Fallen Angel

The Carrot Ranch flash fiction contests came to an end in December, and I’m delighted to share my final entry. This last challenge involved 5 steps! Don’t feel you have to read them all, but… it’s a good example of how different 1st drafts (step 1) are from final drafts (step 5). You can see how crappy my first drafts are. Gak!

Challenge #8: 

In 5 steps, write about a hero’s transformation after facing a crisis. Each step is its own flash fiction, but it is the evolution of a single story.

The Rules

Step One: In step one free-write for 5 minutes. Stop even if it’s incomplete. No Editing! 

Step Two: Edit your free-write into a 99-word story.

Step Three: Edit your 99-word story into a 59-word story.

Step Four: Edit your 59-word story into a 9-word story.

Step Five: Transform it into a 599-word final story in three acts: beginning, middle, and end.

Step 1: 5-Minute free write – no editing allowed

Tris stood before the archangels, with his plea. “How can I truly know love, if I have nothing to compare it to?” To know something, doesn’t one need to know it’s alternatives?”

“You wish to be reviled?” asked Gabriel.

I wish to understand love in its fullest form, and if that is to be scorned, then scorn me.”

“As you wish”

Tris plummeted through the air, white feathers in flames, this skin blazing, cracking, charring, sloughing off all that was beauty. His eyes filled with fire and he plummeted to the sea with a trail of smoke.

The woman wading in the waves saw his fall and ran into the waves to save him. But when she saw the charred pinions of his skeletal wings, the blackened bloody flesh and the scarlet eyes, she screamed and ran panic driving her to flee. Webbed wings, quilled pinions.

He stalked her, haunted her, black wings unfurling in the corner of her room. What do you want? She screamed. “What do you want from me?

“Love he croaked, and the sound of his voice scared even him.

She held her pillow, curled in her bed. “If you love me, you would leave me alone.”

The demand stunned him. How could he love her under such restrictions? He knew then what it meant to be reviled and his wings curled around him, relegating him to shadows.

Step 2: Edit it into a 99-word story

He plummeted through heaven’s void, white wings in flames, skin blazing. Sloughing his beauty, he plunged into the sea.

A woman beheld his charred pinions and fled the waves. He haunted her moonlit nights, wandered her dreams until she survived on pills and prayers, woke in a sea of sweat, and screamed, “What do you want from me?”

“Only love.”

She curled around her pillow. “If you loved me, you would leave me alone.”

His breath caught. How did one love if banished by love? His burned wings enfolded him, condemning him to shadows, for love her, he did.

Step 3: Edit it into a 59-word story

He haunted her moonlit nights, wandered her dreams until she survived on white pills and prayers, woke in a sea of sweat, and screamed, “What do you want from me?”

“Only Love.”

She curled around her pillow. “If you loved me, you’d leave me alone.”

His burned wings enfolded him, condemning him to shadows, for love her, he did.

Step 4: Edit it into a 9-word story

For love, his burned wings enfolded him in shadow.

Step 5: The final 599-word story – a hero’s journey

Fallen Angel

He pled before Hadraniel. “How does one value love if one has nothing to compare? How does one know light without darkness?”

“You choose to be reviled?” the archangel asked.

“To experience love in its fullest form.”

Thus, he plummeted through heaven’s void, white wings in flames, skin blazing, cracking, sloughing his beauty in a trail of ash. A shooting star, his eyes brimmed with fire, and he plunged into the sea.

A woman wading in the waves ran into the surf to save him. But when she beheld the charred pinions of his skeletal wings, blackened scabs of skin, and irises licked by fire, terror pooled in her eyes. Her screams echoed the shrill keen of circling birds.

She fled the sea, drove with the wind’s howling, and spun through the city’s roiling anonymity. He hunted her with wings unfurled, bristling with burned quills. And each time he drew near enough to speak his heart’s yearning, fear prevailed and she failed to hear.

He spurned the sun to haunt her by moonlight when wounded souls melded with the dark. Cloaked in smoke, he inhabited the seams of her room and whispered love’s longing in her sleep. He wandered her dreams until she survived on white pills and prayers and woke in a sea of sweat. “What do you want?” she screamed. “What do you want from me?”

“Only love.”

Thunder rumbled in his voice, and she curled around her pillow. “If you loved me, you would leave me alone.”

His breath caught. How could this be? How did one love if banished by love? What had he chosen? Burned and broken wings enfolded him, condemning him to shadows, for love her, he did.

For years, he watched her spiral in shouting matches and botched marriages, estrangements, peals of pleading, and regrets for promises shattered. He kept his word and hid in antiseptic halls with chemical restraints, through prescriptions that muted the sun and blurred the hours into strings of dull-seasoned days. Through vodka and heroin, overdoses and scars carved into her skin.

