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


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).


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?!”



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

Open for Business_blog.jpg

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.


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

Friday Fictioneers: Deanna’s Laundry (Fan Fiction)


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


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.

Day 5 of Thrilling Fiction: Of Dystopian Futures and Missing Pieces

Greetings, fellow Fridaylings! On my part, another week survived (I think), although I did have a fascinating chat-visit from a couple ladies with the Jehovah’s Witnesses this week. They were polite, but I didn’t realize that “the kingdom” was that nigh. Yeesh; I better start writing that book as I’ll be getting burned off the face of the Earth here shortly.

Anyway, to get on task, these five days have been like clearing a 50-inch hurdle for a 65-inch woman with the raw vertical jumping ability of, say, a Spanish slug. I am in utter awe and stupefaction how some bloggers are so prolific. For instance, poet Bob Okaji, with his 30/30 Project (from August) to benefit poetry publisher Tupelo Press (here). Then again, I follow several of you big-time bloggers who could nearly put Scheherazade to shame with your dedication.

In any case, back at the Frightful Fiction Ranch, today’s sacrificial offering: it’s a bit longish (sorry, I did, er, chop it down some, but it could use more now that I re-re-re-read it). Comments, critiques, patronage, Indulgences, loving hates, helloes, hems, haws, hollers, and haw-haws always taken into consideration. 🙂

Disarmed and Dangerously Perturbed

GENRE(S): Futuristic science fiction/dystopian, cli-fi

What can I say in my defense? I’m wired for sloppy, stupid humor. In fact, my therapist and I can’t help but giggle about my propensity toward the scatological—as in, “I should do this” and “I never should have done that.” Pretty soon, and I’m shoulding all over the place.

Anyway, there was this one extraordinary day at work. It started off a good day. I am a worker drone at . . . well, let’s just say an extraordinarily wealthy global prosthetics factory on the coast of Atlanta. We’ve been in the Fortune 50,000 ten months’ running. We’d just received a rush order from Guinea-Bissau for 22,500 specialized hybrid noses to assist with breathing in a drastically changed climate.

Prosthetic foot, circa 2015

Even here in the ‘dark ages’ of 2015, prosthetics are ultra-realistic and, to be serious, they provide a good service to human beings who need them. Wow, the detail by this company!

Now, before you picture lathes and fine-grit sandpaper and rabbets’ edges humping one another on work benches, I should explain. For the most part it was take your one productivity tablet in the morning, set the program running, and call me in the mid-afternoon. Sometimes I could even sneak off to the break room with the VR glove if I thought the bot was patrolling a different section of the building. Her routines were semi-predictable that way. You only had to have hands and arms—fingers especially if you boiled it right down to it—and a little training—to sustain in this line of work.

So, there I was. I swirled my index finger in the correct ZX pattern to unlock the tablet. The proprietary software, Hands-On, which I (and probably others) nicknamed Hans, kicked in, greeting me with an affected accent of some kind, “Hell-o, Mai-ster Bhandgaresheek,” bonking only on the Mister part. It didn’t give two damns whether I identified as a male or not. That is to say, its workforce diversity protocols were dusty. At best.

I began my day running a program to assist in nose-making. For all the silliness you could make of my profession, it was secure: there was no shortage of work, especially for countries affected by what the old-timers had called climate change or those afflicted with the persistent twin gonorrheas of war and hatred.

Mijj was looking over my shoulder a lot, which was to be expected. I was teaching her how to use the software so she could become a limb designer sometime in the next decade or two. Then I could retire at 92 like everybody else in the global economy. Yet I’d put enough away . . . hell, maybe even at 84 or so I could tell this place to sod off.

Continue reading

Voyager, Voyeur

Qu’eethi pressed a naso-orbital bone to the substandard instrument. The outer-planetary object would be making its descent soon, and Qu’eethi was watching. Dorsal salivary ridges, as phantasmagoricized as Qu’eethi, underwent piloerection as the nimbus came into view. Had Qu’eethi been on ancient Earth, the object’s make-up would’ve been clear: discarded spacesuit, minus occupant.

Qu’eethi hoped they didn’t have another sticky collide-o-scope event on their hands’ hands.

The kaleidoscope pun (and attendant image of an alien peering through a telescope of some kind) arrived almost instantly when I read the Chimera 66 #11 challenge word. It then became a matter of how to spackle a decent microflash around the word. I’m not sure I succeeded—if only I had about five more words!—but it’s a fantastic exercise to work those sprint-fiction muscles . . . AND, besides, I love supporting in my own minute way what Suzanne and the ghouls have gotten tumbling with their endeavor.

