Sunday, May 25, 2014


Collins Land

“No one will die on my watch,” barked the cop. “Give yourself up, so we can go home safely.”

The problem was that the man was not going home safely. He would be arrested and sent to jail. “I didn’t do it,” he protested.

“Good. Walk this way and we’ll sort things out.”

When he came out, hands in the air, wearing nothing but filthy clothes, he thought there was hope.

Suddenly someone yelled, “He has a gun.” And a barrage of deafening shots made him collapse.

No gun was found and the real killer was caught two days later.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Nut House Hunger

Collins Land

Event: 500 Word Challenge
Host: Harriet Gausman
Time: 30 mins
Prompt: He ducked just in time as the china plate sailed past him and hit the wall.
MOOC: from 5.7: The serial killer who is an extraordinary gardener in her "free time"...


Natasha ducked just in time as the china plate sailed past her and hit the wall. None of the wardens had foreseen that, coming from Ruby, the soft-spoken, gray-haired elderly patient.

Had it been Natasha, then they would’ve expected it for sure. She was prone to sudden states of extreme irritability. But not this time, this time, she just ducked. Well, not “just”… She immediately felt the urge to wrap her hands around Ruby’s skinny neck and tighten that evil-speaking throat of hers into a total and final silence.

However, Natasha had bigger issues to deal with. Her planned but increasingly annoying stay at the nut house was starting to wear her out.

A few weeks earlier, at the trial, she had uttered a few incoherent sentences, a few unintelligible words and absolutely no reply to any of the questions either the prosecution or the defense asked her. Although she had been strongly advised not to testify, she proudly sat on the stand, swore she would tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so helped her God, and smiled the most captivating smile, looking at the horrified jurors. Then she smiled to the judge.

Natasha was convinced it had been the smile, that innocent-looking deviously misleading smile that saved her from the electric chair. When her defense attorney threw his hands in the air for the dramatic effect, he was quite good at that, and asked to approach the bench, the judge had already decided. It would be prudent and advisable to have the accused undergo a thorough psychiatric evaluation.

A few days later, she was visited in jail by a shrink. She told him about her past, her obsessively controlling and abusive father, at whose hands the entire family suffered some of the most sickening punishments. She told him about her mother who never took her side, an accusatory tone in each sentence. She told him about her small sister who was found dead in her bed; they said it had been a sudden death syndrome. Natasha knew what happened. She heard it all. She was only seven years old and her sister, four.

She never smiled while talking to the psychiatrist. It didn’t take long for him write up a report and deliver it to the court. There Natasha would hear the verdict. She would be committed to a mental health facility.

And here she was, ducking just in time while another china plate sailed past her and smashed against the wall. The old broad would have to go, one way or another, perhaps just like she had done it to her mother. Yes… just like that, she thought.

There was a generalized confusion in the recreation room. The plates kept flying, coming from nowhere. The wardens tried to catch Ruby, who ran around in circles behind the sofas and the tables and the benches and the piano. The patients yelled and screamed and hit their heads with their fists. Some drooled and laughed uncontrollably. 

Natasha grew impatient, hoping no one would find the small door. They would block it and destroy her chances of becoming free once more. I must go, she thought. 

She found this door quite accidentally when looking for garden supplies. She had taken up gardening as one of the occupational therapies the hospital offered its patients. 

A Gothic gardener was something most wardens found quite amusing. She would wear the bland cream uniform for patients and her long black braided hair, the sides of her head shaved, her nails painted in a deep shiny black nail polish.

Although it did seem a bit off, gardening soothed her inner turmoil. She loved watching something grow from nothing into a wonderful plant. She didn’t like flowers too much though. They would die eventually. She preferred bushes, small trees. They would grow and grow, and bloom in their own particular, sometimes peculiar ways.

I must go… I must go, she thought. She had spotted the hidden door when her shoulder accidentally hit an empty cupboard that slid slightly to one side. She found out that the small door led to a narrow corridor, probably the way in for supplies. The level the recreation room was located in was the same level of the kitchen. The hospital had previously been a hotel.

