He wrote, she wrote.

Ticket to Ride (She Wrote, Week 4)

by Christine Hawks

As David, who always beats me to publishing, mentioned earlier, this week we added a twist to our usual challenge.  Still two short stories, still using prompts to build our tales, but this week, we participated in Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge over at terribleminds.com.  Out of a list of 10 possible random items, contenders pick 4 to feature in their short story of about 1,000 words.  Ironically, David and I both picked the same 4 items – the unopened envelope, the rocking chair, the horseshoe and the child’s toy.  Really!  We did not plan that and, as usual, neither of us knew what the other was writing about until the big reveal here.  Great minds…?  Polls will be opened shortly and new prompts selected on Sunday.

He thrust he walker out in front of him, then shuffled his feet two steps to catch up with the contraption before repeating the awkward two-step all over again.  The going wasn’t easy; not only due to his handicap, but also because Sam Daily was traveling on a subtle incline of packed dirt that was his driveway. He made the quarter mile round-trip six days a week to retrieve the mail delivered at the intersection of his driveway and the farm road.  Though the exertion left him needing a nap most days, he was grateful that he was still able to get around on his own two legs, even if it was a struggle. He knew that one day he’d require full-time use of the Gator that he reserved for days when the driveway was mired in mud or covered in snow.

When he had reached his destination, Sam noted that the stray mutt he’d befriended was already waiting there, as usual.  He reached into his trousers and pulled out a few liver treats for the dog.  Despite his apparent homelessness, the dog was always respectful in taking whatever Sam offered him.  Sam reached down to scratch behind the dog’s floppy ear and predictably, after his snack and some attention, the dog continued up the road.  “Same time tomorrow, old boy!”

Sam, now recovered from his journey to the mailbox reached in and retrieved the day’s delivery.  He flipped through, though he already knew what to expect: the current issue of The Farm Journal, the sales circular for the local co-op grocery and the utility bill.  But, there was an addition today that he didn’t expect.  The envelope, addressed to him was accompanied by a return address from the American Planetary Tourism Board.

“What the hell?” he asked, aloud. Read the rest of this entry »

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Flash Fiction Challenge (He Wrote, Week 04)

by Dave Smith

As I mentioned last time, this week’s challenge is a little different. We decided to participate in the Flash Fiction Challenge at terribleminds.com. This week, we had to choose only four items from a list of ten, and then had to incorporate them into a story of around 1000 words. I chose an unopened envelope, a rocking chair, a child’s toy, and an iron horseshoe. My original idea was an Amazing Race – Bear Grylls – Survivor meets The Most Dangerous Game (wouldn’t that be a helluva reality show?). Unfortunately, reading it now, I think it steered too far toward Hunger Games. Not at all what I intended. Oh well, enjoy anyway!

Shane knew there wasn’t much daylight left and he had no idea where other contestants were. He was so delirious he really didn’t care. The absurdity of his situation stoked his rage for Mr. Bartholomew. Shane wanted to cut the puppet strings and escape that man’s twisted game, but any attempt at skirting the rules was a direct path to losing.

Shane hadn’t eaten in five days and hadn’t found water in nearly two. His head felt like it was occupied by an army of sledgehammer-wielding dwarves trying to escape. His feet were heavy and clumsy, as if shod with a dozen iron horseshoes.

Weak with a deep, gnawing hunger, a handful of grubs and wild blackberries looked like a gourmet spread. The sweetness of the berries balanced the funky, beefy grubs. Shane was amazed at how so little could boost his energy and spirits. He needed it to find the next waypoint before dark or he’d end up a meal for something else. He forged on in the darkening wilderness, stopping occasionally to check his navigation course.

Panic started to settle in just before he found the familiar yellow and green flags marking the waypoint. There were six small shelters – down two from the waypoint last week – each built from weathered vertical boards like an outhouse, and not much bigger than one. Shane couldn’t see lights inside them, so he couldn’t tell if anyone had beaten him there. Wolf howls and a human scream in the forest told him at least one shelter wouldn’t be occupied that night. Read the rest of this entry »

by Dave Smith

This week kinda fell apart. The challenges were to be entries, using a random plot scenario generator, for the Flash Fiction Challenge over at Chuck Wendig’s blog, terribleminds.com. In characteristic fashion, we fell victim to indecisiveness and real life schedules and just didn’t do it. So, in an effort to maintain writing momentum, I’m reflecting and rambling on my own process as it has manifested thus far.

As best as I can recall, the past couple of weeks have been the first sustained efforts I’ve put into any kind of creative writing since those magnificent days of parachute pants and rat tails. It was assigned work back then and made me want to stab eyeballs. Now, I’m doing it for fortune and glory entertainment and pleasure.

Ideas have never really been a problem. Getting them out has been. I think in what I best describe as movie snippets, “seeing” short, non-sequential scenes play out in my head. But that’s usually where they stay. Writing these stories has forced me to focus on those snippets and record them before they disappear, then organize and make some kind of sense of the mess. It’s like trying to pass a 20lb dumbbell: you get the first part out, screaming and cursing until you find relief. Then you realize, well shit, you’ve still got the ending to push out.

Coming from a background where brevity and economy of words rule the day, building a compelling story has been a real challenge. Making emotional connections between the characters and readers hasn’t been my strongest suit so far (I read encyclopedias for fun when I was a kid, for cryin’ out loud), and my endings have fallen a touch flat, but I hope those will develop with practice.

The single idea behind all of our challenges has been to just write; to get off our asses of pondering ideas and then sitting on them. Get them planted and grow them into a story, good, bad, or indifferent. Three weeks in, I think we’re accomplishing that.

