Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Update on My Writing

In case any of my friends have been wondering where I have been lately, I thought I would post a quick explanation. First, the month of October has been extremely busy with several days of work-related travel. In fact, I am currently submitting this post as part of a blogging demonstration presented to a group of business friends while I am out in beautiful Santa Rosa, California.

On another note, I have decided to focus more energy on working through a novel in progress. Back in 2009, as part of NaNoWriMo, I completed my first novel, which has been sitting on the shelves collecting dust. There's a certain amount of fear that comes with writing a novel I suppose—the fear of rejection, primarily—which is why I have never tried to polish it up. I think now, however, I am ready to conquer my fears and take the next step. As such, I will spend less time writing flashes on a weekly basis and more time on editing and revising my novel. My goal is to have this project ready to shop around by the Summer of 2015. The good Lord willing and the creek don't rise, as they say in my part of the world, I should be able to achieve my goal.

You will still see me from time to time, and I will certainly stop by your sites as often as possible to offer feedback, but I won't be submitting as much as I have in the past.

Wish me luck as I do the same for all of you.

Friday, October 10, 2014

#FridayFlash - A Night at the Carnival

Carl stood at the mirror and stared at the old man glaring back. The sign posted above the frame announced in bold, black letters as big as his hand: See Your True Self - 2 Tokens.

He closed his eyes, snorted out a dismissive laugh, and then shook his head. He hated carnivals like this, had said as much to his daughter and granddaughter just earlier this evening, but no, they had to go. It was a tradition, they had said. He asked since when, because he didn't remember taking the family when Sherrie was a child.

His daughter clucked her tongue, said, "Oh please," in that snarky voice she showed him from time to time. "You think I don't know that, daddy?" Still calling him daddy after all these years. "The tradition is with me and Natalie. We're the ones who've been going to the county fair. We just want you to go with us this time."


"Because it's fun. You can grab a corn dog—the real kind, with mustard slathered on top, not that crap they sell at the store—and you can take in the sights. There's always something new." She patted him on the back then. "You never know. You might see something that will amaze even crusty old you."

Standing in front of the mirror, looking at the lines on his face, trenched through years of living on the road, saving every cent possible as if it were his last, Carl glanced up at the wooden sign again.

See Your True Self.

He didn't know what the darn thing would do once it collected its fare, but he could guess. The mirror had probably been constructed out of some sort of pliable metal. It would warp and contort, and the image would grow fat or thin, short or tall, depending upon the option randomly selected by its designed algorithm. In the end it would only show the payee what a fool they had been. Like everything else at the carnival, the primary objective was to take other people's money. He should know. He'd made a living out of showing people what they wanted to see, even if they didn't know what that was at first. He took their money doing it, too.

Still there was something about the sign...

Something about the hardy oak frame...

He reached down, found a small pebble, and chucked it at the mirror. The metallic sound he expected didn't come back at him; instead, he heard a sharp tack! as the pebble hit the mirror and fell to the ground.

Carl frowned. If it was made out of glass, then how could it bend? How could it distort the image? He looked back up at the sign.

2 Tokens.

Carl looked from side to side. He wasn't sure why he was about to do this, but he certainly didn't want Sherrie or Natalie seeing it. No doubt, they would want to stand next to him, watching as the mirror did nothing at all. Then they would laugh and say something like, "There you go, you're an old man, just like you knew you would be."

After making sure his daughter and granddaughter were nowhere to be seen, he fished two tokens out of his pocket. Of course, he didn't exchange his money for the tokens. That would have been stupid. He even felt weird carrying them, which was why he buried them deep in his pocket instead of holding them in his hand like a small child who couldn't wait to spend his money on something. Sherrie insisted he have a few of them after she had handed forty bucks to the cashier. What a waste that was. "In case you find something fun to do," she said.

He dropped one of the tokens into the vending machine, feeling awkward even as he did so. It made a metallic click as the token fell into the collection box. He was committed now. He couldn't walk away, not and waste the money.

He dropped the second token in the machine, and then stared at his reflection: at the white hair, at the protruding eyebrows, at the carousel spinning behind him, the horses swinging up and down, up and down. The glass fogged over, and the reflections fell behind a cloud of smoke, swirling around and around.

Carl's heart raced now. What was happening? What would it show him? Would he see a man who had spent so many years on the road, selling product and crafting stories far better than any fiction writer in order to make the next deal? Or would he see a man surrounded by multiple women, only one of who had been his wife? Maybe he would see a man who had attended weekly mass, who drank the communion wine as the priest passed him by, only his heart wasn't in it.

The cloud stopped swirling. The fog lifted.