Natasha was almost caught a few times, snooping around that narrow corner under the staircase, but her relentless smile disarmed even the most suspicious of the wardens. For some reason, that clown’s smile, a middle ground between innocence and devilish incoherence, made people think that she was an idiot, that she could not understand things too well. She could. She understood things far better than anyone, even better than most of the staff.

That small door would be her way out, back to her hunting grounds. Natasha was hungry again, longing for that sense of completeness of the senses that always appeased her angry fears, the storm growing within.

I must go, but not yet, she thought, not yet. The Ruby issue was still pending. And maybe solving that would satiate her hunger for now.


Character building: The idea here is to use the stereotype (Gothic) and go beyond it, giving the character something a Gothic person would not likely do. Does gardening work with a Gothic-looking character?! Umm... I'm not sure...!

I wonder what would work? I want to show the kill/nurture dichotomy inside of her. A pet? Somehow, I don't see her with a pet... And choosing a crow or a rat would go back to the stereotype of portraying a certain oddity.

I must reshuffle "the cards" and see what comes up. Any ideas? Please, add them in the comments. Thank you!

Sunday, May 18, 2014


Collins Land

Week Three
Make sure you have a strong impression of the characters that will be at the center of the story. Try to write at least 200 words, up to a maximum of 350 words.

Aspects to keep in mind; these will be the review points used by fellow writers:

*How was the central character portrayed and was this portrayal clear and interesting? 
*What made you think this piece was a story and did you want to read on? 
*What were the most, and least, successful aspects of the writing?

Note: The 100 Word Stories Challenge for this week was "Monster". I used the story I wrote for the Challenge as a basis and expanded on it. The end result is  below.


As Natasha walked across the long familiar corridor, her sneakers screeching on the bare floor, she could hear a hasty clock ticking, reverberating against the walls.

The old brittle wallpaper covering these walls reminded her of childhood. There were trees and flowers, and elephants and dolls and all sorts of things that would never fit in a corridor.

She smiled. Now in her mid-thirties, she felt the long corridor stretched much longer behind her than ahead of her. This was her world now, after so much had happened. 

The past, although distant and crowded by bizarre plans and failed certainties, vividly reminded Natasha that moving along that narrow corridor was her only chance. 

The stubborn clock whispered in her ear “step up, Natasha, step up”, and she matched her steps with the ticking, obedient, yet yearning to rebel. 

The elephants lined up, the trees and the flowers too, a welcoming committee in the making.

“Isn’t this wallpaper nice?” she asked the man in white, her long straight black hair caught in a braid of pensive recollections. 

He nodded. There was no wallpaper, only the whiteness of a hundred aseptic walls.

However, Natasha knew about that forgotten emergency door, the door that would be her way out. After all, she did have unfinished matters to take care of.


Collins Land

As she walked across the long corridor, she could hear a hasty clock ticking, reverberating. The old brittle wallpaper covering the walls reminded her of her childhood. There were trees and flowers, and elephants and dolls and all sorts of things. The clock whispered in her ear, step up, and she matched her steps with the ticking of the clock. The elephants lined up, the trees and the flowers too, a welcoming committee in the making. “Isn’t this wallpaper nice?” she asked the man in white. He nodded. There was no wallpaper, only the whiteness of a hundred aseptic walls.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

How Was This Fair?

Water Reserve

Event: 500 Word Challenge
Location: Milk Wood, Second Life 
Host: Lizzie Gudkov
Prompt: "He looked at the tubes and wires and cried silently. How was this fair?"
Time: 30 mins


Peter walked down the corridor, his pace accelerating to match his heartbeat.

He received the news of David’s accident earlier in the morning. A girl, introducing herself as David’s friend, sobbed on the phone for a few minutes before summoning the quietness needed to break the terrible news.

