#FridayFlash: FlashFic: Trying to Leave

 

Trying to Leave, flash by JC Rosen

Even a real flower…

 

After putting the last unisuit into the case, Tessa sealed it in, taming the overflow. She took a sad look around the unit. Her gaze stopped on a holo from a few years before. She and Tony looked so happy. She closed her eyes and blew out a breath. It was a long time since happy. She trudged through the hatch and spun the lock. It was over.

Tony still left gifts outside the hatch to Petra’s unit two months later. No surprise he figured out where she went when she left him. Ear drops, tongue fizzles, even a real flower one day. So lovely – if she didn’t know him so well. Creepers since she did.

Alry and Petra’s relief when she left Tony surprised Tessa. She hadn’t hid the bruises and jumpiness as well as she thought. Her friends were encouraging, helping her through the fearsome fits and backflashers. Tony’s little presents didn’t help. They weren’t meant to help.

The gifts stopped, replaced by notes. Sweet words, cajoling tones. She could hear Tony’s voice, all soft and kind like in the beginning, when she read them. Petra tossed the first one into the cycler. Tessa saw the wisdom and cycled them each upon arrival. She went cold and still when the first angry one arrived. Petra didn’t throw that one in the cycler. She kept it for the law takers. Kept it and all the ones following. Alry insisted on giving her a lasertaze to carry in her handsack. “Better to have it and be safe,” he told her. Tessa put the taze in her sack, hand shaking.

Ever since, she was freakered, imagining she saw Tony in the sea of workers commuting each day. Ridiculous. His work assignment was too precious to him. He’d never risk it by coming all the way to this side of the dome during worktime. She shook it off again today, forcing herself not to reach into her sack and clutch the lasertaze.

Working late was super sour, but she took a wage slice when she moved across dome. The overwage helped. Tessa scurried to join a group of people waiting to cross a pedi zone. She caught a single glimpse of Tony off to the side, his eyes glittering in the genny light. The crowd surged forward and Tessa was carried along, her belly shivering. No freakering this time. It wasn’t her imagination. The taze was cool against her palm.

She took a crosswise pedi zone on the other side, ending up across the motor zone on another blocking. A mob of people was in front of the flimsiplex. She mixed into the crowd. A small group broke free, walking a blocking before taking the next pedi zone. She walked beside a tall woman. Tessa figured seeming like an anonymous couple in the dim lighting might hide her. Tossing a glance over her shoulder swiftly, she thought perhaps she lost him.

Her walking partner shot her a look when Tessa kept up to the next blocking. Survival instinct told her to shift her path. She joined people taking the left pedi at the next turnout. She felt more than actually tweaked a look at the imminent danger behind. More freakering? No, she didn’t lose him after all. She gave in and tapped her temple, muttering Petra’s name to buzz up her vidscreen. “Tony’s following me,” she squeaked to her friend’s image.

Alry yelled from the background, “Where are you?” She darted a look at the glowbox on the building she was passing and read it quietly. “Law takers are on the way,” he called out. “They have your PhysIdent. They’ll find you.”

“Bono, Alry. Breaking comm, need to think.” Without waiting, Tessa tapped her temple twice and reached into her sack to grip the lasertaze again.

Hurrying through the next pedi, leaving complaints in her wake, she heard her name called out. Breath caught in her throat, she again darted a look over her shoulder. Tony pushed his way toward her. His thunderous face made her go cold, her feet heavy and slow. A roaring filled her ears as she tried to drag in air. Her numb fingers gripped the taze.

Tony grabbed her shoulder roughly and yanked her back against him. At the same moment, something cold and sharp bit her throat. An actual old-timey knife? He didn’t want just to scare her this time. “Come with me, Tessa,” he hissed, pulling her back even harder.

“Yes, Tony. I’ll go with you. Please don’t hurt me,” she whimpered, caught in backflasher and trying to placate the monster he became.

Vicious laughter sent warm breath against her ear. “You’ll get what you deserve. No more, no less,” he warned. As she trembled, the knife cut more deeply. She felt hot blood dribble from the cut. It sliced through the backflasher. Anger boiled in her belly as she thought of what he put her through, before and after she left. What he was putting her through right now. A flick of her wrist in the sack.

ZZZZZTTT!

The smoking hole in the sack told the story as much as the shock paralyzed on Tony’s face. He dropped like a plasteel chunk. Tessa held her hand to her bloody throat, relief flooding her as she took in the sight of him, still and gurgling. The shiny blade clattered, falling with him. Law takers surrounded him and someone gently tugged her away.

