Know When to Run

naked guy cardsAh, irony: I’ve spent like half the morning thinking of a long-winded and eternally sunshiny way of saying that two things I’m trying to work on when it comes to my writing are concision and conflict.  Not everything that ever happens needs to be rambled on about in a novel, and a happy ending at the end of a long, happy story about happy people can lack a certain punch.  My favorite little format, the 100-worder, keeps it simple, but still gives you room to mention his hot body, so everybody wins.  I reckon the term Flash Fiction refers to the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it nature of these quick snippets, but fiction can flash the way floods do, too:  a few words, a handy journal, and watch out!  Next thing you know you got a story comin’ at ya from out of nowhere.  So roll up your jeans: here’s this dude in 100 words.  I hope you’re having a better Sunday than he is.

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He always was lucky.  Good grades, never studied; great body, never worked out.  One of those guys, you’d say, “I hate you.”  Meaning, “I want what you got.”  Really meaning, “I want you.”  Always been lucky in Vegas, even, which is of course how he got here: falling off a stool in a shitty casino at the state line, dizzy, drunk, and desperate, knowing he’s gonna win it back.  If not this hand, the next.  Catch up on the rent, Jace would have to come back.  Twenty-one, all is forgiven.  Twenty-two, he’s fucked.  He orders another cocktail. Burps, “Hit me.”

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Writing Exercise/City Code Snapshot: SNA

greetings-from-orange-county-californiaHey gang!  So today we’re going to try something a little different, and use (slightly more than a thousand) words instead of a picture to offer a snapshot of the Orange County layover.  Partly, yes, because I neglected to take a picture while I was there yesterday, but also because I used my one Orange County Outing as a writing prompt, the results of which I am moved to foist upon an unsuspecting public share.

The sun-soaked oceanfront county of Orange is home to 3 million people.  It encompasses such scenic byways as Laguna Beach, San Juan Capistrano, and Tomorrowland, and boasts a glamorous mall and a very manageable airport named after the man who shot Liberty Valance.  It is, in other words, as depicted on this-here postcard, probably delightful as a vacation hot spot; at the very least, judging by all of the dernier-cri sportsters zooming along the 12-lane surface streets, it is a great place to get rich selling really expensive cars.  And, as is often the case in this post-fun day and age of flying, we see none of that.  No Laguna art galleries or Capistrano swallows for these crews; rather, we lay over in an airport-adjacent business park close to a fountain, a few drastically trimmed shrubs, and bugger all else.  If you are firm in your resolve to get coffee, however — and you know how in this arena my resolve does not waver — you can walk 3/4 of a mile, take your life in your hands crossing the hugest intersection in Southern California, and get you a Starbucks.

Which is of course what I did yesterday.  Having collapsed onto my bed at something of an early hour the night before, I was up and at them, and rolled up at the Starbucks at like a quarter to nine.  A stone’s throw from the Southern California headquarters of every company in America that has a Southern California headquarters, this particular Starbucks was jammed.  Men in suits, women in heels, everyone on their way to work or getting a jump on the first meeting of the day, everyone talking, either into their phones or at each other.  The baristas were rushed off their feet, friendly and loud.  And over here along the wall, as is apparently required by some bylaw in company policy at every Starbucks location, sat the Guy Working on His Laptop.  I was like, Really?  This is where you’re going to come to try and get some work done?  I myself have a crippling fear of being perceived as a posturing Look At Me! douche anytime I so much as refer to my laptop in public, and so naturally I judge others harshly against this standard that I hate having applied to my own self, you know how we do.  But then I caught myself doing it — which is much less rewarding than just blithely judging people and getting on with your day, as you know — and reminded myself, You don’t know this dude’s story at all.  And, because I prefer to think of myself as someone who Knows It All, I remedied that by sitting — on a lovely patio chaise, but still — at the very same Starbucks amidst the very same distracting crowd, and writing (it hurts from the irony, I know), and deciding that his story is this: Continue reading

Writing Exercise: 10 Minutes About This

So today my writing group warmed up with a ten-minute writing exercise.  We each wrote down a color, a place, an animal, and a name, and then passed them to the person on our left, who was then charged with shoehorning those four items into whatever else flowed from his or her pen in the ensuing ten minutes.  The results, as always, were diverse and mostly hilarious.  I wrote this.auburn tequila

My Color: Auburn

My Place: Tequila Bar

My Animal: platypus

My Name: Umberto

“You have such beautiful auburn hair.”  Thanks, Umberto.  Or whatever he said his name was.  When you’re still wrapped around your stool at the back of the tequila bar come closing time, you get a little fuzzy on the details.  All I remember for sure are the wide-set eyes/short arms combo that put me in mind of a duck-billed platypus, and the fact that he wanted in my pants so bad he was trying to pick the lock of my button fly before he even bothered with the pick-up line, such as it was.

