Quarterly Check In

It’s April!! And this month I am determined to get things done sooner rather than later. So, with that in mind, here is this month’s short story prompt:

“How did you know?” I asked, not sure I wanted the answer. I thought I had been careful. I thought she…

If you want to write a story too, let me know and I will happily share it at the end of the month when I post my own.

At this point, we are 25% through 2018! Which seems crazy. This year is going really fast for me. My goal this year is to write a short story every month. To date, my stories are:

January’s story: We Found Oil

February’s story: A Mage Like Any Other

March’s story: Crash Site

I have managed to post at least one story and two other posts each month and for now, I am sticking with that goal. One of my other yearly goals is to complete at least 1/2 of my novel. I am aiming for 100,000 words for it. It is currently at 26,000 in length. Hopefully I can reach that goal too.

How about you? How are your goals going?

Another goal I always set each year is a reading goal, and I am sad to say that in the last 3 years I have not reached my goal. I get pretty close but have not actually finished. This year my goal is 45 books. I have already read 13 this year, so I have a really good feeling about this year’s chances.

Well, that’s enough from me for now.

Happy reading and writing this month!

muse

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Crash Site

I’ve lived in this town my whole life, and most of the time that’s fine by me. But in late fall when the sky fills with birds migrating south for the winter, traveling thousands of miles, I get homesick for places I’ve never been. Places like Egypt, Rome, Paris, anywhere but here.

In this town, every day is the same. I’ve known everyone here my whole life. No one ever leaves this place and no one ever comes here to stay. We get a fair number of tourists, but even that number dwindles every year. What used to bring people here just isn’t that exciting anymore. In a few more years, this town will be relegated to the same status as the “Home of the World’s Biggest Ball of Yarn” or “The World’s Largest Rocking Chair.” It will be another roadside attraction that collects dust and a sometimes road trip stop for hipsters and low-income families.

I was born after the crash, so to me, the site is nothing more than a local landmark. Since the crash site is damn near the center of town anyway, it provides a really useful directional tool for giving directions. “Take a right at the crash.” Or, “Left past the crash and then there’s the Piggly Wiggly.” I don’t think many people really think about what the crash represents anymore; for better or worse, it’s become a backdrop to our everyday lives.

The crash in our town was one of the early ones, which is what garnered it the little bit of fame it does have. It’s also one of the most intact sites still in existence; the others have been pilfered by tourists, the government, and collectors.

When I say that most people don’t think about the crash much, that of course doesn’t count the exception to that rule — the TRUE EARTHERS. They are a fanatical group born out of the time following the aliens coming to Earth. Once the crashes started becoming a frequent thing, international forces rallied together and negotiated with the incoming aliens. And despite the majority of people wanting to handle things peacefully, there were those who opposed the diplomatic approach.

Early on it was clear that the aliens meant no harm. The crashes were their ships malfunctioning entering our atmosphere. Ships that arrived later landed successfully and brought a small number of aliens to live among us. They now live among us and for the most part it’s a peaceful existence.

But that doesn’t mean that everyone likes them here. As I said, the True Earthers would like to kill all the aliens. They don’t believe we should share our planet. They believe the aliens are just the first of many invaders.

And today must be my lucky day because as I’m standing at the diner counter, in walks the head of the local chapter of True Earthers. I close my eyes and wish to be anywhere but here. All I can think is please let me really be sipping coffee in Paris or standing in the dry air of the Sahara. Anywhere but here. I hear Dirk walk through the door and make his way to his usual table where two others are waiting for him. I muster my patience as best I can and grab a menu.

“Here you are, Dirk. Would you like to hear the specials?” I ask.

He looks up at me slowly and snatches the menu from me. “No specials. I will look at the menu for a bit. Scurry along little worker bee.”

“Just let me know when you are ready to order.” I walk away but don’t’ return to my place behind the counter. Instead, I head in the back to the kitchen. I wave at the cooks as I pass through to the dish room. There is my best friend, and one of the few aliens who still lives in our town.

