May is over. Stories are not.

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Story-a-Day May 2017 says goodbye, but the stories remain. So, now what? I want to keep writing and I want to be read. The publishing part sometimes feels as realistic as winning the lottery on the same as discovering the wardrobe into Narnia.

Other than posting these story efforts, I haven’t really been blogging. Maybe I should just officially stop all together and work on my newsletter. Or scrap the newsletter? Self-publish or find an agent? Self-publish or keep sending stories out to journals?

One minute I’m confident in what to do. The next I’m overwhelmed. In any event, I think I’m going to delete a lot of things.

I’m trying to add the newsletter sign up to this page. I know some people hate newsletter. Who needs more email, right? But some people never read blogs. Ultimately, I have to figure out what works for the stories.

My currently published novel is here. My art is here.

Thanks for reading.

Day 28 and another day closer to the end!

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Today’s prompt was to tell a Cinderella story. So, I started like I usually do with a character and not much else. But little ways in, I realized that this was going to be a long short story and not finished today. Right now the story has no time travel or witchcraft. Not yet! Maybe it won’t. We’ll see.

Thanks for reading.

Della Farsoon bit into the overly sweet donut and hoped none of the adults would suggest she go outside to play with the other children. Last Sunday, Mrs. Quiffmore had spotted Della standing alone in a corner sipping punch, and the mother of five had ordered the sixteen-year-old to go out with the others. The only teenager of the group, Della had dragged her feet outside in the muggy air and spent the hour sitting on a swing.

Ten-year-old Ricky Teamark had told Della that if she wasn’t going to swing, she should find somewhere else to take up space.

“Shut up, turnip face,” she’d said. “I can sit or swing as I damn well please.”

Ricky went inside and told she’d called him names and said bad words.

This Sunday Della hoped her days of being sent out with the children were done now she’d revealed herself to be a bad influence. She licked the bits of honey glaze from her fingers. The adults were busy talking about famous TV minister coming to lead a week of sermons. Their talk of how to find enough chairs and tables was easy to ignore.

Bored, Della eyed the remaining donuts. No explicit rule stated only one donut was allowed per congregant, but a second donut meant risking a lecture on gluttony from Mrs. Quiffmore. She shrugged. She was probably doing the woman a favor, giving her someone to lecture before all those words blew up in her head.

Della took the second donut and ambled over the dining hall doors. No one noticed when she wandered into the vestibule. She sat on a cushioned bench against the wall and took her book from her purse. Within minutes, her donut polished off, she was lost in a novel of murder and mayhem. She didn’t hear footsteps of the young man walking in from the hall.

“Hey, Diana! It’s you,” he said.

Della almost dropped her book. “Della,” she corrected him. “Hi Mark.” She had his name right, of course. Even though he’d been gone for a year, she wasn’t likely to forget Mark Hackman, local golden boy, practically a prince in everyone’s eyes.

Grudgingly she made room for him and he sat down, but she went back to her book.

“Your dad sold me my first car,” he said as if she’d been waiting for him to speak.

Della looked up from the novel in her lap. “That’s nice.”

“Gave me a good deal. You should see the car I traded it in for. It’s a beauty.”

She sighed. “What brings you here?” she asked. Last she’d heard he was winning football trophies somewhere. Or maybe it was basketball? Baseball? He’d gotten so many trophies in his life, she was sure even he couldn’t keep track.

“Concert tickets. I bought my girlfriend tickets to the Finn Girls.”

Della sat up straighter and her heart pitched forward. Of course he had tickets. Tickets had sold out in five minutes months before. “Have fun then,” she said, wishing she had tickets to the Finn Girls. She had all their lyrics memorized and their pictures cut from magazines and taped into her journal. She’d have had their posters on her bedroom wall if her parents allowed such idolatry.

She flicked the pages of her book, wondering whether it was worse being stuck listening to him or going back into the dining hall and being stuck listening to the adults. At least he couldn’t order her about.

