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Missed Deadline Post: “To the Left of Orion”

I’d intended to submit this one for the weekly contest over at Thursday Threads but couldn’t hit the deadline due to a bedtime-resistant pre-schooler (that’s probably redundant). Anyway, the prompt required us to use the line “You know he’s coming back” in a 100- to 250-word tale. Here’s what I came up with.

“To the Left of Orion”

Bastian works his markers over the spaceship poster, crimson comet tails, ice-blue planetary rings, purple rocket exhaust. His lines thin as his focus wanes. You clutch your mug. Dread churns your stomach.

“Where’s my daddy?”

“Three stars to the left of Orion,” you say because that’s what you’ve woven into his lullabies. And because it’s true. More or less.

“When’s he going to visit me?”

“He can’t, buddy.”

That’s not true at all. You know he’s coming back. That’s why you’ve tucked your life into the mountains. That’s why you wake up gasping and clawing at the quilt.

Jade-green eyes blink human innocence at you, but a deeper wisdom has started to harden them, and you wonder—not for the first time—if he knows.

You haven’t seen the father since the second trimester. The day the documentary premiered. Your fry dripped cherry yogurt on your belly as you gaped at the footage.

Though Jimbok seemed humanoid enough for a romp, the Rekkessi coming-of-age departed significantly from nursing a tequila hangover. Your gut lurched as you watched the jerky sleepwalking movements of the offspring. Your keys were in hand the moment the Rekkessi sire unfolded its torso flesh and enwrapped the boy, forever.

No way was your baby getting re-absorbed into Jimbok.

Bastian caps the orange marker. “He can, Mommy,” he declares, his voice light years away. You stifle the wail threatening to tear apart your chest as he takes oddly spasmodic steps toward the bay window. “He has to.”

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Warmup Wednesday!

Why Ground Squirrels Left the Trees (100 words)

The fog thing comes. Scritch-scratch the tree trunks. Rustle-rush whip-dry grass.

Chitter and chat and roll our forage into hidey hollows like any a day. Like we don’t know. The mists creep crest and dale. Danger a dream-span from dire. Only the bitty-bobs peep-weep. Too wee to ken a deke.

The mothers a-work at grass and ground. Above we mime time the trees. Nut and seed all our critter concern. Acorn-cram cheeks, flash tail. While mother paws plow apart danger-urge of up! Up!

Must burrow down, now. Down windy deep so fog teeth mulch-chomp and howl empty.

Then, we win.

Flash! Friday

Directions: Write a scene or an entire story of 100 words on the nose (no more, no fewer), inspired by this photograph. No judging. All fun. (Normal Flash! Friday guidelinesregarding content apply.)
Don’t forget to add your Twitter handle & link to your blog, pretty please.

And a few words on how your week’s going would be so very marvelous!

 This week’s Warmup Wednesday challenge: Make your protagonist an animal (real or imagined).

Leash Fen in mist. CC2.0 photo by Andrew Hill. Leash Fen in mist. CC2.0 photo by Andrew Hill.

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Spotlight: Emily June Street

Interview with Emily June street, an amazing woman (wordsmith, artist, cyclist, trapeze enthusiast) who I’ve had the honor to work with since she’s acted as editor for the Flash Dogs and Luminous Creatures anthologies.

Flash! Friday

I’m thrilled today to welcome Emily June Street to the FF mic. Why’s that name familiar?? you might ask, only a moment before scrolling back through memory and blushing as you suddenly recall her neck-high pile of Flash! Friday HMs and runners up awards, and all the accolades she’s reaped for editing prowess both for the #FlashDogs latest anthology project and for novelists like Tamara Shoemaker

Emily’s latest novel, The Ganteanis a mere four days away from publication (June 27). That would be sufficiently awesome on its own; but Emily hasn’t stopped there. Nosireebob; she’s determined to GIVE AWAY A COPY of The Gantean to a randomly chosen commenter today. So please read the interview and leave a comment. The first reader to explore the magical Gantean universe might just be… you! 

(The winner will be chosen at 7:30am Wednesday, Washington DC time.) 

Emily June Street


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The Solstice is Coming!


Flash Dogs Solstice Anthology cover art by Tam Rogers (@tamrogers)

Meet the cover art (by the very talented Tam Rogers) for the Flash Dogs dual anthology coming out on Sunday, summer solstice for those of us in the northern hemisphere, winter for those in the south. It will be available in both print and e-book formats.

Flash Dogs is a casual collective of flash-fiction writers brought together over several online weekly contests (Flash! Friday, Flash Frenzy at Angry Hourglass, Finish That Thought, and the seasonal one at Luminous Creatures). There is so much talent and such a supportive environment surrounding the weeklies that a community formed.  Two of the regulars, Mark A. King and David Shakes, decided to make good use of the community by organizing us and then got the bright idea to gather together some of the work being done in this one little corner of the internet.

Thus, the first anthology was born. Writers submitted their various flash pieces plus (to give it cohesion) one tale based on a Tam Rogers photo of a spunky roller-skating phantom. It’s still available over at Amazon. Proceeds have been going to charity.

