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Times Past: Themes and Focus

By Irene Waters

Although memoir is a true story of a particular part of your life, it must still have structure if you intend for others to read it. Firstly you have to decide what is the story that you want to tell. For most memoir writers it will be the most exciting, heart-pounding, significant time of their lives. For some, this may be their childhood to their coming of age (known as a bildungsroman) whilst for others, it may be an illness, an experience that happens later in life or it could be the relationship you had with a particular animal or a business venture you had undertaken. In reality – it can be any theme you choose. These days there are even immersion memoirs where a person will undertake some task or live amongst, e.g. footballers, for months and then write a memoir on this experience. For most of us, we know our story, and we know what has had the most impact on us, and that is what we decide to write about. For me – it was when my husband and I, as newlyweds, went into partnership with the paramount chief of an exotic island in the Pacific in the running of a small resort and tour business.

Early in the writing process you also need to decide for whom you are writing. Is your audience only yourself, your family or are you planning to publish and sell your memoir to the public. When I started writing my memoir the plan was that it was being written for my family. I included detail that interested them as they knew the friend that helped us load a pile of timber into a container that was eventually to be the house we built on the remote island. As I ventured further into the story my focus changed and I decided that this was a story that had wider appeal than just my loved ones. However, this change meant that the chapters I had already written had to rewritten to remove information that no-one, other than my family and friends, would have much if any interest in knowing. If, however, you are writing for your family then lots of detail about the family will be of interest to that readership. Early in my blogging I came across a chap that had published his memoir. I purchased it on Amazon only to find that this was a story that had been written for the family and had little appeal to the wider audience. It may have been worthy of some blogging of the more interesting aspects but I don’t think it should never have been put up for sale to the public without a lot of editing. If you are writing just for yourself then you can be free with details of a personal nature that might be therapeutic for you to acknowledge but should never be let into the public domain.

Having decided on a theme and a focus the writing begins. How you do this is an individual choice. Some people free write their first draft, just putting down all thoughts on paper. In the second draft, they add the structure. Personally, I write in a structured way from the start, but in second drafts I may change my starting point. Lee Gutkind, the father of creative nonfiction, suggests that you should open with a scene as it is crucial to draw the reader into the narrative immediately. Scenes are active. They show instead of tell and have dialogue and high definition scenes. Scenes and reflections on the effect that this has had on the author’s life should be put into the structure of the book. Again, this can be done in numerous ways either intermingled or set apart from each other.

Once the first draft has been written it should be re-read looking for the themes, focus, scenes, and reflection. If part of the narrative has nothing to do with the theme, even if it is a great story, get rid of it. If it doesn’t suit the focus, edit so that it does. Rewrite to create scenes where necessary and add reflection where there is none.

I would also suggest, as has Stephen King, Lee Gutkind, and many others, that reading memoirs that are of a similar theme to your own is a helpful exercise. Doing so allows you to see what works and what doesn’t work regarding structure. Sometimes the ones you don’t enjoy teach you more than those that you think are fantastic. Analyse what works and what doesn’t work. Reading is also useful when it comes to selling your book to a publisher as they will want to know – where on the bookshelf would this sit? Be able to tell the publisher who your memoir will appeal to. Mine will appeal to those that like travel memoirs, true-life adventure, small business and those wanting to make a change in their life. Knowing the themes and the focus will tighten your writing. I’m looking forward to joining in the discussion on your views of themes and focus.

The prompt for this month’s Times Past is a little different to those normally given. This month I am asking you to reflect on the biggest change in your lifetime. This can be a social change or a technological one or even one of both. Please join in giving your location at the time of your memory and your generation. An explanation of the generations and the purpose of the prompts along with conditions for joining in can be seen at the Times Past Page. Join in either in the comments or by creating your own post and linking. Looking forward to your memories.

June 14: Flash Fiction Challenge

White hedgerow roses bloom on the corner of Ethel and Roberts Streets. With each pass, I wonder at their fragrance and details — are they white or tinged with a subtle color the way prehnite covers a gray rock of basalt with a sea-green glow when wet?

I’m breathing deep of the crisp air and watering my daughter’s garden which rises and blooms with purpose. She’s planted alternating heights, textures, and colors, timing the blooms, so there are buds to watch when spent petals fade and drop. It rarely gets hot in the Keweenaw, but if it doesn’t often rain the sandy soil quickly dries.

My 85-year-old neighbor, Mrs. H, watches me water the flagging yellow lilies and explosion of purple allium. I’m curious about a thicker and bigger bulb that’s not yet ready to reveal it’s color. It continues to grow, and its bud reminds me of a green coxcomb. I smile and wave to Mrs. H. She returns the smile and walks over to me.

“Winter’s coming, hey,” she says.

At first, I think she’s alluding to the nip in the near-summer air or the smear of gray rainless clouds overhead. But she means something more — when you live in a remote region with Lake Superior’s micro-climate that dumps an average of 300 inches of snow a year, you have winter and preparing for winter.

Winter’s coming, hey. It’s more profound than planning for next round of snow. It has to do with seizing the moment, savoring the bounce of bumble-bees, and seeking agates under every rock on McLain Beach. The time is now. Stop and smell the roses for winter is coming and you need to populate your senses with a full bouquet.

Watering, I know each bloom will pass so I’m mindful of each moment — gauging its height, noting changes in shapes, and admiring deepening shades of hues. I’m more attentive to the differences. I let Mrs. H know I’ve noticed her hedgerow flowers blooming. Her light blue eyes widen.

“They must have just bloomed,” she says.

Daily, Mrs. H circles her property. She pauses at the forget-me-knots and points to the Columbine. No matter where she walks, tiny white English daisies carpet all our lawns on the block. At night, the flowers tighten and reveal a hot-pink undercoat. I remark that I’ve never lived in a place like this where flowers bloom from snowmelt to snowfall.

Mrs. H nods and says people never had lawns. Everyone had flowers! What I see all around me when I walk the neighborhood or woods where farms and houses once stood during the mining heydays reflects abandoned yards of flowers. Historically, this amazes me the same way old stone foundations do — someone once lived here.

I turn the spray to the phlox to water this brilliant scrub of bubblegum-pink flowers. Mrs. H tells me phlox are her favorite. Her grandmother’s yard was full of phlox. I try to imagine the lawns gone and replaced with clumps of phlox and daisies. I can even see Mrs. H as a little girl trailing behind her grandmother.

These flashes of images come to me like a bouquet of emotion. I pick out each flower, each feeling to capture the scene. Often a story begins in sensory distortion until I can define what it is about. I’ll file away such scenes in my mind’s cabinet box and when I’m writing fiction, access it to use its color, scent, and feel. This is part of filling the well, catching stories for later use, like collecting herbals for dyes and healing teas.

Mrs. H leaves me to water, and I mull over the paperwork for the Hub and think of how healing this garden will be for my daughter when she returns home from surgery at the Mayo. A part of my whirring mind urges me to quit dallying around — so much to do, so behind, so much worry, so many unknowns. That’s like anticipating snow shoveling instead of experiencing how big the begonia buds are today.

Winter’s coming, hey. I’ll fill my mind with petunias and possibilities before returning to the tasks and trade. I’ll focus on what I love about literary art and branding and community and serendipity. I’ll chase down flowers in the woods and rocks on the beach. I’ll catch all the stories I can and finish the ones I can tame.

Before I go inside, Mrs. H returns with white hedgerow roses and blue forget-me-nots clasped in her thin and papery hand. She shares with me the day’s bounty. We meet in this moment, and time spins around us — she is at once a girl and a wise woman to me. She’s ageless as she passes the gift. One her grandmother once bestowed upon her.

June 14, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a bouquet. You can explore the meaning of the word or gather a bunch of flowers. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by June 19, 2018. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments.

If you want your story published in the weekly collection, please use this form. If you want to interact with other writers, do so in the comments (yes, that means sharing your story TWICE — once for interaction and once for publication). Rules are here.

NOTE: If you have trouble with the form, email me at wordsforpeople@gmail.com.

A Mother’s Bouquet (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

“Mama, flowers!” Lizzie stumbled through the cabin door, dropping her bouquet of Black-eyed Susans.

Sarah cringed as Lizzie wailed, wanting to escape the chores Mary gave her.  Lizzie’s brothers rushed in to help gather their sister’s spilled flowers.

Monroe calmed Lizzie while Jules and Cling gathered her bouquet, handing it back. Lizzie sniffled. Mary knelt with Baby Charles on her hip, and Lizzie thrust the flowers to her mother. “They are beautiful, Lizzie.”

Sarah’s heart ached for a little girl to gather a bouquet for her.  But she left her daughter in the grave in back in North Carolina.

Man Glisten

A softer, gentler beard — a man who dares to glitter and reveal his man glisten. This sort of man breaks ties with traditions and expectations. It’s vulnerability. And perhaps more.

Writers explored the unusual side of what society expects of men and what men choose to do independently.

The following is based on the June 7, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about man glisten.

PART I (10-minute read)

It’s What’s Inside that Counts – Believe That If You Want by Geoff Le Pard

‘You know, Logan, I thought I’d get a tatt.’

‘Berk. That’s for teens and Maoris.’

‘Just want to be different.’

‘Don’t bother with such fripperies. Just be your weirdy self.’

‘Yeah but that doesn’t make me stand out. What if I dyed my beard?’

‘Call that a beard?’

‘What do you mean?’

‘You know, the other day when that guy collapsed at work?’

‘Yeah?’

‘They shouted ‘Man down!’?’

‘Yeah?’

‘I thought someone was trying to describe your beard to someone who’d not met you.’

‘That’s not fair.’

‘It’s bum-fluff, mate. Rub hard with a flannel, and you’d lose it.’

🥕🥕🥕

Glitz Man by kate @ aroused

Mick streaked his hair, wore classy clothes, saw himself as a leader of the Men’s Liberation Movement. Had applied for paternity leave before his wife gave birth, a public service entitlement. Bragged about the number of nappies he’d changed In a radio interview, he had counted every one.

Being a migrant, he took his wife’s name for she was from the landed gentry. Once his kids were at school, he ran for local council with never a qualm that his wife earned more.

Kid sprinkled him with glitter as he left for a meeting, laughing, comfortable with his choices!

🥕🥕🥕

Glistening by Jack Schuyler

Glistening, he took the stage.

I sipped my drink and pushed the pink cherry back into the glass with my tongue.

He was strong and graceful. With all the force of a tribal chieftain, he exercised his charm with the delicacy of butterfly wings.

It was mesmerizing.

Using every corner of the stage, he came face to face with the pulsing audience one second and flew high into the air the next.

When the dance finished, I had to pick my jaw up off the floor. In a daze, I rose from my barstool and burst into embarrassing applause.

🥕🥕🥕

Man Glisten by Kay Kingsley

“What makes you feel good?” she asked him. “I don’t know. Sports? Or maybe working on my car.” He paused, thinking harder about this question than he anticipated.

She smiled a soft, playful smile. He was the kindest person she ever met.

“You know I love you, right?”

Now he was the one smiling, a smile colored with a bit of blush.

Embarrassed, he stroked his chin exposing hidden beard glitter that sparkled in the sun.

Only the strongest men play dress up with their 6 year old daughter and his man glisten is an endearing badge of honor.

🥕🥕🥕

Metallic Man by Juliet Nubel

The tiny drops of water clung to his broad shoulders like sequins, sparkling in the hot summer sun. Some fell to the ground, others were blown dry as he sprinted from the beach to the bike park.

His eyes scanned the dozens of lanes, searching for his space-age contraption, the one he would crouch over for the next five hours, pedalling for his life.

Then would come the marathon, where more pearls of sweat would bejewel his pounding body – this body he had transformed from a large white lump of lard to a lean, tanned, glistening piece of Iron.

🥕🥕🥕

Choosing by D. Avery

Both were tall, strong, good looking. Both had good prospects. Both were getting frustrated over her reluctance to choose.

Wade finally confronted Emerson, demanding they fight each other like men. He demanded this despite her protests for him to stop.

“It’s the only way!” he insisted. “Best man wins!” A crowd gathered around what was sure to be a close and brutal match.

But Emerson refused to fight, said he wouldn’t treat her like a prize purse. He turned and walked away. She caught up. When his eyes glistened with happiness, she knew she had chosen the right man.

🥕🥕🥕

Man Glisten by Frank Hubeney

Peter’s daughter laughed. She could see the glitter in his hair. Not much, but enough to sparkle.

“You still got it!” She said.

“You gave it to me,” Peter responded.

“You’re glis…glistening?”

“Yeah. I’m glad you let me glisten for a while.”

Peter really was glad. It was not easy for her to throw that glitter on him last week. She showed unexpected initiative. In case showering removed too much of it, he retouched his hair to make sure she would see some before he guided her wheelchair to the kitchen table for breakfast.

What a sparkling day!

Secret Love by Heather Gonzalez

At ripe old age of 99, all Sarah could remember of her true love was the way his skin glistened in the sun every time he got out of the water that summer.

No one ever knew about their secret love affair. They had been so careful. Most of their encounters were at an abandoned part of the river. That summer, they let their bodies intertwine beneath the surface.

To this day, no one knew that her daughter’s father wasn’t her husband.