“Guess who is here, worker bee?” I say loaded with sarcasm.

At the sound of my voice, Glek looks up. He grins in that overly toothy way that all his kind do. He looks like your stereotypical “little gray man.” Except, I wouldn’t call him little; he is actually a couple of inches taller than me. He is just absurdly skinny. The other exception to the “gray men” stereotype is that the aliens who landed on Earth don’t have solid black eyes. Like us, they have pupils and irises. Glek has blue eyes like me. It’s one of the reasons he and I became friends in kindergarten.

Glek and I always mimic the weird linguistic choices of the True Earthers. We both find their terminology ridiculous. True Earthers refer to non-threatening non-believers, like me, as worker bees. I don’t know why they use bee hive terminology as part of their belief system, but they do.

“Well, little worker bee, you could always say you have a head ache and go home. Just don’t deal with him today.” When Glek started talking, he was grinning, but that changed as he went on. He knew that Dirk and I didn’t get along.

“Not a bad idea.” I said. But I sighed and added, “I need the money though.”

Glek nodded his understanding, “Don’t we all, little bee.”

“See you later. I better get back out there.” I said as I left the dish room and returned to the front of the diner.

The rest of my shift was mostly uneventful. Dirk was in a more pleasant mood than usual and didn’t harass me. He didn’t even use one derogatory term to refer to me, which he did on most occasions because I was friends with Glek.  At the end of my shift, I waited out by my car for Glek. He was coming over to watch the newest episode of our favorite show.

As Glek came out of the restaurant a large truck came around the side of the building. I looked up and Glek hurried over to me.

“Get in the car and get out of here.” He told me as he practically shoved me in the car.

I pushed back. “No. I will not leave you here alone.”

By this point, the truck had pulled up and was blocking the only route out of the parking lot anyway. The engine remained on as three True Earthers hopped out of the truck. All of them were carrying bats of one sort or another. Dirk, their fearless leader, was carrying a cricket bat.

“Where the hell did he get a cricket bat?” I said not really processing yet what the purpose of the bat might be.

Dirk and his goons came closer. When they were about 20 paces away, Dirk said, “Runaway little worker bee.”

Instead I stepped closer to Glek until we were shoulder to shoulder. I looked at him and said, “Not running.”

Glek just nodded at me.

What happened next was not surprising. They beat us. I blacked out and the last thing I saw as I slid onto the pavement was Glek next to me oozing green blood.

We both woke up a few days later. We were hospitalized for some time before we could get around again. As soon as we were able, we gathered up everything we owned and drove out of that town.

Dirk and his men didn’t get in any trouble even though everyone knows who beat us. As we left town, I could see the crash site in the rear-view window. I hoped it would be that last time I would ever see that site again.

 

 

The Weird Tale Inspires

iwritebecause

What influences your writing?

I am an avid reader, and I try to read a variety of genres. I have noticed for my short story writing that my leisure reading is definitely influencing my story each month. Last month, my story was about a mage. And no surprise, 3 of the 4 books I read last month would fit into the fantasy genre.

This month, my story is coming along nicely. I have mostly been reading sci-fi this month. So once again, no surprise, my story is reflecting that. The first time I sat down to work on my rough draft that’s where my brain went.

So, my question is, what influences you? What do you find inspiring? Where do you turn when you are feeling blocked?

In the past, one of my biggest sources of inspiration has been a particular type of short story — THE WEIRD TALE. If you have ever read “weird tales” you will automatically understand why they are so inspiring. They are bizarre in an unexplainable way. In fact, the best definition of what makes a weird tale is “you’ll know it when you read it.” I don’t know what it is about this particular type of story, but anytime I feel that I can’t think of an idea or if I get bogged down on a story I am already working on, I read a weird tale or two and it unlocks the creative part of my brain.

So here’s to whatever inspires you!

Happy writing and reading every day!

