Thursday, February 25, 2010

How to Make Luck

You would never believe the kind of luck that I’m capable of.

I know, that’s a strange statement, and not just because it ends on a preposition. But because it implies that luck is something achievable, as in Look at the Liquid Luck I just earned from concocting a super difficult potion in Professor Slughorn’s class!

But no, I don’t have any potions or magic dust or…wait, I do have magic dust, but that isn’t the point. The point is that you can create luck. Really. I’m not lying.

As a little kid, I used to win everything. And by that I mean EVERYTHING. Once, I even won a baby chicken. And before you ask: yes, it was the cutest frigging thing you’ve ever seen. And before you ask: yes, it was a strange contest. But it worked out because my dad was an entrepreneur who was always risking our life savings on some new business venture, and that month it was chickens. So we had lots, and my little prize fit right in. Until the cook got ahold of it.

Anyway, I’ve won many things in my life, and I’ve achieved some brilliant successes in the midst of serious downtroddenness*. But first, let me just show you what I’ve won lately.

 

Cristin Terrill, writer and baker extraordinaire, selected me to receive the following goodies from her new sweetie business, Sneaky Sweet :

 

Cookies win packaged

Vegan/Gluten-free chocolate chip cookies, Butterfly sugar cookies, and Almond toffee. The were all deeeeelicious, but my favorite?

 

butterfly biscuits Aren't these gorgeous? Though they aren’t just a feast for the eyes, but an entirely too scrumptious party in my tummy. Sweet? Absolutely—and perfect for my notorious sweet tooth. But there was a very distinct flavor in them, something that reminded me of roses. Talk about a sneaky sweet—these aren’t your grandma’s cookies.

All of the cookies were gourmet in presentation, but utterly delectable like grandma’s favorites. So go check out her cookie website, Sneaky Sweet. And while you’re at it, check out Cristin’s writing blog, too ;) Thank you, Cristin for the amazing cookies!

 

But the luck doesn’t end there, folks. From the California Contest hosted by the  talented writer Courtney of  Southern Princess, I won the following:

 

Preunwrap southern princess prizeThis is what I saw when I pulled it out of the package. Check out that wax seal…too cool. And an unexpected bonus prize? OMG!!!

 

postunwrap southern princess prize

Here are my prizes unwrapped. I was expecting the Coach wristlet (SQUEEEEEEEE!) and the book. But Courtney surprised me with the beautiful teal scarf and the tiny red ruby slipper (for good luck? Yes!). What Courtney didn’t know was that I collect scarves. I love them. No, I LOVE them. Serious mind meld, people. And before I forget—I also won a $20 Amazon gift voucher which came through e-mail, so no picture. But, yeah, Courtney is so freaking awesome. Now Check. This. Out.

 

Coach wristlet win

*Sigh* I’m totally crushing on this beauty right now. It sleeps tucked under my pillow, where I can keep it safe and close to me. When I have nightmares, I run my fingers over the little Coach tag, and it soothes me. Thank you, Courtney. You’re solid awesome.

 

Next, I won this lovefest of a prize pack from Karen Hooper’s Loveapalooza contest.

 

Love prize

Not only did she send me this rocking book filled with questions for the game of loooooove (ooo lala), Karen also sent a box of chocolates to liven things up. Saweeeet. Unfortunately, when my husband and I went to enjoy the goodies, we discovered a bite taken out of every single one of the chocolates—no, don’t go sending hate mail to Karen. The chocolates did not arrive that way. My toddler got into them. But thank you, Karen! I adore this prize.

 

Finally, I won this precious I-should-probably-hermetically-seal prize from Heather of See Heather Write for her very first contest!

Anita Shreve win cover It’s beautiful enough like this, but check out the inside (drool. drool.)

Anita Shreve win autograph

Yes, folks, that the amazing Anita Shreve’s signature!!! OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG!!!! You have no idea how much I love Anita Shreve. Seriously. No idea.

Well, maybe you have some idea. But big huge thanks to Heather for offering such a fab prize! I was so jealous that Heather actually got to work with Ms. Shreve, but this definitely helped to ease my sinful coveting.

 

So there you have it, my latest winnings. But I don't intend for the streak to stop there. What’s my secret, you ask?

(Drum roll, please)

The Big Secret

You must believe you will win. You must exorcise the internal dialogue about setting up false hopes and expectations. You must not be afraid of disappointment. So often, we temper our hope because we are afraid. But hope—belief, faith—is one of the most powerful gifts you can give yourself. You must be willing to feel the sorrow of rejection, but at the same time, feel confident that a win is imminent. Speak to the universe, and say I will win (or I will publish or I will find love, or I will find my keys, etc.). If you believe, truly believe, you tend to act in a way that will help you succeed, and thus the universe responds.

 

Things have a way of working out sometimes. Always? No. I won the chick, but I didn’t get calf.

Still….

 

I will publish. I believe.