Dazed, shaking within her warm mylar cocoon, she held up her chin so the medic could seal the slash. “Lucky he didn’t have good aim, lady,” the medic murmured.

Petra’s voice was distant. Tessa opened her eyes and startled. Petra was right next to her. “Tessa, you’re safe. It’s bono, you tazed him.” Her friend’s hand was warm as it cupped her cheek.

Tessa replayed the scene over and over as the medic finished. Her thoughts alternated between Tony falling and that hateful look on his face beforehand. “Where is he?” Her whisper was hoarse.

Alry leaned in to where she sat in the medimotor. “All smooth, Tessa. The taze wore off and the takers got him talking to a lawbot now. He’ll be underground longtime. You stopped him.”

“All bono, yeah?” Petra’s smile sparked a faint one from Tessa.

“Bono, yeah.” Super smooth.

 

photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pagedooley/3724807427/ By Kevin Dooley

#FridayFlash: Work (redux)

 

Work, by JC Rosen

Chris decided to walk to work. She had a bounce in her gait and whistled off-key. The odd looks her way made her laugh.

The project would finish today. She’d fly home tonight and the next ten days were hers and hers alone. No more projects, no deadlines. Ten days to work on her novel. Another laugh bubbled up. Chris didn’t mind people peering as they passed by. They’d never recognize her under the wig and makeup. The mobs of people served as camouflage. She was just another blur going past in the city.

She glanced at the café as she walked by. Beautiful people in the beautiful weather. How they could stand the exhaust of the vehicles while they ate, she’d never know. More than miles separated her home from New York City. The corner table had a reserved sign on it. Chris mentally checked that off her list.

11:08. As she entered the building on time, she made another check on her list. The doorman held the door for all the worker bees heading to lunch. She wove her way among them, passing the reception desk unnoticed. Check. Slipping into an empty elevator, she waited for the doors to close before she hit the button for the twentieth floor.

A glance at her watch put extra speed in her footsteps as she left the elevator, heading for the stairs. Nearly two minutes off schedule. Her heart thumped, but she handled everything smoothly. A wire here, a button there. She imagined the worker bees in Security puzzling over the snow on their monitors. Practice did make perfect. 11:23, check. They’d get to the café any moment.

Chris tied a scarf over her wig and pulled the fancy sunglasses out of her handbag. A huge vent was near the roof door. Her case was tucked under its ledge. She snagged it and settled into the shadow of a billboard. Assembly was easy. Tab A into Slot B. Check. As she worked, a part of her listened, smelled, felt, and filed everything away.

The binoculars showed him being seated at the corner table as usual. A waiter removed the reserved sign. Chris watched through the lens as he got comfortable. Three joined him. All in boring business suits, all carrying attaché cases. As she watched, they ordered. 11:52, within the estimated timeframe. Check. Time to set aside the binoculars for a different lens.

When the waiter put a bowl of soup on the table, Chris nodded inwardly, taking her cue. Amusement registered within the part of her on observation duty. She took a slow breath and eased off the safety. He bent to his soup. Between breaths, she squeezed the trigger. He splashed into the soup. She broke the weapon into components. No time to waste. The security system would be back up in three minutes.

As always, she was disappointed she couldn’t watch the mark and aftermath up close. The feeling was filed away with other details. She stayed on schedule and was in her hotel room by 12:35. The bank manager’s murder already splattered across the news. She hardly noticed as she typed up observations.

Research made a novel come to life.

SPILLWORTHY by Johanna Harness Debuts

Congratulations to my dear friend, my mentor, Johanna Harness, on the publication of her novel SPILLWORTHY! It’s a remarkable story told in such a clever manner, the reader will inhale it in one sitting. The characters are beautifully exposed in their own writing. As the story unfolds, the suspense builds urgency. SPILLWORTHY is so worth your time. If you found this book, you were meant to find it.

SPILLWORTHY cover

SPILLWORTHY, by Johanna Harness

Surely you know Johanna Harness, at least by name, if you’re a writer or reader on Twitter. She created the enormously popular #amwriting hashtag and community. Whether you know her or not, take a look at her bio at the bottom of this piece.

Have you read the excerpt Johanna posted? Oh, do read it! It’s a choice segment from the start of the story which introduces a charming, somewhat jaded young man. Reading it will make the next part of this blog make more sense. Go on, take a moment. We’ll wait.

