Odyssey of a Novice Writer

Aspiring novelist. Avid reader of fiction. Reviewer of books. By day, my undercover identity is that of meek, mild-mannered legal assistant, Kate Loveton, working in the confines of a stuffy corporate law office; by night, however, I'm a super hero: Kate Loveton, Aspiring Novelist and Spinner of Tales. My favorite words are 'Once upon a time… ' Won't you join me on my journey as I attempt to turn a hobby into something more?

The Toy Patrol

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“Barb, where are the car keys?” he asked, watching her decide what to wear.

She frowned. The keys were where they always were – resting in the ignition of the pink convertible. Her pink convertible. Everything they owned was hers – the convertible, the dream house. He’d brought nothing to the union but plastic good looks, clothing and a healthy-sized ego.

“In the ignition – as always,” she said.

Ken slapped his forehead. “Right! Where else? Okay, gotta run; later, baby.”

Yeah, you’ve such a busy day ahead, pushing paper around Uncle Joe’s office, she thought unkindly.

That position, too, had resulted from his marriage to Barb. Her uncle was a decorated general on Mattel World. Filling endless supply requisitions was all the feckless Ken was good for.

Depressed, she turned to her wardrobe. The hardest part of her day was deciding which of her many outfits to wear. Each article of clothing hearkened back to a former life – airline stewardess, movie star, go-go dancer.

So many incarnations.

She felt old.

Yet, she looked the same: large dark eyes; jutting breasts above a tiny waist. As for her ass, there was plenty of junk in that trunk.

It was good to be Barb.

So why the sadness?

Annoyed, she decided on a cheerleader outfit; then she heard pounding on the front door.

“Barbie! Open up!”

Her friend, Midge, looking anxious, pushed through the cardboard door of Barb’s dream house. “Barbie, they’re coming! We should have known! Did we really expect they’d leave us in peace?”

“Midge, you have ten seconds to calm yourself and tell me what this is about. Jeepers, I haven’t even had my coffee; worse, I haven’t yet figured out what I’m going to wear today!”

“The Toy Patrol is coming!”

The news staggered Barb. Not the Toy Patrol! They’d liberated themselves from the Old Order when GI Joe and the Transformers had joined forces, subduing and imprisoning the instigators of so much misery in the universe. The result: a better world – Mattel World.

“Are you sure?”

Midge nodded. “I checked the kids’ toy box. The Brangelina dolls, the Paris Hilton action figure, they’re missing!”

Barb walked over to her own kids’ toy box. Slightly tipping the lid, she listened for the chatter she should have heard. Silence. Opening the box, she saw it was empty. Gone were the Hillary and Bill dolls, complete with boxing gloves. Gone, too, the George Bush doll with its fractured pronunciation of ‘nuclear.’

Was this the end? Were Barbie and her friends going to be rounded up by the Toy Patrol, consigned to toy chests in an alternate universe?

She’d die fighting first!

This was her universe, her beloved Mattel World. Never was this universe to be retaken by the Old Order. Here she’d make her last stand!

Resolutely, she marched back to the bedroom. Tossing aside the cheerleader outfit, she reached inside the wardrobe, pulling out camouflage gear.

Guerilla Barbie, accessorized with bazooka, went out to greet the enemy.

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Word Count: 496

Author’s Note: Trying to kill three birds with one stone this week!

This flash fiction was written in response to three challenges – Mark Baron’s Woegman’s World of Witty Wonder Thursday Trope (found here); ThainInVain’s weekly Wednesday challenge (found here); and BeKindRewrite’s Monday Inspiration challenge (found here).

Mark’s prompt was to write a trope on ‘Never Was This Universe‘ – a take on alternate universes; ThainInVain’s prompt was to craft a 500 word or less tale in which the words ‘You have ten seconds…’ was utilized; and BeKindRewrite’s prompt was to fashion a story in which certain words were utilized – of the words provided, I chose ‘Toy Patrol.’

This is a rather silly, fantastical tale, but I hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading.

Posts to Check Out!

