I Accept This Challenge

Earlier this month I entered a short story in a Simon & Schuster challenge hosted by Prose. The challenge is simple enough: Write a story, chapter, essay, whatever that’s 500-2,000 words. Prose will pick the 50 best entries, which will be read for consideration by Simon & Schuster editors. Neat, right? Certainly worth trying (let this be a nudge to other writers).

I was unfamiliar with Prose, so naturally I did a bit of research and poked around their platform. It’s like social media for stories and poetry. Kind of nifty. I’m thinking that I’ll stick around after the challenge. It looks like a good place to throw some freebies up, get some reads, network a little bit (laws knows I am terrible at that).

Speaking of social media, if you’re not following me on Twitter or if you haven’t liked my Facebook page, then you might not know that you can read the challenge stories. That’s right. YOU. For FREE.

I would recommend you start with mine, of course. You know. It’s easier to get started with something new when you’re familiar with someone already involved.

“Take the 55 North” was originally written last summer. I did a trilogy of these stories without really knowing what I was going to do with them. Earlier this year, I decided that they’d integrate quite well into an idea I have for this year’s NaNo project. A very toned and tightened version story was entered into the challenge in order to make the word count. It’ll be expanded during NaNo.

The competition is stiff. I’ve read a lot of good work so far. I encourage you all to read it as well.

But start with mine first.

Murderville: The Last Joke–Episode 5

Puzzle Piece Pawn

The brain tumor information was both intriguing and possibly important, but neither Drew nor Pam could figure out where the information fit into Winchester Harmon’s murder, if it fit at all.  Pam wasn’t sure that it did, but Drew thought it must.  To Pam, it looked like it was a puzzle piece from a completely different puzzle, but it had the same color scheme of the puzzle they were working.

And then came the Sunday paper.

Since Winchester Harmon turned up dead on Pam and Drew’s front step, the police had been very mum about the investigation other than saying it was on going, they were doing everything in their power to solve the case quickly, and, of course, offering the reward for any information leading to an arrest.  But when Pam retrieved the Sunday paper from her corpse-free stoop (she didn’t want to admit that she kept expecting a fresh body to be delivered with the paper every time she opened her front door in the morning, but she did), she settled back in bed next to her lightly snoring husband, opened it up, and found a whole bunch of investigation information splashed all over the front page.

Anonymous sources, the only kind you would expect in an information leak like this, were quoted as saying that though police didn’t think robbery was a motive since Harmon was found with all of his cash, although his very expensive watch was missing.  The motive was still unknown, though the police had questioned the family and the mistresses.  The Frenchman wasn’t mentioned specifically, but there was something about Harmon owing money to a “golf buddy”, though it was said that the family were aware of this debt and didn’t consider it noteworthy, but police were looking for the unidentified buddy anyway.

And then there was the will.

Winchester Harmon’s will seemed to be a source of contention with his family after a reading with the lawyer.  According to the anonymous source, everything apparently went as expected until the end when the lawyer said that there was still a portion of the will remaining but that couldn’t be read.  The family reportedly became indignant about this little secret and boy, was it secret.  None of them had expected it.

Be careful of that money, Pam thought as she sipped her coffee.  No shit, Revolution Dude.

Pretty salacious for the front page, but Murderville did love a good, rich mystery surrounding a death and Winchester Harmon’s certainly played into that.

Pam was on her second read of the article (she didn’t want to miss any potential information) when Drew woke up.  He rolled over and snuggled into her side.  Pam stroked his hair absently.

“Morning,” she said, her eyes glued to the article.  She was almost finished.  “You want some coffee?”

“Do you come with it?”

“Always.”

“Yes, please.”

“Okay,” Pam said.  She finished the last lines of the article and then sat the paper on her husband’s hip.  “Read that while I get you a cup.”

Pam returned to the bedroom with Drew’s cup of coffee to find him sitting up in bed, hunched over the paper, reading intently.  She put the cup on her nightstand next to her own and then climbed gingerly into bed, not wanting to disturb Drew.  Pam sipped her cup of coffee and waited for her husband to finish the article.

“What do you suppose was in the will?” Drew asked, looking up at her.

###

Wanna read more? Check out the Murderville page to find out how.