So, what’s in store for next week?

We’re going to give the latest Flash Fiction Challenge a shot. This time we have to incorporate four random items from a list of ten, all in about 1000 words. It’s easy to start and wrap up a story in 3500 or more words, but having to compress it all into only 1000 will be a challenge all on its own. All stories are due by high noon on Friday, so even our deadline gets moved up a bit. It sounds like fun, and we’ve both found terribleminds.com tremendously entertaining, so we’re looking forward to it.

Please, join us back here after noon on Friday, August 2. And if you participate in the challenge too, let us know.

Happy scrivening!

Vote for Your Favorite – Week 2 Poll is Open!

by Christine Hawks

Another week, two more prompts and two more stories.  One week for you to vote for your favorite…starting NOW!

A Hairy Tale for Grown-Ups (She Wrote, Week 2)

by Christine Hawks

He checked his reflection once more in the mirrored panel of the elevator as the floor indicator moved upward towards his destination.  He pushed a stubborn dark curl, back into place.  “Perfect”, he said with a wink to his reflection just as the “ding” of the elevator signaled his arrival at floor 33 1/2.  He took a deep breath before stepping out of the elevator.

“You can still back out of this,” he thought to himself.  “No one has seen you, yet.  Just turn right back around and head out of here.”  He shook his head, dislodging that curl he had moved back into place.  “No,” he chastised.  “The truth must be told.”

With one smooth glide of his hand, the curl was back in place and he strode into the double glass doors of MFGN – Entertainment News Division.  He approached the cluttered receptionist’s desk.  Amongst the reams of paper strewn about, he spotted a name plate indicating that this desk belonged to, “Agatha”.  As he cleared his throat to announce his presence, up she popped from whatever she had been busy with under her desk.

Flustered, she asked, “And, just who might you be?” Read the rest of this entry »

Games We Play (He Wrote, Week 2)

by Dave Smith

Selwyn Street, known as simply Sel to his friends and coworkers, was a creature of habit. In the big, bad chaotic world outside, his habits gave life some semblance of predictability. They comforted him.

“Hi! Welcome to Burt’s Diner. How may I help you today?” said the clerk. She was new there, probably barely out of high school. Burt’s was a mishmash of pastry shop meets sit-down greasy spoon. They took pride in their “fresh” homefries. Sel was sure they were actually frozen, just covered in enough grease and salt to hide the freezerburn. He’d only ordered them once before and vowed to never touch the vile things again. Instead, he ordered doughnuts, which they were remarkably good at.

“I’ll take a cream-filled doughnut, please. Large.” It was his usual; $2.99 plus tax.

He watched other office workers on the sidewalk as he made his way to work from the pastry shop. They all looked so happy, at least happier than he was. He always wondered what they did and liked to speculate on his own way to work.

“I’ll bet she’s an accountant,” he thought, as he passed a young woman, dressed practically, but neatly. The man behind her struck him as an engineer, and the man behind him was obviously a designer. The stylish glasses, messenger bag, and white iPhone were dead giveaways.

He took a bite of his doughnut and a tart, sweet syrup erupted from the airy dough. “Dammit! I asked for cream, not raspberry! Incompetent fucks! Can’t even train the new kids right,” he thought. He wasn’t fond of surprises. Read the rest of this entry »

Week 2 Challenge

by Christine Hawks

Since we survived last week’s challenge, we’re back for more!  Without further ado, here are this week’s random prompts:

The Character: An investigative reporter

The Plot: Something to do with a wig

Hmmmm…

Each of our short stories will be posted on Sunday with a new poll to vote for the favorite of the week.

So, What Did YOU Think?

by Christine Hawks

The first writing challenge is over and both stories are posted.  Which short story did you prefer?  Vote for your favorite, below. Bragging rights are awarded to the winning author for one week until the next challenge is posted and poll is opened.  Thank you for your vote and for giving our blog a read!

The Road to Ordinary (She Wrote, Week 1)

by Christine Hawks

I bid my farewell to I-40 after 3 days, 7 states and nearly 2,000 miles.  Life, as I had known it, was making a gradual retreat, disappearing into the horizon like the dashed yellow lines of the highway in my cracked rearview mirror.  A fresh start lay somewhere ahead, I thought, as I passed the sign proclaiming I had entered the Golden State.  And, with miles of the Mojave Desert bathed in the glow of a late August sunset, California appeared every bit as golden as its motto promised.

With road weariness settling in like the prolonged summer dusk and nothing but unwaveringly straight highway ahead, my thoughts drifted.  I had never aspired to fame or fortune.  Both states brought with them more trouble than I imagined either of them could be worth.  Fate would cruelly award me with both conditions and then as a final insult, infamous would be added to my list of unwanted attributes.  I needed to shed my former self, bury my history and fashion a “do over”, as I envisioned how my life should have been. Read the rest of this entry »

Haunting the Haunter (He Wrote, Week 1)

by Dave Smith

When people used to ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always told them I wanted to be a mountain lion.

I was serious, but they always laughed.

It was discouraging.

Of course, now I know that was all childish foolishness. I never became a mountain lion.

But now. These days, when people ask me what I do, now that I’ve grown up, I tell them I’m a ghost haunter. Yes, that’s right, I said haunter, not hunter.

I’m just as serious, but they still laugh.

*****

Now, I didn’t always believe in ghosts. I used to think they were stupid fairy tales and the people who believed in them were drunk or high or something. But about seven years ago, right around the time I turned twelve, something happened that changed me forever. Read the rest of this entry »