Saturday, December 21, 2013

20 Cool Abandoned Places in the World - Imgur

 Photo: Imgur. The Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang, North Korea. Started in the late 80s, it now has a plated glass exterior and looks finished from the outside, but apparently work has pretty much halted. Not sure it's been "abandoned"...maybe just frozen in time?

While I'm writing over the holidays, I'll try and post some interesting tidbits from elsewhere.  Thanks to StuStoryteller for bringing this site to my attention.

From an album of 20 photos of abandoned places all over the world.  I have always been fascinated by abandoned/decaying structures.  The majority of places like these that I've explored  have been posted with "No Trespassing" signs, and so if you want to play intrepid adventurer then you usually have to break the law. There is also an inherent risk of injury, since buildings can be unsafe structurally, be inhabited by crack dealers or criminals, full of vermin like rats and snakes, or littered with rusting wire, broken glass, etc. Having said all of that, there's no feeling quite like entering a place like an amusement park, a station, a hospital that's now empty of life but had been left just as it was.  It's sad and creepy and exciting and...

....well, you get the idea.

These images would provide some great stories.  Who lived here? Worked here?  Where did everyone go? 

Think. Dream. Enjoy.

20 Cool Abandoned Places in the World - Imgur

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Five Worst Christmas Gifts I Ever Received

I know, I know, it's the thought that counts, right?  But admit it - you've gotten at least one gift, at some point, which either made you cringe, or left you scratching your head and wondering what the heck the giver was thinking.  And while some of mine might have been suitable for someone else - well, they just weren't right for me.

1. Cactus.  Since my house is Death Row for plants, I suppose this person thought that they'd enrich my environment with greenery which needs almost no care.  Unfortunately, I also tend to be clumsy. I managed to stick myself with cactus spines not once, but three times.  The third incident necessitated a visit to the doctor to address an infection.  Perhaps it was an Avenging Cactus secretly sent by the god of dead houseplants to make me pay.

2. Vacuum cleaner. Thanks honey, how thoughtful.  Expect some of your expensive cuff links to disappear up the new vortex suctioning system and be converted to cold hard cash.

3. Blanket with your ex's initials instead of mine.  After being presented with the order slip to prove that it was a new purchase, and the wrong initials a mere sign of senility, I chose to forgive.

4. 100% Wool socks. Thanks for the itchy feet.

5. The Obligatory Ugly Sweater. Actually, it wasn't that ugly.  More like...inappropriate, as the reindeer's red nose ended up strategically placed in an awkward area of my chest.  I always wondered if it was a miscalculation, or some designer's idea of a practical joke.

So that's my list.  And, looking it over, not too bad I guess.

What's on yours?

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Meeting the "Real Santa" and Other News - Personal Post

   First off, if you came here to read a story follow the link below.  A Christmas story was accepted by the local newspaper for their "I Know A Story" column.  (Actually, it's a true story for once.)

                                            The link is broken so I've opted to reprint the story here.

The Little Red Santa House

      Growing up in Lancaster, there were two things which heralded the Christmas season; the trees

on the Watt and Shand building downtown, and the appearance of the little red Santa house at the

Lancaster Shopping Center.

      One particular year, I stood on that cusp of disbelief which comes to every child. There were

rumors circulating that Santa wasn't real, that parents bought the gifts, and that the “naughty or

nice" list was a ploy to get us to behave. I desperately wanted to believe, especially since I held out 

hope that Santa would deliver a much-longed-for pony one of these years. So I was quite torn when I

entered the red house and climbed up on Santa's lap.

      “Merrrrry Christmas Lisa! You've been in some trouble lately, haven't you?”

      I was absolutely floored. Obviously this was the real Santa; how else would he know my name

and my criminal record? There would be no pony this year, and as that particular dream

flew out the window I racked my brain trying to figure out which dastardly deed he was referring to.

Tearing down the clothesline by playing Tarzan and swinging on it? Secretly sweeping my sister's

room for contraband? Eating the candy canes off of the tree?

      In spite of my horror, I felt excitement as well. Santa was real, and there was still time to

be a good girl and try to win back Santa's approval. I vowed to not do a single thing wrong until

Christmas. I accepted a candy cane and ran over to Mom to tell her the good news, while Dad had a

word with Santa.

      So I was a believer for another year, and even after that I wondered how a man dressed as Santa

knew my personal information. As you may have guessed, my parents told me later that Dad knew

“Santa” from work.

      Of course there never was a pony, but there was a chemistry set (a gift that my parents would

soon regret) and a Black Stallion book signed by the Black Stallion himself and author Walter Farley.

     One day I would meet Mr. Farley, but that's another story.

      Eventually I had a son, and I took him to the Santa house as well. The Lancaster Shopping

Center has undergone dramatic changes over the years, but as I drive by today I can still visualize the

way it was, with the magical little house that meant Christmas.

   In other news (if you haven't read the previous post) I've decided to expand what originated as a steampunk flash into a novelette or even a novel.  I've got 10 chapters, 12000 words total so far as a rough draft.  I have to admit, I'm having more fun researching than actually writing.  I'm also combating the usual tendency to edit and perfect as I go, without much luck. I am getting better at just leaping over problem areas and continuing the story line.  I can always go back and rewrite sections later.
    Hope everyone else's writing is going well and that you are all ready for the holidays.  It's snowing here, and quite cozy with the Christmas lights and all.
    Until next time....

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Instauration Of An Age - Pt 3 (Steampunk) An Apparition Appears

 Author note - I've decided to attempt to turn this series into a novella.  Therefore, I've taken down parts 1 and 2 for revision (and so as not to give the store away).  Sorry! But hey, if you enjoyed it, I might be looking for a few readers in January for feedback on the rough draft.

     "Tomorrow night then," Percy called cheerfully while I made my way to the door.  As I was girding myself against the raw night I heard an odd set of sounds. Scratch...scratch...scratch...thump. 
      Must be the cat I thought reassuringly to myself.
     Scratch...scratch...scratch...and then the most dismal, the most eerie, the most despairing call from the depths of what hell I knew not.
     "...for the love of God..." scratch...scratch...scratch...
     My bowels threatening to turn to water, I snatched an umbrella from the stand, took a deep breath and flung open the door to confront whatever apparition was on the other side.
     A thin figure in flapping tails unbent and stood up, weaving slightly and making a great effort to focus bloodshot eyes on mine. The almost perfect replica of Sir Percy Harrington held out what appeared to be part of a woman's brooch.
     "Bloody key won't fit," he said blearily.
     I sighed, envisioning the scene which was about to take place. My own bed was obviously not going to be an option after all. "Hullo Thorny. You know, Percy really is going to kill you this time."
     "Death seems rather inviting right now," he agreed, wobbling through the entry and into the room beyond.

     "APPALLING. Absolutely appalling. You REEK of gin and trollops. You appear as though you've had a roll in the street offal like a common cur. I would imagine you've gambled away EVERY SHILLING YOU LEFT WITH."  Percy seemed dangerously close to apoplexy, while his younger brother swayed and smiled benignly, punctuating the proceedings with an occasional hiccup.
     "Just...just...oh, get out of my sight. I can't bear it, I simply CANNOT bear it. Tomorrow I intend to go around to the barrister's and you shall be DISINHERITED. It gives me great pain to do so, but you leave me NO CHOICE. GET OUT."
      And Thornton William Harrington did so, drawing himself up with an injured air and exiting the room with only the slightest hint of a sideways list.
      Percy flung himself into a chair which promptly collapsed under the violence of his action. (I suddenly sympathized with the cat. No wonder it behaved as it did; life in the Harrington household seemed rather a risky business.)  I braced myself for another stream of oaths, but it appeared that Percy had vented his large supply of bile.  He merely sighed, an unconscious mirroring of his younger brother's long-suffering exhalation, and remained where he was, stretched out on the Persian rug.
     "David, as you know I am generally the most elegant and agreeable of hosts. However, I feel positively drained at the moment. Could you possibly find your own way to one of the guestrooms upstairs? Rummage about for whatever you might need. I'm sure we can find you some fresh attire in the morning. There's a good fellow."  And he wearily threw an arm over his eyes.
     I felt "rather drained" myself and so I stepped outside, dismissed the coachman, and quietly made my way back inside and up the stairs. There was really no need for the new electric lights; one only had to follow the wall-rattling snores already emanating from the first bedroom. I chose the room down the hall furthest from the racket. It was freezing, but I didn't have the energy to either lay a fire or summon someone to do it. In fact, I hadn't seen a single servant during the evening. And so I climbed into bed, still wearing my coat and muffler, and fell into a dream filled with men shouting, devilish felines, and fire.



