Friday, October 30, 2009

#fridayflash -- Pumpkin Patch of the Damned

Pumpkin Patch of the Damned
by Eric J. Krause

Why the hell wasn't this ever an easy process? And every year Daisy had to come during the game. Just because there were games morning, noon, and night on Saturdays didn't make it any better. Think of all the great plays he was missing.

"Daddy, can I go in the bouncy house?"

He looked over at the purple balloon structure shaped like a haunted house, complete with a blow-up Frankenstein and a few sheets with eye holes cut in them glued to the side. Those things used to be a huge treat when he was a kid, but nowadays you couldn't go a city block without bouncing into one.

"No, we're going to grab a pumpkin and get out of here."

"Don't listen to your father. Go have fun, baby."

"Yo, Dad, a corn maze. I'm gonna go check it out."

A corn maze? In the suburbs? He'd been in a corn maze once when he was a kid. His parents drove he and his brothers an hour and a half out of town to get to a farm in the country. Now here was one in this empty lot that'd probably be a Denny's or a Walgreens by this time next year.

"No, we're just here for a pumpkin. Go grab your sister and pick one out so we can get on home."

"Pish-posh. Go have fun, sweetie. Don't get lost!"

He turned to Daisy, ready to tell her off. She'd promised him fifteen minutes, half-an-hour tops. Now here she was sending the kids off to pointless activities instead of what they were here for: to find a carving pumpkin.

Before he could lay into her, her eyes sparkled. "Ooh, a craft fair. You don't mind, do you honey?"

Holy hell, a craft fair? How could this lot hold so much crap? Were there even any damn pumpkins in this pumpkin patch? None that he'd seen. Next year they'd just get one at the megamart down the street. If they'd done that this time, he'd be on his way home by now to watch State versus U.

"No, Daisy. Come on. You promised. Get the kids, let's pick out a pumpkin, and we'll get out of here."

Of course she paid him no mind and wandered over to the half-dozen or so booths, her hand already in her purse to snatch out her wallet.

He found a random bale of hay and took a seat. His eyes scanned all three attractions, but he couldn't spot the kids or his wife. Would he ever see them again, or was he stuck forever here in this pumpkin patch of the damned?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

#fridayflash--Shadow in the Mirror

Brianna ran her brush through her long blond hair, counting each stroke, a ritual she'd kept up since high school. She sometimes felt silly, but it really did make her hair that much silkier. Since she and Tim had found this old-fashioned vanity, complete with its fancy mirror, at a garage sale, brushing her hair at it felt right. She didn't know if it was real or faux antique, but she could picture an old-timey, high society lady from years past doing the same.

She set down her brush and did a double-take. Her reflection brushed its hair an extra time. They stared at each other, neither moving. Brianna let out her breath and giggled at her overactive imagination. She stood up to head for the kitchen when a shadow flashed in the mirror.

"What the hell?" She whirled around but didn't see anything. Tim was working late, so it couldn't have been him. Besides, she'd have heard the bedroom door open. It creaked even if moved an inch.

She turned back to the mirror and gasped. Not only was her reflection gone, but there were bright crimson splotches all over the surface. She hesitated for a second before runner her finger over one of the spots. It came back dry and didn't distort the crimson. It was on the other side of the mirror. Impossible. She ran her hand along the braided wood pattern of the frame and felt the back. Just wood-paneled backing, as she expected.

Before she turned her attention to the puzzle of the crimson splotches (blood?) and no reflection, the shadow again crawled across the mirror. It moved slow and seemed to focus on her. It glowed black, as if it not only blocked the light, but ate it as well.

In the mirror, the shadow lightened. Behind Brianna, in her room, in her world, the lights dimmed. The proportion of light lost from the lamps matched the loss of dark in the shadow's mirror world. Whatever it was that murdered her reflection (that's what it did, right?) was coming for her.

Brianna did the only thing she could think of: she picked up her hairbrush and smashed it into the glass. The vanity and mirror, being bolted together, rocked back, but the glass didn't have a mark. The light continued to seep out of her room.

She smacked the brush into the mirror again, this time leaving a dimple in the glass. The light flickered back to full brightness behind her. The shadow in the mirror world remained, but it looked halfway between solid and gone.

She swung again, this time breaking the impact zone into a spider-webbed crack. The shadow disappeared. Another smack brought a second large crack and got rid of the crimson goop. Her reflection flickered back--her true reflection from an ordinary mirror.

Brianna took a deep breath and stared at herself through the ruined glass. Whatever magic that had lived in the mirror was gone. Would it come back? She didn't know, but had no interest in keeping the vanity set to find out. She wasn't sure what she'd tell Tim. A lie would have a much clearer ring of truth than this mess.

She stood up and walked out of the room. All of that could wait. Right now she needed a stiff drink.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

3 Short Stories

Here are 3 short stories that I've enjoyed. I hope you enjoy them, too.