She could only remember the way his skin glistened in the sun, but that was enough.

🥕🥕🥕

Silver Sparkles by Kerry E.B. Black

They celebrated their silver anniversary on a cruise.

Haley donned a new gown, but nothing disguised the ravages of a hard life on delicate skin. She thought she’d packed her cares, but they manifested in dark bags beneath her eyes. Worries snaked from her temples, dye-defying silver streaks. Translucent powder sunk into laugh lines and danced along crow’s feet.

Larry took his wife’s hand, enamored of her beauty. When she nestled in for a hug, she left some of her makeup glistening in his beard. It caught the light so that when they toasted, not only their smiles sparkled.

🥕🥕🥕

All-Inclusive by Bill Engleson

“Move over,” she directs. I have no objection, so we shift our baking bodies inches deeper into the shade of the giant parasol. Temporarily reprieved from the ferocity of the Varadero sun, she points to the apparition.

“Italian, maybe?”

“Not American, that’s for sure,” I opine, adding, “stupid embargo…”

“He’s not alone.”

A sleek cinder-burnt woman in a leopard bikini joins him.

His leopard briefs are band-aid thin. His body, muscular, with just a hint of paunch, is a Vaseline vision.

“Envious?” she prods.

“If I was an oil spill, maybe. Do you want another Havana Loco?”

“Hmm, yes.”

🥕🥕🥕

Summer Shower by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Her bus was late.

Benny stood under the awning, doing his best to shield his dog with the umbrella. Nevertheless, the pooch was soaked.

“Sorry, Roger,” he murmured, kneeling to stroke the dog’s ears, “We’ve gotta give up.”

Roger whined, licking a runnel of rain off his master’s forearm.

Benny stood, closing and shaking the umbrella. He leaned it against a wall. “Don’t need this, eh boy?”

Together, they strolled into the twilight as the streetlights lit up.

Minutes later, she marveled at her good fortune in finding the umbrella. It would be a long, wet walk home, otherwise.

🥕🥕🥕

After the Adventure by Wallie & Friend

She found him sleeping. The sun through the leaves warmed his skin in green and gold light, his long lashes casting shadows across his cheek.

Ami sat beside him. When she had gone looking for him, she hadn’t expected to find him here like this, but it seemed somehow right that in the aftermath of their adventure he and she should find a moment like this, a moment of apart from the others—a moment of rest.

Ami didn’t wake him. Instead, she settled beside him, her cheek on her arm, and watched the sunlight glisten on his face.

🥕🥕🥕

Magic In The Air by Sherri Matthews

Rumours of the old man living in the woods ran rife through the village, but nobody had ever seen him. Tim, determined to prove his existence, donned binoculars and strode out towards the abandoned house in the woods. Hours later, Tim’s flagging excitement surged when he saw a man walking towards him. The man wore a black cloak with a hood over his black hair, but his white beard glistened in the sunlight. Tim gasped, and the man smiled. “I’m not who you think I am son, but if it’s magic you’re after, you’ve come to the right place.”

🥕🥕🥕

Man Glisten in the Madhouse by Anne Goodwin

In some ways, Henry found it reassuring. This was a madhouse after all. But the poor man, boogying to a solitary rhythm, would attract derision outside. Someone should restrain him. Was it light reflected from the Christmas tree, or was that glitter in his hair? Was there alcohol in the punch?

At least Henry’s role would be minimal: passing the patients’ gifts to the Mayor. Then home to sanity. Yet his face froze as glitter-man sashayed over, grinning as he offered his hand. “Thanks for coming, Santa, Santa’s Elf. I’m Clive Musgrove, charge nurse. We spoke on the phone.”

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

The Last Story? by Di @ pensitivity101

She sat on his knee as she’d always done, waiting for him to begin telling a story.

He faltered, looking into those big hazel flecked saucers, feeling lost, overwhelmed, inadequate, and extremely blessed.

How many more evenings would they share? He was old and tired, time was precious.

She looked at him quizzically, touched a finger to the jewel glistening on his leathery cheek.

‘Granpa?’ she said, ‘Why are you crying?’

He smiled, taking her tiny hand in his liver-spotted and gnarled one, slowly raising it to his lips.

‘They’re not tears, sweetheart. They are the Diamonds of Love.’

🥕🥕🥕

Glitter Smiles Glisten by Norah Colvin

Relentless rain meant no beach for the country cousins. They spent eternity on the verandah, making artworks, playing games, and bickering.

On the last day, when Mum said to clear space for their mattresses, they fought over who’d do what. Toys and games ended up in a haphazard tower with the glitter bucket balanced on top.

When Dad bent for goodnight kisses, he stumbled and demolished the tower. Glitter went everywhere—including all over Dad. The children gasped.

“Your hair glistens, Dad,” smiled the littlest.

Dad smiled too, then everybody laughed.

Dad wore a hat to work that week.

🥕🥕🥕

Prideful Glisten by H.R.R. Gorman

The little girl surveyed her dress and scratched at the crinoline lining. “Why am I dressed up?” she asked.

Dr. Roberts crouched and poked his daughter on the shoulder. “Today is graduation day. It means you’re growing up. You want to dress up nice for graduation, yes?”

“I sure do – thank you, Daddy, for this fancy dress!” She twirled in her sequined skirt, the gems catching the light.

Dr. Roberts reached out a hand and led the kindergarten graduate to the station for the ride to school. He smiled, the glisten of his teeth outshining the sequins’ prideful sparkle.

🥕🥕🥕

Educational Enigma? by JulesPaige

“Mommy why doesn’t Papa man glisten?” Adrianna asked her mother.

At the cliff’s edge, Stan had wanted to clear the debris by their home by the lake. He’d at least asked Junior with him. Though Joan wasn’t sure
that father and son had enough engineering genes between them both to change a light bulb. Joan was curious as to what Adrianna was getting at. “What do you mean, honey?”

“Well,” the five year old daughter proclaimed as if she knew all the secrets of the world,“Teacher said most animals, the boys are show-offs,
like the peacock bird.”

🥕🥕🥕

Pride by D. Avery

William, reaching for his tuxedo, wondered why, of all the birds in the world, men emulate penguins when they dress up. His eyes hungrily took in the myriad colors, and his hands explored the many textures of his wife’s clothes. The teal feathered boa from the masquerade ball complemented her sequin shawl that he had draped over his shoulders. He marveled at how both sparkled, the colors shimmering. Emerging proud as a peacock from the walk-in closet, William joined his wife, still pruning and preening at her vanity mirror. Her eyes glistened as he reached for her eyeliner.

🥕🥕🥕

Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning

The ogre woke to fairies jumping on his bed. Pink tutus and wings flapping, giggles, pixie dust dancing in the morning sunlight.

“Get up. We made tea.”

With a grunt, the ogre shuffled to the kitchen.

“One or two sugars, Daddy?”

“Make it a double.”

Two pinches of glitter. The ogre slogged down his tea, wiped his mouth, a rare smile cracking the cast of worry on his face.

Knock. Knock.

The fairies flitted. “Mom’s here.”

The ogre started for the fairies’ bags. The smaller fairy took his hand. “Do you want my wings?”

The ogre nodded. “Of course.”

🥕🥕🥕

Forget-Me-Not by Sarah Whiley

I lit the candle, marking five years since our loss.

A single tear rolled down my cheek, which I indulged with just a little self-pity. Thinking again, of what might have been.

It never got any easier. And to make it worse, this year, my husband had totally forgotten.

I was hurt. He knew how hard this day was.

I heard the key turn in the lock and quickly wiped my eyes. I turned and was greeted by a beautiful bouquet of forget-me-nots.

More beautiful, was the glisten in my husband’s eyes, as he pulled me into his arms.

🥕🥕🥕

Daddy Can Dance (BOTS) by Susan Sleggs

Two years after a bad motorcycle accident, Carl was the only father at the Kindergarten Father/Daughter dance in a wheelchair. He had trouble keeping track of Katie in the crowd, but he came home with a feeling of exhilaration.

His wife smiled at the glitter on his suit. “How did you get covered?”

“Lots of Katie’s friends wanted a ride on my lap, and they had on sparkly dresses.”

“Pretty, but I’ll never get it all out.”

“That’s fine, every time it glistens, I’ll celebrate being alive, and remember twirling with Katie and her friends.”

“Well said, my love.”

🥕🥕🥕

Hair, Skin, Sun by Paula Moyer

Jean and Steve did summer weekends at Mille Lacs – that gigantic, shallow inland lake, smack in the middle of Minnesota. Swimming off the pier was a near-sunset event for Steve. Jean often looked at him and marveled. We’re both “white,” she thought, but Steve? Seriously white.

That evening he lathered up in sunscreen, slid off the pier and floated, belly up.
His chest hair was so thick that sunlight glistened jewel-like on the strands and then refracted when bouncing against his wet, shiny skin. Sunrays danced against Steve’s chest, a giant iridescent opal, resting displayed on satin Mille Lacs.

🥕🥕🥕

Man Glisten – Progress! by M J Mallon

‘What’s that?’ asked the little girl in the department store.

‘It’s the new Father Christmas. He’s called man glisten because he listens to all the little girls and boys while he glistens.’

‘But I liked the old Father Christmas with the long white beard, fat tummy and the red suit,’ said his daughter with a tear in her eyes.

‘It’s progress, honey. Old Father Christmas wasn’t bringing money into the department store anymore.’

‘Do you want to meet him?’

‘No!’

‘Look! His long beard, psychedelic suit and his reindeer glisten.’

‘I don’t care! I want old, fat, red suit!’

🥕🥕🥕

Man Glisten by MRMacrum

Joyce looked up at her husband John and said, “Oh great. Look what you’ve done now?”

Oblivious to verbal cues, John just looked at Joyce and grunted.

“Hey, snap out of it. I think we’re done here. ………….. Would you please move. Your sweat is dripping on me.”

“Huh?” John’s eyes said, “Nobody home.” He composed himself. “My Sweat? What about those sweaty handprints you left on me?

Joyce smiled at John. “Women don’t sweat, they glow.”

“I see. ………… men don’t sweat either. We glisten. …. Now let’s move on. These fence posts aren’t going to plant themselves.

🥕🥕🥕

The Roughneck by Teresa Grabs

For twelve weeks at a time, Buck was a roughneck on an off-shore drilling rig. The men were men, and that’s the way they liked it. Leathered skin, often covered in dirt and sweat, only amplified his ruggedness and no one could take a punch like Buck. His beard made him look like he just walked out of a Jack London story of the North.

Daisy squealed as Missy opened the playroom door. “Daddy funny!”

Missy couldn’t help but laugh at Buck sitting on his knees, at a tea party, wearing pink fairy wings, with glitter in his beard.

🥕🥕🥕

Glitterbeard by Allison Maruska

Darkness settles on me, around me, through me. It’s impenetrable. Undeniable.

I shake the bottle. Ten seconds is all I need. Ten seconds to escape.

One last glance outside. I used to feel joy on a spring day. I remember it as a cold fact.

Zach sits on his porch with his preschooler. His chin is lifted, and she’s sprinkling something into his thick, black beard.

Glitter?

I set the bottle down and head across the street.

Glitterbeard looks up as I approach. “Hey, man! You like it?”

I smile.

It’s enough to poke a hole in the darkness.

🥕🥕🥕

The Humble Man by Michael Grogan

The humble man knew he was up against it. The shelter for the homeless was a pie in the sky venture argued so many who coveted everything they thought they had a right to.

Greed and lust prevailed, and it was every man for himself. The homeless suffered the cold, the heat but more so the derision of a society who didn’t care.

He built a rough shelter, it was warm and clean and appreciated by those in need. When he stood back to reflect on his efforts, those who watched were amazed by the glow from within him.

🥕🥕🥕

Lightning Bugs by Papershots

For a long time there had been no reason to do it up. Now it was essential. Who would come to such a secluded spot but with modern conveniences? Inherited deadweight would now sparkle again. The actors checked in a few hours before the opening, to reenact historical deeds. Their makeup glistened in the stage- and moon- light. Somebody’s eyes met and bodies twinkled after the memorized lines and the welcoming of guests. Much later one was still welcoming; the other crying made-up tears in the glare of 19th century lamps. But scintillating coincidences had definitely worked their charm.

🥕🥕🥕

Flash Fiction by Saifun Hassam

The Explorer rafts came swiftly around the bend of the roaring and thunderous Kemper River. Jeff was in the leading solo raft. The old broken bridge had finally collapsed into the torrential waters. Before he could react, an unexpected surge threw Jeff into the churning foaming river. Valerie and Jody rafted furiously towards the right bank, staying close to the man glisten and perilous in the relentless rush of waters. The other Explorer rafts plunged up and down, fighting the downstream surge to form a barrier across the river. Strong hands pulled the man glisten from the raging waters.

🥕🥕🥕

For Our Bearded Buckaroo Bards by D. Avery

“Men listen? They ain’t great listeners Pal.”

“Not like you.”

“Huh?”

“Shorty said ‘man glisten’ Kid.”

“What’s that?”

“Could be glitter in a beard or jist bein’ okay with glitter in a beard.”