 

~~~~~~~~~

*Yes, you have my permission to use this word now, as long as you always follow it with “Carol is brilliant.”

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Agape

Wow. I am crazy overwhelmed right now. Not just with how much work I have to do, but more specifically with how many awards I have received lately. I mean, okay, I’m sitting here counting up the awards I’ve gotten in the last month, right? And I’m kinda flipping out. So, just to give you an idea, this is what I look like right now:

mouth agape

Well, you know, a little more girly, probably.  And minus the camera. But, truly, this is one of those insanely flattering moments that leaves me staring at the computer with my mouth fly-catching cotton-dry agape.

So, anyway, this is going to be one heck of a long post (my apologies, though most of it is pictures). And there’s just no way I’ll be able to honor all the rules. Just. Not. Possible. But, if you forgive me for being a rule-breaker, I promise I’ll post a funny, but crazy-freaky OMG-did-she-really-just-post-that blog post I’ve been holding out on.

groovyblogaward_Medeia
Thank you, Medeia Sharif for awarding me with this super cool badge!

Karen Hooper of Eternal Moonshine of a Daydreaming Mind, please stand up! this shiny new badge is all yours. I don’t think this one had any rules, so…easy peasy.







OverTheTopAward
Big thank you to Rhonda Cowsert (who gave this to me a while back), Jemi Fraser and Wendy Morrell for passing this award on to me! I’ve already blogged about this award, but I had forgotten to display my little badge because I’m a goob. So, just a shout out for now to these magnificent writers.





Circle of Friends Award
This beautiful baby came to me by way of Anne Riley and Courtney Reese. Thanks, ladies. I love this  award as I’ve made some great friends in this little-big blogosphere.
I pass this one on to:
Alexandra Shostak, Sara McClung, Simon Larter, Rhonda Cowsert, and Harley May



award honest scrap
Already have this one, but I wanted to give a shout out to the lovely Kelly at Rants, Observations, and Other Remarks. Thanks, Kelly!







Sugar_doll_Diane Oh, how sweet it is! Thank you, Anne Riley, for this beautiful award. Anyone who knows me knows that sugar is my favorite.

I pass this award on to Laurel Garver, Wendy Morrell and Kimberly Franklin.
If you’re a a law abiding citizen, you can find the rules for this award here. But instead of posting a bunch of facts about myself, I will post this:




creme-brulee

Mmmmm…vanilla crème brulée. My very favorite way to eat this is with strawberries, chocolate shavings, and raspberry coulis. Feed me this, and I will be your friend for life.

Sunshine-Award
This award was passed on to me by the sunshiny Simon Larter who persists on teasing the everliving heck out of me. But I’m so nice, so pure, so unteasable, I don’t even know where he gets the fodder. Still, thanks Simon…for the award. There are rules—something about passing it on to 12 people, so here you go; I pass this award on to:

Jon Paul and

Mireyah Wolfe
Melissa at Chasing the Dream

What? You don’t think that’s 12? It totally is.

Quillfeather12 copy The lovely Wendy Morrell created this award and passed it on to me! Here are Wendy’s requirements: Before you take him home, you have to tell me how you like your eggs cooked. Feel free to hand over the award to other Cool Chicks if you wish, but please advise those recipients to keep his hutch clean and tidy at all times. Oh, and make sure he has plenty of grain and water. And love....

So, first, my eggs:

I like my eggs over-easy, sometimes on a cheeseburger, or with ketchup. And if I'm up to the task, I like them soft-boiled, about 7 minutes, served  in one of those tiny little egg cups, preferably one with something cool on it, like the porcelain head of a schnauzer, and with a tiny little teaspoon to dig the yolk out. Not bad with a bellini.

And I pass this award on to the following Cool Chicks:

Courtney Reese, Jemi Fraser, Liza Salerno, Ashelynn Sanford, Kelly Morgan, Anne Riley, Medeia Sharif, Southern Princess, Shannon O’Donnell, and Heather of See Heather Write


Lesa's_Blogger_Award
Oh, this one’s a beauty, given to me by Liza Salerno, Kelly Morgan, and Ashelynn Sanford. Many thanks, ladies!!

As you may know, the receipt of this award requires me to list a series of truths and lies. Click here for the actual rules, if you want to follow them.
As for me, this one was too good to pass up. But I’m tweaking the rules a bit. I’m only going to tell you 2 statements, and you can determine for yourselves if either of these is true.

1. This man, Rafael Valdez Cervantes, is my great great grandfather, founder of Compania Azucarera Valdez - Ingenio Valdez, the oldest sugar mill in Ecuador, which is still in operation today as a major supplier of unrefined sugar worldwide. Coca-Cola uses sugar from this company for several of its products.

companiaazucareravig

2. I am related to this man on my mother’s side.

Faulkner_table 

If you don’t know who he is, here’s a hint: this picture was taken just before he wrote The Sound and the Fury (no, don’t confuse him with Shakespeare—you might be thinking of MacBeth.)

Yes, I’m practically royalty.

Finally, I pass this award on to Alexandra Shostak, one of my amazing CPs. ANNNNNNDDD because it’s her BIRTHDAY!!!!!

21st_happy_birthday_cake_champagne_bottle

Wait, that’s not right. Let’s try again.

Happy21st

Happy birthday, Sweetness!!!! XOXOXOXO


OMG. I made it. Only a couple more posts, and I’ll be going on hiatus. Maybe a couple of weeks or a month, or…I don’t know. But I think I need to be alone for a while. My inner Gollum is surfacing. And I’m preparing to query. There’s that, too.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

You Mean, Actually TALK to an Agent?

 

conversation

 

I wasn’t going to blog today, but I came across something that really intrigued me, so I thought it was worth a blog post. Mark W. McVeigh, a former editor, has started a new literary agency and is offering a chance to Skype with him for fifteen minutes regarding anything publishing related. All you have to do is get ten people to follow his blog (be sure they drop your name in his comments section).

Now, I’m not the most eloquent on the phone. Indeed, I’ve been accused of sounding rather like a stuttering ten year old. So, a phone conversation with Mr. McVeigh—or eep, Skype convo!!!—would likely be a lame, most futile endeavor for me, and may actually make the poor man block my email address from his account (not a good start for someone preparing to query). So, I’d like it very much if you would go comment on Mr. McVeigh’s blog and please drop someone else’s name, like Tricia J. O’Brien or Wendy Morrell, for example.

If, however, you choose to drop my name, I will not hate you. In fact, if I met my ten people quota, I would likely have to videotape the skype call with Mr. McVeigh, as it may very well go down in history as one of the most embarrassing moments of my life. And yeah, I am anxious to win some money from America’s Funniest Home Videos (and for some reason, my husband won’t let me videotape my three year old throwing a golf club at his testicles, so it seems I must take a different route). But—as much as I just looooove embarrassing myself—I’d just as soon rather you dropped someone else’s name. Be sure, of course, to get your own ten followers so that you can have your own conversation with Mr. McVeigh. Perhaps you sound a little less like a douche on the phone than me.

 

P.S. You have until the stroke of midnight, Monday, February 22, 2010.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Some News

I had intended to blog about adverbs the last few days, but somehow, the time has gotten away from me to blog at all. I know, you’re disappointed (Dang it, I needed to know about adverbs!!!!). So sorry.

Actually, I don’t even really have the time to blog today. It does not help that I was awake until 3 AM…again (I know, right moron), so that I did not wake up until 11 AM, which for a mom, is like a comedy of errors waiting to happen (you really have no idea what can happen while you’re asleep. Oh my word, no idea. Hint: Syrup. Peanut Butter. Playdough. Gift Wrap).  BUT, there are a couple of scheduled activities that I wanted to highlight before tomorrow, so I’m squeezing this baby in. I recommend you participate in both of them (obviously, since, you know, I’m mentioning them).

 

Elana Johnson is hosting the Pay It Forward Query Critique Contest, in which you can win a query critique by one of five fabulous literary agents. But it ends tomorrow, February 21, 2010 at 10 PM (MST), so HURRY UP!

 

Laurel Garver is hosting The Whoops! Blogfest, for which writers should post “clumsy, awkward, embarrassing moments suffered by a character in a WIP, or post links to laughable gaffes from film, YouTube or Fail Blog” (Garver). This blogfest is taking place Monday, February 22, 2010. Be sure to sign up on the McLinky widget on Laurel’s Leaves.

 

So off you go, click click. And get to work on that Whoops scene. For now, I’m off to play mom. Yeahhhhh. I enjoy syrup. Just not on my floor. Or on playdough. OMG, I actually stepped barefoot on a piece of bacon…in my living room. *Sigh

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Another 2 AM Post: Blame It on Sara

Why are you still awake, Carol????

Blame it on Sara. That’s all I’m gonna say. That and Creepeas.

Anyway, because of Sara, who made me laugh until I nearly peed my pants, I am still awake, so I might as well write a blog post, since I’ve been horribly negligent anyway. First, I’ll focus on….

 

~~~Breaking News~~~

I forgot to comment on Sara’s McClung’s latest blog post, but not just any blog post, the blog post that featured the trailer for her latest manuscript, Shattered (yes, I realize I said blog post 3 times…err, four). And while this isn’t necessarily flogging-worthy, it’s definitely bad form for a CP. So, I was tempted to hide in shame, and did…for a while.

 

Reading Twilight 

But I’m shedding my shame skin now. So S, this one is just for you, a photo of utter dorkdom, just to show you how sincere my apology is <3 <3 <3

Tongue

 

Oh, the embarrassment! Do you not see what I sacrifice for you? Ah, the misery!!! Let this be a lesson to you writers: be thoughtful of your CPs.

