneer Jan Morrill) has captured makes you feel as if you can walk into the picture. I don’t know if that was planned or by accident, but it’s brilliant.

And I don’t mean place in the sense of setting. Every story has a setting, and it’s a key element in story structure. In some stories it’s incidental; in others you wouldn’t have the story without that particular setting.

For me, sometimes “the where” the Friday Fictioneer photo shows is central to the story, i.e., it is the literal setting. Sometimes “the where” is simply a representation of what I want the setting to be. I mean, this picture could be a back ally in Podunk, Iowa, for all I know, but I wanted it to be some Old World city on the Mediterranean, some place where adventure abounds. And so it is.

Add in a couple of bad experiences with on-line dating (I think you’ll figure out which site from the title.), and we have a little story I call “DisHarmony.” (Yes, that spelling is what I intended.)

As usual, if you don’t see the link on the title, “DisHarmony” above, click on the Friday Fictioneers tab at the top of the page, and select the story from the drop-down menu. To read other Friday Fictioneers offerings–and I hope you do–click on the icon at the end of my story.

Friday Fictioneers Again!

Yet another Friday has rolled around, and the photo prompt for this week was unusual in its normalcy. You wouldn’t think a perfectly decorated and charming room would engender anything odd or outre, but, well, that’s the way my brain works.

I see something normal and think about how I can make it abnormal or macabre. Not horror or gore, but I go to that plane of existence that’s just slightly shifted from reality.

Or a picture can bring back a memory–a good one or one you’d just as soon forget. Even the worst memories can be worked through if you put your writer pants on and make, you know, lemonade.

Without sharing too much, today’s story, “Shuttered,” could have been me if I’d have stayed in my first serious relationship, but I walked away from it and him. That saved my life. I know that, but it was still hard to admit failure.

If you find yourself in a situation similar to that story, call your local domestic violence hotline. There is help out there, and you’re not alone. There is no failure in saving your life.

If you don’t see the link on the title above, go to the top of the page and click on the Friday Fictioneers tab, then select “Shuttered” from the drop down list. To read other Friday Fictioneers stories for this week, click on the icon after the end of the story and enjoy!

Seat of the Pants Writing?

Blame it on my history degree, but when I write fiction I still research to add that desired verisimilitude (one of my favorite words, by the way). Take today’s Friday Fictioneers photo (click on the story link below to see the photo by fellow Fictioneer Sandra Crook), for instance. I wanted some context–where it’s located, what’s its significance, and so on. On closer examination, there is oriental writing, but is it Japanese, Chinese, Korean?

No one except the photographer seemed to know, and she didn’t enlighten us, preferring, perhaps, not to limit our creativity. However, I don’t want to plunk my two leprechauns (Seamus and Declan) down if I can’t establish a good reason for them to be there. Though, I concede that’s an interesting concept, considering the photo’s contents–Seamus, Declan, and the Buddha.

Since this is about creativity after all, I did what every good pilot does when the instruments fail–fly by the seat of his/her pants.

Eastern religion has fascinated me for a while, and I’m but a dabbler. The journey to enlightenment isn’t easy and isn’t supposed to be, but the struggle is always within yourself, much as with Islam. (Jihad, that much-abused word, is the inner struggle to be a better person.) Dukkha has been misinterpreted as suffering, but it is more a state of un-satisfaction that keeps you from enlightenment. Sukha or happiness is, of course, transitory and unattainable, a lesson that’s sometimes difficult to learn.

Which is the point of this week’s story, “Dukkha.”

If you don’t see the link on the title, click on the Friday Fictioneers tab at the top of the page and select the story from the drop down list. To read more Friday Fictioneers’ offerings, click on the icon at the end of the story, “Dukkha.”


Fantasy Friday Fictioneers

Again, I’m loving how writing a 100-word story based on a photo prompt is stretching me beyond my genre comfort zone. Frankly, writing a story about pixies or faeries? Not my thing.

Then along comes a stunning photo, and, pop, into your head it comes, and it’s like nothing you’ve ever written before. Oh, you touch on fantasy with your two, little leprechauns, but this is the first time you write a serious fantasy piece–and you get to impart a message, too.

Today’s story is called “Homo Avis.” If you don’t see the link on the title, then click on the Friday Fictioneers tab at the top of the page and select it from the drop-down menu. To read other Friday Fictioneers’ offerings, click on the icon after the story.

Give Friday Fictioneers a try–as in participating and writing a 100-word story–and stretch your comfort zone.

A Sticky Friday Fictioneers

This week’s Friday Fictioneers’ photo prompt might give you a little shiver. I know I did, but I have this thing against spiders. (For those of you who may share my arachnophobia, the picture is of an intricate spider web, not the creepy creature itself.) Thanks to Rochelle Wishoff-Fields for such a fear-inducing and inspiring photo.

Of course, I went right to my fear of spiders, which likely found its origin in some 1950’s B-movie about nuclear fallout creating giant insects. I know I never looked at an ant the same way again after seeing Them.

It’s no surprise either that for the second time in a few weeks, I included a Star Trek reference. Star Trek was the first television series where I paid attention to the writers, not just because they were some of the sci-fi genre’s finest, but because the stories were so good. I wanted to grow up and write like that someday.

This week’s story, “Tangled Webs,” is more horror than sci-fi, but at least I don’t have to look at that picture anymore. [Shudders]

If you don’t see the link on the story title above, go to the top of this page and click on the Friday Fictioneers tab, then select “Tangled Webs” from the drop down list. To read other Friday Fictioneers’ offerings on the photo prompt, click on the icon after the story.

Enjoy, and I hope you don’t dream about giant spiders tonight.

The Wee Folk Return to Friday Fictioneers!

I’m not sure where the beautiful photo for this week’s prompt was taken, but its stark beauty really struck a chord with me. An idea of what to write came to me as soon as I saw it. Regardless of where the photo was taken, it said Ireland to me.

There have been many waves of immigration from Ireland to America, but the one we’re most familiar with was the one created by the mid-nineteenth century potato famine. Most farmers then in Ireland rented plots of land from usually absentee landlords. When the potato crop failed, they couldn’t pay rent. The landlords would then raise the rent in an attempt to ensure their income, and eventually so many people wanted a place to live, the landlord’s men would come and evict a family then move another in immediately. They couldn’t grow anything either, and they would be evicted, and the cycle went on and on.

America was the land of opportunity for those Irish immigrants, but they arrived and saw the “No Irish Need Apply” signs when they searched for work. Regardless of which migration, it was usually spurred by poverty, and too many times they migrated to another form of poverty.

That was true of my grandmother, though her migration wasn’t until the first third of the twentieth century. She was convinced, however, that the wee folk had migrated to “A-mer-i-cay” at some point because she left milk and bread out for them every night.

This week’s story is “Diaspora,” and it features two leprechauns–Seamus and Declan–I’ve written about before. Though this is a little more serious topic than the other stories, Declan still thinks only of himself, and Seamus sees the big picture.

If you don’t see the link on the title, click on the Friday Fictioneers tab at the top of the page and select “Diaspora” from the drop-down list. To read other stories (or to post one of your own) from Friday Fictioneers, click on the frog-like icon at the bottom of the story.

By the way, the word “diaspora” is of Greek origin and from the nineteenth century as well, and it meant “a dispersion.” The meaning I’m using in the story is “any group migration or flight from a country or region” or “dispersed outside its traditional homeland.”