“Huh. Well, is it okay? Ain’t ranchin’ cowboy types s’posed ta be rough an’ tough? Buckaroo Nation women are all warriors. Are all the men here good looking?”

“That’s Lake Woebegone. Here men look good if they know when ta hold ‘em an’ know when ta fold ‘em, know that it ain’t weak ta turn the other cheek.”

“An’ if their cheeks are glittered, they’re golden.”

Raw Literature: Young Sung Hero

Raw Literature posts as an ongoing conversation about those first works we create as writers, as literary artists. Guest Authors share personal insights on their craft, its process, the experience of creating raw literature and what they do with it.

Carrot Ranch is a dynamic literary community that creates raw literature weekly in the form of flash fiction (99-word stories). If you have an essay idea, pitch to Charli Mills, Lead Buckaroo, at wordsforpeople@gmail.com.

We welcome a university student to Raw Literature this week. He’s working on his master’s degree in creative writing and explains how he came to write the following short fiction and why.

The Best Days of Their Lives? by YoungLee Giles

Charlie was sat on the floor with his arms wrapped tightly around his knees. He took a long, slow, inhale but continued to shake like someone who’d just been pulled out of a frozen lake. The girl sat next to him was whispering the lord’s prayer, her words sounded distorted, as if they were coming from the mouth of Charlie Brown’s teacher.

Her prayer was silenced as more gunshots smashed into juvenile innocence trapped outside. Terrified screams ran down the hallway desperately trying to escape the indefensible. There would be no detention for running down the corridor ever again.

‘This morning I told my mum I hated her.’ Luke Noonum the hardest boy in the school covered his face with both hands but his vulnerability had nowhere to hide.

Charlie’s world churned eternal regret. His tears were sincere but too late.

‘The police will come soon.’ Mr Smart head of year ten wasn’t convincing, his words were pale and insignificant.

Charlie looked around the room, a faint glimmer of hope hidden amongst tearful sobs was rapidly fading.

Outside more gunshots violently consumed the void. Charlie could hear the loud thud of broken dreams hitting the floor. A long, spray of automatic gunfire was replaced by a deathly silence and the sound of footsteps approaching. The young girl sat next to Charlie grabbed his hand and squeezed it tight. Her nails dug into his skin. The door to the boiler room started to open and darkness replaced the light.

###

I wrote my short story in one take, immediately after reading yet another a horrific newspaper article about a school shooting. I started thinking about the children, what would go through their minds? As a child, death is an abstract concept, when a child knows death is imminent, how do they make sense of it?

When I read about a school shooting, it keeps me awake at night and really gets under my skin. I’m left with an array of uncomfortable questions which I can seldom answer. I believe it’s important that we continue to ask ourselves questions, and never become desensitized regardless of how often they happen.

I thought about the child shooter. It’s natural to automatically label him or her evil or someone with mental health issues. To try and neatly tie things ups by saying the killer had mental health issues is just plain lazy. If I were to develop this short story into something more, I’d like to explore the killer’s mind and his background. To humanise the killer would make the story even more chilling.

Many stories that I write are ones that find me, awake me and force me to pick over uncomfortable questions. I want to delve deeply into the subject matter and force the reader to ask themselves their own questions and to achieve an emotional response, to move, unsettle and at times upset. I’d rather tackle a strong, emotive subject like this rather than something straightforward that ends with a happy conclusion.

I’m currently studying for a master’s degree in creative writing at Sheffield Hallam University in England. For this semesters script and novel module, I must come up with an idea for a short script. After writing this story, I developed it into a script for radio drama. In doing this, I was able to give each character a strong identity and some background information on the killer. I’m quite happy with the result and might submit it to the BBC.

Much of my work is of a dark, realistic nature. Some would say I’ve lived an unconventional life. I’ve lived much of it in a darknet type reality, and this has shaped my writing. I lived in Mozambique during the civil war and witnessed many horrific things. I was only 17 years old and my years in Africa had a profound effect on me.

After my African adventure, I bought a one-way ticket to the South of Spain and somehow ended up living with an old hippy (who was also a big hashish dealer) on the island of Ibiza. When I returned to England, I became a part of the acid house generation, dancing in fields and warehouses across the country. I became a drug dealer and fell into an illicit lifestyle and was lucky not to end up in prison. Several years later I moved to London and enrolled at Middlesex University. To support myself, as well as dealing drugs, I put on club nights for students and accidentally became a DJ. I became a fairly successful DJ playing around London and being flown around the world. I worked with fashion designers, putting music to their shows during London fashion week, I was the music director for a French play called Bintoe and produced music under the name Ok_Ma, putting out several releases on different record labels as well as making music for television. I always wrote, but mainly music-based material for music magazines. I worked for a few magazines and somehow became an editor of a small magazine called Ecentral which focused on the area of Shoreditch London, but it didn’t last long as the magazine folded due to financial troubles.

In between my DJing and other activities I wrote a 60-thousand-word novel but trashed it due to my insecurities.

As my DJing continued to take off so did my drug use, I had no idea that I was an addict. To me, an addict was someone on the street stealing to buy their drugs. I lived in a nice house, wore designer clothes and drove a flashy car, but I was no different from the scruffy man panhandling. Inside I was dying. Firstly cocaine then came heroin. After about fifteen years of daily use and trying to keep a respectable face on, my life came crashing down, I lost everything and ended up in rehab. I got clean, relapsed, got clean, relapsed.

Eventually, I ended up in a rehab for 8 months and was able to address many deep issues. Whilst there I wrote a novel about a person who ends up in strange rehab. A publisher read it and wanted to publish, but I’ve now realised it’s not ready so am using it for various university assignments where I can edit and improve.

When I came out of rehab, I enrolled to do a master’s degree in creative writing. After a few months at university, I relapsed once more and ended up in a detox unit which was housed in a mental health ward. In there I wrote every day as it was an extreme place but writing gold. I witnessed many bizarre, violent, scary and strange events and I wrote about every one of them. Luckily, I was able to keep up with my studies, and today I’m clean and working hard at my deadlines. I left school with no qualifications (I went to college to get them), so to be doing a master’s degree is unbelievable.

A chapter of my book is being published in May in a university book called Matter, a collection of creative works from the writer’s of Sheffield Hallam University.

Recently I’ve also found a memory stick containing the first novel I wrote and lots of writing that my father did before he died. He was in the special forces and worked around the world, some jobs were somewhat semi-legal. I’m currently looking at editing his journey from Seoul, Korea to London England in the 50’s as I think I can make it into an interesting story.

If I can stay well, I’m confident that my future can be an interesting one. You can read the first draft of my book here. Also on the link is an audio of my first chapter voice by English actor Terry Burns.

June 7: Flash Fiction Challenge

It’s black as a mineshaft outside and somthing thuds and scratches at the window. I suspect a bat is feeding on insects drawn to the light I’m still burning. Try as I might to see the nocturnal creatures, I can only discern the sound.

In a way, there’s comfort in knowing I’m not up alone while the rest of the house slumbers. One dog kicks in his sleep, another snores and the cat nose-whistles. The third dog is silent like a youthful sleeper.

None wait up to catch a glimpse of bats with me.

I wonder if the mythology of security, the tale we believe that we can conquer change — look younger! erase wrinkles! defy gravity and time! — is why changes unnerve people. Are we all unnerved or do we each have our own tender spots?

When I was still in my 20s, but mum to three active toddlers, I grew excited to show them the monkey bars on the playground. We had recently moved from a logging town in central Montana to a small town halfway between Helena and Butte. Out west, it seems, we always lived in the shadow of mining country.

This new town had a small school with a playground, and our new place was a walk away. The monkey bars were just like the ones I used to do cherry drops from as a fifth-grader. From a seated position, I’d drop between the bars and swing upside down.

I had no intention of teaching my five, four and two-year-old such a thing, but I wanted to show off my prowess in skipping bars. I swung out from the first bar, skipped the second and while reaching for the third, I crashed to the ground.

My one arm protested that I was no longer a school girl and I sat dazed wondering how I could be so changed at such a young age yet. My children swarmed me like puppies do when you sit among a litter and soon I was giggling and telling them not to skip bars like mumsie.

Life is a series of accidents, happy or not. We do our best to steer the course, stay on track, but changes happen, and we have to set new courses or change our ways to accommodate a loss of strength, memory, or status. Change can be frightening.

And yet — some embrace changes as if that is the answer. Why wait for wrinkles when you can bask in the sun and paddle a board to get them early? Why wear what your father did when you can adopt something more like what your mother wore? Change also offers new experiences.

Last Friday, as I stood in the shadows, watching a pack of warrior women dance their myths out, stomp them into the ground and claim their power through movement and music, I noticed some of the men, too. It all began with glitter that evening.

As part of the show, reading my set of flash fiction to introduce each dance, I went to the studio with the dancers and read over my stories while they donned stage make-up. For the uninitiated, stage makeup looks daunting. It’s dark, heavy and not attractive close-up. But on stage, it catches the right contours and colors.

The ritual includes glitter. Lots of it — purple glitter, green glitter, silver glitter and gold glitter. My daughter smeared white glitter across my eyes, and I felt dancified. It was electrifying to wear the glitter. A man walked in — my SIL and the show’s MC and all heads turned. Glitter?

Solar Man is not one to fear change. He’s not threatened by a pack of dancers slinking toward him with wands of glitter poised. They all eyed his beard. He rubbed it, stroked his red tie, touched each cufflink and declared he’d only wear gold glitter in his beard. The moment passed — of all the colors, no one had gold with them.

We traveled to the performance venue and secured the dressing room. And lo and behold, a warrior found gold glitter. Soon the cameraman expressed interest and he be-glittered his blond beard. What happened next made me chuckle all evening. Other men took offense! The crowd accepted warrior women, but man glisten? No way!

Like twittering stereotypical old wives, the men chastized the glitter beards, stating it would cause regret, that the glitter would never disappear. At that comment, the scientists in the group acknowledged that glitter does not ever break down fully and pollutes the Great Lakes with other micro-plastics.

However, it did not discourage the newborn pride of glitter beards.

Bats hunt bugs, and likely always will. But men will evolve and accept the softer side of themselves.

June 7, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about man glisten. It was a fun term coined by two men with glitter in their beards. What more could it embrace? Look to the unexpected and embrace a playful approach. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by June 12, 2018. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments.

If you want your story published in the weekly collection, please use this form. If you want to interact with other writers, do so in the comments (yes, that means sharing your story TWICE — once for interaction and once for publication). Rules are here.

Photo credit Robin Mueller 2018

Masks of Man Glisten by Charli Mills

Deep in the shafts of Mohawk Mine, men pounded steel to separate native copper from white quartz. Candlelight from helmets of miners caught flickers of dust. Mohawkite glittered in dim beams. At the end of shift, the men piled onto trams, hoisted back to daylight of long summer evenings and clean women waiting with baskets of fried chicken and Chassell Farm strawberries. Daughters and sons skipped to their dads, uncertain which belonged to them. Tired, blinking in the bright sun, masks of man glisten mined below the level of hell made them look alike.

Sparkle, sparkle hard rock miners.

Warrior Women

Strong women run with the wolves, engaging their Wild selves. Feminine mythology extends beyond limiting stereotypes of women. It’s fertile ground for writers to explore.

What might a female warrior look like, act like, sound like? Writers place these women as characters in different predicaments or examine the influences of those they have loved in real life.

The following is based on the May 31, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about warrior women.

PART I (10-minute read)

Rancha Mythica by D. Avery

Drumbeats and dancing feet reverberate like thunder across the lands of Buckaroo Nation.

The usual low, homey campfire is now a blazing bonfire. Flames leap wildly, lashing the night sky. Wild women are illuminated in flashes, scars revealed in the dancing light.
Old stories are told in new ways. Sad stories are told. Yet laughter rings out strong and true. Songs of life rise up like sparks from their fire, sung to old tunes that resonate like a smooth round rock.

The women warriors rise. The women warriors raise one another up. The women warriors of Buckaroo Nation write.

🥕🥕🥕

Valkyries by Charli Mills
Step forth onto the battlefield, Daughters. Brace your feet, remember your training. Adjust your shield and sword. Death is but a trip to Valhalla. Ready your bodies for passage. When you fall, the Valkyries are coming. Skol!

Lift up, lift up, lift up — Choosers of the Slain! Warrior-women wielding runes, marks of the chosen. Let not the weight of the world, the heaviness of battle, the blood your body sheds destroy you. Glory nears.

Lift up, lift up, lift up and carry those battle-born souls to Odin. Warriors of the warriors. Valkyries. Women who rise. The run is over.

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War Zone by Mirium Hurdle

“Good morning, Lieutenant? You’ve slept for three days.”

“Where am I? My legs? I can’t feel anything.”

“They found you after the bombing. You’re alive.”

“Sheila, we need you. The Captain is hurt.”

“Right over, Ursula.”

“The blood is gushing out from his chest.”

“Roll up the sheet to put pressure on it. Give him porphin.”

“Sheila, more stretches are in. We have no beds.”

“Clear up all the tables.”

“Sheila, here. Private got shot through the elbow.”

“I’ll prepare to cut his forearm. Bring me the equipment.”

“Sheila, over there.”

“Captain needs a blood transfusion.”

“I’ll be there.”