 

Okay, I am now redeemed. Yay!

But while I’m here, guess what my other CP, Alexandra Shostak, made for me? Squeeeeeee!!!  Another cover for my AETERNUS manuscript!

 

aeternus_fake_cover_by_a_shostak_2

 

Isn’t it totally wicked awesome?!!!! OMG, a thing of delicious beauty. Seriously, people Alexandra has got to be one of the most rockin CP’s EVAH!!! Thank you, A!!! BIG <3 <3 <3, mi magnífiquita!!!!*

In other news, I’ve waited so long to blog about blog bling, that, um, I’ve been awarded six more blog awards by eleven people! Doh! Getting a bit backed up here, I think. But I LOVE these awards and adore the bloggies who passed them on to me, so that’s coming up soon.  Please don’t think I’ve ignored you if you passed an award on to me sometime in the last month (or two).

AND I’ve also won a few things lately, like, enough to make me think now must be the time I should be playing the lottery. Seriously, people, I’ve been crazy lucky lately—so much so that I think Lucky Lou should be my new nickname. No, I don’t really think that. That’s 2 AM talking. Please don’t call me Lucky Lou. Please. Anyway, I will soon be blogging about all the things I’ve won, and yes, my magic secret for winning. No, I’m not gonna tell you now. You’ll just have to wait. Have your Powerball ticket ready to fill out.

Okay, then, so there’s the news. Now I have to find a way to end this post.

*Thinking

Nope, nothing. So, I think I’ll end with some last lines of stories someone else wrote. See if you can figure out who authored them(same person for all) and drop a line in my comments section.**

 

~~Ending Lines~~

*Bill selected a sandwich from the lunch basket and walked over to have a look at the rods.

*The photographs did not make much difference to the major because he only looked out the window.

*In the evening, they all sat at dinner together in the garden under a plane tree and the hot evening wind blew and Elliot drank white wine and Mrs. Elliot and the girl friend made conversation and they were all quite happy.

*A short time after he contracted gonorrhea from a sales girl in a loop department store while riding in a taxicab through Lincoln Park.

*In the early morning on the lake sitting in the stern of the boat with his father rowing, he felt quite sure that he would never die.

 

There you have it, five ending lines by the same author. I bet you’d never guess that someone really famous for their brilliant writing wrote them, huh? Well, maybe you would if you know this author’s writing. It goes to show you, though, that your final line doesn’t have to go off like fireworks to be effective. Each of these final lines presents a fairly clear image. But what makes them even more effective (and you’ll just have to trust me on this), is that these final images relate in a very poignant way to the images that came before them. They are deceptively simple, but only when they stand alone. Indeed, these endings are actually amazingly strong. I’ll probably explain why. Later.  Like Tuesday or something. I’ll likely still be sleeping until then.

In honor of final lines (get it? ha!), thought I’d bring you this video.*** No, it’s not just a Folgers Singular Sensations advert.

OMG

 

*Shudders*

#############################################

 

*This cover will mean something even cooler on Monday. You’ll see.

**Simon, don’t say a word. You’re disqualified from answering because I know you know already. No, that does not mean there’s a prize. Put your hand down—I’m not gonna call on you. Besides, I’ve just mastered the Kesagiri Chop, and let me tell ya, not fun to be on the wrong end of that one.

***Disclaimer: This video may cause nightmares. Use at your own discretion. No Life Guard on Duty.

Monday, February 15, 2010

And So Ends Flash Fiction Week

Wow! Simon and I have made it through Flash Fiction Week. And let me just say, this was not easy, folks. Posting every day (I just don’t know how some of you do it),  with an attempt to offer some insightful analysis of such remarkable stories from our Cosmic Coincidence Contest has really cut into my sleeping time. And oh yes, writing a last minute story for the Love at First Sight Blogfest yesterday on top of it all has my head spinning so fast my eyeballs have turned  inward. In fact, I’m pretty sure I can see my optic nerve right now.

Despite my lack of sleep, however, I’ve truly enjoyed the process. In all sincerity, Simon has been a pleasure to work with (especially once he forgave me for bloodying his lip), and the stories that were submitted were just a breeze and a joy to read and explore. Of course, this made for great difficulty in our judging. In fact, the entries were so remarkable that we want to share a little something about each and every one of the stories we did not select. I think by the end, you will understand why Simon and I nearly ripped each other to shreds in the judging process.

Frankie Mallis

(Frankie Writes, First Novel’s Club)

Frankie’s story, "Poison Words," about the torments of high school and adolescent suicide, is a moving portrayal of a reality all too common in the lives of many youths. Such a sad story, but well crafted with subtleties and vivid details that add to the somber atmosphere.
I shoved the phone under the sand. It buzzed again making little specks jump up and down. They danced beside me in a strange rhythm against the waves until Marissa gave up. I guess she found some other loser, stupid enough to listen to her. Or…like I’d known all along, I just wasn’t important enough to bother with.

Liza Carens Salerno (Middle Passages)

“The Sting of It” is one of those stories you can’t even sum up without doing it an injustice. You just have to read it to understand how clever it is crafted—how it leads the reader towards an irony so great, you almost laugh despite the tragedy at the end. And the characterization is so strong, the images so vivid. And check out the tactile language in this….
Adjusting the tilt of the umbrella so that it sat directly over her head, she turned back to the novel that had engrossed her until the itch became too distracting. “I’m just going to ignore it,” she muttered. “I’ve waited too long for this moment, and darn it, the ice cream truck hasn’t arrived yet.” In front of her, the teal sea swished and whispered as the tide measured its way in. The hard packed sand in front of her of lay frozen in washboard ridges shaped by the previous high tide. Dollops of drying seaweed fanned out like undisciplined hair through which iridescent mussel shells sprawled with open wings.

Anne Riley (Anne Riley Blog)

Anne’s "Turnabout is Fair Play" is one of those where you can’t quite decide who you want to be the victor. The narrator is painted in a rather unsympathetic light, and yet, the narrator’s adversary (his wife) is not exactly loveable. As such, it becomes almost a black comedy, a la War of the Roses, in which you’re not exactly rooting for either main character, but still eager to see the outcome. It’s a bit of a satire actually, filled with humor and irony.  I was also particularly impressed with the characterization in this story.
She glanced at the storm, now hovering directly over her, and finished her wine as rain blew across the sea. The drops stung her face as they drove into her flesh, but she did not move. She took a deep breath and pushed a soggy lock of hair away from her face.
“Well,” she said finally, placing her chin in her hand. “That was easy.”

Yvonne Osborne (The Organic Writer)

One of the most impressive aspects of Yvonne’s story, “Remy’s Job” was the voice—it was just so strong. It really leaped off the page: the restrained emotion in the narrator, the desire to change what has been done, and the bitter realization that some things are unchangeable. We see a glimpse of beauty, of hope in the melancholy, and this, ultimately, is what drives the story.
He opened the urn and looked inside, not knowing what to expect. It was only half full. He gave it a shake and the contents shifted. A man’s remains couldn’t even fill an urn. A man’s remains were less than what could be swept out of a fireplace after a party. He held it aloft over the water, as though he were proposing a toast, and emptied it into the wind.

