200 + 200 – Words onto Words (A Flash Fiction Challenge)

Okay I am so late on submitting this. Last week I posted my entry into Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction challenge. This challenge was to write 200 words, the start of a story. In subsequent weeks, others would take the snippets they liked and add to them. This entry is for Part Two. Of course you can’t just add to your own. I selected David Kearney’s piece to continue. His entry is first and my entry follows after the little star break. My entry also comes in a little heavy at 221 words.

Here ya’ go!

First 200+

The lecture theatre door slammed shut with a bang so loud half the room jumped in their seat. Alice descended the stairs, not oblivious to the 200 pairs of indignant eyes boring through her, and took the only available seat at the front of the class.

Professor Gordon Kane stood at the lectern and looked over the top his glasses at her. “Welcome Miss Turner, what a remarkable entrance. I was just about to introduce my colleague to your classmates, may I continue?”

Alice’s face burned so hard she thought her hair might catch fire.

Kane gestured toward a tall man wearing a green turtleneck and a tweed jacket with leather patches at the elbows. “I expect that many of you will recognise our guest,” he said.

She recognised him immediately, in fact he was the very reason she was late for class.

“His book, Changing Minds, has spent the last six months perched at the top of the New York Times Best Sellers list, his television show of the same name has surprised  and delighted audiences around the world and we are very fortunate to have him here today. It is therefore, my very great privilege to introduce, Dr Lucas Spencer.”

The room erupted into deafening applause. Dr Spencer moved to the lectern and held up his right hand. “Thank you Gordon, thank you everyone” he said. “I’d like to ask for five volunteers.”

***** My 200 *****

     Hands of eager participants shot up all over the room. Dr. Spencer’s scrutinizing eyes grazed over them. He took his time carefully selecting those he brought up onto stage. When he reached time for the fifth volunteer his eyes found Alice. She had slouched into a seat in the back row of the room. He stared at her despite her unraised hand.

“Ms. Parker?” His voice boomed.

“Shit.” Alice muttered under her breath. A girl in the row in front of her snorted and turned to eye her.

“Ms. Parker, join us on stage. I see your willingness to volunteer is a bit lacking.”

The room turned almost as one to stare at her. She couldn’t show weakness and try to leave. She knew that everyone thought he was going to save the world. Refusal would net her pariah status on campus for the rest of her tenure. She hid her reluctance as she made the excruciatingly long walk to the stage. He greeted her at the stairs with a knowing look.

“Thought you could hide from me, did you lovely?” he whispered.

“I think you may regret toying with me Lucas,” she replied under her breath.

“We’ll see.” His eyes lit up and he turned to face his audience. “Now, who wants to see the next level of human evolution?”

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Failing With Gusto

     NaNoWriMo is officially over and I’m kind of depressed. I didn’t make it to 50,000 words. This year was the first year I really tried. In previous years I started part of the way through November, already at a deficit, and when I never caught up I just threw my hands up and gave up after a week or so. This year brought new challenges, most especially having a 15 month old. I can’t remember if I tried to NaNo last year. I think I was too sleep deprived and depressed to even realize what day it was last November, let alone have the where with all to join a challenge. I also attempted to spend time planning and outlining my NaNo project. Previous years I’ve totally pantsed it.

     I’m trying to stay positive about my NaNo experience this year but I cannot escape the feeling of being a failure. I really had my heart set on finishing and having a winner badge, and enjoying some of the discounts that come with NaNo on certain things. Yeah yeah I know that is silly. In typical fashion for me I therefore feel like I wasted my time since I didn’t do everything perfect and end up a “winner”. That feeling is normal for me but is something I’ve been trying to get rid of.  I am trying to work on being less negative since it really doesn’t help achieve anything. When I have the negative thoughts I’m trying to tell myself that NaNo was actually super productive. It showed me how important writing really is to me. I have been feeling so anxious and antsy with no creative outlet. November was a much happier month for me creatively. Instead of sitting being bored at work I got my required stuff done and then wrote. Or brainstormed. So that when I got home I had a great idea. The unfortunate part was that I couldn’t quite seem to stick with my NaNo story. I got way more into writing short flash fiction pieces which I discovered during November of course. I also had some days I really just needed to zone out at night and get to sleep early. And my holiday knitting is now desperately behind.

     The biggest thing NaNo helped me with this year is showing me that I need to practice this. I can’t just jump into NaNo and write the Next Big Novel and become famous. I will have to just use my good looks for that instead. Ha! I kid. As far as writing fame goes, I can see now that writing every day is the important thing. If you want to be good at anything you have to practice it. Even with incredible natural talent you only become professional if you practice. You’d think I’d know this considering my life long musical practice. It’s hard to see how certain lessons apply to other aspects of life when you are new to doing them. I also do better when I have a bit of a competition aspect to things I do. So I found a challenge for writing practice by signing up for the 750 Words December challenge. I can use it to write blog posts, journal, or write creatively. I can access the website anywhere (work, home) and I’ll get badges! So if anyone out there needs writing motivation outside of NaNo, 750 Words is a great place to find some. And 750 words is a great amount to get a flash fiction piece started or add a good section to a longer piece.

     So yes, another NaNo is over. This year, however, instead of feeling like I’m done trying to write for another year, I’m getting ready to just keep going. To make every month a NaNo. Maybe the goal won’t be 50K in a month, but there will be a writing goal and I will keep writing. So that is a prize I haven’t gotten in years before.

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.

A Fifth of NaNoWriMo Please!