“My girlfriend’s sick though. Throwing up like crazy,” he said.

“That’s too bad.” Was he still dating Cassie Quiffmore? She narrowed her gaze at his beautiful profile. Cassie was pretty and all, but surely he could find prettier girls in college.

“Anyway, you want her ticket?” he asked. “I don’t want the ticket to go to waste.”

Della stared. What was he really saying?

“You don’t even have to pay me the full price for the ticket. I’ll let you’ll have it for a fraction of the price. A hundred bucks and it’s yours.” He patted the shirt pocket over his heart.

Her voice almost escaped. “I don’t have a hundred dollars.” If only she could see the Finn Girls. But her parents would never allow it anyway. Her heart pitched forward again. Genie was her favorite. She played drums and wrote most of the songs. Genie Finn understood.

“You can’t get a hundred dollars?” Mark asked. “I thought your dad was loaded. Like, he owns that dealership and Southgate Plaza, doesn’t he.”

Della stiffened. “I don’t have a hunded dollars.”

“Concert’s Tuesday night.” He stood.

“Why me?”

He looked down at her.

“We aren’t friends, Mark Hackman. Our parents aren’t even friends. You date Cassie choir girl because she’s pretty and not the least bit interesting. Why would you give a damn about me going to a pop concert?”

He laughed. “I can’t go with another guy. C’mon. Get real. Cassie told me to sell you the ticket.”

That made no sense to Della.

“Just so you know,” he continued, “Cassie called you Della the Dork.”

“Everyone’s called me that since third grade.”

“Yeah well…” He patted the ticket in his pocket. “She said you’d want the ticket and she doesn’t care if you sit next to me.” He walked away, and reaching the main doors to the church, he called back over his shoulder, “Call me!”

Day 27! Almost to the end!

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Today’s Story-a-Day prompt was to write a non-traditional love story. This probably doesn’t qualify, but it is what I wrote.

For Time Travelers, Witches, and Saints: A Compendium of Lesser Known Time Travelers and Other Terrors.

Agatha Omerez wants company to travel with through time. A time traveler, She has access to all the technology ever created and she takes the best from various points in history. Building another life takes patience, but after several failures, her robot says hello and looks into Agatha’s eyes.

“Hello, Lou,” Agatha replies, proud of her work. Lou doesn’t look perfectly human and isn’t meant to. Anyone would recognize Lou for a machine. But Lou is definitely human-like, able to tilt its head to show it is listening and to run for its life to show it cares.

The robot blinks. Of all the things Lou can do, one thing it can not is talk. So, it nods at Agatha and blinks again.

“Welcome to the world,” Agatha says. “I hope you find it suitable for your needs.” It isn’t that she wasn’t able to give the robot a voice. She understands the technology. She wasn’t able to decide what she wanted. Lou has no gender. Maybe from a certain angle, some people might conclude Lou a female robot, but that requires a certain way of seeing.

A voice needs tone and rhythm. What should Lou sound like? What voice does Agatha want following her on adventures? A voice would make Lou too human. Agatha reaches over and tightens a screw in the robot’s shoulder. Lou looks down and watches. “When I find the right voice, I’ll give it to you,” Agatha says.

Lou’s shiny eyes blinked.

“Now,” Agatha begins, knowing she doesn’t need to tell Lou what she is about to say but feeling compelled to explain herself to those big shining eyes. “You and I are going to travel together through time, even to times before most of your body parts existed. But I’ve planned for that, so it shouldn’t be a problem.”

Lou nods and looks down at itself.

“Your job is to help me whenever I need help.”

Lou nods again, and light on Lou’s chest flickers.

“It gets lonely out here,” Agatha says, “and I need someone to talk to. I’m just not sure yet if I need someone who will talk back.”

The lights come on again in the sequence Agatha programed. It means yes, I understand. More lights. What’s next, Lou asks through the light display. I’m hungry, the lights signal.

