I've had such fun of late creating flash fiction tales inspired by pics, that I thought I'd do it again. Here's the one I chose this time around. What do you think of it?
This image, entitled Steam Punk Assassin, from Giby-Joseph is also posted on Pinterest. Notwithstanding its title, it summons a wide range of possible storylines.
I try my best to keep my flash fiction stories within 1000 words. This time, I just hit the mark, after honing the story down, down, down. (It is more difficult than you might think!)
Please take a minute, enjoy, then share your thoughts.
A Minor Magician
My next quote comes from someone likely considered less of an author and more of a philosopher, although certainly he wrote, and that is John Locke (1632-1704). Locke wrote on topics including the consent of the governed, the labor theory of property, and the concept of separating church and state. His works influenced others, including some of the founders of the U.S., namely Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and Thomas Jefferson. Perhaps my favorite John Locke quote is:
War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth a war, is much worse ... A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself . . .
I’ve one more quote here (sometimes attributed to John Locke, other times to other sources), before I move on because it is another I’ve repeated many, many times over the years. It is: “Your liberty to swing your fist ends just where my nose begins.” Or as I like to say it: “Your rights stop where my nose starts.” The idea here is that “rights” are something a person possesses innately, by reason of existence, through no doing of that person’s own, and having required nothing from anyone else. Thus, “rights” include, for example, the right to speak your mind, to practice your religion of choice, and to defend yourself. When you exercise those things, you take nothing from anyone else. It costs your neighbor nothing to allow you to speak; it costs your community nothing for you to worship in your chosen way; it costs your fellow citizens nothing to allow you to defend your life. By contrast, something is not a right and cannot be a “right,” if it requires anything from anyone else. To demand that another provide something to you would be, essentially, for you to make a slave of your neighbor. And so, “your right stops where my nose starts” means that you do not have the “right” to demand anything from me, including my labor or the fruits of it, for your benefit, nor may I demand the like from you. That doesn't mean that we should not help one another. Rather, it means that we cannot force others using the power of the state (which really means, at the threat of the loss of liberty or life), to give from the fruits of our labor to others ... So in the end it seems that this simple quote evokes deep meaning ...
Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and under a just God, cannot long retain it.
The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.
If you were going to be stranded on a desert island for an undetermined period of time, what three books would you want to have with you?
All that said, getting stranded on a distant island sometimes sounds like a holiday. I wonder how long I would procrastinate starting a signal fire ...
Choosing a mere three books is serious business. I think I’ll go with something old, something new, and…
Here goes ...
The 1000 pages or so of Les Miserables are filled with personalities and descriptions that pull in the past, thread in the present, and foreshadow the future. Altogether it reads like poetry, as follows:
If you have not read Les Miserables, I cannot recommend it highly enough. If you are not generally a reader of classics and find the challenge a bit daunting, give yourself permission to skip the parts that don’t speak to you or that are hard to follow. For example, skip over the complicated historical and political issues if you like. Concentrate on the people, and on Hugo’s spellbinding descriptions of their past and present lives. If you rise to the challenge, I am confident you will not regret it.
While it’s hard to pick just one great Dickens work, perhaps there is nowhere he is more amusing than in the opening pages of Great Expectations, first published in 1861. I know. I know. It is intended to be a serious work—and it is, and the opening sets the stage for all the seriousness to come. Still, there is also great humor to be found there.
Once, years ago, when my two youngest were about eight and ten or so, I started reading Great Expectations out loud to them. (I love to read out loud and I do so with a great deal of, shall we say . . . flair, or perhaps, drama would be the correct word here.) Through the first chapter or so, as I read (and this was not my first reading of this work!), I laughed so hard that tears rolled down my face and my stomach hurt. Yes, I know that the story opens with poor Pip staring at his parents’ tombstones. But consider the way Dickens sets forth those facts from Pip’s point of view. Not only do we see with the eyes of a naïve child (who has nevertheless already suffered greatly), but the images we see are, in a word, hilarious. Sad—and hilarious. For example, consider Pip’s contemplation of his father’s tombstone:
Then of his brothers, Pip thinks:
To five little stone lozenges, each about a foot and a half long, which were arranged in a neat row beside their grave, and were sacred to the memory of five little brothers of mine - who gave up trying to get a living, exceedingly early in that universal struggle …
Imagine one the age of young Pip already concerned about making a living … Yes, this passage is sad because in that day, making a living was such a struggle. Even little ones felt it. But there is also something humorously intriguing about the way Pip ponders those things.
