Weekend Coffee Share: Writing Like a Madman

Good afternoon,

Nice to see you all today. Pardon me if I’m a little distracted. I’m at the gym right now and I’m focusing on my steps. As such, I just have water. If you want to jump on the treadmill, by all means join me. 

So, if we were walking—running—on the treadmill, I’d talk about school. It’s in full speed ahead. My wife and I went to Curriculum Night this past Tuesday. I got a lot out of it. I learned about what will be expected of the first graders this year. Long story short, it’s going to be a challenge. But I know Zoe will be up to the task. Also, the teacher spoke to the parents about volunteering opportunities. This is a big deal for me because I don’t get to be with Zoe a lot because of my schedule. But I’m hoping to be more involved in her studies. And I found an area where I can help the students. They have a writing session before lunch. It’s great because I write, obviously.

Little known fact about me. When I started my college career, I wanted to be an elementary school teacher. I love being around children. And I thought I would be a good role model. Then, when I took a Creative Writing course, I thought it would be a good way to introduce writing to students as a way to express their creativity. But I decided against pursuing that avenue. I kind of regret it in some ways. But I’m happy that I have to way to make that ideal a reality. 

Speaking of writing, I have spent the last couple of weeks writing flash fiction. This has been exhilarating. For a long time—before July—I didn’t have a lot of short fiction to share. But since the Flash Fiction Hive was created, I have found myself writing more. The prompts presented offer a welcome challenge. It’s got me thinking about and actively writing more. My goal is to start posting longer works. I think I’m in the right direction. 

Speaking of short stories, I got an email from The Write Practice about a new writing contest for the fall. I get so nervous about these contests. I feel like I’m out of my element with these contests, so I don’t enter them. But when I read about the theme, I thought it could be possible to create a story. I don’t plan on entering the contest (entry fee too high), but I want to write that story anyway. My goal is to write, edit, and publish a full story by the deadline set by the committee. I might post it on my blog or submit it to another contest where the entry fee isn’t so steep. Wish me luck. 

Well, my time on the treadmill is wearing down, so I’m going to bid you farewell. But I want to hear from all of you. Send a reply in the comments and let me know how your week has been. If there’s any way I can be of encouragement, feel free to let me know. Maybe we can encourage and spur each other on. 

Until next time, take care…

Mix-Up

Courtesy of Flash Fiction Hive on Twitter (@FlashFicHive)

Hi there. 

Before you read my latest flash fiction piece, I want you to know that I enjoy writing these stories. I feel like I’m getting more out of the Flash Fiction Hive challenges this month. I don’t participate in every challenge, but I’m learning to be more creative and think outside the box. 

So, here’s my latest piece. Enjoy. 

Langston rushed to the gate as fast as he could.

“Wait! Wait!”

The receptionist, a petite woman with a brunette pixie cut, stopped the attendant from closing the door. He slammed his duffel bag onto the desk.

“You made it,” she said. Langston pulled his ticket out of his bag and handed it to her. She scanned it thoroughly, then handed it back to him.

“I’m sorry. I can’t accept this.”

“What’s the matter with it?” Langston’s chest tensed as he caught his breath. He peeked behind the desk as the other attendant rocked, holding the door open. 

“I’m afraid this ticket is not any good.”

“What do you mean it’s not good? I bought this ticket yesterday.”

The receptionist grabbed the ticket from him. 

“Let me see what’s going on.”

She typed away on the keyboard. Langston dug into his pocket, rifling his keys. They clanged as he squeezed them together. The receptionist looked at her monitor and then at him. 

“It seems this ticket’s already been redeemed.”

Langston shot a puzzling glare at her.

“Look…” he looked at the receptionist’s name tag. “…Laura. I bought this ticket yesterday. My family is in Hawaii right now, waiting for me.”

He stared at Laura’s icy stare and pouty mouth. Apparently, she’s heard stories like this before. 

“I was lucky to get it for today. How can this be redeemed already when I’m just now getting here?”

“I’m sorry. Let me see your ID.”

Langston pulled out his wallet and handed his license to her. Laura studied the photo and compared it to the fuming passenger standing in front of her. She handed it back to him. 

“You sure you haven’t been here before?”

Langston gawked at her question. “What? I just told you I bought this yesterday.”

Laura stared down at the screen. 

“According to this, you boarded a flight to Honolulu this morning. But I didn’t see anyone else with you.”

