I Know What I Did Last Summer . . .

For those number of you who have inquiring minds and want to know

Smallboobug

This mantis is ready for the creepies and goblins, as it’s already preying on a ghost. (CREDIT: Archive of bad puns.)

(hi, hubby o’ mine!), here’s a round-up of a few things that have been on my mind of late, what I’ve seen, read, or been working on and so forth. Let it henceforth be know as a Smorgasblurb, or daisy-chain of what’s-its, widgets and, quite possibly, the world’s best collection of literary bric-a-brac.

1. Are you nervy, irritable, depressed, tired of life? Don’t keep that up! Here’s a short, down-to-earth post by author Dan Alatorre to help dispel the writer’s imposter syndrome that all some I have been feeling this summer and into the now-autumn.

2. Followed by the not-so-flattering assessment, albeit literary, of the United States’ commander in thief, by the ever-creative Rebecca Solnit (“The Loneliness of Donald Trump”) and available on Literary Hub. My favorite turn of phrase is in the very last graf: “The man in the white house sits, naked and obscene, a pustule of ego . . . One way or another, he knows he has stepped off a cliff, pronounced himself king of the air, and is in freefall.” And that, folks, is how you bring it on home (whether you agree with the message or not).

3. I’ve had quite a few “close, but no cigar” with my writing this year, so the main thing I’ve got in the pipeline right now is a short story in the Biketopia anthology of feminist speculative fiction. (Yes, that.) But seriously, Publishers Weekly has said it’s “…a deeply moving and powerful anthology. ” Wow! 

P.S. Have you got anything close to publication or recently published? I know for a fact that some of you do. So consider this your pop quiz! Your chance to blast your own horn. Please feel free to comment in the ol’ leave a reply section below. And thanks!

4. A couple weeks ago I was pursuing one of my hobbies by perusing a nearby community’s town-wide yard sales. There was an old truck parked across from a church, and I don’t know why, but I stopped to look at the wares situated among the dust. Nothing there was probably anything anyone would need or want, but the woman tending them kept engaging me, imploring me to take a look at this or that. So, I got to talking with her and, unfortunately, concluded that she most likely has some level of mental illness and lives in her truck (long story) with these two kittens she says she couldn’t bear to leave at home because they got scared. Anyhow, without trying to sound sanctimonious, have you ever looked around you to everyday people and situations? We seem to not see images we are regularly exposed to, with them fading bit-by-by, day-by- day. Perhaps it’s something as simple as misplaced keys or something vastly more important: an invisible person or unjust situation or environmental problem that just keeps persisting in a sad state mostly because of apathy.

In short, have you tried helping anyone or anything in need lately?

Our opportunities to be loving and helpful to our fellow humans abound (and not only during natural disasters): to earthquake victims in Mexico, for Puerto Ricans who might not have potable water or electricity for weeks or months, Rohingya families driven out of Myanmar/Burma, bombed-out Yemeni people starving to death or dying of cholera, or innocent people rotting into the rubble of Syria. It turns out, if we look, I mean really look, we will probably find that there’s a literal neighbor of yours or mine who is silently in need. It can certainly be very depressing and soul-submerging to confront all the violence and hatred in the world; you’re only one person, right?! But . . . Whatever you do, just try. 🙂

5. Now, on to a much more pleasant topic. If you love fantasy, fae, and fairy tales like I do—you’re probably a super-fan, in fact, as I feel like I can never learn enough from all the world’s cultures—you will want to support Enchanted Conversation, a fairy tale magazine. Not only does this publication pay authors, but its editor/creator Kate Wolford helps keep the word percolating about how fairy tales and fabulism resonate and enrich our lives today . . . whenever we see an Emperor with No Clothes or a squirrel digging hundreds of tiny nut-graves all over our yards to prepare for cold weather, a figurative army of furry ants guarding against unprepared grasshoppers. Please chip in to their Fundrazr campaign now (there are rewards beyond just knowing ‘you did good’!) and if you’re a poet or fiction writer, consider submitting to the “Godfather Death” issue now through Sept. 30th or the “Elves and the Shoemaker” taking subs in November.

