New Flash Fiction: Balance of a Cat

I’ve had a really rough time coming up with stories. Either the inspiration isn’t there, or I start but don’t have the stamina to finish or the story just doesn’t materialise. It’s so annoying! But today, an old trick helped me out (mentally making up opening sentence one-liners until something felt right) and I ended up having a little fun. The original opener was : ‘I hadn’t intended to make her cry.’ But once the story came together, I ended up modifying it for a better fit.

 

Balance of a Cat

All I’d wanted to do was surprise her, not make her cry. But she was a crybaby–a fact I never let her forget–and the tears and snot glistening on her pinched, pink face were as expected as the annoyance I felt every time. Still, she was my cousin, we were the same age, and in a town as small as ours, choices of playmates were slim.

‘I hate that you always get me in trouble,’ she moaned from behind me. She swatted at the tree branches whipping her in the face, her crying intensifying by the second. ‘I have a math test second period.’

I kept a steady pace on the trail, leading the way into the woods. The shrubs were thick, and the ground almost bouncy underfoot from they layers of dead leaves and dirt. ‘Then why’d you come?’

‘Because you told me to!’

Of course. Like some kind of living robot, she didn’t have it in her to say no, though I guess that’s why I always dragged her along on my expeditions. Hearing her sniffling and sniveling behind me, I felt a little bad. Unlike me, she was smart and could actually one day get out of this pinprick of a town. She was aiming for a scholarship to a good university and had the brains to do it, too. I handed her a balled up tissue from my pocket so she could wipe her snotty face.

‘I like school!’ She blew her nose. ‘You’d better not mess this up for me.’

I sighed. ‘I’ll get you to school before your test, OK? Anyway, we’re almost there. You’ll see, it’ll be worth it.’ I pushed through the last of the trees and kept going until I reached the cliff’s edge. I stood on the cusp, took a deep breath, and spread my arms into the rays of the early morning sun. ‘Isn’t it amazing! From here, you can see the whole world!’

‘Cow-Town’, or Dunsville as it was officially known, was more farmland than anything else but, to me, it was a green stain on the fringe of everything else that lay beyond it’s borders. ‘The world is waiting for me, cousin. One day, I’ll find my own way out of here.’

I heard her quiet step behind me.

‘Well?’ I asked, pointing.

‘It’s kinda scary. Everything looks…so big, so spread out.’

‘Makes you feel small, right? Maybe even insignificant?’

‘Maybe. I don’t know.’ She pulled at my shirt. ‘Let’s go. You could fall, and I wouldn’t want that.’

I waved her off. ‘I’m not going to fall. I’ve got the balance of a cat.’

‘You don’t have a tail. They use their tails to counter-balance, or something like that. I learned it at school, which is where we should be right now.’ She leaned a little closer towards the edge, though her feet remained glued to the ground.

‘Come on, not even one step?’ I waved towards the great beyond. ‘It’d be hard to find a better view than this—‘

My foot slipped before I ever knew what had happened. Actually, her scream and the sudden rush of cold air on my face stirred the latent sense of fear within me.

But the world fast approached. A growing green patch of grass, looming before my eyes.

In truth, this was probably the only way a poor, dumb boy like me could earn salvation. So, I closed me eyes and embraced it.

 

Copyright @2017 by Dyane Forde

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Motivating Friends to Write With Flash Fiction

WOW555 Contest Prompt with photo by Vanessa Pike-RussellSo I’ve entered the WOW555 flash fiction contest again, this time as a means of encouraging two writer friends to try something new. One says she has trouble writing short stories (what better way to break that than by writing a story of less than 500 words???), and another who just needs a kick in the butt to get writing, period. I checked in with one of them last night after he’d submitted his story, and he said he was glad he’d tried it and thanked me for the push. When I checked in with the other this morning, this is what she said: ‘ Dyane remember when I said you were the best? You’re actually the worst. THE WORST.’ To which I replied, ‘Lol lol lol Happy to oblige, as long as it gets you writing. Ta!!’ 

Anyone else feel they need a little motivating? 😀

Anyhoo, my entry is below. It’s experimental and darker than usual, but if there’s an opportunity to try something different from your norm, flash fiction is it. 🙂 Hope you enjoy it. And if you have a moment, why don’t you give the contest a try? There’s still time! Or check it out anyway to read some neat stories, meet some new writers, and vote! Voting opens tomorrow!

