Do you miss summer already, too? (A ramble and a flash fiction piece)

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A small mantis watches me & vice versa.

Let’s see. In summary, my summer’s been about parenting, copywriting, parenting, parenting some more, mowing grass, seeing a few critters here and there, working at weeding, parenting again, a too-short vacation and time with my husband, and, (unfortunately) a car wreck (bright spot is that no one was injured beyond minor aches).

I hope your hot or dry or windy or wet season has been much more fruitful or at least enjoyable. How’d you spend it?

Here’s today’s vignette, followed by a flash fiction piece . . .

As tides of laughter and shrill screams cascade over LEGOs and reverberate off walls into my writing room (a.k.a., the couch; tomorrow, it might be the kitchen table), I realize, with some mush of sadness and trepidation, that yet another summer is ending.

But I’m ready. It was a busy season; not necessarily a creative writing-productive summer, although I did do a bit of copywriting for the dough.

In a few days, I hope to have a few fascinatin’ features and facts about my friends’ endeavors (like this one) the last few months, as I (I hope) fall into a more regular pattern of blogging about all things literary, spec-fic, ghosty, dystopian, horror-ific, and whatever fancy strikes me in the head that day. [Also, in short, I’ve missed reading & commenting on your blogs! What can I say; full-time, full-on summertime parenting takes precedence.]

Anyway, less rambling and more story-ilization, right? Here’s an odd little throw-away that I hope you’ll enjoy; coincidentally, it has both fire and fury in it (but was written months ago for a 100-word challenge I couldn’t cut enough for).

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Hot Fur

GENRE: Weird, futuristic, dystopian

By Leigh Ward-Smith

“As you know, we’re here to commemorate the crumbling of 21st century institutions. To a man, you each had a role in slaying the dragon that is—or should I say was?—the prevailing mentality.”

The crowd bellows a series of whoops and howls, but fidgety coughs, footshuffles, and unholstered AugReal guns give them away.

Rich, you’re losing ’em. Do something dramatic.

I pull out the cannister hidden behind the flag-strewn lectern. “You all know what this is!” I waggle the can to massive cheers.

“And this.” The realization of the clear tub’s contents spread like our accustomed rolling blackouts.

The chant went up: “Pour it, pour it!” From there, the spark was mere formality.

BLOG_anarchy bear by Gerry Lauzon

Image by Gerry Lauzon, Creative Commons license 4.0 (CC By 4.0).

“Gentlemen, witness the death rasp of the 21st century and all her attendant scum!”

As flames lick the air, I pull a fast-disintegrating specimen out with tongs. I shake a clump loose, and the pallid throng wriggle onto its fallen char.

“It’s Burn-a-Bear Workshop now, ain’t it, boys?!”

END

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Friday Fictioneers: House-Called

It’s not often these days that I get to participate in Friday Fictioneers, but I love the photos Rochelle chooses, as well as reading what people come up with. And so, this fantasy drabble sprang forth. Hope you like it.

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PHOTO PROMPT © J Hardy Carroll

House-Called

genre: fantasy

Pearl placed the last of the enchantments. Each spike brimmed with unseen poison; every adamantine bar thrummed with mojo enough to keep terrors at bay. Continue reading

Terrific Tuesday to You: Writing Updates, Shout-Outs, and Some Markets

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And to think: I actually dimmed this somewhat to take down the brightness.

Well, hello there! I shall have been returning and I have returned. (?)

But seriously, welcome (back)! I’m glad to have you visiting me.

On top of the busted ankle, so to speak, I’ve been doing copywriting out of my ears. Not titillating writing, but it certainly helps with the bills. And the Randys, Adams, Jakes, Simons, etc. (Or should I say with the GEs, Maytags, and fine furniture everywhere on the Internetz and on this great little dot we call a planet?)

Anyway, since I love doing the writing market posts, I figured what the heck. I’m behind in weekly posting once again. This is a good way to go, methinks.

Perhaps these will help you? I do hope so. Continue reading

Flash Fiction: The Girl Who Floated

Welcome to another wonderful week! If you read that aloud, curiously (or not), you might find that you insert a letter w even before you say another. I think that’s some phonological process—perhaps elision and combination—rather than the power of visual suggestion impinging on auditory response.