Kate Loveton:

Thanks, Mishka, for including a link to my site – and to introducing me to some of your favorite bloggers. :D

Originally posted on A Writer's Life For Me.:

Here are a list of posts I loved this week. Why not check them out? You might find some new bloggers to follow :)

http://mckade.wordpress.com/2014/08/16/hats-off-to-book-review-bloggers/ – A great post about supporting the book review bloggers.

http://bumblesbooks.wordpress.com/2014/08/16/five-year-olds-are-genius-character-developers/ – Love this idea of planning out characters, definitely going to give it a try!

http://kateloveton.wordpress.com/2014/08/17/what-i-learned-during-my-blog-free-vacation/ – Kate came back from her time off from blogging in the most spectacular way.

https://jeanniezelos.wordpress.com/2014/08/19/prophecy-of-stones-mishka-jenkins/ – Cheating a bit, a review on my latest release! :)

http://taylorgraceauthor.wordpress.com/2014/08/19/toil-and-trouble-tuesday-fridge-disaster/ – This made me chuckle! Though, poor Taylor!

http://lovehappynotes.com/2014/08/20/disney-rhyme-licks/ – An awesome and very clever piece!

http://permashift.wordpress.com/2014/08/19/the-soul-is-live-on-google-play/ – The Soul is now on Google Play! This was an excellent book and I really recommend checking it out.

http://alexinbookland.wordpress.com/2014/08/20/top-5-wednesday-10/ – What book world would you like to live in?

http://alanjameskeogh.wordpress.com/2014/08/22/1793/ – The last (for a while) piece in a great story, Shadow Crawlers.

http://lindaswritingblog.wordpress.com/2014/08/22/my-tea/ – Most will know I’m a big…

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It’s Delightful! It’s Delicious! It’s De-Lovely!

I feel the sudden urge to sing
The kind of ditty that invokes the spring…
It’s delightful, it’s delicious, it’s delectable, it’s delirious, it’s dilemma, it’s delimit, it’s deluxe
It’s DE-LOVELY!
~ Cole Porter, American Songwriter

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I am now the recipient of the One Lovely Blog award – and I’d like to thank Cathy Ryan of BetweenTheLinesBookBlog (found here) for bestowing me with this award. Cathy has included me amongst a group of some pretty impressive bloggers; as a result, I’m walking around with a large and rather silly grin on my face.

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So thank you, Cathy, for making me a happy little blogger.  And, folks – if you enjoy fiction, you’ll want to visit Cathy’s blog.  She is an avid reader.  I love avid readers! 

Now, in order to accept this award, I have to share seven facts about myself with you. I feel like I’ve already shared so many facts with you that you’ve probably gotten tired of hearing about me, but let’s see if I can scrounge up a few more.

The Lovely Lauren Bacall

The Lovely Lauren Bacall

Fact Number One ~ I have always been a huge fan of the lovely Lauren Bacall. As you know, Ms. Bacall died a week or so ago. She was an interesting, dynamic woman. At a young age, she was married to Humphrey Bogart, was briefly engaged to Frank Sinatra, and later married (and divorced) Jason Robards. She was well known for giving Bogart ‘the look’ in their first movie. And a sultry look it was! Lauren ‘Betty’ Bacall was a lifelong Democrat, opinionated, and tough. I loved her. Ms. Bacall, you will be missed.

imagesGAS4BKL0 Fact Number Two ~ I love the movie ‘North by Northwest.’ Where else can you get the sexy pairing of Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint – and watch them as they climb up the nose of one of the presidents depicted on Mount Rushmore? Add the deliciously villainous James Mason and poor Cary running from a crop-dusting plane – well, you’ve got yourself a winner!

Fact Number Three ~ I used to play the cello. According to my sister and mother, I never actually ‘played’ the cello. No, I assaulted their ears with the cello.

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I took cello lessons when I was ten years old. Was it due to my love of that fine instrument? Nah… it was because of my passion for eleven-year old Billy Dexter. He had a head of bright red hair, sparkling brown eyes and a face full of freckles. I thought he was a god! A regular Adonis! For an entire year, I sat next to him in music class, sawing away on an oversized guitar, giving him my best ‘come hither’ look, but he never even glanced my way. No, he was infatuated with Beth Savaliski, the prettiest and most popular girl in school.  To this day, I’m a sucker for redheads, cruel and faithless beasts though they may be.

imagesAQY3SSHSFact Number Four ~ I would adore being part of a flash mob singing the Hallelujah Chorus in a shopping mall. Can you imagine anything more fun or uplifting during the Christmas season?  ‘For unto us a child is born…’

images22NF1B7HFact Number Five ~ If my husband would give me the okay, I would love to have one of these. I am hopelessly in love with English Bull Dogs.  If given one, I would name her Adelaide or Alice. So what if she slobbers or farts all the time? How different is that from some guys?  (Sorry, guys – that is said with tongue absolutely and firmly implanted in cheek!) Anyway, who seriously can  resist this face? Not me!  Apparently my husband can; he has yet to relent in spite of almost daily pleadings.  PLEASE!  PLEEEEEZE!!!!

