A More Challenging than Usual Friday Fictioneers?

This week’s photo was quite the challenge–as you’ll see when you read the story.

I grew up on a farm which had a lot of forest throughout it, and a walk through the woods revealed some very interesting, natural works of art: two different types of trees whose trunks had fused, trees that grew around or through abandoned farm equipment, a forgotten scythe, rusted almost away, which had been imbedded in a tree branch but which had been “carried” up as the tree grew. Many a bovine skeleton fired my imagination–and followed me in my dreams–back then.

So, this week’s picture made me smile before it stumped me, and then an idea came to me. Some might consider the story, “Thus Endeth the Lesson” blasphemy. Just relax. It’s fiction. Or is it the future?

If you don’t see the link in the story title in the paragraph above, hover your cursor over the Friday Fictioneers tab at the top of the page and select it from the drop-down menu.

To read other offerings (that’s foreshadowing my story, by the way) from Friday Fictioneers, click on the frog-like icon at the bottom of my story and enjoy the fruits of our fecund imaginations.

A Friday Fictioneers Gross-Out

Warning – don’t look at today’s photo prompt if you have a weak stomach. It was so gross-looking Madison Woods wouldn’t even use it as a cover photo on the Friday Fictioneers Facebook page. So, eat your breakfast first, or not, before you take a peek.

When I took a look at the picture I was reminded of being sent into the corn field (not like the old Twilight Zone episode, by the way) to pull corn for dinner to find myself surrounded by ears of corn with this really icky-looking fungus called corn smut. Totally harmless to humans but just plain yucky to look at. I’d lose my appetite for fresh sweet corn every time.

Before you look at the photo, I’ll explain what it shows–a cut grapevine where the sap has oozed out and bacteria and fungi have grown in the sap, which is a really tasty growth medium for such critters. Completely natural but gross to look at. It was, however, a really inspiring photo, in an odd, warped way, but, hey, I’m a writer. These things happen.

Today’s story is called “Try Not to Notice.” If you don’t see the link on the title, hover your cursor over the Friday Fictioneers tab above and select it from the drop-down menu. At the bottom of the story itself you’ll see the link to read other Friday Fictioneers’ offerings. Just be prepared for grossness because we’re all going to go there.

And here’s a virtual sick bag, just in case.

Friday Fictioneers!

The cool thing about being a writer is you can look at a common, everyday thing and find something sinister in it. And not just find something sinister, you write a story about it, and, then, you and the readers never look at that commonplace thing the same way again. You, the writer, did that, changed the everyday to the mystical, the horrible, the sinister, or the romantic.

Okay, I rarely turn things into something romantic, but I’m sure one day I will.

I hope you remember this week’s story, “Shadows,” the next time you wash your hands or take a shower or fill the bathtub.

If you don’t see the link on the title, “Shadows,” above, hover your cursor over the Friday Fictioneers tab above and select it from the drop-down menu. To read other offerings by other Friday Fictioneers, click the link “Click to view/add Link” after the story.

Damselflies and Friday Fictioneers

Friday Fictioneers are coming up in the world–we have our own logo now. Very nice. I’m hoping to see this all over the Internet to show how big this Friday exercise has become.

I’m finally coming down off my Tinker Mountain high (sung to the tune of “Rocky Mountain High”), though I still have to open my notebook and look at the notes from the critique of my novel excerpt–just to make sure I didn’t dream all those nice things people said. I don’t have to pinch myself, thankfully.

Today’s photo prompt you should recognize. It graced the header of Madison Woods’ blog for the whole time we’ve been doing Friday Fictioneers, and I wondered how long before it would be the photo prompt. Turns out it was when Madison migrated her blog to a web site for her own domain name.

For some reason when I saw today’s photo prompt, I remembered a long line of “city boys” I dated from college to…well, a long time. I was much easier on them than my dad was–he always managed to find some country lore or food to embarrass them. (Someday, I’ll write the mountain oyster story.) It was a good weeding out process, I realize now. Decades ago, it would only endear those hapless souls to me more. Such is maturity.

“Not Tonight, Dear” is today’s story, and I’m dedicating it to all those city boys I’ve dated. We weren’t being mean. Honest.