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Black ‘n’ White by Neel Anil Panicker

‘It’s plain nepotism. The winner’s the Jury Chairman’s nephew. You can contest the decision if you want to’.

For Abraham Lincoln, the Principal’s words were a sledgehammer.

He had outscored every single opponent and was lustily cheered after his passionate seven minute espousal of a woman’s undeniable right to abortion yet lost the prestigious annual Inter-Collegiate Debate Competition by a mere vote.

His mother’s words ringed her ears.

‘Remember, son, a Black man’s got to be a hundred times better than others if he wants to succeed in this land’.

“No Sir, I’ll try to do better next time”.

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Urban Encounter by Bill Engleson

I generally don’t walk down Carlyle Avenue after dark. The town has quite a few streets I avoid at night. Truth is, there was still a hint of daylight slanting through, courtesy of a stretched moon shadow.

Before I see her, she screams from the alley, “Get the blazes outta here.”

That grabs my attention. Then she sashays into the light. Five-foot tops, wearing a black shawl, an ankle length red dress, and a gray military great coat.

“What’s ya lookin’ at, Creepo?”

Later, I’m thinking I should’ve said something clever.

Sadly, my tongue was tied.

I just skedaddled.

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Mama Bear Unleashed by Eric Pone

Ono looked at the robber in the store. As he smacked the owner, she looked down at her daughter and took a deep breath. Piper shouldn’t see mama this way but shit happens. Reaching behind she slowly removed the Tanto Emerson knife and quietly rolled Piper into a quiet aisle. She walked purposely toward him her pace quickening as old habits opened their doors for their horrible duty. The man turned toward her and tried to point his Magnum 357. Too late. The knife quickly sliced his jugular. She smiled as he gurgled and fought for life. Mama did well.

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Shadow People by Charli Mills
Undergrowth of legends cling to consciousness and shadows vape through the veil between who we must be and who we indeed are. Quaking, we repeat fairy tales to let fear conform our captured souls.

The veil slips, and we glimpse Mythica where strange and weird entities tap and twirl to original wingbeats of self-expression. Fear blinds our hearts and knots the rope around throats of mythical women who are different.

Mythica is the shadowlands populated by shadow people. Dare you cross the veil? Grandmother won’t save you, but she beckons you to enter and run hard with the wolves.

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Warrior Women by Michael Grogan

She’s old now. Her life draws to an end, but the warrior lives within her. Once a victim of rape and incest, she dedicated her life as an advocate for others.

Hours as a parent rescuing a wayward daughter, suffering estrangement but death reunited mother and daughter. She never gave up, she was a rock her child could always lean on, never dreaming she might one day bury her.

True warriors are a source of inspiration to so many, her voice in a wilderness of indifference.

She sits and holds the image of a beautiful child she couldn’t save.

🥕🥕🥕

Warriors of the Dark by Reena Saxeena

dark fears of
being overpowered
light up corners of my psyche.

childhood memories of voices
saying I was no good
unacceptable in original form

they dressed me in clothes
of subservience
to comply with social norms.

I couldn’t see how
inner demons would be caged
floating out in the cold

the jury out there
delivered verdicts
to encase me in moulds

dark, interfering shadows
swooped to enslave,
control my life

it awakened armies inside me
with the power to wage war
and destroy to end strife.

isolation for protection
and … it has always been
a lone warrior’s life.

🥕🥕🥕

The Warrior Women of Ireland by Anne Goodwin

They fought in lipstick and five-inch heels; they fought in turf-stained jeans and wellies. They battled home via Stena Sealink and Ryanair for the desperate travelling in the opposite direction. They fought so no more Savitas would have to die because no surgeon would defy the law to save them. They fought with the ballot won a century before when women starved for basic freedoms. The warrior women of Ireland reclaimed the choice misogyny and church denied them. But the job’s not done until their sisters in the north can also decline to harbour an alien in their bodies.

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Warrior Women by Robbie Cheadle!

“How are you enjoying being back at work, Lisa?”

“Not at all, Sarah. I feel guilty about leaving Tom with a caregiver. I feel I should be looking after him myself. When I collect him in the afternoon he won’t come to me. I am sure he isn’t happy.”

“Well, my view, for what it’s worth, is that we are helping to provide for our children. Our salaries facilitate better educational and other opportunities for them. It also ensures that our children have an independent, strong and self-sufficient woman as their role model. Working mothers are the modern warriors.”

🥕🥕🥕

Silent Warrior by Teresa Grabs

Protests erupted nationwide as women took to the streets. They protested for parental pay, self-ownership, and some just to protest. Newscasts were filled lawsuits over whether a man looked at a woman or complimented her outfit. Some men were too afraid to be in a room with a woman.

Lillian adjusted her gloves and checked her hat in the mirror one last time before going shopping. The streets were filled with protests again. Words hurling everywhere and no one listening.

“Thank you,” Lillian said, to the man opening the store’s door for her, smiling. Today’s silent warrior, she thought.

🥕🥕🥕

Warrior Revising by D. Avery

She reined hard to a dusty stop. “Whoaaa.”

“Nice bike”, her granpa remarked. She reproved him with a withering glare. “It’s a horse.”

“You’re a cowgirl?”

“No, I’m an Indian.”

“A lovely maiden out for a ride!”

“No, Granpa! I’m a warrior!”

“A warrior princess.”

He got an eye-roll. “Granpa, I’m not a princess! I am a war-ri-or.”

“Okay, okay. You are a warrior, doing battle, fighting.”

“Actually, I just try and save boys ‘cause they’re under a spell that makes them do dumb things all the time.”

She galloped off.

Maybe he should call next door, warn Tommy.

🥕🥕🥕

Warrior Women by Sarah Whiley

I gripped my hands tightly around the wooden blade, sucking in deep breaths, to fill my lungs with the oxygen I knew would be required for the battle ahead.

“We’ve trained hard for this! We have this,” I told myself.

Adrenalin began pumping as I waited for the signal. I glanced at the girl next to me who was also breathing heavily. She gave me a quick wink.

Suddenly, I heard the calls we’d been waiting for…

“Down and ready.”

“Are you ready?”

“Attention.”

Paddles entered the water as the siren blared.

We were warrior women, in our dragonboat.

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Warrior Women by Nicole Grant

The grandfathers were whalers, and according to historians, they were yeoman farmers. I wonder, what were the grandmothers doing?  And how were the grandfathers, out at sea harpooning whales, managing their farms?  Rebecca Corson, one of the grandmothers, is said to have fired a cannon scaring off the British as they approached shore during the revolutionary war.  My guess would be that the women were spending less time on widow walks wringing their hands watching for the whalers to return than they spent in the fields tilling, in the woods hunting, and behind the cannon doing what they must.

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Not Time: by The Dark Netizen

I ride into the army of red coats, swarming my home like ants. They will not capture my home so easily.

My noble steed needs no directions from me. He rides straight through their ranks, letting me tear them down with my swords – flashes of silver lightning.

Even after hours of fighting, my conquest seems hopeless. Most of my men are dead or wounded. I feel my eyes closing.

NO!

For the sake of my little baby and my kingdom, I cannot give in. Death will have to wait to claim the queen.

My time has not come!

🥕🥕🥕

Warrior Woman by Deborah Lee

Jane’s eyes open to the phone alarm. She pokes her nose out of the sleeping bag: Cold.

Just today off? Just one day? To lie around, to not strain her eyes at job listings, to not duck the judging eyes of the homed and employed. One day to pretend her life is good enough to relax into.

No.

One day of not trying leads to one missed opportunity leads to another damned lifetime of this life she’s lived too long already.

Growling, she flings back the top of the sleeping bag and jerks her legs out of the warmth.

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Gertrude the Invincible by Norah Colvin

With flaming hair streaming and eyes blazing, Gertrude stood at the apex surveying the land, her land. With one hand on a hip and the other raised high, she hurled her words into the wind.

“I did it. I am the conqueror. You,” she pointed expansively with her spear, “are now my subjects. You do my bidding.”
The minions bowed before her.

“I am in-vinc-i-ble!”

“Gertie! Pick up your toys and come inside now. It’s dinner-time,” called Dad from the door.

Gertie complied. Even warriors need to eat. There’d be more conquests and enemies for Gertrude to vanquish tomorrow.

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Taking a Stand by Wallie and Friend

True, Aunt Cecily was older, but that didn’t necessarily make her wise. Emmy knew she was dead wrong. The hard part was saying so.

“Auntie,” she said, “I’m going. I know what the risks are and it’s true I might not come back. But I have to do this. For us. For all of us. I can’t just stay behind while Eddie and the others go. I can’t.”

Aunt Cecily didn’t answer at once. She looked at her niece, seeing the young woman’s level chin, hearing her controlled voice.

“You’re right,” she said. “And I will go with you.”

🥕🥕🥕

Line by galaxygirl_89

She spent every summer vacation at her great aunt’s place in the countryside, a respite from the city and it’s loneliness, among the mango trees and the paddy fields, cousins and neighbours to play with. That was the first time ever they had done anything wayward. They stole away at night after the grown ups were asleep, and walked to the stream at the end of the property. The strips dividing the fields were so narrow that they had to walk in a single file, like ants treading a line, while the moonlight streamed over in a silvery cascade.

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PART II (10-minute read)

The Present by Papershots

In bed that night, she suddenly extended her right arm and hand. She squinted her eyes and aimed at the wall opposite – wedding photo, big table lamp, wooden-framed mirror. A powerful beam of light, she imagined, would open the wall and let her see behind it. She laughed. Surely if she was Super Mom she could have greater powers than that! “Never be mad for any reason, always understanding, strict and lenient at every right dose.” Better make do with these. Or have to. Or really do, because she had them. The kids asleep, she dreamed of Wonder Woman.

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Mom by Faith A. Colburn

She thought she could adapt to anything. After all, to save her family, she’d got a job when she was only fifteen—singing in a nightclub. She’d navigated groping, propositions, and men who said she did when she didn’t; she’d joined the Army and learned to build radios and install them into B-24s; she’d married the man she loved, a shell-shocked veteran, and moved with him to a farm in Nebraska, where the nights were silent and the stars near; she’d learned to be a farm wife. But in the end, she learned she couldn’t just be missus somebody.

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Warrior Women by Chelsea Owens

Youth, untried, stands blinking into the equatorial sun. It shuffles awkward spears; tilts dented shields.

Two thousand feet nervously stamp the earth.

Their leader looks upon his neophyte army. “What say ye, my sons; will ye go against them to battle?”

Two thousand of them have never fought. Two thousand just left home. Two thousand eager voices cry, “Our God is with us! Let us go!”

Thus they march, thus they go, thus they draw their spears. The enemy, surprised, falls beneath their untrained arms.

The leader, awed, counts two thousand. “How came ye by your courage?”

“Our mothers.”

🥕🥕🥕

Wounded Warrior by D. Avery

Not best friends, but reliable friends; neighbors, they had been playmates since forever, from sandbox to bikes, many shared adventures. Together they had explored the haunted house, both emerging as warriors, both with bragging rights.

Together they’d built a secret fort.

That’s where they started exploring each other. The fort was theirs, this exploring was theirs, fun and friendly, another rite of passage shared.

He bragged. Somehow he knew he could. Somehow she knew she couldn’t admit that she’d even done it, let alone liked it.

Somehow the game had changed.

She wondered if he also missed their friendship.

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Flash Fiction by Floridaborne

Work study in a musty university library back room, 1968.

Three students were tasked with binding tortured book spines. June, a slender woman well aware of her own beauty, liked to talk politics. Plain, “heavy set,” Linda was mortified.

Jack, once part of an inner-city gang, didn’t try staring his umbrage into someone with an opposing point of view. He took a blade used for binding and held it at June’s throat.

“I just bought this blouse,” June said. “Try not to get blood all over it.”

Jack lowered the weapon, and chuckled. “That takes guts.”

Linda, however, fainted.

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Escaping Leap by Jo

The unexpected jolt to the chin was her warning. The blinding pain, the sign she sought after. She was more wounded by the fact he punched her than by the soreness setting in.

‘I’m sorry!’ He said walking toward her.

She made the decision to step back watching his eyes that went pitch black the moment she stepped away holding her face. No sword, no shield, just her wits and will, she leaped for her keys and dashed to her car. She couldn’t watch him in the rearview mirror. Later, filing a report, she learned she escaped a murderer.

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Warrior, Warrior by Peregrine Arc

“You’re too fat.”

“You’re too skinny.”

“You should stay at home.”

“You should volunteer again.”

“That’s not organic?”

“Why are you breastfeeding in public?”

“That skirt is too short.”

“That blouse is too modest.”

“Boys will be boys.”

“Men will be men.”

“Be quiet.”

“Speak up.”

The conversations streamed past me as I sat in the mall, quietly observing.

Men may carry clubs, but women carry poison.

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Worth the Frostbite by Kerry E.B. Black

Dyan wielded a pitchfork like a peasant soldier, lips pulled into a snarl. “Back off! You’re not hurting these kittens again.”

The farmer whistled through his teeth. “Girl, are you daft? We’ve too many felines. Don’t need no more. ‘Sides, you’ll be needing some attention. Thrusting your hands into a frozen trough for a few useless kits was just plain dumb. You’ll be nursing frostbite.”