Nina Watson*

Nina’s “A Twist in Time,” depicts a flashback to a beautiful past which haunts because of a loss in the present. But the loss is embroiled in mystery and intrigue and a quiet desperation, so that the twist in the end shocks the reader by dropping them right back into that idyllic past, and yet…not. It’s rather like plunging a cold hand into a hot bath—it should feel good, and yet at first, it stuns you. “A Twist in Time” takes the reader through a multitude of unsettling emotions which echo that of the protagonist. I love it when stories do this, when the reader is no more aware than the characters.
Oh just to hear his voice again...The emptiness seemed to be overwhelming, she was so numb, she wished it would actually hurt. Her mom and dad, her brother, who was her best friend, are all gone. She was truly alone now.

Jeremy Wells (Flight Attendant Shop)

The beautiful thing about “Dead is Stan” is that all the clues to the ending were right there for you at the beginning, but you sort of glaze right over them as Jeremy did a fantastic job of making these small details seem like part of the exposition. And the thing is, you actually know what the ending will be, just not how you will get there—except you do, if you’re just paying attention. “Dead is Stan” is cleverly laid out for the reader with brilliantly descriptive language, to boot.
Only moments ago, Stan had been marveling at the lower half of a delicious brown serving girl as her tray eclipsed the sun. Down had come his martini like some alien craft shot from the tray’s corona. He had tipped the girl well, covering a curious tattoo on her hip - a snake in the shape of the number 2 - by sliding a large bill into the strap of her bikini bottom. He hoped she would remember his generous wallet and not his generous midriff, now bronzing in the sun.

Angie Kate (Always Write)

“Wanted and Unwanted” is a clever rendition of the story of Bonnie and Clyde  and…Lucy? I loved the play with historical characters, the sarcasm, the dark humor, the vivid descriptions, and best of all, the dialogue in this piece—indeed, the story is told primarily through dialogue, but the clues to what is happening are layered. You think you’re being sneaky, that you’re picking up on what is really happening by focusing on the subtle actions/words of one character (Ha! you say as a reader), when ultimately, you’re missing the more obvious clues to be found in the direct words of another character. Very tricksy, this one!
"I'm scared," Lucy said. She looked again at the two martinis between them.
Bonnie sat up on her lounger and pushed back the brim of her sun hat. She removed her sunglasses to stare at the horizon.
"It's terrifying, Lucy. That's why it's perfect." She gestured to the sparkling expanse of blue water. "Don't you remember? The best things in life come from conquered fears."
….
"I don't think I'm ready to die," Lucy said.
Can you tell from reading this which character gets poisoned? Dun Dun Dunnnnnnn.


****************************

There you have it, the remaining reasons why the judging process was so immensely difficult. Although, I’m not one to complain—not in this case anyway. We were very fortunate to have received all of these amazing entries. So for that, I say thank you thank you thank you to all of the entrants. You have made this contest worthwhile.

And Simon, you have made hosting a short story contest a far more pleasurable experience all around, despite the bloody battles. But have no fear, even though the contest is over, I will still make it a point to rib you every now and again. In fact, tune in tomorrow…or, um, maybe everybody but you should tune in tomorrow…hm, yeah.

And just for kicks….



Le Fin


*We were unable to track down a blog/website for Nina Watson, though we will create a link as soon as one is made known to us.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

It’s All Simon’s Fault

Due to unforeseen circumstances—eeh hemmm…SimonSimon and I were unable to coordinate our final blog posts for Flash Fiction Week as scheduled. Of course it had nothing to do with anything I did. NOOOOOO. No. nononono. Let’s just set the record straight here.

It was all Simon’s fault. Entirely.

Oh ho ho, was it ever Simon’s fault. I mean, I heard all sorts of lame excuses (like, a kid’s birthday? Pshaw!)…which, okay, I didn’t ask questions. Sometimes, you just don’t, right? So, yeah, it’s all Simon’s fault. It had NOTHING whatsoever to do with me. NOTHING at all.  It’s his fault he was not able to get a hold of me on my (turned off) mobile phone. Okay, yeah, my Internet wasn’t working either, but, I mean, ever heard of carrier pigeons? Uh, duh. Seriously, the dude has no concept of ESP, apparently. Or, like, Morse code, even. None. I mean, ever heard of a message in a bottle? It’s not just a book, you know. I would totally have abandoned movie-watching day to write MY blog post had he just figured out a way to communicate with me.

However, we will be posting one last time. It’s important for us to show not just how amazing all of our contest entries were, but how difficult it was to judge for the Cosmic Coincidence Contest.  Except we won’t be able to post tomorrow because of the Love at First Sight Blogfest hosted by the lovely Courtney Reese and her critique group Critique This. Instead, we will be posting about the final contest entries this coming Monday, February 15, 2010.

But, please do accept our apologies for the delay. Although to be quite frank, it’s Simon who should be the most apologetic, as it’s his fault. I accept that it’s possible that it’s not entirely Simon's fault—it could be the cosmos at work, but it hardly seems fitting to blame the universe, since that’s kind of a cop out. So we’ll just blame it on Simon. But please be sure to check in on Monday. I promise it will be way more fun than being swallowed whole by an anaconda.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Flash Fiction Week, Day 5

Today Simon Larter and I unveil the second and final first place winning entry of our Cosmic Coincidence Contest:

 

 

We would like to present to you “Necessity” by Merrilee Faber (which is pretty fantastic—you’ll see). But tomorrow, we will be highlighting the things we love about the entries that were not selected (not because we didn’t love them, but because we’re too poor and time-constrained to give books and critiques to all of them).

But for the moment, let’s focus on Merrilee’s fabulous submission.

 

Necessity

Merrilee Faber

It seems odd to say that you can be woken by silence, but you can. It's the absence of something familiar, like waking in a cold bed, empty of your recent lover.

The silence of the gulls swept into my dream. I rolled over and fell off the couch onto the rug. Sunlight charged into the apartment with the crash and roar of heat and glare. On my little patio, beyond the massive egg in its nest of broken furniture, two dead snakes hung from the railing. Their brown skin glittered as bright as the waves in the bay beyond.

I ran to the door, stumbling over debris, flung it open and leaned over the rail. The sky, faded blue like an old pair of jeans, was empty of wings of any kind. I strained my eyes, searching for a distant speck. Then the seagulls emerged from their hiding places, filling the sky with wings and noise.

I sank down into my last patio chair, and pulled the snakes off the rail. They were still warm. Inside the egg I could feel a fluttering, like a ripple under my skin. I reached out a hand, touched the rough shell, felt a quiver in my gut. I hadn't planned on doing this alone, but then what of my life had I planned?

I hung the snakes over the arm of the chair and went to call Joel.

"Angie!"

Even his voice was tanned and smiling. We hadn't spoken in two months. We were supposed to be old friends. But I never returned his calls. "Joel, I need your help. Can you come over?"

"Coming right now." There were overtones to his reply. I put down the phone, stared at the mess, decided it was too big to tackle. In the kitchen, I scrabbled among the empty bottles and found enough remains to make a very stiff martini. I mixed it in a jug and drank it straight from there.

