July Flash Fiction Prompt

FLASH FICTION PROMPT

It’s been awhile since I’ve done a Flash Fiction Prompt, and now felt like the right time to get back to it, especially since I need to come up with a fantastic idea for our TGNA Fall Frivolity anthology.

And in keeping with the fall theme for our anthology,

Here’s the visual prompt for July…

 

slevin-aaron-11-360x524

Photo credit Slevin Aaron

 

Write a story inspired by this image in 1000 words or less.

If you’d like to share your story, email it to me at valerierlawson@gmail.com. Put Flash Fiction Prompt in the subject line.

I’ll share my story next month. (This may or may not be the story I include in our TGNA anthology. It’ll be a surprise.) I may post yours here, too. If I have enough people participate, I’ll post the best one on the blog!

If you are interested in entering a submission for our anthology, you can view more writing prompt ideas on our TGNA group Pinterest page. You can also view the submission guidelines on our blog. I look forward to reading your submissions!

 

 

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March Flash Fiction Prompt

FLASH FICTION PROMPT

Another month, another exciting edition of Flash Fiction Prompt!

As scary as I find these assignments, part of me really looks forward to the challenge. It feels a little like driving with a blindfold on. I’m so glad when the ride is over, and I hope I’m somewhere close to my destination when I crawl out of the wrecked vehicle.

Strangely, that doesn’t sound like I enjoy these challenges, but I really do. I have to remind myself of this when I’m banging my head against my desk, because stretching my creative brain can be painful. (She’s not that into yoga. Or exercise of any kind.)

Here’s the visual prompt for March…

 

Bible Boy
Photo Credit Samantha Sophia via Unsplash

 

 

Write a story inspired by this image in 1000 words or less.

If you’d like to share your story, email it to me at valerierlawson@gmail.com. Put Flash Fiction Prompt in the subject line.

I’ll share my story next month. I may post yours, too. If I have enough people participate, I’ll post the best one on the blog!

As promised, here’s my story from February’s prompt for your enjoyment:

 

Photo credit Scott Webb via Unsplash
Photo credit Scott Webb via Unsplash

 

ME AND MY HUMAN

You can’t even tell where we buried her.

The grass is so tall now it tickles my belly when I run through it. The smell gives her away, though. That sweet earthy scent with hints of peonies and lilacs that clung to her from spending all day in the garden is gone. Only the pungent odor of decay remains.

My human Todd wipes tears from his eyes.

I lick his face. “I’m here, Todd.” I remind him. His faithful companion. The one who never strays. The one who always comes when he calls.

Not like Lily.

Lily, the betrayer.

Lily, the breaker of hearts.

I still can’t find my favorite chew toy. The purple giraffe with best squeaker. It took me forever to get the tail chewed down the way I like it. I know Lily hid it somewhere. She hated when Todd played with me.

Todd scratches behind my ears. “Thanks, boy.” I thump my tail. “You miss her, too, huh?”

I stop thumping my tail.

Uh, NO. I do not miss that crazy hellcat. She was careful to hide her daily torture of me from him, so I understand his confusion. I’m always understanding of my human. He never saw how she always knocked my food bowl out of her way every time she walked by, how she would smack me in the nose every time his back was turned.

No, I don’t miss her.

It was that trusting nature of my human that led me to protect him. I saved his life from that evil Lily. My tail starts thumping again.

It was one morning at breakfast that I saw it, that look of evil contempt she had for me. This time it was aimed at my human Todd. While she gnawed on her smelly feast, and glared at him, a fear grew inside me that she would harm him. I had to act. I started following her everywhere. I am a good tracker. My human always says so.

Lily snuck out the garden by the back gate, past the tall grass that tickled my belly, and through the woods that smelled of wild things and danger. I had to slink around the towering oaks to avoid dry sticks and rustling leaves that would alert her to my presence. I am a sneaky tracker.

Lily led me to the back door of a strange dwelling in the middle of the woods. The hairs on my back rose up, warning of danger. Who lived in this house made of logs in the middle of nowhere? The smells musty and foreign. I didn’t like it. I wanted to warn Lily, yes, even Lily, that this didn’t seem safe, but then the back door opened and a strange hairy man came out. She ran to his open arms.

Betrayer! How could she do this to my human Todd? I’d seen enough. I barked at them to let them know they were caught and I didn’t approve. The door slammed in my face. In my face! Grrrrr!

I raced back home as fast as my legs would go to get my human. Boy, were they in trouble! But when I got there, he wasn’t home. I’d have to take care of it. Protect him.