A Mage Like Any Other

Perhaps it was a dream, she thought. Perhaps if she pinched herself, she would wake up. But she didn’t want to wake up. She wanted to stay in this dream world where she is a mage.

Females don’t get to be mages. Only men are born with the ability to wield magic. Nora wasn’t supposed to be a mage, but she was. Today and the days she had spent at the Magic Academy didn’t seem real so far. Any second now someone would change their mind and she wouldn’t be allowed to stay. She knew this couldn’t be true. 

But it was. And everyone was scrambling to discover how this had happened, but she already knew the answer. It was probably because she was a girl or maybe because she was a mage-in-training, but no one believed her when she told them she thought she knew why. Oh well. Guess they could keep looking forever then. She was determined to enjoy being here, no matter what. 

________________________________________________

6 months prior to their 16th birthday, twins Aron and Nora were out doing exactly what they were not supposed to be doing. They were climbing the rocky hillside in search of a mountain cat. Lately their family’s farm was the target of one particularly aggressive cat who had already eaten enough chickens according to their papa. The twins were usually doing things in direct defiance to the instructions given by their parents, but the idea of getting in trouble never stopped either of them from being reckless. 

Mountain-Lion

Just that morning before they set out into the hillside forest, their mother stopped them in the kitchen. 

“Stay off the hills today, ” she said. “Your father is going into town to hire a mage to cast a locating spell for that mountain cat. Stay close by. You know how I feel about spellcasting.” 

Their mother was a typical country farm wife. She didn’t like messing with magic; you just couldn’t trust things you can’t explain. Despite her dislike of magic, the twins had been sent to the closest town school until the age of 14. Most farm children didn’t get that kind of education. Farm kids were usually taught to read and write at home with some basic math thrown in by their parents. The twins knew things the other farm children didn’t. Many times throughout their childhood, their curious nature combined with wanting to prove their knowledge to their peers had led to them getting into all sorts of mischief. 

Today was another one of those days. There had been a gathering last night of the farms surrounding theirs, and all the fathers had been there. Tomas arrived with his father; they lived on a neighboring sheep ranch. They too had trouble with the mountain cat. 

The twins and Tomas sat on the wagons listening to their dads come up with a plan. 

“Something must be done, ” said Lucas, Tomas’s father. 

There were lots of nods and staring at boots. 

Nora and Aron’s father spoke up. Seeing as it was his farm, he thought he should take the lead. 

“We could gather up some weapons and go after it.” Fewer nods followed this comment. “However, I think that’s a bad idea. We all know what happened to Pete Delray when he and his men went after a cat a couple of years ago.” 

There was again fervent nodding, and one very quiet, “Rest his soul” was murmured. 

“I propose we all donate a small amount and hire that new mage in town to locate it for us,” said their father. 

All eyes were on their father now. “Well…” began Lucas. 

Before he could finish their father interrupted, “Now, now Lucas. Before you object. I know how some of you feel about messing with magic, but it could save us a lot of trouble.”

The men stopped shifting and started to listen. 

Their father continued, “We hire the mage. He locates the cat. We leave out some poison meat. In a few days we go back and check. But if all goes well, problem solved with no loss of human life.” 

The men looked at each other uncertainly. 

Over on the wagons, the three teens were discussing the situation as well. 

“I bet we could find it and poison it without having to use a locating spell, ” said Aron. 

“Yeah, we go all over the hills. It has to be in a cave or something. We could poison it and bring it back to dad, he would be impressed, ” chimed in Nora. 

Tomas was shaking his head. “You two are asking for trouble. Your dad is not going to like it. Besides, how you going to poison it? You don’t even know about poison.”

“Do too, ” the twins said in unison. 

“We read all about poisons in the library at school, ” said Aron. 

And that’s why they were in the hills today. They had a pretty good idea where to find the mountain cat. There was a cave that used to be empty, but now when they were near it, there was a smell. 