6. Well, this is rather long, isn’t it? Here’s one more, and just in time for the scary month of October! Stitched Smile Publications is seeking your horror-themed stories for two different paying open calls, one about the Seven Deadly Sins and another about a drive-in pulsing on the warty split-lip of damnation. I’ve not worked with them before, but they’re listed on Duotrope and have a history of in-genre publishing with a stable of many authors. Good luck if ya do construe a boo or two for them, much like the mantis on the ghost above. And, with that, I’m in copywriting mode!

ONE FINAL WORD Hang in there, everyone; help is on its way (with apologies for the crudulous advert at the beginning)!!

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If I Were a Defiant Animal . . . (Palinode)

I’ve been busy writing and promoting. My ‘soft’ horror story, “Muzzling the Monster,” is out in book form with some other excellent hobbits’ people’s stories.

But in the meantime, a sort of narrative manifesto in the form of a palinode.

Palinode: According to the Poetry Foundation, a palinode is “an ode or song that retracts or recants what the poet wrote in a previous poem.”

And now, in response to the world today and in homage to WordPresser and poet Robert Okaji, whose much more deft and studied poetical works you can find here . . .

If I Were a . . . (defiant animal/goddess/dolphin/force)

for Robert Okaji

If I were another kind of defiant animal than me, I think I’d choose to be a well-kept black cat. I’d be haughty about my rich, luxuriant fur and take every opportunity to let the sun follow my lead, basking in its admiration like the goddess I clearly am. Continue reading

Electageddon 2016: I was going to, but then I didn’t . . .

. . . Write a literary Q & A with both presidential candidates, here in the U.S., but I’ve decided to succumb to election fatigue or, as I’ve termed it, Electageddon. (I’m not saying I coined it; most probably John Oliver said something very similar.)

Simply put, most of the humor has gone out of U.S. politics. Other than the angry brand.

Now, I don’t think the dialogues should cease—except for the two political ads I receive every stinking day(!), as well as all those commercials between newscasts—but at this time, I choose to look to other matters, to move on. As well as to strive, to seek, and not to yield. The jury’s still out on the “finding” part, Tennyson fans. [Tennysonites? Tennysonians?]

Of course, I will vote (I haven’t yet) and do my part [for I have a vagenda of manicide; there, I finally said it]. Heck, my family even attempted to get yard signs for local candidates (but were unsuccessful, two times).

shakespeare-insult-book-man-as-beast_cropped

From Shakespeare: The Bard’s Guide to Abuses and Affronts

But I’m done with arguing. I’m also done with racism. I’m sickened by those who shame the disabled. I’m done with the immigrant-bashing. I’m fed up with those who attack Islam. And finally, I’m done with Republicans [who stump for Trump] tweeting that Drumpf is leading “the cunt.”

The best way that Trump can make America great again? If I were mean, I’d say shuffle off your mortal coils, ASAP. (The case could be made that they’re mostly useless because of all the heavy rust anyway.) But since I’m not: Get out. Just get out. We don’t want you here. Let’s not make America hate again.

That said, I’d not want to be back in the newspaper biz come Nov. 8th or 9th. I predict a farked-up election (remember the hanging chads?) and possibly some violence. It would be a pity if it devolves to that. But wait, it already has. See that point way up there in the clouds—way, way up; past the thermosphere now and into the exosphere—that used to be us. The good us. And it’s getting farther away, not closer. (Hat tip to John Oliver for this idea.)

So, what else can a rational person from the 99% do? I’ve tuned in and turned on (television and radio, phone and computer).

But, for now, I think the best choice for my sanity is to drop out, to kill my television and other media tools. Perhaps you’ll join me in boycotting election news?

 

 

Blood and Dust: Microfiction

Blood and Dust

Even sequestered in the barracks post-sortie, I’d heard whispers about the torched orphanage.

No War Image_final

Drawing by my daughter, circa 2015.

Remembering the spat platitudes—innocent casualties are inherent in war—I sneaked into the commander’s quarters.

With each thunderclap of those awful words, fingers cinched tighter.

* * * *

This was written for the Grammar Ghoul Press Shapeshifting 13 (challenge #67). In this prompt challenge, you are tasked with writing a microfiction piece or poem in exactly 39 words and using the terms orphan and inherent. I don’t know if mine qualifies, as I lengthened it to orphanage, but regardless, give these other writers a read to see how they’ve spun the terms. Further details at the link if you’d like to participate, but you have to do so by Sunday evening.

