Halloween isn’t Halloween without a mask…
My newest release is an anthology of poems, flash fiction, and short stories I wrote over the last few years that do not fit so comfortably into the Young Adult genre. It’s for everyone, especially those who find it hard to read a whole novel. Sometimes short is all you have time for. I apologize in advance though; just because these pieces are short doesn’t mean they’re all sweet. The genres span from haiku to horror, and many in between. Get your ebook copy today.
I’d like to share with you my favorite poem in the collection, Color In Circles.
I felt bold. Bold. Bold as a box of bright crayons on gray recycled paper.
A rectangular page ripped from a Cinderella coloring book,
That utility box of Crayolas, ten predictable shades
Blue, Yellow, Red, Purple, Green, Brown, Orange, Pink, Black, and White
Primary to primal.
A rainbowed Decalogue stains the cheap pages
To color Cinderella in her temporary magical dress
Losing. Losing. Losing her damn glass slipper.
Graffiti without boundaries,
Void of trained aesthetics, haphazard, fearless.
A picture to reflect the stunted artist
Not for public display. The ten shades reveal a blushing testament.
What is to be done with this? This. This rendering by a frantic child?
Paint over it. Disguise the disgrace.
Slather over the mistakes with black ooze and let it dry.
Etch out a design. No, scratch out a warning—
Don’t. Don’t. Don’t waltz with strangers, Prince Charmings, narcissists.
Toss the testament in the trash with the glass slippers.
Abandon it. The mockery, the etched remnant.
Find a fresh page of thick bleached parchment.
New. New. New from a coloring book for grown-ups.
Purchase the jumbo box of crayons—ninety-six shades, nearly one-hundred hues.
Remember. Remember. Remember sitting at the table, one summer in the early‘80s.
“Use circles,” mom instructed, making bold impressions, not feeble scribbles.
Shades of blossoming pinks filled the empty space between lines.
Sunrise-tinged flowers of carnation, salmon, and fuschia.
Take the new page.
Grasp the renewed legacy.
Create. Create. Create again and again and again.
Capture the shades between bold and afraid.
There is no end.
It is all for the bright!
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Critique. It’s not everyone’s favorite thing, right? But as a writer, critique groups are necessary for me, a good hurt. Of course, not every circle of writers is a good mix or a constructive influence. I don’t know the secret formula for finding the perfect critique group. Somehow I’ve been super lucky. I attend three amazing groups that suit my location, my genres, my commitment, and my skill level. They accept my writing for what it is, yet challenge me to do better without insulting my ineptitude. Sure, it’s not always sunshine and rainbows. Critique hurts sometimes, no matter what. And we still debate the common trivialities: the Oxford comma, clichés, and the ever-popular-bad-apple, adverbs.
Today a writer in my critique group lost his battle with cancer.
William Barnes wrote historical fiction. His latest work-in-progress dealt with the sordid history of the Texas Rangers. Before I continue, I must confess—I’m a Yankee. When we arrived at the “Western Expansion” portion of our U.S. History books in high school, our teacher skipped it, claiming this part of U.S. history wasn’t important, as it contained dubious facts and silly folktales. In contrast, my children took two Texas history classes before graduating from elementary school, which I considered suspiciously xenophobic. Bill read his work-in-progress at critique group and shot bullets through my prejudice. In his native Texan drawl, he read his excerpt aloud, a complex tale with Rangers hunting down Mexican-heritage citizens while those in Congress debated boundaries and laws. Conflict, complexity, humor, and action surrounded the historical facts of his story and I was surprisingly intrigued. Funny how a brilliantly scripted “silly folktale” can change minds, huh?
But I gained more than a new respect for Texas history from Bill. That same night, I shared my piece with the group, a flash fiction horror story. Bill liked it so much he emailed me later and volunteered to beta-read anything I had. I sent him a YA fantasy short story. He sincerely loved it and detailed the reasons. When I lack confidence in my writing abilities, it helps to recall Bill’s words. A Texas grandfather and longtime-writer of historical fiction went out of his way to encourage me, a YA speculative fiction writer.