“Hungry?” Agatha ask. That makes no sense. One reason for a robot companion is to not worry about food supplies. One of them going hungry somewhere in time is problem enough.

I’m hungry. To see. The stars. Lou seems to consider. More life. Lou taps the panel of lights. Hungry for more.

This time it is Agatha who blinks. What had she programmed into the machine? “Okay,” she replies, promising herself to check Lou’s programming. This is her first robot, after all. There are bound to be mistakes.

Hungry.

But more immediately, this seems like a problem that can be fixed. Or at least tested. With a click, the doors to the room open and outside is a city park. Not that far away, children scream playing tag while parents watch and other park visitors stroll by. No one takes any note of the open doors. Agatha excels at invisibility design.

Lou peers out into the world. The flickering lights speed up. Lou’s wide shiny eyes look in every direction, pausing on the children and then on a dog running off leash into a flock of pigeons.

Agatha waits until the flickering lights slow down and shut off save one. “How are you now?” she asks.

Almost full, Lou’s lights answer.

Agatha takes Lou’s mechanical hand in hers, and Lou continues to watch until the sky darkens and the people begin heading home.

*

Thanks for reading!

Day 26 and Letter Writing

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Today’s prompt is to write a letter. So, here we are. Thank you for reading.

To whomever finds this,

I hope you are well, that you know the way out, that things are different now. Could my sister and I walk with you? Would you help us? Perhaps not. It’s unreasonable to ask since we haven’t even met.

But you’ve made it this far and have taken the time to look in the hiding places, the cracks and crevices. This means either you have all the time in the world, nothing is after you, and you’re just curious about this strange old place. Or you’re much like us and have nothing but time because you can’t go forward or back. You’ll find out soon enough the choices. I’m still not sure how much I want to influence you.

Are you the sort to be change your mind because of what someone like me writes? Do you listen? I didn’t. My sister listened but only to me, but she was always silly that way, thinking I knew best because I was older. She always wanted to tag along and usually I said no. Usually I shouted at her to go away. When you tell someone to go away, why don’t they listen? I’ve never been a little sister, so maybe that’s why I don’t understand.

I’m wasting your time and I don’t even know how much time I have to write. You don’t even know how much time you have to read. But I’m sure if you’re reading this, you’ve made a mistake. You’ve taken a wrong turn, ignored the signs, forgot the time. That’s the only way you end up here unless things have really changed. Would you even know? Do you know your history?

Why am I even writing when I don’t know the secret or the code? I don’t know where the key can be found or where the knives are hidden. You’ll need both. Trust me. Trust me unless you find me. Then I make no promises.

I’ve no right to ask, of course, dear reader. No right at all. But if you’ve kept reading, maybe you’ll keep searching. Only a hero would find this, isn’t that right? If you can’t save me, save my words. Maybe I’ll know.

Bye. Or hello. I’ll leave that up to you.

*

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And if you’re so inclined, my novel is here.

Day 25 is for poetry.

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I wrote a bad poem earlier this month when a story I was working on just wouldn’t come together. This time I wrote a poem because I decided to go along with today’s Story-a-Day prompt, which was to write a sonnet.

Some people love prompts and other people hate them. Sometimes they work for me and sometimes they don’t. My first novel started as a prompt (the prompt was marbles, and if you’ve read the novel, you’ll know where that prompt took me). So, obviously I find value in giving prompts a try.

Last year for Story-a-Day, I didn’t use any of the prompts. I also didn’t finish the monthlong challenge. In any event, I had to fit today’s writing in around a project for work and a bunch of distractions. But here it is. Thanks for reading!

When the Time Traveler Comes to Call

The time traveler risks life and stars
whether or not they are her property.
She leaps from centuries to moons to Mars.
Control is her prosperity.

She waltzes to your room, your day, your plan,
and scoops up the lines of your life.
She tells you, run! She knew before you began,
your portion of joy, your well of strife.