See, the fascinating mind of Johanna Harness suggested writers put together cameo appearances of one of *our* characters within the SPILLWORTHY world. That’s what’s coming next. So much fun to write! My character, Dawn Garson, writes in first person. She appears in the first book of my Mirror saga, as yet unpublished.

Did you read the SPILLWORTHY excerpt yet? Yes? Good. Here’s Dawn’s cameo, which does NOT appear in the book:

 

SPILLWORTHY, Cameo of Dawn Garson

Encouraged by my sons, I took a vacation in this world. Of course, they didn’t know of my sojourns into the other one. Having heard so much about Portland, I chose it as my destination. The last two days proved it was the right place. So green and lovely.

I’m not exactly made for tromping around sightseeing, but my cane and I made good use of the time. I found myself in a little neighborhood not far from the hotel which suited my budget. Glancing around, I caught sight of a second hand store. On impulse, I crossed the street to it and browsed a bit. I found a pretty blouse and a couple of beautiful coffee mugs which would be practical in both worlds.

As I left the store, still stuffing the new items into my shoulder bag, a shop window grabbed my attention. It was a music shop, a lot like the one in which I worked so many years ago. While the medium changed over the years, music store windows did not. This one was plastered with promotional posters, still album cover sized. Rampant images and color gave way to… what was that?

I honed in on the unlikely poster. It was not a poster at all. In fact, it looked like a pizza box top, complete with a couple of grease stains. Dense handwriting covered it. I stepped closer and read about Keats. It was like stepping into a cloud of happiness. The writer not only analyzed Keats’ writing well, the prose was positively lyrical. Clearly, someone with a poet’s soul wrote from his joy. I wished I could meet him or her and share a meal, just jabbering about whatever came up. Giddiness bubbled inside me at the thought.

Hungry by then, I stopped in at a nearby pizza place. I guess I was inspired by that not-a-poster. A couple supreme slices later, I had the rest boxed up to put into the minifridge in my hotel room. As I left, a kid quietly stopped me and asked if I would give him the leftover pizza. Poor kid was grubby and wore clothes made for someone of another size. I didn’t have to think about it. “Yes, please take it and enjoy. It’s still warm.” His face lit up and after thanking me, he walked to the corner and sat next to an old man with a dog to share the feast.

Portland. Such a good choice.

 

Johanna Harness bio, as taken from Goodreads: Johanna Harness writes middle grade and young adult stories in both Northwest and fantastic settings, often forgetting which is which. She created the #amwriting community on Twitter.

My opinion of her bio? Far too short, but once the writer starts on a complete picture of this woman, it’s hard to stop. Not just a talented writer, she’s a mother, wife, homeschooler, caretaker of critters large and small, and so much more.

You’ll want to read SPILLWORTHY, available in paperback and Kindle format. I predict awards and great things for this novel and for Johanna herself.

 

Thinking outside the #Flash

 

Lightning strikes

Photo by West Texan

Our heroine is going through a dry spell, Dear Reader. Grinding and grinding on old work, novels and flash alike, trying to make them better. Is the theme there? Is the hook set? Does each sentence propel the story forward? Are the voices different enough? And heaven help me, is this world consistent in its building?

ARGH!

Recently, I shared a flash with a friend from #SciFiChat and gratefully received her feedback. Before sending it, I expanded it beyond strict flash rules, but it was still flash length. She was charming in her comments, but through them I saw a major flaw with the story as written: it’s too damned short. Given the assignment of a flash, it would probably answer the question well enough with some tweaking. Given the opportunity to tell the whole story? Time to think outside the flash.

I’ll still write flash, of course. It’s a wonderful editing muscle which keeps me in shape for other projects. My novels improved with my editing skills. Giving myself over to the story must take priority, though. Let the story dictate its format. Just. Write. Sound familiar? It should if you read my blog, especially around NaNoWriMo time each year.

Who knows? I might just become a writer again.

How are you doing on your project right now?

Take care,

JC

New Words

 

See Jon Assink on Flickr

Graphic by Jonathan Assink

Our heroine is still here, Dear Reader. Well, I suppose that depends on what “here” means to you. When I’m not overcome (and sometimes when I am) by a problem, usually my health, I get onto Twitter and chat. I read it more than I chat, lurking a bit behind the drapes. Yeah, see those tips of shoes? They’re mine.

