Posted in Challenges and Contests, Flash Fiction Pieces, Story a Day May Challenge, Writers' Resources, Writing in Freedom, Writing Samples

Playing With Her Dolls for Story A Day May; Day Nine

Public Courtesy Warning: This story edges into adult territory, and might not be suitable for work or reading where younger kids might peek over your shoulder.

Playing With Her Dolls

Marilyn is playing with her dolls again.

“There’s our nun in her wimple. Doesn’t she look stunning?”

She looks at Ophelia, and seems to need some kind of answer, so Ophelia plays along. “Is a nun supposed to look stunning?”

No answer from Marilyn. She dances the naked, wimpleless nun toward another doll. “And this one’s a man in a cowboy hat, and boots – and nothing else. He works at a strip club, and the nun in the wimple – she’s Sister Sarah, see? – she can’t decide if she wants him or wants to save him. What do you think?”

Ophelia thinks maybe her sister is more than a little crazy, and that maybe she shouldn’t be here all alone, trying to handle the seemingly endless succession of trips – Marilyn will take anything, anytime, and she seems to always have something. Ophelia’s in over her head, here, and she knows it.

But she can’t say that to Marilyn.

“I think it depends.”

“On what?”

“Lots of things. Whether she’s into men. Whether she’s into God more than men. Whether she’s worried that she will go to hell if she’s with him.”

It’s usually best to play along, at least so long as Marilyn isn’t hurting herself. That’s what they said when she refused to stay in rehab, anyway.

It works, this time. Marilyn smiles. “She’s into men. Really, really into them. Waaay more than she’s into God, matter of fact. And she wants him – because she can see right off what he’s packing down south. And she makes him point it due north.” She giggles and mimes an erection as tall as the “man.”
Ophelia wants to get her into psychiatric care, or, if that won’t work, maybe even have her arrested – that’s what’s best for the baby, maybe.

Except that it’s already too late for the baby. That’s what the doctors say, anyway. “No chance of a normal life.”

Not that Marilyn’s life has been normal.

“And it’s a rainy night.” Her sister mimes a downpour now. She’s sitting cross-legged on the bed, her face totally earnest, like she’s a little girl of maybe four years old – a little girl with a very dirty mind. “So, they’re at this tavern, where the barkeep has a handlebar mustache with a red and white polka-dotted tie.”

“And then what happens?” The baby is a lost cause – but Marilyn won’t even talk about the baby, or being pregnant. It’s like she’s getting younger as her belly grows rounder and rounder.

“Don’t you know?” She grins mischievously at Ophelia.

“Nope.”

“The two of them sneak of to a corner booth. See? It’s really dark, and the booth is big.” The two dolls go off to a corner of the bed, and then the “cowboy” climbs on top of the “nun in the wimple” – who certainly doesn’t seem to be taking her vows seriously. “And then they get busy.”

“And what about the barkeep?” Ophelia tries not to focus on the ragdoll love, but Marilyn’s doing all the sound effects, and that makes it all but impossible.

“Oh. Him. Well, he’s not really in this story.”

Ophelia sits and watches as Marilyn plays her little-girl games with the libido of a grown woman – and a part of her wishes that she wasn’t really in this story, either.

What’s wrong with the baby?

Why doesn’t Ophelia have any help with her?

What’s next?

Any guesses?

Come back tomorrow for another installment, and we can explore this new story seed together!

Posted in Challenges and Contests, Flash Fiction Pieces, Story a Day May Challenge, Writers' Resources, Writing in Freedom, Writing Samples

Interrupted Trip for Story A Day May; Day Six

Interrupted Trip

Marilyn feels like she’s melting into the couch again – but she doesn’t want to be the couch, or have the couch be her, either, right now.

What she wants is a cigarette.

But damned Anna the cook thinks she runs the entire house, and she can smell smoke miles away. There’s nowhere inside where she won’t smell it, and it doesn’t even matter if Marilyn smokes cloves instead of tobacco.

She’s tried vaping, but it doesn’t work for her. The cold hard metal interrupts her trip. That’s no good – she can’t always find a guy to let her pay him for what she wants in sex. When she can, she doesn’t want to waste the high.

