Mash-Up Monday #12: General Writing

“Mash-Up Monday” is a weekly post here at The Ambage where we post a mash-up of writing- or reading-related links that hopefully are helpful and inspiring. Just a few links on general writing this time–apologies for the short commentaries, it’s been a crazy few days.

Mash-Up Monday #12: General Writing

  1. Your Novel Blueprint. A very in-depth article with a lot of great tips.
  2. 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Writing a Fiction Series. Inconsistencies are always very annoying–here’s some tips to avoid them.
  3. Confessions of a Story Coach. Tips from a story coach.
  4. How Sick is Your Novel–Can It Be Saved? The last article is about a story coach. Here it’s about being a doctor with your novel and provides great tips for saving problematic novels.
  5. Fact-Based Fiction. Some great tips on making things more realistic by adding more fact to your fiction.
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The Leaves of a Book

Anyone with an eye for natural beauty has admired a tree. The tree is one of the most glorious symbols in nature, a symbol of growth, rewarded perseverance, diversity, and so much more. If you’re lucky, you’re one of the few who sees a tree as more still; you see it, not as a tree, but as a harmony of illimitable elements. You don’t just see the leaves, you see each and every innumerable leaf.

And yet still, each leaf is lost amidst its brothers. It’s just another leaf. But haven’t you ever picked a leaf? Suddenly that leaf is more than just another leaf: it is your leaf. It is a part of you. You see its unique shape and texture, unlike any other leaf in the world. Every leaf is different. And every leaf makes the world more beautiful.

The world of literature is like a tree. Every book is a leaf. There are more leaves than any one person has the time to pick and cherish. Some of us don’t even climb the tree, contenting ourselves only with the chosen few leaves who have fallen and come to rest happily among the others on the ground. Some leaves have already been lost to the wind.

But as writers, we do more than rake up the time-honored leaf mold; we climb the tree, we see what we can see from the heights of its branches, we search and explore. We pick leaves for ourselves, and what’s more, we grow our own leaves.

We write for the trees! But it can be discouraging, one of the most discouraging truths a writer faces, that the world is full of leaves, and some are lost in the thickness of the foliage. But as a reader, you’ll know that every leaf you picked, every book you have ever read, has changed your life; provided it was grown with proper care. Every leaf, every leaf brings more beauty to the world. We are, if you will, the gardeners, the arborists of this tree, and as such, as writers, it is our job to grow beautiful leaves that will bring more beauty to the world. As long as we do that, we need not worry: we have succeeded. As long as we do our job, the world will be more beautiful, and lives, however few, will be changed. Write wisely.

Forgetful Flash Fiction Friday #7

Today I want to showcase some stories written for the theme “Forget” from last January.

By Rene E. Schiller:

“You got everything?” Maude asked Earl. It was the big day. They had been planning this trip for months. The family had stopped visiting and bothering them with trinkets, cakes, feigned love and curious questions of false care about their parents health. Earl and Maude were free to do their own thing at last.

“Yeah, yeah,” came Earl’s murmured reply, rasped after the brandy for the road had burned his throat to anew alertness, but not as alert as he got when he saw Maude’s ridiculous retro triangle glasses she dug out from the dresser drawer untouched from the 1960’s.

Despite the fact that their large family was of age and had their own lives, everyone seemed to want to come back to big the old people in the quest for their fortune. Millions of dollars lingered in safe deposit boxes and accounts while the old folks lived in a simple and modest house in the suburbs. Their wealth stemmed from a life of work that continued even to the present. Mutual vacationing days were rare for them and they could rarely get anything but a squeezed weekend for themselves, and even then the relatives would flock after them like a pack of wolves bearing down on a couple wounded deer. So without hesitation, Earl and Maude planned their big getaway. They had packed in a hurry and got in their car in the wee hours of twilight to evade prying neighbor’s eyes that were surely in the pockets of their relatives. They zoomed away in their old Volvo before twilight and pumped their fists with euphoria as they fled to keep away from the kids and spend away their inheritance.

They parked their car in the short-term parking garage at the airport because of how few clicks they gave at the huge price and grabbed their overstuffed and oversized suitcases. “Earl, you parked in three spaces!” Maude exclaimed.

“What are they gonna do, charge us for them?” Earl slurred back. They laughed.

They bumped their fists at the ticket counter and checked in their luggage, rummaged through their satchels for their IDs at the security counter, found their way to the terminal and boarded their plane at the last minute — slowly, too, just to grate everybody else. They sat in opposite sides of the first class cabin, having bought up all the seats up for themselves.

