Flash Friday! Fiction: Donne In

Naufragos/Shipwrecked. CC2.0 photo by Luis Marina.
Naufragos/Shipwrecked. CC2.0 photo by Luis Marina.

Donne In (112 words)

No man is an island, Donne said. Maybe. But it sure as hell sucks to be marooned on one.

One thousand four hundred and thirty seven days, I’ve watched the gulls crash into each other, fighting over the same fish, never giving quarter. One thousand four hundred and thirty seven days, I’ve thought back to that night, that splitting of fate, forking of destiny.

If only I’d gone left when you turned right. If only we’d never met, never touched, never tangled. You’d still be alive, and I wouldn’t have spent one thousand four hundred and thirty seven days ruing his temper, my passivity, and his damn boat that dropped me here.

The challenge? Take Moby Dick, and distill it down into 100 (+/- 25) words. Okay, not really – but Moby Dick was our novel prompt. A tiny tale based on a whale of story? Ayup. Captain Rebekah gave us these guidelines:

Today in a brilliant marriage of form and theme, and to the great relief of Literature students everywhere, we’re daring to condense one of the world’s densest novels into a flurry of flash (which is where many students feel it belongs anyway). That’s right: today we’re tackling Moby Dickthe blubber-infused tale of a raging, peg-legged sea captain bent on avenging himself on the white whale responsible for his injury. (Reminder: you are not required to have read this novel to write stories inspired by its elements. Second collective sigh of relief.)

Story elements (base your story on any TWO of these elements; be sure to tell us which two you chose.)

* Conflict: man v self, man v nature (not gender specific)
Character (choose at least one): a wooden-legged sea captain, a pacifist forced to help with someone else’s revenge, an easygoing storyteller oblivious to danger, a chief’s son/prince working on a ship, a mighty whale.
Theme (choose one): revenge, fate v free will, the power of Nature, friendship, the cost of obsession
Setting (choose one): a whaling ship, a sea port, an island, the middle of the ocean

I went with the cost of obsession and an island. What do you think? Did I need another 100,000 words or so to flesh out my fiction?

Swim on over to Flash Friday! to read more sea-worthy selections, and perhaps contribute one of your own!

Flash Friday Fiction: First Impressions (Pride & Prejudice, baby!)

Fan girl. CC2.0 photo by Jamelah E.

First Impressions – (223 words)

“You’re one of those, aren’t you?”

The sneer in his voice was nearly palpable. She looked up from the book nestled in her hands. Close-fitting shirt. Chiseled jaw. Eyes radiating . . . something. Eyes an entirely too-alluring shade of blue. “One of what?”

“Austen fans. Jane-ites.” His lips flattened.

She bristled, her own eyes narrowing.

“Always expecting some fop,” the man went on, “to come prancing out of disgusting lake water, shirt plastered against his pecs.”

She snorted. “As if you’re much better? Wanting every woman to be Pamela Anderson in her Baywatch days, our chests heaving at the mere thought of you?”

A wicked dimple creased his cheek. “Wet T-shirts do suit her.”

She snorted. Jerk.

He swung into the seat beside her, lacing an arm over her shoulders. “I prefer brunettes anyway, you know,” he whispered against her hair.

She reached up and ran her fingers over his familiar cheek. “Happy Anniversary, babe.”

“Back ‘atcha.” Brushing his lips against hers, he murmured, “You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.

Grinning, she poked him in the side. “Remember our first impressions of each other, all those years ago?”

“Who could forget?” He gestured toward the book. “You’re my Elizabeth.”

“And you, my Darcy.”

“Sans cravat, of course.”

An eyebrow arched up. “Well, we can always fix that . . .”

Pride and Prejudice, people! This week’s novel inspiration is Pride and Prejudice! You know I HAD to write (especially after putting this sticker on my car yesterday), and was grateful to do so, after missing last week due to, well, a few too many irons in the fire. Here’s what we were given as guidelines around which to structure our 200 (+/-25) word tales:

Bringing the class to classic, this week it’s all about one of literature’s most celebrated novels, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. If you’ve not read this book, don’t be prejudiced by thinking P&P a simple, superficial romance: Austen’s tale hands us a cleverly biting censure of wealth and the sanctimonious strictures of societal class, even while warmly extolling the value of family, respect, and love.