Until fear surrendered its grip.

He lingered in the corner when she lay on her deathbed, downy hair a soft cloud on her pillow, the callous blinks and bleeps of machinery her only company.

“You’re still here, aren’t you?” she asked.

His head rose from his chest, and he dared speak, “Yes.”

“You’ve followed me all these years?”

“Yes.”

“Well, there’s no sense in hiding anymore.”

By inches, he unfurled a shadowed wing, revealing his blackened form, the sharp contours of bone, and embers of his eyes. Congealed darkness swirled aside, traces of old smoke dissipating into the night.

“Why did you haunt me?”

“To learn of love.”

“And did you?”

“I learned that love and pain and forgiveness are companions in this mortal world.”

“So, they are.” She closed her eyes, breath a murmur, and reached out a hand. “If I could live this life again, I would choose differently, my loyal demon.”

“Forgive me,” he whispered, and with skeletal fingers, careful of his claws, he caressed her hand. The yearned-for touch peeled away the char and ash of his skin, the scars that were his wings, and extinguished the blaze in his eyes. As she exhaled her last breath, he plummeted through heaven’s void, white feathers in flames, skin sloughing its beauty in a trail of ash. A shooting star, he plunged into the sea.

The woman wading in the waves ran to save him and halted at the sight of his seared pinions. Undaunted, she plunged into the surf and seized his hand.

 

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To read Liz Husebye Hartmann’s winning submission and the honorable mentions for this mega challenge, click here: Carrot Ranch

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Murder Mysteries

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The winner of the Carrot Ranch challenge #7 was announced this morning. A little murderous musing before the holiday cheer sets in.

Challenge #7: Murderous Musings.  Write a flash fiction in 109 words, no more, no less and weave a murderous vibe through an every-day setting, either in thought or deed.

Murder Mysteries

Margaret loved murder mysteries, anything with forensics, cops making sense of clues, how the most minute residue or oversight unlocked a case. Recently published books served her best, ones scribed by someone in the “industry.” Those pages taught her about poisons, carbon monoxide, overdoses, DNA, sanitation, those darn receipts that could follow you forever, surveillance cameras on every corner… At times, it overwhelmed her.

Herbert didn’t understand the fascination. He insisted real life wasn’t like books, and murders frequently went unsolved. Well, that depressed her. The whole point was creating a finely tuned reality. When she finally got around to murdering herself, she wanted Herbert to take the fall.

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To read a fabulous winning story by Marje Mallon and the judge’s picks, click here: Carrot Ranch

 

At the Mirror: Chicken Scratch

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It’s been a busy autumn as I scribble away on my first draft and I’m almost there! In fact, I’m finishing it up today! So bear with me.

I haven’t shared a piece of beautiful writing from a blogger in a while. What better way to break the dry spell than with a piece from Steven Baird.

Chicken Scratch

by Steven Baird

It’s the same, every night. I reach for the dream, and I’m grabby-fingered, grievous.

The dream– no, she — is my beautiful. The woman, alone, in front of a barn, tossing scratch to the chickens. She wears a faded bluey sundress, and it is judiciously short, judicious sassy, cut just above the knees, threadbare and very old. It is 1960’s Flower-Power aphrodisia. She doesn’t care. She loves who she is, and I’m a bystander. I see her from profile: the tilt of her hips, the slow current of her arms, the equid arch of neck. Her hair is long, and it flows like the fire beside a curved river. This is her, and this is her’s.

The light captures every grain…

via Chicken scratch

The Seamaid

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The Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Rodeo turns to Twitter. I gave it a go…

The Challenge #5: #Twitterflash. In this challenge, you are tasked with writing a complete 99-word story using Twitter. The story can be on any topic and in any genre, as long as it is exactly 99 words. Easy peasy, right? Not so fast…
-Every story must be made up of 11 sentences of exactly 9 words each.
-Each individual sentence should be tweeted, one at a time, for a total of 11 tweets
-Individual sentences are tweet-worthy and contribute to the story as a whole in a meaningful way.

The Seamaid

A mermaid’s sequined tail lures me to the sea
Gulls shrill a warning, I’m headed to a drowning
Lulled by a siren’s song, footprints forsake the sand
Wash away my castles when love sings me home
She is my nixie, nymph of an airless death
Bare toes sink, swallowed by the sea’s lapping tongue
Fingers caress my ankles, beckoning me farther from shore
Entangled am I in floating whorls of unbound hair
Her silver arms are the surge embracing my surrender
A life forlorn abandoned for her wild blue beauty
Yielding to the tides, breathless in my seamaid’s kiss

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To read D. Avery’s winning Twitterflash, click here: Carrot Ranch

Galatea

Étienne Maurice Falconet: Pygmalion et Galatée (1763)

The Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Rodeo announced another winner, and I’m thrilled to have pulled off top honors with this one. Yay!