They were relaxing on a sunny beach later that day when Maude shook Earl awake. He nearly screamed at the different pair of stupid sunglasses that seemed to glare at him like some hipster alien from Venus. “Earl!”

“Whaaaaat?” he almost hollered at her. “What?”

“Did we plan anything for Winkle?” Maude asked, her tone urgent.

“What? Oh, wait… the dog? No… Oh no! Quick, Maude, where’s your phone. We have to call the kids and tell them to feed and care for her!”

“You’re right!” Maude exclaimed. They bolted for the hotel room like greased lightning. “HANG ONNN, WINKLE!” she screamed. “SORRY FOR FORGETTING YOU, BUT WE’LL TAKE CARE OF YOU!”

By Alex Humva:

I wish I could forget. Forget the pain that was sitting somewhere deep inside of me, forget the pain that was crawling through my system, burning ever crevice it could fine. I wish I forget the betrayal and the loss, hole it away in my mind and never think of it again. I wish that life could go on, that I could carry on, and that I didn’t have wake up every morning feeling that deep slash to my faith and trust. Maybe then I could be happy again. Maybe then, I could trust again.
The memory will never go away, though. She was perfect for me, and I was perfect for her. True love at first sight, I suppose. We did so much together, were the greatest of friends for years and then a bit more than friends after that. It was a match made in heaven; we didn’t seem like it at first, but for all of our differences we still were completely enamored with each other. Barely a day went by without us talking to each other. Our parents always thought it was just that we were good friends. They couldn’t know the truth. They never could.
Then that day came. She turned eighteen at the end of winter, and with that achievement, she decided to tell her family of the secrets she had kept from them. Amongst them was me and our relationship. They took it… less than well. They all but disavowed her, threatening to kick her from their home. She knew that of course, she had plans for that, but it still hurt her. Not that it matters. We had talked about that. I knew she was going try. I didn’t want to see her hurt, but, to my shame, I worried for myself as well. What her parents could do to me.
They called mine, of course. Told them about me and her. My parents took it well enough; they were a bit shocked, but they weren’t like her parents. They understood, accepted me. Comforted me. And I needed that dearly. It wasn’t long until the news ‘happened’ to be leaked to the neighborhood and, shortly, the town. Not everyone hated me of course, most saw no difference, but some would avoid me at all costs. Others would glare at me hatefully. Mothers would shoo their children away from me.
At school I found myself the source of more bigotry than I had ever seen before. The students were bad enough; the teachers were truly the terror though. Some were accepting of course, not everyone in this day and age is a bigot, but others… my grades began to fail in some of my classes. My parents understood what was going on, my father looking over what he understood and realizing that it wasn’t the stress that was doing it. He went to the school board, tried to protest on my behalf. A warning was issued, but it was half-hearted. My grades were still below what I had use to be getting.
So my life continued, and I now fully understand. It doesn’t matter what the world says. People will always be hateful. People will never be able to accept those who are different from themselves. It’s a never ending cycle of hate, and that hatred is what makes the world turn. I look at those who try and I laugh to myself in the dark at their naive crusade. I didn’t ask for them to change their beliefs. I asked for their acceptance, their understanding. And I received nothing but hate.
So I will give nothing but hate in return.
“Little People” by Nicholas Foireann

There was a single muffled cry, and that was all. The boy smiled as his victim slumped to the ground, eyes staring with horror at the face that had been his doom. The alleyway was deserted, and it had been more luck than anything else that had allowed the young boy to lure his prey into the so obviously dangerous place. Luck, and the innocence of a child. Pushing back a sandy lock the child gave a little laugh as he began turning out the corpse’s pockets. People were begin to carry less with them these days and he had to be careful, but this man seemed to be a bit behind the times, and the boy easily extracted every cent from his wallet, over a hundred dollars. Good. He detached the man’s wristwatch, and then as an afterthought slipped his glasses off. Then, humming an obscure tune, the boy pulled out his knife, wiped it on the corpse’s shirt, hid it inside his shirt, and jogged off.

“I didn’t forget,” the boy said, tossing down the package carelessly. His father practically dove for it, snatching it up before it could hit the ground.

“You forgot nothing except care!” he snarled, his thin face lit with a sudden rage. The boy, wise beyond his years in combats of wills simply smirked.

