Story Cube Challenge Week 10

This was the hardest one yet, mostly because that damned pyramid showed up again, and I was at a loss how to account for it. Somehow, I managed it.

I’ve studied and written a lot about the Balkan Wars of the 1990’s and especially about the horrors of “ethnic cleansing.” It took me some time to get inspired by this week’s roll of the cubes, but once I thought about the digging image, the story came to me.

Here’s this week’s challenge:

From left to right, here’s what I saw: key; peeking/spying/binoculars; digging/foxhole; alien; giving a present; pyramid; thinking; knocking on a door; eating.

Here’s the story, “Yea, Though I Walk,” and just a note about a little alteration on the web site. I changed the Story Cube Challenge tab above to Spy Flash, which is the title of the manuscript I’m compiling with these stories. So, if you don’t see the link on the title, then hover your cursor over “Spy Flash” and select “Yea, Though I Walk” from the drop-down menu.

Story Cubes Challenge – Week 9

Moving into the third month of writing flash fiction for Jennie Coughlin’s Story Cube Challenge, I’m seeing the potential in this exercise. Not only am I exploring aspects of characters I thought I knew pretty well, I’m accumulating material for what I think will be a good collection of espionage flash fiction. I’m calling it Spy Flash. Well, I thought it was clever.

As with last week, where I looked a little more into a secondary character, I decided to bring in another character who goes from being primary to secondary and back again a great deal in Mai and Alexei’s professional and personal lives.

Edwin “Snake” Terrell, Jr., is a former Green Beret who is now a CIA field operative. The CIA and the fictional Directorate have a long history of working together, and Terrell, Alexei, and Nelson have shared missions–and other things and people–quite often. He is an interesting character, at least I think so. An inveterate boozer and womanizer, he is a philosopher at heart and has the degrees to prove it. And, as you’ll see, he and Mai have, shall we say, history.

Here’s what I saw this week: (l. to r.) bee; building; dragon; hanging on for dear life; carrying; falling down the stairs; clock/time/0400; magnifying glass/scrutiny; parachute/parachuting/ parachutist

Because it’s not as quotidian as the other items/actions this week, I picked the dragon to center the story around.

You may wonder why in “Here, There Be Dragons” Terrell and Mai are parachuting in the dark into Romania–that’s another story for another time.

If you don’t see the link in the title, hover your cursor over the Story Cubes Challenge tab above and select “Here, There Be Dragons” from the drop-down list. If you want to give this a try yourself, use the picture above, write a story based on the items/actions you see, then post a link to your story in a comment to Jenny Coughlin’s blog post.

Story Cubes Challenge – Week 7

Several people have asked me why I write espionage fiction, and the truthful answer is, it just happened. When I was in high school I was a big fan of the old television show, “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,” which got me intrigued about the world of espionage (and good-looking Russian men). But I was a bigger fan of John le Carre who wrote spy stories that were authentic. No car chases, no missile-equipped Astin Martins, no unlikely gadgets. Oh, there are women, but they aren’t Bond girls.

My favorite le Carre novel is The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, and it has thriller aspects, but it’s a deep psychological study of espionage tradecraft and the people who employ it. I find this type of espionage writing very engaging, and when I figured out I wasn’t going to write cute little mysteries involving a smart, young, female FAA inspector, I decided I wanted my stories to be an homage of sorts to le Carre.

In the 1990’s I discovered the spy novels of Alan Furst. Furst writes the “historical spy novel,” meaning he immerses himself in the time and place where he sets his novels, and his spies are the unlikeliest of people, which is most always the case. Being an historian myself, I love his series of novels set before and during World War II. They’re a “behind the scenes” look at the tangled web espionage can be. Again, his novels, like le Carre’s, are the antithesis of the cinematic James Bond. (Ian Fleming’s first several Bond novels were straightforward, gritty stories of just how dirty and amoral espionage can be, but crass commercialism, alas, is crass commercialism.)

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not comparing myself to either le Carre or Furst. I have a healthy ego, yes, but I also know I could only be imitative of two masters of true to life spy novels. I try, but how well I’ve done remains to be seen.

That little bit of background in place, here is the picture for this week’s Story Cube Challenge:

This is what I saw, left to right: break/broken; pushing/up against a wall; hand in hand/holding hands; hanging/hanging on; flower; reaching/out of reach; reading; book; lab accident (It looks like a lab flask to me!).

Again, I have to say that when Jennie Coughlin rolls these dice, the result is chance but also challenging. This week was probably the most challenging yet. Once again, there were repeats, so coming up with something that didn’t echo a previous story took me some time.

This week’s story, “A Beautiful Day,” involves some of that old-fashioned tradecraft, but I threw in an explosion for you action lovers. It also shows that espionage and spies are necessarily deceptive, sometimes even to the people they trust.

If you’re interested in giving Story Cubes Challenge a try, use the picture above, write a story, then go to Jennie Coughlin’s blog and post a link to your story. Did you see the same things I did?

Story Cube Challenge – Week 5

This one really was a toughie, given the fact I had to ponder the cubes (hmm, sounds predictive, doesn’t it?) for a couple of days before something gelled. A couple of the cubes (pyramid and moon) had shown up for another challenge story, “Desert Nights and Weeping Flowers,” and I didn’t want to repeat that or be too similar. Then, I decided to riff off that original story with a follow-up twenty years after the fact. So, you might want to read “Desert Nights and Weeping Flowers” before this one.

Here is what the cubes revealed:

And here is what I saw in the cubes: (l to r) drop/miss; falling; hanging on; beetle/scarab; shouting; miss/error/elude; pyramid; moon; flower.

To read the new story, “A Study in Blue,” click on the title or hover your cursor over the Story Cube Challenge tab and select it from the drop-down list. (And, yes, I’ve become a fan of the new BBC show “Sherlock,” so I couldn’t resist a little homage to a Doyle title.)

If you feel you’re up to the Story Cube Challenge, give it a try. Use the picture to the left, but go post a link for your story in a comment on Jennie Coughlin’s blog, Welcome to Exeter.

See you next week.

Story Cube Challenge – Week 4

Yesterday’s Rory’s Story Cubes prompt from Jennie Coughlin’s Welcome to Exeter blog put the challenge in the Story Cubes Challenge. At first glance, I thought perhaps Week 4 of the challenge was going to do me in. I wasn’t sure how to work each of these actions or objects into something coherent. And, frankly, perhaps I still haven’t.

Here is the story cubes prompt:

I interpreted the cubes as: (l to r) hit, clothes on a line, agreement, thief/burglar/theft, a present, at a crossroads, shouting, a magic wand, and a padlock.

To read the story I wrote from this, “Resolve,” click here. (Or hover your cursor over Story Book Challenge then click on “Resolve.”)

I’m almost afraid to see what Week 5 will bring.

Enjoy, and, please, leave a comment about what you liked or didn’t like. How else will I learn? ;-D