imagesOB43F9E2Fact Number Five ~ If civilization ever collapses, I worry about my library on Amazon!  Some worry about food supplies; I worry about the continued existence of my virtual library!  I don’t want to lose all the wonderful books I have in my queue waiting to be read. I have this freaky vision of myself sitting in my basement, in the dark, eating cold tins of canned foods… but reading on my Kindle… until… ALAS!!! the battery dies. At that point civilization will really cease to exist for me.  (tongue in cheek – um… sort of…  :D )

untitled (4) Fact Number Six ~ I’ve loved the movie and music from the ‘Sound of Music’ since I was a kid. I know every word to every song, much to the displeasuring of ‘hearing people’ all around me.  I long to attend a musical event where others share my passion for breaking into a rousing rendition of ‘How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?’  Did you know that there are ‘Sound of Music’ sing-alongs?  Wow, what a beautiful concept! I know these have been performed at the Hollywood Bowl, but I wish there would be one closer to my neck of the woods.  Joining in with hundreds of other voices to sing ‘My Favorite Things’ while dressed like a brown paper package tied up with strings – well, it would be one of my favorite things!

images55CDZG0D Fact Number Seven ~ I love zebras. Look at these guys.  Are they not adorable? I can never figure out whether they are black with white stripes, or white with black stripes. I can’t figure out if they are part of the horse family (can you ride one?). I can’t figure out why we don’t have these very cool animals in North America.  What I can figure out is that I want one.  Badly.  Almost as much as I want an English Bull Dog.  I don’t dare bring this up to my husband.  The Bull Dog is bad enough…

Okay, that’s it. Seven things about me. And now for the good stuff.

Hear ye, hear ye!

Hear ye, hear ye!

This is where I get to direct you to some pretty fantastic blogs.  Now, nominees, please understand you do not have to reciprocate – as far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t matter whether you accept awards or not.  I just want to point out your wonderfulness because each of you is writing some great stories, wonderful poetry or sharing some pretty terrific photography.

So, without further ado, here are just a few of my favorite bloggers. Pay them a visit and enjoy what they have to offer.

Heather B. Costa. Heather’s already been nominated by someone else for this award, but I really like her blog – and I like Heather, too – so I’m nominating her again.  (Get your acceptance speech ready, Heather!) She writes some wonderful fiction. She also writes truthfully and uncompromisingly about her issues in discovering and accepting her own self-worth. Her ‘Thoughts for Friday’ posts are especially fine. Heather’s blog is Trials of a Wanna-be-Published Author, and it can be found here.

Willow is a poet. I ran across Willow’s blog quite by accident. It’s turned out to be quite a happy accident, and now I make it a point to check her blog frequently. She’s writing some beautiful poetry. Vivid, evocative, compelling – that’s how I’d describe her work. Willow’s blog, A Life in Poems, can be found here.

One of my favorite bloggers is Tess of the How the Cookie Crumbles blog. Actually, Tess’s blog is also subtitled, Let’s Cut the Crap, and can be found here. Tess has a witty (she put’s it ‘irreverent’) view on life. She’s also writing some great flash fiction. Oh, and if you have an interest in China, you’ll want to check out her impressions and the photographs she took when she visited that country.

Do you enjoy reading good fiction? How about looking at some amazing photography? If so, take a look at Keith Channing‘s blog, A Storey of Stories, found here. Actually, Keith has two blogs; the second is his photography blog (found here). Both blogs do link to one another, so you can check them out at your leisure. Keith’s an interesting fellow. His fiction, posts and photography reflect his varied interests as well as his life experiences. I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t check out his blog. I hope you’ll take a look. He’s not only a good writer and amazing photographer; he’s a gentleman in the truest, most gracious sense of the word.

Cindy Bruchman‘s blog is all about places, films and books, and I’m addicted to reading it. Cindy, the author of The Knife with the Ivory Handle (you can read a synopsis and order it here on Amazon), loves old films and movie stars and enjoys writing about them on her blog. Her blog is pleasing to the eye, knowledgeable, and just plain fun. If you’re a movie buff, you’re going to love it. If you’re interested in current as well as past film actors, you’re going to love it. In fact, you’re just going to love everything about it. Check it out here.

Another blog destination that I find myself stopping in to visit on a daily basis is Rachel Carrera‘s blog, Rachel Carrera, Novelist, found here. Rachel writes compellingly of her struggles with Asperger’s Syndrome, recounts funny events from her past and present, and always has something interesting to share with readers. To get an email notification that Rachel’s posted something new always makes me smile. Rachel has several novels in the works, and you can read about them on her site. You’ll thank me for pointing you in her direction.