She was unable to provide any detailed information. Yet, amidst the turmoil of tears and sentences chopped in half, Peter found out that his son had been cut off by another car when the traffic lights turned green. As any hot-temped young man, David yelled and waved offenses at the other driver. The man got out of his car and pulled out a gun and shot David.

Peter asked her over and over again where his son had been shot, but that only prompted another wave of sobbing and crying, so he gave up.

During the flight, he couldn’t help thinking that, back then, he should’ve accepted that job in Japan and taken David with him. His son loved The Land of The Rising Sun and always wanted to study there.

However, for Peter, staying was easier than leaving. That happened when his marriage started crumbling; he stayed hanging on to the excuse that David was still so young, not even a teen yet. Years later, when the divorce was final and his life seemed to crumble around him with the financial demise of his company, he still stayed. A prestigious Japanese enterprise tried to hire him, but he refused, alleging his family, by then practically non-existent, needed him.

At seventeen, David moved out of town to go to college and, like his father, stayed away. He then found a job at a start-up company, rented an apartment and most likely found a girlfriend or two.

Now, in his mid-thirties, he never called. David, in his late-sixties, retired and enjoying the freedom of having time and money, didn’t either.

As he approached his son’s hospital room, he slowed down. For the first time in hours, he hesitated. Would he find hope or fatal despair? Would he find his son or a stranger?

His ex-wife Annie, David’s mother, was standing at the door, as if waiting for him, judgmental as always, her arms crossed. “What took you so long?”

He wouldn’t tell her about the four agonizing hours he had to sit in the airplane, waiting for take-off, his legs struggling to survive painful attacks of cramps and sheer helplessness. He wouldn’t tell her about the avalanche of recollections and mixed feelings that assaulted him of David riding his tricycle for the first time, looking as proud as when he rode his Harley out of town into a new life. He wouldn’t tell her about how he loved her back then when she told him she was pregnant. He wouldn’t…

He entered the room and, not even the infinite time he spent getting mentally ready for this precise moment, helped him. He looked at the tubes and wires and started to cry silently.

“David…” His son looked so vulnerable. His face was smashed beyond recognition. Peter wanted to hug him, but he didn’t know how. David was held hostage by a menacing array of medical paraphernalia. How could he hug his son? How could he overcome the gap? How could he put the past behind and save him?

“How can I save you?” he whispered.

Annie sneered. “Save him like you saved your precious whore,” she lashed at him.

A week later, David died peacefully, or so it seemed. The machines were turned off and the comforting beeping that had cradled everyone’s hopes went silent. The funeral was as silent as David’s premature departure.

Annie never shed a tear. It was not the way she grieved. She would cry at home, perhaps even on the flight back. Peter went back home too, a different home in the same town. They took two different flights, Annie insisted on that.

The “whore” was long gone. Well, she wasn’t a whore, she was just a young woman determined to save Peter’s soul. If anyone saved anyone else, it had been her and not him. Lives move in different directions and she moved on as well.

However, the death of his son triggered something in him, an anxiety, an eager and rebellious determination to change. In a totally atypical attitude, he packed a bag, closed his house and bought a ticket to Japan. And he stayed there, never to come back again.

Thursday, May 15, 2014


The Tower by Rebeca Bashly

The ethereal wave invaded the room, its hypnotizing touch swirling softly, at first.

Close your eyes, she thought, before darkness drags you away.

She felt the room twirling around her increasingly. Her shallow breathing sounded like thunder, although it was almost silent.

The wave progressed in a crescendo, speaking in tongues, twisting and turning against the walls, gasping for freedom.

She kept her eyes tightly closed.

Suddenly, the door was flung open. “What’s going on here?” shouted her mother. “Turn the music down right now, young lady.”

That’s when she opened her eyes. Ever so ethereally, the wave died down.