Challenge #4: In a double length Carrot Ranch flash, or 2 chapters of 99-words each (198 words total), tell a story that shows a scar. It can be memoir, other forms of creative non-fiction,  any genre of fiction, or based on a true story.

Galatea

My father was Pygmalion and I his child chiseled by his scowls and smiles into the woman of his daydreams, a huntress, a poet, a woman who walked barefoot over mountains. In the light of his approving eye, I flourished in the myth of Galatea, a living statue until age cracked my smooth skin. What he thought was carved of marble I revealed as plaster, the child beneath growing beyond the sculptor’s control. I was a betrayal of his art, his vision, a flesh and bone girl with her own daydreams, and he said, “I don’t love you anymore.”

And so, the sculptor became a butcher, his chisel traded for a cleaver, Galatea gone, my myth smashed into rubble on the floor. In pieces, I sought new masters to glue together my shattered heart, unable to accept I was clay, not stone, and the only artist was me. For decades, I fashioned a new myth, molded her with tender fingers and scraped away layers of pain, all the while longing for my maker to undo the original wound. But time cannot be undone or cuts unmade. I forgave and finally became a woman wholly of flesh and bone.

 

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Many thanks to Carrot Ranch and to the judges, and congratulations to all those who entered. To read the powerful work of other top contenders, click here: Carrot Ranch

Love Undenied

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The Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Rodeo has announced the results of Challenge #3. I loved this prompt and the opportunity to write a little fantasy.

Challenge #3: Create a piece of flash fiction (200 -300 words) including a Septolet or two as the spell or charm that helps your character out of a bind (or go where the prompt leads you). The Septolet is a poem consisting of seven lines containing fourteen words with a break in between the two parts. Both parts deal with the same thought and create a picture. 

Love Undenied

Smoke swirled, dappling the forest floor with blotted sunlight. Feathery wisps spun, wove, and coalesced into the skeletal body of a man, ribs and muscles sculpted beneath skin the pallor of death. His face was my lover’s but hawkish, black eyes smoldering, malevolence darkening the hollows of his skull, a beakish shadow for his nose. A cowl of smoke, a cloak, undulated as if windblown, yet the air lay still. In his hand, a staff of black fire blazed.

“Why am I summoned?” His voice ribboned around me.

“To set you free.” I held the amulet in an outstretched arm as if its magic might shield me.

His predatory eyes tightened. “To send me to my death.”

“You are already dead, my love, as am I.” He winced at my words. At the truth or the endearment? “This is an enchantment that binds you to the mortal world.”

He stepped near, a hair’s breadth from the soulstone trembling in my hand. I held my ground. His eyes burned, yet in the flare of light, I beheld the reflection of my feathers, whole and downy to his charred pinions. He longed for my wings. “You may have them,” I whispered.

“No!” he roared.

I met his fire with love in equal measure, amulet extended and pulsing, light peeling away the smoky tendrils binding him. I spoke the grimoire’s spell.

Life and death
Cycles
Undenied
Fear imprisons
In flightless chains
*
Love unfurls
Eternal wings

I thrust the soulstone to his chest. Fear slashed its talons, meant to shred flesh from my face, rip feathers from my wings and claim them, but I was no more in this physical world than he. And when he saw that my love was unconquerable, he surrendered to the magic, and his white wings bloomed.

 

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To read Deborah Lee’s winning submission, runners-up, and judges’ favorites click here: Carrot Ranch

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Halloweensie

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Mike Allegra suggested that I give Susanna Hill’s Halloweensie Writing Contest a try.  The goal was to write a 100-word Halloween story appropriate for children (12 and under) using the words candy cornmonster, and shadow. Here’s my entry:

Monster under the Bed

Darla scrunched her blanket under her chin. “You can turn off the light, mom.”

“You won’t be scared?”

“I’m okay. And you don’t need to check under my bed; there’s no monster.”

Her mother kissed her. “Honey, I’m so proud of you.”

Left alone, Darla clutched her trick or treat bag. A gnarled troll with pointy fangs crept from the shadows beneath her bed. Its orange eyes squinted and curved claws rustled in a paper sack. “I got chocolates,” it growled. “What did you get?”

“Taffy, licorice, and candy corn,” Darla whispered. “Want to trade?”

“Bah.” The monster giggled. “Let’s share.”