Ha(r)py Holidays, one and all; also, some HorrorLite flash fiction

Well, it’s been a while. Your bated-breath waiting is NO LONGER! Here’s a(nother)

Meeping Angel
Not my brilliant image. Look on the Internetz!

twisted flash fiction story, or perhaps it should be more aptly described as slash fiction (for those of you who hate horror, light or otherwise, you may of course skip it . . . this is light on the horror Scoville scale, I must say). Probably sums up this crappy orange Nehi year pretty well, however.

I will (I think) return to this blog in January as I get back on my literary feet—unstressed, I hope!—and share some books I’ve been reading and am longer overdue talking about, from friends and strangers alike, some personal travelogues, maybe some Leigh’s Un-Wisdom, too.

In the meantime, stay curious, stay strong, and, most importantly, stay weird.

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Ohmigod, Tannenbaum! A Hallow-istmas story

by Leigh Ward-Smith

They wouldn’t have to walk much farther than a quarter- or half-mile to find a good tree at Old Man Kettler’s farm. Many pines were finished out, as Kettler himself liked to say, in the weeks before Halloween.

So, it couldn’t hurt to check out the stock early, in effect staking out a prize tree before everybody and his brother got to it. Could it?

Brie Cardone didn’t think so, and she’d convinced a couple friends without too much prodding. Adam and Sarah were up for the challenge. In that spirit, ideas were floated, texts were sent, and plans were set.

Dead-set. Continue reading

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

DSC_0003

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?!”

END

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.

FridayFictioneers_24march2017

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

My Very Short Holiday Story and Photos

make-it-snow_picard

I don’t own Star Trek or the rights to this graphic; I just think it’s cool. But you can buy this T-shirt elsewhere online.

Life is unpredictable. (All the more reason to hold onto it and help others do the same.)

We’re currently waylaid by the unexpected: a sick child. Sadly, we will not make it to Grandma and Grandpa’s as soon as we’d originally planned.

However, if I’ve learned anything about parenting, it’s that you must be flexible. (That’s probably been the hardest lesson for this type-A personality.)

On a positive note, I hope you all are enjoying your holidays, if you celebrate. Here’s my early wish to you for a happy 2017 as well.

Now, the story . . . which isn’t here, but it was published:

winter-tree

The first day of winter.

So, my story ran yesterday (21 Dec. 2016) on 50-Word Stories. My many thanks to Tim, who’s the force behind 50-Word Stories, for taking a chance on odd fiction, which I think my story “Trees” qualifies as. If you enjoy dark/horror flash fiction and appreciate a scary story, give it a like-click over here. And be sure to check out 50-Word Stories; every day they post two bursts of microfiction and are the go-to source for a smorgasbord of shorts (fiction, that is).

In the meantime, enjoy these winter-ish photographs.

Until we meet again. Soon.

snow-feet_byls

Can you spot all the critter footprints?

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.

spacey-junk

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

Monday Markets: The Spiders Spinning the Moon Edition

Long time, no blog. Well, a couple weeks. An eon in interwebs years perhaps.

the-spiders-and-the-moon

Can you spot the second spider? The first certainly seems bigger than the moon.

Despite the annus miserabilis (yep, I meant that) on many fronts, there are good things about, too. Thank goodness.

I’ll do “markets” a little different this time. Once I get more sophisticated (maybe someday ponying up for the cost of a ‘real’ WordPress or other writing site), perhaps this might grow and improve and transmogrify. First:

Things to Read

Apart from your posts, which I’m still trying to catch up on after the Great Computer-Cord Fry-Up of August 2016, in which the little adapter box thing went bzzt (and my battery had no juice), here’s some notable writing (news and otherwise) you might enjoy or find helpful:

  • Surviving the Death Railway: A POW’s Memoir and Letters from Home, editor Hilary Custance Green’s very personal book about Far East POWs—with an endearing and enduring love story wrapped therein—is out now. Has been out for awhile. Do consider it for your reading list. Even better? It’s in hardback!
  • Another fellow WordPresser, Sarah Potter, just last week released her second book in a year. Wow! This one, Noah Padgett and the Dog-People, while written for the youthful crowd, approximately age 10 (up to and beyond age 100), features a boy with all the resources of Harry Potter, minus the wand. So, by his wits alone, he must survive and navigate a bracing crab of a stepmother and another dimension, called Zyx, ruled by Canis sapiens, or upright-walking, clothes-wearing, English-speaking dog-people. And with all the foibles of humans, spun into a new view, from a (nearly?) megalomaniacal poodle to a fretful golden retriever with a hidden beauty secret. Can Noah save his real dog, Bluebell, from Monsieur Percival Poodle and get out alive? Although I was a beta reader on this, I can confirm it was a quite enjoyable book. As an adult or, I would think, a dog-loving or imaginative child. Here’s where you can get it on the Kindle.
  • Take a look at a post by Diabolical Plots titled “Negotiating Short Story Contracts.” I won’t give away the keys to this kingdom, but when you sell a story, ask for a contract and actually read it. That’s one of the most basic tips for any writer. But get more insights from the diabolical personage himself, David Steffen, here.
  • If you like epic stories and the storytellers who execute them, then you’ll probably enjoy this Powell’s (bookstore) interview with Annie Proulx as much as I did.
  • And, finally, a survey of the psychologically “deep” short stories of British horror writer Robert Aickman.