I kept watch near the road all day, waiting for him to come home. Waiting so Lily wouldn’t get to him first. Then out of nowhere, she sprang on me. Claws in the air, teeth bared, fur flying, we tumbled right into the road. She went for my eyes, that nasty cat. I had no choice, but to throw her towards that oncoming truck, right? Right?

My poor human Todd thinks it was an accident. He still mourns for her like she was the sweetest cat. I’m a very good protector. My human Todd always says so.

 

February Flash Fiction Prompt

FLASH FICTION PROMPT

Stretching my creativity in new directions is always challenging, and usually not too terribly painful. Sometimes it’s even fun. I’m enjoying my experiments coming out of the flash fiction prompts so far.

I hope you are, too.

Here’s the visual prompt for February…

Photo credit Scott Webb via Unsplash
Photo credit Scott Webb via Unsplash

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Write a story inspired by this image in 1000 words or less.

If you’d like to share your story, email it to me at valerierlawson@gmail.com. Put Flash Fiction Prompt in the subject line.

I’ll share my story next month. I may post yours, too. If I have enough people participate, I’ll post the best one on the blog!

As promised, here’s my story from January’s prompt for your enjoyment:

Party Pigs

 

PARTY PIGS: A Cautionary Tail

     “Why did you invite Thomas and Dylan?” Brandon tugged at his bright polka dot tie. “They’ll ruin everything.”

     “Stop fidgeting and go greet your guests,” Mom said.

     “Go greet your guests,” Brandon mumbled under his breath. She obviously didn’t understand; she’d invited the scruffy, no-good Riley twins. His world just ended. Memories of the spiky blonde duo tormenting his every lunch period all rushed together. Brandon shuffled his feet towards the menacing pair.

     “Hey.”

     “Happy birthday, Braindead.” Dylan shoved a poorly wrapped box into his chest.

     “Uh, thanks.”

     Thomas flipped up his tie. “Nice suit, Grandpa.”

     “Shut up, my mom made me.”

     “You look like part of the decorations.” Dylan squinted at Brandon like he couldn’t see him in focus or something.

     Brandon rolled his eyes. “C’mon, party’s out back.” Brandon trudged through the living room and out the back door to the pool area.

     Everyone else got to look normal, but what could he say when his mom held out the suit and said, “ this would’ve made your dad so proud”? And was it his fault she made his tie match the party favors?

     Brandon pointed to a decked-out table with the banner ‘Red Versus Blue, Winner Takes All!’ draped along the front. “Grab a water gun and a splash ball, then pick an armband color for your team,” Brandon said. “The epic water battle will start when everyone’s here.”

     Dylan and Thomas bellowed like orangutans, then darted over to the table. After disturbing all the neat, organized rows of water guns and toppling the carefully stacked pyramids of splash balls, they each grabbed two water guns, and packed their pockets full of splash balls until they were almost bursting.

     “Hey! Can’t you read?” Brandon pointed towards the tactful sign on the table that quietly reminded guests to take ONLY ONE of each item.

     “Oh, yeah. Thanks.” Dylan glanced down at the Red Versus Blue banner, then snatched two red armbands out of the basket. He hurled one at Thomas. “We’ll make them bleed their own blood.” They ran off laughing.

     “Darling, you have more guests arriving,” his mom called from inside.

     “Mom, I hate those guys! Can’t we kick them out?”

     “Oh, no. They are the most important guests at your party.” She glided her fingers over his perfectly coifed hair with a feather touch. “It’s not every day a boy as special as you turns thirteen.” Her eyes got all shiny and Brandon turned away before she hugged him in front of anyone.

     After a few more trips escorting guests outside, Brandon could see Dylan and Thomas wreaking havoc with their water guns. They were shooting everything (and everyone) in sight.

     “You’re not supposed to use those until the battle starts,” Brandon yelled. “You’re ruining everything!”

     “Shut up, Braindead. No one wants to follow your stupid party rules.” Thomas nailed him smack in the face with the Icer. Everyone nearby laughed.

     Brandon choked on a mouthful of water, then retreated inside. His suit was soaked; everything sloshed when he moved. Why did he have to dress up like an idiot when no one else had to? Why was he the last person allowed to have fun at his own party? “I wanted to play, too.”

     Once safe behind the sliding glass doors, he glared at the backyard full of traitors he’d thought were friends. They cannonballed into the pool filled with all the splash balls meant for the water battle, and they played volleyball with the water balloons. Someone had used the cupcake tower for target practice. All that was left of them was a mushy, sprinkle-covered mess plastered around the patio. His epic water battle party he’d dreamed of for months was destroyed.

