Blood Hound (Flash Fiction)

I was sitting at work today and listening to multitudes of annoying people complain about everything under the sun, but most especially the impending snow storm we are supposed to get. Suddenly, the idea for this story popped into my head. Not sure what this says about me, but am sharing it anyway.

Blood Hound

     The last snowflakes of the storm settled in Zach’s lawn as the sun was rising. They had spent the early evening hours fighting the accumulation in the driveway, but around midnight gave up and settled in for cocoa and sleep. He woke early to assess the situation. The main road of his street wasn’t plowed by the city trucks yet. The driveway was piled up to his knees. It was clear no one was going anywhere.
     “I guess it will just be you and me today.” The German Shepherd wagged her tail in delight. He knew smart dogs could understand body language and it was unlikely she understood the exact words he was saying. But sometimes she made him wonder. “We should let our gorgeous guest sleep. She was up late you know.”
     Zach went to the back deck to assess the firewood situation. The cover over the rack of wood had kept it mostly snow free and dry. He hauled several armfuls into the house and laid them neatly on the fireplace. He bunched newspaper and laid kindling, getting the fire started with practiced skill. His mind raced. He couldn’t believe she had come over and was even now sleeping in his bed.
     “Today will be a special day,” he told Gracie, petting her head and scratching behind her ears. “Maggie will be awake by now, should we greet her?” Again the dog wagged her tail in short, quick, swipes. Her tongue lolled out of her mouth and she began to pace back and forth. She fell in place behind him as he walked to the bedroom, but dashed inside ahead of him when he unlocked and opened the door.
     “Hello Maggie,” he said, smiling when he saw she was awake. Morning suited her and she was just as stunning as ever. The trickle of blood from her forehead down to her chin didn’t bother him. Nor did the dried tears streaking her cheeks. They reminded him of his power over her. That excited him. Her expression was frightened but defiant. She tried to yell at him through the gag in her mouth, but muffled sounds were all that came out. He had tied her hands to the bedrail on one side of the bed, her feet were bound as well, and her mouth gagged and taped. Any attempt at screaming would be rather pointless considering the distance between houses. Zach was very cautious though. He couldn’t let her get away.
     He continued to smile as he sat next to her on the bed. She tried to squirm away but wound up tangled in the sheets. He removed the tape gently and pulled down the gag.
     “You aren’t going to get away with whatever the fuck you are planning,” she hissed at him. “There are people you know. Who will look for me.”
     “Oh dear,” he smiled, “I’m sure there are. But not in this snow. Not today. And all I need is today.  When I saw you with that man yesterday I knew it was time. I knew I had to take you before you fell victim to him. Thanks for offering to help shovel my driveway by the way. It really made things easier for us both.”
     She squinted and a look of confusion replaced the fear.
     “What the hell are you talking about? The man yesterday? That was my brother!” 
     “That is exactly the excuse I expected you might use.” Her quick thinking was part of the reason he loved her so much. “A brother or coworker or delivery man or friend. But I know the truth Maggie. He was your lover.” He became agitated, angry that she couldn’t see the truth. “You belong to me Maggie. I can’t let him take you from me.”
     The crusted tears on her face were washed away by fresh ones as she began to cry. He regretted making her upset. After today he was sure she wouldn’t want to leave though. All he needed was today.
     “I will get you breakfast. You’ll feel better when you eat.” He replaced the gag, much to her protest, and put a fresh piece of tape over it. Gracie had been sitting on the foot of the bed and when he beckoned for her to follow him she didn’t budge.
     “See Maggie? Gracie loves you too. That’s okay girl, you stay with Mags, keep an eye on her for me okay?” He winked, leaving the door cracked open so that when Gracie smelled his cooking she could come join him.
     He tended the fire to make sure it was warm and ready for a romantic breakfast in front of it. He had already prepared most of the breakfast essentials while she had slept. He had been too excited for this day to sleep much. He had organized fixings for omelets, with buttered toast, fresh pressed coffee, and perfectly ripe strawberries. He then slept on the couch. It would have been wrong to presume she was ready to sleep in the same bed as him. He eagerly awaited the day she would invite him in. He knew it would be soon. His heart skipped at the thought.
     Just as the omelets were finishing, the coffee heated, and he was almost done putting the breakfast perfectly onto plates for them, Gracie trotted in. She had the look of a dog quite pleased with herself. She sat near him and looked up at him, panting.
     “What were you doing my perfect little pooch?” He knelt down and began to scratch her all over. She delighted in his affections and wiggled madly, walking circles around and around him to get him to scratch her all over.
     When Zach began to grow concerned that breakfast would be cold he gave Gracie one last scratch and stood up to face the barrel of his gun. Maggie was pointing it at him, shaking.
     “How did you . . .”
     “You’re right Zach. Gracie does love me too.”
     It only took Gracie a minute to recover from the sound of the gunshot. Then she looked up at Maggie, waggling her tail. Maggie removed the frayed piece of rope that was dangling out of Gracie’s mouth. It had stuck in Gracie’s teeth when she had helped pull the ropes off of Maggie’s wrists. Maggie stared intensely into the dog’s eyes and scratched beneath her chin.
     “Good girl Gracie.” Maggie whispered.