“The cops aren’t on my tail,” was his only reply. As he turned away, he carelessly tossed a knife on the table as well.

“Oh, and you can have this back as well,” he said, motioning to the still blood-speckled blade.  Then he was gone from the room, humming merrily. The father ignored his departure, tearing open the package. There, wrapped inside common paper was the money from the man’ wallet, and a wristwatch. Good, the boy had not forgotten the essentials from his victim’s body. He took a quick glance at his son’s figure as he sauntered out the door. Just another small boy, deemed far too small to possibly commit murder. Any people who had seen him there would quickly forget him. Forgotten, all would be forgotten by tomorrow.

Top Ten Tuesday #12: Favorite Sequels

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish where book lovers post their top ten books for various themes that are given.

September 24th: Top Ten Favorite Sequels

Caleb’s Picks:

Another top five. I couldn’t think of ten sequels worthy of a top ten, and only one or two I disliked. In short, I couldn’t think of a lot of sequels!

  1. Perelandra by C.S. Lewis – As much as I enjoyed Out of the Silent Planet, Lewis took everything to an even greater level in the sequel. The characters were even more lovable than before, and more fascinating; the plot was more dramatic, and more exciting; the perspective more imaginative and broad; the themes were deeper and more thought-provoking than ever: is it any wonder I’m itching to read That Hideous Strength? I’m only waiting for just the right moment, as I’m sure most bibliophiles will understand.
  2. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien – Talk about building on your success! It’s mind-boggling what Tolkien did. The Hobbit was a great book, there’s no question, and by following it up with his massive, ambitious, incredibly intricate trilogy, Tolkien established himself as one of (if not the) best fantasy writers of all time. It’s as if Lewis Carroll turned around and wrote Crime and Punishment.
  3. The Return of Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs – It’s hard to call this a sequel, because it picks up right where Tarzan of the Apes left off, regathering the loose threads and tying it all up rather neatly. Really, Tarzan of the Apes cannot be read without The Return of Tarzan, which is part of the reason this is such a great sequel. In the first book Burroughs leaves you ravenous for more and you are not disappointed.
  4. Garden of the Purple Dragon and Dragon Moon by Carole Wilkinson – For years I thought the series began and ended with Dragon Keeper, until a friend told me that there were two more. I was thrilled, and I’m still very grateful to that friend. I enjoyed the sequels even better than the first.
  5. Inkspell and Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke – I bought the whole series at once and read it through in a couple of weeks. Inkheart compares beside the others almost as a stand-alone, worthy in its own way, but personally Inkspell and Inkdeath were my favorites. An amazing writer, Cornelia Funke. I don’t read much fantasy, but at least I choose my fantasy wisely.

Mash-Up Monday #11: Writer’s Block

“Mash-Up Monday” is a weekly post here at The Ambage where we post a mash-up of writing- or reading-related links that hopefully are helpful and inspiring. It’s hard to believe we’ve been doing this for ten weeks already. Today I’ll post a few links that will hopefully help in the battle against writer’s block.

Mash-Up Monday #11: Writer’s Block

  1. 5 Ways to Develop a Book Idea. While this article isn’t specifically about writer’s block (in that it never mentions that term), it still has some great tips for overcoming writer’s block. Because that’s basically what it all comes down to. In the end, you will have to decide whether you want to write or not, and then force yourself accordingly. Luckily, there are a lot of tricks to help as well.
  2. Get Rid of Writer’s Block Once and for All. Ambage Co-Founder/Host Caleb actually showed this to me, and I couldn’t help but post it here as it really does offer some great advice. It really is key to just simply write something.
  3. Advice for Writing; Or, What I Know So Far, Which Might Actually be Nothing at All. In this article you get both what to do and what not to do if you want to write.
  4. My Battle With Writer’s Block. Here’s a slightly more personal approach at overcoming writer’s block, yet it still offers some great advice that can be applied to anyone. Eating/sleeping/exercising well, reading–those are definitely helpful when it comes to trying to write. The last item specifically I like, because it’s definitely very important to sometimes put aside a project in lieu of something else. Personally, I’m a huge fan of short stories or flash fiction–if you’re stuck on a novel, why not take a break and explore either a character from the novel in a short story, or just an entirely unrelated plot? Or another novel? If things aren’t coming, maybe it’s just time to take a short break and work on something else for a while before coming back.
  5. How to Think Through Writer’s Block. I’ll end this week with four more great tips to overcoming writer’s block. Thinking is definitely very important (who would’ve guessed, right?) when it comes to overcoming writer’s block and writing in general.