Wednesday, November 20, 2013

My Favorite Sentence In the Whole Wide World - #WEP #Sharing Blogfest

Read Other WEP Sharing Stories

As humans, we share many things: culture, meals, stories, memories. And grief. Which of us has not secretly begged that THIS THING be taken away, woken in the morning only to remember that life has changed forever, wondered how it can be that people are happily slurping coffee and bickering over who forgot to take out the trash while we are walking about bleeding from invisible wounds.

Then there is the wintry impotence of the near-to-heart. We are powerless, unable to lift the burden of the other, struggling to say or do the right thing, when what we really want is to share that burden, or even take it upon ourselves that the other might go free.

As a writer, I have a love/hate relationship with words. They enthrall me, taunt me,and on occasion lend me their secrets that I might share them with others. At times they pour onto the page and I brush them into some semblance of a landscape. Other times, they stick in the bottle or splash all over, and the workroom looks like a murder scene. But the hardest thing for me to write is in response to someone's grief. Whatever words I use, they mock me, and I can feel my toes curling with embarrassment. "Write from the heart" some say. Well, my heart seems to have failed Basic Composition.

I respect privacy, and so let's just say that something traumatic happened to a member of my family. (Not physical, but emotional.) When he told me, my jaw dropped. Literally. I was speechless. All I came up with was something like "Holy s#&t. I can't believe it. What can I do?" He didn't want to talk, and so things went to Facebook - as they tend to do with the younger generation. I didn't know what to write. Didn't want to use inspirational quotes, or what might appear to be useless platitudes. I searched for something insightful, something to convey all that I was feeling. But someone had done that already.

Among all of the outpourings was one sentence which wrung my heart, made me smile, and served as a luminous illustration of what "writing from the heart" - and true friendship - is all about. And yet it's about as simple as you can get.

"I will gladly catch you if you fall, bro."

Sometimes it is all that we can do.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Cool Stuff - Sites You Might Like

Just a quick post with a few nifty sites to check out.

First off is Literature Map. Type in an author, and a cloud of other names will appear, based on similarities or what other readers of your fave author are reading. A fun tool to discover your next book.

Next is NPR's First Listen. Check out music before it hits stores, from popular genres to soundtracks to world music.

Then there's Curious. It's a site dedicated to instructional videos. Learn drawing, ballroom dancing, cooking, or DIY jobs like installing countertops. Best of all, you can upload your own teaching videos - and choose to be paid if you wish.

The last is a bit frivolous. I always wondered how people created certain symbols or artwork on Twitter. I haven't mastered the alt codes but you can find them at Andrea Kalli's Wordpress Blog. Best of can also just copy and paste the symbols.

Hope you have fun with these!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Give Us Your Hungry - WEP Halloween Blogfest (and early #FridayFlash)

Check out the WriteEditPublish site

Up, Down, Into, Around... Gerald hummed the little ditty to impress the sequence into his brain once and for all. He'd only been out of training for a few hours, but turnover at the Supplemental Nutrition Office was high and so a position had opened for him immediately.

Surveying the vacant-eyed, flaccid sacks of jelly that lined the waiting room, Gerald surreptitiously fondled his obliques with pleasure. Four hours at the school gym every day, physiology and sociology courses attended while bouncing on his exercise ball, the native intelligence to manage the hefty allowance his father sent him every week; these had turned him into a veritable idol for the masses to look up to. Utterly ridiculous, the number of non-working, corpulent, unwashed, illiterate humans living in this city. And how magnificent that their betters had put together a program to try and lift up the downtrodden, stiffen the backbones of the weak, support those unable or unwilling to support themselves without crippling them with too many luxuries, tax-payer overabundance which entrapped them in a silken snare of perpetual servitude...

The plastic tubing suddenly wrapped around his neck choked off his pleasurable ruminations.

"Gotcha Gerry! Ogling that toothless broad over yonder? I saw you feeling yourself up." Kyle, the interim program supervisor, removed the tubing and coiled it like a lasso.

Gerald felt a rising blush in spite of himself. "New shirt's a little scratchy." A glance at the clock showed 8:59. "Time to call numbers. I wanna be out of here by five so I can get in some rowing on the river."

"As you wish, Master. Please wait for your loyal subjects in the throne room."
She couldn't have been more than 13 or 14, with dimples and delicate, fragile ears. Sweat broke out on his forehead. He steadied himself by scanning her microchip and reading the data. Father dead, mother recently laid off, three siblings aged 9, 4 and 3 months. Zero assets. Pre-qualified for one month of meals. Proffering a packet of ration stamps, he lectured her on their use and safekeeping. Then he carefully tore out one ticket. "You give one of these to me each time, right? We can access everything by microchip, but the old paper system teaches you responsibility. Have a seat, and I'll get you your meal."
Up, Down, Into, Around...he sang to himself. First a little lubricant, then the two-foot long plastic tube as thick as his middle finger snaked through her nose. Tears welled up and flowed, temporarily pooling in her dimples. He squirted a little sugared water into her mouth and urged her to swallow, honey, swallow as he slipped the tube past the glottis, inched it slowly down her throat into her esophagus and stomach. She writhed silently, miserably, and Gerald felt an unwelcome pang of ...what? He was performing a public service. Allowing her to stay alive and healthy. A few seconds of discomfort, but then the sweet reward of 2000 welcome calories flowing into her body. The stuff of life. And perhaps the daughter would push her mother more insistently to work, support the family, get off the public dole.

When he was finished, he escorted her through the door in his best chivalric fashion. 9:15, not bad for a start. He'd get through the caseload by 4:00 easily. Not like the old days of frozen turkeys and bagged groceries, when lines stretched around the block for 14 hours at a stretch. Those people and their government had become hopelessly mired in a failing theory of "feed the poor", similar to the political fiasco of "feed the mob" which brought an end to Rome. In the new regime, supported autonomy was the cornerstone. Sometimes it is necessary to temporarily compromise the autonomy of a person in the short term to preserve their autonomy in the long-term.

And they were getting fed for free, weren't they?
Writer Djuna Barnes had herself force-fed to experience what suffragettes were enduring in 1914.
 For more info on Djuna Barnes click here


Friday, October 18, 2013

Owain and the Lord Wth the Silver Tongue - #FridayFlash Fiction

Photo: King Arthur, from the "Nine Heroes Tapestry" on display at the Cloisters in NY (part of Metropolitan Museum of Art). Copyright Lisa Vooght 2013

King Arthur was holding court at Caerleon upon Usk, and the knight Owain had set out upon his quest. The road Owain traveled passed through copse and ford and hill, and he was fair worn when he came upon an old man toiling in a field.

"Good fellow, have you knowledge of a spring nearby where I might wash and refresh myself and my horse? And might you spare me a morsel of food? I have found the hunting poor hereabouts."

"Over yon is a spring, and welcome, but food I have none. Lord Innit demands all that we grow, and gives back less than your fine steed would eat in a day."

Then Owain gazed steadfast upon him, and was sorely troubled. For the old man spun a tale, as rich as any told at the Round Table. Lord Innit of the Tromain Castle held others captive, not by the sword but by an enchanted tongue. For all who came to him with complaint were captivated by his voice, which rang like silver bells and dripped with pure honey; they came in wrath, or to plead their case, but went away with empty hands and without malice, until striking hearth and becoming filled with dismay as before.

