Flash Fiction Contest Announced

The January Flash Fiction contest has been announced over at Devin O’Branagan’s writing blog. This month’s challenge is to write about disturbing news from a fortune teller … in under 1,000 words. Check it out and enter – the rules are posted at the link I included.

I’ve found flash fiction to be a great exercise for when I hit a slump in my writing. I know I do a lot of poetry on this blog, but short stories are where my heart really lies. Unfortunately, I don’t get struck with the lightning bolt quite as often. But a challenge issued for a flash fiction contest can usually do the trick for getting inspired quickly. And the best part is that it’s only 1,000 words, so it doesn’t take quite as long for the writing, then editing, then re-editing. And then re-editing.

So check out the contest here and enter – it’s easy!

My YA Book: A Work In Progress

I have written and rewritten and rewritten (and am still rewriting!) this beginning literally tens of times. I switched it to a snappier, more eye-catching first sentence (then back to the normal one); I switched it from third to first person; I started the story by foreshadowing a theme (then deleted all of that); AND I constantly question whether I need to start the story later (like… a month later into the plot). But here’s how it is now, which is remarkably like the FIRST DRAFT I EVER WROTE FOR THIS STORY!
Revisions are frustrating.

What am I doing here?
I check the clock on my computer monitor: 10:16. Too late to still be at work.
I lean back in my ergonomically-approved office chair and rub my eyes, run my hands through my already messy brown hair.
Papers lay like scattered leaves, dead on my desk. The obituary can wait until morning, I tell myself, and I shut down my computer. I stretch, letting the aches of the day fall from my bones, and I half-heartedly straighten my notes.
My cell phone rings, cutting through the wintery stillness in the office building. It’s Jake, my best friend from childhood and old college roommate.
“Dude,” he says. It might as well be my name: Dude. “Where are you? Come to Rusty’s Pipe tonight.”
Dude, I’m at work,” I say.
There’s a pause. “Gray, for someone who hates his job, you sure do find interesting ways to spend your Friday nights.”
“I don’t –“ I lower my voice, even though I haven’t heard a sound from the surrounding cubicles in hours. “I don’t hate my job.”

oh… I don’t know about the present tense. No! It works! I have to keep the entire story in mind. It works! But I’m deleting the “ergonomically-approved” description. There’s a less boring way to describe the boring.

I just read a really good book that was written by a female, with a main character who is male, written in first-person and present tense. It made me feel better. That story was Split by Swati Avasthi, by the way. Incredibly well-written and well-developed. Characters are multidimensional, multi-layered. Really good story.

A Little Taste

I’ve been working on a bunch of short stories lately. I’m hoping to put a collection of 4 stories together and make it available as an ebook. Here are a couple of snippets from what I’ve done so far:

Here’s one from Nosepicker:

“Aubrey Hughes,” is the next name that jumps out at me.
“Here,” sings a voice from the back of the room. I turn around.
I hadn’t seen Aubrey enter the room. Of course, she is sitting next to Jeremy. Aubrey is the cutest girl in the freshman class. She has been class president for the past three years and she is a cheerleader. Unlike the other drones in her clique, Aubrey has never laughed at me for my habit. Not even once. I keep track.
I’m still turned around, staring at Aubrey when my name is called.
“Theodore … Kaz…rinski?” The teacher stumbles over my name.
I watch Aubrey. She’s whispering something to her friend. She sees me staring at her and winks. I almost choke.
“Theodore Kazrinski? Like the Unibomber?” Mrs. Stitch is still tripping over my name.
“Here,” I say, quickly, to shut her up. ““It’s KazRINski, not Kazinski. I go by Kaz.”
Mrs. Stitch raises her eyebrows and writes the nickname down on her paper.
“Interesting nickname,” she murmurs.
“Everyone calls him Nosepicker,” Jeremy mutters from the back of the classroom. People around me snicker.

Here’s one from The Band Trip. It’s still a work in progress and I’m not sure it’ll end up being part of the collection. I recently thought of a completely different story and I’ll have to see which one turns out better:

Was it too much to ask for a normal weekend? A normal band trip? Was normal so outlandishly out of the question in my life right now? The way things were going in my life, normal had become the new terrific. Anything slightly more exciting, slightly better than normal would be truly glorious.

“Soph,” she said, her voice in one of those whisper-shouts where she really wants everyone to listen. “I’m just so incredibly sorry about the whole thing with Vic.”

Vic?

1. She wasn’t sorry. She was manipulative.

2. I had begged – pleaded – with my mother to let me skip the band competition in Montreal after everything that happened at Deepa’s party, but my mother, along with every teacher at our school and most of the kids in our grade, had fallen prey to Charity’s manipulation and told me that I should “give her a chance.” A chance to do what? She already stole my boyfriend.

3. Two days ago his name was Victor and he was my boyfriend. Now he’s Vic and dating Charity Hopkins, so it looked like I was the only sorry one in the entire scenario.

Okay, posting that really makes me like the story again. I think it’s the ending that doesn’t work, so I’ll have to deal with it.

And lastly! Here’s a snippet from my favorite story of the bunch: 240sx, or The Awesomely Tragic Death of a Car Named KITT in the Haunted Woods of Igoe:

I was still smiling at Colette when her expression changed. “Oh my gosh,” she said. She was looking past me, out my window. The color emptied out of her face until she was completely white.

“What?” I turned to look, my car inching down the path. Directly out my window, just feet from my face, were thick tree roots, and one of the roots had letters carved in it: WS.

KITT sputtered to a stop.

“Oh, God,” Sarah said. “I could have sworn I made up half of that story.”

“Okay, D,” Joel said with a tremble to his voice. “Let’s move along now.”

I tapped the gas and nothing happened.

Ah, high school! The torture, the fun, the friends and enemies! High school is like… well, there’s just nothing else ever like it (thank God) so maybe that’s why I love writing about it so much. Okay, off to work on the ending of The Band Trip.