-Andrew

Sunday Editorial: Write What You Want

Sunday Editorial

What do you write?

Last time I talked about one of the most-asked questions people give when I say that I’m a writer or that I like to write—why? So I gave a list of answers in the last article, a few of which I’ll normally tell people (usually I’ll just go “because I enjoy it” or something generic like that, unless they’re looking for a longer answer then I can talk until they stop me).

Now I want to do another one of those—what do you write? Poems, short stories, novels, screenplays? Mystery, Thriller, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, YA? What floats your boat? It’s not really my favorite question to answer because I don’t have a simple, quick answer to that question. I don’t just write one genre or one series. I’ll usually give fantasy and mystery as my top two, but that’s only because so far those are the ones I’ve enjoyed writing most.

It seems like everyone expects you to be a certain type of writer. A Sci-Fi writer, a YA writer, a poet, etc. It also seems like people expect you to write only one genre. I can tell because when someone asks that and I don’t just give a single genre right away, it’s clearly apparent that they weren’t expecting a long answer.

But even “famous” authors seem to generally stick to one genre. Jim Butcher writes fantasy (both epic and urban), Michael Connelly writes mysteries (sometimes with a lawyer as the protagonist, so it’s more of a legal thriller, but it still involves some sort of crime), Tom Clancy writes espionage, and so on. So perhaps that’s why people seem to expect you mostly stick to one genre. And if you’re published (and want to stay published) maybe you kind of have to.

That’s one of the things that I think is really cool about J.K. Rowling—she wrote a fantastic fantasy YA/children’s (but really it’s for everyone) series, then wrote a “Contemporary” (according to most users on Goodreads) novel, then a mystery novel (which I’m very excited to read).

But I digress—if you’re not a published author with a contract to write X books in X genre/series/etc., then why not write more than one genre? It doesn’t matter if you’re not able to call yourself a specific-genre author, what matters is that you write. Sometimes people’ll say write what you know, but more importantly, write what you want to write.

Which also leads to experimentation. If you don’t know what genre you want to write in, or if you want to write in multiple genres, well why not do that? Write a fantasy novel/short story, write a mystery story, write a thriller, write science fiction, write contemporary fiction, write some poems. The important thing is to write and to enjoy writing—no need to worry about “your” genre. Experiment with a lot of them and see which you like best. Maybe you wouldn’t think you’d like to write a fantasy novel until you try it.

The point is, you don’t need to worry about having a genre that’s yours. Maybe someday you’ll be an “[X-genre] author” but don’t let that stop you from writing because you’re trying to find your genre before you start writing. Start writing first, and let “your” genre find you.

So just write what you want. That’s one of the best things about writing.

-Andrew

Top Ten Tuesday #11: Books On Our Fall TBR List

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish where book lovers post their top ten books for various themes that are given.

September 17th: Top Ten Books On Our Fall TBR List

Caleb’s Picks:

I’m looking at the most “immediate” of my to-read list, which consists of over 80 books. It wasn’t easy to pick only ten of them.

  1. That Hideous Strength, by C.S. Lewis. I finally got my hands on a copy! I am looking forward to this.
  2. Walden, by Henry David Thoreau. I only recently discovered Thoreau through Walking, and I became immediately fascinated by his philosophies. I haven’t been so excited about reading a book since I started Don Quixote.
  3. Any book by Agatha Christie. I have eight Agatha Christie paperbacks on my shelf just begging to be read.
  4. The Institutes of Christian Religion, by John Calvin. Slowly but surely I’ll be working my way through this during the fall . . . and the winter . . . and the spring . . . and maybe summer . . . and possibly next fall . . .
  5. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. This has been on my list of books I’ve wanted to read for a long time, so I figure I ought to get around to it soon.
  6. The Tale of Despereaux, by Kate DiCamillo. A friend picked this out recently and recommended it to me, and I try to be compliant. I look forward to it: in a small way it will feel like revisiting my childhood day of reading The Mouse and the Motorcycle. Then I can watch the movie and see how much the screenwriters changed.
  7. The Castle in the Attic, by Elizabeth Winthrop. I read this once, a long time ago, but all I can remember is that I enjoyed it and that there’s a castle, a dragon, and a mirror. Aforementioned friend read this recently, and conversation would be more interesting if I could remember something about the story.
  8. The Lazy Tour of Two Idle Apprentices, by Wilkie Collins & Charles Dickens. I’m familiar with Collins, and though of course I know Dickens by name and bibliography I am ashamed to say I have never heard his work, and here’s as good a place to start as any.
  9. The Pearl, anonymous, edited by Sophie Jewett. Happened upon it by chance, but I’m glad it did, because it looks like a short, sweet read. It’s antiquity and anonymity makes it all the more intriguing.
  10. The Cabin, Vicente Blasco Ibáñez. I’ve read short stories by Ibanez before, and I thoroughly enjoyed his novella Luna Benamor; but I have yet to read an Ibanez novel. I look forward to seeing how his writing holds together on a larger scale.