For the second pair of anthologies, our fine producers gave us a unifying theme (the solstices, dark and light), and asked up to write stories under 1000 words inspired by any of four picture prompts (two dark-solstice prompts, two light-solstice prompts).

I managed to get one story per picture, so two stories in each book. Two stories were tweaked from earlier contest drafts, two were from scratch. I can hardly wait to see what the other incredible word smiths crafted.

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Monday Micros: “A Taste of Freedom”

Initially submitted to the ever-incredible contest venue: Flash! Friday. The element for the week was “theme: defeat” and the picture prompt:

Construction of the Statue of Liberty

Construction of the Statue of Liberty

And here is what I came up with:

“A Taste of Freedom”

I chanced across the bird while foraging at the Old Coast. It roosted on an exposed concrete slab. Its hooked beak drooped in sleep. My stomach did cartwheels as I fumbled with my sling. Our sector hadn’t seen fresh poultry in years.

I was just about to bean the bird when it blinked open an amber eye and very clearly said, “Are you free?”

Huh. I hadn’t encountered many live animals beyond roaches, but I was pretty sure they couldn’t talk.

“Are you free?” it asked again, fanning bedraggled wings.

“Sure.” Our sector had leisure time one day a week—if you could call foraging in the Outbounds leisure.

It hopped toward me through sludge.

“I used to gyre about her beacon!” he wailed. “We triumphed over tyranny!”

Nothing triumphs over tyranny, I thought. Not if you want to eat.

“We were too dazzled by our victories to notice the tyranny we perpetuated.”

Parrots, yes, I remember from the kiddie clips. They could talk. But weren’t they green?

“See?” It fretted at the rubble. “Her entreaty has eroded into a command.”

I stooped to see what it was so upset about. Words carved into stone: Give me.

My stomach rumbled. I let fly.

Freedom, for all its brevity, was delicious.

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Monday Micro: “Dreaming of Midsummer Nights”

This puckish little tale earned an Honorable Mention over at my favorite weekly contest, Flash! Friday. The photo prompt featured a hoodied panhandler and the required element was Character: Spy.

“Dreaming of Midsummer Nights”

210 words

A butterfly landed on the edge of Robin’s alms cup and fanned its stained-glass wings.

Robin sucked in his breath and reached out. It graced the grubby perch of his fingers. Robin inspected the glossy thorax, the knobbed antennae, the scrolled proboscis (not Fay!) and shoved it into his mouth. The insect’s ichor oozed bitterness.

He sank back into his rags. Butterflies. How Robin missed the flutter of floral sprites, the hyacinthine perfume of the passages between worlds. But his world had moved on, leaving him with unyielding concrete and stale deodorant.

He couldn’t help but glower whenever a pram rolled past. That babe dandling a stuffed giraffe? In earlier days, Robin would have marked it in night dust for a midnight exchange. The Goblin Traders hadn’t responded to his alerts in decades.

How could they have abandoned him, their best agent?

Pinstriped legs hesitated, dropped coin into his cup. Robin couldn’t bear to look up. A flutter of temporary sympathy was an impoverished substitute for the long-lost revelry of Fay gatherings.

The silver had an odd glint to it. As Robin squinted into the cup, the coin shivered, then turned into an acorn.

Robin surged to his cloven feet and, heart ignited by hope, sprinted after the pinstripes.


Monday Micros–“Aflame” and “Soulmates”

Last Thursday, the gods of flash contests smiled on me. Thursday is already an fantastic day for micro-flashing, and my entries managed to hit a judge-y sweet-spot.

First there’s the Three Line Thursday contest over at Grace Black’s blog. You have three lines and 30 words max in response to a picture prompt. The results are splendid little emotion-evocation bombs, from the sublime, to the horrific, to the sexy, to the melancholy, to the laugh-riots (seriously, go take a peek at some of the past entries).

Last week, we got this seductive shot by the very talented Matt Adamik (a generous contributor to the contest prompts):


In revelry, we swirl together

Ladling passion from Carnival’s cabernet lips

Awaken with ashes thick in our throats


That entry earned me second place!

The second Thursday contest is David Borrowdale’s MicroBookends. He supplies the first and last word for a roughly 100-word story AND a picture prompt (many are the times I’ve had to ditch my first attempts because I’d neglected to use the picture). Last week’s bookends were Old and Age, with this shot by Timothy Krause:


Now there’s a shot that refuses to be neglected. My entry earned first place! Here’s “Soulmates” (though “Sole-Mates” would probably be a more apt title):

Old as the hills and heart just as trodden. Everyone I’ve ever loved has ground my lofty peaks to weary slopes. Sanae crushed me under her hopscotch Keds, her silky black braids flicking farewell. Natalie next, her DocMartins did harsh platonic work on my devotion, anarchy symbol imprints. Roger was a dabbler and me an equal-opportunity paramour until his plaid high-tops dribbled my blood tastefully down the pavement. Lady Luck, Lady Justice, Father Time—all similarly crushingly cruel.

Ah, but my sweet barefoot Ouzo! Our bacchanal never ends. Quick, quick, look upon me, dearest. For in your eyes, I am mighty Mount Olympus and this is our Golden Age.

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