In researching medical and astronomy terminology, some that I’d forgotten once upon a time (oh, for a 20-year-old’s memory capabilities!), I stumbled across this fascinating fact. Did you know that a “retired” spacesuit was rigged with a radio device and set adrift from the International Space Station in February 2006? I didn’t remember that. Specifically, it was an Orlan spacesuit. And Wikipedia said so, so you know it’s gotta be true. 🙂

Hope you enjoyed pondering the squidgy sci-fi microfiction this week, including Qu’eethi’s possible motives had the “Earth being” made a live touchdown. Do peruse the other Sixty-Sixers this week for a decadent treat, comrades (hey, I’m channeling the Russian spacesuit)!

The Randomness Story-Creating Machine of Us Here, Now

Happy New Year’s. Or new ears, if you’ve received hearing aids or those teeny-tiny globular batteries as a gift. Or as a hint or some’n.

I’m gonna go mash-up, mix-up, random live-stream on you, raging modernist and techie though I am.

I’m going to go off-script here and do something spontaneous and–for me–a bit crazy. As Seal said, we’ll never survive unless we get it a little bit of it, from time to time.

Okay, here’s the idea. Incoherent as it is. Play along as much or little or none as you want.

Let’s create a story together. I know it’s been done on Twitter, but let’s try it here in the comments, if that works for you. (I’ve developed an allergy to eggs, so I haven’t tweeted for quite a while. I should, but I can’t.)

Here’s a story I’ll throw out, probably making liberal use of some beauteous or bizarre turns of phrase and situations from the stories, articles, graphics/memes, music, other media, and poetry I’ve enjoyed in the last couple days. Use these scaffolds as you wish or not, and I’ll write along, too. Shall we build together? Til’ around midnight, EST, or whatever.

What the hey  . . . here goes. And, above all, have fun, Pen-ball Wizards.


You've got big boots to fill, co-pilot-writers. I know you can do it. :)

You’ve got big boots to fill, co-pilot-writers. I know you can do it. 🙂

How to Be a Woman in the Center of the Earth and Which Way to Go from There


Good madness is the kind you find looking (you, looking; it, lurking) under the carotid-red pillow at Grandma’s house. The one she sewed herself of the cheery holiday dear, leaping. (Wounded?) The one she continued on, she told you with a quiver of tears, that her mom never finished before she died.

Well, Grandma, she uses tinsel and a real tree because she’s got no cats. Nope, none of those little curious hair-pillows leaving vomitus that you’ve stepped on before you know it. (Another story for another time: how the black cat piled the dead thing’s organs up in a darkling heap on the sidewalk steps of mottled concrete.) Emergency veterinary clinics, 24-hour joints, cash-laden, sardined-crammed with people who crave the willy-nilly of chaos like catnip craves, well, a cat. It’s that whole one-hand-clapping, tree-falling-in-the-forest-who-hears-it conundrum. If a want is never wanted, does it cease to be? Do you cease to be if you have no wants? Who in the hell carries a loaded, cocked pistol in their purse with young, hence handsy and pilfery, children nearby?

Well, this fiction wasn’t supposed to be about pussies. Or pusses. Or pus or pluses, for that matter. Besides, I’m math-averse. And I despise guns, and boots stomping on historic human faces forever.

Sifting through a purse, I find a vignette I haven’t used before. A spill of light, the shape of a crescent. I’m a bit overwrought with that last bit, so I guess I can edit it to say “a crescent roll,” not the arty crescent or, still yet, the noble star and crescent associated with modern Islam.

And barnacles of bark, green and yellow in tooth and claw, are growing on this vignette. Humming, a veritable beard of bees. By the way, I pronounce vignette to rhyme with cygnet, or young swan. I used to mispronounce many words and was mistook for a Lafayette lass once. Now, nonce.

Dawn was a particular bitch gone–caught–in my mis-gated teeth.

Invalidated is the word of the month, I’m told. Regardless of your gender, sex, or otherwise. Have you ever felt invalidated? Inactive? Ennui’ed? Tired of life? I would say keep it up, but the joke’s been taken already. Probably in a Montgolfier balloon, too.

So, when I found the vignette, I thought, what better way to give it life than to throw it out there to the webs committing us, one to the other. And, so, I created Calineapurnielathea-Su, a fictional character portmanteau.

Change her, rearrange her. Add people to the rooms of her mind, wind them up, burn them down, whatever you can concoct.

Put them in a Pizza Hut and let them go. Have them playing football, but, please, not American football, which seldom uses the foot. Go figure.