Andrew’s Picks:

  1. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman. I recently read American Gods and Anansi Boys—the first Gaiman novels I’ve ever read—and thoroughly enjoyed them. Based on all the positive response to this, I’m really looking forward to reading it (and recently purchased it).
  2. The Cuckoo’s Calling, by J.K. Rowling (Robert Galbraith). I wasn’t a huge fan of The Casual Vacancy, but there were still some things I really enjoyed about it—the writing in general, for example, was still excellent (as expected for J.K. Rowling). And I am a fan of J.K. Rowling—I absolutely loved the Harry Potter books. That, coupled with how this is actually a mystery novel (it seems like a lot of people thought Casual Vacancy was as well, but it wasn’t really), I’m really looking forward to it.
  3. Furies of Calderon, by Jim Butcher. I love the Dresden Files. Like, love love love. Definitely some of my favorite books I’ve ever read. I’ve also heard that the Codex Alera isn’t as good as the Dresden Files, so I’m not going into these expecting perfection or anything. But they do sound good, they’re high fantasy, and it is still Jim Butcher as the author, so I’m really looking forward to finally reading this series (starting with the first book, Furies of Calderon).
  4. Raylan, by Elmore Leonard. I saw this book—hardback—bargain priced at a Barnes & Noble a few weeks ago and instantly picked it up and decided to purchase it. I really enjoy the FX series Justified (based on Leonard’s short story, “Fire in the Hole”), and since this book is about Raylan Givens, the main character of Justified, I thought it’d be awesome to read. So already this was on my “read soon” list (I mean I have hundreds of books “to-read” so I have another list with only a couple dozen or so that I want to read ASAP), but then I got the unfortunate news that Leonard passed away. So this is bumped up even more. I’ve been meaning to read something by Leonard for a while, I love the show Justified, Givens is a great character—this seems like a great place to start, and I eagerly await reading this.
  5. The Eye of the World, by Robert Jordan. Nope, I’ve never read this before, nor any book in the Wheel of Time series. I know, that may be surprising. But I finally found this book at a used bookstore and so will finally be giving it a read. I’m really excited to see what all the hype (and, in some cases, the criticism) is about and if it’s a series worth reading or not. I guess I’ll see.
  6. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, by Susanna Clarke. I love magicians. The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern, and The Prestige, by Christopher Priest, are two of my favorite books, both dealing with magicians as the main characters. The Prestige (directed by Christopher Nolan, based on the book) is one of my favorite films. I love magicians (you could say that even carries on to wizards like Harry Dresden, Harry Potter, Gandalf, etc.). And, well, as you probably guessed by now (if you didn’t already know), this book is about magicians. So, yes, I’m looking forward to it.
  7. The Second Death, by Caleb Peiffer. Another mystery, this time written by a friend of mine (who just released a new book–check it out!). I’ve been meaning to read this book for the longest time, but just haven’t gotten around to it (especially when I read the first chapter, which was just amazing, I’ve been meaning to read it even more). Definitely a high priority for me.
  8. Hart’s Hope and Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card. I’ve been meaning to read some of Card’s work for a long time now. Ender’s Game is a priority mostly because of the movie and because of how much everyone’s talking about it—it’d be nice to be able to join in on some conversations. I also just need to read more Sci-Fi in general. I’ve been looking forward to reading Hart’s Hope since a friend recommended it to me (plus, it’s fantasy, which I love, and I’m looking for more great fantasy stand-alone books).
  9. The Mysterious Affair at Styles, by Dame Agatha Christie; and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Both classic mysteries. I’ve read a small handful of Christie books, and at some point I want to read through every Hercule Poirot (and I mean, all her other books, too) novel, starting, of course, with the first (and continuing them in order). I’m also planning to slowly make my way through every Sherlock Holmes story (short story or otherwise)—during the Spring I read A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four, so now I plan to read the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes short stories.
  10. Without Remorse, by Tom Clancy; and Naked Heat, by Richard Castle. Listing them together since they’re both Thrillers (espionage and mystery, respectively). I’ve been meaning to read (yeah…I’ve been saying that a lot) the Jack Ryan books for a long time now in order (I’ve only read Dead or Alive and later)—hoping this Fall is when I actually start doing it. I’m a huge fan of the television show Castle, so naturally I’m excited to read this novel written by Nathan Fillion an unknown ghostwriter that’s tied to the TV series.