He cocked his head like an inquisitive puppy. How was that possible? He looked at the departure time. The time read “7:45am.”

“Hold on. This isn’t right. I was told the only time available was 2:35 this afternoon. Can you check the sales records?”

Laura twiddled her fingers on the keyboard again. She pulled up the transaction and it read the departure time as 7:45am. He waved Langston toward him and presented the results. He shook his head fervently and opened his bag. He grabbed a sheet of paper with a receipt printed on it. He handed it to Laura and she compared the two.

“See?” Langston pointed at the departure time on the receipt. “That’s the time I have on the receipt. That’s the time they told me they had available.”

Laura scanned the receipt. She picked up the phone which automatically dialed the airport office.

“Look,” Langston growled, “I don’t have time for all this nonsense. My family is waiting. Can we please get this sorted out right now?”

“You have to be patient, sir. Just have a seat and we’ll get this straightened out.”

Langston sat at the bench behind the desk. He looked out at the airplane as it stood there, curious about the mix-up. Then something flashed into his head. He walked back to the desk as Laura hung up the phone.

“Sir, I need you to stay where you are.”

“Why?” Langston asked. 

“Don’t worry. We’re going to get this straightened out.”

Laura nodded her head and the attendant closed the door. Langston’s jaw locked as he watched the plane start to back away. Then he saw a pair of security guards enter the terminal. 

“Wait. What’s going on?”

“Sir?” Laura spoke in a firm tone. “Don’t make this any harder than it has to be.”

“Just tell me. Did you see a man with a scar or not?”

She bobbed her head for a moment, recalling everyone who passed her on the last flight.

“Yeah. It was hard to tell, but he had something that looked like a scar.”

“Oh, no.”

Langston knew. He knew the doppelgänger. The security guards approached him, but he stood unwilling to budge. 

“Look, I’ve got to take this flight.”

Laura backed away at his fervent pitch. 

“Listen to me. That man is dangerous. He can’t be allowed anywhere near my family.”

The security guards grabbed him by the shoulders and escorted him out the terminal. 

“You’ve got to believe me,” he shouted. “I’ve got to get to Hawaii. My family’s depending on me.”

Step by Step

Some things you can’t ignore. Some things you can’t run away from. You have to face them head-on. Racism is one of those things. I’m sure many of you have been following the events of Charlottesville this past weekend. The spewing hatred from those who want to “take back America.” The senseless attack that caused one death and nineteen injuries. The response from various people of interest. (I won’t mention who as I try to stick to the overlying subject.)

I know I’ve touched on this before. Yet somehow, it comes up when events like Charlottesville occur. And if there’s anyone who believes race relations aren’t an issue in 21st Century America, I implore you to look at the attacks throughout the past five years. The racially charged demonstrations. The number of lives lost of people who don’t fall under the “norm.” I could go on and on from a nationwide standpoint. But today, I want to focus on what’s going on in our communities. 

Yesterday, I went to church. And before the pastor dismissed the congregation, he spoke about Charlottesville and his stand against racism. I think it’s admirable he brought up the subject. It’s something not many people have the guts to do. But I wonder if he realizes what’s going on in his congregation. There are crowds of people who are of the same race and background. There’s no melding of people different from one another. And this goes beyond church. Look at the neighborhoods. Go into any subdivision and you can guess the majority of people who live there. Go into any retail establishment and you can guess the clientele who frequent the shops. Now granted, this is pure speculation, but even speculation is rooted in some kind of reality.

The point I’m making is race relations is a huge problem. And it’s been magnified within the past several years. Unfortunately, there’s no solution in sight. The governments can put all the stipulations in place to quell the storms, but there will still be storms. Governments can’t make its citizens change their way of thinking. They can’t sway their opinions to what logically is the right thing to do. That’s up to the individual. And as long as that person has the mindset of exclusivity and superiority when it comes to race, events like Charlottesville will continue to occur. 

So, the question becomes, “How do we change things?” It starts with the heart. Not to sound preachy, but the pastor made a profound statement. The heart drives everything we do. It drives our beliefs, our words, and our actions. If we want to change, it starts with the heart. If we don’t change the heart, then our efforts will be futile. Changing our heart is not easy; it’s a multilayered process. First and foremost, it takes facing reality about the world and, more importantly, ourselves. It takes a willingness to push beyond our comfort zone. Lowering our guard and stepping out on faith. A willingness to listen and understand the other person. And it’s a two-way street. It can’t be one person doing all the work. It’s a concerted effort. Everyone must be open to change. 