But today – today she’s got enough for a week’s worth of good trips, more if she’s careful. And she’s got a pack of cloves – if she smokes them outside, Anna will be none the wiser, and she’ll be able to pretend she’s in a Madagascar market or something else that’s exotic.

Somewhere – anywhere! – that’s not here.

Here, with a mother who wants nothing to do with her, because, “You remind me of that ass I married, who thought tropical waters were just fine to take a dip into.”

She wished Mom wouldn’t talk like that, when she was little. But, now – now that she’s growing up, Mom says she looks just like her damned father, sounds just like her damned father.

How is she supposed to not be like a father she can’t remember even ever having seen? A father who was gone out of her life before she was three years old?

Damn. She doesn’t want to think about that anymore.

She takes another hit, and heads to the front door. It’s going to be a great trip – a better than great trip. A damned vacation, right there in her own head, without ever living this damned house that Mom forbid her to leave.

She takes a deep breath, imagining she’s already filling her lungs with sweet clove smoke. It’s going to be a fantastic, one-of-a-kind trip.

Marilyn opens the door halfway, and it catches on something and won’t go further. She stares down. For a moment, she doesn’t understand. Her brain is ready for a trip, and it doesn’t include the dead body of her mother.

That’s an interruption her trip can’t recover from.

Has Marilyn really found her mother’s body?

Is this part of the trip?

Why was she forbidden to leave the house?

Any guesses?

Come back tomorrow for another installment, and we can explore this new story seed together!

Posted in Challenges and Contests, Flash Fiction Pieces, Story a Day May Challenge, Writers' Resources, Writing in Freedom, Writing Samples

“Don’t Die” for Story A Day May: Day Five

“Don’t Die”

Ophelia sighs. That run was just what she needed – and, with Marilyn finally safely in rehab, she was able to just run, without worrying what was going on with her sister.

Strange, that she’d always thought the daughter Sean Martin had with his lawfully wedded wife had it better than the illegitimate one he’d made on a Hawaiian fling. But she’d had a loving, stable mother, and a happy home. Her mom had always told her that she was “the pearl of great price” in her life.

That’s not how it had been for Marilyn.

Her mother had resented the child she’d been left with, and hated the man who left her. She’d gone into a downward spiral of alcohol, then drugs.

Maybe it’s no wonder Marilyn is in the predicament she’s in. She’s been exposed to those things since she was only a baby. Maybe she’d never had a chance.

Ophelia is trying not to feel guilty about that. It’s not like she was there, and it’s not like Marilyn’s father had told her own mother that he already had a wife and child. No, he’d saved that until later, when he was ready to go home to that family, leaving Misa to discover she was pregnant, and raise Ophelia alone.

But now she’s here, and she’s seen what happened to Marilyn. She wants to call her mother, thank her for bearing the burden of raising a daughter all alone, and doing in it a way that always let her think that burden was some kind of a gift. She wants to go back in time, to fix things for Marilyn, but that’s not possible.

She can only help fix them going forward. And only if Marilyn’s ready, and willing to do a hell of a lot of very hard work to get herself clean, and learn other ways of coping.

Ophelia hopes she is.

She gets to her door. She’s got a tiny studio apartment, with an alcove by the door she calls her “office.” She loves this place – the first one she’s ever had all of her own.

She lets herself in, and turns to hang her keys in their place in the alcove –

Her hand covers her mouth, the keys jabbing into her lip, cold and metallic-tasting.

The whiteboard in her office alcove has a message that wasn’t there when she left.

“Whatever happens, don’t die. See you Monday.”

It’s scrawled, but not in dry-erase marker, because it’s dripping. Paint?

Is it meant to be some kind of joke?

Is it a threat?

Who wrote it?

There is a sudden sound from further into the apartment – from the corner where she had her daybed, screened by mosquito netting, to remind her of home. She clutches the keys, wriggling them so they poke out between her fingers like weapons, and peers around the corner in the direction of her bed.

She can see something mounded there. It isn’t her laundry – that’s overflowing its basket beside the bed, not on it – or the bedding, because she made the bed before she left.

Then the shape moves, with a soft moaning sound.