I remember for sure, though, that is was my first time in Mexico.  I had run off to Mazatlan to try to drown my memories of Travis in ocean spray and cheap tequila when moving to Albuquerque and dying my hair that cheap Walgreens magenta — sorry, “auburn” — hadn’t done the trick.  It’s not like Umberto wasn’t handsome — as best I can remember.  But he was more desperate even than I was for a night of “Let’s Pretend This is My Life,” and that’s saying something.  “Gracias,” I said, wishing one of us would pass out already and spare us the morning’s awkward goodbyes.

My Work in Progress in One Hundred Words

Lorelei Lee

Lorelei Lee

(Always avoid alliteration…)

One of my favorite writing exercises, albeit one from which I enjoy the occasional extended hiatus, is the 100 Word Story.  As you will not be surprised to learn, one of my challenges as a writer is shutting the hell up about this over here and that over there and getting down to the business of telling the dang story already.  Micro fiction is something of a trial for a writer like I (as Lorelei Lee might have said), but is a great opportunity to practice whittling down the noise and the fripperie into What I Am Trying To Say.  So the challenge, of course (besides not overusing words like “challenge”) is to tell your story, or your snippet, anyway, in 100 words exactly — not 101, not 99.  It is a widely celebrated, if arbitrarily selected, Micro Fiction genre, and one to which writers of no less an impressive stature than, for example, this one have devoted entire (if neglected) Tumblrs.

Something I’m celebrating today besides the 100 Word Story itself is the fact that I have actually sat and put fingers to keyboard, for the first time in a while, and started crafting something that can (finally!) lay claim to the title Work in Progress (as opposed to a Tedious Edit or an Idea That Just Sits There Going Nowhere While I Watch TV).  To date, the story has only come to me in broad strokes, and I’m not sure yet where it will end up, but I do know where it starts, and when my opening paragraph clocked in, quite by accident, at 100 words exactly, I felt compelled to share.

Give one a try.  I find boys super effective 100 Word prompts, and I can usually scrape together 100 words about food — there’s at least one on that dusty old Tumblr that’s inspired by both.  Remember to use your hyphens like a madman to manipulate your count, and heck, maybe check back here every once in a while in case I manage to wring out 100 more share-worthy words from time to time.

From today’s newborn, and as yet untitled, WIP:

The rickety lean-to club under the train tracks is drenched in the glittering raindrop refractions of blue spotlight off blue sequins.  The lyrics of September in the Rain, swinging with a nostalgia only Dinah Washington could imbue, nudge some to reach for the little umbrellas they imagine adorn their cocktails.  No one is disappointed, though, at the lack of fruity drinks or paper garnishes; it’s not actual rain, after all.  Cheap beer and plenty of it has made The Crossing famous, and the sticky tables-for-one overflow with empties-for-three; when you drink to forget, pineapple juice just gets in the way.

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A fan of short fiction?  Learn all about my next short release here, and make plans to buy it on March 10th!

Writing Exercise: Pandora’s Random Box

My writing group met yesterday, and, as we love to do, before we got down to the business of being awesome and motivating each other to set new and challenging goals, we did a few group exercises.  Yesterday’s pen-pusher was an old favorite: using the next song to pop up on Pandora as a prompt, you use its title as the title of your piece, then write whatever falls out of your head while we listen to the song.  Is there nothing Pat Benatar can’t do?

“Shadows of the Night”

I feel like an ass falling offa these platform shoes, but in for a penny… I don’t know whose stupid idea this was, or where this yellow mullet wig came from, but here we are, every one of us taller than 6’2, in leather bustier drag waiting to get into this club.  All very underground, very “now” according to J, which doesn’t explain the 80s throwback motif of the line, most of whom will learn about the 80s in History class and probably think a Golden Girl is some kind of glittery tequila shot. But they’re liking the look of our crowd and threatening to let us in, when really all I want is to climb down offa these shoes and go eat some Thai food.

“Guess Who?”

I know there’s somebody out there, except of course there isn’t.  It’s those cats again.  And that mariachi band up the street that thinks “midnight” is English for “start practicing.”  The funny thing is, there’s always so much shit going on back there that Allen could stalk me and lie in wait if he wanted to.  But he doesn’t have the guts, and whatever we had wasn’t worth all that.