Now, we may not change things on a grand scale. But we don’t have to. I think people get so hung up on taking giant steps and influencing a mass population. But it’s the small steps that matter. And yes, it may not garner national attention. But as long as we’re changing our hearts to respect those different from us, the perseverance will pay off. We can change the world a little bit at a time. 

Unnoticed


Photo courtesy of Flash Fiction Hive. 

Good afternoon,

As one of my goals this month, I want to start posting more stories onto my blog. Fortunately, the Flash Fiction Hive on Twitter (@FlashFicHive) has been a big help to me. Though I haven’t written a lot of stories based on their prompts, they’ve at least provided the fuel for my creativity.

Today, the Hive presented a “Mix and Match” prompt. Here’s the result. I hope you enjoy it. 
Harold Starks strolled into his daughter’s school library. He brushed his too tight dress shirt and pulled up his wide slacks. As a cable repairman, wearing a uniform was no small feat. But a suit was near impossible. Still, he thought about the opportunity to observe his gifted daughter showing up the rest of the students.

Harold twisted his ring, ensuring the snug fit. The diamond shone in the artificial light. He knocked on the reception desk. The librarian, a dapper man in his late 40s, appeared startled. He looked around, wondering what made the rapping sound. Harold’s mouth froze open. What was the librarian thinking? He tapped on the desk again, and again the librarian turned his attention to the empty foyer. He shrugged and returned to filing the books on the return cart. 

“Excuse me,” Harold said. But the librarian kept working. Harold repeated his request in a more forceful tone. “Excuse me.”

The librarian dropped the books left to be filed. He approached the desk, inquisitive at who could be summoning him.

“Yes, my name is Harold Starks. I’m interested in applying for a position here.”

The librarian tilted his head. There were a pair of teachers behind the door chatting about something. He shrugged again and went about his business. Harold could feel the tension bubbling in him. He slammed his fist onto the desk. 

“Look,” Harold growled, “I know you hear me and I know you see me. Why are you ignoring me?”

Just then, another librarian, a woman as old as Harold approached her co-worker. 

“Who’s making all that noise?”

“I don’t know,” the gentleman replied. A trio of students walked by the back of the desk. The man asked if they were the source of the disruption. They said no and moved along. The librarian switched on the microphone. 

“Attention, students. This is a reminder that the library is a quiet area. There is to be no loud talking. That is all.”

Harold threw up his hands and left. As he left the library, he saw his daughter approach. He kneeled to hug her, but she passed through him. He looked back at her, confused at what he experienced. It was one thing being in an independent state, but it wasn’t like her to just ignore him. He walked to the boys’ restroom. He searched to see if anyone was around. Confirming the coast was clear, he struggled to remove the ring. Once he pulled it off, Harold manifested himself. The diamond lost its shine. His portly body sunk at his disappointment. He believed there was no way anyone would hire him in the shape he was in. 

The DeVille’s Belle

Hope you enjoy my latest piece. 
As I finished the salad, the rain stopped. I was so busy with eating that I hadn’t noticed the sun-yellow car parked beside mine. Curious, I exited the cafe. I paced around the goldenrod beauty, a 1963 Cadillac Deville. I remembered Grandpa telling me stories about owning one in his day. The Deville was more than just a car. It was a symbol of prestige. Especially in the South. I swooned at the sparkly body. The brown leather interior. The shining wheels.

“Excuse me.”

A tender tone underneath the direct command snapped me from my daydream. I turned and a svelte, copper-toned woman appeared. She wore tight blue jeans and a blouse a shade lighter than the Deville.

“I’m sorry. I was just—”

“It’s alright. I get it. People like the car. And they’re shocked when they see a girl like me.”

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t. The woman was classy. I remembered Grandpa telling me stories about women like her in his time. That they were the pinnacle of beauty. But they had a side to them that was anything but innocent. At least, that’s what Grandpa told me.

“Do you want to drive it?”

My eyes glistened. I gawked at what she was proposing. 

“S-s-sure.”

I opened the door and sat. In my mind, I drooled over the feel of leather beneath my thighs. I marveled at the smoothness of the steering wheel as I gripped it tight. The woman slipped into the passenger seat. It was like she was teasing any onlooker to approach her. When she closed the door, she held the keys. The Cadillac logo dangling in front of me. I reached for them, but she pulled them back. 