Friday Flash – 200 words at a time – Part One!

Writing short fiction pieces has become my new favorite thing. Chuck’s TerribleMinds blog has a new one up for this week – 200 words at a time. This challenge is to write 200 words (duh) to be the start of a piece for next week. Next Friday the challenge will be to write 200 additonal words onto a story (not your own) written this week. So forth and so on until the work totals the usual 1,000 words. Fun!

This little gem popped into my head tonight for my entry. I’m not titling it since I have no clue what direction it might take with the next writers. Wound up with 199 words – Enjoy!

200 Words – Part One

Blustering winter wind was violently blowing her long brown hair back as she looked over the 103rd floor rooftop ledge. The rooftops were normally locked, but she had a pick and skills to undo them. Her internal fire and heat sinked clothing kept her warm where normal people would have felt cold. Her eyes scanned the darkening skyline and she rocked mindlessly onto the balls of her feet and back down.

She had lost sight of him just as he jumped over the edge of the roof, laughing in a way that told her he no longer cared about his own life, and so could not possibly care about others. After his leap he stopped midair to laugh at her, mocking her, screaming “You call yourself a super hero?! Come and get me if you’re so super!” He flew off, knowing fully well she couldn’t fly. She had to find him. Time was running short.

She stayed there until stars were popping out and she knew it was unlikely he’d return, and futile that she’d be able to see him in the dark. Heroic actions would need to be taken, and she knew just the girl to take them.

The Last Noel

Finding Mr. Wendig’s Terrible Minds Blog has seriously changed my life. No really. My entire life. In order to repay such kindness I decided to participate in the latest flash fiction challenge – find your favorite opening line. I knew the best thank you I could give Chuck was to grace him with my writing. So, without further ado, here is my submission! I selected the opening line “All she had to do was wait” – submitted by Nora. Thank you Nora!

The Last Noel

All she had to do was wait. Everything was going as planned. She had practiced and troubleshooted every hitch. Standing now in the crowd of parade onlookers her mouth was dry and her palms were slick with sweat. If she pulled this off her life would never be the same. Hell, the world would never be the same. The gravity of her actions had weighed on her at first. She had almost given up the plans completely. But one night as she lay in bed, in that place right before sleep takes over and dreams come, she had a vision. She saw what the world would be if she went through with it. The evil she would rid the world of. It was then she knew she had to do it. 

The hardest part so far had been finding a way to say goodbye without drawing too much attention to it. She had called her parents first. They made small talk for a while as was their routine. The mundaneness of the every day was rehashed. And of course, her mother had to question her about the next time she’d visit.

“We were just talking the other day about how Christmas is coming up soon. Will you be making it home for Christmas this year sweetie?”
“Um, well . . . Probably not Mom. I don’t have much vacation time at work and things have been really hectic too. Sorry.”
“Oh that’s okay, if you change your mind you can always just show up! You know where to find us.”
“I had better get going, lots of chores to do today.”
“Alright honey. Call us again soon.”
“I . . . Mom I just want to say, even when I can’t call that often, you know I love you still, right? You and dad?”
“Of course! And we love you!”