She no longer felt her fingers, but she didn’t care. “You’re a cruel man.” She scooped the sack squirming with mewing kittens, sheltered them beneath her winter coat, and ran to the tack-room’s protection.

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Avid Reader by kate @ aroused

Learning Italian at seventy-six years was a challenge Aunty gladly accepted. The least she could do when she expected her neighbours to learn English.

An avid reader with a vast vocabulary ensured easy completion of the cryptic crosswords daily. An astute historian, adept pianist, reared in the wilds a full sixteen mile hike from the train.

Abused by her educators she cared for her parents before a brief but happy marriage. Her genuine interest in absolutely everybody ensured that she had a constant stream of visitors.

Never uttered a bad word or complaint. She graced us for a century.

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Fighting The Invisible Enemy by Geoff Le Pard

‘How are you, Morgan?’

‘At a loss, Logan.’

‘She’s fighting, though, knowing your ma.’

‘I’m not… you know, I don’t get that whole ‘fighting cancer’ thing’

‘She’s not giving up, is she?’

‘But she ain’t exactly waving her sword either. I mean you can’t will the effing thing away.’

‘What they saying?’

‘Not much. Just more tests. You know what’s hard? She’s always argued. She’d diss a lamppost if it got in her way, but she just lies there, doing nothing. No swearing, not even a hairy eyeball.’

‘Come here. You need to stop fighting yourself.’

‘It sucks, mate.’

🥕🥕🥕

Champion Challenge by JulesPaige

Was Mercy a warrior? The woman had given Regina birth. Perhaps Mercy’s own mother knew, maybe even the man who she called her husband? But when you die young and don’t get to tell your tale — you can only hope others will. Both Gran and Dad had broken hearts that they kept as silent as a moss covered stone.

Regina latched onto the few memories that had been shared and would spin them thousands of ways. After all Mercy’s blood ran in her veins. Perhaps the words that Regina spilled on paper would be enough. They’d have to be.

🥕🥕🥕

The Brotherhood of Iron by Telling Stories Together

“Again,” said the monk.

Constance drew back the bow, squeezing her shoulders together. She let string go and the arrow sang through the air, thudding into the rotten stump. The ground around the stump was littered with shafts from previous attempts.

“You’ve improved. You actually hit your target this time.”

Constance returned the old monk’s smile in spite of herself. Then, remembering her task, the parcel she’d dutifully delivered, the smile faded.

“You’ve been very kind, Atheus, but I must return to my own Order.”

Atheus placed a hand on her shoulder. “Are you sure that’s what you want?”

🥕🥕🥕

Easy Pickings by Di @ pensitivity101

Swordsmanship wasn’t restricted to just the menfolk in their quiet village.

Situated in the middle of nowhere, they would be open to invasion from all sides, and when food was scarce, the men would go off to hunt, leaving the women to care for the children, elderly and infirm.

Such was a time when Outsiders decided to plunder the village whilst the men were away.

It was a bloodbath, and they didn’t stand a chance.

Only one was allowed to live and serve as a warning to others that the women there could kill as well as any man.

🥕🥕🥕

United, They Win by Aweni

Melville looked fearfully at the Amazon he’d trained. She was meant to be his weapon against her kind. But, she knew his intentions now and her rage was sublime.

He won’t give up. He’ll throw discord in their midst. Her army will turn on her, he thought gleefully.

He knew he had lost when she shouted, “I come from a line of warriors! We create a furore, when we line in thick rows. Breaking the air with arrows, cleaving through the enemy with our swords. One sister for all, all sisters for one. Bend the knee to our king!”

🥕🥕🥕

Who’s Gettin’ Schooled? by Liz Husebye Hartmann

She swings again, the blunt-edged sword whistling past his ear by a hair’s breadth. He slices upward with his own wooden blade. She arches her back like a wildcat, leather armor squeaking protest at the quick move, and follows with a roundhouse twist that lands her at his open left side.

A quick jab; she stops just short of his heart line.

He freezes, chest heaving, and peers at her shrewdly. “You’re slow today. Are you trying to fail?”

She laughs, troll’s tail flicking gleefully. “Maybe you’re getting old, Father.”

“Time to teach you about Statecraft,” he threatens playfully.

🥕🥕🥕

[fight] by Deb Whittam
Times had changed and changed rapidly … no longer was there a sense of comradery or fulfilment in this game – now it was a fight … to the death.

She had held herself distant from it but now that her opportunity had come to enter the fray she felt a sense of unease and her hand shook as she finalised her preparations – applied her makeup, checked her hair and ensured that her sword’s blade was honed to a razor-sharp point.

One didn’t go to a disco unarmed – not if one was looking for a man anyway.

🥕🥕🥕

But Still Single? by Roger Shipp

She was wildly pursued on OkCupid as well as Happen, Coffee Meets Bagel, and Bumble. Hundreds of hits a day was the norm. This she enjoyed.

Tender and Down even offered incentives if she would allow her picture to appear on their advertising after her photo shoot in Maui. Financially, a plus!

LuLu, Match, and Zoosk had called her attorney wanting exclusive rights to her personality profile. Don’t throw at stick at that!

Being so sought after from all the dating app corporations could really swell a girl’s head…

Maybe actually being too-good-to-be-true was too good to be true.

🥕🥕🥕

Mystery Solved by Molly Stevens

At first, Chester treasured his time alone when Ruth disappeared into the spare bedroom. He sat in tightie whities slurping coffee, scratching a butt cheek, and passing gas, thankful for the absence of her heavy sighs.

Then it seemed creepy. What the hell was she doing in there?

“I know it’s that crazy neighbor, Myra, put her up to somethin’,” he said.

He turned the knob inching the door open. Ruth stood with hands on hips, feet shoulder-width apart, chest puffed out, and chin up.

“Sweet Jesus, it’s dad-blamed Wonder Woman,” said Chester.

Ruth flashed him a wide grin.

🥕🥕🥕

Wanda by Frank Hubeny

Silvia walked into Benny’s Diner. Sharon told Benny to deal with her or she’d quit. Benny shuffled to the bar.

“Morning, Silvia.”

“I want a real waitress serving me.”

Benny glanced at Sharon. “She’s busy.”

“She’s just standing there.”

“How about some pancakes?”

“Are they gluten-free?”

“You know they’re not.”

Silvia ordered pancakes as usual. While she dripped corn syrup over margarine the dreaded alien invasion began. Silvia looked at Benny and Sharon. She ripped off her street clothes revealing her secret identity as Warrior Wanda. It was time to show these wretched Earthlings how high maintenance kicks butt.

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Start of a Wild Ride (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

Sarah startled at the hand pressing against her mouth in the dark. A woman’s voice shushed her struggles. She sat up in bed to see Nancy Jane’s face inches from hers. “What are you doing,” Sarah whispered.

“Ever run with wolves?”

“What?”

“Come, on, Sarah, Yellow Feather gathered some ponies. Let’s be braves under the moon!”

Sarah clung to her quilt drawn up to her chin. Camp was silent, emigration season nearly at an end. Cobb would be asleep next to Mary, and their baby. He was the same age –

She threw down the quilt and rose from bed.

🥕🥕🥕

Independence Day by Anne Goodwin

Whose is this voice that thunders in her head? Who will she become if she listens? Yet someone must lead, so why not Joan? What she lacks in years, she brings in passion.
Standing in the stirrups to adjust her seat in the saddle, she channels the spirit of her namesake. Her armour might be card, but her lance is real, and Joan knows how to use it. Not that she thinks she’ll need to today as she steers the procession through cheering crowds. Skirmish is rare on Independence Day, but a woman warrior is always primed for action.

🥕🥕🥕

A Wonder Of A Woman by D. K. Cantabile

She used to be a woman of pale feelings. Her days were painted with washed watercolors, without glitter, nor shades. Blurred figures blended composing the most senseless scenes.

She couldn’t detect where the skyline divided city and stars, never noticing where the sun was setting in the horizon. She hadn’t seen a deep dark blue mood, neither glanced at a sparkling red sensual desire. She didn’t spread the orange scent of joy, or witnessed the serenity of green peace.

One day, she was touched by the cozy light yellow sunshine and the rainbow became the pathway of her life.

🥕🥕🥕

It Takes a Warrior by Susan Sleggs

The nurse woke Maggie the morning after her right breast was removed. “Your husband wanted me to make sure you saw this.” She held up a framed picture of them holding compound bows. The inscription on the glass read, “To my warrior. Now you have an advantage. Your chief loves you.”

Even though it hurt, Maggie laughed. “We are professional archers. I have complained my boob gets in the way, now it won’t. That’s why we decided I shouldn’t have reconstruction. He tells me it will take a warrior to beat cancer and get strong enough to compete again.”

🥕🥕🥕

Warrior by The Memory Cellar

The grief that wrapped itself tightly around her life had fingers of depression that choked her into an inescapable feeling of slow, inevitable suffocation.

She can’t let go of the shame she carries but knows it may kill her if she doesn’t.

She stares at herself momentarily in the mirror, only seeing the painful sadness only an aging woman knows.

But somewhere inside the fire rises and from her eyes fall tears of surrender and with her finger she wipes them across her face like war paint. She was a warrior once and to her surprise, she still is.

🥕🥕🥕

May 31: Flash Fiction Challenge

Softly my feet pad across the hard-packed trail through the forest. Pine-scent bobs in the air like the dandelion seeds that haven’t yet formed, spring is so new. But the lawns and fields are covered with the promise from sunny yellow heads.

Again, I’ve become the hunter. Some take yoga to go into warrior pose — I take my feet outside; my body and mind follow, feeling the call of the hunt. Alert, my senses feel the dappled sunlight keenly and separate the sounds of chattering birds and lapping waves.

Where has my fierce Lady Lake gone? She’s acting so passive, I wonder if she’s at rest. Over winter she fought ferocious battles between water and sand, upturning the shoreline like a bulldozer. She called in blizzards like flocking white ravens. Now, she sleeps, her seas lightly sloshing. It’s the perfect time to hunt — her guard is down, her waves at rest and a new crop of churned rocks wait on the beach.

But first, I slink through the forest.

To see Lake Superior through the pines is one of my favorite views. From this vantage on the ridge overlooking the dog beach at McLain State Park, I can scout stretches of beach-worn basalt, granite, and gabbro. I’m refining my hunting skills, having studied over winter. I now can identify more of the minerals that fill the mafic bedrock like the clays chlorite and celadonite.

But the hunt isn’t always for the next rock or potential agate. I am also a woman who runs with the wolves. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D. writes:

“The doors to the world of the wild Self are few but precious. If you have a deep scar, that is a door, if you have an old, old story, that is a door. If you love the sky and the water so much you almost cannot bear it, that is a door. If you yearn for a deeper life, a full life, a sane life, that is a door.”

My doors to my Wild self are indeed precious — through scars, caught stories, rocks, and water, birds, and sky. I can love the hunt so deeply, I take this path in the forest to savor the time it takes to burst forth onto the rocky beach to step into cold Great Lake waters. I yearn for deeper art to the point that I can feel my writing before I even begin. Art enriches my life, leaves me breathless and yet grounded.

Music, movement, color, words, texture — art fills all senses.

And this is why I love dance. I don’t dance. I don’t run with the wolves across the stage, but I watch from the audience the same way I watch Lake Superior from my footpath in the pines. I love the costumes, the drumbeats, the sharp movements and the flowing visual story. Dance is my daughter’s art. Often we share artistic moments, and that’s better than bagging an agate.

When her dance troupe accepted my idea to incorporate flash fiction into their next performance, I felt giddy at the chance to meld artistic expressions. I met with the choreographers and took note to capture the tone and emotion of each piece. We discussed the music, costumes, and movements.

When I wrote, I had that same feeling as when I step into Lake Superior. Wild self takes over. Intuition spills my words. Afterward, I felt unsure. Would this story partner with the dance? Or would it be a clunky addition to the show? I wrote like a dancer — interpreting each piece with new and different structures.

In the end, I had eleven Mythica Flash Fiction worthy of the warrior women taking the stage. I felt I could run with these wolves and that’s where my writing began and ended. Each flash in between told a story, hailed queens, invented new myths, introduced unknown characters or celebrated the power of the Wild self.

On Friday, 47 North performs Mythica at the Continental in Houghton. The belly dance troupe specializes in tribal fusion and modern. Their literary artist specializes in rocks, history and flash fiction. The first flash opens the show, the second closes it, as I speak directly to the dancers taking the stage in leather, chain mail, and fur, dancing to music from Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur.

Shadow People
Undergrowth of legends cling to consciousness and shadows vape through the veil between who we must be and who we indeed are. Quaking, we repeat fairy tales to let fear conform our captured souls.

The veil slips, and we glimpse Mythica where strange and weird entities tap and twirl to original wingbeats of self-expression. Fear blinds our hearts and knots the rope around throats of mythical women who are different.

Mythica is the shadowlands populated by shadow people. Dare you cross the veil? Grandmother won’t save you, but she beckons you to enter and run hard with the wolves.

***

Valkyries
Step forth onto the battlefield, Daughters. Brace your feet, remember your training. Adjust your shield and sword. Death is but a trip to Valhalla. Ready your bodies for passage. When you fall, the Valkyries are coming. Skol!

