The Perceptions Anthology: Special Needs

  Braydon burst into laughter. Today was his tenth birthday. He couldn’t stop smiling. Memories of his last birthday party had faded a long time ago. He had been four years old. He’d loved dinosaurs and was an only child then.

  Every year he was given a different, yet equally lame, excuse. His parents claimed they were too poor, too busy, or too something. Brayden knew the truth—all they cared about was Katie.

  Brayden’s little sister, Katie, was five years old and had Down syndrome. His parents’ lives revolved around Katie. Last year, they actually forgot it was his birthday, until he reminded them at bedtime.  They promised to make it up to him.

-Excerpt from Monster-Shark, my contribution to the Perceptions Anthology: Special Needs by Inklings Publishing, a collection of stories for educators, teachers, and students that include characters with special needs.

***

I’m honored to be included in this anthology. Growing up with a brother with Asperger’s Syndrome (years before this form of autism had an official name), I wanted to write a story representing kids who feel unnoticed because the special needs of their brother or sister take up much of their parents’ attention, time, and money.

I also interviewed a friend of mine, the mother of a sweet boy named Enzo, who has Cri du Chat syndrome and she told me, with tears in her eyes, about what often happens when Enzo plays with other children in restaurant play areas. They always make him “it” and run away from him, screaming. He has fun, but it breaks her heart. Then I interviewed some kids under twelve and asked them about what games they could think of to play that would include kids with special conditions like Enzo’s.

Monster-Shark was the result.


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Learn more about Cri Du Chat Awareness Week– May 1-7.

Someone Like Bill

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!

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Teens On Fire

  “It’s Anne, not Andrea,” I correct him.  I don’t smile, but Brad’s flashy grin remains unstoppable.

“Right—Anne.  Sorry. I’ve always been bad with names.  Anyway, you’re going to have such an authentic, life-changing experience at the Teens on Fire retreat.  There’ll be paint ball, capture the flag, and all kinds of crazy games.  Plus, the speaker is the bomb.  And I can’t even tell you how super-cool the worship band is.  We were lucky, I mean, blessed, they were even available.  They’re a Dove award-winning group!  Of course, that was a few years ago…”

 

On The Outward Appearance by D. Marie Prokop


It is all for the bright!

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Focused On The Bump

Nate follows Jaycee’s gaze. She’s focused on the bump lying on a bench that’s shadowed by the longest branch of a huge oak. Their breath forms clouds. Nate aches to ask what they’re waiting for, but Jaycee looks angry.

Tigress, a short story by D. Marie Prokop


It is all for the bright!

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People For Lunch


  Alyssa doesn’t eat lunch.  Instead, she uses the time to show off her latest shopping spree finds or text voraciously.  One text by Alyssa could ruin you socially for the rest of your high school career—and maybe your life.  You could say Alyssa ate people for lunch.

On The Outward Appearance by D. Marie Prokop

 


It is all for the bright!

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Fanciest-Shmanciest

Happy Valentine’s Day! Here I am, lurking outside the fanciest-shmanciest restaurant in the heart of downtown Cosmopolis, watching couple after couple celebrate their possibly fake, possibly genuine, possibly dutiful, or possibly delusional love over candlelight and a bottle of wine.

Tigress, a short story by D. Marie Prokop


 

 

It is all for the bright!

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Happy Lunar New Year!

Shu Rui’s house is not far. There are no sidewalks, but the streets are wide. They’re filled with people because everyone comes home for the fifteen-day celebration of Chinese New Year. It’s The Year of the Tiger, 1998.

I was born in 1989, The Year of the Snake. Everyone says that’s why I talk so much. Grandma always tells me,

Child, you were born under a sign of wisdom. Remember, wisdom is attained by three methods: first, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third, by experience, which is the bitterest.


Find out more about Chinese New Year in The Baiji.


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A Bit Cliché

The vehicle rounds the corner. A white van. Seriously? Can they be any more cliché? Oh, who am I to judge? I look a bit cliché myself in my orange, white, and black striped costume and mask. The long black hair in my high ponytail bounces on the back of my neck as I scan the road for the approaching vehicle.

Tigress by D. Marie Prokop


 

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Phidlestix

One of my author pals wrote a fabulous story for Halloween to share with the world. What a treat! I mean, what’s scarier than clowns, right? I love the quote at the beginning. (I’m a quote junkie and I don’t want cured, thank you very much.)

This evil in your eyes is this evil in disguise.
– Legacy of the Grave

Cool, huh? Yeah, and it just gets better. Read it for yourself and follow Ethan A. Cooper on Facebook, Goodreads, and Amazon!
Here’s another blog post on Ethan’s work.

Content Advisory: Silliness, Violence, Clown

Phidlestix


 

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You Can Never Go Home Again

Pop had two settings—gentle and high-heat. A beacon of patience until pushed too far, the former boxing champ inside my mild-mannered father could emerge without warning. I feared facing the fighter inside if I lost Pop’s dog.

  When first I arrived at my father’s doorstep two days ago, Pop didn’t ask any questions. Never loquacious, this time his silence echoed the emptiness in my soul. I had failed—at life, at love, at everything—and had decided to leave the city and return to my childhood home, where I had felt safest.

Eventually, words began to drop out of Pop’s mouth, such as, “Morning,” and “G’night.”

Going Home by D. Marie Prokop, Hair Raising Tales of Horror


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