With that Owain mounted his snorting steed and rode to the castle. Weary and footsore, he was led by a yeoman to the great hall, where a man of surly countenance bade him disarm with words most foul. And Owain would have smote him, but for the fact that some enchantment made those words full heavy with sweetness. A repast was spread, and then the good knight was led to a chamber for the night.

It befell upon the morn that Owain heard a fierce buzzing in his ear. Rising quickly, he sought and found Lord Innit already at table.

"This fare would be well served by fresh honey. Allow me my armor, that I might procure some from the hive which I spotted last eve."

And permission was granted, as Lord Innit was sound in his conviction that none could defend against his silvered tongue. So Owain donned his armor and was shown by a servant through the postern onto the grounds, whereupon he strode to a massive oak by the gardens. And there he helped himself to a goodly portion of the honey, and the comb. Then returned the knight and servant to the great hall. The honey was placed on the table, and with a voice of thunder Owain demanded that Lord Innit surrender himself. The noble, ever open-mouthed, called upon his enchantment to sway the knight; but Owain had filled his ears with beeswax, and so bore the silvered words with impunity. Then Lord Innit commanded the servant to fetch the guards; but the servant's ears were likewise filled, and it was to no avail. Lord Innit drew his sword in challenge, but his arm was easily struck down by the seasoned Owain. He was bound, and his mouth stopped, and messengers sent to the court of Arthur so that knights might be dispatched to hold the castle and contemplate its fate. And Owain resumed his quest, wandering through various countries, engaging in perilous enterprises, and covering himself with glory.

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Perfect Person's Guide To Shopping - #FridayFlash Fiction

My latest painting project is 12 little wood benches, each with a different design.The kittens (I've done 3 different ones) are my favorites so far.

If you're here for Friday Flash it's over at  ReadWave: The Perfect Person's Guide To Shopping. 

Hope that you enjoy it! Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Coupling, Learning, Dying: The Cinesprit Magazine Launch! #films

Hi all! Some of you may remember fellow writer/blogger Marcus Clearspring from the A to Z Challenges. In fact, he designed those nifty "next blog" buttons. Well, he's launched a brand new magazine called Cinesprit, devoted to all things cinema. Rather than a collection of movie reviews, it's a mix of articles, essays, short may even include screenplays and poetry. The idea is to provide thoughtful discussion on the ways movies affect us, entertain us, even change us.

(In the interests of full disclosure, I've got an article and a short story in the first issue.)

There will also be private forums available for discussions. The more people involved, the better! Got an idea for a submission? Go ahead and make your pitch!

I've included links with coupons; there's 2 articles free to read/listen to (yes, there's excellent audio) as well as introductions to the others. In the first issue:

Movies Are Important Marcus Clearspring

Stilled Life With Movie Lisa Vooght (flash fiction)

Cinema On the Spectrum Lisa Vooght (autism)

Coupling With King and Bergman Joshua Brunsting

Star Wars, Little Rascals and Red Balloons  Marcus Clearspring

True Fiction Fredric Gustafsson

Learning From Movies Robert William Kingett

Hope you enjoy this inaugural issue. And if it's not your cup of tea...well, maybe you could spread the word to your film loving friends and followers?

As always, thanks for stopping by and for your support.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Using Your New DUK Tape Beauty Regimen

Please read instructions thoroughly before using tape. Not for use on children or infants in beauty pageants.

You Will Need:
One roll of DUK tape. (Those over six feet tall/200lbs. might need two.)
An assistant

1. To improve posture: have assistant cut four strips of tape, approximately 12 inches long. Stand up straight, shoulders back. Starting with left shoulder, have assistant apply tape from top of shoulder to just beneath shoulder blade on back. Make sure it is tight and smooth. Apply second strip next to it. Apply remaining two strips to right shoulder in same fashion. Congratulations! You are on your way to perfect posture. Every time you lean forward or slump, the tape will begin to tear a layer of skin off, reminding you to keep those shoulders back! As an added bonus, you will soon learn to gracefully bend your knees and lower yourself to pick something up, instead of bending over with your posterior in the air.

2. Instant Boob Job: No more bras! Keep those cutlets under wraps with a few squares of tape and wear that strapless dress with confidence! Nature left you a little shortchanged? Build them up with multiple layers of tape. Men: you may find using larger horizontal strips around the entire chest and back area works better to contain those manboobs. As an added bonus, after removal you'll be smooth and hairless for your mate!

3. Instant Face Lift: Facing the mirror, place the fingertips of each hand on your cheekbones, just below the ear. Push skin back toward the ear. See those lines around your mouth disappear? Just gather that excess skin below the ear and, using a small strip of duct tape, fasten it to the skin behind the ear. Do this every night, before going to sleep, and in weeks you'll see those lines disappear. Tip: do this before going to that class reunion or big party you've been waiting for. Just make sure to arrange your hair carefully in a face-framing manner.

Disclaimer: DUK Tape is manufactured by DoitUrselfKompany and is in no way affiliated with any other brand of tape with a similar name.
Warranty: DUK warrants this tape and all parts thereof, as set forth below:
Only to original purchaser for 24 hours.
What You Must Do For Warranty Service: Post pictures of yourself using the tape correctly on our website. We will also need copies of your Bill Of Sale, completed warranty repair request form, all of the accessories which came with your purchase, a cashier's check for $50USD to cover handling, shipping, and restocking fees, and a signed affidavit stating that you will not post negative feedback on our website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, Snapchat, or any other social media platform. Failure to provide any of these will nullify your warranty.
DUK shall not be liable for any loss of use of the product, loss due to use of the product, inconvenience, or any other damages, whether direct, incidental, or consequential, including but not limited to allergic reaction, hair loss, accidental ingestion, skin loss, excessive skin accumulation on face (sagging jowl syndrome), nipple irritation, nipple loss, ingrown hairs, keloid development, blindness, public humiliation, loss of significant other, mood changes, or murderous/suicidal thoughts.

Thank you for buying DUK Tape!

DISCLAIMER BY AUTHOR! Humorous article. Don't try these things at home, as serious injury could result.
Please do not try and order DUK tape through my website. Unless you want to send me the $50 USD, in which case I'll be happy to help you. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

We Were Only Boys - Red & Blue Makes Purple Blogfest

  A story I wrote a little while ago, edited and cleaned up for the blogfest hosted by Melanie Schultz. Stories were limited to 500 words and have a military theme;  proceeds from a future anthology will go to Operation Purple, which helps send kids from military families to camp for free.


     They came and got us at the theater, because that's where the boys were back then. A bus took us straight to the Navy yard where we signed up to defend country, honor and freedom. It seemed a grand adventure. We knew nothing of the lice, the rot, the mud which swallowed men whole.
     I'd seen blood and death. I grew up on a farm and watched Joe Krazinski lose an arm in a thresher. I shot rabbits and deer for the table when the crop failed. I heard Great Grandpa's stories of bodies in heaps at Gettysburg. But he told of rousing battles and glorious cavalry charges; we ended up crawling in muck and suffocating under clouds of gas.
     Out in no man's land was the wreckage of a German plane, the pilot's body still strapped in. The first time I saw him, I was running by full tilt; later, as we stumbled back through the lines, the plane was still there, surrounded by shell holes but miraculously untouched. And that's the way it stayed, day after day, frozen in time. Some of us took to giving him a friendly wave. Somehow the dead pilot took on a miraculous quality to some; fear breeds superstition, and Hans' (for that's what we named him) continuing immunity to complete destruction became a sort of talisman. 
     That winter of 1917 was a bitter one, and yet like all things had its good elements - the cold discouraged vermin, lessened the stink of unburied bodies, and kept fighting limited to skirmishes and sniping. We knew when the weather broke, the mighty engine of war would start up again with its demand for more men to feed it.
     I got it into my head that Hans should be buried. It seemed the right thing to do; but I found most of the company against it. Why risk our lives for the body of an enemy?  I couldn't explain it, not to their satisfaction, not even to my own.
     Spring came, the ground softened, shells bloomed. The front undulated, writhed, melted and re-formed. When the offensive came, it was almost a relief. After hours of shelling we went over the top in wave after wave, carried along by nerve, scrambling over the fallen, driven on by the press of hundreds more behind us.
We were forced back, slowly, painfully, and I found myself running for the safety of our recently despised trenches. A whiff of gas drove me one way, an artillery shell another; dodging like a rabbit, I headed for the one thing which offered cover. The plane.
     There is more to fear from the living than the dead. Immune to most horror by now, I felt only sadness; you could still tell that Hans, like us, had been only a boy.
     In the morning I buried him, then said a little prayer as best I could. And wouldn't you know, later that same day a shell landed on the plane, blowing it to smithereens.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

"Red, White and Blue Makes Purple" Blogfest

 News flash from Melanie Schulz:

"Okay! Here it is. I will be hosting a blogfest/contest on September 2, 2013. Why so much time? For you to write a fabulous story of course! All the stories entered will be compiled into an anthology ebook that will be available on Kindle - all proceeds to go to Operation Purple, a great organization that sends children of our military to summer camp, free of charge.  And if that's not incentive enough, this is also a contest. One randomly chosen entry will win a $50.00 amazon gift card, as well as a signed copy of my book, The Newstead Project."