You can’t keep up with her in time.
She is the speed of planets and of hearts.
You may one day hear the death bell chime.
Perhaps by then, you understand what she imparts.

The time traveler comes and offers you her hand.
Do you take her invitation to the fear and the grand?

Day 24 and a Hidden Message

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Today’s Story-a-Day prompt asked for a hidden message. So, here’s something of a random story using a character introduced earlier in the month. Maybe you can figure out the message hidden within. First off, I didn’t expect it the story tone as long as it is, but that’s the only way I could get my formula, so to speak, to work. Second off, the story did have to take odd turns in order to get the message to fit. I guess I should have chosen a shorter message. Oh well!

Their First Words

“Look,” Minerva said, pointing to the wrought iron gate. “Up there.”

Minerva’s classmate, Ollie Rose, didn’t look. Instead she pulled a box out of her bag. “Here.”

Minerva forgot about the strange bird perched at the park’s entrance. Taking the box, she raised an eyebrow.

“I’m giving this to you,” Ollie said. “In the morning before I came to school, this box was delivered to us, but your name was on it.” She tapped the label.

Minerva didn’t know what to think about this. Gingerly, she lifted the box’s lid. “Heaven of my heart,” she said.

“I’ve no idea who left them,” Ollie said in a rush. “Got no details or nothing.”

A pair of red velvet shoes rested in emerald green paper. Ollie shook her head and stamped her feet. Neither girl said anything, until thrust out her arm and yanked up the edge of her long fitted sleeve. “Scars,” she blurted. Indeed, three scars marked her forearm. “That is the trouble I get sometimes for dawdling in the streets with the wrong sorts. Can’t just stand here gawking at shoes, you know? Be a heap of trouble. Seen what happens to everyone who hangs around you much.” She pulled her sleeve back down.

Minerva’s thoughts raced. She didn’t understand the shoes, who could’ve sent them or why they were sent through Ollie Rose. The scars she understood. She had her own. But Ollie’s unexpected sharing confused Minerva more than the shoes. “I’ve done my best to stay out of trouble,” she mumbled.

“Got trouble anyways though, don’t you, Minerva Baines? Drama follows you like flies follow horses down Main Avenue.” Ollie sucked in her cheeks, waited a moment, and then let out an exasperated sigh. “Can’t you tell me about the shoes? Be honest.” She leaned over the box. “Stolen, ya think?”

“Everybody thinks I’m trouble,” Minerva replied, keeping her voice low and realizing how long they’d been standing together on the corner.

“Knows your trouble,” Ollie said. “Me too though, right?”

Minerva finally stopped staring at the shoes. “Now what are you talking about?” What had made her even agree to this walk with Ollie Rose? They never spoke to each other in school, and here they were like conspirators passing cryptic messages. Minerva pushed the shoebox lid closed, her thoughts wandering.

“Look,” Ollie said.

Minerva said nothing, but frowned. She wanted to focus on the shoes, and Ollie was a distraction.

“Up!” Ollie pointed to the top of the street sign they stood next to. “Here!” The bird that had earlier caught Minerva’s attention sat on the sign for Lazarus Boulevard. “Man, that’s a very weird bird, isn’t it? I’m betting you ain’t never seen a bird like that before.”

“In my dreams,” Minerva said without considering the reaction her reply might receive.

But Ollie didn’t seem to think this answer peculiar. “Danger, my dad says about remembering dreams. I’ve got to forget my dreams every morning. Got to clear my head of dreams and things that ain’t real. Nothing gets my daddy worked up like dreams. Left to your own devices, Ollie Rose, he shouts, you’d be mad and dancing in the streets.” She took a breath. “To be honest though, sometimes I keep a dream and hide it away where I won’t lose it.”

“Lose a dream?” Minerva asked, her eyes fixed on the bird. The bird’s eyes were fixed on her too.

“I’m talking way more than I oughtta, aren’t I? So where you gonna put them shoes since I know you can’t wear them?”