I'd gone off alcohol for almost six years. I'd gone off almost everything, trying desperately to conceive the child that called to me. When a succession of boyfriends and one-night stands had failed to produce that child, I'd turned to Joel.

It had been a fun, but fruitless relationship. When I'd finally given up trying to conceive, Joel had made it plain that he would be happy to remain as bed-mates. But my sex drive had died with my dreams, so we settled back into friendship.

The doorbell rang. Halfway to the door something crunched under my foot. I staggered, pain digging into my sole. The doorbell rang again.

"Hang on!" I leaned against the wall, turned up my foot and plucked out a shard of bloody glass. I hobbled over to the door as the bell rang a third time.

"Angie! Hey-" Joel saw my posture. "What happened?"

"Stepped on a glass. Come in, I need to find a towel."

Joel closed the door behind him and, before I realised what he was doing, swept me up into his arms.

He stopped dead at the entrance to the living room. I followed his gaze; from the torn fabric on the couch to the shattered lamp, the remains of my dining suite, and finally to the long, ragged gouges in the plaster walls.

"Angie." Joel's usually loud voice was an awed whisper. "What the hell happened?"

Fantastic sex was probably not the answer he was looking for. "Foot first."

"Right."

In the bathroom, I washed the cut clean, and let him put a band-aid on it. I still couldn't think of what to say.

"So what happened?"

"It's complicated."

He put a hand on my knee. "Angie. You know you can tell me anything. We're pretty close, right?"

I nodded. "Come out on to the patio."

I led him through the trashed living room. Funny thing was, we weren't that close. But to Joel, close and intimate were the same thing.

Out on the patio, he stared down at the egg. "It's a giant egg." He reached out a hand. The egg, easily as tall as his hip, quivered. He pulled his hand away. "Where did you get it?"

I smiled at a warm memory. "From a traveller with skin the colour of polished ebony."

"A darkie?"

My smile died. I'd forgotten about Joel's racist leanings. "Yes, Joel. A man with dark skin."

"You bought it off him?"

"He…helped me make it."

He grunted. "Hope he didn’t cheat you."

"No. We both got what we wanted." I turned away and walked back inside.

Joel wasn't what I needed. My body had known that. I had found what I needed in a chance encounter with a man I would probably never see again. I knew that now. The snakes had been his parting gift, to me and to my daughter.

I paused, one hand on the kitchen counter. My daughter. I could hear her in my head. She was almost here. I reached down under the counter and pulled out a machete, still with the price tag on the shining blade.

I heard a splintering sound from the patio. Joel rushed in, and my grip tightened.

"I think it's hatching!"

"I know." I straightened, brought the machete down in a sweeping motion. Joel thudded onto the linoleum.

Hunger pains gripped my stomach and I gasped. "I'm coming. Hang on." I raised the machete again, brought it down.

I took my grisly offering outside, still warm and dripping. The snakes had already been devoured. My daughter spotted me and stumbled forward through the shattered shell. The sunlight glistened on her wings, still damp with birth fluids.

Her skin was black like ebony, but those were my hazel eyes that looked up; hungering, demanding, needing me like no-one in my life had ever needed me.

I bent down to give my daughter her first feed, oblivious to the gulls and the city and the empty sky beyond.

 

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Here’s the thing about this story: You MUST read it twice. I’m not kidding. You will get a sense of how truly remarkable this story is with a second read. So go ahead, and then come back to me.

How was it? What did you learn? It’s like a punch in the kisser, isn’t it? You had no idea the first time around what that egg was, did you? NO idea. But the clues were all there:

 

On my little patio, beyond the massive egg in its nest of broken furniture, two dead snakes hung from the railing.

The sky, faded blue like an old pair of jeans, was empty of wings of any kind.

I hadn't planned on doing this alone….

I'd gone off almost everything, trying desperately to conceive the child that called to me.

Fantastic sex was probably not the answer he was looking for.

I had found what I needed in a chance encounter with a man I would probably never see again.

 

I’ll admit—this story shocked me. I finished reading it and stared at my computer screen with mouth agape. My first thought was: ewwwwww. My second thought was: saweeeeeet. Because it was brilliant. I’m so glad that I was not aware of the genre of this piece. Had I known to expect magical realism, I might not have felt the full impact of it as I did (consider Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude where you’re left thinking, WTF just happened? and yet you’re smiling like the cat with a canary in its mouth). Still, there’s more to it than just the fantastical shock (and of course, the clever unveiling of the mystery).

“Necessity” also illustrates near perfect characterization, in my opinion, if only because in less than 1,000 words, we already have a very distinct sense of this narrator’s personality—it’s imbued into every sentence. Even Joel—or heck, even the winged mutant daughter feels strong.

My daughter spotted me and stumbled forward through the shattered shell. The sunlight glistened on her wings, still damp with birth fluids.

It all comes down to the perfect word choice, the ideal image, and the way (and order) those images are depicted. “Necessity” does it all beautifully.

I paused, one hand on the kitchen counter. My daughter. I could hear her in my head. She was almost here. I reached down under the counter and pulled out a machete, still with the price tag on the shining blade.

Pure. Effing. Genius.

 

Thank you, Ms. Faber, for your remarkable entry. Congratulations on your First Place win. Please be sure to e-mail your address and book selection to carolsimoncontest AT gmail DOT com. If you are interested in the ten page critiques, please let us know, and we’ll make arrangements.

Many thanks to all of our followers and supporters as well as to Laurel Garver and others from Simon’s writing group for your prize contribution. And a big, hearty <3 filled thank you to all those who submitted flash fiction entries to our contest. You made it incredibly difficult to judge, but you also made the contest entirely worthwhile. I hope that everyone will come back tomorrow to see the brilliance of the remaining entries. I can see no better way to finish off Flash Fiction Week. Plus, I’ll probably poke fun of Simon a little. That’s always fun.

 

If you liked “Necessity,” please be sure to check out Merrilee’s writing blog Not Enough Words.

 

P.S. If you have not yet seen Sara McClung’s Vlog for an ARC, you should. OMG, you really should.

P.P.S. If you have not yet become a follower of Alexandra Shostak or Simon Larter, you absolutely should. That’s all.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Flash Fiction Week, Day 4

Today, Simon Larter and I present to you one of the two First Place winning entries of our Cosmic Coincidence Contest. Of course, this was not an easy selection. Simon and I had our hands full sifting through all the of the brilliant entries. It got so that it felt like we were deciding between the minutest of details to choose. They really were all very good. But I think you’ll find that “The Threshold,” by Michelle Davidson Argyle, stands out.

The Threshold

Michelle Davidson Argyle

Story removed per author's request....

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A highlight of this piece was, for me, the vivid imagery. Indeed, from the very first sentence, the reader’s senses are manipulated—no, assaulted:
The weeds crackled in the summer heat, like tinder, brittle and brown.
You can hear it, see it—reach out and touch it. I can clearly envision the way it would feel to run my hands through these weeds, the way they might make me itch as they grazed my bare legs. I squirmed more than once reading this story—the very thought of these grasshoppers bouncing off my skin…eww, talk about shivers. My heart pounded right along with Finn’s.
Which leads me to the next highlight of this story: the characterization. Quite strong, wouldn’t you say? Though Finn comes across as a more complex character, both he and Alice nearly jump off the page:
Alice’s blue eyes flashed, her lashes thick with mascara. Her black eyeliner made her look exotic, dangerous. She smelled like the weeds in the lot, like gasoline and bone-dry dirt. Finn wanted to kiss her. He liked the way she made his parents nervous, the way she didn’t care about school or money or popularity. She knew who she was.
This says it all, doesn’t it? Youth, rebellion, and longing—it’s all there in just a few words.  This paragraph is almost entirely about Alice, yet it also says so much about Finn, because we’re seeing Alice through his eyes...which leads me to my next point….