They were approaching the cave and both twins got very quiet. Nora and Aron didn’t really need to talk to communicate anyway. Their parents thought the two could read others minds. They couldn’t; they were just in tune to one another in a way people didn’t understand. 

As they came upon the last group of trees before the cave, they both stopped and got behind the largest trunks they could. Nora looked over at Aron. He just nodded and slowly crouched down and peered around his hiding spot. 

He posed crouched for what felt like hours, but was only a matter of seconds. He was looking to see if the cat was anywhere in sight. Nora relaxed without even looking at him; the moment his tension left his body, she felt it. She joined him in a crouched position peering towards the cave. 

Aron motioned towards the silent dark opening, and Nora began to edge forward with the bag of poisoned meat. She was just going to drop it outside the cave entrance. After all, the cat would be along sooner or later and would be hungry. It would eat it on its own. 

As she was placing the meat on the ground, she felt her brother tense again. She looked towards him. The cat was between him and her and looking right at her. 

She didn’t move. There was no way she could outrun the cat. In that moment, she didn’t even think to be afraid. All she thought was, “Why is it just sitting there looking at me?” 

She still didn’t move. She didn’t blink, and she did her best not to breathe.

Maybe she was afraid. She felt time stretching endlessly and could think of no way to break the spell she seemed to be frozen in. 

In the end, she didn’t have to. Aron came running around the cat and grabbed the meat out of her hands. The cat was definitely interested in a chase over the paralyzed target. The cat took off after Aron. In less than 5 bounds on its great paws, it took him down. 

Nora didn’t want to look, but she did. She saw Aron holding onto the poison meat, making sure that if the cat was going to eat him, it was going to eat that too. 

________________________________________________________________________

Nora was unconscious for the better part of a week. When she awoke, she knew Aron was gone. She looked around her room, which looked the same as the last time she saw it. She quietly got out of bed and walked outside. She stepped off the porch and dropped to her knees. 

After falling on the ground, she screamed. And as she screamed, thunder rolled in. Lightening began to strike everywhere around her without actually hitting her. 

Days later when the farmers ran into one another and discussed that day, it wasn’t the weather they mentioned; it was the screaming. They say they could hear her over 5 miles away. 

farm storm

 

February’s Prompt

complete the story

Today is February (you probably know that by now). What that means is it is time for a new writing prompt. Again, I am taking my prompt from a book that one of my lovely sisters bought me titled Complete the Story. 

This month’s prompt is:

Perhaps it was a dream, she thought. Perhaps if she pinched herself, she would wake up. But she didn’t want to wake up. She wanted to stay in this dream world where….

I am looking forward to this month because the prompt is very vague, which leaves a lot of room to create. Looking back at January’s prompt, I felt like it was too narrow. The prompt made me feel stuck in one story. I actually had a hard time finding a direction to take it other than the one provided in the prompt.

And although I am looking forward to this month and trying to write, as always, personal struggles are already effecting my writing. In particular this month, I have decided to give up soda. I went cold turkey and cut it out of my diet. I feel sluggish today, but I am surviving.

I am not trying to lose weight. I just need to stop drinking it. I drink A LOT of soda. I have a feeling this might effect my writing. Right now I just feel like I am missing my usual “get up and go.”

However, we will survive (even without soda). Happy reading and writing this month! And good luck with your personal goals and struggles!

We Found Oil

At first, we thought the black liquid was oil, that we’d struck it rich and that we’d be able to retire and live in leisure. We actually started writing down all the ways we’d spend the money. Our first choice was a private island. Actually, that was my first choice, my husband and daughter wanted other things.

MY LIST

private island

sports car – probably a lamborgihni

MY HUSBAND’S LIST

pay off debt

big house

retire and do nothing

OUR DAUGHTER’S LIST

lots of cats

She is eight and loves cats. My husband and I really just wanted a way to be out of debt. We were still paying off the fee that allowed us to have a child. The government closely regulated how many people could be born every year. Over population had almost destroyed our planet once, they weren’t going to let it happen again. At least, not without making money off of poor people like us first.