Eye of the Beholder

I follow her through the trees, just as I’ve done since we were children. Only now, her dark hair reaches to her waist, and when we stand side by side, the top of her head sits just under my chin, perfect for nestling. The grass gives under our feet. We steal around tree trunks like ghosts. The smells of the forest come up from the ground, earthy, pungent. It is spring, and the wind carries the airs of life as well as the vestiges of winter’s breath. I follow her, as always. And she leads me where she wills.

At last, I see our place, a knife-shaped outcropping. It is covered in moss and slick unless you know where to put your hands and where to dig in with your toes. At the top we sit. Side by side, knees almost touching. Far away, the sun sinks in the sky, a dark-yellow disk that will soon sear the tops of the trees.

It won’t be long now, she says, her voice a hopeful sigh in the wind. We’ll be leaving for the city in a few days.

I look at the ground beneath us. The soil is soft, green with grass and sprouting wildflowers. I used to twist flowers like those into wreaths for her hair.

She’d always wanted to leave this dead-end town where jobs were scarce and happiness scarcer. Only, I always believed I’d be the one to save her from the dying farms and the soon-to-be ghost-town.

She goes on. I want a job. And decent friends, women who have opinions and ideas in their heads. This town is dead. If I stay, I’ll die with it. You understand that, don’t you?

She looks at me. And in the failing light, it’s not me I see reflected there, but another.

The rock under me is unbearable. Its jagged edges cut into my rump. I get up quickly. Startled, she looks up, asks what was wrong.

But I’m heated, crushed to the ground from the weight of his shadow in her eyes.

What’s wrong? she asks again, reaching for me.

How could she not know?

My hands are around her neck. They are cold. She struggles. I am numb. At last, my sickness steals her breath.

The soil at the foot of the outcropping gives easily to a pair of determined hands armed with a stone. The gash in the ground won’t be easily noticed. She lies in the ground, my beautiful angel looking up towards heaven. And this time, I am pleased to see my dark and distorted reflection in the drying wetness of her eyes.

The outcropping is not quite so hard beneath me as I reclaim my seat. The sun has slipped past the tops of the trees. Its fire has gone out. And finally, I am at peace.

Copyright@ Dyane Forde 2015

‘The Task’: Flash Fiction Story

I’ll be writing more about setting writing goals later, but I took matters into my own hands today and did that and wrote my first flash fiction story in a while. I’ve been focusing on short stories, finishing my novel, and blogging so it’s been a while since I went back to this fun yet challenging activity.

I wrote ‘The Task’ out of desperation. The story that follows is a fictionalized representation of a real situation. 2015 started off rough: my brain was stuffed with disorganized plans and ideas, leftover goals from 2014, and a lot of anxiety about what to do next. Also, coincidentally (?) I ran into a lot of posts about setting writing goals and knowing what it is you want from your writing experience. Even the site I got the prompt from, StoryADay.org, had some info about that on their home page. Anyhoo, here’s the story. Enjoy! And drop me a line about how your 2015 writing year began and what your goals are. I’d love to hear them!

The Prompt: feeling overwhelmed

The Task (381 words)

The pencil tips snaps, leaving an ugly gap in the line. What the heck was I writing again? I scan the nearly blank page, and vague memories, like blind men in fog, come stumbling back to me. Oh right. That.

I change pencils and hit the page again. The words come, haltingly, but at least they come. Grey lines begin to fill the page, and slowly there is more grey than white. My anxiety decreases, excitement and confidence rises. For the first time in weeks, I’m in control. The mess of nagging thoughts, doubts, insecurities—the chaos–finally tamed.

You’ll never amount to anything. All your work is in vain. Who reads your stuff anyway? 

I flip the pencil around, jamming the eraser across the page. Shut up!

Why are you pushing yourself so hard? You really think anyone cares about your work? 

Pink bits of eraser collect in piles on the page. The white of the page begins to dominate the grey. Soon, I’ll tear through the sheet. My daughter did that last night when she struggled with math. She’d had to tape the hole closed and then write on wrinkly paper. I’d been mad at her for being careless. And now, look at me.

The evil voice laughed in my ear. It didn’t have to speak—it’s message was loud and clear.

Shut up! I’ll finish this!

 No you won’t. You’ll give up. You’ll fail. All your scribblings won’t matter in the end.

Damn you, I won’t!

You will.

Shut up!

The paper rips. I stare at the pile of pencils scattered around my desk. Jagged wood pokes into the air where the tips have all broken off. There is paper spilling out of the garbage bin, enough to be a fire hazard under the right conditions. But I am finished.

Writing Goals leaps up in grey letters from the page, followed by a clear, detailed plan of my writing intentions for the next two months. I sweep a hand over the page, grandiose. Victorious. Eat that! I throw down my pencil, push away from the page and hit the computer.