What or who is in Ophelia’s apartment?

Is it the same person who wrote the message?

Is the message a warning – or a threat?

Any guesses?

Come back tomorrow for another installment, and we can explore this new story seed together!

Posted in Challenges and Contests, Story a Day May Challenge, Writing in Freedom, Writing Samples

Three Minutes for Story A Day May: Day Four

Three Minutes

Three minutes.

Marilyn sits on the toilet, the stick she’s just peed on still in her hand.

Three minutes.

That’s all she has to wait here in the marble-walled bathroom that looks like it belongs in a five-star hotel.

That’s an eternity.

She’s always felt like a stranger here.

She doesn’t want to set the stick down on the spotless, shining counter. She arranges the box so she can rest it there, and her fingers trail away, off to the zippered case that’s the only other thing in this room that truly belongs to her.

Or is it that she belongs to what’a in the case?

What difference does it make?

None, really.

What matters isn’t the stick, or what it says –

Well, okay, that does matter, more than a little.

It might change her life.

It might take her away from her zippered case, and what it holds.

But she’s got three minutes.

That’s time enough. She doesn’t know yet. It doesn’t matter that she’s sick all the time, peeing constantly, that her breasts hurt and her belly is heavy.

Until she reads that stick, she doesn’t know. She can do what she wants. Until she knows, she doesn’t have to worry about how anything will affect anyone but her. A baby isn’t real until she knows there’s going to be one, right?

“Of course it isn’t,” she answers herself, and her voicebounces around the room, and Marilyn imagines it leaving little dirty stains on every surface it touches.

She pulls the case to her without bothering to get off the toilet, or even pull up her pants. She opens it.

She still has two minutes.

What’s in Marilyn’s case?

Is it related to the potential baby?

What does the stick say?

Any guesses?

Come back tomorrow for another installment, and we can explore this new story seed together!

Posted in Challenges and Contests, Flash Fiction Pieces, Story a Day May Challenge, Writers' Resources, Writing in Freedom, Writing Samples

Still and Strange Story A Day May: Day Three

Still and Strange

“Marilyn? Are you in here?”

There’s no answer, only some faintly disturbing sounds coming from somewhere deeper in the house – Marilyn’s room, maybe? Ophelia listens, tipping her head to pinpoint where the repetitive sounds are coming from. This damned mansion is so huge and empty, it’s hard to tell.

Things echo.

It makes her shiver, but she doesn’t know why.

She takes a step. Listens. Takes two more. Listens. Pinpoints a likely doorway, and heads for it.

Yes. The sounds are more distinct; she can follow them through a vast room with wine-red walls and marble trimmings. It makes her think of an empty heart. She hurries through – she doesn’t like this space, or this house. But it’s where her sister lives –

And something about Marilyn’s message says that she’s in trouble.

Again.

And she’s all alone in this huge, hollow, house.

That makes Ophelia hurry. Room after room. She doesn’t pause to look; she just gets a faint sense of color, shape – and a uniform cold sterility.

Was this ever really a home to Marilyn?

She can hear murmuring now, along with that rhythmic noise. Short bursts of Marilyn – chanting? – and punctuations of heavy breathing, short and tight.

She’s getting close – but now her steps slow, and her heart is a too-large burden in her chest.

Ophelia needs to go to her sister. And she doesn’t want to.

Things are never easy with Marilyn. Everything’s got complications and land mines with no markers. Every word and breath might bring disaster.

“They call him the Doll Maker.” That’s what Marilyn’s chanting, sing-song, and yet somehow flat. Hollow, like this damned mansion that looms in from all around. “They call him the Doll Maker.”

Ophelia reaches a door. It’s cracked open. Marilyn is inside.

So is whatever today’s trouble is.

“They call him the Doll Maker, Doll Maker, Doll Maker.”

Ophelia pushes the door open. The room is huge, but crowded with tacky furniture, like what people might put out free on the road, or shove into their basements.

Marilyn is on a battered and ugly plaid couch, her back to the door, long golden hair snarled and stringy, but still shining in the gloom.

Rapunzel, Ophelia thinks, for no reason, and reminds herself that this isn’t a fairy tale. This is her sister, and she’s in trouble.

