Sunday Prose 5

color-smoke-grenade

I’ve spent more time than usual thinking about writing this week. Not my own writing, I sink into that dark, sloppy, porous ground often, but the prose of others. Or how writers can do things with plot, structure, word choice, cleverness etc… that I can’t. It would be easy to get discouraged when you read outstanding flash fiction. It would be easy to become jealous of other writers depth of skill and the success that follows. And when the depression is broiling in my mind, sometimes that negative junk fills the cranium. The lovely chant of I’m not good enough. I am a worthless hack. I write like a child. My ravishing face is an aphrodisiac to women, men, and the big cats of Africa. Oh, that last one occurs on the narcissistic days not the depressed ones. Oops.

Ultimately, knowing there are über-talented writers out in digital world is a good thing. Not only do I get the opportunity to read a story that moves me at my core, that makes me stare at walls for hours in some kind of emotional trance, but I also get to learn from them. The best way to improve your writing is to read others who do it better. It’s that simple. Peel away the arrogance that all writers wear like a mink parka, and let more accomplished writers illuminate the path with their mastery of precision, thought, imagery, and word manipulation.

This week on Sunday Prose I’ve included six stories instead of the usual three because I’m going to switch these posts to once a month instead of once a week. My laziness is a brutal dictator.

Pour some sugar on me. Or in me. My new diet is killing me softly.

Let’s do this!

 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

* A Lesser Cement by Anna Lea Jancewicz (FLAPPERHOUSE)
A love story involving a hammer? Yes, please.

* Timeshare by Dolan Morgan (Third Point Press)
A lesson in restraint and brevity. Beautiful in a weird, poignant way. So good.

* The Jigsaw Puzzles by Rebecca Harrison (Cease, Cows)
The descriptions in this story are vivid and fantastic. Love every word of this emotional tale.

* Them Boys by Ron Gibson, Jr. (Spelk Fiction)
I actually commented at the time this was first published. Still resonates. Get your grit on, yo.

* The Raptor and the Boy by Len Kuntz (Jellyfish Review)
Dark and disturbing story with a side of comeuppance. My kind of flash.

* On the Way to the Killing Spree the Shooter Stops for Pizza by Tom McAllister (Sundog Lit)
This is more short story than flash but I had to include it. Remains one of my favorite pieces of writing. So detailed and profound. Imagery is off the charts. Phenomenal.

J ~ J = { }

tumblr_n10513RdUq1qjt9zto1_500

flies track scent
all of you
filleted skin
raw paper tongue
heart like a sewer

swat them with bones
pledge allegiance to
forged resilience
suture the Why

maneuver of pride
hides your wreckage
in breathless box
kiss of shadow

naive pale soldier
they will find you
in a polluted heap
chewing her name

#MoreThanMean

photography-liquid-smoke

This video has been circulating on social media today. Women are harassed online at levels I can’t even comprehend. And when it comes to sports, female reporters are routinely threatened, marginalized, belittled, and treated like an inferior human. The staff at Just Not Sports put this video together with the help of director Chad Cooper to shine a spotlight on this troubling issue. The comments in the video are real words used by men on Twitter, lobbed at Julie DiCaro and Sarah Spain, two sports journalists. They asked other men to read these insults to the victims faces. It’s difficult to watch, and the poise and strength shown by both of them is admirable. A lesson in composure and resilience for everyone.

Men, we need to do better. Stop with the spewing of hatred at women online. Think before you type. Choose class over trash. And ask yourself if menacing women on the internet makes you feel good about your character, maturity, and growth as a human being.

As I mentioned, this video isn’t easy to watch. But it’s powerful and repulsive and needs to be seen by all men.

Sunday Prose 4: FlashDog Edition

animal-black-and-white-dog-smoke-wolf-Favim.com-128180

It’s easy to forget where it all began. Life happens, we change and move in different circles. Maybe things get stale and boring, and stifling yawns becomes our sole physical activity. Or our ego takes control and pulls us away from the familiar and safe. Maybe we slide into solitude and make love to the dark contour of a past love. Whatever the reason, the end result is that we tend to shun the birth and celebrate the growth. Or at least I do.