A very cool project for a great cause. Linky and instructions HERE.
Write a military themed story, 500 words or less. Blog about it, post the story on Sept.2.
Visit others and comment. That's it! If you've been waiting for a kick in the butt to get're welcome.

(Obviously I've been waiting, as I haven't written in weeks. Been kinda busy with family and vacation.) See you soon!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

A Stand-Up Man - Flash Fiction

Jiddi had the audacity to question the teacher.

"Go and stand in the corner, insolent pup. You may sit down when you have learned obedience."

Jiddi stood until the bell rang and then walked home. He consumed his meal  in an upright position as well.

His mother shrugged and served him. Strange boy. His father regarded him in silence, then resumed his study of the financials.

Sleeping posed a problem until he braced himself in a corner with his desk.

Relieving himself was as simple as crouching a bit. It taught him balance.

The next day he rode his bike to school standing on the pedals. Mr. Tarlton frowned when Jiddi resumed his stance in the corner.

"Take a seat, young man."

Jiddi maintained his silent pose.

The instructor's face became an alarming shade of red.

"Idiot! You are stubborn as a donkey. Here, wear these then." He formed and placed two cardboard ears upon either side of Jiddi's head.

Classmates tittered and threw wads of saliva-soaked paper at him when Mr. Tarlton's back was turned. When they went outside for lunch, several threw rocks at him as he stood under a tree and ate his lunch. One projectile struck his forehead and a salty trickle of blood ran over his lips. This incited a few but caused others to draw back and keep their distance.

"He's not right," they murmured.

A few began to regard him with something akin to awe.

When Jiddi went home his father beat him with a stick.

"Shame! You did not sleep in your bed last night. No doubt you were doing disreputable things."

People judge you by your stick. His father's was very small.

In the night both his father and his mother crept into his room to make sure that he was not out in the village gamboling and corrupting. Instead he was rocking to and fro, looking out of the window. The world is a busy place at night, for man and beast. Life does not stop for darkness. Jiddi learned a great deal about the world at night.

Jiddi found that the pain in his legs was a living thing, which traveled and slept and called him to attention when his mind drifted. His grades improved remarkably. The other students were drawn to him by curiosity, and soon acquired a vested interest in seeing him continue what they believed to be a power struggle. Outside, one massaged his legs, another brought him sweet things from his own lunch tin. They admired him for being able to do what they could never do.

That was a lie which they told themselves.

When Jiddi graduated from school he tried several jobs, but most required him to sit for one reason or another. In his younger days, when he sat, he never thought about sitting. Now that he did not sit, it became the main topic of conversation for everyone around him who did sit. He stood under a tree in the town square, with a swing to rest his arms or one leg as he slept (for standing includes one leg as well as two) and people brought him things, they took his picture, they asked him questions, they filmed him so that others could sate their curiosity about him while sitting in their living rooms, their kitchens, in front of computers, with their noses in books, while riding the black belching buses. Tourists and villagers alike left money for him. He accumulated wealth by standing all of the time.

Waitresses were paid a pittance for standing much of the time.

People still threw things, but he had learned in the schoolyard that if he did not move they soon gave up and went away.

Monkeys throw poo to get a reaction. It has been deemed a sign of higher intelligence by the scientific community.

Jiddi saw the irony in this.

Eventually someone assigned Jiddi the title of Khareshwari or "Standing Baba".  Many debated his sanity. Some called him a freak or a fraud. A few sat at his feet waiting for words of wisdom.

They did not see the irony.

Jiddi's father managed his new-found riches for him. Such an important job required that he purchase a Bentley and build himself a walled compound to keep out bad men. He could now afford a bigger stick.

He did not see the irony.

When Mr. Tarlton the school master lay upon his sick bed, he called for Jiddi and asked for a laying on of hands. Jiddi did so, and the next day Mr. Tarlton rose up and began to walk.

Faith is not only what we believe, but we do with that belief.

One night a gang of marauders came to the village to loot and to kill. They saw the shape of a man standing under a tree and shot him. He remained standing. They fired until their barrels were hot and a great hue and cry had gone up in the village. Marveling at the man who was impervious to their projectiles, they ran in blind panic into the night.

Jiddi was buried with full honors the next day, lying down while volleys of gunfire cascaded into the sky. Errant fireworks inadvertently burned down a rich man's compound. It burned everything, down to the last stick.

It is possible that Jiddi, from wherever he had gone, saw the irony in all of this.

The day after that, Mr. Tarlton took up his new position, standing under the tree.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Revival - Drabble From A WIP - #FridayFlash

     Sweltering under the tent, voices call upon God, singing in undulating waves. It's the devil called boredom which makes me point out a bug crawling up Bird's leg. He jumps straight up and comes down hard, dances in a zigzag, arms aflappin', straight for the tub o'holy water, ending up in it, the precious liquid overflowing, soaking into dust. Ma gathers us close, preparing to make the usual run for it when things go horribly wrong. There's a rumble in the congregation; an answering rumble from outside, and the pock pock of raindrops on canvas.
      It is Bird's first miracle.

Friday, July 5, 2013

If You Are In Crisis - #FridayFlash Fiction

IF YOU ARE IN CRISIS CALL 1-800-XXXX-TALK read the neon welcome banner before the bridge. If she closed one eye and focused on the water, it was the bridge beneath her feet that was ambling upstream on iron-veined legs.

He answered on the first ring.

"Crystal, babe, you can't call me here, the line has to stay open for emergencies." Matter-of-fact with an amuse-bouche of tenderness. Had he really said those vile things to her just an hour ago?

Despite her best intentions, a distinctly snotty sob escaped her lips.

A fraction of a second passed; time enough for her coordinates to appear on his screen.

"Oh Crys, no, wait..."

Crystal sailed through the air, tumbling and winking before hitting the water, skipping cheerily along the surface, then sinking through the green, brown, and ultimately colorless depths. It would take a few minutes for emergency crews to arrive at the scene, for Adam to lurch away from his desk at the call center, fling himself into his car, fumble the keys, hold himself rigid to control his shaking hands, review everything he'd said and done, beg God for a miracle, and wonder what he would say to...

...Robyn, who (having gleaned immense satisfaction from the vicarious murder of Crystal the Tramp) bade goodbye to the bridge and hopped on her scooter. She knew it wouldn't be long before Adam discovered that Crystal was very much alive - and scratching her blonde bovine head over what had happened to her cell phone. Still, she would always cherish those hours during which her so-called boyfriend's heart was raw and bleeding.

She would, of course, offer him a very helpful number to call.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Today's Guest Is... #FridayFlash Fiction

     Of course it was wrong; but they had threatened her yet again, and she was so tired, so hollowed out that making the drug buy was definitely the lesser of two evils. Three evils if she counted her stepfather, five evils if she included being tossed out in the street or sent to live with her sister in Buttcrack, Idaho.
     What kind of parents send their teenage daughter out to score some coke for them? A rhetorical question. It was her last thought before running footsteps and a blow to her head so hard she couldn't even suck in enough breath to scream.

