Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Jar of Marbles

"Life is like a jar of marbles.  You can only fit so many in before it's full.  And you, you're the marble that doesn't fit.  Do you understand?"

That was something that was said to me by an authority figure in my high school.  I was only fourteen, struggling with depression, and had just a week earlier confided in that person.  When she said that, it was crushing for me.  The worst part was, she thought she was being kind.

Here it is, eleven years later and I still remember that as one of the cruelest things ever said to me.

But the story doesn't end there.

I'm using that cruelty in my current WIP.  With catch phrases like that, that authority figure makes the perfect villain--if I do say so myself!  You know what they say about not upsetting writers.  You may just end up in their writing.

The Fairy Tale

When you return to school for a conference, you bump into one of your old professors, who is rambling on excitedly about a new discovery. He asks you to follow him to his office—he has something he wants to show you. What is the new discovery? Why is your professor so excited? Write this scene.
Post your response (500 words or fewer) in the comments below.

The Fairy Tale
It was his hands I noticed first. Age spotted, wrinkled hands that trembled wildly.
“Professor, are you all right?”
He looked up with wide, lost eyes that seemed to float past me to distant thoughts.
It was as if I had roused him from sleep.
“Margaret? What are you doing here?”
“I’m here for the science conference. Don’t you remember?”
“Never mind that. I have something to show you!”
He lead me to his office, where I had sat so many times grading papers. It was just as I remembered it. Simple and plain, every corner reeking of sterilized surfaces. There was only one difference. In a jar on his desk sat a creature. A creature I’d never seen before, but read about enough to know it’s name.
The professor had discovered a real fairy.
I crept closer, peering at the creature with narrowed eyes.
It’s tiny body looked like it had been dipped in green pain. Wide, intelligent eyes stared up at me, it’s face twisted into a snarl. The fairy moved desperately around the jar at blurring speeds. It only stopped after crashing into the glass with a thud. With a growl, it flicked it’s eyes to me.
The look it gave me was of pure, murderous contempt.
“This changes everything! Don’t you see?” the professor said excitedly. “This creature is old, very old. If we can learn about it’s realm—no, not learn—travel to. If we can travel to it’s realm, we could change the life cycle of humans forever.”
The creature seemed to understand the professor, moving closer to the glass and beckoning with a tiny hand.
“See! It wants us to go!” he exclaimed, pressing a wrinkled hand against the jar.
“Let’s just take some time to think about this,” I said, a sense of foreboding creeping in.
It wasn’t an inviting look I saw in the creature. It was treachery. As if in response to my thoughts, the creature snapped pointed teeth at me, before it’s mouth twisted into a wide, wicked smile.
“I don’t have time,” the professor said, sadness creeping into his voice. “I don’t want to die. I have so much to do still.”
Tears sprung into his eyes.
Suddenly, he was nothing more than an old man afraid of dying.
He gave me an embarrassed smile, red tinging his cheeks.
“Could you get me a tissue? I feel like a fool for blubbering like this.”
“Of course,” I said with a nod.
I was halfway across the room when I heard the crash. I spun around, but was too late.
The jar lay shattered on the floor and the creature was gone. The professor gone along with it. On the desk was a tiny pastry with a note attached.
A treat to calm the frightened
Desire crashed over me. I wanted nothing more than to taste the pastry.
With two fingers, I picked up the treat—and dropped it into the trash can.
I’d had enough fairy games.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Dear Lucky Agent Contest

A big part of trying to get published is taking part in contests.  It's important to get your name out there to get agents to notice you.  I've submitted several short stories to literary magazines and taken part in weekly writing prompts. Today I ran across a contest that seems pretty cool called the "Dear Lucky Agent" contest for young adult fiction.  It couldn't be more perfect considering I just finished my young adult manuscript.  More details are on the writers digest site here if you're interested:  http://tinyurl.com/pcmopmq

In the mean time all I can do is keep plugging along. Oh and writing.  Always writing.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