Lift up, lift up, lift up — Choosers of the Slain! Warrior-women wielding runes, marks of the chosen. Let not the weight of the world, the heaviness of battle, the blood your body sheds destroy you. Glory nears.

Lift up, lift up, lift up and carry those battle-born souls to Odin. Warriors of the warriors. Valkyries. Women who rise. The run is over.

It’s not easy to be an artist, to be a hunter, to run wild and return home again. Illness, disappointment, injustice, grief — these often erode the shores of who we think we are. But we evolve. Every run, every storm, every story is another chance to turn our own page. Estes writes,

“Though fairy tales end after ten pages, our lives do not. We are multi-volume sets. In our lives, even though one episode amounts to a crash and burn, there is always another episode awaiting us and then another. There are always more opportunities to get it right, to fashion our lives in the ways we deserve to have them. Don’t waste your time hating a failure. Failure is a greater teacher than success.”

Opportunity energy is high right now. I’m hunting down each one. Not everything will stick, but at the end of the day, I won’t go home empty. A significant transition looms for me. As life with my spouse evolves, as my daughter leaves the dance stage to undergo tests and possibly surgery at the Mayo Clinic next week, and the organization that was my anchor client leaves, I turn to my Wild self to adjust not with fear but with a welcoming of the challenges.

Roundup, a small weekly e-zine, returns from the ashes to spotlight three flash fictions a week and highlight one of our many writers. It’s intended for an audience of readers, to get people excited for what forms literary art can take 99-words at a time. Writers can benefit from a subscription to learn craft tips. It will connect to each weekly collection so you can share Roundup.

Books by authors in our literary community will be featured on Rough Writers’ pages and individually in Roundup. You’ll notice rotating books alongside the blog posts with house ads. I emphasize “house” because Carrot Ranch does not use AdWords. I’ll be promoting local events, workshops, author books (from our community and at my discretion), my services, literary art patronage, and an upcoming subscription to Marketing Mavericks. You can catch my #NaNoWriMo post at BadRedhead Media for a taste of what Marketing Mavericks will be like.

Literary art continues to be my focus. I want you to have unencumbered access to play with the art form among a group of people who see writing as one of their doors to the world. Please submit your badges for any goals you set and earned (see Rancher Badges). This is a self-motivated personal development opportunity. Now is the time to set new goals for the next three months.

Any Rough Writer who wants to offer Wrangling Words to their own community library, please contact me and I’ll get you set up with some basic training, materials and an outline for how to get established. It’s a great way to spread literary art where you live. I find it a rewarding program, and you can adjust it to fit what you want to offer.

All Patrons of Carrot Ranch (monthly supporters) have been gifted the full Mythica Flash Fiction collection. You can catch 47 North Belly Dance live streaming Friday night starting at 9 pm (EST) on their Facebook page.

I’ve set my vision for how I see art in my life as my northern star, and I write and run. Listen, you can hear the wolves howling. The warrior women gather.

May 31, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about warrior women. It can be myth or everyday mothers and wives. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by June 5, 2018. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments.

If you want your story published in the weekly collection, please use this form. If you want to interact with other writers, do so in the comments (yes, that means sharing your story TWICE — once for interaction and once for publication). Rules are here.

 

Start of a Wild Ride (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

Sarah startled at the hand pressing against her mouth in the dark. A woman’s voice shushed her struggles. She sat up in bed to see Nancy Jane’s face inches from hers. “What are you doing,” Sarah whispered.

“Ever run with wolves?”

“What?”

“Come, on, Sarah, Yellow Feather gathered some ponies. Let’s be braves under the moon!”

Sarah clung to her quilt drawn up to her chin. Camp was silent, emigration season nearly at an end. Cobb would be asleep next to Mary, and their baby. He was the same age –

She threw down the quilt and rose from bed.

Property Values

Many factors influence property values, including unexpected changes and situations.

Who is impacted and what responses do owners emply? Writers explored the possibilities.

The following are based on the May 17, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about property values.

PART I (10-minute read)

Value in the Balance (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

“Property values go up the more improvements we make.” Cobb replaced his years of responsibility as a sheriff with a drive to improve every inch of Rock Creek Station.

Sarah unpacked the latest freight of sundries from St. Louis While Cobb sawed planks for the new schoolhouse. The wood gleamed gold like the barn, toll booth, toll bridge, post office, eastside station and horse stables. The store Sarah operated had gray wood, showing its age. Sarah calculated Cobbs improvements and noted that it added up to more debt that income.

“Those values had better go up soon,” she muttered.

🥕🥕🥕

Property Value by Deborah Lee

“But I don’t want to sell my house,” Michelle says.

“Property values are up,” Caroline presses. “Now’s your chance to make a killing.”

“Just move for no reason? I like my house.”

“Roll it into a bigger house, with land.” Duh, says Caroline’s tone.

“Uh-huh,” says Michelle, “with an even bigger mortgage, double the payment.”

“Not if you buy farther out, get ahead of the next gentrification rush.”

“Yeah, so then my commute is two hours one way instead of one. No thanks.”

“But property values–”

Michelle holds her hand up: stop. “There’s a big difference between value and worth.”

🥕🥕🥕

Rise and Fall by Sherri Matthews

“Can you believe it, she took the broiler pan from the oven?”

Joy smiled sweetly at her new neighbour. “I’m sure it was by accident, if she did.”

“Well, I’m not happy about it.” Phyllis Mather huffed.

That night, Joy emailed her best friend Shirley and told her everything Phyllis had said. “Accused you of taking the drapes too, of all the nerve.”

Shirley had bigger fish to fry with her divorce and didn’t care much, but she smiled when she read Joy’s further news that property values in her old neighbourhood had since slumped. Broiler pan my ass.

🥕🥕🥕

Property Values by Susan Sleggs

The elderly nosy sisters returned home to see a sold sign on the house next door.

“Damn, we missed seeing who bought it,” Ethel said.
To their dismay two noisy Harley’s arrived a few weeks later just before a moving van.

“Bikers! There goes the neighborhood. I wonder if they know their back yard connects to a cops. This could get interesting,” Maude said peeking out.
The next day the sisters watched the cop and his family walk in next door with a six-pack and a heavy picnic basket.

“Well there goes our fun. They already know each other.”

🥕🥕🥕

New Decking by Jacob Powell

We found a body in our back garden. Right where we wanted our new decking. What are the chances?

The estate agents obviously never said anything about it.

Of course the local media soon caught wind and documented the whole thing: forensic tents, police detectives, us.

Months later and they’re still camped outside our door every day.

We’re sick of the attention and want to move; start again somewhere else. But we can’t because the property is now worth pennies, and no one wants to live in a suspected “murder house.”

And we still haven’t got our new decking.

🥕🥕🥕

Moving Day by Teresa Grabs

Moving day is almost always noisy, but this time was exceptionally loud; even Taft heard the commotion three subdivisions over. The new neighbor is young and that always makes a difference.

“Son, we’re a quiet neighborhood,” Pershing told him, patting the young man on the shoulder.

“We have the best property values in town,” I added. “Quiet, peaceful, and away from the Blue Line.”

“Oh, lord knows, I feel for those by the Blue Line,” Pershing agreed, nodding. “Welcome to Arlington.”

“I could get used to it here,” the young man said, looking around. “Just thought I’d be older.”

🥕🥕🥕

Property Values by Frank Hubeny

Tim’s intuition played tricks on him. What he thought would turn a profit didn’t. What he gave up on suddenly succeeded.

He didn’t want the Langford place, but Jennifer loved its enchanted forest. So they bought it. They also bought the Stevens property. Its value rose, as did their taxes, but this year they sold it for a loss.

Jennifer walked with him through the Langford woods. She pointed out, “We could build a home near the fairies if we keep it small.”

Tim felt his intuition smile at Jennifer’s innocence. They built that home and kept it small.

🥕🥕🥕

Hen Pecked by Molly Stevens

Chester slammed his fist on the counter. “I need to talk to the town manager now.”

“What’s going on, Chester?”

“I’ve put up with that birdwatchin’, forest bathin’ woman next door and didn’t even complain when she was arrested for indecent exposure. But I’ve reached my limit.”

“What’s wrong?”

She’s set up a chicken coup, and I don’t like what this does to the valuation of my property. Plus I’ve got her free-range idiots chasin’ me around my yard, peckin’ at my legs.”

“Have you cleaned the tires and trash out from behind your shed?”

“Don’t change the subject.”

🥕🥕🥕

There Goes the Neighborhood by Jan Malique

You wouldn’t associate the words cheerful and vampires as bedfellows, in this case rather apt though. They were new to the neighbourhood, incomers from the Old Country. Things had moved on in the vampire world, the main covens had decided to rebrand themselves, present a positive image of the undead.

Their fellow vampire neighbours were rabidly snobbish and intolerant, considering these incomers as undesirables and blamed for the property values going down. It was a war of attrition alas. Despite this the incomers aimed to be the epitome of everything their neighbours considered “beyond the pale”. Vive la differénce!

🥕🥕🥕

Turrets by thedarknetizen

The castle stood tall, covered in thin layers of white snow. Lush green forests surrounded the secluded dwelling. It was perfect for my friends and me. The four of us could now live our dream. It was the right decision to buy this isolated castle, got it for cheap as well. The surroundings will need a lot of work, but we are up for it. We are willing to go to any lengths in order to achieve our dream.

Now, all we need to do is to find young witches and wizards who are eager to learn about magic.

🥕🥕🥕

Witches Next Door by Kerry E.B. Black

Poppa scowled at the moving van, inventorying items deposited next door. Movers left garden items – astrolabes, statuary, tools, and potted plants – along the fenceline. Poppa stomped out a cigarette. “Darnnit, there goes the neighborhood.”

Josey crinkled her forehead. “Why, Poppa?”

He pointed. “Spell books. Magic chests. At least four cats. Witches’re moving in.”

Two plump, frizzy-haired ladies smiled and waved.

Josey waved.

🥕🥕🥕

Window View by Deborah Kiyono

Through the large window of her bedroom, she can see all the constructions of the city ending in a line of hills far enough to touch the sky. The sun comes by to greet her every morning with his gentle rays waking her up for another day of adventures.

Looking at the view, sitting at her desk, she flies away and explores many kingdoms, travels to unknown galaxies and meets other beings of different realms.

Grateful, she returns, blessing this most valuable item of her apartment for preventing her from feeling trapped in a cage, away from the world.

🥕🥕🥕

Property Values by Lady Lee Manila

The three little pigs were busy building their brick house.

Their neighbour, Little Bo Peep arrived and said angrily: “I’ve had enough of you! I don’t think you have building permission constructing your house.”

“You started attracting vermin (she meant the wolf) and my sheep started disappearing!”

“That’s why we’re building this house, because of the big bad wolf, who kept on huffing and puffing.”

“This is not the end of this. You pigs started moving to this area, and look what’s happening to our property prices- I bet they have gone down a lot.” And off she went.

🥕🥕🥕

Priced to Sell by Heather Gonzalez

“How did we manage to get such a good price for the house?” Mandy asked putting down a heavy box of dishes on their new kitchen counter.

“The realtor said the owners were motivated to sell.” Jackie replied opening a box.

Once the sisters had moved everything inside, they decided to call it a night. Mandy found that the silence made it hard to fall asleep. She tossed and turned until she heard the door open. When she felt the bed move, she rolled over to talk to her sister only to find an empty side of the bed.

🥕🥕🥕

Property Value by Jack Schuyler

The realtor walked them through the last room, and the couple looked shyly about with suppressed enthusiasm. The man smiled at his wife, exhaled and then turned to the realtor.

“It seems like a nice house—and we’d love to buy it—but why is it so cheap?”

“Well…the thing is—there’s really no other way to put it… The previous owner never left.”

“Cold feet about saying goodbye to the old residence, eh?”

“Well yes, but not in the way you might think.”

“In what way then? Belligerence? Legal trouble? An apartment above the garage?”

“He’s a ghost.”

🥕🥕🥕

Infinity by Deepa

I lay awake thinking about the crystal bell I had broken when I was eight.

At 78 you broke a porcelain plate and felt a burden of yourself.

I have replaced everything in the house except for the bell. I did not throw the broken pieces, but drilled holes and tied them from strings that hang like a tinkle now.

Mom, you made me promise not to cry when you go and I kept it. I leave the door open so that the tinkle can ring and make me feel you‘ve come back home.

🥕🥕🥕

Property Value by Robbie Cheadle

“But it’s a symbol of love,” he pleaded with her. “The roundness of the ring indicates infinity. It is endless and eternal, just like my love for you.”

“I am not wearing a ring,” she told him firmly. “That is a lovely romantic notion, but it makes me feel like a possession. I will not be someone’s property.”

He never managed to dissuade her from this determined view about rings. He bought her both and she kept them in the safe. Beautiful and expensive, their value could only increase. she would sell them if he ever cheated.

🥕🥕🥕

Plummeting Values by D. Avery

They sat together in their one bedroom apartment with their laptops, looking at real estate listings.

“There’s lots of listings that have everything we want, but are out of our price range.”