     She sinks into a chair which exudes a delicate flatus of leather-scented air, mixed with cologne and sweat. Her escorts you can call us Jamie and Robert sit with legs crossed in carefully orchestrated nonchalance; if they had tails, the tips would be twitching. A green light flickers on, they motion for her to stand up, and taking her each by one arm, propel her thru the door.
     A wall of faces roars with approval, beams of light nail her to the floor, and her mouth salivates in preparation to vomit as a giant of a man ambles into view and places a heavy hand on her shoulder.
     "Come and sit down with us, Amy," he says gently, guiding her to a sofa. A montage of photos - her riding a pony, playing in a pool, holding up a play-doh hand print, playing baseball - takes up an entire wall. Her mother is on one end of the plump couch, and she's made up to look like a decent human being for once. Her stepfather looks like a preacher who's just seen the devil.
     The kindly man who first greeted her, whom she now recognizes as Dr. Jerry, addresses the audience. "I'd like you to meet the beautiful young lady we've been talking about. Now Amy has a long history of behavioral problems. Her teachers tell us that she often falls asleep in class, starts fights with other girls, and is disrespectful. Just last week she disrupted her math class by arguing with the teacher that a rectangle is NOT a square. At home she refuses to do chores, is rude, and sneaks out at night to buy drugs. As a matter of fact, a few nights ago she was badly beaten because of a drug deal gone wrong. Her parents are here on our show because they love her but they just don't know what to do any more."
     Shocked faces, vague stirrings and murmurs of approval ripple through the human reflective pool.
     Amy lowers herself carefully to the couch, as far from her mother as she can possibly get. Her mother reaches for a tissue from her pocket and manages to give Amy the finger at the same time.
     "I hate you!" Amy hisses. The microphones pick it up and everyone gasps.
     "Now Amy, it's obvious that you have very strong feelings of anger toward your mother. And we're here to help you learn to cope with them in a more constructive manner."
     "She just flipped me off!"
     Dr. Jerry calls for a replay of the tape, and there is Amy managing to look like a wide-awake drunk while her mother clutches a tissue and sadly dabs at her eyes.
      She concedes that yesterday she hit a girl; it doesn't matter that she is bullied daily and that other girls steal things from her locker at school. They are, after all, members of the Key Club and Pep Squad.
      She explains that the drugs were for her parents; she is called a liar.
      After a parade of accusers, a litany of crimes and everything but the national debt is hung upon her frail shoulders, Amy is informed that she will be taken directly from the show to a boot camp for teens in - wait for it - Idaho. Applause. Part of Amy wants to clap as well; at least she won't have to go back to their crummy apartment and eat some variation of Tuna Helper every night.
     "And we're also sending her folks to an all-inclusive resort in Hawaii for a week so that they can reconnect as a couple and enjoy a well-deserved respite from teenage chaos."
     Thunderous applause.
     Mother now has Dr. Jerry's enormous handkerchief to mop her bloated features - and cover her self-satisfied smirk.
     Amy leaves the stage between her handlers and passes a boy with a linebacker build and golden hair flopping across one eye. He flicks it out of the way and smiles lasciviously at her.
     "See you at the Happy Trails Camp I guess," he manages before he disappears through the doorway and into the spotlight.
     She just catches the introduction before the door swings shut.
     "Meet Robert, who has a drinking problem, steals cars, and is now accused of raping a girl..."


Friday, June 14, 2013

Family - #FridayFlash Fiction

He held the massive head between his hands and crooned, softly. "Tonight will be the last, I promise you. Just one more. Then you'll never have to go in the ring again." The scarred and heavily muscled body wriggled with puppyish glee.

"Blood in, blood out, bro. We was family, took you in, raised you up, had your back. Now you turn on us, squeal like a stuck pig, think you can walk away. Nah, you ain't walkin'. And you sure don't deserve to wear our name."

He felt the concrete pressing into his spine, knees on his joints, pain blooming in red and white flowers. Just another beating, one he would survive; and the loss of his prized jacket and colors another memento of a bad decision made when he was a kid. It had seemed the best way to survive, back then. His "real" family had been practically useless, this gang "family" parasitic and opportunistic. No such thing as family, really; born alone, suffer alone, die alone. He watched JJ approach with a chunk of wood wrapped in something. So, the clubbing would continue.

He felt JJ place a finger on his chest and trace the outline of his tattoo. "No right to wear this. I'm gonna sand that mother off."

Cold rivulets trickled under him, legions of scurrying things rushed over him, by turns he shook and writhed, soundlessly forming words stolen by the air. Often there was a blessed nothing; sometimes there was comforting warmth by him, and gradually his wits reformed themselves into some semblance of order. Broken macadam, prickly grass, thunder from cars on the overpass above, a body lying beside him. The dog twitched and rose unsteadily to its feet. There was blood and one ear partially torn off.

"You look like I feel Bro," he managed from parched lips. The dog whimpered, and licked his cheek.

"You work too hard. All these extra shifts. Go home to your girlfriend, or go find one. Drink a couple of cool ones. Hey, you wanna go bowling? Bunch of us go every Friday night you know. Hell, you don't even have to be any good. Ralph ended up on his keester last week. You been here on the force for what, four years now? Time to really join the brotherhood, man."

"No thanks. I got stuff to do. You know, paperwork, laundry. The neighbors are gonna call the cops about the smell soon."

The other man guffawed. "I hear you man. OK, the option's always open. But lone wolf types don't last long around here."

"I got a partner already. But I'll let you know if there's an opening." He grinned crookedly.

He tossed his uniform on the chair and exchanged his service revolver and holster for a Glock in his waistband. Just in case, of course. A brindled pit bull danced at his heels, desperate to go outside. He checked through a sheaf of papers one more time, memorizing details, then set them alight and dropped them in the sink.

"Let's go."

Sergeant Ralph Meltzer happened to run into a fellow officer and his dog on Elm Avenue. "They've got a body over on 33rd. Another nickel and dime thug, looks like one of their fighting dogs turned on him. Second one in a month. But we busted that dog ring four years ago, and there's no sign of kennels. The neighbors are all rollin' their eyes and blathering about voodoo and chupa somethin' or other."

The officer reached inside his shirt and scratched his chest thoughtfully. "Maybe his old lady did it. You know how those gang chicks can be."

Meltzer grinned. "That's all women, once they get riled. Maybe you've got the right idea. Just a man and his dog."

"All the family I need." The officer reached down and scratched the dog's long-healed ear.

The dog whimpered and licked his cheek.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Where the Wind Blows - Flash Fiction

Farmer and sons during dust storm Oklahoma. Photo: FSA. 

                                                  Public domain via wikimedia commons.

"The wind blows where it will, and you  hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes..."
                             John 3:8

It never seemed as though they had much, and yet when it came time to take their lives with them, even not enough was too much.

Beds and food, water and tools.

Can I take my books? If he takes his books, then I can take my toy horse. No, only God's book. Whichever toys will fit in your pocket. Marbles, a tin wind-up mouse with sparkling eyes. What about the dogs. Wishbone can go, he hunts. Good to have him as pertection. Smoky stays with the old man down the road. Ain't got more than a season left in him, one more mouth to feed.

Wishbone, hearing his name, thumps his tail with an apologetic grin and then belly crawls under the 27 Hudson and flops down in the marginally cooler dust. Smoky has already taken his rightful place in the trace of mud under the pump. The few scraggly chickens by the shed set up a ruckus; a shadow streaks by and disappears up the stone step and into the sagging house. The cats, never ones to be completely subjugated by man or nature, have been skulking about and eying the proceedings. When the people move on, cats will hunt the mice which nibble the seed from the vegetation which will grow between the floorboards. Doors will drift open, the wind will scour the walls, the dust will find every nook and niche and settle gently into a dunescape. Left in the kitchen are the cracked plates from back east, the dainty christening cup from England, the paperweight brought all the way from Chicago's World Fair. A flyspecked picture of Jesus torn from a calendar smiles benignly above the iron stove.