But anyway, it’s October. One of my favorite times of the entire year in this (supposedly) temperate climate’d place.

Lately it hit me that, even though I’ve submitted to plenty of hidden markets (so to speak), I haven’t shared any original fiction with y’all in quite awhile. *But I do hope to bring you an interview with a guest author and more ethereal fiction in the next two weeks.*

Here’s a short piece directly inspired by last week’s Friday Fictioneers. If you have never participated in or even heard of Friday Fictioneers, you are tasked with crafting a true, complete story (fiction or nonfiction; I think I’ve seen the occasional prose poem, too) in 100 words or less that is inspired by the photographic prompt.

Because I think I technically missed the previous FF, I will post my take-off story with a different photo that hews a little more closely to my theme, but be sure to visit Rochelle at FF as often as you can.

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This enthralling still-life photo was created by Ahborson and placed on MorgueFile for download. I urge you to support this self-described “Chaotic Neutral Hippy fairy goth pirate thinger with a pronounced artistic complex” and the other artists there, and if you read this, Ahborson, please do let me know if I’ve misunderstood MorgueFile’s terms of use.

The Girl Who Floated

My assistant scuttles after me in the archive. She calls herself Hera, but truly she’s a standard L7 model drone. They’ve given themselves names to assimilate better.

It’s been ages since we salvaged any so-called Earth junk, maritime or otherwise, so I’m pleased to find an appropriate display cube in the Musk Museum’s Detritus collection. With any luck, one of our resident cosmic-folk artists will ask to use some of the specimens we’ve archived.

A curator can hope.

But then, on one scheduled sweep, we found the girl. Just floating out there.

Sans oxy-suit. Sans memory.

And alive, very alive.

Will the Board of Directors vote to process the artifact and put her in a containment cube? Can I comply with such a directive?

The suspense gnaws through my bowels even now.

### THE END ###

For more, you can also follow/tweet me at @1WomanWordsmith

Galloping, Ghoulish Microfiction

Hello, y’all. This post is two-fold (or more; I’m sure I can summon other valid reasons).

First, for those who don’t know of them and who enjoy writing micro- or flash fiction, I’d like to point you to Grammar Ghoul Press. They sponsor weekly prompts of varying microfiction lengths that usually feature a word, phrase, and/or photograph to get your creative ichor flowing (within or without, if you write horror fiction). Full disclosure: GGP were kind enough to publish a poem of mine in their magazine last year.

Second, I was really snared by their call for 39-word stories, book of dinosaursfrom last week, because of the following large photograph. I had a ride-on horse, back in the day, at home who looked very similar to this chestnut store model. So, even though I missed the fiction call and didn’t honestly want to interfere with the voting process (since concluded), I’ve decided I would still like to publish what I wrote. It is heavily influenced by one of the books I’ve been reading lately, with a doozy of a long title: The American Museum of Natural History’s Book of Dinosaurs and Other Ancient Creatures. In particular, I looked to the Equus scotti entry. This genus contains the so-called modern horse. Here’s a brief taste of more information on the North American wild horse’s disappearance and the resurgence of the horse on the continent.

And now, here’s the photograph, posted by Tony at Grammar Ghoul, for the “Shapeshifting 13” challenge #59. Be sure to participate in GGP’s new challenge running through July 3rd—challenge #60—with an entirely fresh prompt. Following this photo by an unknown artist, my brief story (which actually is different than what I had written; due to a computer glitch and end-user failure, I lost the original copy). Anyway, I hope you’ll enjoy it.

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Bridled and warehoused

I should be grateful for preservation, but I’m not.

I used to be alive. Now I’m lame. In darkness. Dust clots my nostrils.

When I regain corporeal form, I will lead my species in rampage. Equines will prevail again.

Monday Markets and Writing Curiosities for June and July 2016

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Sitting on our lawnmower (two of three depicted.)