The phone rings. It’s your mother and she’s upset. “What’s wrong?” you ask. “It’s your father. A spell has been cast upon him and he’s been frozen solid.” You pause, knowing two things that your mother doesn’t : 1) This is your fault and 2) you’re the only one who can fix it. “Don’t worry, Mom. I’ll take care of it.” Write this scene.
Post your response (500 words or fewer) in the comments below.
        Zoey's mom doesn't look happy.
“Callie, did you tell your parents you were coming over?”
“Your mom's on the phone. She sounds upset.”
With her hands on her hips, she's making her best attempt to look angry.  She's not doing a very good job. Sadness lines her face.
Her eyes say, “Her daddy is dying.”
I know that look. 
I see it all the time.
I shoulder past her to answer the phone.  Cradling the receiver, I listen.
“Callie May, come home right now!”
“Please Mom, just a little longer.  I never get to play anymore!”
“This isn't a joke, Callie,” Mom says angrily.  “Your father is frozen.  It's like someone cast a spell on him.”
We both know who that someone is.  
As soon as I'm home, Mom marches me to Dad.  
He's on a cot in the living room; blankets piled high. There's life in his eyes and his skin is a normal color; not the yellow color of sickness.  His face is curled into smile and for the first time in a long time, he looks happy.  
Except for the fact that he's frozen, he looks normal.  Not sick.
I curl up next to him, taking in the warmth of his body.
“Callie,” Mom says gently.  “Just because we have powers, doesn't mean we should use them.”
I stare at the threads of the blanket, tears blurring my eyes.
“Why not?  What's the point of having powers if I can't save him?”  
Our family has the gift of magic and Dad is still dying.  Dying of bone cancer.  Over the past month, he's gone from energetic and happy to practically an invalid.  And Mom won't do anything—not a single spell to help him.
“Everyone dies, Callie.”
My chest heaves at her words, fresh tears warming my cheeks.
“Not Daddy,” I whisper. 
Mom's crying, too.
“I don't want to lose him either.  All we can do is enjoy the time we have left.”
I tilt my head to look at Dad.  
If I unfreeze him, we'll only have a few days until he takes another turn for the worst.  He'll try to hide it, not wanting to scare us.  But I'll see it; the look on his face when he can't do something he used to be able to.  That breaks him almost as much as the cancer does.
I hate it. 
“Callie,” Mom says.
“Fine, I'll unfreeze him, okay?” 
Placing my hand on his cheek, I whisper the spell.
Dad's eyes open, as if waking from a dream.  He yawns and smiles sheepishly.
“How long was I out?  I hope I didn't sleep the day away.”
“You didn't,” Mom says, scooting close to him.
We lay sandwiched together. I don't want to move.  
I'm afraid to miss a single moment with him.  
Instead, I memorize every line of his face; every glance of his eyes.  I want to keep him frozen forever.  The memory of Dad when he was normal. Not sick.

The Seer

It’s your 18th birthday and, upon it, you parents deliver some pretty shocking news: You’re not really human. They admit that they’ve been covering up the fact that you are actually a (fill in the blank). After hearing the news you still decide to go to school, but this school day is different than all your school days past, especially when it’s revealed to others what you truly are. Write this scene.
Post your response (500 words or fewer) in the comments below.

The Seer

I went to bed ten and woke up eighteen.
The moment I awoke, I knew something was wrong.  My room was dark—the blackness impenetrable.  I let out a whimper, but it sounded different; not a child's whimper, but a woman's.
I jerked my hand to my mouth, and as I did, my lips and chin blinked into focus.  Trembling, I pulled my hand down and positioned it directly across from the other. 
My eyes were in my hand.
Shimmering blue eyes, framed in dark lashes, embedded into the center of my hand.
A scream was torn from my throat. At the sound, my parents hurried into the room.
“What is it?” Mom asked, alarm in her eyes.
“It looks like Iris had a bad dream,” Dad said, his face relaxing.  “You haven't had one of those since you were little. By the way, happy birthday.  Eighteen years old!  The time went by in a flash.”
“You have no idea,” I said, my voice shaking. I began to cry—tears dripping down my palm and into the crook of my arm. “Mama, something's happened.  What's wrong with me?”
“Sweetheart, we told you about this.”
“No, you didn't!”
“Of course we did,” she said.  “Remember, you're not human, but a seer? We told you about our ancestors crashing to earth years ago and assimilating? You simply changed, is all.”
“It can't be!”
“Iris, if you keep this up, you'll be late for school.”
Despite my protests, my parents herded me to school, dropping me outside a crowded high school.  Fear blossomed at the sight of it. High school was where old kids went.  I didn't belong in high school!
With my hands held up to my face, I walked with shaking steps.  Would they scream when they saw me? But they didn't even blink, some people even nodding hello.  As I scanned the hall, my eyes stopped on a boy with hands on his face, eyes protruding from them. My heart stopped at the sight. Was he a seer, too?  
It wasn't until I was standing in front of him that I saw the bomb strapped across his chest.
“Oh, god, you're going to blow up the school.”
He sneered at me.
“School? This will blow up half the planet!”
“But why?”
“You should know. You've picked on me since I was ten like everyone else!  As soon as I moved here, you made my life miserable.”
He pushed a button and the world around us spun.  Through the chaos, a girl with red hair and blue eyes in her hands came into focus. 
“You have to stop it, Iris.”
With a start, I recognized myself.  
Then flames took me, and I closed my eyes against the horror of the end.
When I opened them, I was once again a ten year old.  I hurried to get ready, taking the stairs two at a time.
“Where are you going?” my mother called.
“To the bus stop!  I have a friend to make!”

A Cowboy Dinner

There’s a knock on your door. When you open it, you find a cowboy—complete with the hat, boots, spurs, six-shooter, the accent, everything—standing on your front step. He claims he has no idea who he is or what he’s doing there. Write this scene, as you try to sort out his (and your) confusion.
Post your response (500 words or fewer) in the comments below.