You could begin with this (or not):

“Afterwards Cal walked into a fine drinking establishment with five characters. It was secreted in the Oort cloud. Either that, or a cloud on Venus. It was called, simply, The Space Bar. Mostly inhabited by writerly types. That, and Cal’s companions. They were her soul’s doppelgangers (or pentagangers?): Creativity, Nature Girl, Mother Woman (thank you, Kate Chopin), Anxiety, and Self-Worth. Anthropomorphize or animalize them as you see fit.

Now, go!*


*Unfortunately, time being what it is in this universe–namely linear, as far as we know–you will probably want to keep your comment shortish so I can respond/gatekeep and all that good jazz before the clocks strike midnight EST and we all turn into pumpkins. Oh, okay, I’ll settle for a “normal” person, whatever the hell that is. Of course, keep it relatively clean, no racism, homophobia, religion-bashing, over-the-top animal or human cruelty/abuse, misogny, that kind of stuff. In other words, play nice y’all.





Process is Progress . . . Right?

Three parts forward, two parts back. Ah, that’s the writing process. Believe it or not, I have been feverishly working on the fourth and final part of the “Valentines” story. It’s rather long, but I hope to have it posted in the next few days. If nothing else, it is an inward testament, showing me that if I resolve to “write long,” it (eventually) happens. And, failing that, I’ve heard from a wise bird that it can live forever as a “shitty [in this case, second or third] draft” you might have subjected yourself to.

On another note, the following flash fiction piece wrote itself after I read and was inspired by these two writer-friends’ Friday Fictioneers’ posts, each quite different. (There are others I haven’t read yet, brainburstingly great ones, to be sure, so check them out at Rochelle’s FF site.)

I thought you might also enjoy seeing the quickie editing process I applied to the typed versions (there was 1 written, with overlays, chicken scratches really, of edits). If you want to skip to the end, that’s the short version (“Mute-4”), at about 109 words. Here’s the little bit of research I did, paired with good, old (gold?) imagination. Cheers!

hollywood-crowd-photo by Rochelle Wisoff Fields

Photo copyright Rochelle Wisoff-Fields


Feet are a maddening mode. Some shuffle or scuff. Run, roll, gallop, or canter. Others amble. Shadows, the lot of them! Callous, stilted catches of chiaroscuro self-enchantment, blotting out all that is light.

I’ve come to hate them all. Artificial. Real. Flat and triangular. Moist, gluey, or dry. Circling. Cloven. Unshod, unshorn. Fleshly silk and scratchy felt. Mired here in this place I don’t know. Is it Southern California, Asia, or a blip on Orion’s belt? I can’t be sure from this perspective, hidden in the metal ducts smothering human smells.

A tintinnabulation of toes, steady, drives me nearly circleward with its wordless taunt. Loosely translated: I move, therefore I am human.

What approximates for ears feels them all, footpads fettered to them. Forever. With tenebrous eyelash-like appendages, I scratch walled words over and over in this sub-city hell. I, voyager, was sentenced to exile, rooted in your time and place. Hear my mute mandibles’ message . . . (159 words)



Feet are a maddening mode. Some shuffle or scuff. Run, roll, gallop, or canter. Others amble. Shadows, the lot of them! Callous, stilted catches of chiaroscuro self-enchantment.

I’ve come to hate them all. Artificial. Real. Flat and triangular. Moist, gluey, or dry. Circling. Cloven. Unshod, unshorn. Fleshly silk and scratchy felt. Mired here in this place I don’t know. I can’t be sure from this perspective, hidden in the metal ducts smothering human smells.

A tintinnabulation of toes, steady, drives me nearly circleward with its taunt. Loosely translated: I move, therefore I am human.

All as I scratch out walled words with muted mandibles: I, voyager, will be sentenced to exile, rooted in your time and place . . . (120 words)



Feet are a maddening mode. Shuffle, scuff. Run, roll, gallop, or canter. Others amble. Callous, stilted catches of chiaroscuro self-enchantment.

I’ve grown to hate them all. Artificial. Real. Flat. Triangular. Moist, gluey, or dry. Circling. Cloven. Unshod, unshorn. Fleshly silk and scratchy felt. Mired here in this place I don’t know. I can’t be sure from this perspective, hidden in the metal ducts smothering human smells.

A tintinnabulation of toes, steady, drives me nearly circleward with its taunt. Loosely translated: I move, therefore I am human.

All as I scratch out walled words with muted mandibles: I, voyager, will be sentenced to exile, rooted in your time and place . . . (112)



Feet are a maddening mode. Shuffle, scuff. Run, roll, gallop, canter. Others amble. Callous, stilted catches of chiaroscuro self-enchantment.