Note: Ethereal Wave is also called Ethereal Dark Wave or Ethereal Goth. “Typical of this kind of music is the use of (…) sound effects like echo and delay. A second typical characteristic is the use of (…) [often] hard-to-decipher lyrical content – and a strong influence of ambient music. The website describes it as being "most characterized by soprano female vocals combined with (...) bass, lead guitar, and drums which creates a surreal, angelic or otherworldly effect”.
Source: Wikipedia -- (visited: April 12 2014)

Monday, May 12, 2014

One Death at a Time


Week Two Final Task

Turn on the radio and take note of the first thing that is mentioned. Use it as the basis for a story of no more than 500 words. Imagine a character, someone who is central to what the story is about. Try to use clear, vivid language so that your reader can see the character. Use some of the characterisation techniques we have talked about so far:

*physical description
*thoughts and inner life
*where the character is located
*the character’s back story
*how the character acts in the world.

You might not wish to include all of these various aspects in your story but you might like to know something about them nonetheless.


An irritatingly persistent rain flooded the streets of New York for several days. Natasha was tense, restless.

Although she was in her mid-thirties, she looked considerably younger. Of average height and normal build, she wore her long straight black hair in a braid, the sides of her head neatly shaved. Black nail polish, black jeans, black t-shirt, and black combat boots, only added to the belligerent look Sean found irresistible.

He met her at a bar the night before. She was by herself. He invited her for a drink. She hinted that she would prefer a quieter place “to talk”. Dangerous looking women always awoke in him a thrill for careless lust. They ended up at his place doing everything but drinking.

The talking happened the next morning. 

“Why?” asked Sean, hugging Natasha, his chin on her right shoulder, both looking outside the window of his posh downtown apartment.

Between them and the window lay a small telephone table. While aligning all the elements, a notepad, a pen, a mail holder, a key dish, and a letter opener, Natasha talked about her life. 

She grew up in a family of abusive parents, dodgy cousins and blurred recollections of vaguely inappropriate situations. She became a nomad. She ran from her family, her small town life, her past. Above all, she ran from herself, but this she never told Sean. She never told him about the feverish need to exorcise that feeling of powerlessness.

“The memory of him keeps me alive,” whispered Natasha in her deep pitched voice.

“Him?” asked Sean, his lips in a childish pout. 

Natasha rambled on and on about a mysterious biker she hooked up with who roamed the highway during the night, committing terrible crimes. She had perfected the art of rambling. Sentences, apparently meaningless, were patched together, gradually shaping an invisible web.

“I’ve never heard of any…” started Sean.

Natasha interrupted him. “Yes…” and tilted her head, revealing the side of her neck. 

He felt this intense desire to kiss her. He turned her around towards him, but for a split second, he couldn’t comprehend what was happening.

“Why, you asked. This is why.” And she plunged the letter opener in his neck, and stepped back, watching the blood gushing out ruthlessly.

Then, Natasha took a long sensuous shower. That always coaxed her back to a certain sense of joy, cleansing her body of those pesky red stains and purging, even if temporarily, her catacomb-like soul filled with unspoken secrets. 

She stepped out of the apartment building. It rained, still. The rain didn’t bother her, not anymore, not as much as it did the day before, this morning or even just an hour ago. She felt calm. She had appeased that hunger and had recovered her self-assurance.

It was now time to buy food for her cat, a black, slim, yellow-eyed trustworthy companion. He too needed to be fed.

Sunday, May 11, 2014


LEA 13 Cica Ghost

“You didn’t feel someone pushing you?” asked the surgeon, checking the exams. The strange object had lodged itself near the spine.

“No…” replied the young man. “It hurts… Can you remove it?”

“I’ll try,” said the surgeon.

The young man added hesitantly, “Odd thing… I also hear strange noises…”

The surgeon frowned.

Well, the operation went fine, yet the young man now heard voices.

In his office, the surgeon opened a sphere and typed “Subject intercepted test messages. Receptor fixed,” and added, “Begin countdown.”