The evil voice is silent.

I smile. And get to work.

‘Goal number 1,’ I mutter under my breath, as my fingers fly over the keys, ‘start writing again…’

Copyright@ 2015 by Dyane Forde

Stuck? Try Writing Poetry

It’s been a while since I’ve posted any new writing. There is a reason for that: busy, busy, busy relaunching my first book under my own name, busy revising the sequel so it might be ready in the new year, and well, Life keeps happening. And another thing: being in this writing group of mine has really done a number on me. 

Being primarily a genre writer it was a stretch for me to jump into a group that consisted mostly of lit-fic writers. But I wanted the challenge; I wanted to see what I could glean from the experience. It has been great, and I have learned a lot. But it has also been confusing. “Rules” that have been drilled into my head in all my learning over the years and which apply generally to genre fiction (“No head popping”, “cut out ‘to be’ verbs as much as you can”, “show don’t tell”, “pacing is key”, “make sure you hook your reader in the first chapters” amongst others) seem to be thrown out the window in favour of the story–at least that’s my take. I’m also being exposed to different types of writing I’ve not come into much contact with before (creative non-fiction, for example). So, when it comes to thinking of writing a story, suddenly I’m bombarded with a slew of  questions before I even begin: why am I writing this? Is there some larger application or meaning to this and how can that best be shown? Can I even figure out how to blend the old and the new into a comprehensive story?

None of this is bad. It’s just taking time to figure it all out and turn it into a language (voice) I can use. That’s why that ‘silly’ writing experience last week was so important to me: it reminded me why I write. I write because I like it, not because I feel I have something to prove. Since then, the stress has diminished.

Today, I wrote two poems. I don’t consider myself a poet but when Life Happens, as it has in drastic fashion over the last few weeks, I find poetry helps unblock me. They might not be great but at least creative expression is flowing. Oh, and I usually write poetry by hand. This is a tactic I usually hate, since I think faster than I write, but for poetry I find refreshing. I’ve heard it said that handwriting uses a different part of the brain and forces the brain to slow its thinking. Perhaps this is what contributes to that ‘unblocking’ alluded to before. Anyway, since this is a writing blog here’s the second of the two poems written today. Enjoy, or not. I told you, I’m not a poet 🙂

Compulsion

 

Goodbye
is holding a palmful of water,
watching crystal rivulets trickle back into
the pool from whence they
Came.

Goodbye
is standing on a mountaintop,
listening for an echo only to find
it’s been dispersed
by trailing winds.

Goodbye
is me
standing,
waiting;
while your shadow,
my essence,
passes me by.

The pieces of us
Are scattered on the floor.
I pick them up
Put each one in their designated
place.
Only they fall.
Some things
just aren’t meant
to stay together.

I dig, shovel and stack
grains of sand.
Destined to ruin
no binder
no glue, my constructions
always collapse.

Our castle I will build,
this habit I will tend.
And this goodbye,
petty and ridiculous
as a house built of sand
will remain
unfinished.

Copyright@ 2014 Dyane Forde

From completehealthcircle.com

From completehealthcircle.com

Writing for Fun

Fall has certainly lived up to its name this year; so far I’ve dealt with the ‘fall’ of significant relationships and most of you have already heard of my grandmother’s recent passing. Folks, it’s been a tough few months. And we haven’t even hit November yet.

From quotes.lol-rofl.com

From quotes.lol-rofl.com

Still, there have been a few high points. After wanting to for a really long time, I finally got the courage to terminate the contract with the company that published my book, The Purple Morrow, so that I could regain full publishing and distribution control. So, for the last few weeks, I have been learning to format and, poof! like magic, the book is now available on Smashwords and its affiliates. And the best part is it wasn’t hard. I might be blogging about that experience soon so I won’t get into all of that now. Re-launching on Kindle (and eventually CreateSpace) is next. But major thumbs up to me for going ahead with this, as I’ve been afraid to tackle this project for months. Yay, me!

…What else has been going on…? What else…?

Oh yeah. The madness.

From funny-pictures.picphotos.net

From funny-pictures.picphotos.net

Last week, the day after our family loss, I went for supper with Sharon from my writing group. She’s such a neat lady: great-big smile, super-smart, funny, and endowed with a really unique writing style and voice. Earlier that week while feeling blah from the falls of Fall, in the hopes of jump-starting my creative flow I had put out a call to the group to see if anyone was into doing a collaborative writing activity. Also, I’d been in ‘editing mode’ so long it was hard to transition back into ‘creation mode’. Anyway, Sharon was game and we met at some neat little local restaurant/microbrasserie. She stuffed me good with the restaurant’s massive onion rings while she sampled their beer and I sipped red wine.