Though cancer stole Bill from the world, his encouraging words live on. They lend me confidence on days of doubt. Before he passed, I had the precious opportunity to thank Bill for his encouragement. I imagine him riding into heaven on a wild mustang.
Critique is important. Facing tough criticism molds us into better writers. But there’s a flip side. Encouragement also makes us better. If there’s someone like Bill in your critique group, thank them today.
It is all for the bright!
New subscribers to my newsletter get a free ebook copy of Tigress!
A photograph, combined with the prompt “birth,” inspired me to write a mythic snippet about a floating creature. Further research added details I hadn’t conceived of in the first draft. (See my notes below.)
I was not the only one inspired by this piece. The Houston non-profit group, WriteSpace, located at Silver Street, held a writing workshop for youth and one of them chose this photo for inspiration also–and did an amazing job.
I wrote to Ms. Glover about her wondrous photo. This was our short conversation–
Me: Hello! Your fabulous photograph, Ice Mountain II, displayed at Houston’s Silver Street Studios, inspired me to write a flash fiction piece prompted by the theme “birth.” I wanted to share it with you, just for kicks. Hope you enjoy it. Thank you for capturing wondrous sights like these and sharing them with the world. Cheers.
Ms. Glover: Thank you for sending me your wonderful story. So pleased my Ice mountain inspired you. Best wishes Gina
The photo and the story–
I arrived in a storm millions of years ago and I remain here long after time ceased to matter. Once submerged underwater, drowning in shame, I gradually broke free. I rose from the vast depths. Born again.
I float thru icy waters, lonely and cold. Years of blank darkness exchanged for periwinkle sky, shape-shifting pearlescent clouds, the glorious brightness of sunrises, sunsets, stars.
My face is frozen aquamarine, streaked with gray brokenness. Rays of a hot orb, the sun, the brightest star in this sky, hit my exposed being, erasing me little by little, all day long. At night, the Icelandic wind sends sleeting rain to rebuild my green-tinged, icy artifice.
A powerful force pulls me toward my future. Though I was not sent here to catalogue this world, I wish I had been charged with this task. Instead, in humiliation, I, mother of Thor, was cast to this watery world in disgrace. Rejected.
Though once adored by Odin, I now masquerade as rock, frozen compounds adrift over time, over time unchecked. Vessels made by weak, mortal hands scream at me, piercing my solitude, accompanied with strange salutations, “Iceberg ahoy!”
They do not know my real name. Like the Valkyrie, they do not bow in my presence, even as they stare in wonder, admiring my face. But, like time, my opponents no longer matter. Arisen from the depths, I drift with a new purpose, certain my destiny awaits me.
This is my reply—“Ahoy!
I am among you.
I am Jörd.
Jökulsárlón is a large glacial lake in southeast Iceland, on the edge of Vatnajökull National Park. Situated at the head of a glacier, it developed into a lake after the glacier started receding from the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. The lake has grown since then at varying rates because of melting of the glaciers. It is now 1.5 kilometres away from the ocean’s edge. It recently became the deepest lake in Iceland, as glacial retreat extended its boundaries. The size of the lake has increased fourfold since the 1970s. It is considered as one of the natural wonders of Iceland.
Gina Glover’s series of photos is compiled into a book entitled The Metabolic Landscape.
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I’ve been experimenting with Flash Fiction, using prompts from some writing friends. I want to share the outcome of one of these experiments on the blog. It is children’s science fiction. Let me know what you think!
Nathan slammed the door behind him and raced up the attic steps. Sunlight streamed through the only window, warming the spot where a worn blue beanbag chair waited for him. He pulled his DS from the back pocket of his oversized jeans and plopped down on the deflated, lumpy chair. His 9-year-old body fit perfectly.
Zip! Zam! Whoosh! Rat-a-tat-tat!