Mash-Up Monday #10

“Mash-Up Monday” is a weekly post here at The Ambage where we post a mash-up of writing- or reading-related links that hopefully are helpful and inspiring. It’s hard to believe we’ve been doing this for ten weeks already. This week the theme is “Character”–as I’ve said before, Character is one of the most important things to me both as a writer and a reader. Here are a few awesome links about characters and characterization.

Mash-Up Monday #10: Character

  1. 6 Ways to Write Better Bad Guys. Bad guys are really, really fun to write. But like the article states, it can be difficult to make them more than one-dimensional.
  2. Tapping Your Inner Villain. You know, in case the first article wasn’t enough. But seriously, this too has some good tips on writing villains (who are sometimes the best part of a story).
  3. How to Give your Character an Authentic Dialect. Dialect can be hard to do well; this article gives some great points on how to do it and how not to.
  4. Show, Don’t Tell–Using Setting to Deepen Your Characters. This article is great in showing that characterization is possible through many different methods–including setting, as outlined here.
  5. Direct Characterization. Some great stuff to keep in mind–direct characterization can be incredibly fun to read (and write). This also mentions showing rather than telling, and how that can be avoided to create better characters.

-Andrew

Sunday Editorial: Doing the Impossible

“Listen to what I say, for it is the truth. If you ever want to accomplish anything in life, place no belief in the word ‘impossible.’ There’s nothing impossible to an energetic will. If you try to shoot an arrow, aim very high, as high as you can; the higher you aim, the farther you’ll go.”

– Pío Baroja

This small pearl of wisdom, is one of the most valuable in Baroja’s novel The Quest, not to mention one of the truest sayings I have ever heard. There’s a spirit in these words that defines Baroja’s writings in its practical idealism. Like his compatriot, Don Quixote, here is a man who believes in achieving the impossible; but unlike the famed knight-errant, Baroja knows to achieve the impossible, you have to be practical. It takes courage and hard work, but above all else, tenacity. The heart to persevere no matter what is one of the most potent abilities one can have.

Reach for the stars; you may never get there, but you’ll climb higher than you ever thought you could in the attempt.

As the song goes, “This is my quest: to follow that star, no matter how hopeless, no matter how far.”

It has long been an axiom of mine that writing is an endless journey. Life is too, really, for it is a continuous process of growth: even death is another form of growth. As the tree delights in each branch, even every leaf it grows, so the writer delights in every novel, in every short story, even every word he or she writes. We revel in each stroke of the proverbial pen, for it is a victory of itself; but we do not tarry long. We take our joy and build upon it: we take our success and move on to bigger and greater things. On a quest without end, the reward is not in the destination, but in every step of the way.

Frightening Flash Fiction Friday # 6

Brevity is conducive to scariness. it can be difficult to maintain a really good scary mood over an entire novel, but in 500 words or so it’s not a problem. And the bizarreness that often emerges when writing under pressure can lend a unique flavor to it.

Let’s take this story for example. I’m pretty sure Mr. Kraagh did not originally intend this to be quite so disturbing as it became.

Knife by John Monosmith

There once was a man named Kraggh, who had a sword that could cut through anything. However, since it was magical and the rules of magic were loosey defined, he could also adjust the length of this sword, and as such, if he wanted to slowly kill someone he would make the sword much shorter; in fact, it could be short enough that it was no longer a sword but a knife. It was more convenient that way when he desired to conceil it, and this he would indeed have to do for the holy and sacred commission he had received.

He followed the monster named Nuile. It had wronged the minds of innocents, corrupting them with abominable images and twisted thoughts. With its advanced powers of communication, it subjected them to a hermeneutic that devastated their means of seeing reality from a purer perspective.

It could not be allowed to live.