“High up on a shelf where they won’t be seen.” Her neck twinged from looking upward for so long. “It is a strange bird. Makes me wonder where it’s from.”

“My guess is the circus, but what should we do with it?”

Minerva tilted her head to the left and to the right to ease the kink in her neck. What could she say to make Ollie Rose go about her business. The girl had already said she wasn’t supposed waste time talking, and what kind of question was that? What should they do with the bird? It wasn’t theirs to do anything with. Perhaps if she said something outrageous, Ollie would finally run home. “Brain it,” she said. “Whirl it through the air and send it to Mars where dogs are made of diamonds and babies live underground.” She was breathless and warm in her heavy dress. Everyone said she was mad. She should embrace it. “Dropped from a black star, it follows girls through the labyrinth of the city streets and waits until they say the right words.” She felt giddy, unleashing every wild thought at poor Ollie Rose.

Ollie stared. “My goodness, you’re crazier than I thought.”

The bird remained on the street sign, watching, and Minerva used one arm to balance the shoe box against her hip. The other hand she held out, open, palm up. “Cellphone,” she said.

If Ollie Rose thought this an outrageous request, she didn’t show it. She shrugged. “Down there.” She pointed to the drain in the curb. “Below us somewhere ‘cause my dad threw it in the sewer last night when I showed up at the bar to take him home.” She looked off down the boulevard, her eyes unfocused. “Ain’t surprised, of course. That was exactly what I deserved for not thinking things through. Just because my dad’s drunk, don’t mean he ain’t quick. Like a snake he is, all coiled up and ready to bite! Me though? By the time I could get loose, that phone was long gone.”

“The sewers?” Minerva asked. She thought she had the worst father in the city, but now she wondered.

“Time for me to get home,” Ollie said. “I don’t have time for your madness, Minerva Baines. Got to get home before dad thinks he needs me to do something.”

“To do what?” Minerva asked, surprised to find herself interested.

Ollie sighed. “New York only knows.”

“I don’t know who sent the shoes, Ollie, or why.” Minerva hoped she sounded conciliatory.

“Was thinking you didn’t cause if you did, they’d have sent them straight to you all proper like.”

Minerva almost wished she and Ollie Rose were friends, but she couldn’t explain why she’d feel that way. She couldn’t have close friends in her life. “Living where I do it’s hard to get packages,” she said. “Like someone would steal it or my father wouldn’t even let me have it. A good girl isn’t supposed to get packages, he says.”

“King of his castle like my dad, sounds like.” Ollie gave the bird another look. It continued to watch over them.

“Then he’d open it and that wouldn’t do us any good.”

Ollie whistled. “I’d say to hell with dads that can’t be good to us, but there’s not much help in that.”

“Used to think I couldn’t want another dad,” Minerva whispered. She’d never admitted such a thought to anyone before. “Up late at night though, I plot escapes to Paris or London or any streets anywhere really.”

“All madness!” Ollie exclaimed. “My dad would hunt me down. Money don’t matter to him when he just wants me to listen and do what I’m told.”

“I am going to find a way out,” Minerva said, shocking herself. “Was even thinking about talking to Ms. Fellinghast at the fair.”

“Looking for an even faster death, are you? For nothing should you ever trust that woman! Your life means nothing to the likes of her and her circus of freaks and charlatans and you know what else?” Ollie’s cheek turned red.

Minerva shook her head, worried if she said the wrong thing, Ollie would stop talking about Ms. Fellinghast.

“Ass!”

Both girls gasped at Ollie’s daring. Ollie jutted out her chin and sniffed, much like her mother would’ve done had she’d been alive. “This is the truth. Way long ago I heard my mother talking about the fair to our neighbor, Mrs. Rosalyn, and that’s exactly what she said.” She sniffed again. “Or my name ain’t Ollie Rose!”

“No worry, Ollie, because I’m sure you’re right. Way long ago and again just the other day I heard the same thing.”