Story elements (base your story on any TWO of these elements; be sure to tell us which two you chose.)

* Conflict: man v man (not gender specific); man v society
Character (choose at least one): a mother desperate to marry off her daughter(s); a handsome, slightly snobbish landowner; a witty young lady; a cad; an immature flirt; a cynical patriarch; a gorgeous optimist; an overbearing, pompous aunt.
Theme (choose one): love, family, marriage, class divisions, superficiality of wealth
Setting (choose one): a ballroom, a sitting room, a garden

I chose conflict (man vs woman), character (a cad and a witty young lady), and theme (love). Always was an overachiever.

Do let me know what you think – and/or ride your Tattersall’s horse on over to Flash Friday Fiction and leave some love for my fellow writers. Or, you know, dash off an Austen-worthy classic yourself!

#ThrowItForward Thursday: Meet Rebekah Postupak of Flash Friday Fiction!

I cannot tell you how excited I am to feature Rebekah Postupak for this week’s #ThrowItForward Thursday, for if anyone deserves recognition for all she does to promote writing, writers, and writing community, it’s Rebekah.

rebekahBack in the fall of 2013, I was a lonely writer desperately seeking writerly connections. I stumbled upon the Shenandoah Valley Writers Facebook group, and through it met co-founder Rebekah, who also happens to run a little weekly Flash Friday Fiction contest some of you may have heard of. I entered the contest, got kudos for my writing (first public praise of any fiction I’d ever written), and kept participating, both in the contest and the FB group. I met Ms. Postupak in person. I met her again. I hung out with her again and again and again and . . . okay, you get the picture.

See, Rebekah Postupak is one amazing human being. She is one of the most talented writers I know, and yet she spends hours every week helping other writers achieve their dreams – through running Flash contests, featuring authors like me in Spotlight interviews, promoting the heck out of people wherever she goes, the whole shebang. Her spirit and generosity are endless.

I’m so grateful, therefore, that she somehow found the time to answer my nosy questions. And I’m fiercely proud to call her my friend. Read on for insight into Flash Friday and Ms. Postupak herself. (And if you haven’t ever given flash a whirl, come write this Friday!)

When did you start Flash Friday? What was the impetus behind it?

Oh, what a merry party the weekly flash fiction contest circuit was when I first (thanks to my dear friend, editor/publisher Susan Warren Utley) stumbled across it: a contest (or two, or three!) for every day of the week. Alas, by the end of 2012 many contests were petering out as their hosts started paying attention to (gasp!) their own WIPs. But it was too late for me, as I was already obsessed with this sharp, brilliant form of storytelling. I had no choice but to launch my own contest, which I did that very December.

ffbadgeHow has running Flash Friday impacted your own writing?

I’ve the greatest advantage of anyone, sitting at the gate week after week and watching the stories flood in: it’s like having eighty tutors. You writers are the masters, and I your wide-eyed student. Each Friday y’all teach me something new about just how mindblowing flash fiction can be.

Do you have any idea how much you’ve affected the writers around you?

I’m the one who’s indebted to the flash fiction community. Beyond their consistent writing excellence, they have faithfully supported me by encouraging me in my own writing, and by turning up weekly to write and thus sparing me utter humiliation (like that horrific day shortly after I moved to the United States when I fashion-mistakenly wore yellow socks and a matching yellow sweater vest. I didn’t knoooooooooooooow! Saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaave me!).

Tell us one favorite story about a Flasher, and seeing them grow through their writing for FF.

Oh, I have so many rich, beautiful stories I could share! So many brave writers for whom FF is the first place they’ve shared their writing publicly; others for whom FF represents the first time they won anything for their writing. It’s infectious: such gorgeous confidence and skill can’t help but keep growing and spreading across the community. Like Tribbles, except useful.