Days later, Earth was not Earth anymore. It was a forced labor colony, one of many.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

MOOC, Writing Fiction

Milk Wood

As many of you know, I registered for a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). This is my first course of the kind, so I was rather curious about the way it'd be organized. Considering that this wouldn't have the traditional teacher-student model I know so well and that it was a course for which no writing experience was required, I wondered how effective something of this type could be.

Start Writing Fiction by the Open University's Future Learn offers the interesting possibility of the learner being able to go through the different steps of the course at his own pace. It started April 28 and will last 8 weeks.

Now, I know that teaching writing is a bit like teaching someone how to cook. There are different styles, different tastes, different ingredients. However, there are a number of techniques that, when used properly, can improve the end result considerably.

So, although I've been writing for a while (I'll never admit to how long... I wouldn't want to give away my age *cough cough*), I thought I'd benefit from a structured learning environment to consolidate those techniques.

Throughout the weeks, I'll post a few comments on what I thought was "Interesting" and "Uninteresting".

Week 1: Starting to write fiction
• Start keeping a writer’s notebook for life observations
• Write both fact and fiction, discussing the difference
• Read character sketches in novels
• Do a quiz on the readings from Orwell and Heller
• Listen to novelists on how they started
• Start writing yourself.

Interesting: Although I already used a notebook to jot down ideas, words, sentences, collect newspapers clippings, names of songs, anything, I never spent much time making notes about people. This course focuses on creating a character, and it was interesting to pay more attention to this aspect of writing. 

Uninteresting: One of the goals I had when I registered for this course was to have feedback from others. As it happens everywhere, people are too eager to comment on anything/everything without giving some thought to what they are commenting on. This is not only unhelpful but potentially harmful.

Week 2: The habit of writing
• Discover your own writing rituals
• Listen to novelists talking about their own rituals
• Read novel extracts for how characters appear
• Do a quiz about the readings from Atkinson and Greene
• Learn about heightening powers of observation
• Experiment with story beginnings and write a mini-story.

Interesting: Reflecting on writing rituals and how published novelists introduce and develop their characters.

Uninteresting: The foreseen small interaction between the teachers and those attending the course. Yes, this is an open (i.e. free) course and I have received an email earlier today stating that more than 20.000 people registered for this MOOC. I'm not sure all of them are actually going through the tasks given, but... it's an enormous amount of people. Commenting at a 101 level would be impossible. However, I guess I'm old-school... I'd like to see the teachers online for an hour or two a week to answer questions in a chatroom situation or a live video stream, for example.

Week 3: Writing is editing
• Discover the importance of reflecting on your writing
• Explore how, where and when to make changes
• Consider what to bear in mind as you edit
• Review work from fellow writers
• Receive feedback from other writers
• Start writing another story.

Interesting: I found it extremely interesting and useful to reflect on my writing process. It tends to be a bit "impressionistic" and unplanned, I must admit. Once I start spending too much time drafting a story, taking notes and trying to make sense of it all, the magic is lost. I get stuck. How to find a middle ground is quite a challenge. I'm still working on it!

It was also very important, this week, to review the writing of fellow learners. Yes, there are a few rules one should follow to produce an effective and actually useful review. Did people follow those rules? Not always...

Uninteresting: Peer review criticizing an aspect of the story but not offering an alternative.

Week 4: Building your story
• Listen to what novelists think about research
• Develop further a notebook habit for research and ideas
• Explore ways of turning events into plots
• Read writing that focuses on personal concerns
• Do a quiz about the reading from d’Aguiar’s novel
• Investigate where ideas for stories come from.

Interesting: I've never felt the need to do much research other than finding the right name for a character. It was interesting to reflect a bit about that and about how much of each writer is in poured into the characters.

Uninteresting: The quizzes are definitely a bit odd. Being a multiple choice type of exercise, I'd expect them to have a right/wrong answer. In many of the questions that is the case. However, there are answers that depend on the opinion of the learner. So, I'd either remove them or rephrase some of the questions.