“You’ll be okay, won’t you?” Ollie asked. “Know what I mean?”

“I’ll be fine.”

“Be safe, and you know what else? Free. Just free. Like a bluebird.” The bird above them flapped its wings as if it understood.
“A bluebird?’ Minerva asked.

“Bluebird,” Ollie replied. “Now.” A man walking by bumped into her and she stumbled forward. Minerva caught her arm and helped her steady herself. “Ain’t that always the way? That man bumped into me like he knew I was going to say something I really meant. Just can’t stand this world sometimes, what about you, Minerva? Like when you know what you finally mean to say, does the world come and knock you sideways?”

“Me?” Minerva didn’t know how to answer.

Tears rimmed Ollie’s eyes. Without explanation, she darted forward and kissed Minerva’s cheek. Then she spun about and ran down the sidewalk, pushing through crowds of pedestrians, her skirt getting caught on handbags and canes before she was out of sight.

Day 22!

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Today’s Story-a-Day prompt asked us to explore settings and to use all the senses. Well, I’ve given it a shot.

For Astrophilia

The governor canceled school to celebrate the cleanest air in a decade. The mechanics and engineers had discovered new parts for the massive air towers, and the result was a near blue sky.

Not everyone rushed outside. A few souls didn’t want to be reminded of what they’d lost and would be lost again. A few others eyed the gray-blue sky and suspected a plot to depopulate the district. It had happened before. But some, especially the children, set their air masks on their hooks and rushed into the streets and nearby fields.

Miracle June broke away from her friends to walk across the burned out plain. She didn’t how far she was allowed to go, but she’d go until someone called her back. The yellow grass came up to her knees. She’d dared more than most, going out in a skirt and indoor shoes, wanting to feel as much as she could. The blades swiped her knees, not quite sharp enough to draw blood but leaving thin shallow scratching her skin.

Several yards into the wide open space, she knelt and broke the yellow blades of grass in her hand. The smell of burnt toast drifted upward and she inhaled. The air hurt a little, unfiltered, hinting at cold and chlorine. But she was outside and breathing without a mask.

The torn blades of grass in her hand were already black and she wiped the remains on her skirt. The blackened grass left streaks on the brown, pleated wool, but she didn’t care about her school uniform today. Miracle June stretched out on the ground, the yellow grass breaking under her.

The hard grass jabbed her shoulder blades, back, and calves. She smelled the sick soil, her red hair looping and snagging on the yellow stalks. One strand of hair caught in her mouth. She tasted her cheap shampoo along with the almost taste of clean air. Breathing in as deeply as she could, her shoulder blades pressed harder into the ground. The thick clouds moved like oil slicks. What would it have been like to see a bird? Miracle June made herself imagined a bird like she’d seen in films soar across the sky.

Staring upward she then tried to imagine the stars. Who had been the last person to see stars in the night sky? She raised an arm as if reaching for something above. Her arm now perpendicular to her frame, she worked her fingers as if she could pinch a far off star.

The sirens began. Reluctantly, Miracle June sat up. Dirt and grass stuck in her hair. The smell of the grass would follow her for days. Looking back at where the street ended and the city buildings began, she understood why her mother didn’t want to take part in this day. Her mother remembered a handful of constellations that Miracle June could only day dream about.

Her classmates and everyone who’d ventured outside without their masks now trudged back to the shelter of their buildings. The wind shifted and picked up trash on the ground, tumbling paper scraps and old cans further into the city. A headache bloomed behind her eyes and she coughed. Even on these official mask-free afternoons, the body paid.

Her mother greeted her at the apartment door. “What did you do out there?” her mother asked, her anxiety revealed in her fingers tapping on the metal door frame.

Miracle June breathed in deeply again, in the apartment’s controlled environment. “I imagined birds in the sky,” she said. “And above them stars.”

“Oh good heavens, Mira. Why would you do that?”

“Don’t worry, mom. I don’t think I’ll do it again.”

Thanks for reading!