Since I’ve posted here, I’ve had everything from a slightly dislocated shoulder and rotator cuff tear to a stroke. My life is beset by doctor appointments, in home therapists, tests, emergency room visits, and of course my favorite: inpatient stays. Exile. I’ve no new words to share in flash, but I promise to get back to it very soon.

It seemed readers felt the fourth part of See How They Fall was a good place to end it. I tried to let it go at that point, but I so feel there’s a concluding fifth part. What do you think? Ends dangle, daring me to tie them up in one part.

I hope you’ve been well and happy, that your family and loved ones have, too. I’m grateful for each of you. Thank you for your encouragement.

Take care!

#FridayFlash: Help Me

 

Help Me, flash fiction set in a prison, by JC Rosen

Photo by r. nial. bradshaw

 

Cramped muscles in his shoulders made Dr. Broder twist. He looked around the office, also cramped, the windowless walls creeping inward. The prison didn’t have many spaces to spare. Only six months into his voluntary sentence, he overheard the file clerk confide to a guard the last shrink only lasted three months. Now, two months later, he felt he was getting through to some of the men in the facility.

A clock counted silently on his desk. Dr. Broder began the deep breathing he did before each appointment. Ground, center, calm. His jaw tightened at the thought of who was next. He was different. He required a few extra moments of readiness. Ground, center, calm. Brad Rangell could wait. He had his whole life to wait in here. The psychiatrist, wrapped in brittle relaxation, made some notes on his clipboard before going to the door.

Two burly guards stood over Rangell, who was in a chair. Cuffs and leg chains were linked together with a heavy chain locked beyond his reach. “Please bring him back,” Dr. Broder nodded to the guards. He got out of the way and settled into his office chair. A guard tugged the patient’s chair farther away from the desk. Together, the guards pressed Rangell into the chair. There was a time Dr. Broder protested against the increased distance from his patient. They told him it was for his own protection. He believed it now.

Amusement burbled in deep sounds within Rangell’s chest as the guards took up position right outside the unlocked door. Dr. Broder could summon them by pressing an alarm on his desk or simply by making a loud noise. He thought these measures unnecessary in his first days. The next week, when he met more inmates, he realized the warden took it easy on him at first. Who knew how many barely slid past the diagnosis of psychopath – not to mention those who fit it perfectly when they got here – were crammed together in this hellhole.

Brad Rangell not only fit the diagnostic manual, he radiated it. He added to it delusions of grandeur and narcissistic personality disorder. Dr. Broder wasn’t sure if Rangell’s standing with the other inmates justified these issues. His crimes were legendary. Rangell left a brutal, bloody path between truck stops in Southern California and Nevada. Deep breath. Ground, center, calm. The doctor steepled his forefingers. He watched his unmoving patient, silent now, so far beyond the other side of his desk.

As usual, Rangell forced him to speak first. They once spent an entire session in silence. Dr. Broder had attempted to gauge his patient’s perspective on the treatment process he was ordered to endure. The treatment process they were both ordered to endure. The silent session amounted to little more than a pissing contest, so now the doctor took the offense.

“You spent some time in the tank again.” He didn’t expect so much as a twitch in response to the mention of the isolation tank. “Four days, I believe.” It was five. Rangell continued to ignore him. He didn’t flicker a shift of his eyes from his gaze at the clock. The inmate could neither see the face nor hear the clock. His intent focus on it made Dr. Broder slow down, as though he could slow time’s passage. As though he weren’t afraid of being alone with the hulking man.

He decided to take a new approach.

“Brad, let’s be open with each other. You don’t want to be here. I don’t particularly give a damn. We’re doing what’s required of us.” For some reason, that got through to Rangell. His gaze slowly moved from the clock to Dr. Broder’s face. The doctor felt his guts go a little cold. Now that he had the inmate’s attention, he wasn’t so sure he wanted it. Summoning calm, he forged on.

“What if, just for the hell of it, we took a chance of accidentally doing something helpful for you?”

Rangell’s eyes may have widened slightly. He stared at Dr. Broder’s eyes. The doctor fought successfully with the impulse to adjust his glasses.

“I suppose what I’m saying is if you help me, I might be able to help you.”

Rangell cleared his throat. “You want me to help you help me?” His voice was a rasp against wood.

Dr. Broder appeared to think this over as he contained his sense of success. The patient conversed. Breakthrough! “Yes, that’s what I’m proposing. We’re stuck with each other. May as well use the time.”

“What makes you think I’m not using the time?” Rangell smiled slowly.