All of you who felt the heat in this story, please raise your hands. Yowza…I think my eyes nearly caught fire reading this. This story could possibly make a good showing as YA fiction, but the underlying sexual tension certainly makes it feel edgy—raw…at the far reaches of YA. There’s nothing overtly sexual; indeed, had there been, it likely would have lost its appeal. But consider the implications within the language:
He glanced at her tattoo again, the black and purple design, the red-flicking tongue.
About makes you squirm in your seat, doesn’t it? My eyes bugged out when I read this line, and yet my face widened into a most delicious smile. I thought, Niiiiiiiiiiice. This was definitely my favorite line.
Overall, I found the subtlety of this story rather appealing. You have to dig a bit, perhaps even read it more than once to feel the full impact of this story. But it’s gorgeous, no? Boy likes girl that belongs to his friend…and yet, there’s an inner beauty, as well—a  greater complexity to the plot and to the characters simmering beneath the surface of crackling weeds and grasshoppers and rebellious youths with tattoos. Best of all? The entire story (including the resolution) is implied in the image of a lizard opening its jaws wide, “its eyes…like glass under the heat lamp, the false sun.”

Thank you, Ms. Argyle for your entry. Simon and I both enjoyed reading your story. Congratulations on your first place win. Please be sure to e-mail your address and book selection to carolsimoncontest AT gmail Dot com. If you are interested in 10-page critiques, those will also be available to you.

Many thanks to all of our followers and supporters as well as to Laurel Garver and others from Simon’s writing group for your prize contribution. If you liked this story, be sure to check out Michelle’s personal blog The Innocent Flower and her group writing blog The Literary Lab. Michelle also has a photography blog, Glam’s Photography, which is definitely worth a peek.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Flash Fiction Week, Day 3

Today I’d like to present “Strays,” by Sarah Ahiers (AKA Falen), the third second place short story entry for the Cosmic Coincidence Contest I hosted with Simon Larter. I won’t comment on it up front, but I think you’ll see right away this story’s appeal.

[Story Retracted for publication]


#############################################

When we first received this story, I sat down, drink in hand, took a sip, and started reading. My first thought: Oh, I see. A cat lady story. How nice. And then I read the last line of the first paragraph and nearly splattered my screen with Coke Zero, thinking: What? What! Vampire strays?!!!!! Hahahahahaha!
So, yeah, this story takes the cake in originality. Brilliant. Just brilliant. I had to read it a second time because the first time around, I missed everything as I tried to digest the notion of stray vampires. But it’s not just the originality of the piece that makes this one so remarkable. The end of the story was so beautifully set up. Indeed, a mythos was developed in the span of a single conversation in a restaurant—that of the vampires in this world.
The character development in this was gorgeous as well. Marcia felt like she could very well be me cat lady neighbor, except instead of cats, Marcia was a sucker for vampires because “…dog food attracted raccoons and stray cats always stuck around.” Clever, no? We come to understand Marcia to be this overly sympathetic, rather naive woman, so that by the end of the story, all the pieces fall into place. We are surprised, and yet we’re not, when Antonio arrives.
“You let me in,” he said, his voice deep and soft in the room that smelled of spilled blood. And because she knew nothing else to do, Marcia nodded. 
Love this…the imagery, the irony, and the sense of utter inevitability…beautiful. The final line won me over, I think: “…all Marcia could think was who will feed the strays?” I just about wanted to bonk this woman on the head with a cast iron pan—and if you can elicit that kind of emotional response from a reader, you have a winner.

Many thanks, Ms. Ahiers for your remarkable submission. What a pleasure to read your story. Please be sure to send your address and your choice of books (Maas, Lamott, or Bradbury) to carolsimoncontest AT gmail DOT com. Moreover, if you are interested in five page critique(s), these will also be available to you.

If you liked Sarah’s story, be sure to check out her (witty) writing blog, Falen Formulates Fiction. As always, thanks for your considerable support.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Flash Fiction Week, Day 2

If you are encountering my blog for the first time, you should know that I hosted a short story contest with Simon Larter to commemorate our coincidental acquisitions of 100 followers (listen to me, I sound like a people farmer). Today, I’m posting the second of three second place winners: “Paris Was Good,” by Davin Malasarn. This time, I’ve posted my comments after the story.

Paris Was Good

Davin Malasarn
Paris was good, but it wasn’t real life for you or for her. You walked with her, hand in hand down the cobbled streets, poking into cheese shops and fruit markets and pâtisseries. You bought palm-sized oysters from the worker who blew kisses to her from his gloved hand. Once, you took the train to Italy because you wanted to see the beach. Then, in April, it was time to return to Sherman Oaks.

Directions for moving into a new apartment as a couple:

1. Find a living room that has a lot of light, big windows facing south.

2. Find hardwood floors, preferably cherrywood because that’s the only color you can agree on.

3. Frame the photograph you took, sitting together in your Paris loft in front of the foot-tall Christmas tree you decorated with Vittel water bottle caps and cut-out snowflakes.


—the rest of the furniture is ready; it has been sitting in your storage space all this time. Of course, there are two of everything, two sofas, two toaster ovens, two sets of dishes, two beds. You’re sad to see your own furniture go, but this is compromise, this is love.

At work, your desk has been waiting for you, just as cluttered as you left it six months ago. Dudley and Aimee seem to have missed you, but they also seem angry that you’ve been gone so long. You give them souvenirs: figurines of the gargoyles of Notre Dame, chocolates wrapped in colorful paper—This appeases them. You check in with your boss who is too busy to look up from her computer screen.

In Paris, everything else was so far away. Now, your ex sends you an email in elementary French.

Voulez vous manger chez moi?

Non, pardon, you reply.

Demain?

Non, désolé.

But you can’t put it off forever; your guilt is too strong. You meet at a diner and share fish and chips. You realize this is really over—that it actually never started. The next day she sends you a thank you note. She writes “mercy” instead of “merci”, “poison” instead of “poisson.”

May. June. July. August. Sepember. October. November. Time really does go by fast, just like everyone warned you it would. You see this ex about once a month, and each time is as equally strained as the others. In your new apartment you tell your lover you want a puppy, a small one that will sleep in the crook of your arm. When she asks if it wouldn’t be better to wait until you had a house you say, “I dreamt about Paris again last night.” It’s true, you’ve dreamt about it once a week since you came back. She kisses your forehead.

For Christmas, you get a small tree. You buy each other water bottels with red caps. You make snowflakes out of paper, but it doesn’t feel the same.

“But, what’s that?” she says, pointing to a box with holes punched into the sides, something scratching away inside.

“How long has the little guy been in there?” you ask.

“Since last Monday or Tuesday. I wanted it to be a surprise.”