     “I didn’t even get to taste them!” Brandon’s fists clenched tight at his side. “I wish all you pigs were gone!”

     A blinding light made Brandon cover his face. A shattering boom rang out and shook the ground under his feet. When the trembling stopped and the bright light faded, Brandon opened his eyes.

     Pigs in party hats flailed about in the swimming pool. Pigs half-dressed in wet bathing suits struggled to escape their human clothes. Pigs with red and blue armbands around their fat stomachs squealed in every direction.

     “Nice start, son.” Brandon’s mother said. “This time, concentrate on where you want the pigs to go.”

     Brandon nodded, then clenched his fists once more to his side. He pictured the abandoned soccer fields just outside of town. The blinding light and ground rumbling returned. Once all was quiet, Brandon saw that the pigs were gone.

     Everything was silent.

     His mother handed him a perfect cupcake with sprinkles on top – bright polka dots that matched his tie. “Happy birthday, Brandon. Your dad would’ve been so proud.”

 

 

January Flash Fiction Prompt

FLASH FICTION PROMPT

One of the new blog features I’m introducing that generated the most excitement when I discussed it earlier on the blog was this one, the Flash Fiction prompt. I hope you’re ready to light up your neurons and spark some creative genius (or at least get in some good writing practice).

Here’s the visual prompt for this month…

Party Pigs

(Image courtesy of Gratisography.)

Write a story inspired by this image in 1000 words or less.

If you’d like to share your story, email it to me at valerierlawson@gmail.com. Put Flash Fiction Prompt in the subject line.

I’ll share my story next month. I may post yours, too. If I have enough people participate, I’ll post the best one on the blog!

A New Year, A New Blog – Let’s Get Serious!

After a most tumultuous year, I’m ready to get back to work on my writing in earnest. I have two manuscripts that need one good revision each, and then some beta reading and feedback, and one final polish before I’m ready to shove them out of the nest to watch them soar to the sky or crash and burn. I also have one other manuscript with some exciting interest that I need to finish. Pronto. This means making some changes to my daily routine to ensure I’m focused and productive.

Every. Single. Day.

 

My office bulletin board before changes…
…and after! Complete with goal-tracking calendar and shiny stickers! (This is an older picture; there are a lot more stickers on there, now. Trust me!)

 

 

Another thing I’ve done is reviewed my outside commitments. As I’ve taken on a much larger role with my local SCBWI group, (I’m now the Social Media Coordinator for SCBWI Oklahoma and co-host for the monthly #okscbwichat we hold on Twitter) I’ve decided to pull back from participating in the group blog The Great Noveling Adventure. I will miss TGNA tremendously, but this will allow me to spend more time completing my manuscripts, and prepping them for submission – my major goal for the year!

I’ve also revamped my vision for this blog and have planned out some exciting ideas for the coming year.

Here are some of the changes coming soon:

With a reading goal for the year of 80 books and a starting TBR pile of 50 books, I'll have plenty of books to read.
A preview of my current TBR pile numbering 50 books at present. I hope to read all of these before the end of the year…and then some!

I will continue to read, read, read, and to encourage you all to do the same.

I’m participating in a few reading challenges, and I will share my progress along the way – as well as any fantastic books I discover. As always, I hope you share any books you fall in love with, too.

I will also introduce a read-along book club to share some of my favorite reads this year. Nothing too stressful or demanding, but a bit more interactive. And an excuse to re-read some of my faves of all time. (And get others to read them!)

Speaking of interactive, I have a strong desire to practice writing short stories. I know it’s an area that can help me expand my writing skills. (We should never stop learning or expanding or skills, right?)

To encourage others to write, write, write, along with me I’ll be introducing a monthly flash fiction writing prompt that might even involve some prizes to add some excitement.

 

One Flash Fiction prompt could be using a picture like this and prompting you to tell a story about this boy...
One Flash Fiction prompt could be using a picture like this and prompting you to tell a story about this boy…

 

I’ll still include the popular book reviews and craft posts and the odd personal story or interview from time to time to keep things lively.

One more new addition will be a monthly #TBT (ThrowBack Thursday) post where I will share some of my favorites that I originally posted over on the TGNA blog.

I hope you enjoy the changes, and join in the some of the more interactive activities.

Should be fun!

Here’s to a productive new year to all!

-Valerie

 

 

 

The Christmas Train – Flash Fiction for the Holidays

I first wrote this post for The Great Noveling Adventure blog, and it was originally published on December 18, 2013. 