For Zach she had to write a note instead. She feared that talking to him would be too much. It might change her mind, make her abandon the plans she had so carefully constructed over the course of all these months. Her letter to him was short, simple. They had never been the gushy type of lovers that would hold hands and nuzzle in the streets. The intensity of his feelings was clear when he was near her though. The small ways he touched her, covertly perfect at arousing her. How his eyes danced lustily up and down her body, or were glued to her face as if nothing in the world existed outside of him and her. It was heart breaking to know she would never see him again. The pain of the separation would not last for long. At least that was one consolation. After she had written and rewritten the note to perfection she sealed it carefully in an envelope. She printed his name neatly on the front and hid it in the pages of the book he was currently reading. She knew if he came to the apartment and found her gone, he would pour himself a glass of scotch and sit reading his book while waiting for her. She did not want him to have to wait for long to find out where she had gone.

She shook her head to clear the memories from her mind. 

“Focus,” she chastised herself. “Or all of this will be for nothing.”

The parade was moving past where she stood. The cheering of the crowd around her was almost completely drowned out by the thoughts buzzing in her head. She licked her lips. “Almost there. Just wait. It’ll all be over soon.” Men and women dressed in various uniforms were walking past, smiling and waving to the crowd. Tiny bells on their hats and shoes jingling merrily. She could tell the target was getting closer by the influx of security personnel. Each dressed in non-de scrip red and white suits, standard issue sunglasses. Each scanning the crowd for deviations or threats. They walked stoney faced, not smiling or waving. She wouldn’t be detected at a glance though. She had made sure of that with her over the top red and green outfit and rehearsed perfection of a smile.

“There,” she thought, sighing in relief at the clear view of her target, just as she had planned. “There he is.”

Slowly she weaved her way toward the front of the crowd. She knew she had exactly 36 seconds from the time he came into view down the street until his sleigh would be directly in front of her. She made herself look eager to see him and be close to him as he passed. She could not afford to draw attention to herself and risk his guards being alerted. Her timing was perfect. She reached the front of the crowd right as his sleigh lined up with where she stood. It was then that all her practice took over and she acted on sheer instinct.  She leapt with cat like quickness onto the steps of the sleigh. Startled, he turned his rosy cheeks and bowl full of jelly belly toward her and bellowed, “Why hello there little girl! What would you like for Christmas?!”

“I want freedom for the elves you have enslaved for centuries.” She drew the gun and aimed. Screams reached her ears but she had no time to let it concern her. His face melted into abject horror as he stared down the barrel of the gun. 

“Merry Christmas.” 

She pulled the trigger, just as his guards reached her. They tackled her and she landed face down on the seat of the sleigh. Turning her head she was able to watch as the twinkle left his eyes.

“Dead!” someone screamed. “Santa is dead!”

Her joyous laughter cut through the air with an icy chill. Christmas was no more.

NaNo Day 20 – Give Me A Badge!!!

I joined Wattpad last night and started browsing around. They are a NaNoWriMo sponsor and so I figured it can’t hurt to check them out. I have to admit, I’m not sure how much I’ll use it. The site seems littered with teenage angst and emo fanfic. Which, okay, have fun kids. That is a lot healthier way to express yourself than I had as a teenager. We had LiveJournal. And we wrote nasty things about each other and read nasty things other people wrote about us and then deleted it on second thought but too late damage done. At least creative writing is good practice for school and life. So go ahead kiddies, write your fanfic. I may spend some time trying to seek out adult groups and writers and just focus on them. I already added a few NaNo peeps I found from forums on that site. I decided if I do use Wattpad it’ll be for practicing flash fiction. I started reading more and more of this thanks to various sites that use this technique (hello Chuck!) and am really excited about adding this to my writing arsenal. Practicing writing a long book takes a lot of time. But if you want to practice a bunch of the key writing skills in say, a day or so, flash fiction seems to be where it is at. You can just jump into story meat, create tension, and then end with a bang, all in less than 1,000 words. Learning to draw that out will help for novel writing, but having the skills developed of how to create tension quickly or evoke emotions quickly or whatever goal your flash fiction has is an awesome exercise. Plus, I don’t want to post longer pieces that I might want to craft into something marketable someday. Some practice work and getting feedback on it seems safe to post on the interwebz though.