“Yeah… wait, look at this. It has a porch… big backyard…. family room… plenty of bedrooms and storage… and it’s less than our maximum.”

“Oh, it sure looks nice. That is the exact place I’ve imagined raising a family. Where is it?”

“Let’s see… located close to schools…”

“Stop. We can’t raise a family close to schools.”

“What, why not?”

“Why not?! Guns. Schools are dangerous places.”

🥕🥕🥕

Property Values by Sarah Whiley

Amy pressed the “Sold” banner across the For Sale sign. She thought about the commission she was making and smiled. She had really upsold this one, completely overstating the value. ‘Suckers’, she thought.

She put her hands on her hips, stood back and surveyed the property one more time. As she turned to leave, she noticed smoke billowing from the back of the house. An orange glow flickered.

‘Shoot!’ Amy cursed, frantically grabbing for her phone.

Although the fire department responded quickly, by the time they’d arrived, the house had gone up in smoke…and Amy’s commission along with it!

🥕🥕🥕

Always Up by Neel Anil Panicker

“And what’s the guarantee it’s going to go up?”

‘Damnt it!!! Rajesh always wondered whether his wife was a born fool or turned one after marriage.

Employing his best milk and honey voice he volleyed, “My dear wife, life you know comes with no guarantees. At least, that’s what I thought until you came into my life. You’ve managed to change all that. Look at you. You’ve been a revelation. Haven’t you been delivering on your promise of giving me everlasting bliss day in and day out. Likewise, take it from me, this property will give us the same.’

🥕🥕🥕

Part II (10-minute read)

Home Owner by R S Sambrooks

Suzanne types a letter ‘Dear Mr and Mrs Ross’; each word tapped bullets, then printed onto headed paper, signed by the boss and folded into a creamy thick envelope.

Mr Ross waited to open it that night when his wife came in from her shift at Belushi’s. No amount of tips could cover the mortgage, her tears flow whilst his don’t work anymore, the colostomy bag took those along with his job.

They take to the road without ringing the bank, tent carried on an old pram. Mrs Ross drops him at a hospital, makes the road her home.

🥕🥕🥕

Forty-Three into One Will Go by Di @ pensitivity101

It stood alone, neglected and run down for at least six years that I remember.
In order to avoid local taxes, the family had the roof removed then sold it for just under £1m.

Properties round it were a mix of apartments, terraces and semis, most privately owned before the Buy to Let craziness started. Nothing was valued at more than seventy grand.

They knocked it down and developed the site with a mix similar to that already in existence. The company made a killing, as forty three homes were erected on the plot previously occupied by one bungalow.

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Flash Fiction by Penny Mason

In 1968 we purchased a cute, craftsman style cottage. We paid twenty thousand.

Two children celebrated birthdays and graduation parties under the softly sloping roof.

When they left us with an empty nest, a realtor said we could sell for $200,000, enough to finance a Florida retirement.

By the time we retired, the real estate bubble had burst, and the Crabtree family with their ten children and collection of motionless autos has moved in next door. Our property value plummeted to less than $100,000.

Perhaps one day the Crabtree residence will be condemned, condos constructed, our southern dream restored.

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Baby Doll by kate@aroused

Melanie’s china doll had a hallmark on her neck. Which is how the antique dealer traced her manufacture to a Polish toy maker in Germany. The doll was well over a century old and in pristine condition.

People love dolls and this one was exceptional. Her baby sized paper mache body had dimples and details to delight. Yet her value was priceless as such a doll was exceedingly rare and the sentimental value to Melody and her family knew no comparison. Their attachment to and pride in this unique family heirloom tore at their hearts but funds were needed.

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The Highest Bidder by Lisa Reynolds

Tina stood before the bidders. It was an auction for her hand in marriage. She wished she could run. Run anywhere and be free from this madness where twenty men were treating her like an object.

Soon her price was rising and she was sold to a man twice her age. He licked his lips like the pervert he was and Tina, head down, made her way towards him. Purchased. Violated. Another business deal for the auctioneer. A woman filled with greed.

No allies, Tina got into the man’s car knowing her future would be bleak.

Property, property, property.

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The Lament of Kowloon by H.R.R. Gorman

I was born when they put rocks around me, shy and still despite my welcoming gates. More humans came with houses and wells, and I ensconced them in my earthen folds. Invaders stole my stone walls, but I supported the burdens of my precious humans. Thousands moved in, and my houses became towers and dark alleys.

With more bodies came squalor and chaos, and the outsiders failed to help my precious charges. I tried to support them, but my veins ran out of water and my body became overcrowded. Humans demolished my structures then abandoned me through forlorn gates.

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Home is Where– by Wallie & Friend

The house behind them looked small. As they rounded the hill it vanished entirely from view as if it had never even been there.

“Will you miss it?”

Annie glanced at her companion sideways. “Why do robots always ask questions that are kind of obvious?”

The synthetic man met her glance without flinching. “I miss it,” he said. “Do you ever stop missing things that go away?”

Her face tightened. This time, she had no snarky reply. “No. I don’t suppose you do.”

“I’m glad you’re with me, Mabel.”

She tried to smile. “I’m glad you’re with me, too.”

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Flash Fiction by Eric Pone

Eowyn stared at Windsor Castle and sighed. “Ono I need to dump this place. It is a huge drag on finances.”

Ono responded. “Let’s get a realtor!”

Betty Whitehurst sat across the desk from Eowyn in sheer shock. “You want to sell Windsor?”

Without a beat, Eowyn smiled. “I do. This place is too large, I can’t the income I need out of it. It has to go.”

Betty had the property appraised and the art and tapestries…the history. Sitting down again with Eowyn.

“It’s priceless. Don’t be a dumbass and sell!”

Ono, replied. “How much?”

“Billions Love.”

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Land Reform by Anne Goodwin

Kare kare the land owned the people, rooted to the soil by their ancestors’ bones.
Until the white men’s rifles commandeered the territory for their queen.

Even after independence, red-brick buildings squatted where thatched rondavels belonged. Even when war veterans forced the whites to flee, a fence barred the people from ancestral lands. Unless to labour for the government minister who now owns the property: a fat fellow with ebony skin in a white man’s clothes. Or so they say: those who sweat to feed his greed have never seen him. But neither had they seen the English queen.

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Values of Stuff by Peregrine Arc

“And here is a Parisian armchair, part of our priceless Sun King collection,” the museum guide announced. “Louis the XIV, you know…”

I tapped one of my dozing students and gestured for our guide to continue.

“And over here are more…No cell phones, please!”

A student fumbled to silent her phone, paling as she read a text message.

“There’s another school shooting…” she explained breathlessly.

“I think,” another student spoke,“armchairs have more value than us nowadays…”

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Not in My Backyard by Anne Goodwin

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve nothing against them myself. I’m thinking of the old folk, and the kiddies walking past to school. With that lot shambling and gurning, shouting obscenities or proclaiming themselves the second coming of Jesus Christ. It wouldn’t be nice, like Halloween without the dressing up, the apples and sweets.
Am I concerned about house prices? Not really, I wasn’t thinking of myself. But now you mention it, it does seem unfair. Of course, the poor souls have to go somewhere. But this is such a pleasant neighbourhood. Why do the authorities want to spoil it?

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La Casa’s Lament by Aweni

They attribute my worth to irrelevancies.
Does it not suffice that I give shelter?
That I shield from harsh winds?
That my hearth warms?

They come in, asking, ‘how big is the garden?’
‘Are the kitchen tops marble?’ ‘How many rooms are there?’

I don’t mind that last question though. You see, humans are weird, they do need their space.

They ask, ‘what about the neighbours?’

What about them?! Not that I’m a fan.
So loud, abusive and those graffiti! Eeewwh!

I see, you cringe too. Yes, my neighbours do drag me down.

But that’s not the issue.

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Investment by Hayley Hardman

It was unreal to think the manor house I was standing before was now our’s. Sadly, the place was a memory of it’s former self. Lucky, the walls and roof were all sound but there were broken windows and doors to replace then the rooms to strip and redecorate. There was no running water, working electricity or gas and it was uninhabitable.

We were going to change all that, make it into a fine home then perhaps a hotel and open gardens. It was a life’s investment but once done up the property value would soar into the millions.

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[standoff] by Deb Whittam

“I’m not having it, it’s an affront to all that we hold dear.”

Looking up at the belligerent tone she noted the nods of agreement and with difficulty repressed a sigh. No one had said being a property developer would be easy.

“I’m sorry but I’m not sure I comprehend your objections,” She replied, as she considered the development they had tabled, “Properties like yours would become gold mines – house valuations would skyrocket.”

Looking up she caught the sly twinkle in his eye and her stomach contracted, she had swallowed his bait.

“Exactly.”

The troll stated with a smile.

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Property Values by Norah Colvin

The letter lay unopened for weeks. She had no more interest in its contents than she had in the house. She’d finished with all that when she told them to sell. Why were they contacting her now?

When a second envelope arrived bearing the same logo she thought to bin them both, but hesitated, and opened the first.

A cheque? She squinted at the numbers, then held it to the light. She counted the zeros, again. Really? How could a property that held so little value for her hold so much for someone else?

The second letter explained — developers.

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Property Value by Irene Waters

“Turn round. Go back. If we bought this place I’d never leave it. This road is terrifying.”

“No! We said we’re going and we’re going.”

Jemma, white with fright, surveyed the tree-dotted property complete with a platypus populated cooling creek. They shook hands with the owner who said, ” We’ve had so many calls from people saying they’re coming but you’re the first to show up.”

“We wouldn’t have shown up if I’d had my way,” Jemma said. After a cuppa they left. The property held no value for them yet a week later it sold to National Geographic Photographers.

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Value of People or Property by Miriam Hurdle

“We got a good deal on our 10 acres, honey.”

“First time hearing of Sequim in Washington Peninsula.”

“Many retirees here.”

“See the logging. The previous owner made a fortune.”

“We need to dig a well and have electricity connected.”

“What was the noise last night?”

“Humm… a bear visitor.”

“Wait, we park next to a beehive.”

“Get in, I’ll move the camper… Isn’t this a peaceful place for retirement?”

“What? No way. Making new friends after retirement and the neighbor is 10 acres away?”

“What do you want to do?”

“Divide the land into 4 pieces and sell.”

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My Mother’s Cottage by Luccia Gray

I wished I hadn’t inherited the beautiful, but run down cottage from my eccentric yet inspirational mother. I’d have preferred to hear her reading extracts from her bestselling novels, but she finally succumbed to a long illness and donated everything else to Cancer Relief.

It didn’t feel right to sell her home, but I couldn’t afford the maintenance, until I met Jason, who contacted me on Facebook. He was the first to offer to pay for spending a few hours in my mother’s study.

Now we’re married, the cottage is fully booked for years and the value has tripled.

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This Old House by Chelsea Owens

Their school year had already begun when he looked around their 10-year-old house and said, “How about we move?”

His wife glanced up from grading homework, glasses perched down her nose. Eyebrows raised, lips pursed, she said, “Okay.”

And that was how they ended up in front of the 1917 farmhouse in a town of 257 people. Only the wind spoke, with an occasional canine interjection.

“It’s about half our current mortgage,” she noted, as they surveyed almost an acre of yard.

“It may need some work,” he observed, peeking around a musty, boarded-up section.

“It’s perfect,” they said, completely smitten.

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Flash Fiction by Bladud Fleas

Smart Alec, so-called because his sleeper once cost a hundred bucks, his mattress an unfolded packing case from Bergdorf Goodman, his rain shelter another from Saks. He never panhandled below Fifth, and never slept east of 49th; if he could help it. If the cops moved him on, he’d keep walking the block, until the cops moved on, or got a call.

He said he knew Trump, knew the price of any building in NYC, but they say you’re just one step away from the streets and, once there, you’re a million miles away from where you were.

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Rebrand the Swamp by Bill Engleson

“Let’s go for a spin,” he said. So, as a good and gullible friend, we headed up the valley in behind the old Mission. Three dirt roads later, he pulled off into the scrub.

“It’s over that hill.”

And it was.

Whatever he saw, I didn’t. “It’s a swamp, Charlie. A mosquito-invested puddle of muck and muskrats.”

“Infested, Henry. Infested. Smell that. It stinks of opportunity.”

“Oh, it stinks all right. Look, if I need to take a bath, I’ll jump in my tub.”

“Ground floor, Henry.”

“My loss, Charlie.”

It was.

Who could have predicted International Swamp Tours?

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Part III

Up The River by Juliet Nubel

They had taken refuge upstairs when the river had come crashing angrily out of its bed and swept into their home.

It had ignored their screams, settling itself comfortably throughout the ground floor, drowning their precious belongings without a hint of regret. The watermark high on the walls still showed today in spite of their scrubbing.

The prospective buyers always noticed it, their eyes growing wide when they realised what it was. They then left, never to be heard from again.

They had been imprisoned that fateful day. They would now be prisoners forever in a beautiful, worthless home.

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Property by Floridaborne

“Mrs. Miller,” the tax collector said, staring into the barrel of a .45.  “You have ten days to pay your taxes or you will have to vacate.”

“My father owned this farm, his father and his grandfather.  You have no right to extort money from our meager earnings or take our home if we don’t pay an income tax!”