May Writing Projects

Last month I decided to revise ALL THE THINGS. Well, not all of them. Just 15 short stories and pieces of flash fiction.

Except that I miscounted.

It was actually 17.

But, hey, good news! All 17 items were revised. Yay! All of the flash fictions stories are totally done. Of the four short stories I revised, three will need another pass, but the worst of them is over.

I, too, am shocked at my own productivity.

This month there will be…more revising. But only one story. I’m going to revise Come to the Rocks. I think it’s sat long enough. Time to see what I’ve got and if it’s as magical as I remember it. I’m going to guess no on that. They never are.

I’m also going to start outlining season 2 of Murderville. Right now I’m giving it a tentative green light as The Last Joke has been getting some positive feedback. I’m really hoping to hit the $25 goal before the end of it. So far the audience growth has been slow, but those reading seem to be enjoying themselves and that’s enough of encouragement for my ego.

Speaking of Murderville: The Last Joke, the next episode, “Puzzle Piece Pawn”,  goes live May 9th. Don’t miss out on the fun! Become a patron, catch up on the first four episodes, and tell your friends!

“I’d Never Sleep with a Fat Girl”

There’s a flip side to the “I like big girls” coin and it’s called “I’d never sleep with a fat girl” or some variation of that sentiment.

Oh, yes. It is indeed the same coin. Because declaring that you’d never sleep with a fat girl isn’t that different from proclaiming that you like big girls. It all boils down to the same thing.

Centering the conversation around what gets a guy’s dick hard.

Now, in my personal experience, I’ve had more dudes tell me that they like big girls than that they wouldn’t sleep with a fat girl. However, in the case of the latter, it seems to always be a desperation move on the guy’s part. You can almost smell the panic, almost hear the alarm bells ringing in their head.

Oh my God! I think this fat girl might like me! My friends would never stop giving me shit for that! Quick! Say something to reject her without actually rejecting HER.

I am oblivious when it comes to flirtation. I don’t know when people are flirting with me and I don’t realize that others can interpret my behavior as flirtation when I’m just trying to be my usual funny-to-cover-up-my-awkward self. This sort of interpretation leads to the above panic.

And to my own confusion.

I once had a guy say straight out to me, “I would never sleep with a fat girl” and it was so out of the blue that I was momentarily baffled. It wasn’t until later that the I figured out that the guy was having “fat girl panic”.

On another occasion I had a guy casually remark that he could never date a girl with cottage cheese thighs. I can’t remember how this came up in conversation, but it was so oddly offhand. My first thought was along the lines of “Good luck with that”. Again, thinking about it later I identified the comment for what it was.

Listen, fellas, just like it can be cool if you like big girls, it’s also cool on the flip side of the coin if you don’t. If you’re HONEST about why you don’t. And why you feel compelled to declare it.

Would you never sleep with a fat girl because it’s honestly not your aesthetic? You like them just fine as people, as friends, but for whatever reason, a woman with a generous helping of curves doesn’t get your dick hard? That’s cool. No need to shout it from the rooftops unprovoked like a weirdo. It makes everyone uncomfortable and you look like a jackass. Let it come up in conversation naturally, if you must. Or, if necessary, let it happen in private with the fat girl you’re certain is digging on you and the feeling is not mutual.

But if you wouldn’t sleep with a fat girl because what would the guys think? Wouldn’t consider it because the guys would rag on you endlessly? Even if you really liked the fat girl in question? Even if she got your dick hard? Because the guys would just give you way too much shit? Then here’s what you need to do, skippy.

Get new guys.

Because those bros are reading from society’s worn out script. We’re talking cheesy ’80s sitcom worn out, my dude. And not the good kind of cheese either. It’s a rerun even I wouldn’t watch and I watch them all.

Announcing that you would never sleep with a fat girl is doing more than just stating the obvious, sports fans.

It’s also blaring just how cowed by society and insecure about it you really are.

So, no worries there, guys who would never sleep with a fat girl. Fat girls wouldn’t want to sleep with you anyway.

Because that frail ego flailing? Not a good look.

Writing–When Your Writing To Do List Horrifies Your Great-Aunt

I was talking to my roommate Carrie and my great-aunt at a family dinner on Sunday. Carrie mentioned that my writing to do list frightens her. I tried to explain to my great-aunt that I have A LOT of projects in various states and that I keep them organized in to do lists in One Note. I’ve got one master to do list broken up into categories.