Why, yes, I AM the proud owner of one of these vintage Flash Friday victory badges!
Why, yes, I AM the proud owner of one of these vintage Flash Friday victory badges!

What do you wish people knew about being the figurehead of flash?

I was going to say, “I wish they realized I don’t know anything at all,” except I suspect everyone already knows that. 🙂

Where do you see FF in five years?

Tough question, as we’re already past the average lifespan of this sort of thing. Let’s just say that I love the community so very dearly, and it will be my privilege and joy to continue running Flash! Friday as long as there’s a need for it.

Where do you see your own writing in five years?

In a completed novel or three. But as a fantasy writer, I usually see things that aren’t there…

You’ve emphasized to me a number of times how you value FF as a safe space for writers to come and be validated for their writing. What’s your opinion on feedback? Better when framed positively, or more baldly?

May I be a rascal by answering “neither” to that? 😀 I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately about diversity, and one thing that’s become abundantly clear to me is the universal ache for authenticity and humility. So for me “positively or negatively framed criticism?” misses the heart of the problem. Instead, I need to ask myself, How can I pass on to this writer what other writers have taught me? I need to remember not to command, but to share. Not to impose, but to offer. As long as I am careful to approach critiques in this way, then the frame almost won’t matter: an authentic, humble heart will be the only voice heard.

Writers Selfie!
Writers Selfie! Margaret, far left; Tamara Shoemaker, Rebekah Postupak, Kim. Front: Allison Garcia and Annika Keswick.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give aspiring writers?

Don’t be afraid; you’re not alone.

What’s one piece of advice you yourself wished you’d had before launching a venture like FF?

Don’t be afraid; you’re not alone. 🙂

Tell us about your own writing career: when did you start? What’s your preferred type of writing? What are your goals for the future?

I started the moment Princess Periezade leapt on her horse to go fetch the Talking Bird, the Singing Tree, and the Golden Water after her brothers failed (Arabian Nights), when the four Pevensies plunged deep into the wardrobe (Narnia), when Frodo danced naked on a sunny hilltop (Lord of the Rings), when Harimad-sol raised Gonturan to the sky (The Blue Sword), when Anne saw Barry’s Pond and knew it for The Lake of Shining Waters (Anne of Green Gables), when Caderousse looked into the river to see his hair turned white (The Count of Monte Cristo)…. Which is all to say I fell in love with writing by reading: as a child, on long, hot, monsoon-drenched afternoons when writers across the ages opened the world to me. Since then I’ve been a fantasy writer hobbyist, spinning mostly short stories and flash. I dream of finishing writing one of my novels. It’s a beautiful dream, isn’t it?

writingAre writing flash and writing novels compatible? How does writing shorter pieces aid in constructing longer works?

Oh yes, flash writing boosts novel writing in the same way sprints help in training for a marathon: you learn economy, efficiency, resourcefulness, persistence. Thanks to flash, you can also learn one rarely needs the word “that.”

What’s the most difficult thing about running a venture as large as Flash Friday? What’s the most rewarding thing?

Flash! Friday is a hungry beast: she devours as much time and energy as I’m willing to give her (and often more). Not surprising, however, given the glittering hoard she guards! Your tales, your friendships, your personal and public triumphs, make the whole thing worthwhile.

Thank You Word CloudLast one: with everything else you do, how on earth do you find time to write anything, much less run a huge flash community?

See # 7! It’s a struggle; I’ve yet to finish even one novel. But look at how marvelous all of you are! I feast on your stories week after week after week. Even if I never write “The End,” I will still end my days the richest writer in the world.

My eyes are teary after that last answer. But I guarantee you, Rebekah, your impact stretches far and wide.
Thank you for joining us today.  

Flash Friday Fiction: Poetic Justice

Demolition. CC2.0 photo by Maureen Didde.
Demolition. CC2.0 photo by Maureen Didde.

Poetic Justice – 150 words

“There once was a man from Nantucket…”

No, no, no. That will never do.

“Once Upon A Midnight Dreary…”

Right. Like THAT’s never been done before. Nevermore.