This discovery could change everything for us. The trouble was we weren’t sure how to let someone know without losing our rights to the liquid. If it was oil, we wouldn’t just be rich, we’d be set for life. Only 150 years ago, fossil fuels had run out. That’s right. Gone. We were warned it would happen, but most people didn’t do anything to prepare for the loss of oil as a fuel source. Since then however, people had scurried to set up alternative energies. Most people preferred solar.

Without oil, our world didn’t come to an end, but there were many years of hard times for the average person. It happened before I was born, but my grandparents talked about those times like they were only yesterday. The stories from that era were troubling. People got desperate, and when people got desperate, they did things they wouldn’t normally do.

We would have to alert someone about our findings in a way that wouldn’t allow them to just come in and take it from us. We deserved compensation. After all, this was our land. We made our living selling “clean” water from a spring we’d inherited from my kin.

But oil… oil was not water. Water paid our bills, but oil could shape our lives.

My husband worked from sun up to sun down monitoring the bottling process. He had good people working for us but water was still a commodity worth stealing. With him tied up all day, he was leaving it to me to decide how to proceed.

I debated calling my best friend, Amy, but if she told someone, word would spread and I would lose my chance to get my news out my way.

I didn’t call Amy, but I did call my momma. After all, she still owned shares in the family business. We would cut her in on whatever this discovery brought us.

I told her about the discovery. She didn’t believe me. I told her to come over in the morning to see for herself.

She said she’d see me then. I hung up and went about my nightly routine.

The next morning my momma showed up bright and early. We went out to the dig site and after looking at the black liquid, my mother stood very still and said nothing for a long time. I didn’t say anything. My momma was a hard working woman who ran the water business after my daddy left us. She didn’t speak a lot, but when she did, she meant every word of what she said.

“This is oil,” she said.

“I know,” I answered her.

“This is gonna change things,” she said.

I admit that at this point I expected a bit more. My momma didn’t usually state the obvious. I didn’t say anything again.

My mother interrupted, “Who’s that?” She was pointing behind me towards the road leading up to our land.

I turned around and saw several large trucks of various kinds coming towards my property. I didn’t know the purpose of all of them. I saw some vehicles that I recognized. What mostly caught my eye was that the trucks were being led to my land by a quintessential navy sedan. navy sedan

“God damnit,” I said. “Momma, did you tell someone about this.” I was so angry that she would have blabbed.

“Calm down. I didn’t tell no one,” she said as she looked offended I would accuse her of such betrayal.

“Well, I didn’t tell anyone but you.” My mind was racing. How had our secret been discovered? There is no way that my husband had told anyone. He didn’t particularly warm to any government representative. They had a tendency to take what they wanted and leave nothing for the rest of us.

I ran back towards the house with my momma hot on my trail. I grabbed the radio as soon as I could reach it in the kitchen.

I yelled, “Honey, get up here now. The feds are here. We are about to have company.”

All my husband said was, “Yep.”

I went and stood on the front porch and watched all the vehicles line up outside my house. As they drew nearer, I noticed that several of them had men with weapons. As they parked, the armed men jumped off their vehicles and surrounded my front porch.

The person in charge got out of the front passenger side of the navy sedan. He buttoned his jacket as he walked towards me.

Before he could reach the porch, I said, “Something I can help you with?” I gave him my if I only had laser beams shooting out of my eyes glare.

“Ma’am. Please go back into your house.” As he said this, several of the armed personnel moved without saying anything and pointed rifles at me and my momma.

My momma grabbed my arm. “Let’s go, dear. Do as they say. It’s not worth it,” she said barely above a whisper.

We went back into the kitchen and sat down. Within seconds, I heard foot falls on the porch and then black paint started to appear on all the windows. “What the..” I said as I stood and headed for the door.