Anyway, a little while later, my stomach full of fries and sausages and onion rings, she pulled out her laptop. I was scared. I mean, okay, this was the reason we’d decided to meet in the first place but…I hadn’t written anything new is ages! And this was Sharon, English lit maven, smooth-talking poet…and then there was me. Internet-bred writer and sorta graduate (not at all) from the Writing School of Hard Knocks and Getting My Ass Kicked by Better Writers. I started to sweat. Grabbed my glass and gulped water. Signalled the waitress for more.

“Throat’s dry. Keep it coming.”

“Beer? Wine?” the waitress asked.

“Hell, no! Water! I’m thirsty!”

She nodded and walked away, but as she withdrew I thought that maybe I should have more wine. Then I could pass out, avoid this terrible mistake of a meeting and, when I came to, blame the whole thing on the ‘the spirits’.

Mercifully, Sharon went off to powder her nose but then I was stuck with the blank screen, cursor flashing like its sole purpose was to remind me that I had nothing to say. At all.

I’m going to suck. Whatever I write is going to suck. She’s a serious writer. The group is made up of serious writers. I’ll suck and she’ll tell everyone. I’ll have to quit, or move—we might see each other at the mall or Target. Everyone will know I’ve lost my voice. Craaaaap!

I started to write. I’d been staring outside the restaurant’s back door and noticed the street light was casting a greenish-yellow light across the boughs of the trees; the effect was kind of neat.

Describe it.

Capture the mood and then go from there. If it sucks, well, it sucks.

So I continued to write. 350 words was the limit we had agreed on before handing off. Now, I at least I was writing. It wasn’t so bad. But what was, was knowing that Sharon, who had since returned, was waiting to follow-up on what I had started. From over the top of the screen, I could see her politely giving me my space, looking at her phone…

“Alright, done”. I handed her the laptop. “I have no idea what I wrote, but…”

She took it, scanned what I wrote and was off. Damn, she was fast!

So, we go back and forth like this a while, all serious about the sacred activity of writing, of creating–until she started to giggle. I have no idea what she read that set her off, but suddenly, she was smiling, nodding and typing away. She kept on giggling and kept on typing while I wondered WTH was so funny since I hadn’t intended to create a comedy—what’s funny about a sociopathic teenager bent on a bloody home-invasion???–but I wasn’t really disturbed. I figured at least she was writing and not looking askew at me, gnashing her teeth as she snaps the laptop closed to dash off to hail a cab out of there.

I read her section. It was good. It contained her trademark style. Cool. But it also had some funny stuff in it.

I started to giggle. And giggle some more until I couldn’t stop. Then we were both giggling, laughing out loud like no one else was in the place, writing, handing the laptop to the other, giggling and writing some more…

The night finally ended. We had to go home. But I didn’t want to. I’d had way too much fun.

Clearly, in light of the last few months I’d needed that. But on the other hand, as we talked, we remembered that writing should be fun. Yes, as writers we have specific goals and we work hard, striving to get the next project done, submitted, or edited. But fundamentally, writing should be something we do because we enjoy it—something that leaves us elated, pleased, content. I had actually planned to post the story we’d written, for kicks. I’m just waiting for her permission, if she gives it. Later that night, though, she emailed me saying that long after getting home, she was still laughing, and I admit that for a few hours afterwards, so was I.

I write best when I don’t care about people’s expectations. That night’s experience was a reminder that I should write because it’s fun, that I should worry about the rest (finesse, editing, ‘perfecting’) after I’ve gotten the story out onto the page.

So the message? Enjoy yourself! Write nonsense if you have to. If you’re feeling stressed or stuck about a project, stop, breathe, and think about why you are doing what you’re doing and reset your goals. Or, try an interesting writing exercise with a friend and feed off their energy. Laughing, BTW, is an excellent stress reliever. It can help clear out the crap and leave you feeling relaxed and focused so you can tackle that troublesome project.

From plus.google.com

From plus.google.com

Anyway, I just might post that story one day, so stay tuned. And stay tuned for more information about The Purple Morrow and the sequel, Wolf’s Bane, which I am beginning to prepare in earnest for release in the New Year. I’ll be posting updates, excerpts, and maybe even a cover reveal, too, as the release date approaches. And as usual, drop me a line. I love to hear from you. Do you have any funny writing stories? How do you deal with getting stuck in a rut or feeling insecure, untalented, or like the well has just plain run dry?

Until next time!