Thursday, May 22, 2014

Greetings From Toadsuck: Part 2 #FridayFlash #Serial

For the Beginning Of the Story Click Here

      Back in the Dirty 30s people with money had family pictures taken, but we didn't have two nickels to rub together most of the time. Let me tell you what you'd see if we had been captured by one of those magic boxes. You'd see Pop standing in the middle looking stern, with a bushy beard and the greatcoat his own father had worn in the war. I was never clear about which side Grandpa fought for, and I'm not sure that Grandpa was clear about it either. I guess he was for whoever gave him food and shoes at the moment. At any rate, he made a pile of money selling cane rum to both sides, then lost it in cotton speculation, whatever that is. He went out west to try his hand at the abandoned gold mines, thinking he could find veins of gold with a dousing stick. That's where he met my Grandma, who was in the entertainment business. 

      Pop was born and raised somewhere out there, learned to ride horses, speak Injun and drink liquor. One day Grandpa fell down an old mine shaft and died. Pop swore off liquor forever. Grandma took Pop (whose name is really Elvin) and joined a wagon train headed back east, with a little gold dust sewn in her hem and a music box to play. She would sing along with the box and men would come and give her coins to hear her voice. Pop had to sit outside when the men came to visit on account of his sour face. One night she took sick and had a fit, and the next day she died. Pop shot a man who was trying to take the music box.  They had a trial right then and there, and when they looked to the Bible it said that he should not be killed but be put away from others. They left him with food and water and some other things. He made do with what he had and built him a little sod shack. So that's how he ended up on the homestead where me and Bird were born. He kept the Bible too.

     But back to that picture which isn't real except to me.  There's Ma in her one good dress which is blue like the morning sky before the dust makes it a sick yellow. It's left from the bunch she used to own before she married Pop. They met at a church dance and he asked for her hand about a week later.  It was probably pretty and white then, but now her hands are freckled and red with all the sun and washing and mending and catching chickens. She's smiling because she's got a chance to do nothing and look nice for a few minutes.  I never saw Ma be still except when she was sleeping, and even then she twitched a little like she was dreaming about stirring pots or chasing after Bird.

     Bird is sitting cross-legged at her feet twirling a piece of string or some such nonsense. He's never still either less he's got something to mess with.  Some people take him for a girl because he's got long blond hair and big green eyes.  Pop cuts his hair once in a while but Ma and I have to sit on him and he scratches and bites like a cat in a wash tub.

     The scarecrow with scabby knees wearing a too-short dress is me.  I've got Pop's dark eyes and black hair but it doesn't curl and doesn't lay right.  It sticks out all around my head like I've just been scairt.  Ma did her best to make me look a proper girl sometimes but it seemed like I'd go right back to being dirty and messy the minute her back was turned.  Being a lady didn't seem much fun anyway;  you weren't supposed to spit or run or wrestle, and sometimes I had to wear knickers with lace that drove me wild with itching.  It made me wonder if all clothes made Bird feel that way, because he was forever stripping them off and running around nekkid as a jaybird.

     I carried that imaginary picture in my head until a real picture took its place.  A real picture in a real newspaper.  But that's at the end of my story and this is just the beginning.

Next chapter 



Thursday, May 15, 2014

Greetings From Toadsuck: Intro #FridayFlash #Serial

First I'd like to thank Nate over at Sometimes the Wheel Is On Fire for awarding me an Amazon gift certificate for a haiku I submitted for his contest.  Nate's a writer, blogger, web designer, and all-round great guy with an awesome sense of humor and a penchant for footnotes.  (Read a few of his posts to see what I mean.)  Thanks so much, Nate!

Second, I need a project to kickstart my blogging over the summer.  So I've decided to begin a serial set during the Dust Bowl, a period in American history which has always fascinated me. The title?  Greetings From Toadsuck. I'll try and post at least one installment per week, probably on Fridays to tie in with Friday Flash. As always, feel free to critique if you wish. 

Without further ado, here's the first installment.

Greetings From Toadsuck:  Part 1  
      We were a family of miracles according to Ma, traveling through a country which prayed, no begged, for divine intervention but got a bellyfull of dust for its trouble. A miracle that the rusting 1927 Ford truck kept going in spite of throwing tires and hoses like a mule; that Momma hadn't lost her mind from trying to scratch up meals for four bellies out of nothing; that Pop hadn't got his fool head shot off for preaching hellfire to moonshiners; and that we'd sprung Bird from the Fichandler School For the Feebleminded without a hitch.