Week 5: Creating convincing characters
• Read about four ways to create characters
• Do a quiz about Novakovich’s methods of creating characters
• Discover the effect of ‘conflict’ on your writing
• Learn how to turn stereotypes into rounded characters
• Review work from fellow writers
• Receive feedback from other writers.

Interesting: Receiving feedback from fellow writers. At the beginning of the course, learners were offering feedback in a rather unorganized way. This week, I was fortunate to have a few peer reviews that were structured and very helpful.

Uninteresting: I continue to find the quizzes rather "fragile".

Week 6: Developing and portraying characters
• Listen to novelists on developing their characters
• Investigate ways of getting to know more about your characters
• Read a short story to see how characters are portrayed
• Learn four ways of portraying characters
• Experiment with one or more of these methods
• Start writing the first draft of your final short story.

Interesting: It was very interesting to see the methods accomplished writers used to portray their characters.

Uninteresting: Writing the first draft of my story is something I've been struggling with, oddly enough. I am usually fast in planning a story and even faster in writing it. My gut-feeling tells me the reason why this is happening is the fact that I fail to recognize a logical sequencing in the tasks suggested in the course. Some seem to be "out of place" and others quite repetitive. What should have led to this moment, writing the first draft of the story, didn't... At least for me...

Week 7: Reading as a writer
• Listen to novelists on how important reading is for them
• Note your responses to what you read
• Read a novel extract, investigating its technique
• Do a quiz about the reading from Toni Morrison’s Jazz
• Review the first draft of your short story and redraft
• Learn of the benefits of reviewing other work.

Interesting: Reading other writers' work is, in my opinion, extremely important. I have found myself having no time to read, for some reason, and noticing immediately that my writing becomes more difficult, more confusing and in need of a lot more reviewing.

Uninteresting: Well, it's not the first time that I mention the fact that I have been struggling with the tasks suggested by this course... This has led to a certain stand-still in my story...

Week 8: Your final story
• Review work from fellow writers
• Receive feedback from other writers
• Write a reflection on your story
• Edit and redraft your story
• Review the important tools that help you to progress as a writer
• Do a quiz about character and story and the approaches picked up on the course.

Interesting: Submission time! The story had to be ready! It wasn't... Life does tend to kick us about a bit every now and then and,as a result, I finished week 8 at the end of... week 9. So, I am not sure if there will be enough people around to take a look at my story. We'll see. PS: There are still plenty of people willing to review stories.

As a matter of fact, I'm doing my bit. I've reviewed two already. Writing a review is always interesting for me. It makes me reflect on the writing process without being too close to the story.

Uninteresting: Still the quizzes. They don't add anything to the course. In my opinion, they are often embarrassingly easy.

Final Comment: Apart from the weaker aspects mentioned above, I think this course did promote a more systematic reflection upon many aspects of the writing process, especially character building.

Only time will tel whether this course had a strong enough impact on my writing or not. For now, I find myself being considerably more self-conscious about my characters' portrayal. I do hope this is good and not somehow constricting!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Gold Locket

Collins Land

Event: 500 Word Snatch
Location: Milk Wood, Second Life
Host: Lizzie Gudkov
Prompt: Your protagonist’s dog digs up an old gold locket in the garden. Your character is shocked when he opens it up. Why?
Time: 30 mins

Penny was a fun, happy kind of dog with a mind of her own. She would take off on a tour of the vicinity as if the end of the world was right at the door. After a few times trying to keep up, I completely gave up. Neither my legs nor my will could match hers.

She would disappear for hours, but right before dawn, she would always come back, tired, dirty, but pleased about her own private adventures of exploring the neighbors’ gardens and the fields behind our house.

Every now and then, she would bring a trophy back with her. Once, she brought a squirrel. It had been dead for a while and its stench invade the whole house for days. Another time, she brought a black bag filled with old brittle papers. These were love letters to a woman called Carol. They seemed quite personal and I was worried for a while that my dog had taken them from someone’s home. However, no one complained or claimed them, not even after I handed out a few flyers at the local market and at the train station.