“Oh, Sally Sue, I love you true,
My love is never ending.
That you and I and Phil and Stu…”

Phil and Stu? WTF?

“‘Twas once a time ago I thought I felt
A glimmering of love so true for you.
Beneath your tender gaze, I thought I’d melt,
Right down into a big green pile of goo…”

Ugh. I’m certainly no Shakespeare.

“So that night that you and I, like, got totally drunk and smashed face and stuff? That was the Best. Night. Ever. Could we, uh, totally do it again?”

Not exactly poetry. But truth.


She texted me!

“Roses are red, violets are blue,
Never again do I want to see you.”

Crap. Figures. She’s a better poet than I.

We had 150 (+/- 10) words to draft a story inspired in some way by this week’s book:  Douglas Adams’ wacky scifi classic, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, in which the rather ordinary but not overly eager to be annihilated human Arthur Dent is swept away on galactic adventures.

Not claiming this is my Best. Work. Ever, but after missing last week, I just couldn’t stomach the idea of not writing this week – even though I’m eyebrows deep in edits for A Matter of Time. Of the story element choices below, I picked “the worst poet in the universe,” and “foolishness/miscommunication.” Though in hindsight, I’m wishing I’d worked the number 42 in there somewhere…

Story elements (base your story on any TWO of these elements; be sure to tell us which two you chose. Reminder: please remember the Flash! Friday guidelines with regard to content; and remember please do not use copyrighted characters).

* Conflict: man v man (not gender or species specific)
Character (choose at least one): an ordinary person swept away on an epic adventure; a depressed robot; the worst poet in the universe; a charismatic hedonistic narcissist; a professional hitchhiker
Theme (choose one): satire, foolishness, science, adventure, miscommunication
Setting (choose one): a house about to be bulldozed; a spaceship; an odd restaurant

Take an epic adventure yourself on over to Flash Friday Fiction, and read (and perhaps comment) on some of the other amazing flash stories – or, you know, like, totally craft one of your own!!!


Flash Friday Fiction: Captain Oblivious

Male body builder Maurice Deriaz, 1906. CC4.0 photo from La Culture Physique, courtesy of Wellcome Images.
Male body builder Maurice Deriaz, 1906. CC4.0 photo from La Culture Physique, courtesy of Wellcome Images.

Captain Oblivious – 150 words

How can she not love me? Am I not manly enough? Do these guns not bring all the girls to my yard? Is she not impressed by the size of my … thighs?

Every day, I don this cape, save this city, and what do I get in return? Nothing. Barely a glance, rarely a nod, those magnificent eyes always sweeping past me to something — someone? — beyond.

I could best Superman in strength, Spiderman in dexterity, the Hulk in armwrestling. She doesn’t care.

Let Captain America have his shield, Batman his Batmobile, Ironman his ridiculous suit. I’m greater than all of them combined.

And yet, she’s captured me as if with that blasted lasso, this Wonder Woman.

She insists we’re friends. Superfriends.

Ha. As if that’d ever be enough.

Robin says Cheetah’s more than an archenemy to her. Liar. He just wants in my tights.

As I want in hers.

After an accidental week’s hiatus (life happens), I’m back with my tale of exactly 150 words (as required).

As the Flash Friday website says,

“This week’s novel inspiration, reaching far, far back in time: The Iliad, Homer’s 3,000-year-old epic tale of the spectacular clash of gods and heroes surrounding the fall of the city of Troy.

Story elements (base your story on any TWO of these elements; be sure to tell us which two you chose. Reminder: please remember the Flash! Friday guidelines with regard to content).

* Conflict: man v man (not gender specific)
Character (choose one): a prideful superhero, a hot-tempered king, a mighty warrior, a soothsayer, the most beautiful woman in the world, the kidnapped daughter of a priest
Theme (choose one): the glory of war, mortality, fate vs free will, friendship
Setting: a besieged city

OPTIONAL PHOTO PROMPT (for inspiration only; it is NOT REQUIRED for your story)”

I went with conflict (kind of), character (prideful superhero, most beautiful woman in the world), and theme (friendship).

What do you think?