“Hold on, slick. First a few rules.”

I fixed my eyes on her as she spoke. 

“One, you take the route I want you to go. And two, you give me gas money for the trip.”

I opened my wallet. I had a ten dollar bill, which I believed was more than enough to cover the trip.

“Deal.”

We shook hands. Then she let go and I found myself with the keys. I inserted it into the ignition and turned the car on. The engine let out a mighty roar, then hummed. I felt like my face froze after hearing such a wondrous sound. I shifted the gear in Drive. I started to pull out, but hit the brakes as a black car sped past. 

“Sorry.”

The woman gently nodded, then leaned back. I pulled out of the parking lane. I followed the directions she gave. A left onto Johnson Street, then a right onto Barnaby Lane. We went straight for a couple of miles, then turned right onto Axelrod Avenue. I couldn’t help heaving. I was driving the car of my dreams. At that moment, I felt among the elite. I felt I traveled back to a time, though unfamiliar to me, I knew from Grandpa’s tales. I was in the presence of an ageless stunner. 

I stopped at the intersection of Axelrod and Dawson Street. A SUV stopped beside us. The window came down revealing an older man. The woman turned to him and she blew a kiss. I didn’t understand why, but didn’t want to intrude in her flirtation. When the light turned green, the man sped off and I turned right again.

I felt my dream was nearly over. I sulked and dug into the seat. But she stroked my cheek with her feathery fingers. I felt my smile recover. I made the last turn and saw the cafe. I eased into the parking lane, straightening the car as best as I could. I put the car in park and shut off the engine. I felt my breath escape me, but I wasn’t suffocating. I felt the blood rushing back to my hands when I released the grip. The woman stepped out the car. I didn’t want to leave, but I forced myself. When I shut the door, I went into my back pocket and proceeded to give her the ten I promised. But she grabbed my hands and pressed her lips onto mine. She inched away from me, smiling at me.

“Thank you for the drive,” she said. I watched as she waved, blew me a kiss, and drove off. 

Weekend Coffee Share: Off the Ground Running

Good day, everyone.

I hope everyone had a good week. I’m out of the San Francisco Bay K-cups, but I do have Folgers. As for me, I’m having a Monster. I know it’s not the healthiest thing, but after waking up at 5:30 in the morning to take my sister-in-law to work, I need something. I did have some coffee, but it doesn’t always work for me. 

So, this week has been a busy week. Zoe started school this Thursday as a first grader. Wow. That’s still hard to process. Zoe, a first grader. Her open house was Tuesday. Unfortunately I was working so I couldn’t partake in the “festivities.” I did get to meet the teacher the first day of school. And like last year, we drove Zoe to school and walked her to class. I think it’s important to savor these moments. One, when she gets older, she won’t want us to walk her to class. And two, she’ll be going to a different building where you can’t walk kids to their classroom. So, I take it all in. 

I must say I am more concerned than last year. The obvious being, like me, she doesn’t do well with change. (Then again, who does?) While she has a couple of kids from her kindergarten class joining her, she’ll have to make new friends. She has a new teacher, which was highly recommended by fellow parents. Two, the class is not as diverse. She’s basically the only Black person in the class. There are a couple of Hispanic students, but that’s as diverse as it gets. But I think she’ll be fine. We’ve taught her as much as we can to respect people different from her. She has a caring heart for people. And that’s something I hope will stick with her. 

As far as the curriculum, there is one change I like. They will be teaching Spanish. It’s believed that the younger you learn a skill, the more likely you’ll retain the knowledge. I wish when I was in elementary school, they taught Spanish. Back then, it wasn’t a big deal. There wasn’t an emphasis on being able to communicate in languages other than English. At least, that was the case with my upbringing. Even when I was in middle school, it was more of an elective than mandatory. So I’m glad they’re instilling the fundamentals into the students at such a young age. 

So, as school has started, that means getting back into a routine. For Colleen and I, that means getting up before Zoe does. That’s not always easy with all that goes on in a day. So, I have to get up even earlier in order to get to the gym and get in a workout. And that entails making a schedule on what days I want to work out. I need to get back the zeal of putting in the work to keep losing weight. 

Because of all that’s been going on, writing has taken a back seat. But not before I accomplished my goal of writing every day for a month. After that was done, I willingly took a day off to collect myself. In the span of writing in July, I wrote drafts of three new short stories. I aimed for four, but fell short. Still, I’m proud of myself. Two of the stories, I wrote in genres outside of what I usually write.