Marilyn is moving rhythmically, and still chanting about the Doll Maker. Is it a song she’d learned as a little girl?

“Marilyn?”

“They call him the Doll Maker, Doll Maker, Doll Maker.”

Ophelia edges closer. She sees a pile of something soft, and something glinting in Marilyn’s hand as she raises and lowers it.

And she sees the gallon of orange juice, half gone.

That tells her Marilyn is tripping – something she should probably have already guessed, by the flat chanting.

She isn’t going to get a coherent answer. Marilyn never trips halfway – even now that she’s pregnant. Ophelia’s tried to talk her out of it. Marilyn’s tried to stop, again and again.

She’s trapped. In this hateful house. In her addictions. In the pain that causes them.

Ophelia hates that more than the house. What did her father do to Marilyn, when he ran off to be with her own mother?

“They call him the Doll Maker, Doll Maker, Doll Maker.”

He broke her, that’s what.

Ophelia edges around. Marilyn is hacking at a pile of what looks like Raggedy Ann dolls with a pair of scissors. Her hands are bleeding.

And her swollen belly is so close to those blades!

Ophelia gets closer, sits on the edge of the bed. She waits, breath stopped, until Marilyn lifts the scissors again, then reaches out and gently cradles her sister’s hand.

Marilyn blinks. “They call him the Doll Maker, Ophelia.”

“I know.” Truth is, though, she doesn’t. She doesn’t have a clue what to do to fix what their father broke. All she has is instinct, so she goes with it. “Tell me about him.”

“No one ever talks about it, but – shhh! It’s a secret!” She goes still and strange, then points at the mass of mutilated ragdolls with her free hand. She whispers, “They all have the same face. Every. Single. One!”

What’s happening in Marilyn’s mind?

Is it related to her past?

Will Ophelia be able to help her?

Any guesses?

Come back tomorrow for another installment, and we can explore this new story seed together!

Posted in #atozchalllenge 2017, A Round of Words in 80 Days, A Round of Words in 80 Days 2017, April CampNaNoWrimo 2017, Blogging from A toZ April Challenge, CampNaNoWriMo, CampNaNoWriMo 2017, Challenges and Contests, Life Writing, Round Two 2017, Writers' Resources, Writing in Freedom

Sowing Abundantly: April 9, 2017

Hey there!

We’re a week into ROW80 Round Two, and nine days into CampNaNoWriMo. Today is a quiet day – at the #AtoZChallenge, and for me. It’s been a whirlwind of activity – our income tax returns came in, and some things we’ve been waiting on during the lean times over the last several months can now happen.

I’m typing this on my new Lenovo Yoga. It’s smaller than my 3 year old model, but faster and more powerful. The small size makes it even easier to tote anywhere I want to go. The screen is the same size as my old one, and the keyboard is virtually identical, so the learning curve wasn’t at all steep.

I’m cleaning my former computer out to pass it along to my Accomplice, after which I’ll clean his netbook out to pass along to Lise.

Oh, and I designed the prototype label for my Accomplice’s hot sauce bottles! We’re getting close to the launch point, now. You can get a sneak peek at the bottom of this post, and read about its creation in my Stream of Consciousness Saturday post, linked below.

With all this going on, it’s probably not surprising that my focus was narrower in the latter part of the week, but…

I did still manage some writing and blogging:

Writing:

  • CampNaNoWriMo: Draft The Last House (a Kifo prequel) . ~65K. Target: 2,167 words/day average to complete by April 30. Primary goal. 16,126/65,000 words. Between blogging, the laptops, and the shopping, I didn’t add any words on Saturday.

  • Trueborn: Complete draft of Foul Deeds Will Rise (Trueborn #2). Target: 3,333 words/week; add words every day I reach my Camp quota, above, Finish by April 30. Secondary goal. 2,334/3,333 new words for the week. I did well with this until life got busy!

Social Media:

  • #atozchallenge: Confirm scheduling, and add link and branding to each day’s post. Respond to comments daily, and visit 3 other participants at least 3 times/week. Primary goal. All Week Two posts up and linked (through letter G); visits made for 5/6 days. You can find links to all live posts here at Slices of an Unschooling Life. Answered comments; n0t exactly daily, but a few times during the week.