The wind, which has scoured everything else in the great Dust Bowl down to bare bones, has stripped its inhabitants as well. Fields of wheat, taller than a man, great steel tractors thrumming in solitary parades across the land, the hope of stout sons and well-fed wives; the Promise of Tomorrow, all suffocated under the multi-hued clouds endlessly rolling over them. Black from Kansas, gray from Colorado, red from right here in Oklahoma. Hello neighbor.

The wind blows, burying and exhuming. Fanning the wildfire and blowing out the lantern. Bringing the storm and one day heralding the rain.

Ma, in her bleached Mother Hubbard, she of loving and infinite patience, wedges the last of the bundles into the cramped back seat. Of all the things left behind, it is the tiny body of her firstborn, asleep in the family plot, which tugs at her the most. Only the name, painstakingly spelled out in the family Bible, can go with them.

Down the road to the east the suitcase farmers, of vulturistic and infinite patience, await the start of an auction. They will buy at rock bottom, hold the land, sell the rest. One day the rains will return and Europe will be needing wheat again. Look what the War did for prices. Might even be another one. Wouldn't be such a bad thing.

Down the road to the west Rev. Poley readies the sacraments for the few left to attend services tomorrow. Behold, I have smitten my hand at thy dishonest gain which thou hast made.

Down the road to the south a gray stubbled farmer rocks on his front porch. In 1888 mercury froze solid in Minnesota thermometers, ice crystals clogged ears and noses, even the film on eyeballs thickened. Children caught in the blizzard died in schoolhouses, in fields, in barns. Four feet of snow, drifts as high as fifteen, and when the spring thaw came bodies of people and livestock bloomed in macabre unison with crocuses and snowdrops. Lord, if ever I can be warm again. And so 48 years later he is uncomplaining.  Thermometers stuck in the ground read 151F. The rest of the family pulled up stakes and left for California, not without cajoling and pleading, father and son finally blowing like bulls and pointing shotguns at each other in mutual fear and admiration at the others gumption. But he will not leave the land, he belongs to it, is too old to move on and start over. There's a keg of salted pork and tinned beans in the storeroom, sorghum and coffee, flour and lard and soap. Son and father had grasped hands, cleared throats, stood back. Ain't got more than a season left in me, one more mouth to feed. Well then, we'll send for you when we make it, Pa. Anyways, yer too ornery to die anytime soon.

Soon he'll have the old dog to keep him company. And the preacher, who's vowed to stay, nearby to give him a proper burial. Nothing fancy, just wrapped in the quilt his long-dead wife had sewn with her beautifully gnarled hands.  Drop me in a hole deep enough to keep the coyotes and cats out. He stands creakily, feels to see if his fly is buttoned, pours a little water from a tin cup over his head and rinses the dust from his eyes. The groaning door echoes his joints as he steps into the kitchen and sits down at the table. Opening the Bible to a random page, he laboriously copies a text; he will follow its lead. Yesterday's is still on the table, already curling at the edges. Psalms 119:35 Thy word is a lamp unto my feet. In curling script after he has written  the lantern on the table is the same one used to find William doring the blizard. It saw the black colt with the star born. It was by my Violet when she passed.

Today's reads Nehemiah 7. And I found the book of the genealogy of those who came up at the first...

And so today he will write the names of his forefathers, and his family, and how he came to be here. The slip of paper will be rolled and placed into a Mason jar, one of hundreds once filled with bounty but now waiting expectantly for something other than dusty air.

Screw the lid down tight. Carry it carefully back to the rapidly emptying store room. Place it with the others, a glass pyramid, preserves of another kind. Shuffle across the floorboards as dust eddies mark the slow passage. Lie down on the left side of a mattress which still bears the faint imprint of another on the right. Close gritty eyes and and trust that they will open again. Listen to the one unfailing companion.

The wind has always blown, will continue to blow. What we take with us is one story. What we leave behind, another.

This is one in a series of short stories and vignettes set during the Dust Bowl years. Other include  Rain's Gonna Come and What Follows the Plow

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Dr. Rathberger's Clinic For Exotic Animals - #FridayFlash Fiction

Nigel Rathberger slipped on his white jacket and pondered, not for the first time that day, whether he'd made a mistake trading old women with corpulent cats and yapping dogs for the menagerie which paraded into his clinic each morning. Take, for example, the creature peacefully lying on the table and its anxious young owner.

"Can you help him, please? I don't want Sparky to die."

"He doesn't look too badly off. Let's have a look, shall we? Tell me why you think he might be ill."

"He eats a lot but then he groans and carries on something awful. You can see he's kind of blown up. And he doesn't play anymore. He just wants to sit on his heat rock. Oh, and his scales aren't pretty like they used to be."

Nigel had noticed that the usually iridescent scales had gone opaque.

"Well, let me put a bit of tape around his jaws - I know you said he's very gentle, but animals of any sort can be a bit snappish when distressed." Tape in place, he gently rolled back an armored eyelid. "Nictitating membrane looks fine. Eyes are clear. That's a good sign."  He palpated Sparky's abdomen. "Ah."

"You found something?"

Nigel cleared his throat. "I'll have to make a rather uncomfortable exploration, but I suspect that Sparky is not a him, but rather a her. And pregnant I might add. Let me see if she has any eggs."

"But he...she hasn't been out of the house."

"Yes, well, there have been rare instances of both Bearded and Komodo dragons becoming pregnant through asexual reproduction. I haven't seen it in this species though. We might have a very special event here."

After a thorough examination which confirmed the news, Nigel had the owner remove the tape from its snout and place his pet on the floor. "Walk her a few steps."

Sparky tried to dig her claws into the tile floor, straining backward against the leash. A sudden loud gurgle from the animal's inwards made them all jump.

Nigel snapped his fingers. "I'll wager there's something else making her uncomfortable." He withdrew a bottle from the cabinet and scattered what looked like rancid meat chunks on the floor. "Activated charcoal disguised in canned dog food. A tried and true method for relieving upset stomach in animals."

Sparky snapped up a few of the morsels, tilted her head up, and swallowed. Her tongue flicked out and she looked into space thoughtfully. They waited. Another wet gurgle echoed through the room; Sparky regarded her nether region with what could only be regarded as surprised dismay.

They waited.

"It's not wor..."


Sparky belched a stream of flame which curled the paint from the door as a similar extrusion shot out the rear, setting the veterinarian's pant leg on fire. Swearing, he dropped his trousers and flung them into the sink as a suffocating miasma filled the air.

"Everything alright in there?" came an anxious voice as Lily, the receptionist, peeked into the room.

"Yes, yes, PERFECTLY ALRIGHT. Just GLORIOUS I'd say. Absolutely WONDERFUL. I ENJOY taking my pants off during office visits and NEARLY HAVING MY WILLY CRISPED. Please go back to eating your lunch or answering the phone or applying for jobs where your BRILLIANT POWERS OF OBSERVATION WILL BE PUT TO BETTER USE."

Lily clucked her tongue and angrily tapped her way back down the hall.

The client slipped out after her, the now much-relieved Sparky at a running crawl behind.

Nigel set about putting the exam room to rights, opening the window, outfitting himself with a fresh pair of surgical scrubs, and running a still shaking hand through his hair. From outside he could hear the distinct sounds of hoof beats and a set of very large wings flapping. For crissake, a gryphon AND a unicorn scheduled on the same afternoon? Lily was absolutely going to get the sack.

Yesteryear's patient list of farting Bulldogs, sneezing kittens and a neurotic parrot was looking better and better each day.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Weightless - #FridayFlash

"Wow. How did you get so fat eating salads? You must really pig out after school."

The pyric words had curdled the already churning contents of her stomach. Hundreds of eyes had followed and marked her rush to the bathroom; she still felt their judgement tattooed on her back. Eric had been among them, Eric with his lithe body and shock of blonde hair which he continually flicked from his eyes. His T.M.B. was still archived on her phone. Sorry. It's not working out. She knew the reason.