I’ve had some success with my writing. Some publications I’m extremely proud of, as well as contests I’ve fared well in. And without ever taking a writing class and only writing for a short time, well, it’s all pretty surreal. But I wouldn’t be the writer I am today without the FlashDogs. Their guidance and support have made a significant impression on me. My gratitude is immense.

The Flashdogs are an international cabal of talented writers. We’ve put out anthologies together, and competed against one another in various flash fiction contests. Members are always quick with a kind word or a digital pat on the back when you’re struggling with an issue of some sort. They read your stories and offer comments and feedback. And I know that if I ever had a question about writing or anything really, I could reach out to any of them and they wouldn’t mind. Heck, when my heart gave out last year, a charming bloke offered me a fresh one from one of his most recent victims. Thank you, Shakes! (Though my new heart makes me spell colour the weird way.)

Our community welcomes the gregarious and the bashful. Those comfortable under the spotlight and those who hide beneath shadows. Writing is exposing yourself to the masses. Our delirious mind is ripped apart and spilled across the page. It takes a certain amount of courage to share our stories, to send our work to journals knowing that we will probably be rejected. Self-doubt takes root. We cringe at every sentence. But we keep plugging away, resolute against a deluge of insecurities. And we help one another by being selfless and kind, by caring about words that spring from England, Scotland, Belgium, the Netherlands, a little town populated by handsome sociopaths called Hamilton, and so many other places across the globe. This is our community.

This week on Sunday Prose you will see various stories from the Flashdogs. I didn’t want to link to contest stories, or anything that had a fee attached. The whole point is to just click on a title and read away. But that made it difficult and I couldn’t pick the exact stories that I wanted to in every case. And I truly hate leaving folks out. Eventually I’ll do another edition and include the writers not mentioned below. What started out as three stories grew to more than a dozen. That being said, I won’t be offering my thoughts. I just wanted to get my friends words out there in the blogosphere. Please take a moment and read their work.

*****

Dinner With a Side of Everlasting Happiness by Grace Black (Sick Lit)

Feeder by Mark King (Maudlin House)

Vapor Trails by Voima Oy (Visual Verse)

Bruised by Elaine McKay (100 Word Story)

Silhouette by Jacki Donnellan (FlashFlood Journal)

Jump by Steph Ellis (Visual Verse)

Appearances and Disappearances by Catherine Connolly (Paper Swans)

The Human Factor by Bart Van Goethem (Flash Fiction Magazine)

Death Smells Like Bananas by Carlos Orozco (Molotov Cocktail)

The Rising by Karl Russell (Synaesthesia Magazine)

Silence by Liz Hedgecock (The Journal of the Compressed Creative Arts)

Footprints by Sal Page (FlashFlood Journal)

Unheard Frequencies by F.E. Clark (Visual Verse)

He Lies In Oak by Avalina Kreska (Visual Verse)

Witch Pegs by David Shakes (Wattpad)

Apocalypsia by Tamara Rogers (Flash Fiction Magazine)

Sunday Prose 3

blue-smoke

Do you ever wake up hating yourself? Not the self-pitying, I’m worthless kind of thing, that sad dope we sling to friends and family in search of sympathy and validation. There’s a place for that woe-is-me junk, I use it often, but that’s not what I’m talking about here.

Yesterday I wrote a post that was going to be this post. I worked on it off and on between baseball games, cleaning, and thoughts of abandoned love. You know, when folks don’t walk away from a relationship, they run like Carl Lewis straight to the Witness Protection Program. They leave behind a wounded bird. I’m veering into that woe-is-me territory rather quickly. Focus!

Anyway, yesterday I was going for a humorous post. I set it up with a pretty solid opening paragraph. It worked. Some dry humor, a dose of self-deprecation. There was potential there. Until I carpet-bombed everything with a ridiculously stupid scene. A stranger knocks on the door, I answer. We engage in a weird conversation. I really thought I nailed it at first. It read funny to me. I was like I am a WordPress God! I knew that digital pink carnations would be tossed at me like I was the lead singer of Winger. I would win back the girl, solve world poverty, and sail a yacht to Greece with Victor, my pet Red-Tailed Hawk. My post would win a Grammy. Maybe a Golden Globe. A Purple Heart.

