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Monthly Archives: August 2014

Revealing Cracks

Carrot Ranch Flash FictionThis week writers have revealed the richness of the word “crack.” We find cracks in research and cracks in the ceiling. Life is not what it’s cracked up to be, although sometimes it can crack us up. Else we crack under the pressure; we crack a windshield; we hide cracks beneath foundation.

Here you will find a buffet of cracks, including, yes– cracked crab legs. Dine on these 99-word stories that involve a crack.

Crack in the Façade by Geoff Le Pard

‘Come on Mum, they’re here.’

Following Penny, Mary eyed Rupert and his mother.

While Rupert and Penny bought drinks, Mary sat opposite Alison, surprised how Alison had aged.

Alison said, ‘Thank you for coming. I wanted you to have this. It was your grandma’s.’

The ring was beautiful. ‘Your father should never have given me it.’

Mary nodded. Her anger – how could he have given this to his mistress – was tempered by the touching gesture.

‘He said the stones matched my eyes. Fool.’

Mary nodded.

‘Careful, Mum. Your face has cracked. That’s a smile.’

‘It’s not. It’s wind.’

###

Crab Leg Complaint by Larry LaForge

They told us at Crab Leg Academy to keep quiet, but this needs to be said.

Those cracking tools you humans use are brutal. Your repeated whacking and stabbing are uncalled for. And please, do you really have to curse?

You’re supposed to make a single crack, followed by a smooth scoop with a tiny forked utensil, and then a delightful dip into the melted butter. (Oh, the butter!)

All I ask is that you listen carefully to the instructions from the server and use your cracking tool correctly.

It’s not much to ask. Put yourself in my legs.

******
The 100-word version of this story is posted on larrylaforge100words at Flash Fiction Magazine.

###

Crack Flash by Anne Goodwin

That long jagged one above her dressing table is like the Amalfi Coast where they went on honeymoon. Where he cheated on her the first time. The short straight one above the window reminds her of the Caesarean scar from the baby they made when he promised not to hurt her again. That one branching like a tree evokes his other family, his secret second wife whose children do not die.

So much time she’s wasted alone in bed staring at the cracks in ceiling. Dreaming, not thinking, not daring to wonder why her man was so late home.

###

Exposure by Robin L. Flanigan

Sophie’s husband told her in a school parking lot that he’d fallen in love with another woman three weeks ago and was leaving. He was going home to tell their son, and then he was heading to his mother’s house to live until he could find a suitable apartment for himself and his girlfriend.

Sophie recalled his “I love you” the day before and the recent afternoon he called her his “bright spot.” She thought about their upcoming trip to New York, the kitchen renovation, the plans they had to write a play together. She’d never seen the crack.

###

Busted by Pete

“This shouldn’t take long,” the clerk said, his fingers tracing the web of cracks in the windshield.

Peter mumbled a quick thanks. The clerk nodded, struggling to remain professional while clicking his pen furiously. A slight grin as he started to speak, then took a breath to organize.

“So windshield and headlight replacement. And um, would you like us to try to buff this out as well?” The clerk gestured towards the shiny black front and rear doors down the side of the BMW, where in runny blood red letters generously applied with spite, it read: CHEATING BASTARD.

“Please.”

###

Cracks by Susan Zutautas

I could hear chanting coming down the street as I sat stunned not believing what I was hearing……
One little girl skipping as she happily chanted over and over again …..

One more sidewalk
One more crack

That’s all it’ll take
To break someone’s back

You better watch yourself
Or it’ll happen to you
I’ll make your back crack
And it’ll be the end of you

You’ll lay there in pain
Never again the same
What a shame
Cause now you’re lame

As she skipped by my house I shuddered, went inside, shut and locked my door …. totally creepy.

###

Face the World by Sarah Brentyn

When we were young, I envied her. She had perfect skin—like porcelain. The boys called her Snow White. The girls, jealous, nicknamed her Casper. She was that knock-you-over kind of beautiful.