The first is called When the First Petal Falls by Sylvia Hiven. This is from the August 15th edition of The Absent Willow Review. It's a story of how a young man's true love sees him only as a friend, but he uses the magic of flowers to change that.

The second story also comes from The Absent Willow Review, this time from the September 15th edition. It is called Precious Blood by Greg Chapman. This one is an interesting take on a vampire story.

The third story is called Sweet Breath by Lenora Farrington-Sarrouf. It comes from the Fall 2009 issue of Allegory Magazine. When you read this one, you won't believe how great that breath mint is!

As is the case when I spotlight these short stories, I don't know these authors or anything about them. I'm not getting anything from the magazines. I simply enjoyed these stories and wanted to share. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did. Until next time, keep reading and/or writing!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Revision Tip

Since I finished my first draft of my novel not too long ago, I thought I'd give a quick tip about revision during the draft process. Namely, don't. If you polish your first draft while you're writing, it's just keeping you from getting all of your initial words on the page. One of the best tips I've ever heard about the first draft process (and I have this taped to my bookshelf next to my writing desk) is: All first drafts stink. Just keep writing.

What this means is that you're not going to get a polished, publishable piece on the first go-through. You'll need to revise. Give yourself permission to write bad in the first draft process. Why? Because you'll be able to fix it up, make it wonderful, in the revision process. Let yourself get to the 2nd draft by finishing the first.

How many times have you heard of writers having unfinished novels filed away somewhere. Why are they unfinished? Because they didn't give themselves permission to simply write the story. Their inner critic told them it was stinky, that this idea would never fly, so the writer just gave up on the project. I know because I've done it. If we ignore the inner critic and realize we don't have to put our best prose out in the first draft, we'll finish a lot more of our work.

First drafts should be about experimenting with the story. Even if you're a heavy outliner, you still need to play around with the words to make everything authentic in your story. While you get these words down on the page, don't go back and fix things you've already written. Finish what you started, and fix it later.

What happens if you come up with a stroke of brilliance that will help the beginning of your story? Make a note to yourself to fix it in the 2nd draft. If you know the change will be made, write the rest of the story as if you already wrote it. That'll save some of your revision time.

Finish your first draft, and fix it in the second draft. In this early part of your novel, the most important thing is to get that initial draft done. If you don't, there's going to be nothing to revise later. What good is a polished first chapter with nothing following it? I hope this tip helps. Until next time, keep reading and/or writing.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

#fridayflash -- Different Perceptions

I stared at the baby. "Why am I looking at it?"

The doctor frowned. "I apologize. I thought you'd want to. I should have asked."

I shook my head. "No, no. What I mean is, why am I looking at it instead of me being inside of it looking back at me?"

The doctor frowned again. It seemed to be one of the few expressions he was capable of. "I'm not sure I understand."

"I'm supposed to be in there. In its head. I paid a fortune to live forever, but I'm still me. In this cancer-ridden deathtrap."

He frowned, and oh god I wanted to slap it off his face. I might have done it, too, if I could move my arm that high.

"Mr. Riggs, I assure you all of your memories, your personality, everything is locked within that child. You. It's all in the brochure you read a hundred times, in the video you watched a dozen times. None of this should be a surprise."

"But I'm still stuck in this." I tried to thump my chest, but my arm only lifted off the side of the wheelchair and plopped into my lap.

"Did you believe your mind would cease to exist in that body? That we'd make you nothing but a vegetable, a shell? I don't know what sort of idea you have about us, Mr. Riggs, but we're in the business of saving and prolonging lives, not taking them."

A tear rolled down my cheek. "But you promised I'd never die. I'm going to die."

The doctor shook his head. "When you die, you, this new you, will be aged to 21 years old. You chose that, I believe?"

I slumped down. "It won't be me. This me. This me is going to be hollowed out by this damn disease, and I'll be in it the whole way."

The doctor put a hand on my shoulder. I didn't look up, but I wondered if he'd managed to put on a different facial expression.

"I apologize if you didn't understand." He gestured to the baby. "He'll, you'll, have all of the memories up until this morning. When the new body is worn out, we'll make another. All of the new and old memories will be transferred. It'll go on and on. Forever. I don't understand why you don't get it."

I sighed and wondered the same thing about him.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Freewriting is an important tool every writer should use. There are many benefits to this simple exercise, which involves simply sitting down and letting the words flow onto paper or your computer screen. You can use it in a number of different ways.

--Start your day with a freewrite. This will knock the rust off that part of your brain that gets the ideas flowing. If you are the type of writer who agonizes over the first few minutes of writing because the words struggle to emerge, a freewrite could take you past that step. Whether you're writing the first draft of a novel, a short story, poetry, or whatever, this could help you get out of the daily gate smoother.