To read more offerings from Friday Fictioneers, go to Madison Woods’ web site and have a read. Better yet, take a stab at writing your own 100-word flash fiction.

Friday Fictioneers From Tinker Mountain

For those of you who’ve wondered, Tinker Mountain is a mountain next door to Hollins University in Roanoke, VA, and is the location of the writers workshop I’ve been attending all this week. Today’s the day my story gets critiqued, but more on that later today.

Being involved in this workshop is certainly inspiring, and one thing I’ve learned is the economy of words. Another way Friday Fictioneers connect with a writer–and I’ve said this before–you learn how to cut and pare until you’re down to the essentials.

Obviously, this week I’m done with the sweet, cutesy stuff and am back to the dark side of things. About time. And I hope you find the title, “The Atheist’s Wish,” just a tad intriguing.

For other offerings (Read my story, and you’ll see that’s a pun.), go to Madison Woods’ blog and have a read or several.

Story Cubes Challenge – Week 8

When I was writing my novels back in the 1990’s and 2000’s I never had a community of writers, either in person or on-line. I had the deluded notion that associating with other writers just meant someone would steal your work–that happened to me in the 1980’s. And, yes, it was deluded because writers are incredibly supportive of each other’s work. I mean, where else are you going to find someone who understands when you talk of your characters as real people or about the world you’ve created as reality?

Writers can also inspire you, and not just in the way you’re inspired when you read something by your favorite author. Writer friends encourage you, support you, critique you, and challenge you. From Madison Woods’ Friday Fictioneers, I’m accumulating my 100-word stories into a manuscript (titled Extinction Level Event) I want to submit for a chapbook contest. From Jennie Coughlin’s Story Cubes Challenge, I’m collecting my espionage vignettes into a manuscript I’ve tentatively titled Spy Flash (because the pieces are short enough to be flash fiction).

This is writing I wouldn’t have done if not for these two writers, and if not for these two writers, I wouldn’t have met other writers on-line and in person to inspire and encourage me.

One particular item in today’s Story Cubes Challenge picture led me right to the character I wanted to highlight in a short piece. It’s Nelson, the one-named head of the fictional intelligence organization called The Directorate. He was Alexei Bukharin’s partner until a near-fatal injury put him behind a desk, from where he eventually became director. Because of his injury he uses a cane, and since one of the cubes showed a cane, you get a little glimpse into the history of this man so involved with his secret organization he never leaves its premises.

This is what I saw, from left to right:  headphones/listening; evil side; fire/burning; cane; tree; earth/globe/ world; key; arrow; eating.

And here’s “The One Who Got Away.” (If you don’t see the link highlighted, hover your cursor over the Story Cubes Challenge tab above and select the title from the drop-down list.)

If you want to participate in the Story Cubes Challenge, use the picture to the left and write a story of any length using those items and actions. Then, post a link to your story on Jenny Coughlin’s blog for the rest of us to read.

Friday Fictioneers Goes to Mars?

I hope the title is enough of a teaser. You’ll have to read my Friday Fictioneers’ story to see what it’s teasing.

Yeah, that’s a tease, too.

Recently, the creator and driving force behind Friday Fictioneers, Madison Woods, wanted to know what, if anything, we’ve learned from participating all these many weeks and months. I’ve blogged a little about that before, but one thing I’ve learned is I can write flash fiction. Before Friday Fictioneers, I thought 2,500 words was short for me. How could you possibly tell an entire story in a mere 100 words? Well, you can, if the right person challenges and encourages you.

So, Friday Fictioneers makes you focus, intently, on what you’ve written. You see you’ve written 118 words, and you think, “I can’t find 18 words to cut.” But you don’t give up. You find those 18 cuts and sometimes more, which then allows you to develop the story a little better. And, I can translate that type of editing to longer works. I’ve begun to realize which words are fluff and which ones the story needs to tell itself.

I’ve also “allowed” myself to write in genres or about things I never thought I would. I mean, did I ever think I’d be writing ditties about two leprechauns named Seamus and Declan? No, but I have, and those two wee folk are growing on me. Did I ever think I’d write a conversation between two moths? No, but I did, and not only was it fun, it was instructive–I got to research moth reproduction.

