Flash Fiction Challenge: Photos of Impossible Places

Chuck Wendig’s most recent flash fiction challenge is entitled “Photos of Impossible Places.” And while the photos he links to truly are otherworldly (but for some reason, the link no longer works), looking at them made me think of Enchanted Rock which, while less fantastic than the photos, always seems like another planet while I’m hiking there. So the story I wrote ended up being inspired by that place.

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Once upon a time, Texas might as well have been a foreign planet. But Mia fell in love with it. Especially that big, pink rock that obviously wasn’t another planet, but if she went hiking on a Monday when nobody else was around, she could pretend she’d transported to a different world. The more time she spent there, the more time she began to feel that her true home wasn’t in a small town on a hill, but right here, among the red stone and the dark caves.

Of course, nobody was allowed to live there. There were job openings, though. Mia figured it was good enough. But she still felt sad when she had to go home at the end of the day. After a few months, being a park ranger no longer sated her lust for the place. Even the overnight shifts didn’t help. She kept picturing disappearing into the stone, staying forever.

Over time, the rock was in her blood. Over time, it’s roughness felt more like home than her own skin. Over time, she worked extra shifts, stayed as late as she could, came by on her days off to scope out territory.

Fortunately, the job left Mia with a lot of useful information. She knew where the guards patrolled, where she could hide, what she could eat. She cataloged every species of plant in the park, took note of every animal.

What Mia didn’t figure out on the job, she sought out in books. She learned how to draw water out of a cactus, and which plants could be used for healing.

Her disappearance was gradual. They would have noticed if a ranger had vanished outright. Colleagues would have been dispatched to save her. She would have had a harder time hiding if people were definitely seeking her.

Becoming part of the rock was an act of camouflage. Slowly, slowly, she faded to red. She missed shifts, ran late, took off early. She didn’t want them to miss her.

Gradually, her transformation was complete. Her shelters were rocks. Her food varied, but she found it. She was careful not too overharvest certain areas, for fear of drawing attention. She was careful not to build fires. She lived, and by the time her clothes had finally turned to useless rags, her skin had turned to leather that was nearly as tough as stone. She didn’t need it. She was an animal, as much as anything else living on that rock.

Mia slept during the day, hidden from the heat and from the visitors. The wild ones didn’t fare well with tourists. At night, she feasted, she ran, she spent hours communing with the sky. She had always loved the stars and moon, and when most of her waking hours were in the wilderness, at night, alone. The animals didn’t speak her language, so she spent time taking in and following the sky. The stars gave her stories. The moon gave her stability. She no longer needed words, but instead read the poetry of the sky.

 

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Fun Flash Fiction Win

Chuck Wendig frequently hosts flash fiction challenges over at his blog. Two weeks ago, the challenge was to tell a story in three sentences. There were just over 160 excellent entries. It’s amazing what people can do with so few words**.

I checked back in the comments section yesterday morning, and lo and behold, I was one of the winners! Meaning I get a free copy of 500 Ways to Tell a Better Story. (Which you should buy. I mean, I haven’t read it yet, but I’ve bought and read many of Chuck’s other books. His fiction is great and his writing advice is indispensable.)

This is what I did with three sentences:

The king died, and then the queen died. The estate got tied up in probate. When the revolution came, the lawyers ended up in the guillotines.

You should really go check out the rest of the entries, too. Especially the other winners. I was particularly blown away by Robert Thomas’s entry.

 

 

**I still hate Twitter, though. I felt like I was slowly developing ADD whenever I used it.

Exciting Things!

Many awesome writing things happened to me over the course of last week. So here is a post chock-full of good news!

First, I have a piece of flash fiction, entitled “Eulogy,” up at the San Antonio Current. Meaning I’m making progress on my fiction list! I love this feature, and I’m excited to have work there for the second time. (Side note: Editor Lyle Rosdahl is always looking for new work to include in this section, so if you have some work you want to share, definitely feel free to submit.)

Second, I’m poet of the week over at Poet on Poetry, a blog run by Austin writer Sheree Rabe. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to share some of my favorite poems and discuss my work. Go over and check it out!

And finally, the Austin Poetry Society held its annual award ceremony this past Saturday. I was unable to attend because it conflicted with my sister’s graduation ceremony, but I’m thrilled to announce that I garnered two first place awards and one honorable mention for my poems.

  • “Enter Here” won the Mary Oliver Award, sponsored by APS president Elzy Cogswell
  • “Seeing in Longhorn Caverns” won the Salt of the Earth Award, sponsored by Nancy Taylor Day
  • “Season Pass to Barton Springs” took an honorable mention for the President’s Award, also sponsored by Elzy Cogswell

Plus, two of my poems that didn’t win, but came close, got some feedback from the judges, which is always appreciated.

“Enter Here” and “Seeing in Longhorn Caverns” will be published in Best Austin Poetry 2011-2012, a chapbook featuring the winners of all the APS contests. I’m thrilled to be featured in it, and can’t wait until it comes out.