Finally, if you can, please consider helping a fellow human being. In your neighborhood, in your city, on your continent, or on this planet. Here are two stories, each listing a plethora of links (some duplicated) to organizations doing work to help Syrian refugees (whose plight prompted my microfiction).

Literary Q & A with a Presidential Candidate: Donald J. Trump

Caution: Some readers may find this satire and its interviewee crass, condescending, racist, sexist, and/or otherwise offensive. Look up his ‘real’ interviews, Twitter feed, or Webpage if you’re so inclined.


 

Literary Q & A with a 2016 Presidential Candidate

©Leigh Ward-Smith, 2016

Interviewer: Good morning, Mr. Trump. Thank you for speaking with me, here in my own kitch—

Trump, interrupting: It’s shabby, but it’ll do.

Interviewer: Okay then. You’re a very busy man, so let’s get right to it.

Trump: You’ve no idea. B-yutiful Bombardier Global 6000.

Interviewer: Uhhh, what?

Trumpkin

U.S. Presidential Candidate Donald J. Trump(kin)

Trump: My business jet. They had to clear several gates for me at your penny-ante Lambert Airport. Lightweights, just like Rubio!

Interviewer: Well, uh . . .

Trump: Can you get me a coffee?

Interviewer: Excuse me?

Trump: I said, go get me a coffee. Tall latte.

Interviewer, wondering if she looks like a barista: Um, okay. (gestures to husband to get the Keurig going)

Interviewer: Let me start with this, Mr. Trump. I’m a Southerner and a woman—

Trump, interrupting: Yeah, I noticed. You know, if you’d just smile more, add some make-up, fix up your hair. My b-yutiful daughter Ivanka could give you some great tips. You’ve probably never even heard of her line of Trump cosmetics, called Bella. I’m told it’s Italian for b-yutiful.

Interviewer, continuing: Yes, well, I’d like to focus on Virginia Woolf’s idea of “a room of one’s own,” that each woman needs—and must demand—a space of her own, whether it’s creative and imagined or in the business world, like your daughter Ivanka has done [hurriedly, so as not to be cut off], so what do you say at this moment to women voters? Is there a war on women?

Trump, fixing hair: Was there a question?

Interviewer: Yes, I was talking about a room of one’s own and—

Trump: Oh, yeah, Ivanka has a helluva lot of those. They’re great. I’ve given her five houses, you know. That’s just this year.

Interviewer: Yes, well, what I asked is, how do you talk to regular people, the voters? In particular women?

Trump: Like I would anybody else. [Looks at his watch]

Interviewer: Can you please be more specific?

Trump: It’s a Richard Mille, you know.

Interviewer: Who is?

Trump: The watch. But you wouldn’t know that. Kick-ass timepiece. Wonderful. Very expensive. About $600,000. Chump change.

Interviewer: Okay. Moving along. I’m a former English major, so I have some literary questions for you.

Trump: I love speaking English. Fire away.

Interviewer: There are many sociopolitical books of merit. Just in the 20th century in the English language, to mention but a few, we had All the King’s Men, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Animal Farm, Elie Wiesel’s Night, Catch-22, The Handmaid’s Tale, Brave New World, even Babbit or The Great Gatsby—

Trump: Oh, yeah, that was terrible.

Interviewer: I agree, the totalitarian world of Animal Farm, with some animals more equal than others, was frightening. As was The Handmaid’s—

Trump: No. What he did there. With the women. With the drugs in the drinks.

Interviewer: Pardon?

Trump: What are you, retarded? The black guy, hey-hey-hey [attempts “Fat Albert” impression, sounds more like Gilbert Gottfried], with the drugs. . .

Interviewer: Oh, you must be referring to Bill Cosby.

Trump: Bingo!

Interviewer: I don’t think I mentioned Bill Cosby.

Trump: Yeah you did. The Great Cosby you said. I heard you. The books. [Color rising to bright orange] THE BOOKS!

Interviewer: Oh, yes. (sighing) The Great Gats-by.