Of course this is a joke. The puppy pops out with a bow around his neck. You name him Olivier, but somehow this turns to Oliver, sometimes Ollie. You take him on long walks where he sniffs every single rosebush you pass. You show him off to your friends, coupled friends, friends who invite you to box seats at the Hollywood bowl as a foursome.

By the following April, you’ve forgotten how to conjugate French verbs. You forget the pas after the ne. You wash your clothes at the laundromat where white-haired ladies whisper to you about which dryers get the hottest, and for some reason this delights you.

And then, one day, you realize that you think of the Sherman Oaks apartment as home. You are at work, staring at your computer screen, when you decide you want to share the rest of your life with this woman you have been living with for two years. You keep this to yourself, preparing for the announcement at some later date. Your dreams of Paris stop, replaced by long and peaceful sleep where you dream of nothing at all.

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You might have noticed right away that “Paris Was Good” was written with a second person point of view—this alone nabbed my attention at first. It’s just not a POV that is often done. To be honest, it was a brazen, risky thing to do. Second person POV, when attempted, is rarely done well, but I think Davin pulled it off as it reads very naturally—smoothly. It doesn’t feel jarring, even though he’s slipping the reader into the main character role.

The language of the piece is, of course, well done, but one of the most intriguing aspects of the story to me was the subtlety of the plot shift within the story, reflected in the language and the vivid, well-chosen imagery. We see a sharp contrast in the oysters and the fish and chips, the two settings, and even the gifts (again the oysters versus the puppy). But the best contrast, in my opinion was the shift in the use of the French language. 
She writes “mercy” instead of “merci”, “poison” instead of “poisson.”
Very clever, no? Ultimately, these contrasts in language and imagery portray a subtle deterioration of a romance—with a woman and with a place. It seems that the love of a character is dependent on the memory of a setting. Out of sight, and all that….

Overall, the story is poignant, bittersweet—real. It's a settling into life, not entirely sad (there's Ollie, of course), but certainly wistful.


Many thanks to you, Mr. Malasarn, for submitting your story to our contest. Well done all around. Please be sure to contact us with your address and choice of books (Lamott, Bradbury, or Maass) at carolsimoncontest AT gmail Dot com. If you are interested in five-page critique(s), those will also be available to you.


If you would like to see more of Davin Malasarn, please be sure to stop by his personal (science) blog, The Triplicate, and his group blog on writing, The Literary Lab.

Once again, thanks to all for your remarkable support.

Technical Difficulties

Due to unforeseen circumstances (Simon *cough*), our posts of the second winning short story entry for the Cosmic Coincidence Contest has been delayed. For some reason, Simon feels the need to meet the travel obligations of his day job. Unfortunately, this means he does not have access to the Internet for the moment, so he cannot publish his Flash Fiction Week, Day 2 blog post. As such, neither can I. Actually, I am bound by some pretty heavy duty magic (think Snape and the Unbreakable Vow), and if I attempt to break the rules, I will end up with the face of a wart hog. True story.

Dumb day jobs…dumb binding magic….

(Our posts should be up within the hour. Hopefully.)


To be fair, he could have easily published his Flash Fiction Week Day 2 blog post last night, but he was a gentleman and gave me until this morning to finish mine. But you did not hear this from me. Shhhhhhh….

Monday, February 8, 2010

Flash Fiction Week, Day 1

 Simon Larter and I were thrilled to receive such a great turnout for our Cosmic Coincidence Short Story Contest (which ended January 31). Indeed, we received thirteen entries—all of them remarkable and entertaining. So, it was not an easy choice, though we committed to make the decision together. So, yeah, don’t listen to what Simon says. We did not duke it out—not in the slightest. Surely, you realize he’s kidding when he says that our decision-making process was a heated battle. I only bloodied his lip a little bit. And really, what’s one broken arm in the long run, so long as we come to a consensus?

However, even though we were able to agree (quite readily...eh hemm…yeah) upon our selection of finalist short story entries, we had some difficulty ranking them within each category. So, we decided that we would divide the finalists into two tiers: two first place and three second place winning entries for a total of five winning entries. And so, today, we announce the first of the second place winning entries (but remember, we did not rank the stories within either category).

Today’s entry was chosen as a finalist for several reasons. First, we were impressed with the vivid, tactile imagery within the story. Nearly every line painted a picture for the reader that stimulated the senses on some level. And the language used was moving, to say the least—very specific, intentional word choice that seemed designed to force an emotional response. In particular, I was impressed by the unconventional use of modifiers, such as in, “He drops boneless into the only chair,” or “Staccato fingers,”  or “glass-edged smile,” all of which convey a bold image while elevating the ordinary. Moreover, “Paying the Freight” does a brilliant job of showing versus telling, allowing the readers to come to their own conclusions (though the conclusions are guided by the author). But regardless of the readers’ conclusions about the story, emotions are triggered not only by what we “see” in each of the two scenes, but by the sharp contrast between them. And that, folks, is poetry in fiction.

Paying the Freight

by Sarahjayne Smythe (Writing in the Wilderness)

A shiver runs through her and she pulls the edges of the flimsy gown tighter, wraps her arms around her middle. It doesn’t help, and she thinks the chill is only partly from the temperature in the room.

She slides her eyes along naked, dull-white walls; over threadbare curtains closing out the light.

She’s seen nicer whore houses.

She shifts slightly on the med-bed; sits on her hands, kicks her legs out, stares at the tiny, bare feet in front of her.

The door cracks open with a creak and she drops her feet, leans forward trying to make out the soft voices floating in the hall. She shifts again, tilts her head as the gap widens and then she’s not alone in the room anymore.

He drops boneless into the only chair in the room, a stool, spins it a quarter turn to face the desk.

Staccato fingers tap the file as bored eyes roam the chart.

She angles her head, small pink tongue running along suddenly dry lips as she leans forward, trying to see what he sees.

He reminds her of the old priest, pompous arrogance and judgment all rolled up in one, and being chased through dead, silent, black trees on that lifeless brown road.

They’d begged her for it; they always begged.

“I have to ask you this once.” His head swivels a quarter turn and shuttered, dark brown eyes pin her in place. “Are you sure this is what you want?”

And DeVon, eyes fierce and furious as he’d pulled her from the mob. She didn’t need the weight of those soft, amber eyes heavy with disappointment on her again.

If there is anything she is sure of in this life it’s that she is not ready for this; doesn’t want it.

“You know, I thought I was pretty specific when I told your assistant why I was here.” She shakes her head with a snap, rolls her shoulders and cracks her neck. “I am nobody’s mother and I’m just a child myself.”

“A simple yes or no will do.”

There is no room in her life for this.

“Yes.”

”You’re aware of the risks and the possibility of complications?”

Her eyes run around the room, find her reflection in the mirror; she doesn’t recognize the pale, drawn face. “Very.”

“Have you ever been pregnant before?”

“Yes.” She curls her arms around herself.

“What was the outcome of that pregnancy?”

She twitches a tight, pale shoulder. “The same as this one.”

“Methotrexate and Misoprostol?” He doesn’t bother looking at her.

“Is that a problem?”

“No.” He slides his eyes from the file back to her. “The father isn’t…”

“Relevant.” Her eyes are as flat as her voice.