I’ve been following the blog of Mark Bialczak (found here) for several months now. I enjoy reading about Mark’s exploits with his lovely wife, Karen – the concerts they attend, the festivals, the house and garden projects. I especially enjoy Mark’s posts about movies and musical artists. Mark is a professional writer, writing a column for the Syracuse New Times; in addition to his own blog, his movie reviews can be found there.

Last, but certainly not least, is my pal, Kathy Tucker‘s blog, W.K. Tucker, found here. Kathy, as she rightly points out, is a weaver of stories that are both fact and fiction. You’ll get to sample new, exotic worlds on Kathy’s blog; you’ll also get to join Kathy as she writes about her own life. Kathy’s short story, The Keeper, is going to be debuting on Space and Time Magazine (here). You’ll want to keep watching Space and Time for Kathy’s story.  That’s my plan!

These are just a few of the blogs I check out on a daily basis and I would encourage you to visit them. Sample, taste – most of all, enjoy. I know I do.

To quote Maria, these are just a few of my favorite things!

These are my favorite things!

These are my favorite things!

Vocal Dissonance

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I’m a pilot.

After being married to Kurt for ten years, I’d learned to fly carefully. Every day was a journey into the unknown, flying by the seat of my pants, navigating unexpected turbulence. I’d become a master at keeping my mouth shut, at doing ‘the necessary.’

I met Kurt when I was seventeen. Papa had ruled our unhappy house with an iron fist. By the time Kurt noticed me, my brothers had all run away; I was the only one left at home with that mean old man.

Kurt was supposed to be my salvation. Like me, he was a church-goer. Almost forty, clean-shaven and neat, he seemed sweet, calling me ‘Miss Adele,’ holding doors open for me. Treated me like a princess, he did; that meant a lot. I wasn’t used to kind words and caresses. I took that man at face value. If I’d thought harder about things, I might have wondered why a man of almost forty wasn’t already married, especially a good looking one with a fine job – and why that man might be sniffing around a plain Jane like me.

After my experience with meanness, I should have known to fly above trouble, but hope can make a girl do stupid things.

Life was good at first. But one day, while Kurt was working, someone knocked at my door. Standing on the front porch was a thin woman with limp brown hair gathered loosely in a bun. She kept looking behind her. Her manner reminded me of one of them little rabbits Papa used to catch in his traps, desperate and wanting to bolt.

She got to the point. “He home?”

Her name was Sal; said she was Kurt’s ex.

Once I let her inside, the story came out. Told me she’d run off and left Kurt when she couldn’t take the beatings no more.

“You think he’s nice, don’t you? You won’t feel that way long. Soon as you do something he don’t like, he’s gonna use you as a whipping toy. Oh, he’ll apologize, tell you he loves you, act sad like you drove him to it. He’ll tell you he loves you while he’s beating the crap out of you. But them words don’t match his behavior. Actions speak louder than words.”

Guess she saw I didn’t believe her because she took a photo from her purse and shoved it at me. “Here, take a look at this. I dare you to look at that picture.”

I wanted her to leave. I didn’t want to hear her lies about Kurt.

She shook her head and frowned. “Are you afraid? Look, I don’t like being here, knowing he might come home any minute. I’m doing you a favor. I wish someone had warned me before I spent all them years as his punching bag. Go on, look! Uncertainty is worse!”

I looked then. My hands started shaking at the sight of a woman with a split lip and blackened eyes.

“That’s me after Kurt took exception to my not dusting behind one of the photographs sitting on our bureau. Nearly killed me that time. He likes things perfect.”

Maybe I didn’t want to believe her. I’d wanted out of Papa’s house so bad, I’d have probably gone off with anyone. I don’t know anymore; all I know is that I asked that good woman to leave. She’d come to do me a good turn, one I was too stupid to appreciate.

Sal looked sad. “You don’t get it, do you? You think it’ll be different for you. Well, it won’t. Men like Kurt never change. You and me, we oughta be sisters in arms. I’m sorry for you, but I guess you’ll just have to learn the hard way.”

She was right.

Three months into the marriage, Kurt started getting ugly with me. What Sal had said about his words being at odds with his behavior was the God’s truth. Always after me for little things: his shirts weren’t ironed the way he liked them; putting the canned goods away without alphabetizing them according to vegetable; towels hanging slightly crooked in the bathroom. Once I’d forgotten to make a little downward triangle of the toilet tissue hanging from the roll.

These were the kind of things that could down a pilot. So I learned to anticipate things, to look ahead for dangerous currents. I tried for perfection. Ten years, I tried to fly right.

But humans ain’t built for perfection; even the best fighter pilot sometimes gets shot down.