I’ve grown to hate them all. Artificial. Real. Flat. Triangular. Moist, gluey, dry. Circling. Cloven. Unshod, unshorn. Fleshly silk and scratchy felt. Mired here in this nowhere, no-when place. I can’t be sure from this perspective, holed in the metal ducts smothering human smells.

A syncopation of ceaseless toes drives me nearly circleward, taunting. Loosely translated: I move, therefore I am human.

All as I scratch out walled words with muted mandibles: I, voyager, will be sentenced to exile, rooted in your time and place . . . (104)

Art Effects: Flash Fiction for Grammar Ghoul Challenge #2

FrancisBacon-Pope Innocent X

“Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X” (1953) by Irish artist Francis Bacon.

“It’s by Francis Bacon,” Mialy pointed to the violet hologram and elevated her voice, “ ’cept for the shrieking, of course. That’s a modern addition.”

“Wait! The Francis Bacon? The one who invented everybody’s favorite sizzly meat that almost nobody is able to get their hands on anymore?” Joba snickered. “He sure did a lot of wildly different stuff in his lifetime.”

The screaming subsided as Joba spoke, but the New Memphis Art Museum & Distillery hum-spun sound within its walls, smothering the tortured yells for the next patrons.

The building itself had been dubbed “acoustically perfect” through stringent certification channels. One’s ears could only be thankful the hologram of Munch’s famous disconcerting painting was housed in a faraway room.

“No, goofball. It’s some other Bacon according to Teacher Farflung’s notes.” Mialy moved her neck from side to side and it cracked as she attempted to get the implant into better position. “I told you, you should have gotten the neural implant at the door. Teach will not be pleased, if it’s monitoring this field trip out there somewhere.”

Mialy thumbed over a shoulder, causing mauve hair to swing a seeming pendulum behind her head.


“Hmm. I thought they were supposed to be motion- and heat-sensitive to a particular genetic pattern,” Joba muttered.

“Oww, that chair guy is giving me such a hunormous head-ouch,” she typed hurriedly onto the tablet, afraid the wailing would start up again at random.

Joba nodded. “Or maybe it’s the imp. I’ve heard of brains that reject the injection . . . “

“Nah.” She interrupted. “Just listen! Whadda you figure’s his problem?”

“Access your hoytay-toytay mind-friend, why don’t you? Harness alllll the benefits of your tech,” he mimicked the booming voice in the jingle for TechUnique Products. Mind-fiend is more like it, Joba thought.

Mialy nearly shouted again. “I know, but I wanted to figure it out myself. Art’s effect is personal, y’know. Some people get pain from art, especially this holo-painting. Some reap pleasure. Some get both. Art’s supposed to provoke, amiright?”

“Yeah, but with the whole pain/pleasure thing, art reminds me of drugs.”

“Uh, well, yeah, I guess it’s like those drugs that mold to a person’s genetic contours. Personalized psychotropics.”

Joba fiddled with his tablet. “Howya access the data on, um, what’d you say the artist’s name was again? Franks’N Bacon?”

Snickers seemed to trigger another blood-in-a-centrifuge moment courtesy of the now-popping hologram.


“You know,” Mialy made a tunnel of her fist to amplify her voice, “I think the screams are changing. You hear it? But why?”

“Just a bug in the programming,” Joba offered.

“Anyway, let’s get going. We’ve got lots of art to partake of today, my lady.” He pulled Mialy gently by the hand and past the room sensors that guided the advanced acoustics of the 19th and 20th Century Modern Art pavilion of the museum.


In an interior room adjacent to the artwork informally called “Screaming Pope,” two people are at work.

“Ay, Segala, you can go easy on the audio now,” Rayson shouted to his colleague from well across the room.

“It’s no use,” she called back, letting the arm drop to the side of the chair.

“Damn. That’s the sixth audio to crap out this week, and it’s only Wednesday.”

She shook her head slowly. “I know, tell me about it. Hope we don’t get a lecture from Kathy. She’s a beast when it comes to protocols.”

Segala tugged on the straps, but nothing gave.

“Ray, can you help me get the electric nails out? It looks like I accidentally blew a vein. Don’t slip on her hair . . . anyway, we’ll have to pick up another volunteer on the way back from the DR.”

“Yup, I sure hope the next one holds up longer, for both our sakes. And is less messy. You just never can tell by looking when you’re gonna get a spurter.”

“Yeah, and it seemed like those last patrons were beginning to suspect . . .” Segala’s voice trailed off.

The wet echo of a thump came, and then only a prolonged squeal-screech of a cart on wheels. As the two left the room, a resonant door slammed behind them, complemented by a piping up of hidden music, which was believed to encourage employee tranquility.

“I think to myself/what a wonderful world” serenaded the duo down the hallway, although neither had a clue who the singer was.