Then, there is Dickens' masterful way of summing up the entirety of a person or thing through a few short words. Try the following. Keep the flow going so that the first two sentences move at a normal, almost slow, pace, while from there, it gradually moves more quickly, quickly, quickly, then ends with the last clause slowly ... Ready? Read:
by Patricia Reding
Copyright Patricia Reding 2019
Aiden Piper journeyed from the Burara Wilds, back home, where six years earlier, Fenella’s father, Nigel Duke, had forced Finn Mock to put a spell on him. It happened the day before he and Fenella were to exchange their vows in the cobblestone-paved Dorberg village square. As a consequence, Aiden and his love would remain divided until they broke Finn’s spell. But Nigel, taking no chances, had paid crimpers to trick Aiden, drug him, and then set him aboard a ship that hauled him away.
Soon after awakening in chains, trapped into sea service to the cruel pirate, Wyn More, Aiden fell victim to jungle fever. For months he knew only the mercy of forgetfulness that unconsciousness granted him. But eventually his illness passed and his memories returned. They harassed him unceasingly. He longed for Fenella and the revenge he would have when he returned home where he knew she waited for him.
When the opportunity arose, Aiden jumped at his chance to escape. The cliff from which he dove was higher than the three tallest trees imaginable standing one atop the next. Still, he’d have taken the risk even if that distance had been doubled. Fortunately he resurfaced alive from the water below.
Aiden didn’t have a single copper buckle to his name. Nevertheless, he headed for Dorberg, rendering his services along the way in exchange for food. Occasionally, he picked a pocket, but only after confirming that his mark was truly wealthy, and even then, only when in dire straights. He’d never forget that gelid morning when he awakened, shivering, to find his boots missing. Then there was the time he went for almost a week with naught to eat but a half loaf of stale bread ...
Back in Dorberg, Aiden’s first stop was The Tipsy Dove Inn. Entering, he jingled the buckles in his pocket that he’d won at dice. He was proud to have played without cheating—well, mostly so, anyway.
Sitting in a corner, a hood obscuring his face, he watched his old friend, Payton, tending bar. He surmised that Payton had wed Bronwyn Glynn, daughter of the previous barkeep, as she was waiting tables. Sadly, the intervening years had not treated the now-buxom lass kindly.
No one recognized Aiden, but then he’d yet to cut his scraggly locks or to trim his beard. Also, he remained underweight following his recent adventures. Still, he kept his hood up. Nigel mustn’t hear of his return too soon.
The evening grew late when, unexpectedly, a waitress shuffled to his table. Glancing up, Aiden went speechless. There stood Fenella, so close he could smell her sweet breath.
“Shift change,” she said, setting down a mug of bock roughly. Some sloshed out. A towel in hand, she wiped the table clean. “I’m waitin’ your table now. Need anything ’fore the kitchen closes?”
Aiden struggled to contain his delight in seeing her, but caution won out.
“Bread ... please,” he whispered, eyes downcast.
She set off, then seconds later, delivered his order.
The sight of Fenella encouraged Aiden. He knew how to break the magician’s spell, as Finn Mock had included that information when he’d cast it. Such was required of any mage who didn’t want to risk his life operating contrary to the rules. So to reunite, Aiden and Fenella would have to face Nigel together—since he was the party responsible for the spell—and confirm their undying love for one another.
At closing, Fenella removed her threadbare apron, then tossed it over the bar. “To home!” she exclaimed as she departed.
After leaving payment, Aiden rushed to the Duke estate, grateful for his familiarity with it. At least something good had come of his having served as secretary to Nigel in years past!
He made his way to the man’s study through secret passageways he’d created for his former employer. There, he went about his task, pilfering no small fortune from a lockbox he knew of. Then he absconded—like the thief in the night that he was.