Trump: Whatever. You knew what I meant. Hey, is that coffee ready yet?

Interviewer to husband: Is it ready, hon?

Husband, speechless or incensed, brings over a mug of French vanilla light-roast and sits it at the four-person table.

Interviewer: This’s the best we got. No latte. Um, sorry [to self: I guess].

Trump: It’ll do, but I bet it’s terrible. [Hands it to an aide, presumably for poison-testing.]

Interviewer: Well, then, let’s move forward with a few more questions, if we can.

Trump: Good. Make sure you get me from the right-hand side.

Interviewer: Okay, will do. Are there any modern characters, television shows, anything, with whom you identify?

Trump: Oh, sure. What’s-his-face. The guy.

Interviewer: What guy?

The DudeTrump: The dude.

Interviewer: Oh, you mean Jeff Lebowski, in The Big Lebowski movie.

Trump: No, no, no. Jesus, don’t you people ever get out?

Interviewer, getting annoyed: What do you mean by that “you people”?

Trump: You female-type people, with brains coming out of your—

Interviewer: Now, wait a minute, there’s no reason for ad hominem here.

Trump: Whatever. I don’t even know what that means.

Interviewer, to self: Clearly.

Interviewer: Um. But back to the question.

Trump: Oh, yes. My . . . what-do-you-call-it . . . servant . . .

Interviewer, offering: Aide? Assistant?

Trump: Yeah, yeah, yeah. They watched for me. About Bannister, the dragon show. That’s it.

Interviewer: Oh, Lannister? From A Game of Thrones. You identify with Tyrion Lannister?

Trump: No, no, not the nipple-high one. [Makes a horizontal hand gesture indicating height.] The head honcho. The big cheese. The dad, T-something.

Interviewer: Tywin. You mean Tywin Lannister.

Trump: Hey, don’t get me wrong. I don’t like China, but the blonde chick’s got nice tits.

Interviewer: What? Who? Nevermind. I’ll just take your word on that.

Trump: You should. ’Cause I’m going to be your president soon. You know, America’s gonna be great again. Better than China, better than India, Russia, all those other places.

Interviewer: Yeah, about that. Let’s get into closed-mindedness. There was a high-school basketball game last week, I think, in Iowa, and it got racially charged, with the predominately white audience chanting “Trump” to taunt African-Americans on the opposing team. Did you hear about this?

Trump, smiling: Yeah, I saw it. My aide showed me YouTube. It was great. Like Trump steaks. You ever tried those?

Interviewer: No, I don’t eat beef. As to the important question . . . is a high-school basketball game the best time for racial invect—

Trump: Anytime’s the time to say what I say. Don’t you broads get that yet?

Interviewer: Uh-huh. If so, let’s see what you say about racism and inequality in this country, about building walls.

Trump: That Pope! [rolls eyes] I don’t have time for him. I’ve said what I said, look up my exact words. I stand by it.

Interviewer, to self: For all he knows, I was talking about Stalin.

Trump, soothing hair from a kitchen breeze: Get this straight, missy, ’cause I’m talking to you. I don’t beat around the bush. [smiles] The establishment doesn’t like me. But one thing I’m not doing—what I’ve never, ever done, period—is stalling. None. When I decide, I succeed.

Interviewer: Unh-hunh.

Trump: Anyway, who likes basketball? Mostly freaks.

Interviewer: Excuse you?

Trump: I mean, look at those people. Hormonally challenged. Except that LaBaron James. I like him. One of my sons is named Barron. That big black guy, you know, he could help me make America great again. But, let’s get real. Putting a little ball into a basket. Lemme tell you, with me as president, it’s gonna be amazing. Big balls. All. The. Way.

Interviewer: Sounds like an AC/DC song.

Trump: I’ve no idea what you just said. (snaps fingers, assistant comes over)

Trump, to interviewer: We almost done here? I’ve got important places to be.

Interviewer: Well, I—

Trump: You ever see The Apprentice? You’ve got a TV in this dump, right?

Interviewer: I do, but no, I’ve never watched it except clips on the news or that kind of thing.

Trump: Figures. I’d have fired you a long time ago.

Interviewer: Well, my husband and kids seem to think I’m an at-least okay human being, even with brains coming out of my whatever.