      It isn't his real name, Bird. Pop had sealed him to God with holy water under the name Charles Barrymore Dunner, at which time baby Charles blessed Pop with pee. I started calling him Bird when he quit talking at three and cheeped or whistled instead. He plumb forgot every word he knew, except for Mamamama, amen, and Mm Mm Good from the Campbell's soup song. Couldn't walk a straight line, although he could climb like a squirrel; wouldn't learn his letters or numbers, even though he knew when I took one of his marbles. Bird clouted me a good one for that, and Pop said served me right for we reap what we sow. I said then how come our crop died in the field, and then Pop clouted me a good one too and reminded me never to question God or my elders, exceptin' old man Jones who didn't have the sense to come in out of the rain. Bird was six then and hadn't ever seen rain and I barely remembered it myself and so that made no sense either but I hushed up.

      Now a brother who'll kick you sometimes just for looking at him, messes his pants when he feels like it, draws stares and mean words from strangers, and generally sucks up all the attention like a dry riverbed might seem hard to love. But sometimes when we wrestled I could feel his heart beat against my chest, echoing my own, and when he sat twirling a piece of string and looking at nothing for hours I was sure that he was listening to God. Then there was the fact that I was sure I'd brought on whatever was wrong with him. One night right about the time that Bird stopped talking, I sneaked a toad into our room and put it in his little bed with him, thinking that it would make a better plaything than his one-eyed stuffed rabbit. Dead of midnight he woke up screaming, having some sort of fit and it was all downhill from there. Maybe that toad had a curse on it or was poisonous or something. I was scared that I'd be found out and spend my life on a chain gang. Funny thing was, that might have been easier in the long run. It was a mighty big load of guilt that I carried after that, the worst secret that ever was, and so loving my brother became equal parts sharing blood and breaking rocks. 

 Author's note:   In keeping with the time period, I may use terms such as "feebleminded", which while unacceptable today were in general use at the time. 

Next chapter 

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Writing Process Blog Tour Post - Meet Some #Writers!


Welcome and thank you for stopping by my post during the Writing Process Blog Tour. It’s a great way for writers to not only share how our writing process works, but to analyze what we've been doing - and maybe even make some changes! It's also a means to showcase fellow writers and bloggers.  I've tried to include a few that you may not know.

  Special thanks to Corinne O'Flynn for inviting me to participate. I "met" Corinne thru Twitter, Triberr, and the A to Z Challenge.  Drop by her website and check her out! (Some of you may have read her April A to Z series "26 Words Every Writer Needs".)

First, here are the questions which I must dutifully answer.

1. What am I working on?  I started a steampunk novel way back in November.  It ground to a halt after the holidays and is now collecting dust.  Why?  Partly because I had an exhausting work assignment which left me to drained by evening to do anything but eat, read a little and go to bed.  And, as usual, as soon as I lost momentum the project stopped in its tracks.  Will I get back to it?  I hope so.  But in the meantime, I'll go back to writing short pieces for a while.

2. How does my work differ from others in its genre?  Well, I mostly write flash fiction, which has only one real parameter:  keep it under 1000 words.  (Even that varies.)  I've tried to write in all genres, from folk tales to historical fiction to magical realism.

3. Why do I write what I do?  I write what interests me at the moment.  Because if I'm bored with a topic, or writing something just to get it published, that disinterest transmits itself to the reader as well.

4. How does my writing process work?  Get an idea - from the news, a dream, a conversation, an observation.  Turn it over in my head for a day or two.  Scribble some notes.  Put down what I have - even if it's only a vision of the ending.  Work from there, be it backwards or forwards.  Flesh it out.  If it's too long, either decide that it can be pared down, or move it to the "short story or novelette" file for further expansion work.  Prune, edit, re-read, edit. Ask for input from a beta reader if necessary. Post, or submit.
Gee, its all so simple...
But enough about me.

Now, let me introduce some fellow writers.

Email Joan    Joan Verlezza has been researching and collecting family anecdotes since childhood. She believes every family has stories worth telling. Warming Up is her first novel. Her work has been featured in New England Journal of Poetry and San Diego Woman Magazine. She is passionate about encouraging new writers to spread their wings and fly.

My Photo
                                   Helen Howell is a fiction writer, who writes in several genres which include fantasy, noir, horror and humour.

She has written several short stories, flash fictions and poems. Her work has appeared in both e-zines, anthologies and print publications. She has three novellas published Jumping At Shadows, I Know You Know and Mind Noise.

Helen’s blog: Words Written

You can find more information about her books here: