Short Story: Until It Pops


water gun game clowns

As part of the Dark Carnival, I created a short story and an illustration using The Water Gun Game as inspiration.

I was an early-adopter, so was able to choose from a wide range of topics. Always loving a challenge, I decided to select a random element of the carnival—one which wouldn’t necessarily be others’ first choice, one which would force me to get the creative juices flowing. It was impulsive, a way of pushing myself. When I requested the Water Gun Game, I had absolutely no idea how I would creep it out or what the story would become. No concept, no characters, no dark twist. Nothing.

I went into this project with three things in mind:
1) Treat it like a novel. Include the elements of a complete arc, conflict, tension, rich setting, 3-D characterization, heart, surprise.
2) Somehow twist those things into darkness.
3) Infuse emotion throughout. Make the reader feel something.

Please judge me.

This is my first horror(ish) piece. I believe I met my challenge to myself head-on, but the point of sharing our writing with others is to spark something new, fresh & alive within them. It can be caring, new thinking, anger, love, dreaminess, self-realization, fear, ickiness, or a myriad of other thoughts & emotions. The point is: our words should rub something raw inside the reader. Our creations should have an effect not easily forgotten.

Until It Pops can be found here:
http://penandmuse.com/pops/

Be sure to thank & follow the ladies who provided the venue & will continue to work through the whole month of October to share the Dark Carnival imaginings of my fellow carnies:
@JoleneHaley
@KristenJett
@PenandMuse

ADMIT ONE: Dark Carnival


The Dark Carnival

 

Darkened laughter, cackles, screams
Harmless fun, draped in night
Beneath the cotton candy fluff
A carnival which breathes your name

 

Step right up! Come inside!
Pen and Muse, and the carnies posing as writers & illustrators, invite you to explore the secrets of the Dark Carnival.
Every Friday in October, sneak close enough to smell the fried foods & feel the wind whizzing off the rides.
Step closer still, and let the tales of the creepy, eerie, strange, horrific & macabre seep into you.

Out of the kindness of my heart, I provide you this ticket for FREE Admission to the Dark Carnival.
The question you must ask yourself, is whether my heart has already been won over by its darkness.

 

Preview the topics, Writers & Illustrators.

Sucking Smarties Until the Chocolate Comes


But it aint chocolate

But it aint chocolate

FACT: Every stage of traditional publishing is slow.
FACT: The waiting can drive you batty.
FACT: Distractions between stages are a necessity.

I’m not ready to start my next novel. It’s percolating, but the idea isn’t hot enough yet. The concept hasn’t reached its boiling point. So, while it simmers, I’ve been fighting off the crazies by both reading and writing (shorter pieces).

There is this [anonymous] bestselling YA author, see, and I’ve tried my best to like her books, to enjoy them, to discover their appeal. Last week I made a third attempt—the first book in a trilogy—in hopes that this would be the one which would win me over. No ma’am! Not even close. I slogged through it, forced myself to just.make.it.to.the.last.page, which is a horrible thing to have to do with a book. And thus, my non-relationship with this author has officially ended with a whimper.

Flip that coin over. Let’s talk about some BANG. Through the wonder of word-of-mouth, which is to say: a random Tweet floating by in my feed, I strolled a block to my local library & checked out Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park. Now, let me state for the record that I rarely read Contemporary YA. YA Fantasy? Yes. Non-fiction about psychology, science, philosophy, astronomy, etc? Why yes please and thank you. So this wouldn’t normally be a go-to novel for me.

Well, I suppose the best testimony for how much I dug it, is the fact that I ordered Rainbow’s new release, Fangirl, the day it came out. This is the first hardcopy book I have purchased in probably a dozen years. My m.o. is 75% borrow from the library and 25% purchase for the Kindle. So, obviously, excited. Whatever your preferred genre to read and/or write, whatever tastes you normally fall back on, I highly recommend both of these books. Because: quirky, endearing, relatable, solid.

Now, on to the writing-as-impatience-repellant.

Flash fic keeps me loose. It’s like the warm-up laps in a pool before swimming from Cuba to Florida. It purges ideas—exorcises them, if you will—to clear out headspace and make room for more. But it has its limits. Flash fic is akin to eating a pack of Smarties when you really really want chocolate. (Y’all know exactly what I mean…) So, I chew on it when there’s no time-chocolate, attention-span-fudge, or even complexity-syrup in the house. But it doesn’t satiate the craving for: more, a robust arc, deep characterization, subplots, intricate weaving of symbolism or layered themes.

That’s where short stories gallop in like white horses, or unicorns, or bronies, or [equine analogy of your choice]. If novels are king-size candy bars, then short stories are like the fun-size. Scroll down a post or two and you’ll find where I mentioned that “dark” seems to be whispering my name. (Mmmmm, dark chocolate is the best.) So I says to myself, “Self, how about some short stories? Make ’em dark. Oh! And I know, seek out venues in which to share them.”

On some as-of-yet-undisclosed Friday in October, my Until it Pops, short story (weighing in at 3,400 words), along with accompanying illustration, will be part of the #DarkCarnival. http://penandmuse.com/freaky-fridays-dark-carnival-writer-illustrator-showcase/ 

Then there’s this other project, which isn’t so much of a definite thing. Today I submitted my short story, Bastardbreed, (weighing in at 6,200 words) off to the guys heading up a Clive Barker fanfic anthology. (Which feels a little weird for me to say. Like fanfic is somehow unclean or not real writing. Which is silly. Because I created my own offshoot of a world, birthed brand new characters, and incorporated all the complicated elements listed three paragraphs up.) If the story makes the cut, it won’t be available for public consumption until Fall 2014 when Tor releases it in simultaneous hardcover & paperback.

FACT: Traditional publishing is a reaaaaaallllllyyyy slow process for high-octane chaps like me.
FACT: I won’t let my wiring keep me from pursuing that end.
FACT: I’m writing, reading, percolating, producing, and sucking on Smarties until the chocolate comes.

Update: So once this posted, I found out that Canadian *Smarties* actually ARE chocolate.
FACT: I feel ripped off, ‘MERICA!
FACT: I should move to Canada.
FACT: Everything should be made of chocolate. Except that would be really messy & make many things anti-useful. Nevermind. NOT A FACT after all.

Flash Fic: Dublex Orb™


Inhabisphere™

Inhabisphere™ – 100 years ago

Of course I’ve had roommates before. Down on Earth™, I mean. Not up here in the Thermosphere™. But the new policy makes double-occupancy mandatory. It’ll be good to have someone to talk to and interact with. Maybe even touch like once a year or something.

It’s ridiculous and kinda pathetic. 1.2 trillion of us crammed into such a small space, yet we all live completely disconnected lives.

All realms of our Inhabisphere™ are overcapacity. Down on Earth™, the thousand-story skyscrapers are packed so tightly over every acre that they’re pretty much a single, sprawling building. The Tunnelands™ have already burrowed farther than they safely can. Even the Sealands™ are filled now: the ghettos on the seafloor and down in the trenches, the upscale topside floaters. In the Skylands™, only two narrow causeways remain undeveloped.

The Housing Council™ started the Thermosphere Development Program© out of desperation. They launched the Duplex Orbs™, like the one I live in, through the northern port of the Skylands™ a year ago. That’s when a billion of us moved up here to orbit like secluded satellite moons. The Resource Restrictions Act© forbids us from visiting one another.

So we basically live in floating prison cells.

The last two ports through the Skylands™ close tomorrow. They’ll be sealed shut to gain the last bit of atmospheric real estate remaining. After that, we won’t be able to directly trade with the Groundlands™ anymore. Tariffs are gonna skyrocket.

My last shipment from the surface will be here any minute. This month’s visit is a bit different than all the rest. Twice as much Oxygen®, twice as many rations. All because my Duplex™ is about to house twice as many people.

Dania seemed cool enough during our minute-long v-Chat®. Kinda quiet and distracted maybe, but I’m hoping she’ll open up once she gets here. She’s a Digi-Designer® like me, so we at least have that in common. If she’ll unplug long enough to give me three minutes of face time a day, I’ll be happy. Five minutes would be even better, but I’m trying to be realistic.

The supply taxi just docked. The recycled Oxygen™ is already pumping into the tanks. Why am I so nervous? There goes the bay door. The rations are loaded. Oh Gods™, the airlock. I think I’m gonna throw up. The first flesh-and-blood person I’ve seen in over a year. The stranger I’ll spend the rest of my life with.

The warning horn blares. The door swooshes open.

Dania stares at the PodPad® in her hands.

“Hi,” I say.

Her left eye twitches a little. That might be a sign that she heard me.

“Which way?” she asks.

“Your room’s on the right,” I answer.

Without looking up, she expertly navigates the furniture in the common area. She places her palm on the KeyPad® and steps inside her room.

I move towards her. “I thought we might interact for a bit.”

She stops, but doesn’t turn. “I’ve been De-egged®.”

“What?” I stare at the soft skin on the back of her neck. “No. Not like that kind of interaction.”

Her PodPad® monopolizes her attention. “What kind then?” she asks.

“You know, talking, eating rations together.” My mouth is so dry. “Maybe even playing a game?”

“I’m busy,” she answers.

Then her door swooshes closed between us.

***

That was six months ago. I haven’t seen Dania since. I’ve stumbled across her username in the forums, so I know she’s still alive. Sometimes, I press my ear to her door, but I’ve never heard a thing.

It’s sad, really. We’re now up to 1.4 trillion people in the Inhabisphere™, and I haven’t seen one in half a year. Haven’t touched one in almost two. There’s no way I’m the only one who’s lonely. There must be others tucked away somewhere in our stuffed-full world.

I keep hoping Dania will accidentally come out of her room, that she’ll forget she has a roommate in the Duplex Orb™ and will stumble into the common area by mistake. Or that she’ll suddenly get the urge to unplug and interact.

Just sixty seconds, once a month. That’s all I need.

There’s a new plan to add more Duplex Orbs™, to link them airlock-to-airlock so they form a massive sphere encircling Earth™. Maybe my new neighbors will want to hang out. But I’m not holding my recycled-air Breath™.

The Sacred Hidden Among the Trees


PineGrove

I remember being worshiped in the sacred groves of Babylon, between the twin sycamores of Egypt, by the figs of Ancient Rome, among the yews and elms in the Celtic lands. My followers understood what many have now forgotten: soaring branches, trembling leaves, and twisted roots make the purest chapels. Tranquility thrives in the midst of growing things. Walls may offer a temporary refuge, but stone cannot breathe. Mortar soaks up the songs and keeps them for itself. Stained glass imprisons the essence of prayers in its too-bright colors.

But trees—trees pass the hopes and heartaches and dreams to one another. And, eventually, those heart-cries make it to me. I breathe them in. I share my bounty. I impart wisdom. Above all, I answer.

There is a spritely girl in the western lands who still hears me. Amelia is her name. In the midst of the evergreens behind her home, we speak. Though a young soul, her beauty runs deep. Deeper than any I have come across in hundreds and thousands of days. She searches for me, giggles with me, tells me her secrets.

Yesterday, Amelia brought others to her grove. They scratched their feet through the pine straw to make way for the earth to show through in patches. Amelia and her friends formed the straw into long lines to create separate rooms in what they called a house. But the children could see over the walls. They could talk, and breathe, and play, and dream. I sent them a soft breeze. I tickled them with sunlight trickling through the trees.

My hope has been dying. I feared, for yes, I fear, that I might pass into the land of things which are no longer loved. Amelia has saved me. After all these suns and moons of waiting and fading, she has remembered me well, when few others would.

This morning, I planted honeysuckle all around her grove. The sprouts sprang up and I carefully wove the climbing vines around the trunk of each of Amelia’s pines. I know she will notice. She will ask me about them. And I will tell her the vines are a gift. She will smile. I will show her how to pluck the blossoms, ease the stamen through the bloom to catch the tiny, sparkling drop of nectar, and to place the drop on her tongue.

She will savor the sweetness. She will taste them all, every last blossom. And I will grow her more.

Amelia has given me much honor. Her willingness to know, to remember the olden things, to seek the sacred hidden among the trees, will be rewarded. Today, once she has tasted the nectar, I will bless her with the full measure of my glory.

And I know my new priestess will pass it on.

Response to the “One Hundred” prompt at http://darcicole.blogspot.com/2013/02/the-entries-100.html

Check her out.

[I took the photo prompt and imagined it translated to the area of NC I lived in as a child. Hope you enjoyed it.]

Making Flash Fiction Your Bitch


Get it? "Flash" punching a dude into submission? :: ahem :: Anyway...

Get it? “Flash” punching a dude into submission? :: ahem :: Anyway…

Ever on the lookout for blogging inspiration–no matter what bush it peeks out of–this Facebook exchange with my writerly friend, Brittany Larson, has a good feel to it. Blog-worthy, I believe. From a random interaction amongst the social media bushes: Making Flash Fiction Your Bitch.

Brittany: HEY! I need some advice on some writing!

Lucas: Ok. I’ve got a few minutes. What’s up?