When I wrote those stories, the last thought I had was to edit and revise them. But now, I want to. Being a better writer requires it. Besides, the drafts were kind of all over the place. Nothing really coherent in the overall sense. So, I’ll be working on them as well as some flash fiction this month. The Flash Fiction Hive on Twitter is back with a new set of challenges. I will be participating in them a lot more than last time. The goal is still the same: to showcase them on my blog. When I do, I hope they will be well-received. 

So, that’s all for this week. But don’t let me do all the talking. Please feel free to share what’s on your mind. I would love to hear from you. 

Until next time, take care…

Let’s Celebrate: An IWSG Post

Good day,
It’s the first Wednesday of August. (Can’t believe we’re in August already.) As such, it’s time for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group post. Alex Cavanaugh, the fearless leader, spearheads this campaign to encourage writers of all levels with stories from our peers. Those who participate either post a story from their experience or answer an optional question provided by the captains. Any questions or to learn more about the group can be found here.

So, let’s chat.

Camp NaNo is in the books for a lot of writers. To those who participated, I hope you made progress with your WIPs, whether you made your word count goal or not. At the end of the day, I believe that’s what it boils down to. I, myself, have never participated in Camp NaNo, so this is pure speculation. But usually during the camp sessions and the real NaNoWriMo, I have my own writing goals. This month, I made two goals: to write every day in July and to write a short story a week. 

Let’s start with the first. To write every day in July. I admit that there was an alterior motive for this goal. I’m a member of the 365 Writing Club Facebook group. And the administrators award badges for certain accomplishments. From the beginning, I set the goal to write every day. And every month, I fell short. (May was the worst.) Then, over the summer, I found a group on Twitter called the Turtle Writers (#turtlewriters, for anyone curious). So while I was getting more familiar with the group, July came around. And the group discussed goals. One member mentioned that she wanted to focus on writing every day. I jumped on board, thinking that this might give me some reward for writing every day for the month. Soon after, another person joined in on the conversation, and soon enough we had an accountability circle.

So July has passed and I am happy to say that I met the goal. This had been a first for me. And certainly, there were days where I didn’t think I would meet this goal, especially considering my daily schedule. But I came to the realization that if I was going to meet this goal, I had to focus. I had to make the time and spur myself to write something, whether it be a journal entry or a blog post or a section of a short story. I had to be more aware on what time was available to me and use it to write. Like I said, it wasn’t easy. But I felt so better getting something down, even if I fell short of my daily word count goal. 

Now, on to the second goal. And like the first one, there’s a reason behind it. I’ve heard it said from numerous sources that a writer should be able to write a story in one sitting. And for the longest time, I held to that belief. But that’s never been my style. Whenever I write stories, it takes, at minimum, a week. There have been few occasions where I complete a story in one sitting. But I went against what a lot of my writer friends deemed old-school thinking when it comes to the length of time to write a story. I decided to play conservative and write a story a week. And not just write contemporary pieces, but challenge myself to write outside the genre. I created a Twitter poll on what genres I should write one of my stories in. 

Sadly I missed this goal by one story. But it’s still worth celebrating. Yes, I wrote my contemporary story, but I wrote two stories outside my “expertise.” I wrote a fantasy and science fiction story. I have to say that both stories took a good amount of time to craft. The reason being that I didn’t trust myself. I sought approval from those more experienced. But I found myself not being happy with them. I had a good amount of false starts. I shared my grievances with a friend on Twitter and she encouraged me with three words: “Go into hyperdrive.” In layman’s terms, it meant let myself be free. Don’t worry so much about the rules. Don’t be afraid to write what I wanted to write. So I did and I felt much better writing them, even if it took longer than what I anticipated. The science fiction story took two weeks to finish. But in the end, I felt better about it.

So I have three stories I wrote in July. I wasn’t going to worry myself overcpolishing them. There are a lot of inconsistencies, but I went into the mindset of just writing them just to say I wrote them. After some consideration, I decided to edit and make new drafts. And there’s the Flash Fiction Hive group on Twitter. They’re starting a new month of challenges. I will certainly take them up and post one or two on my blog.

So, that’s the summary of July. All in all, I did a great job. But I want to hear from you. What goals did you set for the month? Did you meet them? What lessons did you learn from the experience? Feel free to share. We’re all in this together. 

Until next time, take care…