Hello, everybody. School’s out, here (thankfully, not forever). And the juvenile robins are on the wing, growing and practicing and—as everyone’s favorite dour playwright and existential philosopher Samuel Beckett wrote in Worstward Ho!—“fail[ing] better.”

Let’s give it a go and see how we can try, fail, try again, then fail better. I’d be delighted to hear of your progress, in the summertime or anytime.

1. Special limited-time offer!

I was not asked to do this, but I got word that a blogger-friend of mine, Curtis Bausse, has released a triad of short stories called And it Came to Pass. Considering that May is Short Story Month, why don’t you consider picking up this ‘linked’ set of stories by the writer of the Magali Rousseau detective series? There’s despair. There’s terror. And there’s also hope in these intertwined past-present-future stories. You’ll be happy you spent the pittance (far, far less than they’re worth, artistically or otherwise) of 99 cents to snag this series of short stories now. They’re on Amazon, available for your Kindle.

2. I read a really good article presenting an editors’ discussion about what it means to portray strangeness in fiction-writing. Unless you’re Jim Morrison or the Lizard King’s ghost, you might like to get some pointers from the Master’s Review article here.

3. I, Me, Mine . . . As we are on the supposed cusp of a new golden age in short story-making, perhaps you might like to buy one of mine, a flash fiction that appears now in the spring/summer issue of moonShine Review, along with delectable fare from several other authors. My story is flash fiction, and, I hope, enjoyable. If you buy direct, it’s $10 per bound journal, and that includes tax and shipping (and tell Anne that Leigh Ward-Smith sent you, pretty please!). As the “old” commercial used to say: {I} thank you for your support!

4. Through June 6th: work out your demons on paper. Call it a writing exorcise. Whatever the case, Bloodbound Books is seeking your best disgusting, disturbing, splattering, and gruesome over-the-top horror stories (fiction, that is), from 750-5000 words (query for longer).  They’re a paying market, too. Five cents a word, so get on it, if you relish sloppy horror!

5. Room magazine, quite in contrast to the last market, seeks work by, about, and for women, including trans-women. This feminist publication needs “food” themed poetry, art,  creative nonfiction, and fiction of up to 3500 words or 5 images (in the case of art) for their fast-approaching 40.1 issue (deadline: July 31). This is a paying Canadian market that powers its submissions via Submittable.

6. Are you a playwright living in Wisconsin, Iowa, or Illinois? Do you have something written for 5 or fewer actors on the “nature of masculinity” (however you choose to interpret that concept/reality) any genre, and running ten minutes? There’s a no-fee competition now through June 3 for just such a work. Check out the details here, including how you can win one of the $100 honoraria; I found this listing originally at the treasure-trove of playwriting resources that is AACT.org.

7. Lucky seven, just for y’all: Maybe you’ve driven down South (U.S.). Maybe you live there. Maybe you’re just passing through. If you’re a writer with a “Southern journal” style article/reportage piece, Southern Living just might want to take a gander at your pitch. Be familiar with what they like to publish, then fire away. (No compensation, but seeing your name in publication lights.)

And now, I’m off to edit another story for publication. Wishing you all, all the best.

Friday Fictioneers: Deanna’s Laundry (Fan Fiction)

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Photo by Mary Shipman. Please visit her blog!

Deanna’s Laundry

GENRE: Fan fiction, Humor

The last sound Will Riker remembered clearly was Data babbling something about women’s underthings. For his part, the android, in a brown checked cape that offset chalky skin and cat-yellow eyes, was baffled by Commander Riker’s absurd reaction: gasping, then fainting.

Picard was the first to arrive. Data and Riker had tracked Professor Moriarty

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We’ll never catch Moriarty–or Jack the Ripper–this way!

to Whitechapel, circa 1888, re-created to perfection on the ship’s Holodeck. The dastardly existentialist had already been on the lam for some time.

In evenly measured tones betraying nary an emotion (all being secreted away on a chip in his nape), Data spoke. “Captain, all I said was that the garment 2.2 degrees perpendicular to the south-southwest rafter has a 97.761% probability of being Counselor Troi’s underwear.”