“Humor me,” Dr. Broder told him and Rangell’s eyebrows raised. He leaned forward.

“Let’s say I do that. What would that look like? Help me so I can help you help me.” Rangell’s eyes were wary. The doctor could hear the clink of metal as Rangell worried his hands together. Unconscious display of discomfort. Another breakthrough.

“I don’t know about how you became a truck driver. Let’s start there,” Dr. Broder suggested, hoping it was neutral territory.

“That could work,” Rangell nodded once. “It’s one way you could help me help you help me.” Dr. Broder got a little lost there so stayed non-committal. He listened for the clank of the chain. It kept coming, Rangell’s tell he was reacting to the line of conversation.

“I have another idea,” Rangell continued softly, eyes actually shining with unshed tears. He paused, seeming to choose his words. “It’s a better way to help me help you help me help you help me.”

In a flash second, he was across the desk, chair and all. His teeth snapped at Dr. Broder’s shoulder. They caught hold. Dr. Broder cried out in pain and shock. Hot blood surged down his chest. The noise summoned the guards. Together, they dragged the rabid beast backward and slammed him facedown on the floor, chair still pinned to him. Dr. Broder couldn’t look away. He tried not to vomit as Rangell slowly chewed, swallowed, and gave him a bloody smile.

After being treated for his wound, Dr. Broder left the prison.

And his resignation.

 

#NaNoWriMo: Prep and Plotting

 

JC Rosen's NaNoWriMo Prep and Plotting

Photo by Robert (Jemimus)

While the title here is “NaNo Prep and Plotting,” most of this information is applicable to any project. As an example, I used clustering to plot a flash story. It just wasn’t showing itself to me via the usual means, so I tried something different. There it was, exposed and waiting to be written.

Johanna Harness, founder of #amwriting on Twitter (archives for the site here), has explored many plotting methods. As a result, her blog is often my go-to for information which is accessible and useful. I’ll use a couple here as well as other sources.

I call my entire process of prep “outlining.” That’s misleading. While I begin with a basic – and extremely loose – outline, I may more deeply explore the plot and/or characters using other methods. Having discovered the benefits of clustering, I often use it in the “outline” at some point. Describing arcs for structure may figure into it. You get the idea.

I consider myself a combination of a pantser as well as a plotter. No matter how carefully I plan and plot, my story ends up wandering into places I didn’t know existed. Secondary characters take on whole lives and become more important than intended. Never fails – thank goodness! As such, I don’t plot so tightly there’s no room for breath and movement within the structure of the plan.

Right. Time to address some plotting methods:

  • Clustering: The reason Johanna Harness suggested I try clustering for my short story is the oddities of my migraines. That is to say, I can write with a migraine, but cannot plot or edit. Johanna sees clustering as a right brain/left brain process. It uses (*gasp*) pen and paper and is simply bubbles of words all over the page, willy-nilly. While it goes against all my instincts, I found it immensely helpful – even with the migraine. (YMMV) Check out Johanna’s blog article for more on clustering. She speaks to it far better than I.
  • Snowflake Method: Randy Ingermanson is generally known as “The Snowflake Guy” and his Snowflake Method for novel writing is immensely popular. This article is chock full of interesting ideas on what he calls “designing a novel.” As no two novels are exactly alike, no two snowflakes are, either. His position is, however, novels can be designed. This article teaches how to do that. Please read the entire article to get the full impact.
  • Phase DraftingIt’s Just a Phase is an article from 2003 by Lazette Gifford. It’s no less useful today. Lazette brings fresh thoughts to the subject of outlining a project. She leaves room for growth and fleshing out the story. Don’t miss this one.
  • Big Board PlanningHere’s another one from Johanna Harness’s blog. She also turned it into a YouTube video, which is embedded on the page. Do you cleverly organize your ideas on note cards or post-it notes? (Do you think you should but don’t?) I didn’t start the post-it notes idea until Johanna showed me Big Board Planning. It’s as simple as taking a large poster board and putting your cards or post-its on the board. I use a tri-fold board so I can fold it up and put it somewhere safe. Johanna has some ideas for how to organize the colors and placement in this article so please do give it a read. Scrivener has a version of this, but I like it being tactile.

There are more to be found. With NaNo breathing down my neck, my goal is to get the outline broken down using clustering as needed. Big Board Planning beyond that would be gravy. I may need to take breaks writing in November to BBP my way through a section. Who knows? Anything can happen during NaNo.

 

 

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