Carl stared into the mirror and saw nothing but a spinning carousel, the horses swinging up and down, up and down.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

#FridayFlash - Laws of Nature

With a face like an emu and hair as white as a palomino, Adrien Dupre stepped through a half-circle of men gathered in a warehouse that smelled of fish and brackish water. He walked over to a refrigerator, opened it, and grabbed a beer. Stepping back toward the men, he approached a metal desk, where he sat on the corner and popped open the can with a snick! He swallowed several loud gulps, and then wiped his mouth with the back of a hand.

Before him, the half-circle of men (all of whom had been with him these last ten years and had helped him build the cannery business, among other things) surrounded two other men. One of them lay on the floor, his hands zip-tied behind his back, his throat slit open in a blackened maw of flesh and blood. The man had initially introduced himself as Bill Landrieux; other sources, however had finally identified the pudgy slob with wiry hair and a scrub brush of a beard as Special Agent Edward Chandler. Adrien sniffed at the sight, not at all happy with the way things played out thus far. Not only had Chandler infiltrated their group, but it had taken them more than six months to discover the truth. Someone would have to answer for that. And that someone would probably also have the chore of cleaning up the mess on the floor. Most likely, the concrete would need to be washed with bath of muriatic acid.

But that would wait. At the moment, Adrien was more concerned with the other man, the one still on his knees.

"You know why we have laws?" he said.

The young man glared back with slate grey eyes. His lips formed a hard slash, and Adrien could see the anger seething through every part of him. Along with his partner, this one had fed them a lie for six months, told them his name was Donnie Racine when they now knew him as Special Agent Richie Miller. He was lighter than Chandler, probably weighed in at one-eighty, maybe one-eighty-five, and definitely better looking, even with one eye swelled shut.

After a long enough pause, one of Adrien's men nudged Miller in the back with the butt of a .380 rifle.

"The man asked you a question."

Miller looked over his shoulder for a moment, and then finally turned his attention back to Adrien.

"I imagine you're gonna tell me."

Adrien nodded. "Because in any society we need laws. We need to know where the boundaries are. We need to see the lines, and the problems they present, so we can make choices. Life is nothing but choices." He pointed the beer can toward an opened bay door. Outside, the river slowly worked its way toward the Gulf. "A man goes out there, sooner or later he's gonna run across a ten foot croc, maybe bigger. And when he does, he has to make a decision. Is he gonna respect the croc's position, or is he gonna take a risk, cross the line and see who has the better skill? Of course, if he has enough fire power, there's no battle to be had. All he has to do is just aim and pull the trigger. Still, the man is in the wrong place, you know? Just because he's wearing a pair of crocodile boots, it don't mean he's a crocodile."

Miller blinked his good eye, once, twice. "Is there a point to this?"

Adrien picked up the beer and finished it. The can barked as Adrien crumpled it up. He tossed it on the floor where it landed near the body of Chandler. Whoever cleaned up the mess could pick up the empty as well.

"The point is you don't belong. You never did. And while we didn't know that at first, there's no way it could have slipped your mind, no way you could have just forgot."

"I never did," Miller said.

Adrien nodded. "Uh-huh. So you can imagine why I'm a little pissed off right now. I mean, here I am, a respectable businessman—"

Miller scoffed at that. "You're a gun runner and a drug dealer."

"A respectable businessman, who knows the difference between the good guys and the bad ones. And who also knows they shouldn't mix. There's this unwritten, God ordained law that says so. It's like oil and water, you know what I'm saying?"

Miller smiled. "So that's it—Adrianna—that's what this is about."

Adrien shook his head. "Not all of it. I would like to know, though, why you wouldn't just stick to the role of playing cops and robbers and not soil that which belonged to me."

Miller waited a beat before he spoke again. "Because we love each other."

Adrien snorted. "Is that right? You... in love with my daughter?" He shook his head. "Nah, I don't think so."

He looked at the half-circle of men who stared back, waiting on his lead. In the words of his father, this was a teachable moment. If he didn't hold the line, then it wouldn't be long before one of them decided the rules didn't apply either.

He looked around the warehouse.

"You want to know what's remarkable about running a business like this?"

Miller didn't say anything.

"It's like the Indians, you know? They never wasted anything. And neither do we. We filet the fish, and then we use the rest. Pulverize it, and let it break down. Sell the by-product off as fertilizer. Good stuff, too." Adrien smiled and nodded at one of the men standing. "I'll figure out what to tell my daughter about you. You can bet it won't be flattering."

The man stood forward, and pointed a gun at the back of Miller's head.

After it was over, Adrien looked at his men.

"Okay then... Which one of you made the mess with Chandler?"