This was my entry for our Christmas flash fiction contest, and my first attempt at writing flash fiction. Using one of five given pictures, we had to create a Christmas-themed story in 1000 words or less.


 

I’ve always struggled with writing prompt exercises, so I wasn’t sure how well this would go. Although this was definitely challenging, I ended up having a lot of fun writing this story, despite the morose tone. I found my mind dwelling on the heartache of this season and how we can feel our losses most intensely during this time of year. Bombarded with images of happy people and family-togetherness could be unbearable for some. That’s where this story came from, deep within the macabre recesses of my mind.

I hope you enjoy it!

 

christmas-prompt-5

THE CHRISTMAS TRAIN

The happiest day of my life was with Flynn.

“Meet me in the square by the holiday village,” he said.

“Why?” I asked.

“It’s a surprise,” he said. “Wait and see.” I heard him chuckle before he hung up, unable to restrain his excitement.

I was terrible at waiting, so I rushed through the streets filled with Christmas. I spotted him among the twinkling lights, smiling with his whole face. I raced across the space separating us. He caught me in a crushing hug, the smell of cinnamon clung to his clothes. I wondered for a moment where he’d been.

“Have you been baking?” I rubbed my cold nose against his. He laughed and then set me down gently, keeping a hold of my hand.

“I’ll never tell.” He held his other hand behind him. “Ready to take a ride?”

“Where? Is that the surprise? Show me, show me!” I reached behind his back. He laughed some more and I could feel it rumbling through his body. He fought to keep me from grabbing his hand. Finally he gave in and offered up the prize. Two tickets for the Christmas train. I squealed and hugged him even tighter.

“I thought we could visit St. Nick, maybe tell him what we want most,” he said. Flynn knew I hadn’t had much of a traditional family upbringing, no special Christmas traditions, no big family gatherings. Mostly because my parents were too tired from working a million jobs just to keep that leaky roof over our heads. Flynn wanted to give me something I’d missed out on, a piece of childhood magic.

We strolled through the different holiday scenes, with me gripping our tickets to keep them safe. I felt so happy and light. The smiling children, all bundled up with their bright cheeks glowing. The smell of hot cider.

Lights.

Trees.

Snow.

Was there snow?

I don’t remember. I wish I’d paid more attention to the details. I do remember riding the Christmas train, swaying back and forth as it trundled down the track, Flynn holding me close as we stared out the windows. I never wanted the train to stop. I remember kissing Flynn after we arrived at the North Pole station. Soft, welcoming lips. Cold breath puffing out between us in little clouds. Flynn’s ice blue eyes exploring my face. He was searching for something.

Did he not find it?

Is that why he’s gone?

I received a letter the day after he left us. Nothing about why or about how he’d miss me, just a heart-breaking poem about trees. Solitary and untouched in a wood never traveled. An ache in my side dug a sharp pang of loss deep into my soul and crept over to my heart, plunging it into an ice bath of separateness. Aloneness.

Alone.

He left me alone.

I tried to recapture the sense of magic he shared with me that day. I put up a tree; it only reminded me of him. His uncontainable spirit couldn’t handle this world. How was I supposed to go on without him? I stripped off the glass balls, breaking branches and smearing my hands with resin. I smashed every single one on the pristine ceramic tile.

Pop. Pop. Pop!

Like melodic tinkling explosions; the sound that killed Christmas. He was everywhere I turned, and nowhere at the same time.

This year, Christmas has lost all its color, it’s meaning. The lights don’t illuminate me. The food has lost its taste. I never walk down that road anymore. Afraid his ghost will brush the wind against my lips, an ephemeral kiss empty of substance, and bring on an aching I can’t overcome.

The holiday smells of pine and cider and cinnamon enrage me.

Strangers smile.

“Merry Christmas,” they say in passing.

I restrain myself from punching them in the face. From screaming at them, “How can you be happy when Flynn is gone?”

I blame them for not knowing him and for making him disappear.

He was my joy.

He is gone.

A couple oblivious to my despair, races towards each other in unbridled ecstasy. The handsome young man catches his lover in strong, hopeful arms and raises her up into a familiar crushing hug. It’s too much. How can they flaunt their happiness in front of me? Can’t they feel my pain rolling off me like angry tidal waves?

I cannot endure another day.

I write my own letter, a poem about the ocean and it’s vast emptiness. I make a final trek back to the scene of our happiest time and tuck the poem deep inside the boughs of the enormous spruce tree, all covered in lights. Maybe someone will find it. Maybe someone will understand.

I step out in front of the Christmas train.

Bright lights, pain, blood, and snow.

This time there is definitely snow.