 

Things to Write: Markets & Submissions

  • National Lampoon is looking for humor writers. This is a well-known, and paying market, but, I’ll presume, pretty competitive. If you submit, you absolutely must bring your funniest stuff. Otherwise, you’re schtick out of luck.
  • If you aim for the top, you’ll find Tin House, among others, sitting astride it. And, by the by, they are accepting submissions the entire month of September 2016, for several issues slated for 2017. One story or essay and up to five poems per submission. So, in September at TH: there’s an open-publication (no theme); there’s a rehab-themed issue; and then there’s a true crime issue. Many submit, but few, alas, are chosen. See more here.
  • Rejectomancer and author Aeryn Rudel has announced he will be a judge in an upcoming flash fiction contest run by Red Sun Magazine. There’s a small entry fee for submitting your fiction under 1K, and the deadline is Sept. 23. Prizing and other salient criteria are at RSM’s site here. And, if you’re a speculative fiction writer, aspiring or otherwise, you owe it to yourself to follow Rudel, whose name rightly appears persistently among the rolls of winning stories.
  • As this is a long post already and it’s almost bus-time, I’ll share one last one. Tacitus Publishing is seeking short fiction, 1500 to 5K, on the theme of shattered space. I’ll let them tell you: “[the story] takes place in space and has a strong horror element.  This can include aliens, ghosts, or disturbing circumstance[s].  The key to success, as with all strong writing, is the human struggle and relatable characters. . . . . ” Your story is due Oct. 31, and, as always, it would behoove you to know your market before submitting.

As ever, let’s go out there and  . . . get rejected! And, a la Samuel Beckett, get rejected better the next time.

 

 

 

Friday Fictioneers: Deanna’s Laundry (Fan Fiction)

FF_mary-shipman1_laundry_store

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

captain-picard-facepalm

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.

Submission Saturday: The Under-the-Weather Edition

Fairy Tale Manuscript

The fairy tale that wasn’t. At least it looks like a bird!

Well, well, I’ve been busy editing, trying to write a (interesting) fairy tale (here is a helpful, little primer on fairy tales, folklore, etc.), and just living, including a good deal of Nightingale-ing. Now that the kids aren’t sick and the husband is healing, of course it strikes me. Today, I’m digging out of the aftermath.

In any case, doing these market/submission articles really gets me jazzed, and I haven’t done one in at least a couple weeks. So, in other words, you’re due. Hope you find something fruitful here!

  1. Due April 1. You’ve got dreams. I’ve got dreams. We’ve all got dreams. Why not put them down on paper and submit them to Bop Dead City? For their current issue (Issue #15) contest, they choose one poem and one fiction piece (otherwise, one genre takes it all). The Issue 15 contest is themed “dreams”; regular submissions guidelines here.
  2. Due April 1: No joke! The annual Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry competition is open to writers of poetry in English, with a maximum of 250 lines (1 poem only) sought. But with this contest, the object is to write badly. Very, very badly. The art is in writing so badly, it crosses over into good-writing terrain. Can you do it? Like to try? Check out Winning Writers for all the specifics on this free-to-enter contest that promises big prizes for the best “worst poem” you can craft.
  3. Due officially April 15 (but actually June 30): Staying in the humor-writing vein, let’s move over to the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest (BLFC) for superior shoddy sentence–writing, not to be confused with the Lyttle Lytton annual contest. Here, your mission, if you choose to accept the challenge, is to pen the very worst opening line to a novel ever conceived—and there are genre categories, too, including romance, science fiction, crime/detective, and historical fiction. Bad for poor Edward Bulwer-Lytton; but good for us. More details here.
  4. April 15, Austin, Texas, 5:30-9:30 p.m. If you’re fond of small presses, visionary writing, poetry, or some combination of the aforementioned (and will be in Austin, Tx., in April), get yourself over to Malvern Books for the Tupelo 30/30 project Poetry Night. It will feature WP staple poet Robert Okaji, as well as several other T30/30 poets: Christine Beck, Katy Chrisler, D.G. Geis, Pamela Paek, and Ronnie K. Stephens.
  5. Opening May 15, 2016 (closing August 15): Enchanted Conversation, a fairy tale magazine, has its eyes peeled for your best stories about Krampus, the dark alternative to Santa Claus, for its Krampusnacht Two anthology, to be published in conjunction with World Weaver Press. Kate Wolford is the editor. They are looking for fiction submissions from 1,000 to 9,999 words. You will greatly benefit from reading their first anthology on this topic, Krampusnacht: Twelve Nights of Krampus, and following the newest anthology guidelines to the letter. Good luck!
  6. A sixth-grader wrote this flash-fiction story and it was published online by SmokeLong Quarterly. Wow! SLQ, a leader in the flash fiction genre, publishes only flash (no poetry or nonfiction) of under 1000 words—one submission at a time, please!—and you must include a print-ready third-person biography. Give them a whirl if you enjoy flash(ing) your fiction!

And, in the meantime . . . enjoy your Easter/spring (or autumn) weekend! Happy writing and art-making!

 

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.

emmylgant-friday fictioneers. 3.11.16

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. .