As far as NaNo progress goals I’m pretty stalled. I loaded my word count into the NaNo site last night and it told me I’d get to my 50,000 words on December 28th. Disappointing. I keep telling myself I need to use all my downtime, even ten minutes here and there, to write. But it just keeps not happening. I’ll wind up reading blogs about writing or searching NaNo forums or various other electronic distractions. I’m also now hitting this wall where I think my story is good but I don’t know how to keep developing it. So I keep brainstorming and coming up with ideas that I don’t think work for my NaNo novel. But man, they’d make super cool other novels. So then I start thinking I should write that instead. I then ask myself, can I just add the word count of a different story into my NaNo novel and say “Hey! It’s writing right! Maybe I’ll decide to switch the story to story #2 anyway!” But I kind of personally feel like that would be cheating. I didn’t set out to write short stories for NaNo. I also haven’t even gotten to the real action of the story I started writing for NaNo. So it’s not like I finished it, it’s too short, and now I’m going to write a whole other story to get my 50,000 words. So. No cheating for me.

For the measly time that is left in NaNo I may try to get my writing juices flowing by using this journaling time to do a flash fiction piece instead of expounding about my personal issues. Then try my hardest to use the best of my other free time to write my NaNo story. And I may have to let go of the idea of “winning” NaNo. Sure, I really wanted that winner badge and the pride of having finally completed a NaNo after years of trying. But I’ve made it farther this year than any other year, and sticking it out until month’s end would be an achievement in itself for me. And I feel at this point that I will definitely keep writing. I’ll write into December and January until my story is done. And then I will edit. And then maybe I can switch to a new story for a while. If anything, NaNo has really jump started me into doing something I’ve wanted to do for a long time – write creatively. If only you got a winner’s badge on NaNo for achieving that!

I Want To Be

The shower thought of the day was “You have to stop thinking ‘I want to be a writer’ and start going ‘I am a writer'”. I then realized after having this thought that I think wanting to be a writer is silly. Not for other people. But for me. It is. It’s silly. Growing up I always expressed myself creatively. I was in plays, musicals, took voice lessons, played piano, taught myself new musical instruments. I played games with myself in my head to get things like homework done. I pretended I was a world famous journalist whose important essay on geologic rock formations (or whatever) for my earth science class wasn’t really for earth science, it was for Time magazine (or whoever) and it was going to rock the world. I played that game with myself a lot. My writing assignments were for important magazines or books. And it made it so much more fun to do them.

Somewhere along the line I got it impressed upon me that being creative was not a career. Sure, you could have a fun hobby of that, but to be successful and financially stable you must have a real job. I also got a bit pushed into graduate school (that’s a whole other post) and while I wanted to quit halfway through it, I didn’t. I told myself I had to finish. And I did. But that didn’t stop me from hating what I studied and not wanting to have a career in it. Strapped with astronomical student loans that I didn’t really understand how large the payments on them would be, I have now been stuck in a career and job I sincerely dislike in order to make ends meet. Such is life.

So when I tell myself I can be something else, I feel stupid. I feel like a kid wanting a unicorn and to be a fairy princess for a career. Being a writer? Being in the creative arts for a career? Ha! That is for someone else who didn’t fark up their money situation like I did. That cannot be for me. It makes me die a little inside. Part of me that needs expression and fulfillment through creativity has been quietly crying inside my heart for that past 13+ years. I also tell myself I’m too old now to switch things up. I had a chance when I was a teenager, or even in my 20s. But now? In my 30s, I’m too old to make a change. I have to be an adult now. I have to be responsible. And how can changing careers be responsible? No no, I have to just let my creative urges be a hobby and just be happy with that.