Until I read it this morning with fresh eyes.

My goodness. It was an abomination. I literally cringed as I read it. Even my coffee cringed. It was a horror show of amateurish humor and juvenile writing. I deleted every word within minutes of waking up. And I wrote this version instead. Wait, what if this post is just as awful as the first attempt? Welp, back to thoughts of abandoned love…

*******

Welcome to Sunday Prose 3. As always, I’ll provide links to three stories that I find to be outstanding and worthy of sharing. The first few weeks I’ll most likely link flash that I’ve shared on social media at some point in the past. But I’ve never posted them on the blog.

As Shakespeare once sang: “If my rhyme was a drug, I’d sell it by the gram. Keep my composure when it’s time to get loose. Magnetized by the mic while I kick my juice.”

 

We eat with our eyes. Fill your plate below.

 

Tiger Blood by Bud Smith (Hobart)
Give me weird flash with a heart all day long. Phenomenal writing.

 

What There Is To Be Done With This Silence by Janet Frishberg (WhiskeyPaper)
Loss and art are truly compatible. This one landed in my throat.

 

Life by Donald Ray Pollock (PEN America)
I’m cheating with Pollock, as he’s pretty well-known and I’m a huge fan of his style. This is just a taste of his genius, but his bleak world draws me in every time.

 

Wallace On Writing

bob-rifo-smoke

I was thinking about doing a post about writing until I remembered this passage and another quote by the peerless David Foster Wallace. I don’t idolize famous people, I think it’s weird, harmful, and a bit silly. But I do develop a massive amount of respect for certain folks. Wallace is one of them. Enjoy.

In the beginning, when you first start out trying to write fiction, the whole endeavor’s about fun. You don’t expect anybody else to read it. You’re writing almost wholly to get yourself off. To enable your own fantasies and deviant logics and to escape or transform parts of yourself you don’t like. And it works – and it’s terrific fun. Then, if you have good luck and people seem to like what you do, and you actually start to get paid for it, and get to see your stuff professionally typeset and bound and blurbed and reviewed and even (once) being read on the a.m. subway by a pretty girl you don’t even know it seems to make it even more fun. For a while. Then things start to get complicated and confusing, not to mention scary. Now you feel like you’re writing for other people, or at least you hope so. You’re no longer writing just to get yourself off, which — since any kind of masturbation is lonely and hollow — is probably good. But what replaces the onanistic motive? You’ve found you very much enjoy having your writing liked by people, and you find you’re extremely keen to have people like the new stuff you’re doing. The motive of pure personal starts to get supplanted by the motive of being liked, of having pretty people you don’t know like you and admire you and think you’re a good writer. Onanism gives way to attempted seduction, as a motive. Now, attempted seduction is hard work, and its fun is offset by a terrible fear of rejection. Whatever “ego” means, your ego has now gotten into the game. Or maybe “vanity” is a better word. Because you notice that a good deal of your writing has now become basically showing off, trying to get people to think you’re good. This is understandable. You have a great deal of yourself on the line, writing — your vanity is at stake. You discover a tricky thing about fiction writing; a certain amount of vanity is necessary to be able to do it all, but any vanity above that certain amount is lethal.”

 

“What the really great artists do is they’re entirely themselves. They’re entirely themselves, they’ve got their own vision, they have their own way of fracturing reality, and if it’s authentic and true, you will feel it in your nerve endings.”

Ecru Skin

images (7)

A massive thank you to Charlie Fish for publishing my story Ecru Skin at Fiction on the Web. It’s a wonderful online journal with a plethora of tantalizing tales waiting to be devoured. Give it a look when you have the time.

You can read my story here

{Also, this is a work of fiction. I am not infatuated with someone above me. Not sure why I feel the need to mention this. Alas…}

images (6)