  • Blogging Features: Continue biweekly Skywatch Friday posts, as well as weekly #SoCS, #8sunday, Mindful Monday, WIPpet Wednesday, and Weekend Coffee Share posts. Pre-produce posts where possible; aim for one hour every Tuesday and Thursday. Tertiary goal. I missed the Skywatch; but all others complete – follow the links up top to check out these fine posts!

Hometending:

  • Resets/reorganizations: study, family room, bedroom, living room, bathroom, and kitchen. Complete two 27 thing flings each room, each week. One 27 thing fling on porch and in yard each week. At least five General Hometending rounds per day, 5 times/week. Secondary goal. Hometending rounds; 5/5 for the week. Living room and porch done; 10 items in yard. Not a great hometending week.

Lifetending:

  • My beloveds: One on one time with each, doing something of value to us both, each week. Continue planning/ attending outings (personal and family) as desired. Primary goal. In spades….that’s what I did instead of hometending, so I can’t be sorry!

  • CampNaNo: Interact with cabin mates 5/week: attend write-ins and visit forums once weekly. Secondary goal. Posted to cabin 5/5 days; write-in, and visited the fanfiction thread in the Campfire Circle forum. Another big win!

  • Career Furtherance:  Complete Patreon profile and launch site. Draft CV/cover letter and revise. Assist Accomplice with launching his cottage hot sauce industry. Tertiary goal. See below; finalized his logo, paid for it, and designed a label prototype we both love, and which is getting good reviews from those who’ve seen it. Opinions?

Selftending:

  • Journal and meditate five mornings and three evenings each week. Primary goal. I lost track, but it wasn’t good. Too many Other Things.

  • Get a cumulative total of at least 99 minutes moderate physical activity 5 days weekly; 111 minutes (1 hour, 51 minutes) twice weekly, and 7 hours of more strenuous activities (tai chi, swimming, hiking, cardio, weights, etc.). Secondary goal. I think I got close, but I honestly lost track.

Leaps of Faith:

  • Website/Blog Development: Make basic sketches of new pages; prioritize; begin implementation. Simmering….

Kait Nolan’s  ROW80 –

The Writing Challenge That Knows You Have a Life!

ROW Along, or Cheer Us On!
We’re also on Facebook!

Label copyright 2017 Chef Bluebeard’s Flavor Enhancement Sauces. “Chef Bluebeard” logo design by Jaz Johnson.

Posted in #atozchalllenge 2017, A Round of Words in 80 Days, April CampNaNoWrimo 2017, Blogging from A toZ April Challenge, CampNaNoWriMo, CampNaNoWriMo 2017, Challenges and Contests, Life Writing, Round Two 2017, Writers' Resources, Writing in Freedom

A Time to Sow: ROW80 Round Two Goals 2017

Hey there!

Yes, you’ve read it right – today is the first day of ROW80 Round Two, and that means it’s time to reveal my new quarterly goals.

I’m now in the midst of my annual Creative Chaos Marathon, so several of my goals are intensive and long term.

I’m experimenting with these goals. My reach often exceeds my grasp, leaving my intentions in the dust, when I want goals that challenge, yet are still largely attainable. For this round and beyond, I’ll be seeking my level of neutral buoyancy, as we said during my scuba certification course.

What are you working on this spring (or, if it applies, fall)?
Any special goals?
Are you good at setting goals that are challenging, yet attainable?
Any tips to share?

Writing:

  • CampNaNoWriMo: Draft The Last House (a Kifo prequel). ~65K. Target: 2,167 words/day average to complete by April 30. Primary goal.

  • Trueborn: Complete draft of Foul Deeds Will Rise (Trueborn #2). Target: 3,333 words/week; add words every day I reach my Camp quota, above, Finish by April 30. Secondary goal.

  • Story A Day May: Main Project: Draft a Kifo Island-based exploration story every day during May, using challenge story prompts. Side project: Draft a 100 w0rd TnT fan fiction  drabble daily; based on prompt words and advancing the Cowled arc. Tertiary goal.