The next morning, his pockets full of coin, Aiden set out for the public baths, then to the barbershop for a grooming. Lastly, he visited the tailor, grateful to find some premade clothing available for purchase. Now he could meet his love!
Throughout the day, Aiden listened for news of Nigel or Fenella. He rejoiced when he discovered the two would dine at The Tipsy Dove Inn that evening.
Handing a street urchin a short unsigned missive along with the last of the buckles he’d stolen from Nigel’s lockbox, Aiden instructed the lad to deliver the note to father and daughter while they dined. It read, “Awaiting you in Nigel’s study. Hurry home! Grievous news.”
At evenfall, sporting striped trousers, a wool cape, and the finest boots available in Dorberg, Aiden returned to Nigel’s study. He poured himself a glass of his former employer’s finest claret. It’s color, bordering on purple, glistened in the firelight. Gazing into its depths, Aiden anticipated the moment he’d reunite with Fenella.
He added a log to the fire. Its crackling flames flickered. Satisfied, he emptied his glass in one swallow and then refilled it again before settling into Nigel’s favorite chair, a tentative smile on his face.
Loud voices soon sounded out from down the hall, interrupting his thoughts. Initially unintelligible, they quickly grew nearer and clearer.
As Aiden stood in anticipation, Fenella’s voice rose out above the shouting, clicking of heels, and clanging of weapons.
“Duncan!” she cried. “Father got a message! Was it from you? Oh, what is happening? Hurry, my beloved husband! Hurry! Hurry to Father’s study!”
Aiden’s grip on his wineglass loosened as he grasped the facts. Fenella loved another. No longer could he face Nigel together with her for the two to swear their undying devotion to one another. No longer could they break Finn Mock’s spell.
With that, Aiden’s glass slipped to the floor where, like his dreams, it shattered.
The Sword of Seysan
by Robin Lythgoe
Copyright Robin Lythgoe 2019
The Trickster Guardian
by P.S. Broaddus
Copyright P.S. Broaddus 2019
It happened like this.
From time to time I read something that doesn’t seem to fit (for me, at any rate) into any traditional genre classification. Such was the case with The Junk Yard Solution: Adventures Among the Boxcars and Other Lost Causes, by Peter Kelton. The story opens with the discovery of Loretta’s body hanging from a cell phone tower in the middle of a village made up of abandoned railroad boxcars populated by a cast of characters one might classify as “misfits.” The boxcars are as uniquely finished and decorated as the personalities that inhabit them. Each of those personalities exhibits its own unusual idiosyncrasies, as does the Federal Marshal, Rick Senate, who investigates Loretta’s death. Throughout the journey to discover Loretta’s killer, the reader is taken along on a series of adventures as parts of the villagers’ past stories are presented.
For me, the most notable part of The Junk Yard Solution, by Peter Kelton, was the cast of characters. There is Loretta herself, who is described as having been “a health nut, a cleanliness freak, [and] a Yogini of the first order.” Loretta had a passion for learning. Then come the actors, Arthur, and his “friend” Oswald (who makes a fine plumber); Cicero who is also known as Don Quixote (and as CVR), who sometimes wears a monk’s robe and is the one to whom the others go with their problems; and Helena, the Chocolate Lady, whose life goal (at age 70) is to travel to India to spread her late husband’s ashes there; to name a few. My personal favorite is the widow, Ellen McDougal, who “converses mostly with her deceased husband, the historian.” I especially enjoy Miss Ellen because she “wanders among the boxcars at night, kind of like an itinerant fundamentalist of a proselytizing faith, quoting The Elements of Style.” Meanwhile, a couple of her neighbors, Jefferson Davis McClandish and Justine, don’t unsettle her in the least when they take up nudism, but they annoy her no end with their incessant use of the word “like.” (Seriously, that is a person I’d like to meet!) The various characters’ lives generally include some details as to how each has been in touch with—or has come within only a couple degrees of separation from—some famous person or event. Those in this odd and entertaining group share two things in common: their dislike of digital life, and their desire to discover who is responsible for Loretta’s murder. Together, these factors make for an interesting afternoon of reading.