-short stories

-current short story collection (which is different from the short stories list)

-The Storytime Jukebox (which is different from the short stories and short story collection lists)

-flash fiction project

-Murderville

-scripts

-poetry and essays

-novellas

-The Carpenter novellas (which is different from the novellas list)

novels

-The Outskirts novels (which is different from the novels list)

I actually didn’t even list all of the categories before I was stopped by the look of horror on my great-aunt’s face. She probably would have passed out if I told her what was on all of these lists.

I suppose to anyone outside of my brain, this seems like an overwhelming mess. It seems like a never-ending tidal wave of writing projects that threaten to drown me. It seems like a lifetime of work that I think I can do in a year. It seems like way, way too much. I suppose to someone who is not me, it seems like a bit of lunacy. Wouldn’t it be more practical to work on one project at a time, finishing it completely before moving on to the next?

Oh, wow, it would be really neat if I could do that. But I can’t. I’ve tried it and it turns out that it makes me crazy to not have a hundred projects in various states.

I have found that, for me, serious, intense focus on only one project at a time is not beneficial for me. Yes, I can sit down during NaNo and write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. I can write the first draft of just about anything in one go without issue. I can revise one the same way. It can be the MAIN project I focus on, but it can’t be the ONLY project I’m dealing with. My brain is just too full for that, too scattered.

Having so many projects in various states means that something is always getting started, something is always being finished, and something always needs some work. I never run out of projects to work on. Oh, I’ve emptied the writing to do list categories. I’ve only had a few projects going at once. But I’ve never looked at my whole writing to do list and seen it blank.

I never want to.

There’s a comfort in knowing that I always have some writing project to work on. I get bored very quickly when I’m not writing. I don’t know what to do with my hands! Even when I’m taking a break because I really want a break, I NEED a break, I’m sick of writing…I’d still rather be writing.

This horrifying to do list with all of its categories and all of its projects means I always will be.

Murderville: The Last Joke–Episode 4

The Holistic Side of Death

Pam and Drew exchanged information that night while sitting together on the couch, eating a bag of tortilla chips and a jar of homemade salsa for dinner.  They picked every little scrap of conversation apart looking for any clues as to who might have killed Winchester Harmon.  Drew insisted that the Frenchman was out as a suspect since he was too keen on collecting his debt, but it did open up the idea that someone else could have killed Harmon for a debt owed.  Pam couldn’t rule out any of the mistresses, really, and neither did Drew, but they both agreed that of the three, the sexy one would have been the least likely murderer.  Her affair with Winchester Harmon was almost as much of a business deal as she claimed Winchester Harmon’s marriage to his wife was.  Murder is bad business when you work in affairs.

By the time they went to sleep that night, all they really had was a suspect list, a couple of possible motives, no evidence, and no hint as to why a very wealthy man would be in such a questionable neighborhood at such an ungodly hour.

And then their little investigation was once again relegated to the back burner by the demands of life.  The lunch Drew’s bosses made him and the rest of the crew go to demanded overtime to make up for it; meanwhile, Pam found herself suddenly inundated with her freelance bookkeeping clients having one number emergency after another requiring her to work much longer hours to untangle their various messes.

When Pam woke up on Saturday afternoon, she rolled over and looked at her husband and realized it had been two days since she’d last actually spoken to him.  All they’d done was sleep in the same bed for a few hours at the same time and though Pam occasionally talked in her sleep, she wouldn’t count that as an actual conversation.

She wanted to wake up Drew and get as much time as she could with him before some sort of emergency cropped up in life that took either her or him away, but instead, she let him sleep, knowing he was exhausted from the past two days of work.  It was a miracle that the foreman wasn’t making the crew work on a weekend, but the trade-off was starting an hour earlier and then working two hours later.  There was the illusion that the money would be worth it, but Pam did books for a living.  She knew that money was already spent long before Drew brought home the paycheck.

Pam double-checked the weekend schedule (she didn’t work weekends and Drew had no birthday parties requiring his magical skills scheduled) and decided to let Drew sleep as late as he wanted while she cleaned the house as quietly as she could.