Hello Day Five. I guess all my November posts are going to be about NaNo. It is kind of all consuming in my life right now. Day Four didn’t go so great. I got stuck in the self-doubt loop where, though happy with my Day Three writing, I started to doubt where I was going again. I’m finding it hard to pick scenes to write when I have no idea where I want my story to go. What is the end? Without knowing this, how can I lead my characters to it? Though I have read a bunch of “how to write” articles lately that kind of bash that thinking. You aren’t supposed to lead the story anywhere, you’re supposed to let the character do it. Huh. This seems ridiculously foreign to me. How do I let a thing I’m making up lead me around? How do I relinquish control to an imaginary character that I am building? That makes no sense to me.

Then I had another brainstorm epiphany when drying my hair in the garage this morning (don’t ask). The “What do I want to write” question was floating around in my head. It also helps that my husband and I are watching Once Upon A Time on Netflix (we just started Season 2) at night. This is providing a lot of inspiration. I am not writing about fairy tales for my NaNo novel but my story wants for magic, and there is plenty of that in the show. So this morning while flipping my hair around in my usual drying fashion it hit me. I want hovering space stations in my story. And I want my main character to be a descendant of some hugely magical family. And I want her parents to be dopey and “missing”. They’re constantly on space cruises or something and my character wants to find them to ask questions but never can (subplot anyone?!). I might make the magical family history one of evil too. Maybe my main character’s parents are the ones who ended the evil by just hiding their skills, which is why she knows nothing about it. Or maybe they’re practicing some sort of shunned black magic and she has to pick between them and her new magic career. I realized I want magic to be part of her career path. It isn’t just for personal use. She’s going to have to use it for some job related purpose.

But then I started to think about the girl I have on the page so far. I’m not sure she’d want any of this. I’m not sure what she wants. I know how she is feeling where she is – and with these new writing urges and plot points I’m going to have to scrap some of the crap I’ve written already (after NaNo – or rewrite it to fit the new ideas) – but I have no idea how she is going to feel about finding out any of this or getting to space travel or whatever. Maybe that is what people mean by letting your character guide you? Do I just sit down and start writing the fun things I want to write and just see what pops into my head as a reaction?

As a result of all this thinking I wrote nothing yesterday, so I have writing to make up tonight. Though I don’t think that will be an issue tonight. I’m really determined to write out the scenes and explain the new magic world ideas I came up with this morning. Even if the result with be disjointed masses of inconsistant goo. At least it will be words, and another night of writing practice I didn’t have before. Though it is tempting to just play Pokemon X and zone out to television.

I am finding it difficult to squeeze in reading time too. Usually I read at work during breaks or times of boredom, but now I’ve been wasting my time on NaNo forums and writing down brainstorming ideas for my book. Side note, it feels weird to say I’m writing a book. Who am I to write a book, let alone a novel? It sounds like a little kid who wants a unicorn and to grow up to be a fairy godmother kind of thing to me. “Gee, teehee, I’m writing a book!” I still struggle with finding a point to all the writing if the world wil never like it too. What if I write these 50,000 words and then it just sits there, and never gets published, or read, by anyone. What if I never write another thing? Will it be satisfying enough to say “Well, I tried! No more dreams of being a writer, off to find a new dream!” They make drugs for my kind of crazy don’t they?

What Will Day Four Bring?

The self-doubt has once again set in. I really only had a brief sketch of an idea outline in my head for my NaNo novel. I know I want my MC to be involved in a Society Within Society. Something hidden and special, that only select few get into. At first I thought it would just be an application system to get in. The Society would observe you doing . . . whatever . . . and based on your natural abilities you’d get in. Then I changed it, because magic would be so much cooler! So okay, now my MC lives in a futuristic world and is a bit of an outcast because she has things going on in her head that other people don’t. She doesn’t talk about it because she was told not to, but one day she starts to figure out how to control it, and then the magical society shows up and YAY! Fun and gummi bears and magic wands for everyone! Okay, so I didn’t want it to be like magic wand magic. More like, being intuitive and able to access some sort of realm that others can’t. Then I started thinking that was too close to copying other authors whose works I love. Don’t want to be opening myself up to infringment suits! So then I started thinking I’d change things a bit. The Society Within Society now had some magic, but primarily their powers would come from advanced and really cool technology.

Awesome! Look at me with all these ideas! But as I started to think of what I wanted to write next, after my epically good session yesterday, the self doubt arrived. The hyper critical mind started barking at me. I was merely copying the genius of others. I have such a shakey system I will never write well about it. I need to know my magic or tech or both systems inside out before I can write them out. And I don’t. I don’t even know what I want the system to be, let alone:

What are they doing?
Why are they doing what they’re doing?
How are they doing what they’re doing?
What are the limitations of what they’re doing?
What are the costs of what they’re doing?
What characters will I create for the new society?
Wait, now should this really be Sci-Fi?
Should I make up a planet or a space station or some shit?
Would my MC even like doing whatever the crap they’re doing?

I started off wanting my MC to get pulled out of her humdrum life where she feels largely unhappy and doesn’t get to be herself. I wanted her to go on a magical adventure, and find new amazing cities to visits, shops selling curious wares, someplace her creativity would flourish and help others.

But where is the conflict? Will there be evil there? What kind of evil? What do they do?

I started thinking about all the things I don’t want my story to turn into. I don’t want to write a murder mystery. I don’t want to right about tyranical governments that suppress everyone and now people are trying to rebel. I felt like a lot of my Society Within Society ideas were starting to travel to that type of thing, in order to achieve the right feeling of boredom and suppression for my MC. But I don’t want to write about that. I want to write about the fluffy unicorn farts and that nifty over the ear headset that lets people hear what dogs are saying and crap like that. But I just cannot figure out a point! What is my point! Without a point, how do I have something to shoot for with my continued writing?!

Oh the glories of this process. I’ve never gotten this far into it honestly. So I guess I can throw that pat on the back into my piggy bank of positives and hope these issues clear up by the time I go to write tonight.