But I can’t. I just can’t! Spending my days at an office job that is stifling my creativity and boring beyond belief is not a life I can live anymore. So I have to be the change right? Nothing will change unless I change it. I can’t just want to be a writer anymore, I have go out and be a writer. Or a musician. Or whatever. Obviously I can’t throw all responsibility into the wind. That would just result in more distress. It wouldn’t be fair to my family either. So it adds another piece to the change it up puzzle. How do I keep my day job and do something else with enough dedication that I may be able to make a career of it one day? This is a large conundrum. It’s the place where my eyes start to glaze over and there is a buzzing in my ears and I feel beyond stressed out and want to throw my hands up and give up. I think it’s the reason why NaNoWriMo became so important to me this year. And why the fact I’m failing at it is making me even more dejected. Somehow I pinned my hopes of changing my life onto completing NaNo. If I could really dedicate myself to writing (almost) every day for NaNo then maybe I can be committed enough to changing my life that I can actually change my life. I’ve already documented a lot of the hurdles I’ve felt here. Today adds more. How do I stop feeling silly and childish for having a dream and pursuing it? And why is that even stopping me? Who am I silly and childish to? My parents? Forget them – they had their chance to influence my life and they put up roadblocks instead of helping. My husband is supportive. So am I worried friends will laugh and go “ha, silly Rebecca, always wanting to do stuff she fails at.” If it’s true I keep failing it’s partially, if not all, because I keep stopping myself. By over thinking. By not living in the moment. By imagining the future and thinking it’s impossible. I just need to calm down. I need to stop trying and start being.

Easier said than done.

The Abyss of NaNo

My lack of ability to decide on plot points is killing my NaNo writing. I’m pretty settled on and happy with my main character. I think about her a lot. It’s easy to do. She’s kind of the girl I wanted to be back a few years ago. I know where I want her to start in the story and where I want her to ultimately end up, but I have no idea how to get her from Point A to Point Q. I have a few ideas about key interactions I want her to have or places I want her to go. For example, I want her to have a quest story. She needs to go somewhere to do something or find something or find someone or leave something or . . . crap . . . see? I don’t know. I know where I want her to go, because I have this imagine in my head of this scifi universe I want to create. I have some pretty clear images in my head of places to take her. But What. The. Fuck. Is she going to do there?

I don’t know.

And I’m getting really frustrated. As is my usual train of thought I start going down the “Well you must be making a mistake” path. Oh, gee, having a hard time? Well clearly you aren’t cut out for this creative writing thing. Better just stop. I’ve kind of conquered that thought though. A bit. Last night I was really hurting to get myself writing, but I did. However I spent half my writing time with my head in my heads going “Ugh that was so stupid this paragraph is boring what am I doing where is this going AAAHHH!!” So that was productive. I patted myself on the back for even writing anything at least. I now have successfully written about half a dozen different openings to the story. And I’m not talking even in-depth openings either. These are bare bones 1,667 word openings that go nowhere. Here is typically what happens:

1) I come up with something I think is an awesome opening line. I write it. WEE! Here I am! I’m writing!
2) Okay the second sentence needs to be just as awesome and make me feel just as warm and fuzzy as the first.
3) Time passes.
4) Okay I need more than just one sentence to keep this ball rolling. Just start writing and we can edit later and I’m sure once I’m on a roll the magical lines of perfection will just ooozzzeeeeee out of me.
5) I write. I actually write for a while! Lets say I write for 42 minutes.
6) I stop. I start re-reading what I just wrote. Oh god . . . that last paragraph was utter garbage. Like, seriously, what the fuck?
7) Okay, I can get this back on track if I just edit it. I may lose some words for the war of the word counts but they’ll be honored later with other better words so it’ll be fine. I start editing.
8) I stop. This crap can’t be edited. It’s boring descriptions of boring things that just need to get cut. But I’m writing this for NaNo! I just need WORDS right?! I can’t cut things right now.
9) I realize I need a drink.
10) I realize it’s gotten too late at night for a drink and I should just go to bed.
11) I toss and turn in bed all night thinking about what drivel I wrote and thinking about how I can get it back on track.
12) I get up in the morning and decide I should just ignore last nights pile of poo on the page and start over.
13) I start over at #1.

Quality. I’m sure this is what Stephen King does too, right?! Oh Mr. King – evoked as a pillar of authordom – do you, good sir, write pages of drivel, hate them, try to edit them, decide they suck, throw them out, and start all over the next day?! Oh wait you don’t? Cool.