By noon, the house was clean, Drew was up, and lunch/breakfast was had.

By two, Pam and Drew were cuddled up contentedly on the couch, each of them reading their own book.  When someone knocked on the front door, Pam almost considered not answering it.  By the way Drew tightened his arm around her, she knew he was thinking the same thing.

Pam answered the door anyway.

She was greeted by a huge floral arrangement, an array of puffy yellow, white, and orange flowers in a huge vase.  Pam stared at it for a second in startled confusion.

“Hello,” came a voice from the other side of the flowers.  “Is this the Bendixen residence?”

“Yes,” Pam said, straining to see around the flowers.

The flowers moved to one side, revealing two handsome young men, both of them blond, bearing a striking resemblance to each other as well as someone else that Pam couldn’t quite name.

“I’m Alexander Harmon,” said the man holding the flowers.  “This is my brother Nathaniel.”

Pings of recognition went off in Pam’s brain.

“Oh, yes!  Winchester Harmon’s sons,” she said.

“That’s right,” Alexander Harmon said with a well-practiced, professional smile.

“Our mother wanted us to come by,” Nathaniel said.  He projected a much stiffer persona.  Pam figured him to be older.  “She wanted to thank you for being so kind in sending the sympathy card and coming to the funeral.”

“Oh, that’s not necessary,” Pam said, remembering how Carolyn Harmon initially confused her for one of her husband’s mistresses.

“It’s the least we could do,” Alexander said and there was something about the tone of his voice that made Pam think that the least was still too much for the likes of them.

“That’s very kind.”

Alexander offered her the flowers and Pam took them, not surprised at how heavy the huge arrangement was.  She shifted the arrangement to her hip like it was a toddler.

“Our mother told us that you were the one that found our father,” Nathaniel said.  He showed no emotion, but Alexander suddenly looked very solemn, if not a little uncomfortable.

“That’s right.”

“Where?”

Pam hesitated a second.  “Right where you’re standing.”

###

Wanna read more? Check out the Murderville page to find out how.

New in the Storytime Jukebox- Notorious

Notorious

They looked at her with fear and pity, the ones that knew.  But didn’t everyone know?  Everyone in the neighborhood certainly did, but she was sure the whole city recognized her.  It had been in the papers and on the news for what seemed like years, her picture plastered everywhere.

But she didn’t hide.  She didn’t move.  As soon as she healed, she went back to her life, picking up where she left off.

She went back to work.  She shopped for groceries.  She went to the bars, refusing to avoid the one with the bad memories attached to it.  She stopped at the coffee shop and wandered through the bookstore.  She ate popcorn at the movies and giggled with girlfriends over dinner at restaurants.

But it felt as though her life still wasn’t being lived.  It was hanging in a suspended animation of sorts even though it had been YEARS since it’d happened.  She had insisted on staying in town and it was like that stopped the whole process of moving on right in its tracks.  Because everywhere she went, people stared.  She’d managed to move on, she’d come to terms with it, she’d gotten used to it, but they hadn’t.

***

This is a super short story, but there’s still plenty left to read. Stop by the Storytime Jukebox and drop in some coin.

April Writing Projects

Since the only writing projects I really needed to do last month was finishing the first drafts of Come to the Rocks and “August 8, 2015” (it turned out to be a short story!), I ended up with the last two weeks of March free. I ended up spending that time doing a little spruce up on the sidebar of the blog, making a few minor tweaks to The Storytime Jukebox (it is what it is, man), revising a short story called “Notorious” that will hopefully end up in the Jukebox, and writing ten flash fiction stories for a potential project that may or may not happen.

I’m annoying like that.

April will be the month of revision! I’ll revise “Grandma’s Funeral”, “A Girl’s Best Friend”, “Suicide Paris Green”, and “August 8, 2015”. I’ll also try to revise/polish “Notorious”, which will end up in the Jukebox, if all goes well.

And then there’s the matter of revising all of that the flash fiction for the potential project.

Yes, I’m going to try to revise fifteen stories all told next month. I don’t think I’m going to even come close to that, but if I can get a good chunk of them done, then I’m sitting pretty.

In a metaphorical sense, of course.