The Nuile slithered and slunk along, prowling and crawling, sneaking and lurking. Its path would not be detered as it head toward a church of innocent people.

“No,” thought Kraggh. “Not them. Anyone but them.” There was a handful of people in this world he could not bear to part with, and his beloved Louise was one of them. She was of a strong mind and sound heart, but he could not let her put her eyes upon the Nuile, lest its horror of twisted perceptions psychicly latch on to her and turn her soul to stone. She had already been raped by the spiritual blasphemy of her pastor. No, not she, nor anyone else there, could witness the Nuile and see its demented image. They of all people were already too endangered to suffer the burden of yet another satanic pull in their lives.

“Over here, you abomination!” said Kraggh. The Nuile turned its head and vomited out a mouthful of hungry tentacles, grasping and groping. Kraggh flinched, not at the physical gruesomeness but at the spiritual language it spoke. It spoke a Word. Not The Word, but a Word beyond the common word of Man, and it was a blasphemy. It reverberated through the air with all the senility of Hell.

It pounced after him, flicking as his hand with one of its many tongues, and cast the knife from his hand. He would have had the sword at its full length, and it would have smitten the Nuile right in its place had be extended it so, but for its crime, for its unforgivable intent, the Nuile deserved a slow death.

The Nuile fell atop Kraggh, pinning him the the gravel road. It was too heavy to lift up. The preening tentacles thrashed and then wrapped their way around Kraggh’s head. Kraggh held his hands against the Nuile’s jagged jaw, which threatened to clamp tighter than a crocodile’s and pierce him through with saber’d teeth, he refused to allow it to carry through with this final act. Kraggh could think of a thousand honorable ways to die, but this death was beneath him. He was above this Nuile, its superior by leaps and bounds. It did not have the authority in its innermost being to champion over him like this.

The tentacles pulled at Kraggh’s face, attempting to twist it off his shoulders and snap his neck. He grimaced, as he smelled the Word of the Nuile in the air, seeping out of the Nuile’s oral devices.

Just then, he remembered the pen in his pocket. It wasn’t his special weapon, and it wouldn’t slay the Nuile, but he knew how to use it as effectively as an average knife. Unable to lift himself up, and unable to take his hands off of the violent predator’s grizzly canines without them clamping down on him, he rolled to the side, throwing the Nuile off balance. With one quick movement, he grasped his pen-knife and thrust it into the Nuile’s jugular. It let out a loud screech.

All monstrosities has their weaknesses. For werewolves it was silver. For vampires, it was the cross. For the Nuile, it was the Word of God represented through the pen, which was more effective than any knife. The ink, like poison, spread through the Nuile’s body. It began convulsing.

Kraggh got on top of the Nuile, grasping its jaws once again. In desperation, its tentacle-tongues lashed out at him again, and it tried snapping its jaws shut upon the gallant and noble man who held them at bay. “You deserve to suffer,” croaked Kraggh. “If you do not fear God, then fear me, for I am great and terrible.”

And with a cry of finality, he snapped the Nuile’s neck. A shock wave burst through the air and the insurmountable beast was surmounted, and it was done.

Knife by Caleb Peiffer:

Flowers. I love all sorts of flowers, so colorful, so beautiful; I love every flower in my garden, but especially the roses. The red, red roses. I love them more than any other, more than anything else.

I love those roses. I love everything about those roses: their smell, their beauty. I love their color.

I love the fire in their soul.

But most of all I love their soil. If there is anything more beautiful than my roses, it is buried beneath them.

It was years ago. I was working in my garden, in another corner, tending my rhododendrons. I had gardened into the evening and it was night by the time I finished, and stood up to look at the one empty side of my garden, and wonder what to put there. I had several flowers lined up, but I wasn’t sure which I liked best.

As I shuffled over to take a closer look at each one, I stumbled over a plate—I had eaten my dinner outside hours ago. It shattered under my boot, grinding shards of ceramic and sharp silverware into the grass, the dirt, and my rubber soles.

Then I heard shouting next door. I couldn’t help but look up, look out across the fence, and watch them storm into the backyard. He looked about ready to strike her, but I knew he never could. She, on the other hand, slapped him outright.

I don’t want you to think I’m a nosy parker, but I stood there, watching, a little frozen I suppose. It was so long ago I don’t remember what they were arguing about, but it doesn’t really matter.

She screamed at him; he stood there, taking it bravely, unmoving, unflinching. My ground the ceramic beneath my foot, pressing the sharp silverware into the grass, the dirt, and my rubber soles.