Penny never worried at all. She was actually very proud. She most likely considered herself the greatest adventurer and scavenger, a true treasure digger.

As time went on, it became more and more evident that my dog had absolutely no intention of sharing her time away with me. As soon as I opened the door, she would disappear, running in a different direction each time. She seemed to be using those stealth techniques secret agents use to avoid being detected, although she lacked the calm, composed posture of these agents.

One day, she brought back something quite intriguing. It was an old gold locket. It was covered in mud and an excessive amount of saliva. Penny was a “drooler”.

When she entered the house, I thought she had swallowed something. I could see a metal cord hanging from her half open mouth. After a closer look, I realized she had it in her mouth.

It was quite a struggle to convince Penny to drop it. She considered it her property and I could see that, this time, she hadn’t brought a gift.

When I finally managed to salvage the locket, I washed it and cleaned it a bit while my dog sat next to me, on the kitchen floor, gazing at my movements carefully and anxiously.

It was made of gold, or so it seemed. I opened it carefully. I really didn’t want to break it. To my surprise and, I must admit, concern, there was a photo of a woman inside. I slid the photo out of its frame to see it better, trying to shake off the drops of water that had ventured inside the locket. On the back of that photo, was written “Carol”. The first thought that came to my mind was that Penny had invaded a familiar garden, the one where the love letters had come from.

I don’t know what came over me, but I jumped up from the sofa and went outside. Penny was rather confused. It wasn’t her time to go out, but she didn’t complain, so off she trotted, happy with the opportunity offered and, as usual, she disappeared around the corner.

This time, I made a huge effort to keep up with her. Perhaps she would take me to that same house.
She did. When I saw Penny, she was sitting, proudly, inside a garden. The house looked abandoned. The windows were boarded up. And Penny sat by a tree.

As I approached, I couldn’t believe my eyes. She had dug up a hole. Inside the hole was a disarray of bones. A skull had rolled towards a planter, abandoned to its fortune.

The police later told me that the owner of this house was long gone. The wife had disappeared mysteriously and he had always claimed that she, Carol, had gone back to her family up north.

I don’t know, if they ever caught him or not, I really don’t know. But one thing is for sure, now I always try really hard to keep up with Penny and, I must say, I’m getting better and better at doing it!

Star Wars

The Bayou

“I’m dying here,” wailed Peter, an aspiring actor.
“Join the club,” the director replied.
“Star wars?!” Peter insisted.
“That’s where the money is.”
“Insidious and entrapping,” crackled the actor.
The director sneered. “Go on, now. The others are waiting.”
Peter always wanted to be a star, but he had obviously misunderstood the ad looking for actors to feature in a reality show.
“You must choose your battles right, my dear,” snapped the director. “Now, be a darling and move along.”
An axe in hand, the actor dragged his feet towards the helicopter that would take them to a remote island.

Friday, May 2, 2014

#7 Flash Fiction B&W Challenge - Home

Harvest Moon

#7 Flash Fiction B&W Challenge

The river ran deep, as deep as some of the deepest sorrows she had to fight every day. She often sat on the wooden pier, watching the river flow through the aged planks, oblivious of the multitude of sounds exploding around her. She would scratch the surface of the rusted nails holding the pier in place.

If the pier collapsed, she wondered time and again, how she would react. Would she be so startled that she wouldn’t have time to react? Or would she struggle to swim back up, grasping for air?

For some reason, she imagined herself floating downwards, as in the films, into the unknown. She shook her head. That was silly. Her survival instinct would definitely kick in and make her fight, as hard as she could, to live.

However, she didn’t want to live or rather she was undecided about that. The past few weeks hadn’t helped either.

The big question was to leave or die. Neither seemed feasible.

A long string of phone calls brought her nothing but more pain; although the police assured her they would protect her. They didn’t.

The saddest thing was actually the only thing that made her happy. They had no children.

That last day, when an overly concerned husband called the emergency line yelling for help, the detectives went to their house, but found nothing.