The next episode of Murderville: The Last Joke goes live on the 11th. $1 lets you read; $2 lets you read AND you get bonus content, like the special little ditty that will be dropping for the $2 patrons this month. Don’t miss out! Read the teasers for episodes one, two, and three, and then haul a little booty over to Patreon so you can read the whole thing!

“I Like Big Girls”

It never fails. Whenever I point out the bullshit way society treats fat women, drilling into everyone’s heads that they’re somehow unworthy of any sort of love, sex, or happiness, some dude needs to jump into my mentions with the same tired statement.

“I like big girls.”

Really? Well, good for you. If you’re looking for bonus points for bucking society’s rules of attraction, I’m afraid I’m all out of gold stars. Sorry, fella.

Tell me, my dude, since you’re so keen to make this all about you, why do you like big girls?

Do you like them because you’re genuinely attracted to them? Is that the aesthetic that truly pleases you? The image that gets you hard? Or is it convenience that they represent? The worn out thought that a fat girl will settle for the less of the less, any crumb of attention thrown her way, therefore she’s an easy score and good for your ego? Or is it something in between? Sexual gratification solely because she’s fat with little regard to what kind of a human she is? Or that she’s human at all?

I know that guys like big girls, despite what society instructs. Even if I’d never been hit on by a man in my life, the fact that people find my blog searching “mature chubby fucks” would clue me in. And I know, deep in my cold, black heart that for some guys, fat girls are just peachy. They’re into them for the whole package, not just the aesthetic, not just for perceived convenience.

It’s the declaration that grates me right down to my last nerve.

Guys, take a little advice from a fat girl. Instead of loudly proclaiming “I like big girls” at every opportunity, why don’t you put some fucking thought into your words? For clarity’s sake. Saying you like big girls is lazy and muddled. Just be clear. If you get off on fat girls because that’s your fetish, own it and say so. If you like fat girls because you think they’re desperately easy, then say that (I can’t guarantee that this will help YOU out any, but it will do many favors for the rest of humanity). If you dig fat girls because that’s your “type”, then say it plainly. And if you think that society’s rules about who deserves love, who is allowed to be attractive, who is qualified to be sexy is fucking bullshit, then put that thought in the appropriate words and shout it from the fucking rooftops.

The point is that this conversation need not be centered around you, champ. It’s not the time for free advertisement for your dating profile, nor is it a good opportunity to look for a pat on the back.

You can be supportive without involving your own ego.

Try it. You might like it.

At the very least, you won’t be irritating the fuck out of this fat girl.

Let It Be

I have a yearly motto.

Well, I do now.

It started unofficially last year. I wrote a question on my quote board so I could see it and ask myself throughout the year: “What would someone who loved herself do?” And this became my sort-of-motto for the year. The idea was to ask myself this question in certain situations as a way to break me of constantly shoving myself down on my own priority list. It allowed me to be selfish in a healthy way.

This year I intentionally set a motto: Let It Be.

Yes, I know it’s also a Beatles song/album.

The point of this year’s motto is for me to learn not to obsess over and try to control things that don’t need to be obsessed over/controlled.

I have a tendency to fixate on the speed of things. I need everything to happen sooner than it does. And I obsess over the fact that things aren’t progressing at the speed that I wish them to progress. And I try to control that speed.

What I have discovered in doing this repeatedly over the years (because you know I do everything the hard way) is that it only succeeds in driving me crazy and sometimes forcing things to happen before they should happen, usually to unfortunate ends.

Because I am a hard-headed donkey of a person, it makes sense that I would come up with a motto for 2017 to remind me to…well…let it be.

Put in the work, put in the effort, do what needs to be done. Then let it be.

Let things happen when they’re supposed to happen.  Let it be.

If you have to force it (most of the time), then it’s not ready/time/whatever. Let. It. Be.

I am hoping that a year of this motto will drill it into my fool head that my time can be better spent doing something that’s actually productive rather than screwing myself into the ground trying to control something that’s not meant to be controlled. Maybe I might learn that it’s okay to not control everything. Maybe I might learn that it’s not really me giving up control, but in reality recognizing what I truly do control.

Not something exactly revolutionary to those not prone to being uptight (and man, can I be uptight about some things), but I think my blood pressure will thank me in the end.

Yeah, man. Let it be.