Brittany: Well I have this story idea swirling around my head about the 3 Archangels Micheal (The Angel Of Mercy) Gabriel (The Messenger Angel) And Azrael (The Angel of Death) And they are all fallen. And Iwas thinking Gabriel and Micheal stay faithful to God while Azreal goes rogue. He makes a deal with the devil that’s simple Bring me Rachel (My girl protagonist) and I will make you more powerful than God. God appears to Micheal and Gabriel and says stop him and you’re back in heaven. And I am thinking that Micheal will be my main male protagonist (Gabriel more as support) so what happens when Micheal falls in love with Rachel and doesn’t wanna go back to Heaven. Something along those lines. So the first question is: sound good? And also I don’t know if I wanna just start writing now or save it for NaNo.

Lucas: Is this a story you will try to market to agents/publishers? I only ask because a few months back many were groaning about the massive amount of “Angel” stories: fallen ones falling in love with a human. There are a lot of those on the market already. So, it’s a trope the pros don’t much care for anymore.

Brittany: Yeah…see I am not too sure. I am thinking. Truly I have never made it even far enough to think about sending it to publishers.

Lucas: A twist would be good. Can they be fallen gods instead of angels? And love triangles are always sellable. Maybe one naughty god in love with your mortal, Rachel, but a second god in love with the first & fighting the matchup? Or, make them aliens, or zombies, or any other creature. Then you could go with the same basic plot without stepping into the Angels theme. If you’re not going to shop it, then just go with whatever the heck makes you happy as a writer!

Brittany: True…true. That would be interesting. And yeah…see I am still debating whether to just write it or save it for NaNo…because I mean I have it written down so I don’t forget it.

Lucas: You’ll have more ideas before Nano! It’s always good to keep writing. Like flexing your muscles to make you stronger.

Brittany: True true. And I sure hope so. This is the Biggest Aha! Moment I have had in a while. My Nano idea wasn’t this solid.

Lucas: Here’s a cool trick for discovering ideas that are novel worthy: just start with a flash fiction of your story. Write out a key scene in 1000 words or less. Focus on using as little words as possible to convey setting, character, conflict.

Brittany: Thanks That really helps

Lucas: Still have the story arc of intro, conflict, climax, closure. This helps me weed out ideas as either long-running or short lived. If the idea feels “done” or exorcised, then cool. You have a flash fiction story. But, if you find the character’s voice and keep thinking about his/her life, then it’s time to plot for a longer work: short story, novella, novel.

Brittany: Yeah. Thanks for the advice

Lucas: You’re welcome, yo. Mind if I post this interaction on my blog in a few days? “I’d rather not” is an acceptable response. 😉

Brittany: Oh that’s fine. I really don’t care…I mean it wasn’t personal or anything:)

Lucas: I can keep you anonymous or remove/summarize your novel idea if you’d like.

Brittany: No it’s fine…put in as much detail as you’d like. I’m not shy.

Lucas: Done! Do you have a blog or Twitter account I can link to? Such things often bring you new followers.

Brittany: https://twitter.com/thegirlonfire16

So, let’s get Brittany some new followers.

And, let’s get to using Flash Fiction as a test-run for those awesome ideas we keep coming up with. It tests their mettle, and keeps us flexing those writing muscles. Better to weed out the losers before we invest a half a novel’s worth of time before discovering they suck. Also, our writerly friends are awesome sounding boards for our new concepts. They can often spot holes, provide useful feedback, and tune us in to stuff they’ve stumbled upon in the publishing world but we have not.

Now, you know one of the secret tools I use to tame my overzealous ideas. What do you think? Is it worth slipping into your own bag of tricks?

Reporting from the bushes, this is Lucas, signing off.


I gleaned a ton of blogging folder while disconnected from the virtual world for more than an agonizing week. Upcoming posts will hit on slave boys in leather shorts, haunted hotels and slot machine jackpots.

In the meantime, let me plug an amazing bare-knuckle brawl of words going on over at Cruising Altitude 2.0. The concept is based on the immaculate movie Fight Club and pits anonymous flash fiction pieces of 500 words or less against one another. You can submit at any point over the next 12 weeks. Check it out.

So, I’m taking care of the 1st RULE: You MUST talk about WRiTE CLUB.

Now, to tease you with the thought that I have entered a kick-ass piece, but dangle the bar of soap just out of reach by adhering to the 2nd RULE:
You DO NOT talk about WRiTE CLUB – Once the competition begins you are not allowed to solicit votes.  All of the writing entries are anonymous, and we want it to stay that way.

My pen name for the contest springs from the concept used in the FF piece. That alias echoes the immortal words of Tyler Durden:

Hey, you created me. I didn’t create some loser alter-ego to make myself feel better. Take some responsibility!

I can say no more.

Shirt ripped off, sweat glistening, under-skin anger brewing. Fight!