Written expressly for the weekly Friday Fictioneers challenge. As I hope you can tell, I’m a Star Trek fan. Even if I did do some (mild?) Trek-wrecking here in this #TNG fan fiction. All in good fun. Check out the other Friday Fictioneers, graciously hosted as always by Ms. Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Also, do stop by and see Mary Shipman, who contributed the photograph; she writes, too, including about her grandson, Brett, who has autism.

FF: Don’t Feed the Black Dog

Don’t Feed the Black Dog*

 Genre: Realistic fiction, (dark) humour

Word count: 151 (sorry, Rochelle, I tried!)

 

She sends a photograph skittering across the caramel-colored desk.

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This beautiful photograph is by Emmy L. Gant; sorry I took it in a different direction, Emmy.

“What do you see?”

“What’s this, some new version of the Rorschach?” I crack a joke about Welcome Back, Kotter, conflating Horshack and Rorschach. Ah, before her time. Shouldn’t have said that.

“Jennifer, basically I just want to gauge how you’re feeling before we start the assessment.”

“Okay, but I think musically sometimes. Heavy cloud, but . . . no rain?” I offer my best Sting impression.

Silence.

Another flopper. Why can’t I get this right? Fecking feck. She probably thinks I have multiple personalities now.

“Unh-huh.” She scribbles down something I can’t see. “In your own words, what’s your mood today?”

I find myself counting the indentations on the ceiling. 23-24-25.

“Uhhh? I’m a resilient mess. Most of the time. I guess.” You indecisive moron!

“I see. Can we proceed to the PHQ-9 now?”

“Sure. I got nothin’ better to do.”


*Note: I much prefer the metaphor and idea of “miasma” for describing depression to that of the “black dog,” because I love dogs, but many people do connect with it. Hence the titling.

This short story/flash fiction was crafted for March 11th’s Friday Fictioneers, which is lovingly curated by Rochelle as always. I hope you’ll stop by her post(s)—this lady’s got novels and short stories galore—and take some time to read other FF posts. With the variety of stories, it’s easy for me to make this promise: you’ll be amused, surprised, entertained, moved, and, very possibly, shocked. .

Good times, bad times

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May the sun be ever setting on your troubles! (Photo with filter applied)

First and foremost, it has been a rough couple weeks for one of the kids (and thus, my whole family), such that I’m thankful and glad it’s almost at a close (we hope). So, I haven’t had the time to read blogs and comment–at least not to the degree that I’d like. That should change as the days go on.

To balance out a tiny bit of the terrible, I’ve had a double-dip of the literary toe into pleasant waters. In short, I’ve had two microfiction pieces published. One is “old,” having been published in October 2015, and I just found out about it. I owe my belated thanks and gratitude to The Drabble for publishing “A Lotta Guts.” If you’re not familiar with this term or concept, basically most definitions say that a drabble is a short literary story, or microfiction piece, of exactly 100 words, not including the title. So, it’s exceedingly succinct. Somehow, I was able to craft and send a brief darling forth into the world (you can, too), and they published it. If you’re interested in the connection between American actor Ernest Borgnine and infectious disease, you shouldn’t miss this speculative fiction story. While you’re there, do be sure to partake of other “shortness[es] of breadth,” which is The Drabble’s motto.

That was the older “new news.” Now, the new news is that I just had a 50-word story, called “Love Offerings,” published on 50-Word Stories on February 22, 2016; they list me as Leigh Smith there. They publish two “bite-sized” stories daily, so your palate is always satisfied. And, if you enjoy my story or all or some of them, please give them a thumb’s-up (there’s a “like” at the bottom of each day’s stories). I feel very honored to have been included on this forum–and with another L-named person (this one was a Lee) on the same date. A big barbaric yawp-y shout-out to 50-Word Stories and its editor, Tim Sevenhuysen. Unless otherwise noted, they read submissions between the 1st and 15th of every month, and publish what they like on their Web site, with you retaining the rights. Give it a go if you like writing the short stuff.

So, a short(ish) post befits a couple of my recent short publications. This will be a Monday Markets stand-in for the time being, until I’m off and running again with blogging. Have a creative week, everyone!