“Don’t bother,” my momma said. “It’s too late. We have lost control of this situation.” She seemed reserved and small; this was nothing like the strong woman who raised me. She would never have given up so easily. I’d never seen her go up against the government before and there was clearly fear as well as history there.

“Fine,” I said. I sat down at the kitchen table and folded my arms across my chest in an outright display of stubbornness. She sat across from me.

We had only been sitting for five minutes or so when the door opened again and my husband and daughter were thrust into the room. The door was promptly slammed shut.

My husband sat down at the table too. I looked at him expecting him to say something, anything really. He didn’t. We all just sat there looking at each other.

My daughter came over to me and gave me a hug. I told her to go play in her room while we figured out what was going on.

After about an hour, a large heavily armed group of men came in through the kitchen door and dropped off bottles of water. They didn’t say anything but left again.

Then the man in the suit who I saw get out of the sedan came in. I opened my mouth to yell at him and demand answers. He raised his hand to silence me.

“No.”

I hadn’t even said anything.

“Just listen.” He paused and when none of us had anything forth coming to say, he continued, “You will remain in your house until you are told otherwise.” And then he turned and left.

Either from shock or just complete disbelief, we didn’t do anything. Not a single one of us thought to ask a single question. We just stood there.

After he left, we could here the people talking on the porch, but their voices were too muffled to be understandable.

At this point, we discussed if there was anything we could do. The consensus was that this was a no-win situation for us. We would just do as we were told for now.

Early the next morning we began to hear sounds like large equipment working on our land. I tried to look through the windows, but they had painted all of them black. We had no idea what they were doing, but it didn’t take a genius to figure it out. They were stealing our oil.

oil well

This continued for the better part of three weeks. The noises from outside were continuous. They would bring in water and food through the kitchen door and leave again without saying anything.

One morning when I awoke, I didn’t hear any noises. I went down to kitchen and walked out the back door. They were gone. That day my husband went back down to the bottling plant and starting bottling water again.

Frozen in Writing

It is time for my mid-process check in. As part of my plan to write 12 short stories this year, I am also going to write posts about my road blocks while writing.

Ironically the main character / narrator of my story this month is facing a similar problem to one I am going through in real life. Before I get into that, here is a reminder what this month’s prompt is:

At first, we thought the black liquid was oil, that we’d struck it rich and that we’d be able to retire and live in leisure. We actually started writing down all the ways we’d spend the money. Our first choice was …​

I have been working on my story. I have some characters, I have a basic plot, and I even have an idea where I would like the story to go. However, my main character seems paralyzed. I cannot figure out how to get the story going again. I am not sure if this is that I am too determined to make the story happen a certain way and am not letting the story take on a life of its own, or because I feel that way right now in my own life.

My husband and I are waiting to find out if he is going to lose his job this year. It would be a HUGE life changing event for us. It’s all I can think about. We know roughly when we will find out and knowing that date has made it even harder for me. I feel like I am frozen in place waiting for someone to say “unfreeze.” I don’t want to do anything right now. I just want to know one way or another. 

freeze_tag_king_by_nickseluk-d5ihir7

I feel like my character is stuck too. She can’t act because she is too afraid to. Any choice she makes could lead to things going horribly wrong. Maybe I should just let it go wrong for her and see where that takes me. Or maybe her fear prevents her from acting and the story is just what’s going on in her head.

Can nothing happening be a story?

I am curious what others think about that. What type of story do you prefer to write? Should event A lead to event B which in turn leads to events C-Z? Or do you like stories where there is more insight into the thoughts of the narrator(s)? Do you want your narrator to be thinking for you or do you want to watch everything play out and think about it for yourself?

And how do you handle the emotions of your characters? Do you tell the reader what the character is feeling, i.e. Bartleby is sad. Or do you prefer to show them through the events of the story and let them form the emotions for themselves?

Or do you just prefer to write and not overthink it? (Which is the other problem I am having in real life and while writing right now).

However you go about writing, keep it up!

Happy writing and reading this month!