I hope your own writing weeks are full of productivity, success, and fun discoveries.

100 Words on Revenge

I’m doing another one of Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenges. This time, it’s 100 words on the subject of revenge. And according to Microsoft Office, this is 100 words right on the nose!

 

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When you’re gone, I sit down to write the list of all the ways I will get my revenge, pending my ability to evade the law. But as each idea falls across the page, I cross it out. TP-ing is harmless. Slashed tires are cliché. Salting your lawn is expensive. I don’t have an original revenge idea anywhere in my head, and that’s when I realize I need to just let the whole thing go. No point in prolonging the drama if I can’t be theatrical about it. The list goes in the trash. I go on with my life.

Flash Fiction Challenge – Plucked From the Pages of History

Chuck Wendig is hosting another of his excellent flash fiction challenges. I haven’t participated in a long time due to various other projects, but I’m trying to get focused on writing flash fiction again. So here is my effort for “Plucked from the Pages of History.”  The person (well, people) I chose are more famous than historical, but I couldn’t resist the idea when I got it. At the end of the post, I’ll talk a little bit about where I got the idea, but I want the story to exist on its own first.

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“I’m too tired for this,” Stefani says as she kicks off her eight-inch-high stilettos. She throws back a shot of vodka, but even the burn in her esophagus won’t stop the tears forming in her eyes. “I can’t take it anymore. First thing tomorrow, I’m hosting a press conference and coming clean.”

“No!” her manager snaps. “You can’t. It will ruin everything.”

“I’ve spent years pretending to be two different stars at the same time. Now, it’s killing me. Let’s just let the world in on the joke so I can move on with my life. Besides, it will give them something to talk about. I’m not sure I’ve been talked about enough lately.”

“But you can’t! Your other half still has–”

Stefani interrupts him by throwing her glass against the wall.

“Has what? The tour got canceled. Did you see that last pathetic attempt at a show? I was so exhausted, everyone thought I was totally strung out. It was fun for a while, but being two people at once is exhausting.”

“Well, you’re not hosting a press  conference.”

“What am I supposed to do? It’s not like anyone will believe Amy just disappeared off the face of the earth.”

“If I may,” a friend says. “I believe Shakespeare had a solution for this.”

Stefani raises an eyebrow. “What are you talking about?”

Romeo and Juliet. She fakes her own death, remember?”

“I also remember that not working out so well for her.

“That’s because she didn’t have your entourage,” the manager says. “Yes, this plan is genius. The only question is, is a drug like that actually available?”

The friend laughs. “This is the 21st century. Of course it is.”

***

Five days later, Stefani comes to in a swanky hotel room. The first thing she does is flip on the television. It’s all over the news: Amy’s body found dead in her flat, everyone assuming overdose.

Stefani smiles and checks her schedule. New songs to write, a tour date to make, and a meeting to plan her performance at the VMAs. She goes to the bathroom to shower and prepare for the day. Looking in the mirror, she notices hints of roots starting to appear in the mirror.

Maybe I can quit bleaching now, she thinks.

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This story doesn’t draw much on truly historical figures, but was inspired by me hearing that Lady Gaga started bleaching her hair because she kept getting confused with Amy Winehouse. With the power of Google Image Search, I did note some striking similarities. And then I couldn’t help but wonder: what if they weren’t actually different people?

So that’s where that one came from. I hope you enjoyed it.

 

Terribleminds Flash Fiction Challenge

I’m a big fan of Chuck Wendig, and I’m also a fan of flash fiction. Thus, when Chuck Wendig issues a flash fiction challenge, I heed the call. Well, sometimes. Whenever I’m not trying to finish ten thousand other projects.

The current challenge is to create a piece of flash fiction using these five words, either in the piece or conceptually: figure, dust, flirt, mobile phone, wig.

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“I know you from somewhere,” he said, leaning in closer than I allow strangers to get. I could feel the dust filling in the lines of my palms as I pressed them against the wall. Frat boys didn’t seem particularly adept at cleaning.

“I’m sorry, but I’m sure we haven’t met,” I replied. “I know you’re not in any of my classes.”

“Yeah, but I know I’ve seen you around somewhere. I wouldn’t forget a face as pretty as yours.” He grinned, apparently proud of his pathetic attempt at flirtation.

“Well, it’s a small campus. We’ve probably crossed paths at some point. Now, if you’ll excuse me -”

“Wait, wait, I know! You’re that nude model for the art department.”

“Oh, you’re in the figure drawing class? Awesome. But really, I -”

“No, I took figure drawing last semester. I’m in sculpture now. But I’ve seen portraits of you all over the studio.”

“Ah. Right.”

“I recognize you by your hair. People love to draw your hair.” He reached out to tug one of the curly grants that never stay straight no matter what I do. When I flinch, he takes his hand away and pulls out his cell phone. “So, what’s your number?”

“None of your damn business.” I finally push him aside and head for the door. Maybe I should start wearing wigs to work, I think as I step outside.