“I love you, baby. (slap) Why don’t you listen? (smack) Why do I have to discipline you? (punch) I work hard all day (shove) You know I love you, baby… why do you make me hurt you?” (punch)

Yes, he loved me more than life. If I was hurting, it was my own fault. I drove him to it.

He almost convinced me during those ten years – in spite of emergency room visits, or wearing sunglasses to hide bruised eyes, or long-sleeved shirts in summer to disguise arms covered with welts.

“I love you, baby.”

Words…

But punches spoke louder than words.

***

Kurt prized his collection of handguns. He was real particular about them, taking them out every couple of weeks, oiling them, unloading and reloading them.

He never once used them, just cleaned them all the time. I was thinking about that when the phone rang and Kurt got up to answer it.

Guess he never expected a quiet flyer like me to take it into her head to touch his guns.

This time, though, the pilot decided to change course. It was time to land the damn plane and finally put an end to those flights. After ten years, I’d run out of gas.

I couldn’t take it no more.

Kurt finished his call and came back into the room. There was a surprise waiting for him.

“I love you, baby,” I said.

BANG. BANG. BANG.

My flying days were over.

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Word Count: 1,000 words

Author’s Note: This flash fiction was written in response to two challenges. First, Mark Baron’s Woegman’s World of Witty Wonder Thursday Trope (found here) and BeKindRewrite’s Inspiration Monday challenge (found here). Mark’s prompt was to write a trope on ‘Vocal Dissonance‘ (hope I succeeded!) and BeKindRewrite’s challenge was to write a story using the following words: uncertainty is worse; sisters in arms; dare you to look; and fly carefully.

What I Learned During my Blog-Free Vacation

“Okay, boys and girls, shut up and face the front of the room. Class is about to begin.”

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After a week’s vacation, it was our first day back to blogging at Saint WordPress Academy. The threatening demeanor of the much esteemed Sister squelched our high spirits, and sounds of happy laughter began to die out.   Any excitement we’d felt at being back at school quickly vanished as Sister MeanAsHeck stood in front of us, surveying the room and lightly slapping her infamous ruler against the palm of her hand.

Finally, she turned toward the blackboard and we watched silently as the good Sister wrote in big letters the theme for the day’s lesson: What I learned during my blog-free vacation.

She faced the class again. “Who wants to be first? I want a full report from each of you, ya little bundles of germs and pestilence.”

imagesMM1W72YR With almost lightning speed, hands shot up throughout the room as each of the little toadies volunteered to go first in an attempt to escape the good Sister’s wrath. Toadies or not, these kids were pretty damned smart because by not raising my hand, I stuck out like a sore thumb… or a devil among angels.

Sister immediately zeroed in on me. “You, Kate Loveton, you want to tell the class what you did during your blog-free holiday?”

“Well,” I stammered, “I sort of goofed off all week. I didn’t think about my blog once. I read my book, watched some TV… basically, I did nothing, Sister. Absolutely nothing.”

The much esteemed Sister looked at me, her face contorting in righteous anger.  If the good Sister hates anything, it’s sloth.  She began slapping the wooden ruler against her palm more rapidly, and I could see she yearned to trip me up. “Let me get this straight: you’re telling us, Kate Loveton, that all you did for an entire week was lay about – goldbricking?”

I slowly nodded, all the while keeping my eyes centered on that ruler. I calculated my chances of successfully making a grab for it and smacking Her Nastiness silly, but cooler wisdom (not to mention fear) prevailed. I was smart enough to realize that the gentle Sister would probably make mincemeat out of me.  The Good Lord, in His mighty and mysterious ways, hadn’t christened her Sister MeanAsHeck for nothing.

images730F4IXB“So you learned absolutely nothing during your blog-free vacation, you dreadful child,” she said, the disgust in her voice striking terror into my heart.  Inch by inch, I began to cautiously slip beneath the desk, fearful of her towering presence as she leaned over me.  I squeezed my eyes tightly shut, resigned to the sparks that would escape her nostrils any minute, and utterly  convinced I’d been convicted and sentenced to eternal hellfire for the crime of indolence.  With trepidation, I visualized my wardrobe for eternity; red had never been a good color for me.

“Don’t you know that idle hands are the devil’s workshop?”

“I wouldn’t say that I learned nothing!” I protested. “I learned stuff! I learned lots of stuff!”

She didn’t believe me, I could tell. It was time to do some fancy mental footwork or else that damned ruler would be coming my way… and maybe a taste of future brimstone.

“Well, Sister, it’s like this. About a week or so ago, I was feeling overwhelmed. Instead of enjoying my writing and my blogging, I was feeling it was a task. I was just tired.”

The good Sister continued to glare at me. I could see she wasn’t feeling a lot of sympathy for my plight.