Trump, grimacing: I have children, too. Love ’em. Somebody else raised them, of course.

Interviewer: I see. Does this mean that, as president, you would be for a stronger Family Medical Leave Act in America, where fathers, mothers, or caregivers can get paid time off for, say, the birth of a child or the care of a relative?

Trump: Look at the Trump Tower, Trump casinos, Trump University. I hire a shitload of people. Whadda ya think?

Interviewer: I asked you a question. You’re the candidate, not I.

Trump: Not me.

Interviewer: Not me what?

Trump: “Not me” sounds better.

Interviewer: It does?

Trump: To me, it does.

Interviewer: And that’s what matters?

Trump: Of course. Who’s in charge is all that matters. And that’s me.

Interviewer: Ever read Humpty-Dumpty’s dialogue in Through the Looking-Glass?

Trump: I don’t like kiddie lit.

Interviewer: Through the Looking-Glass is by mathematician and writer Lewis Carroll, and it’s not exactly a children’s book. About Alice, the Red Queen, and logic, perception, and reality.

Trump: Carroll who? The comedienne?

Interviewer: Nevermind. Let’s move along.

Trump: Hey, you, we done here? [looking at assistant, who gives an “I don’t know” shrug.]

Interviewer: One last quick question. What’s the “J” in your name stand for?

Trump: John.

Interviewer: Oh, like John the Baptist?

Trump: No, I’m Presbyterian. For fuck’s sake, don’t you people read anything to prep for interviews?

Interviewer: Alrighty, then. We’re done here.

####THE END####

Friday Fictioneers on a Monday: A Mother’s Mettle

chateau-de-sable-ceayr

Photo ©ceayr

A Mother’s Mettle

Genre: Realistic fiction

100 words

Mary Strongheart pushed the stroller up the dusty street, her baby tangled in blankets, silent.

She wanted the senator to see, everybody to see, such that they could no longer turn away.

Hana had given her the gate code, but she’d keep the ruse. A knot of fear fisted in her stomach and seared her throat. She’d never been close to the magnificent home. Will my camera work? Will he listen?

Offering silent prayer to the sky, Mary signaled Hana at the back gate.

Soon, the squealing of plastic wheels dovetailed with shouts and the crackle of the guard’s taser.


 

I don’t get to do too many Friday Fictioneers challenges, but this one kind of sprang from my mind fully formed like Athena. And it dovetailed with this article that a friend had recently pointed out to me (thanks, Brenda).

Most of us, unfortunately, have heard of the horrific water crisis in Flint, Michigan. But you might not have not heard about the contamination of water (and more) in areas of the Southwestern and Western United States (not even to mention the coal mining and shale fracking going on all over the world). Nor is Flint, Michigan, alone, either in the States or the world, with regard to environmental contamination. I did a little further research, discovering that some 15,000 abandoned uranium mines exist in the U.S., and there’s no apparatus set up to get these dangerous sites cleaned. One group, Clean up the Mines, calls this “America’s secret Fukushima.” One activist also notes that the Native American nations of North America are the proverbial ‘canaries in the mine’ for the rest of the United States on this critical environmental issue.

As such, then, I conceived of Mary Strongheart as an indigenous person whose child had been affected in some detrimental fashion by the contamination of their water.

Read and/or link up your own Friday Fictioneers post at this linky, and while you’re there, thank Rochelle for administrating these challenges (and adding her own fiction!) like elegant clockwork every week.

 

 

 

 

 

Lonesomeone: A Short Story

Lonesomeone

© Leigh Ward-Smith, 2014

Most days, a burbling wakes me, washing down the dark, pitted walls where I sometimes press my back. Some other scratching sounds behind stones catch my attention. It could be rats or bats. So I stretch my whole body out, board-stiff. Imagine I’m Superman. Except I’m lying down on a spit of concrete or gritty dirt, depending on the tunnel.

And then I realize it’s time to start walking again.

Many times I’ve gathered and built a little mound of stonesatomic cloud to get the moments to go. If you take your time, smooth and jagged can fit together. It just takes trying and re-trying. A bit of dingy paper, wet at one end, and a snubbed matchstick make a decent flag.

Part of me has given up on finding a way out. Continue reading