The Best and Worst Things About Being an Author
Let's see what Robin Lythgoe, author of As the Crow Flies, has to say.
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In fact, I’ve found that the time of day is far less critical for me than is the prospect of being interrupted. If I know that interruptions are likely to come to me, it is almost impossible for me to get in the correct frame of mind to write. (This explains a lot in terms of my writing over the past months, as my husband was in the hospital a few times this past fall, and when not in, he was home almost continuously. Thus, interruption-less time has been pretty much nonexistent.)
In short, I find that the hardest thing about being an author is getting enough solitude to be productive.
Now for the good news!
So, what is the best thing about being a writer? For me there are two "best things." (Yes, I know that only one thing can really be "the best," but you're following, I'm sure...) Each of these two things is so good that I think it is the best until I consider the other. Thus, I must address them both.
I'd say I speak the English language with a Midwestern dialect. I use legal jargon from time to time, as well as a "faith based" lingo when among particular friends, and sometimes, I use slang. Finally, my writing encompasses specialized terms, which might be identified as the use of an argot (although not for an underworld group or group of thieves) for specific people in my stories.
How about you? What do you speak?
It's Not TOO Late - Even Though It’s Quite Late
― Antonio Porchia
It has been a strange year, sometimes awful, often amazing. [And] in this time of affliction and adversity, it’s Christmas all the time…
Next up is P.S. Broaddus, author of A Hero's Curse.
I just finished reading Jonathan Stroud's Screaming Staircase, and as usual, Stroud has this incredible knack for creating unique and clever voices in his characters. His descriptions are vivid and often hysterical. (His Bartimaeus trilogy was a good example. So that's what I'm doing. Reading good books, drinking a bit of 'nog, and enjoying the Christmasy lights, music, and raucous excitement from the boys.
Now, for my thoughts ...
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What are your earliest memories of reading? Of finding yourself surrounded by the musty smell of books begging you to open their pages, to peruse their inner glories? I know this post will age me, but for me those memories date back to a time when I was growing up in a small rural community.
When I was quite young, we were a single-car family. My father worked elsewhere and “hobby” farmed. My mother was home with us eight—yes, count them—eight children. (Eight “girl” children, to be exact!) As you might expect, this meant that we did not often go places. Entertainment was found in our own backyard. We created stories that we sometimes acted out, encouraging the few other neighborhood children that were around, to engage with us in our make-believe escapades. One of our favorite pastimes was to play “Harriet the Spy,” a game (obviously) named from the book of the same title. With our notebooks in hand, we would try to creep up unaware on one another, taking notes of what they were doing, leaving behind little tidbits for other to find ... Finding someone’s notebook unattended offered a plethora of fascinating information about the antics of others. From whence did ideas of this ilk come? Reading—of course. And, where better to pick up those ideas than from the books we checked out from the bookmobile that made its way to our little community from time to time?
In very early days, some book collections traveled by horseback. By 1900 some libraries sent books by mail to those who could not even reach the traveling collections. Then came the first motorized bookmobile in 1912. In 1929 the term “bookmobile” was coined.
Check out these statistics: in 1950, there were about 600 bookmobiles; by 1956, over 900; by 1970, over 2000. As might be expected, when fuel costs increased, the number of bookmobiles decreased. By 1990 there were only about 1100 remaining, and by 2000, there were fewer than 900—roughly the same number as in 1956.
I think of children today who do not have libraries near them and wonder how many budding geniuses, how many creators of their own stories that could be shared with the world, might be lost with the demise of the bookmobile. For my part, I will always hold dear memories of those sticky hot summer days when my sisters and I would heed the call: “The Bookmobile is Here!”
Reasons for delay! Goodness, but there are so many. So, where does one begin?
I thought we might start with comments from P.S. Broaddus, author of A Hero's Curse. That said, I can't imagine what could possibly stand in Parker's way of getting something, anything, done! It's not like he might be busy at home with his wife and three little boys, or that he spends many hours at his full time job ... Right, Parker?
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Check out Patricia's blog articles, interviews of other authors and book reviews here.