“So I called up my best friend, that’s the girl in Room 4B down the hall… the one in Sister Lovely’s classroom.”

Sister Lovely and her ‘new fangled ways’ of doing things was a bone of contention with Sister MeanAsHeck, and I could see I’d just jumped right from the frying pan and into the fire.

imagesF9J7XRU7 (2)Hastily, I started to explain. “Anyway, my pal, Heather, suggested that maybe a mini break was needed. I have to say, Sister, she knew what she was talking about. It was cool to chew bubble gum, talk about cute boys, paint my toenails neon pink, and just experience a week with no ‘musts’ or ‘shoulds’ attached to it.”

“You still haven’t told us what you learned. Get to the point, kid – and spit out that gum!”

“The point is this, Sister. It’s not a sin to take a writing break occasionally. It’s not unforgivable to give your mind a rest, and just have fun – you know, read a book, go out for a long walk, actually take some time to talk to your family, and maybe watch a favorite TV show.

“For one week, I heard the sound of birdsong coming from the bushes next to our back porch instead of the clicking noise of keyboard strokes, a music that has somehow become the soundtrack to my life.

“I actually went to bed on time that week! I got eight hours of sleep every night instead of five.

“Instead of waking up like this images0ULMMM2T

“I woke up like this!” imagesFEBNBG7E

Sister said nothing, but I could see she was weakening. She believed in the virtue of a good night’s sleep. “Is that all you learned?”

“No… I learned something else, too. You see, Sister, I follow some pretty terrific people on WordPress, really talented, interesting people. I like reading their work and I like commenting on what they share. But sometimes all my class work gets in the way, and I can’t comment on their wonderful blogs as quickly as I like. Who knew 5th grade could be so hard?”

“Ever think of telling them that sometimes you might be a day or two late, but that you’ll catch up as quickly as you can?”

I grinned. No need for me to say anything – Sister Rocket Science just said it for me.

Straightening my spine, I sat up in my chair. My courage was returning and I faced the Sister head on.  “In the end, Sister, I guess I learned that sometimes a short break can recharge the batteries, that a person needs it in order to function, and that sometimes giving yourself a couple nights off from writing isn’t the worst thing that can happen to you. I also learned that as wonderful as the bloggers I follow are, I can’t always get back to them immediately – but I will always endeavor to get caught up as quickly as I can.”

Sister immediately smiled and pulled out her big red pen. I wondered if she understood what I was saying or if her now restored good humor might be a trap.  She walked back to her desk, pulled out a piece of paper out and scribbled something on it. Then she turned around and headed right back to my desk. I waited for bad news, afraid what might be on that paper she held, but then she handed it to me. On the page was a large A+. imagesN5J03LE0

That’s when I realized that my blog-free vacation had been a success. I had learned some truths that might keep me from going over the edge during busy times, and I also learned that I need more in my life than writing. I need to take time to talk to those I love, to occasionally walk away from the laptop, and to take care of myself – physically and mentally.

If that ain’t learning some good stuff from your vacation, I don’t know what is.

Now, I just need to remember it…

Class dismissed!

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Roanoke

“Where the bloody hell are they?”

Like Smith, Parish wondered the same. Studying the empty settlement, he felt hairs on the back of his neck rise.

Carved into the tree one word: Croatoan.

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Word Count: 33

Author’s Note: Written in response to ThainInVain challenge to open a favorite book to page 33 and write a 33 word story about the first proper noun (person, place, thing) on the page. The book: America – The Last Best Hope, Volume 1, by William J. Bennett. Page 33 – first noun is settlement. Thanks to ThainInVain for hosting the weekly flash fiction challenge. Her blog can be found here.

The Power of Friendship

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Firstly, I’d like to thank the wonderful Kate Loveton for asking me to guest post on her blog. Some of you may know that Kate and I have a friendship that transcends blogging and writing, she’s my closest friend, confidant and all-round guardian angel. We’re as close as any sisters could be and we talk on a daily basis, mainly through email, cheeky tweets and every fortnight through the medium of Skype.

I guess it was fate when our paths crossed two years ago. If it hadn’t been for a particular set of circumstances we may never have known that the other existed. Had things been different I would have missed out on meeting one of the most important people in my life – a thought that shocks me at times. Kate has done so much for me, more than I could ever repay and it frightens me to think where I would be today without her.

I know this for sure, I would never have had the courage to make the major changes in my life that have happened this year. After years of living life how others wanted me to, Kate helped me find the courage and strength to stand on my own and discover who I really am as a person. Whenever I felt like giving up, Kate would be there with words of encouragement and advice, never getting frustrated when I dithered back and forth on a decision. She commiserated me when things went wrong and congratulated my successes when things finally came right.