The only makeup she wore was sheer, tinted lipgloss.

After the accident, she wore layers of foundation and powder she had never learned to apply. It was too thick and the wrong shade for her skin. No one mentioned the deep, scarlet scars showing through cracks in her makeup. I wished she would wash it off and show her face to the world. She was still beautiful.

###

Cracks by Chris Magnuson

It does not matter where we live.  All summer long we see business owners
spraying weed killer into the cracks of the sidewalks.  Well, I ask, what
about the rights of the weeds, or plants, or even flowers that are
struggling to take root in that crack?  All they ask for is the joy of
spreading their leaves out – reaching to the sun and the rain.  They just
want to live.  They just want to grow and be appreciated.  Can you look at
a sidewalk crack in the same way again?  Now that you know life could grow
there?

###

Flash Fiction by Irene Waters

Janet’s screams tore through the house. Another nightmare. She hated these dreams of the earth shaking, swallowing her parents in the cracks which divided the earth and disappearing as the earth shook shut. She knew it didn’t happen. She’d been having them since she was three and now at twelve she should know better. She didn’t live in an earthquake zone. Still she perspired and longed for her parents to come and comfort her. Why didn’t they come? Rising she padded out to find them. In the dark she couldn’t see the crack – not until she felt herself falling.

###

Crack of Thunder by Sarah Unsicker

I lay in bed, refusing to wake up. I enjoy this quiet morning, even with the toddler kicking me in the back. Eyes closed, I see a quick flash of light.

Am I hallucinating? The world bright for a moment, then suddenly dark. The flash does not happen again. Is this the beginnings of a brain tumor? After that quarter-second, the world is back to normal. Quiet, dark, toddler in the back, nothing has changed. Or has it? Am I cracking up?

I hear a distant crack, a rumble of thunder. Everything is, once again, right with the world.

###

The Crack by Norah Colvin

She willed the earth to open up and swallow her whole. But it didn’t. She just stood there trembling, attempting to hold back the deluge that threatened to engulf her.

She strained to remember, knocking her head with her fist. Quick. Try. Try. What’s the rule: i? e?

She stammered an answer. Wrong again! Too many rules! Stupid rules! Broken – just like her.

She fled, eyes stinging, mouth twitching; and as she passed, with one hand grasped the confiscated unicorn sitting askew the teacher’s desk.

Away they flew, the assault of mocking laughter fading far below.

###

Devotion of a Mother by Ruchira Khanna

Judith had a long day at work. She reached home exhausted, frazzled and totally hollow eyed with the intention to hit the sack.

Her daughter greeted her at the doorway and reminded her of the promise to mend her costume for tomorrow’s dress rehearsal.

Judith’s heart sank on seeing the hope in her daughter’s eyes.

She nodded but had resentment as she plunged on the couch next to her daughter who was watching TV and laughing in delight while she was forcing her eyes wide that had been open since the crack of dawn to sew together her apparel.

###

Calico Curtains by Charli Mills

Sarah stared at the crack between calico curtains. Cob had teased her when she hung the divide.

“Why the bed veil? I like watching you stir the fire from here, Rosebud.” He reclined on the trundle bed, leaning on an elbow. Thick black hair tousled. Blue eyes shining like summer sky on water. She remembered smiling, abandoning her task.

Her ears rung as acrid smoke drifted from parted calico. Cob had just come to the back door, asking for water, touching her fingers lightly as she passed the cup.

It was the perfect place to hide, behind those curtains.

###

Maria and the Crack by MrBinks

Maria twitched. She wasn’t sure how long she’d been staring at the crack but it must have been a while. The coffee in her cup, previously too hot, was now perfectly drinkable.

She blinked rapidly and took a sip, her eyes fixated. It wasn’t pretty. It certainly wasn’t that interesting but here Maria stood. She could not look away. She was just, mesmerised.

A thud. A smack. The sound of gushing water.

The crack moved.

