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

***

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.

 

***

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.

 

***

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.”

Help: Flash Fiction #Flash4Storms

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The hurricanes season delivered destruction across Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the rest of the Carribean. But that’s only a piece of the suffering that rips through the world and not the latest or the last. Sarah Brentyn is donating $1 for every flash fiction story around the theme of Help, up to $50.  Entries need to be in by October 14 if you want to join in. Just include a link to her site Lemon Shark so you get counted. I’ll match her donation, so let’s max her challenge out!

Help

Audrey climbed the steep, narrow stairs to the third floor and switched on the light. She kept a tidy attic, dusted, everything in labeled boxes from shoe-box rectangles to the one that had delivered her new washer. Many were stuffed to the brim, and some she filled gradually. She had empties too, waiting for the next wedding or birth, the next death, the next act of brutal terrorism, another war or earthquake, or a hurricane like the ones that spun across the ocean and left thousands in need of help.

There was so much despair that for a long time she felt guilty if she smiled, horrible for a burst of laughter. To appreciate an autumn day or lunch with a friend seemed selfish and careless as if all that suffering meant nothing to her, just another day of rain down life’s gutter. So, she compartmentalized, pared fragile layers from her heart and filled her boxes with fragments of a mangled world. And each day, she spent a few hours after work lifting lids and letting the emotions sweep her into fits of hilarity or weeping. Her boxes spared her from drowning in helplessness and kept her happiness safe. In a world gone mad, they kept her sane.

The Light and Dark of Sarah Brentyn: Guest Post

Sarah Brentyn swears she’s an introvert on the verge of becoming a recluse, and yet she’s one of the stars of the blogosphere – hilarious, clever and outgoing, commenting, visiting, guest posting, writing, and managing two blogs (in addition to a real life). Her posts are full of the humor and sarcasm of a natural wit, and yet, her book of flash fiction, Hinting at Shadows, is a foray into the darker, deeper emotions and struggles of the human journey. Sarah is a conundrum. Who is this woman? I invited her here to answer that question and tell us about these sides of her writerly self.

Sarah Brentyn: Living in the Light, Writing in the Dark

I’ve been asked how it is (or why it is) that I write a light-hearted, pseudo-humorous blog then turn around and pen some seriously dark fiction. I’m here to answer that question.

I am Dr. Jekyll.

Okay, I’m not. Or I could be. You don’t know.

Buckle your seat belts. We’re in for a bumpy ride. I’ve no idea where I’m going with this.

Here’s the thing about me. I’m a conversational writer. People often say I write in a stream of consciousness narrative. That’s fair. I do. It’s why I like pantsing. (In the writing sense, that is. I’d never pull your trousers down to humiliate you. No, I would not.)

My blog? I freewrite. Jot down whatever comes to mind. My life, writing, the world around me…  Since I simply sit down and write, it’s unfiltered me. Sarcastic and silly and, sometimes, accidently serious. (With tons of alliteration, apparently.) There are ridiculous posts where my inner child is peeking out and there are thought-provoking posts where my philosophical nature is showing. It’s a mish-mash. Or “eclectic”, if you want to be nice. It doesn’t fit into any specific category. I’m okay with that because, if you think on it, people don’t fit neatly into specific categories, either.

My fiction? I dig deep. Find those roots and rip them out to have a good look. Examine what lies beneath. Get inside people’s heads. Dissect the sticky center. (Okay, that’s gross. It’s more studying inner workings than wielding scalpels.) There are a lot of psychological struggles, tricky emotions, and shadowy memories in there. I’m obsessed with the anatomy of human behavior. And I enjoy exploring it in flashes.

What’s so remarkable about flash fiction is that you can hint at the stuffing inside the teddy bear or you can show readers the rip in the seam. Cotton fiber or bean pellets? What’s inside the story?

I want to make readers wonder what the hell just happened then decide for themselves three hours later because they can’t stop thinking about it. When readers engage, I’ve won. Huge. Like that impossible water gun game at the carnival that’s completely rigged and no one ever really wins. Like that. I got the biggest prize they have and now can’t go on any rides because I’m hauling around a unicorn the size of a VW Bus. But that’s okay. I have cotton candy.

With fiction, I create things I wouldn’t want to experience. Though I do anyway. Vicariously. I’m very close to my characters. They’re like family. (The ones I don’t dread visiting during holidays.) Their stories affect me but I’m not stuck in their reality.

I think it’s safe to say that I live in the light and write in the dark.

My (Diana’s) review of Hinting at Shadows:

A string of story pearls

I just finished Hinting at Shadows and had to rave a little about this book of short fiction. When Brentyn says short, she means short. Most of the stories are about 100 words, what I refer to as flash fiction. I enjoy flash fiction, but wasn’t sure about reading a whole book of it. I was pleasantly surprised, to say the least.

Every story is a pearl. The writing is exquisite and full of pathos with a focus on the poignancy of the human condition. Hinting at Shadows is the perfect title as each story is a tiny hint at a larger human story, one that is characterized by shadows – sometimes secrets, but more often complex feelings of loneliness, regret, longing, disappointment, and hope.

It would be possible to whip through this book in a couple hours, but I think it’s meant to be savored, just as one might read poetry. So that’s what I did. It’s perfect for someone who enjoys filling their free moments with words or someone who just loves beautiful writing.

Author Bio:

Sarah Brentyn is an introvert who believes anything can be made better with soy sauce and wasabi. She loves words and has been writing stories since she was nine years old. She talks to trees and apologizes to inanimate objects when she bumps into them. When she’s not writing, you can find her strolling through cemeteries or searching for fairies. She hopes to build a vacation home in Narnia someday. In the meantime, she lives with her family and a rainbow-colored, wooden cat who is secretly a Guardian.

Book Link: myBook.to/HintingAtShadows

Sarah’s Hang-outs: 
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Blogs: Lemon Shark    and   Lemon Shark Reef
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