Now it was gone, and she felt not only thinner, but oddly weightless. The money she'd saved up could go toward new clothes, makeup, fitness classes. They'd stop whispering and staring. She's get Eric back, too.

Cold rain was sheeting down, plastering her dress to her legs. Just as well; it would be far worse to do it on a warm, starlit night. She slid the door of the dumpster open, dropped the forlorn bundle in amongst the spilth and dashed back to the chiaroscuro of neon signs, oily puddles and shadows on Main Street.

She would always look at children of a certain age, and wonder.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Run from the Zombies! (Or With Them) - October 2013 Event - Nonfiction

Mark your calendar for October 19, 2013. What's more fun than a 5K run? How about a 5K Zombie Run? Runners will wear flag belts and try to make it to the town square while being pursued by the undead who are trying to snatch their flags (and brains). You can register as a runner for $45 or as a zombie for $20. For more info visit the website Dawn Of the Lititz Dead...... or their Facebook Page

The run is taking place in the town of Lititz (recently voted coolest small town in America) located in beautiful Lancaster County, PA, USA. Sponsors include internationally known Clair Global which handles sound, lighting and staging for major concerts and had its beginnings in Lititz and Tait Towers, designers of cutting edge staging and lighting effects.

The run will follow a course thru town; there will be obstacles like blockades and old cars as well as zombies. Runners will compete in heats of 50. The actual run is from 10 AM till 2 PM followed by a street fair.

Tired and thirsty after that run? There will be food stands and a designated area for beer and wine. Or stop in at the Bull's Head Pub for cask conditioned ale and sausage rolls.

Need knew threads? There are plenty of boutiques along main street, as well as Uncle Funky's Thrift and Vintage.

If werewolves are more your thing...well, I can't help you there. But if WOLVES are your thing, then check out the Wolf Sanctuary of PA in Lititz. October 19th and 20th are included in Wolf Awareness Week. Check out their site for events. There's also a Bed and Breakfast on site, but limited space of course so book NOW!

Lancaster is widely known for its vibrant Pennsylvania Dutch communities and family entertainment sites as well as its burgeoning art scene. Make a weekend of it; survive the Zombie Run on Saturday Oct. 19 and then spend Sunday at the nearby Strasburg Steam Railroad which has scheduled a Great Train Robbery. The Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire will be open and provides entertainment for the whole family, or see the Woman In Black at the Fulton Theater , built in 1852 and considered the oldest continuously operating theatre in the nation. (Order tickets ahead of time.)

There's also plenty of outlet shopping, hotels, restaurants, museums, and art galleries in nearby Lancaster. (Most are 30-40 minutes or less from Lititz.) You might also choose one of the many attractions spotlighting the Amish community. To plan your trip, please visit the Pennsylvania Dutch Country Site. One reminder: businesses owned or run by members of the Anabaptist sects - Amish and Mennonite - are usually closed on Sundays.

I haven't made up my mind as to whether I'll be a runner or a zombie, but since I tend to be rather slow...I guess the choice is obvious.

This exciting ad was brought to you by the Flash Fiction Blog. If you're new here, please feel free to peruse the site, where you'll find short stories, non-fiction articles and microfiction (but, sadly, no zombie stories). Don't see a comment box? Try refreshing the page. There seems to be an issue with comments appearing for some, but not others, and I have yet to find a solution. Sometimes refreshing does work.

Friday, April 26, 2013

"Please Give Me A 5 Star Review" - #FridayFlash

Morning rush, we're shorthanded and every customer has a special order. I can see them shuffling, huffing, eye-rolling and muttering. One surreptitiously - or so he thinks - holds up his LifeFone. Reading my badge and knocking a few points off, no doubt. The woman in front, her skin's tan exceeding her handbag's, wrists clanging with aurelian fandango, purses her lips at the scent of failure obviously emanating from me.

"That's not what I ordered. I distinctly said without ketchup." Turning to the people behind her, she loudly asks for God's help in dealing with "these people who can't perform a simple task. Probably up half the night with 3 brats from 3 different fathers."

I don't have kids but I did have 3 different "fathers" and so perhaps she has some shred of psychic ability. What she does have is a LifeFone, which she wields like a crucifix. At this rate, by the time my shift is over I'll be lucky to have 1 or 2 stars, enough to get paid the bare minimum.

I apologize profusely, admire her blouse, produce the gift card I'd gotten from my boyfriend Giorgio, and offer it to her for her “trouble”. She grudgingly accepts it and drops it into the cavernous maw of her alligator bag. 

"I'll give you one, little girl, because you seem to at least be making some effort. Unlike most of you people." Her eyes slide to Giorgio, who is slowly dragging an overflowing trash bag to the door. I want to tell her that he lost part of his foot by snatching a child out of harm's way (which earned him so many stars that we could eat and pay the rent for almost a year) but it felt safer to distract her evil stare from him.

"Yes ma'am. I do try, ma'am. Thank you so much for coming in today, and I hope to see you again." She holds up the gadget and I feel my badge tingle as a star is added to my rating.

Barring anymore censorious customers, I'll earn enough this week to keep the electricity on for another month. There's talk that the next generation of Lifefones will live up to their name. Trying to weed us out by means of poverty is simply taking too long.

Which leaves buying a lottery ticket and keeping my eye out for for places where fools rush in.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

How To Publish A Short Story Collection: Tips For Getting Agents’ And Editors’ Attention For Your Short Stories (From Writer's Relief)

 Thanks to Writers Relief for permission to  copy and post this article.

At Writer’s Relief, we’re approached by countless writers every year who want help submitting their short story collections to literary agents. The short story is an exciting literary form that many writers have mastered, but few writers truly understand how to get a collection of short stories published.
It takes talent and practice to make short stories work. Some novelists begin their careers with stories and work their way up to longer forms (novels or memoirs). Other writers prefer to work in the short form and eventually find themselves with a stack of stories inches high, wondering, “Why not turn my short stories into a collection?”
Short stories are becoming increasingly popular, not only because they are mini works of art, but also because busy people have shorter attention spans. There are hundreds of literary magazines and journals looking to publish individual stories (and Writer’s Relief keeps tabs on all of them), but finding a home for a collection of short stories is no easy task.
Major publishers want novels because they sell, and they infrequently consider novellas or collections of short stories. Short story collections are harder to place because editors are unwilling to take chances on unknown writers; unless you’re Alice Munro or William Faulkner, you will find it considerably more difficult to sell your work.
Before you protest about the number of successful anthologies on the market, be aware that anthologies are generally collections of stories by a number of different authors—collections appealing to those who are looking for a particular theme or subject matter. Anthologies of work by a single, unknown author are very difficult to sell.
Many writers get frustrated and end up self-publishing their work, especially if they’re simply looking for limited quantities to give to family and friends. But for a writer looking to sell a decent number of books and see his or her collection at the major bookstores, the marketing process can be a nightmare. When you self-publish, you are responsible for nearly all the marketing and publicity efforts.
Don’t let us thoroughly discourage you from trying to get your short story collection published—there are some things you can do to increase your chances.
Publish selected works. It’s easier to sell a collection if you’ve had at least a few short stories previously published in reputable literary journals. Submit individual stories to quality magazines on a regular basis, and with each publication credit, your credibility will increase.
At Writer’s Relief we highly recommend that writers build their credits first rather than approach literary agents with a group of unpublished stories. National exposure in quality magazines is key to attracting an agent’s attention.
Theme. It also helps if the stories have a common theme or subject to tie them together. James Herriot was a country vet, not an aspiring author, but his collection of stories had a cohesive theme, and the series is still popular today.
Go for a novel. Some agents recommend scrapping the whole idea of a collection and refashioning it into a novel. They might also recommend selling the collection as part of a two-book deal, with the story collection designed to generate interest in the second book, which would be an actual novel.
Enter as many short story writing competitions as possible. An award-winning story can land a publishing deal. It can also boost a writer’s self-confidence—always a bonus.
Consider small presses. There are far more small presses than big publishing houses, and they tend to specialize in niche marketing. They also tend to publish out of love for the genre and may be more receptive to a short story collection if they love the quality of your work.
Get a literary agent. If you have an agent, your chances of selling a collection are better than for unagented writers. To be a writer who gets an agent for a short story collection, you’ll need a strong bio. Also it may help in your query letter to mention that you have a novel in the works.
Get schooled. Short story collections are far easier to sell when their authors have top-notch credentials: publication credits in quality magazines, awards, grants. Graduating from a quality MFA program is a plus as well.
To learn more, check out How To Write A Query Letter For A Short Story Collection. We help writers submit their individual stories for publication because we’ve found it’s the best way to help writers improve their bios (so that they can be competitive when approaching literary agents). If you would like Writer’s Relief to help you submit your individual short stories for publication, or if you would like us to consider working with you on a collection, give us a call!