“Ah, sod it. Sorry to ask, Love,” it said, “but could you pass me my tool-bag. It’s just there, by your foot. Cheers Darling.”

###

New prompt on Wednesday. All writers welcome!

Tools of the Trade: Self-Editing

Tips for WritersThe fledgling barn swallow careens drunkenly, barely lifting off the ground higher than the dog chasing it. With fumbling feathers it flits to the top of the pasture-gate and clings with wiry bird toes as the dog sniffs from below. Later, it attempts flight again, swooping almost comically from side to side, crashing into a clump of tall pond reeds.

I cringe because I can relate.

As an emerging author–dare I say it too early–I feel as though I’m careening through process like I’ve a bottle of moonshine stashed in my desk drawer. Nip, nip on the bottle, snip, snip on the page. I take a deep breath. I don’t drink at my desk and I don’t randomly edit with scissors, but some days I feel as wet-behind-the-ears as that fledgling bird.

To counter doubt, I assemble tools important to my trade. I feel more like a carpenter when I wear a carpenter’s belt with hammer, nails and level tucked close to me.  I’ve talked about other tools employed in writing such as

When you write, write. But before you call it a book, edit.

Last week we discussed a few time management ideas and broke down editing into levels. When it is time to edit, edit with tools. This will help steady you if you feel like you’re careening when faced with the tower of pages in a project. Think of your tools as guides or training wheels. Even when you master this thing called writing a book, it is because you’ve mastered how to use your tools.

Self-editing requires knowledge and assistance: books, beta-readers and professional editors.

Self-Editing (2)

Books for Self Editing

Writers, know thy language. Before you can write brilliant prose, you need to know how to construct basic subject-verb-object sentences. You need references that remind you what it is to write clearly and correctly. Yes, brilliant authors break basic rules, but only because they wore the basics long enough to make them into comfortable, ragged jeans that they could retrofit into the latest-greatest fad.

This short-list of must-have books for self-editing is American-biased. I’d love to hear from writers outside the stars-and-stripes as to what would be comparable references.

  1. Strunk & White, “The Elements of Style.” Don’t let the thin book fool you–it is as dense as a slice of chocolate torte. Be clear. (That’s chapter 16, by the way.) But know your punctuation, your constructs of sentences. Strunk and White advise, “Be obscure clearly! Be wild of tongue in a way we can understand!” This book must grace your shelf and be your self-editing companion (well, if you are American).
  2. The Associated Press Stylebook. The caveat here is that this book is for media writers. However, most authors–established and emerging–blog these days and the AP Stylebook is the proper reference guide, referred to as the “journalist’s bible.” I use it as the foundational guide for client work, making notes for differing styles or words not included (such as, fair trade). It defines email (not e-mail), farmers market (not farmer’s market) and proper weather terms.
  3. Webster’s New World College Dictionary. This is the companion dictionary to the AP Stylebook. Before I got into editing, I relied on my Heritage New Dictionary, and if I want to geek-out on words I go to my beloved Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology. What I love about my version of Webster’s is that the book came with a disk so I have loaded both the dictionary and companion thesaurus onto my computer. It makes checking words a breeze (even those occasional “chiefly British” words I hanker to learn). Point is, have a dictionary.
  4. Williams & Bizup “Style, Lessons in Clarity and Grace.” If you are serious about mastering language, get this book. If you are in college to study English (Lit or Writing) you will be required to get this book. So, if you are at home working on a DIY MFA, get this book. It’s $50 and worth the expense. If you don’t have the dough, go to your library and work on the lessons there. Bring a notebook.
  5. Eyes. Not a book, but a self-editing tool. Use your eyes to read other writers (good writers, masters, classics). Use your eyes to review your own work. Use your eyes to look up references, not problem areas and learn as you work on your craft.