He swivels his head, locks her in his line of sight. “Here?”

“Why should he be?”

“Does he know?”

She leans forward, cocks her head, glass-edged smile slashing her lips as she hisses through her teeth. “Does he care?”

No, she thinks as she settles back, no he doesn’t. And she doesn’t need what he hasn’t got.

She’s always known that, too.

She doesn’t need the weight of his disinterest or pity.

There’s no room in her life for anyone or anything. She doesn’t need anything small and needy weighing her down.

She reaches deep, wishes she could find something inside to feel, then refuses to go there.

She’s disgusted with herself; she’s such a stupid girl.

She shakes her head, refuses to feel sorry for herself.

“It was just a stupid…” She lifts a careless shoulder. “Just a mistake.”

She’s always known that; always known better.

“These things happen. But you are aware of the various contraceptive methods…”

“Yes, I’m familiar with the various methods.” Her lips flatten in a thin, tight smile. “Obviously, sometimes they fail.”

“We have a new implant that I think would work well for you. It can be implanted during the procedure if you’d like. Would you be interested?”

“Fine.”

Long fingers tap a staccato beat on the desk top. “I need to see you again, one week from now.”

She shakes pale hair out of her eyes. “Fine.”

He slides flat, clinician eyes to her. “You shouldn’t be alone after the procedure.”

“I’m not alone.” The sudden silence stretches and for a second she can almost feel Chloe’s cool, strong hand on her face. “My…friend is with me.”

He shifts slightly in his seat, tilts his head. “Would you like…your friend to be with you during this?”

“No.” She shakes her head once, sharp. “She doesn’t know…exactly why I’m here.”

“Do you have any questions?”

“Can we just get this over with?”

“Lay back.” He pushes back, leverages himself to his feet. “I’ll get my assistant.”

************************

She rolls and fits herself to Chloe’s back, arm thrown over the narrow valley of her waist, face buries in the waterfall of hair spilling over the pillow.

Wrapped up in darkness and the gentle sounds of the night, she drifts; remembers the two of them, so very young; the sound of the ocean, the warm sand of the beach.

She breathes deep and sighs a smile; wonders if that’s what it would be like cocooned in a womb.

“Are you sick?” Chloe’s voice, soft and low, husky with sleep, floats in the stillness. “Are you in pain?”

Her fingers trace light, tiny patterns on the cool, delicate skin of Chloe’s abdomen. “Did you ever think about getting rid of it?”

Chloe stiffens; shifts and stretches, curls back up into herself. “I thought when you asked if you could sleep here, you actually meant sleep.”

“He’s crazy about you, you know.” She closes her eyes and breathes out a soft exhale; burrows deeper into Chloe’s solid warmth. “He’ll love your kid even if it’s not his. Because it will be.”

“Go to sleep.”

She shifts and curls herself tighter around Chloe, belly to back, and listens to her as she breathes; listens to her heart beat in the dark; hers and Chloe’s.


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A big round of applause to you, Ms. Smythe, for your moving short story. Thank you so much for your submission. Please be sure to e-mail your address to us at carolsimoncontest AT gmail DOT com so that we can arrange prize delivery. You will have your choice of Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, Donald Maass’s Writing the Breakout Novel or Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury.

Additionally, I’d like to thank all the participants. And a big, huge thank you to all of our followers as well for supporting us and all the entrants. Without you, I (and possibly Simon) would have no self-confidence whatsoever—I’m pretty sure my level of confidence is directly proportional to my number of followers. Actually, I had to bribe twenty of my family members and friends into being my first followers (*cringe). True story.

Sort of.

Maybe not.

Fine. It’s not  true. But I did have to beg ask them, and that takes a special kind of pathetic. So, you know, thank you. You are appreciated.


****For more by Sarahjayne Smythe, hop on over to her blog, Writing in the Wilderness

Friday, February 5, 2010

We Have the Winners…Next Week

Guess what? Simon and I had our top four contest entries picked out. We had even sealed the deal with a virtual handshake. But then something happened. Here’s roughly how it went:

Carol:  Simon, you remember how I told you that I spent two hours clothes shopping and that at the end of the excursion, I went back to return the first three shirts I had bought?

Simon: Yeeeeaaaaaahhhh…? [meaning, “um, not really”]

Carol: Well, Simon…that’s how I roll.

Simon: Huh?

Carol: I mean, this decision is killing me. We’re never going to be able to rank these finalists. And I really feel like _______’s story should be a finalist, too. Gads, they're all so good...it's killing me.

Simon: But we can't choose them all.

Carol: Right. But what about _______'s story. It really should be a finalist.

Simon: Yes, Carol, you’re right.

Carol: Huh?

Simon: You’re right.

Carol: Oh. Well. Fine then.

Simon: Right.

Carol: Of course.

Simon: So we’ll just add a fifth prize—

Carol: And have two tiers of finalists—

Simon: Two first place entries—

Carol: And three second place entries.

Carol and Simon: We’ll need another book.

Simon and Carol: Right.writing breakout novel

Carol: How about—

Simon: Donald Maass’s—

Carol: Writing the Breakout Novel

Simon and Carol: Perfect.

Carol: So, you want to devote all next week—

Simon: To the winning entries? Sure. One each day.

Carol: I’m so brilliant.

Carol and Simon: Let’s discuss something else now.

Simon: You go first.

Carol: What are your plans this weekend?

Simon: Shoveling snow.

Carol: Really, Simon, you’re way more fun than that.

Simon: Naked.

Carol: Well. There you go.

Simon: What are your plans, Miss Judgerson?

Carol: I’m going to a Super Bowl party.

Simon: Naked?

Carol: Don’t be silly, Simon.

Simon: You’ll have a hat on?

Carol: Of course. A Colts hat.

Simon: Really, Carol, you’re way more fun than that.

Carol: Fine, I won’t wear the hat.

Simon: That’s the spirit.

Carol: You’re so pushy.

Simon: You know you like me anyway. Separated at birth, remember?

Carol: Yeah, well, I have 9 more followers than you. So there.

Simon: Geez, you really are my sister, aren’t you?

Carol: Don’t be gross, Simon. I wouldn’t host a contest with my brother. Ew.


So, there you have it. We have winning entries chosen—five of them—but we won’t be posting the results until Monday. A new winning entry will be posted each day. Then (next) Saturday, we will post a final review mentioning the remaining entries and what we loved about them. Unfortunately, we’re too poor to be able to offer prizes for all the entries, but I must say, it was not an easy choice. All of the entries were remarkable. Simon and I nearly tore each other’s our hair out making our final decision.

I would like to apologize for the delay in our announcement, but I won’t. Because, well, I just won’t. It’s all the entrants’ faults, really. Their stories shouldn’t have all been so brilliant. Actually it might even be our mother’s fault, partially (yes, our mother—it’s come to our attention we were separated at birth), because she must have given us the indecisive gene (could be Dad’s, too, but we’re not yet certain we share the same father). So, really, we’re blameless.

Anyway, be sure to tune in next week for Flash Fiction Week on Simon and Carol’s blogs. I promise you’ll enjoy the stories. Good fun, I tell you. Good fun.

And because it’s the weekend, and because I’m feeling happy and generous, I think I’ll leave you with some hope:



Happy Friday, friends.