Kate has watched me grow from a depressed and unhappy individual into someone who now has a purpose and sense of enjoyment from life and I know that I would never have been able to make it this far without her. That’s why I think that everyone needs a Kate Loveton in their life; everyone needs at least one person that they can truly call a friend; the type of person that will always be there for you no matter what.

Life is a precious gift and I firmly believe that you are only given so many chances in this life, you need to make the most of each and every one that comes your way. While the past will always try to hold you back, each new day is a battle to take another step forwards.

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The tragic loss of Robin Williams this week just goes to show that anyone can be affected by depression. It is an illness which does not care for race, gender, sexuality or social status. Depression doesn’t discriminate; it can and will take over even the most happy and settled of people. It is a silent killer and one that creeps up, gripping you in its clutches before you even realise what is happening.

We can and we should do more to highlight the fact that depression is a treatable disease – I’m living proof of that. For too long I let my illness take over my life until it clouded my judgment and almost lead me to contemplating taking my own life.

People do not choose to be depressed, they simply are. ‘But what have you got to be depressed about?’ someone will inevitably ask you without realising that you have no more control over the illness than you do to blink or breathe.

Depression is a selfish and lonely illness and one that can only be battled by being good to ourselves and receiving the love and attention of the people who care about us. It’s hard to ask for help, but every once in a while, a friend will come your way who will do just that for you. They’ll make you see that there’s more to life than being stuck in an unhappy past, all we have to do is open our eyes and see it.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is that we all deserve that special person in our life who will support and encourage us, who’ll give us the strength to stand up and keep fighting even when we feel like giving up. Some of us might be lucky enough to be surrounded by a group of such people, but I’m content with having just the one.

This is my tribute to the best friend a girl could wish for; so if you’re lucky enough to have one too, give them a call or drop them a line and tell them what they mean to you. Love – and friendship – make the world go round and I think that’s something we could all do with a little more of.

Swinging on the Stars

Would you like to swing on a star?
Carry moonbeams home in a jar
And be better off than you are…

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The two of us drifted lazily in the shared beams of an unfamiliar moon. The solar system where our temporal lives had played out their stories was now a distant memory. So, too, were the corporeal bodies we’d once inhabited. Now, together, we sail through the universe, sharing a thirst for the onward journey. We hurtle through far-off galaxies, feeding on the wonders around us.

We swing on the stars.

During our temporal existence, our paths never crossed. Now we are constant, eternal companions.

Pausing our journey, we mingle with the moonbeams bathing a planet reminiscent of the one that spawned us. Old memories surface; with them, our sleeping humanity rouses. Recollections make us, once again, almost human.

“Look,” said Norma, “a shooting star!”

***

After timeless travels throughout the universe, her child-like wonder continues. Tinkling laughter dances lightly through my mind. It is her laughter.

The star’s incandescence quickly fades. Norma’s wistful thoughts restrain me, thwarting my desire to track the flaming object, to follow its path wherever it might lead.

I swing on the stars.

***

“There was a time they called me a shooting star, said I was brilliant, that I lit up the silver screen…”

I said nothing. What use have I for ancient memories? The journey was onward.

“They weren’t all bad, you know. The years with Joe – they were good. He loved me. He might have been the only one…”

I stayed silent, sealing my mind against past regrets.

“But other years… I slept through those, wrapped in barbiturate dreams of stars and moonbeams. I suppose my star travel really began back then.”

Her anguish sent currents of sorrow eddying through me, evoking human feelings that had long lain dormant.

“I spent years staring at stars while Mama spent years in the nut house, while foster daddies took terrible liberties, and made me ripe for old men with filthy desires hiding behind screen tests. And to what end? A 30 second walk-on while the camera watched my ass…

“But my Joe… He thought he wanted Marilyn, but it was Norma Jean he really wanted. But I’d lost her a long time ago.”

I longed to be off, but her grief held me. “Then the years with Frank and Dean?”

“Funny I’ve never run into any of the guys.”

“It’s a big universe, Norma; we’ve never run into the Kennedys either…”

“Don’t speak of them. At the end, I was vulnerable… four years shy of forty, time catching up to me…”

Sadness dimmed the stars.

“In the end, it wasn’t the users or abusers that made me do it.”

Her eyes briefly materialized. In their blueness, I glimpsed the tears of a thousand sunsets.

“In the end, it was the goddam loneliness.”

“Look!” I said. “Another shooting star!”

We watched it burn, leaving shimmering particles in its wake.