“The 16th amendment…”

“My husband died in the great war!  While he fought for our freedom you bottom feeding scum found ways to steal our property!”  Fifty miles from town, she pulled the trigger.

His body fertilized her vegetable garden.

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Back to the Country (Ownership) by Papershots

I’ve become the gardener at my own home (my family’s. I’ve left.) Kindly contributing to the communal sharing of hardships, I was mowing the lawns when more and more grass was being left behind. Rake it away, naturally. So I went out back where… I didn’t know where a rake could be. I vaguely remembered the rake; but that wasn’t enough. And one I found leaning against a wall in the toolshed, its keyless door shut by a big tree fork, the previous owner – great-grandfather! – must have had a story about this “bifurcation in the trunk of a tree.”

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A Day in the Life of a Banker by Reena Saxena

My boss: How good is your best salesperson if he cannot add value to the book at the end of the financial year? Think about replacing him.

A loan applicant: My property offered as collateral is being undervalued. The adjoining plot has been sold at double the rate.

Me: The adjoining plot has been purchased by a businessman, who will multiply his investment 10X in two years. We will not always find a buyer like him. It is only the distress sale value of an asset that really matters. It’s about being as good as the last deal clinched.

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The Original Black Marketeers by Anne Goodwin

Black lead didn’t burn like peat or coal, and their wives complained it marked their clothes. So the shepherds who discovered it didn’t protest when a wealthy lawyer acquired the title deeds for the mine. A century on, their descendants cursed them, now graphite cost more than gold. These men scavenged for scraps by moonlight, sold on to Flemish smugglers to carry by packhorse to the coast. If they believed they were only claiming their birthright, it was no defence in court. The original black marketeers, betrayed by the stains on their hands, flogged and transported for their crimes.

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Plowed Progress Offering Refulgent Reward via Burnished Boxes? by JulesPaige

The light through the whole in the roof, due to the fire – was distressing. A few of the bushes were cordoned off so that when repairs were made that maybe the workers wouldn’t trample them. What are the property values along a busy
road?

Just perhaps when the building gets fixed, or torn down and rebuilt all of those other little aged homes on the street will also do some sprucing up? After all, the farmland right
across the road has almost vanished, replaced by mini-mcmansions, and several storied Condos… and a nice park for all the neighborhood children.

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Cultural Value by kate @ aroused

Traditional landowners clearly had a strong spiritual connection to the land, waterways, animals, plants, seasons and dreamtime. Nomadic they survived by respect and understanding for their environment and folklore. White invaders, colonisers, committed mass genocide while raping their land and women, with blatant disregard for seasons or songlines. They mowed down forests and the people, polluted everything obsessed with their own wealth! What value could you put on plundered life and land? Stolen generations continue to this day, overseen by those who use and abuse what chance to sustain their language, culture and pride. Denigrated in every way …

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Them Foreigners! by Ritu Bhathal

“This neighbourhood is just going to pot!” Sue looked out of her front room window, staring at the new arrivals on the street. “Seriously, I mean, that is the fourth family of foreigners to move in here in the last few months!”

She turned towards her husband. “Jake, I do think we need to seriously consider our options, you know darling. Property prices are plummeting because of them. Have you seen the litter? And the cooking smells?”

Jake looked up from his accounts. “Really, Surinder? Have you looked in the mirror recently? And stop calling me Jake, it’s Jagjit!”

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Flourishing by D. Avery

“Carrot Ranch, Pal, it’s pretty big.”

“Yep, gits bigger ever day, seems.”

“It’s set up good fer cattle an’ hosses, plenty a range.”

“Yep. Shorty knows how ta take care a such.”

“But they’s also wilderness fer forest bathing; big skies fer dreamin’; plenty a space and cover fer unicorns, longhorns, an’ all manner a birds. They’s even fishin’ holes an’ bat caves.”

“Yep. Shorty’s got quite a spread.”

“An’ she welcomes ever’one.”

“Ever’one what kin behave.”

“Big di-verse spread like this, must be pretty valuable.”

“Kid, this place is priceless.”

“I sure value it, Pal.”

“Me too, Kid.”

*****

“Yep, I sure admire what Shorty’s done here. Got herself a fine spread.”

“Thing is Kid, land don’t really ever belong ta anyone.”

“You sayin’ this ain’t Shorty’s ranch?”

“I ain’t sayin’ that. But Shorty belongs ta the ranch as much as the ranch belongs ta Shorty. If ya live on a place ya got a responsibility to it, gotta take care of it if’n ya ‘xpect it ta take care a you.”

“Well, Shorty sure ‘nough takes care a the ranch an’ all the critters an’ folks that come through.”

“Yep. Shorty an’ the ranch are gonna flourish.”

🥕🥕🥕

Raw Literature: Writing the Other

By Pete Fanning

We’ve all heard the old cliché about how a character “speaks” to an author? It happened to me a few years ago. This young girl popped into my head with a story. She was good company, persistent, too. She went on for about a month until one day I sat down and began writing what would become her story.

Now, this girl, she happened to be a person of color. And if you check my bio, you’ll quickly see that I’m a run-of-the-mill white guy, closing in on middle age. We’re talking, wears-cut-off-shorts-and-black-socks-to-cut-the-lawn. SPF 50 on the nose, kind of guy. But none of that mattered when I set out to write this thing. I can honestly say it never once occurred to me that it might be odd, me writing from the first-person perspective of a twelve-year-old black girl.

Maybe it’s because I hate to plot. Outlines for me are like creativity killers. And speaking of killers, people write from the perspective of serial killers so why did it matter? Okay, where was I going with this? Oh yeah, it does matter.

So I wrote a story about this old curmudgeonly blues player and this young girl, Nita Simmons. Even in the roughest—or rawest—drafts, I was aware enough to avoid stereotypes. No Ebonics or broken English for Nita. In fact, being so tip-toe careful to avoid stereotypes, I went the other route, and Nita became this gifted, straight-A student. A case-cracking superhero.

Reading through those first drafts, it was clear. In not wanting Nita to be a stereotype, I’d done something just as bad, or worse: I’d made her perfect.

And where’s the fun in that?

I dove back in, peeling the layers to the real Nita. The Nita in my head was a normal girl with normal problems. She was self-conscious, stubborn, she doubted herself and fought with her mother. She was still a gifted writer but shaky at math. And being a budding teenager, she was a know-it-all at times, terrified by the world around her at others. And she was gullible. She fell for the stories the old man told her. And it was through the stories that a friendship formed. After all, friendship—not race, was the heart of my story.

And because I write in frantic sparks of inspiration, always in haste, like an idea might slip away if I don’t get it down, it took multiple drafts for the Nita on the page match the Nita in my head. I worked at this story for over a year. I combed over every word and submerged myself into this world I’d created. I bought a guitar and taught myself some old blues standards. I’m awful, but I can pluck some chords now.

I’m no Harper Lee, but Nita is my Scout. I root for her every step of the way. I listen to podcasts, study black history and devour middle-grade books. I’ve read my share of Life Magazines. I fell in love with my characters.

Here was the original query.

Putting yourself out there can be tricky. Whether you’re 12 or 72, headed to a new school for smart kids, or strumming up the courage to play the blues in front of a crowd. Such is the case for Nita Simmons and Earl Melvin, two friends too stubborn to quit on each other.

After a disastrous day at school, the last thing Nita wants to do is solve the puzzle that is her neighbor, Mr. Earl Melvin. People say he’s crazy, that he once tried to burn down the city library. But something in that sturdy voice of his grabs her, and after a second encounter her fear gives way to curiosity. From there the unlikeliest of friendships takes hold.

Mr. Melvin regales Nita with tales of protests and sit-ins. How he marched against segregated schools and lunch counters. His stories are magical and inspiring, his cooking unmatched, and his guitar playing is the truest thing she’s ever heard. Nita decides that old man did all those things, then she can deal with school. But when she stumbles upon a discovery—one that threatens to prove everyone right about Mr. Melvin all along—Nita’s left with a decision to make: leave the old man in the past or drag him into the future.

Not perfect, but it worked. I got some bites. I think I queried over fifty agents. I don’t recall the exact number, but I received somewhere in the neighborhood of ten full requests and five or six partials. Not bad, I’m told.

But in all my research, in all my writing and revising, I completely missed something else entirely. Something big. Something raw.

As the agents got back to me, some were short and sweet in their rejection, and others came with some editorial advice. A few I never got back. Then, I got all the feedback I needed.

Here is a sample of what she passed along (as she passed on the story).

First, the good:

Hi Pete,

Your story intrigues me and I think you do a good job with the middle grade voice here. I really like the interactions between the characters, Earnest and Nita specifically, as well as Mrs. Womack and Nita, and of course, Mr. Melvin and Nita. You develop these nicely.

And then:

To write such a story, an editor will prefer you belong to the ethnic race of the primary characters. This story speaks to so many significant moments and people of the African American experience so, ensuring this is accurate is essential. But even more important, because you utilize first person when writing this text, Nita specifically, an editor will question your validity to do so.

Two things. I’m not saying the writing was perfect. It wasn’t. And let me make it clear that I’m one hundred percent in favor and support the #ownvoices movement. It’s great, a crucial tool in getting diverse books in the hands of kids who need them. Publishers want books about people of color written by people of color. Because think about it. How authentic is it going to look to find this book, with a black cast of characters, only to see some blue sock wearing, lawn mowing white guy on the cover jacket?  (I suppose I could ditch the socks).

But damn.

Rejection sucks. It hurts. And yes, it is personal. After spending so much time with a story and its characters and every single time it gets requested you feel like you could just march up a staircase to the clouds. And each time it gets rejected it feels like being knocked back a few steps. But I always hit the ground running. Until that last one, that one stopped me cold.

It was like a funeral, knowing it was the end of the road. Sounds dramatic, sure, then again, I do write fiction. After that last rejection, there was a new voice in my head (my poor wife), a suggestion to change the characters. Simply make Nita white.

I guess that’s on the table. But to me, it’s absurd to whitewash my main character in the name of diversity. So I’ve retired the story. Because Nita is Nita. And I still have control over that.

I’ve written a few novels since this one. One has gotten some requests, while another is getting closer to querying. And I don’t regret writing Nita’s story. I can’t help who spoke to me (pause here to acknowledge blatant cliché usage), or what characters emerged in my head. They’re mine. And if I could do it over, yep, I’d write it again. After all, I write for me first. In fact, I have, but that’s for another post.

Rejection is tough just one time, it starts to wear on you after a while. But those hours I spent getting lost in Nita’s world? In Mr. Melvin’s world? In their relationship? I think it was worth it.

I started and finished a project. I submerged myself in race relations and its ugly background (even as I ignored its current climate) and came out a better writer and person for it. And hey, maybe most importantly, I can play the blues on guitar.

So it wasn’t all for nothing.

Times Past: Conversations

By Charli Mills, Generation X, Rural US

Television killed the conversation. That’s how I think of “family” dinners growing up. As an only child in rural northern California, my parents didn’t converse at dinner. Instead, my mother prepared the meal on tv trays, and we watch Laverne & Shirley, MASH, or Benny Hill — whatever the three networks televised between 6 and 7 pm.

Conversations happened elsewhere and involved other people. Often, late at night after a search-and-rescue call (my father was a volunteer) several deputies and other volunteers would converse around the kitchen table we never used for dinner. From my bedroom, I could hear the adults talk, and some of the harrowing stories they’d tell.

Coming from a story-telling culture, I grew up listening. Even now, I consider myself to be a story-catcher. However, I never really learned the art of conversation among non-story-tellers. I always enjoy meeting other story-tellers because we swap stories in a dynamic of your story/my story give and take. I’ve noticed that as more and more screens dominate our lives, we tell fewer stories and have less time for conversation.

When I met the Hub, I spent that first evening with him and his friends, listening to their stories. We laughed, and the camaraderie shared through stories enveloped us all that night.  Often, I judge the quality of stories told as to whether or not I’m going to connect with this person. I liked his stories, a lot! Over 30 years, we’ve made our own stories.

And I think that’s what I miss, our narrative sharing, our personal conversations. The Hub suffers from a diminished focus. He tests in the one percentile, meaning 99 percent of his peers can out-focus him. One way he compensates is to tell remembered stories — it’s like living in the past.

Conversation is awkward because he can only follow so far. New stories get mixed up because he doesn’t get the details right. By the third detail of a story I’m trying to share with him, he’s gone elsewhere. Focus leaves, zooming in an out on unrelated information, and I feel unheard.  I also feel like he has nothing to new to say. It’s a frustrating place to be, especially when his memory is actually sharp.

He remembers, but focuses on the past I want to get beyond. He can’t focus on the future, and planning causes anxiety because he can’t do it. It’s almost like being time travelers who can’t share the moment, always somewhere different on the timeline of life. And the Hub is migrating toward a different screen. He plays Solitaire because it helps reset his brain after an anxious episode.

Conversations seem to get sucked into the vortex of screens in modern times. Give me a good campfire, and people willing to sit around it and tell stories and dream of the future.

This post is in response to Irene Waters’ Time Past memoir prompt and reflection on generation and geo-location. Leave a reply or link to it on her current post at Conversation Time.