  • JuNoWriMo: Write rough drafts of blog posts for future use. Goal: 1,667 words/day, or 2-4 rough drafts. Quaternary goal; will complete during the break before Round Three.

Plotting:

  • Story a Day May: Main Project: Create basic sketches for flash fiction stories (999 words/less, with exceptions) exploring July’s Still Nameless: Kifo Island #8, using #StaD prompts. Side Project: Reread Cowled arc; create basic sketches for drabbles (100 word stories) based on existing notes and prompt words. Primary goal.

  • JuNoWriMo: Review brainstormed topic list; add/delete; develop rough outlines for at least 48 posts/5 topic arcs by May 31. Secondary goal.

  • July CampNaNoWriMo: Plan/plot using The Story Toolkit /The Writer’s Coloring Book combo. Begin in tandem with StaD explorations; complete through Toolkit Step 13/22 (Locations) before end of round. Quaternary goal; will complete the final phase during the break between the end of Round Two and July 1.

Revision:

  • The IDIC Romance: On Any Tuesday Night (was First Contact, With Jazz), Complete lessons 2-4 of Holly Lisle’s Revision Course by June 30. Aim for completing 1 lesson each month. Primary goal; may complete Lesson 4 during the break after Round Two.

  • Short Stories: “Miss Spider and Mister Fly”; Complete copy editor revisions as/if necessary. Secondary goal.

Submission/Publication:

  • Gather list of at least 25 possible short story venues for future research by May 31. Secondary goal.

Social Media:

  • #atozchallenge: Confirm scheduling, and add link and branding to each day’s post. Respond to comments daily, and visit 3 other participants at least 6 times/week. Primary goal.

  • May 2017: Begin the 2017 Kindness Challenge: complete in June; post daily flash fiction stories/excerpts to #StaD site: complete by May 31. Secondary goal.

  • Blogging Features: Continue biweekly Skywatch Friday posts, as well as weekly #SoCS, #8sunday, Mindful Monday, WIPpet Wednesday, and Weekend Coffee share posts. Pre-produce posts where possible; work on this 1 hour each on Tuesday and Thursday. Tertiary goal.

Hometending:

  • Continue adding to Flickr portfolios for this school year; aim to be caught up and  current by end of round. Primary goal.

  • Resets/reorganizations: study, family room, bedroom, living room, bathroom, kitchen, porch, yard, and general hometending. Complete varying 27 thing flings each room, each week (based upon other obligations each month). Secondary goals.

Lifetending:

  • My beloveds: One on one time with each, doing something of value to us both, each week.Continue planning/ attending outings (personal and family) as desired. Primary goal.

  • Career Furtherance: Complete Patreon profile; launch site. Draft CV/cover letter and revise. Tertiary goal.

  • Challenges: CampNaNo: Interact with cabin mates 5/week: attend write-ins and visit forums once weekly. #StaD and #KindnessChallenge: Visit three other posters for each challenge, weekly for Kindness; daily for STaD. Tertiary goal.

Selftending:

  • Journal and meditate five mornings and three evenings each week. Primary goal.

  • Get a cumulative total of at least 111 minutes moderate physical activity 5 days weekly; 123 minutes (2 hours, 3 minutes) twice weekly, and 9 hours of more strenuous activities (tai chi, swimming, hiking, cardio, weights, etc.), by end of round. Secondary goal.

  • Books: Listen to three audiobooks, and read 6 print or Kindle books by end of round. Tertiary goal.

Leaps of Faith:

  • Website/Blog Development: Make basic sketches of new pages; prioritize; begin implementation by end of round.

  • Smart Change: Reread Chapters 3 and 4/complete/worksheets; create an approach plan by end of round.
  • Intuitive Eating: Reread early chapters; consider how to incorporate into Smart Change; have a sketched list by end of round.

  • Rose and Jeremy novella: Correct/complete planning/plotting of “Tuesday Afternoon Tea” using The Story Toolkit and existing notes. Develop one-paragraph sketches for remaining 3-5 stories by end of round.

Kait Nolan’s ROW80  –

The Writing Challenge That Knows You Have a Life!

ROW Along, or Cheer Us On!
We’re  also on Facebook!