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__________________
Word Count: 500
Song:  ‘Swinging on a Star’ by Jimmy Van Huesen and Johnny Burke.

Author’s Note: This story is loosely based on a challenge by ThainInVain to write a 500-word story about a celebrity (alive or dead) who applies for a job and gets an interview. Well, I did say loosely. :) Instead, my mind took off in another direction, but I hope you all enjoy the ride, nevertheless. ThainInVain hosts a weekly flash fiction challenge which can be found here.

Out of Working Order

To all my readers, friends, fellow bloggers, this is a brief post to let you know that I am taking a week off from blogging. I declare this the start of a blog-free vacation!

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While I won’t be swinging in a hammock or looking out over pristine blue waters, I do hope to chill out and read a book and work on a WIP or some original pieces.

I’ve been going at things pretty hot and heavy the past few weeks, and need a little break. Or, if you will, a time to recharge my batteries. For the past several days, I’ve looked at my monitor and have just drawn a blank. No energy, and no will to write.

And that is when it occurred to me:  my brain is out of order!

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When writing becomes a chore, when blogging becomes a duty instead of a pleasure, and when one dreads to open up the laptop, I think it is time for a little break.  I think a week off from blogging responsibilities, responding to challenges, and reading other blogs will do me good.

Sometimes you just need to regroup.

I’m not sure if any of you have experienced this or not. I certainly never expected to feel the need for a brief break, but there you have it.

I want to come to the laptop re-energized and again ready to tackle things with enthusiasm. That’s what vacations are for, right? You work hard for long periods of time, and then you need to take a holiday and give your routine a break. You need a change in scenery. In short: you need to get away – even if it is only mentally. Otherwise, you experience burnout.

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So, I’m off for the next week on a mental vacation. But I couldn’t go without first saying goodbye.

I’ll be back next week, and ready and eager to communicate with everyone again and spin a tale or two. Until then, friends, have a lovely week!

See You Next Week!

See You Next Week!

A Disarming Tale of Remorse

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Photo Credit: picsbox.biz

Crime don’t pay.

Ain’t that what they teach you in reform school?

Here’s something else they teach you: don’t rob Peter to pay Paul. Was a time I didn’t know what that meant.

I do now.

It all started when I fell for Angelina Bartolucci. First time I saw her, I wanted her: long black hair, big brown eyes. And curves? Mama! That girl knew how to work her stuff.

Took a while before Angie noticed me. She was an uptown girl, but the broads have always liked me. Angie was no different.

There was a problem, though.

Angie liked jewelry – a lot.

She wasn’t shy in telling me that if I wanted what she had to offer, I better be able to deliver. I was so in love, I’d have done anything to have her… and to keep her.

That’s how I got in trouble with the Boys. I started doing small jobs for Nicky Pellegrini, taking bets, running errands… two-bit hustler stuff. Tending bar at Giannelli’s wasn’t cutting it; Angie had her heart set on a diamond bracelet. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that if I couldn’t deliver, Angie would find someone who could. So I delivered… to the tune of a $10,000 bracelet.

I started holding out on Nick, keeping back a little, not thinking he’d notice. Meanwhile, Angie was parading that damned bracelet all around town.

One night the Boys came to see me when I was leaving work. Said they had a little message for me – it was one anybody coulda read on my face the next morning. I ended up in the ER with a broken nose and a warning not to fuck with Nick.

You think I woulda learned my lesson, right? But Angie caught sight of this ring, see, a three-carat rock she had to have. Spent a lot of time on her knees one night, convincing me just how much she had to have it.

I started holding out on Nicky again, and Angie got her rock. But I was scared – it was just a matter of time before Nick figured things out.

I’m easy to read, like I got ‘SCHMUCK’ tattooed across my forehead. Harry Shapiro, the neighborhood loan shark, told me the word was out: Nick was sending the Boys my way. Compassionate Harry offered his services.

So me and him cut a deal. Shoulda known better, but I’m a schmuck, remember? Nick got his money and I got to keep my new nose.

All’s well that ends well, right? Not exactly…

I missed a couple of payments, and while Nicky once had my nose broken, Harry broke my heart.

Last night when I got home, there was a package waiting for me – and a note.

I kept the ring and bracelet; now we’re square.

Tearing open the package, I shoved aside the tissue paper.

Then I threw up.

I knew that arm.

I knew something else, too.

Angie wouldn’t be needing any more jewelry.

__________________
Word Count: 500
Author’s Note: Written in response to challenge to write a story in which a man steals a large sum of money to pay a debt to a loan shark, is saved from a beating, but is then haunted by what he has done. Weekly flash fiction challenge hosted by ThainInVain.

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