--Kick start a project with a freewrite. If you're ready to move onto your next project, but you're not sure what it is, sit down and freewrite. Set an amount of time to write, and let the words flow. Don't think about what you're writing, and don't actively search for ideas. Once you've finished your allotted writing time, read over what you wrote. Most often, some sort of idea will be staring right back at you. Many times you'll get more than one, and you'll have plenty of ideas for future projects, as well.

--Use freewriting to flesh out your ideas. You may have a killer idea you know that'll make a great story, but you don't yet have all the details. Think about that idea, sit down, and freewrite. As always, don't let your conscious mind get in the way. Just let your pen or keyboard fingers do the talking. When you're done, read over what you wrote. You might not get everything you want out of a single session, but you should be well on your way.

--Writer's Block be gone! Freewriting is an excellent way to push past difficult parts of your work in progress. You may know what you want to do in your story, but the exact process might be a bit fuzzy. Does your protagonist fight or give in to flight? Freewrite out the possibilities and see what you like best. Or, if you haven't started something yet, and that dreaded blank page is staring at you, freewrite. Don't worry about coming up with ideas, just let your subconscious work through the fear that you'll never write again. A good freewriting session could be all you need!

These are some ideas of how to use freewriting to your benefit. I'm sure you have other ways in which freewriting has helped you. If so, feel free to leave these ideas as a comment. Until next time, keep reading and/or writing!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

#fridayflash--The Chosen One

No one believed him. No matter what he said, no matter how much he swore he wasn't lying, they just wouldn't listen. And, really, who could blame them? His stories were a bit outlandish for most folks. But if someone had just paid him some mind, he might still be here.

Greg Jordan was your average, middle-class male, with a pretty wife and two point five kids. (Janice, his wife, was four months pregnant at the time.) The Jordans had left their dingy two-bedroom apartment and moved into their own home. Greg and Janice had fallen in love with the ranch-style home in its nice neighborhood. They tried to mask their interest so the sellers wouldn't peg them as easy marks, a tip provided by Janice's dad, but the owners were eager to sell. They agreed to the Jordan's first low-ball offer without negotiating. The Jordans, including little Timmy and Britney, couldn't have been happier.

Their first month was terrific, even if it did include a ton of hard work. Being pregnant, Janice mostly sat down and gave orders. She could have done more, but she was the boss and everyone knew it. The kids, bless their hearts, tried their best, but being five and three, Timmy and Britney often did more damage than good.

About that time, Greg felt a presence in the house. He claimed he heard footsteps, voices, and other weird sounds. He swore a strange man occasionally walked through their living room, and at times a young man, maybe a teenager, sat in the breakfast nook. Neither the kids nor Janice heard or saw any of these things. Everyone, including friends and relatives who heard the tales, began to wonder about him.

Greg wouldn't be dissuaded. He knew what he heard, saw, and felt. He'd lay awake at night, listening and watching. Whatever was going on, this was his house, and he wanted to know what he shared it with.

That's when the voices started. At first it was just small talk. "How are you, Greg?" "Wife thinks you're nuts, eh?" "Can you buy us some beer?" (Actually, that last one was those teenagers who loitered outside the liquor store. It all blended in.) Then the voices grew more persistent and, Greg wasn't afraid to say, scary. "Join us." "We need you." "Kill the non-believers."

He learned to ignore the voices, but that just pissed them off. They turned from simple murder whispers to full-blown poltergeists. At first Janice blamed the kids when she found her grandmother's knick-knacks shattered on the floor. Then Greg got the brunt of her fury. It was a dark week in the Jordan household. Mercifully, the poltergeist activity didn't last long. Janice must have scared the hell out of those ghosts because they never touched her stuff again.

The final showdown came one day after work. With Janice and the kids out running errands, Greg had to face the spirits on his own. They materialized on the staircase, and he finally got a good look at all four of them. He still had no idea who they were, but they weren't in a talking mood. Greg tried to run out the front door, but it was stuck. He even tried jumping through the plate glass window, but no matter how hard he threw his body at it, the glass wouldn't shatter. He had only one option; he turned and faced his destiny.

Janice and the kids came home an hour later. Timmy and Britney ran into the house as soon as their mom opened the front door, and when Janice walked in, two little kids rolling on the floor laughing hysterically greeted her. It seemed Daddy had taken off all his clothes right there in the front hall. "Even his nunderwear," little Britney said between howls. Janice didn't find it nearly as amusing. The three of them wandered through the house looking for the "necked daddy." When he didn't turn up, Janice drove around the neighborhood. The search proved futile. Greg had vanished.

Not long after, Greg Junior arrived. Janice had to get a second job, but she managed to keep the house and a relatively good lifestyle. She hated Greg for abandoning the family, but something changed her mind. Actually that something was Greg Junior. Not only were his first words "Daddy," but he had the oddest habit of looking at nothing, holding his arms out for a hug, and giggling wildly.