Finally he threw up his hands and retreated indoors with a loud, very audible sigh. She remained in the yard a few minutes, seething. I went to the gate and called to her. She smiled, putting on a pretty face, pretending nothing had happened, pretending I hadn’t been there the whole time and hadn’t seen everything, as she well knew I had.

“Good evening,” she greeted, stepping to the fence. She opened her mouth, trying to think of something more to say, but she didn’t yet have the possession of mind.

I smile sweetly, said, “He’s too good for you,” pulled the dinner knife out from the dress pocket I had put it in. I raised it and stabbed her in the heart. She screamed, but nobody would pay attention; everybody screamed in this neighborhood. I moved through the gate and stabbed her again and again and again, until I was sure she was dead.

I dragged her body back into my yard and started digging. I noticed that one of the roses was a little redder; there was a large splotch, a vivid, vivid scarlet on its petals.

Suddenly I knew what flower to plant. I smiled to myself.

I love those roses, I have loved them ever since I planted them; and my new husband, when he moved in, loved them nearly as much. I think he would love them more if he knew what was buried beneath them, but I wasn’t sure.

Those red, red roses. I love them more than any other flower, more than anything else.

My second favorite flower is the azalea—you should know what I buried beneath them.

The following is a little different, and not necessarily suitable for all ages. But it was frightening to me for its flavor of realism.

Party by E. R. Alwardby:

Lights blazing, music blaring and drinks flowing, the party spilled out from the large living room to the rest of the house and from the house to the yard. John walked silently along the back wall, regretting every concession he’d made to the girl that had invited him. Contacts in place of glasses, no enveloping jacket around his shoulders, no comforting weight of a pencil on his ear, no gentle beat of keys hitting his chest as they dangled from a chain lanyard and, perhaps worst of all, no earplugs to guard his acute hearing against the deadening beat. She’d given up on him almost immediately anyway, once she’d realized he couldn’t dance to save his life, so why had she had to bother with toning down his inner nerd?

Oh well, John thought. It could be worse, though how I’m not sure.

Slithering between two couples taking up the French doors that led to the back yard, John kept his eyes down. It was hard to look one way or another without seeing a pairing in some compromising position. The pool was half filled with people playing a mass game of volleyball, half of those having discarded their clothes for a more comfortable way to swim. John crept his way to the pool house and left his phone hidden in a place where the mortar between the bricks had crumbled away. Dodging the group of girls consoling a friend who had found out that Bill was cheating on her with Stacy, who had supposed to be dating Will who was a crush of Linda’s, John swiftly, silently, and unnoticeably threw himself into the pool, diving to the bottom of the deep end to blink out his contacts and gaze up at the thriving mass of cool kids above him. It would be an hour before he would be discovered periodically popping up around the edge, only to submerge again to glide along bottom and the sides. The girl who found him would scream as she stepped on his back, and the party would stop for a moment. Someone would laugh, and John would again melt into the wall and drip-dry his clothes before making his way blurrily to the exit.

—-

No list of frightening flash fiction would be complete without something from Micah.

Bloody Stupid by Micah Berkoff:

Winter has never been a  good time for me. Last time I was out here in the winter I was shot in the head by a sniper over two miles away, then caught a disease that rendered me terminal in three days. The previous winter I was robbed by bandits who took nearly everything from my bunker but the shelves and I froze to death. The winter before that I just got lost and died in a blizzard. Yes, I’ve died nearly eight times out here but the other stories are far less interesting.

This season doesn’t look to be any better. Both my cabin and the bunker below it are buried by nearly fourteen feet of snow and a heavy fog has settled around the forest like socks settle around my room. I finally found the stovepipe jutting out from a snowbank, so I dropped an inflated grenade down to stretch the pipe and blow the grate out. That was a bad idea from the start. A loud thud followed by the complete collapse of the cabin said I blew out the walls as well.

So anyways, I set up camp in the crater. Bloody fantastic. If I dig deep enough I can even find the supplies I left here over the summer. Stale granola bars, a couple cans of applesauce. Why do I never pack food of my own?

Right, the crater. I dug myself a shelter into one side of it and reinforced it with splintered timbers. It collapsed on me in my sleep and I suffocated. Then I got out and was eaten by a pack of wolves, followed shortly by falling off a cliff and being impaled by assorted debris.

You know, other guys like to brag about how fun it is being immortal. I just don’t get it.