This article has been reprinted with the permission of Writer’s Relief, an author’s submission service that has been helping creative writers make submissions since 1994. Their work is highly recommended in the writing community, and there are TONS of freebies, publishing leads, and writers resources on their website. Check it out!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Book Spine Poetry

Estrella Azul of Friday Flash created some "book spine poetry" and challenged others to try and create their own. The idea is to stack some books and create a poem using the titles. So here is my attempt, and if you'd like to view Estrella's and links to other samples, go here.  (I don't have a particularly large library, and many are textbooks, but I gave it a shot.)

A murder in Paradise,
in the valley of mist.
Self incrimination
in my blood,
a traitor to memory.

Look again.

A secret gift, to break the silence;
the airmen speak.

Friday, April 5, 2013

A Spoke In the Gears - #FridayFlash #Steampunk

  Lord Tyndale hooked one sausage finger in his cravat and sighed. Steam was a godsend in many respects; he'd grown up when the majority of London homes were heated by fireplaces, not much of an advance from those savages in the Colonies, and he had never quite gotten the damp cold out of his bones. These urchins were blessed with comfort in a well-appointed workshop with equatorial heat. Too much so, he suspected; inventions had fallen off lately, and that would never do. Just last week, the Pennyfarthing Shop had launched both a steam velocipede and a steam aeroplane based on the Henson Stringfellow model. The Prince Consort had even paid them a visit.

     A black-haired child sat with tongue protruding in concentration, fixing a fleck of gold in place. Tyndale scrutinized the object. It was a finely wrought armature of silver in the shape of a rearing horse. From its ivory hooves to its glistening obsidian eyes, from the hundreds of gears interlocked and enmeshed so as to form metallic tissue to its proudly flagged tail, it was every inch a possible masterpiece. The boy looked up eagerly and remembered to slide his tongue back into its cavern.  Surely the Master would finally be pleased and allow him his freedom.

     He waited. Lord Tyndale sighed, looked up at the rafters in theatrical despair, and then nudged the boy with his foot. "Well, start it up, Walsh, er Wade...whatever you're called."

     "Wes, M'Lord. doesn't start."

     "Ah, you need more time. Perhaps you can continue after the others leave. At least have the kindness to explain what it will do. A nefarious instrument for the War Board? An ornamental steering device for the new class of airships? We can certainly sell a few to those pompous Transit Captains."

     "It doesn't do anything."

     Tyndale wished he had his own relief valve as he felt the pressure rise in his chest. "Yes, yes, idiot child, I understand that it is currently not functional. But what WILL it do?"

     Wes picked at a bloodied cuticle on his index finger. "It won't do anything, sir. Ever. It'' look at, sir. Because it's beautiful. It's...Art."

     The shrieking whistle of the man they had to call Master reverberated through the workshop, down the steam and smoke shrouded alleyways, and might have shifted the Pride of Mayfair off course had she been any lower in the atmosphere.

     "So you fasten a few cogs to some wire and call it art. Art is beauty WITH FUNCTION! THERE MUST BE A PURPOSE! WITHOUT PURPOSE WE, AND EVERYTHING AROUND US, ARE USELESS!"
      He swept the majestic equine to the floor, mopped his brow, and struggled to regain his composure. Casting about for something, anything, of worth, he settled upon two shadowy figures in an opposite corner.

     "Briggs, tell me you've got something to salvage my integrity. Something...ahhh. Yes."

     The apprentice had swept a piece of canvas away, revealing a human-like object seated beside the worktable.

     "A clockworker. Wonderful. But far too delicate to work the mines or the looms, for that matter. It will need to be twice as substantial."

     Nathanial Briggs, already halfway toward a Class A freedom certificate, smirked at Wes and then adopted a suitably pious attitude.

     "M'Lord, it was built for the express purpose of replacing the striking matchgirls over at Bryant and May. Think of it, sir:  we would be saving thousands of women and children from fossy jaw and cruel working conditions by using these instead."

     Tyndale thought he might suffer an apoplectic fit. "You think that they will purchase mechanicals when they can hire otherwise useless human beings at a pittance? And what of the masses who will be turned out to starve in the streets? Great Machine in the sky, are you all without vision? Without a concept of consequences?"

     While he was speaking, Tyndale had been idly stroking the copper forelimb of the clockworker. Now this was art, beauty with function. It was both graceful and elegant, with smooth sweeping curves and a faint sheen of fine oil; it even seemed to exhale a warm metallic scent which tickled his aristocratic nostrils. There was just the hint of a breast, sloping gently down to a narrow waist...

     That evening the man known to some as the Master, to others as the fabulously wealthy Lord Tyndale, was seen hurrying through the streets with a cloth-draped object. To some, it looked like it might even have been a dead body, but no one questioned such things in the streets of London after dark.

     Several months later, the unfortunate young artist called Wes found himself sitting on a bench aboard the Aether Steam Transit Company's airship Pride of Mayfair, headed for penal servitude in the Colonies. The man chained next to him cleared his throat. Wes thought he looked vaguely familiar.

     "What's the sentence, lad?"

     "Ten years. Deliberately and willfully wasting company funds on work of no particular value. Courtesy of Lord Tyndale. You?"

     The man roared with laughter.  "Lifetime banishment for surgical malfeasance. A certain wealthy Lord had an embarrassing mishap with a clockwork mechanical. And though we've advanced to the point of various gear- and piston-driven limbs, even the best inventors in our world have yet to create a working prosthetic for certain parts of a man's anatomy. He's managed to get me out of the country so that word doesn't spread of his lack of function."

     Wes grinned. "Perhaps we could work together in the Colonies. I believe that we could create some remarkable devices together."

     "And adventures, lad. We'll have adventures. Dr. Robert Liston." He smiled ruefully as he tried to extend his hand but was brought up short by his chain.

     "Wesley Broward. At your service."

This is my very first attempt (and a bit rushed this week) at Steampunk flash fiction. Gentle critique is always welcome.







Thursday, March 7, 2013

Cowboy From Queens - #FridayFlash Fiction

Texas cowboy by Stanley L. Wood (1866-1928), English illustrator

Jacob, sweating on the stoop, was dreaming of ice cold lemonade and cowboys when the bull ran down 51st Ave.  Sweating because Queens, NY in 1939 was a sweltering brick oven enduring an early heat wave, on the stoop because he was deemed too fat, too slow, too odd to play stickball with the other boys. Dreaming of cowboys because his father had run off out West to join the ranks of the fabled riders.

At least that's what his Mum had said, what he'd shared with the boys, what he clutched in his heart like a bedraggled toy from childhood.

Inspired by a 1939 NY Times story - "Fair Steer Escapes and Dashes 2 Miles; Roped By Cowboy After Its Race Through Corona". The steer bolted through the fair, through the World's Fair Boulevard gate into Queens, crossed Grand Central Parkway Extension, up 111th St., finally being lassoed at 46th Ave and 108th street. 

Jacob will witness the wild chase in the streets of New York, come face to face with a real life cowboy - and take a step on the path to manhood. 

The full text of the story was originally posted here; however, the organization World Reader in conjunction with ReadWave requested the use of the full story as part of its literacy program to provide free stories in digital format for children in developing countries. You can finish reading the story Here