Beta-Readers for Self-Editing

Why do I think somebody else reading your manuscript is a form of self-editing? Because you need to be in control of this process (unless you are a control freak and then maybe you just need to lighten up). Don’t just blindly say, “Hey–want to read my book? Yea! Great! Thanks!” Be mindful of why you want your beta-readers to read:

  1. Content. At this level of editing you are seeking feedback. Is the plot flowing, are the characters believable? While it is important to gauge a reader’s interest in your book you do need to go deeper than an opinion (“It was great!” or “It sucked!”). Ask specific questions for your beta-readers to answer.
  2. Clarity. It’s entirely possible to have a beta-reader review your book for clarity. This is a level at which you might ask an industry expert to read. For example, I wrote a climate-fiction project and I might send a few chapters to a climatologist or to someone who is familiar with Baffin Island. My sweet neighbor Bessie isn’t going to be the best beta-reader at this level unless she’s a retired book publisher who worked for NASA and visits Baffin Island.
  3. Correctness. I have more than a few Grammar Tyrants in my life who’d love to scan my sentences for errors and bleed red pen on the page. These are NOT the beta-readers I want at the content level as we will only frustrate each other. But they can be terrific proofers at the level of editing for correctness. However, be sure that they can manage focus for a project the size of a book. Most editors minimize their editing hours or else they overlook mistakes. Personally, I’d prefer a professional, but maybe you are lucky enough to have one volunteer or work out a trade of sorts.

Working With a Professional Editor

One valid reason yet for traditional publishing is to work with industry professionals. However, the conundrum is how do you get the professionals to even glance at your emerging book project? Often, you will need a professional to work with you on the editing. Again, you, the writer, are a part of this process.

  1. Find a professional. There are plenty who call themselves editors. I do, but I would never edit anyone’s book. I have zippo experience in the book publishing industry. I’ve worked for daily newspapers, magazines and businesses. I do volunteer to edit as a beta-reader for friends working on their masters or books only if I know that they are also working with advisers, professors or a final proof-reader. I want an editor who has worked in the industry, read books in the slush pile and honed a knowledge based on experience.
  2. Have your manuscript assessed. For me, revision was paralyzing. I knew I needed to make changes but i doubted each one. So I hired a professional who listened to my desire to write a hero’s journey. Not only did she point out where it was working, she also pointed out where it needed bolstering. She also brought things to my attention such as a persistent slip on point-of-view. I would never have caught that and my early beta-readers hadn’t noticed. I felt confident revising my novel project after her assessment and it cost less than two nights out for dinner.
  3. Have your final revision proofed or copy-edited. Again, you need to be involved with making this decision. If you had an editorial friend go over your book as a beta-reader, maybe all you need is a final proof. If in doubt, send a few chapters and the professional can help you decide what you need to polish the pages until it shines like the star you want it to be. Stay actively engaged in your edits and complete the suggested changes. Always be using your eyes (unless you are writing, then use your imagination to get into that flow).

What tools do you have in your writer’s belt? Have you used beta-readers or editors? Let me leave you with a testimonial for my editor in case you are in search of one or want to check out her company.

Testimonial: Write Divas

When I experienced trouble with revision, I sought the help of Write Divas. I chose this organization out of my list of editors because they had a strong and vibrant brand backed by expert posts on craft and industry. They were punctual in responding to my inquiry; affordable and accurate in their quote; and they saved the day with my manuscript, pointing out weak places that needed attention. Before you can copy edit, you first need to make sure that your story is clear, your structure sound and your characters believable. That’s what an assessment can accomplish. I feel more confident as a writer with the feedback from Write Divas, and I’m able to revise without second guessing my changes. They will help me each step of the way to achieve my publishing goals. Every writer needs an editor, so why not a Diva?

5 Reasons to Hire Write Divas:

  1. Because you get to tell your tweeps that you have your own Diva.
  2. Just look at their brand. Don’t you want to go hang out with them? Write Divas are hip!
  3. It sounds impressive to say, I’m a writer and I have an editor who is not my grandmother.
  4. Because now you have deadlines and no one wants to miss a deadline to a Diva.
  5. Besides all the fun, you have now committed to being professional in your writing pursuit.