Fiercely and adeptly, he pressed the X and Y buttons as he invaded the Nebula region, letting reality dissolve. Images of bold starfighter jets blasting an entire arsenal of rogue ships replaced the less desirable images floating through his brain. Like the one of his dad sighing at the window as mom drove away in the U-Haul, just watching her go, just letting her leave them forever.
It’s not your fault, Nathan. Divorce happens between grown-ups.
Nathan blasted all the other fighters out of his way and won the first level easily. He waited for the next level to begin. The theme music, an invigorating repetitive rift, echoed through the empty attic.
Beep! Boop! Ba-da-da-ba!
The sounds hadn’t come from his handheld game. They echoed from somewhere else in the attic.
Again, he heard in the distance— Ba-da-da-ba-beep!
Nathan paused the game and rose from his cushiony spot by the window.
He walked down the right isle of the attic and turned the corner to examine the rest of the long, bare wood storage space—when he heard it again.
Standing near a dark corner, Nathan spied an oval, scraped-up metal container, the same size as the old toy box in his bedroom. Nathan had never noticed the object in the attic before. Of course, he just came here to play his games. There wasn’t much left to look at, anyway.
Nathan tugged hard on the latch and pried the lid open. It was hard, but he did it. He wasn’t like his dad. He wasn’t a quitter.
The lone window’s light didn’t reach this section of the attic. Nathan peered into the shadows inside. The sounds started again, accompanied by blinking yellow and green lights, bright and quick, like camera flashes. Nathan’s vision went wonky for a minute. He shut his eyes tight. When the residual flashes faded, he opened his eyes.
Inside the metal vessel, a fuzzy creature looked up at Nathan with huge, yellow round eyes. Covered in dark brown fur, Nathan’s first instinct was to pet it. He leaned closer.
The creature cowered. It trembled so hard that it shook the metal chest too.
“It’s okay. I won’t hurt you.”
Its saucer eyes blinked.
“My name is Nathan. Who are you?” The creature’s stubby body stopped shaking.
“Ba-da . . . bee-boo.”
“Uhhh…your name is . . . Bee-Boo?”
The furry ball stayed quiet for what seemed like an eternity before replying ecstatically, “Bee-boo!”
“Can I pick you up, Bee-Boo? I promise I won’t squeeze you too hard. I know how to do it. I have a pet hamster, Mario. You’d like him. He was a present from—nevermind.”
The creature rolled slowly toward Nathan. It didn’t have any arms or legs. Or a mouth. Nathan thought that was weird. How did it make noises?
Nathan cupped his hands together and scooped Bee-Boo up. The ball of fur purred like a cat.
“Bee-Boo, where did you come from?”
“Sorry, I don’t understand. Is that close? Is it in Philadelphia?”
Nathan took that as a no.
“Is it in the United States?”
“Is it in North America?”
He knew all the continents, so he checked each one. Bee-boo’s answers were consistent.
“Is it on earth?”
Nathan’s heart skipped a beat.
“Are you from far, far away, Bee-Boo?”
How did you get here?”
Nathan’s mind filled with a vivid picture of a black sky streaked with stars through an oval window and a frightened Bee-Boo trembling under a metal box. Getting Nathan’s attention, Bee-Boo circled the metal container, as if giving Nathan a tour. In the shadows, Nathan discovered small pieces of furniture.
Nathan realized, “This is your room!”
“How did your room get in my attic?”
Suddenly, Bee-boo quivered. The metal box vanished from sight for a split second and then reappeared. Nathan gasped. Putting the pieces together, he exclaimed,
“You escaped a crash!”
Bee-boo rocked back and forth on Nathan’s palms.
“You’re all alone, huh?”
Though Nathan hadn’t told a soul about how he cried himself to sleep every night since Mom left, Nathan felt like Bee-Boo knew, and that he understood. Maybe Bee-Boo cried every night too.
“Can we be friends, Bee-Boo?”