And I’ve learned to ignore the naysayers who proclaim it’s death to your writing career to publish on-line. I’m having fun, I’m honing my craft, and I’ve found an incredible community of writers whose work I look forward to every week.

All that is a lot to get from a little, 100-word story challenge.

This week’s photo, which you’ll see in my story, is by Friday Fictioneer Doug McIlroy, whose stories are some of my favorites. And how cool is this? He is associated with the Keck Observatory in Hawaii, which has discovered exoplanets. That was partly the inspiration for my story this week, Expendable. (If you don’t see the link on the story title, hover your cursor over the Friday Fictioneers tab above, and select “Expendable” from the drop-down menu.)

To read more Friday Fictioneers, go to Madison Woods’ blog. Consider joining us. Who knows what you’ll learn?

Back by Popular Demand

When Madison Woods posted the inspiration photo for today’s Friday Fictioneers, I warned her there’d be leprechauns–you’ll see why when you take a look at the photo and my story here. (If you don’t see the word to click on, hover your cursor over the Friday Fictioneers tab above, and select “Sure, and It’s Hard Work Being Wee Folk.”) Then, go to Madison’s blog to see what other Friday Fictioneers made of the photo.

My Irish grandmother was considered a wee bit quaint when she clung to believing in the wee folk even after she came to America. Every night, she left a small bowl of milk and bread outside wherever she lived. When I was very little, I was amazed the bowl would be empty every morning. As I grew older, logic and reason prevailed, but she’d have none of my explanations about cats and dogs taking her offering for the wee folk. Embarrassing when you’re a teenager; endearing now.

So, for today’s Friday Fictioneers, I brought back two characters from the story, “Lupruchan,” I wrote for the February 10, 2012, Friday Fictioneers challenge–Seamus and Declan, two wee folk I now imagine were the ones who cleaned my grandmother’s nightly dish of milk and bread.

Remember, we all love your comments on our 100-word stories, and feel free to re-blog mine or post the link on your own blog. If you’ve never given the Friday Fictioneers challenge a try, why not make this week your debut?

Friday Fictioneers and More

When you see this week’s Friday Fictioneers’ inspiration photo, expect some creepy, “dark and stormy night” stories. It’s that kind of picture. I resisted the temptation, though, and opted for a little sci-fi. To read my story, click here. (If you don’t see the link on your computer, hover your cursor over the Friday Fictioneers tab above, and select “In Moonlight and Peace.”) To read other Friday Fictioneers’ stories, visit Madison Woods’ page and dig in. I know I’m looking forward to them all.

Enjoy my story, and, please, leave a comment. I love your comments. They heal an occasionally bruised writer’s ego. If you’re participating in Friday Fictioneers, leave the link to your story also, so I can read it. I definitely make the effort to read the stories of people who have read and commented on mine. Friday Fictioneers has become quite the writing community and with a global reach. In fact, go to Facebook and “Like” the Friday Fictioneers’ Facebook Page.

My story last week, Amontillado, has generated something completely unexpected: It has become the inspiration for a longer work, as yet untitled, about why that baby was inside the wall of an old house. I talked more about it in an earlier post this week, and I’m very excited about starting a new, novel-length work without NaNoWriMo being the impetus.

In other news, in about a month, I’m looking forward to the week-long Tinker Mountain Writers Workshop at Hollins University in Roanoke, VA. My workshop will be “Stretching Your Fiction,” and the instructor will be Pinckney Benedict, author of Miracle Boy and Other Stories. The description of this workshop was what led me to apply for it:

Writerly evolution most frequently takes place as a series of great evolutionary leaps: writers – often inspired by some profound challenge or undertaking – find themselves suddenly, swiftly, and significantly advanced in their art. This workshop, through challenging writing exercises, far-ranging discussion, and intense scrutiny of participants’ manuscripts, will endeavor to induce just such an evolutionary leap. Prepare to leave the class both exhausted and changed.

Scary, but I’m definitely looking forward to it. [Rubs hands together in anticipation]

Now, off to read some great Friday Fictioneers stories!