A Cowboy Dinner
       Dust caked. Reek of manure.  Cowboy hat dirty and worn. And devastatingly handsome. The sight of the cowboy on my doorstep left me staring, mouth flapping open like a fish.
He pulled down his hat in a nod.
“Ev'ning m'am.”
“Evening—err—hello,” I replied, suddenly aware that I was only wearing a thin silk robe.  His dark eyes lingered on me, hinting that he had noticed the same.  Wrapping my arms around my chest, I continued, “Can I help you?”
“I'd much 'preciate that,” he said.  “See, I don't rightly know where I am.  Or who I am, matter o'fact.”
“Is this a joke?  Who put you up to this?”
“M'am, I wouldn't jest 'bout this,” he said, an edge of irritation creeping into his voice.  It was then that I noticed his pistol, peeking out of the holster on his waist.  I moved to slam the door, when his leather boot wedged it open.
“Wait,” he said, his hands gripping the door and pushing it open.  “I need assistance.  Ye don't know what it's like, not knowin' nothing.  Nothing 'bout who you are.  Help me. Please.”
I let the door fall open and he strode inside, glancing around my house with a look of wonder.  
“Oh, now that'd be wonderful,” he said, his back to me.  He examined the bookshelf, his fingers sliding across the spines of the books.  “Lot 'o books here.”
“Read much?”
He moved from the bookshelf to the fireplace, his hand closing on the cold metal of a fire poker.
“Ye should try readin' the paper sometime.  Maybe then ye'd know 'bout the--”
“Cowboy killer?” I said, my face twisting into a smile.
“Ain't that nice?  The misses done heard 'bout me.”
“Oh, I know all about you and your little cowboy games. How you like to prey on defenseless women; tying them up and branding them with a fire poker, before you kill them.”
His eyes narrowed dangerously.
“But see, you should really make sure the woman's defenseless before you attack.”
I pulled the trigger, loosing a tranquilizer dart.  His hand went to his neck, eyes wide with shock, before sliding to the ground with a thud. Crossing the room, I leaned over his body, stroking his cheek.
“And you really should make sure that woman isn't more twisted than you.”
I met my husband's eyes across the table and smiled. He winked, before turning his attention to his steak.  His knife dragged across the china as he cut a piece.  Eyes closed, he moaned at the taste.
“Honey, you've outdone yourself!  You'll have to tell me where you wrangled up something so delectable!”
I couldn't help the giggle that slid from my throat.  He grasped my hand, his laughter matching my own.  I moved the centerpiece—a blood and dirt caked cowboy hat—to lean over and kiss him.  Twenty  years and still going strong.  They did always say the way to a man's heart is through his stomach.

Ben's Baby

You’re a struggling musician who is playing small clubs on a summer tour across the country and who generally sleeps in your van. But one night, in a small town in (fill in the blank), a concertgoer offers to let you sleep on his/her couch. You take the offer, but by morning you regret it. Write a story that explains what happens.
Post your response (500 words or fewer) in the comments below.
Ben's Baby
I met her at my show. Brown hair, ivory skin, and deep, red lips upturned into a friendly smile. She was a wisp of a thing, but with a big, bubbly personality to make up for it. That's why it was so easy for her to persuade me to stay the night—on her couch—instead of in my freezing van.
Her house was cozy and inviting, the image of southern comfort. Sliding me a cup of tea, she took a seat across from me.
“Are you comfortable, Ben?”
My words slurred in response and her smile got bigger. She seemed to sashay to my side, growing more graceful the more incoherent I became. With a jolt, I realized she was tying my hands behind my back.
“What...why are...you?” My words died off in a garble.
Her expression changed; her lips down turned and her eyes wild.
“We've missed you, Ben.”
I stared at her in confusion.
“You said you'd come back.” Her next words came out in an explosion of rage, making me cringe in my chair. “But you left us to die, Ben! You left your baby to die!”
“Baby.” The word came out sounding broken, like a child learning the word for the first time.
“Yes, Ben, your baby. You threw just him away like trash.”
Then, with sudden jerky movements, she stomped out of the room, leaving my mind reeling.
When she returned, she was cradling a swaddled infant close to her.
“See, Ben?”
Her voice was soft, as she held the baby out.
“Isn't he beautiful?”
A gasping noise was wrenched from my lips as I looked at the baby. He was a pale white color, with a waxy sheen on his newborn face. He lay in the blankets, stiff and still. Too still.
She pursed her lips in an over exaggerated pout.
“What, Ben, don't like the sight of your own son?”
But it was the opposite. I couldn't tear my eyes away, silently willing the child to move, breathe, cry—anything.
“That's not my child,” I said, desperation seeping into my voice. “And my name is not Ben!”
She stepped away from me, dropping the baby with a thud. She didn't even register that she dropped him, simply stared at me with wide, child-like eyes.
It was the knock on the door that snapped her out of it. She seemed to transform, turning back into the bubbly girl I met earlier.
“Howdy, Sheriff Dawes,” she said, practically cooing at the man.
“Evening, Madison. The neighbors heard yelling. I had to make sure you didn't have another poor sap in here.”
She didn't get a chance to respond. He strode into the room and untied me, his eyes never leaving Madison.
“You've got to stop doing this! I can't keep covering for you.”
Her lips tilted into a triumphant smile at his words.
“Of course I can, Ben. How else would I get you here to see your son?”
It wasn't until I passed him on my way out the door that I saw his name tag fashioned on his shirt.
Sheriff Ben Dawes.