Being new to this whole idea of making an effort to write something good (because lets face it, in any situation growing up where I had to write something for school, I half-assed it as fast as possible with no real editing and I turned it in and forgot what grade I got on it promptly after getting my grade) I’m at a loss to know whether or not this is just “part of the process”. Will something finally stick? If I just keep re-doing the opening again and again and again will I eventually tumble on one that I love so much it pushes me into the next part and the next? Do I just make my main character walk around town until I stop describing the color of the stones she is walking on and the smell of the breeze coming out of the sewer and have her actually be involved in something and have feelings?

I am floating in the abyss of uncertainty . . . I hope there is chocolate in here somewhere.

The Hair Dryer Is No Longer Magic

The hair dryer is no longer magic. I was really starting to think that I would be gifted with writing inspiration every morning when I dried my hair, because it happened a few times in a row. NOPE. Not happening. I’m dried up. I can’t even really say I’m blocked because doesn’t that require having something good to start with? I’ve been looking back at my piddly NaNo work so far (a dangerous thing I should probably not be doing) and feeling utterly discouraged. My word count is so far behind. And I have no good ideas. No big conflict, no amazing resolution, no bad guys, nothing. I’ve been aiming for a fantasy/scifi book because that is fun and I want to write that genre. But I find myself utterly stuck trying to devise a conflict. I know what I don’t want to do, namely, an alien war or a corrupt government or a murder mystery or some cheesy romance. But what does that leave? A questing story? Okay, I could get into a questing story! Now. What is the quest? Uh. Hmm. Well . . . I have no clue. Should I set it on Earth? Should I go to a new planet? Should I make a nifty futuristic space shuttle where all this is happening? Or space station? Or Biodome type thingy? WHAT?! Where are they? Why? What is going on?!

At the end of attempting to brainstorm I am beat. I sometimes come up with a few quirky lines, an opening to get my writing groove on. But when the second line doesn’t come to me as quickly, I get discouraged. I become more discouraged when I realize I’ve just be babbling about asinine who cares things. Gee, the color of my MC’s rug. Wow. Great writing there. I’m sure some reader will fall in love with my rug descriptions. I’m sure a publisher would just squee with delight and want to sign me and give me millions of dollars because I wrote about the plush, pinkness of the area rug under my MC’s bed. GAH!!

I continually obsess about making my work marketable. I’m pinning all this hope for my future on finding a different career path because I am so sick of my work life. I want something new. Wait, I need something new. My job has it’s perks but it is just not for me. I’ve always been a creative type and my job is less than creative. So now I’ve got the idea in my head that if I can just be the next J.K. Rowling my entire life will be solved. The mystery of why I’m here and what the point of my life is and who moved my cheese and all that will magically resolve. Plus I’ll be cool! People will go “Wow! That chick made it! She totally changed her life and now is doing something she loves! Neat!” And lets admit that I fantasize about sitting at home in pajama pants writing on my laptop all day, and magical trips to exotic locales to promote my new literary masterpiece.

I started looking up famous opening lines to classic novels yesterday. I’m stuck on the opening lines to “Rebecca” now (yes, that is my name too, but that isn’t why I’m obsessed). It’s so gothic and romantic and emotional and while I haven’t read the whole book, the opening, for me, evokes so many images and feelings. Suddenly I started doubting the whole theme and tone and genre of my NaNo Novel. Maybe I should be writing emo whiny dark brooding crap, like the way I usually think of life. I’ve been purposefully trying not to write that way because I want to have more fun in life. I truly do want to write a goofy fantasty/scifi book. I’ve read a lot of them and really like the genre. But maybe it just isn’t me? Maybe me is the brooding gothic novel. Can anyone even write a truly brooding gothic novel anymore? Maybe that genre is reserved for a different time that has passed and now if I try I’ll just failt at that too. And part of me resists because I don’t want to be the brooding gothic novel chick. Resisting who I am makes it hard to get things done though. Like writing a NaNo Novel. How do I write in a genre and tone that is so foreign to my natural thought process though? Maybe I’ll start looking up goofy fantasy/scifi book opening lines today to get inspiration. I’m apparently wickedly impressionable as far as writing styles and genres go.

How is your NaNo Novel coming along?