“I didn’t do anything,” her husband swore repeatedly. “I didn’t.”

They had to let him go.

A few weeks later, an envelope arrived at the police station. It contained a wedding ring and a white piece of paper saying “Go back and look for it”.

The police did search the house again. This time, they found a transparent plastic bag in the freezer, with a finger inside. The DNA matched.

Her husband claimed to be innocent till today, almost ten years after she went missing. The neighbors remembered seeing her sitting on that pier and some even ventured a theory or two about what had happened. He was convicted, of course. Circumstantial evidence only, yes. Apparently a finger was worth more than nasty bruises, a swollen eye and a broken arm.

As she sat at the beach, the warm water splashing at her feet, she thought of that river, as dark as it was, that had saved her life. Her survival instinct did kick in. And besides, she still had plenty of fingers left.

The Liebster Award!

Thank you, Cybelle, for the nomination to the Liebster Award!

Everything I do, I do it passionately, above all writing.

Being nominated by a fellow blogger, a fellow story writer and especially you, someone who has followed my writing path regularly, means a lot to me.

In "There was a Time", Cybelle blogs both stories and absolutely stunning photos, often blending these two worlds perfectly. Do drop by for a visit!

I am told to share a bit about myself by answering these questions. So, here goes!

1. What is your favorite city?

      Although I don't live there, I'd say Lagos, Portugal. It's a city by the sea (and I do love the sea!) where you can close your eyes and hear the wind whispering secrets, the seagulls arguing, people chit-chatting away, the boats entering the marina. When it rains, there's a certain calmness. I like that.

2. What is your favorite character trait?

      The ability to listen. The Buddhists call it mindful listening. I'm not a Buddhist, but I'm very sensitive to the generosity that listening without interrupting or judging involves. It's very uncommon to come across it nowadays.

3. What is your favorite book?

      This is a tough one! My background is Modern Languages and Literatures, so choosing one single book is not easy. Being a former educator, I'll choose Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. I've always been fascinated by the perplexity the main character feels towards the world around her. This perplexity and the use of both language and the absurd have inspired many of my stories. 

4. What subject in school gave you the most grief?

      Maths! *rolls eyes*

5. What is the most exciting thing that has happened to you in the last 10 years?

      The last 10 years have been a time for big transitions. I stopped working as a teacher and started writing. I think realizing my life could continue to have meaning, beyond the job I so loved and for which I worked so hard, is definitely at the top of the wonderful things that happened to me in the past few years.

6. Who has been the biggest influence in your life?

      My family (for the good and the bad!) and my friends. Oh, and I mustn't forget my students. They taught me a lot about not losing hope.

7. What is your biggest pet peeve?

      People who don't say "hello" or "goodbye", basically... rude people. Oh, and selfishness. And also people who are self-centered. But then we'd have three pet peeves!

8. Do you have a dream you’d like to share?

      Having peace of mind! I'd like to be able to sit down and not think about anything, literally. Some say that's possible. So, there's hope. :)

9. Which would describe you best, a romantic idealist or a philosophical pragmatist?

      I think I'm a philosophical pragmatist. I do have my moments of romantic idealism, I do! However, my matter-of-fact side inevitably takes over.

10. What is your biggest fear?

      Loneliness. Despite the fact that I cherish my moments of silence, I'm an outgoing, communicative, gregarious person!

11. Why do you like to blog?

      This blog is like my workshop. My stories are posted here and there throughout the world wide web! So, my blog is the place I return to, my resting place, where I keep my "writing self". It's also my "writing home" where I receive my guests, old readers dropping by to check new stories and new readers looking forward to discover my writing. Some become friends and that is inspiring!

And now, it's my turn! I nominate...

The 100 Word Stories Podcast, daily drabbles, a weekly writing challenge and podcast.
Virtual Writers World, daily and weekly writing challenges, book reviews, story writing.
iRez, virtual identity, culture, story writing.
MusePalace, poetry.
Serendipidy Haven's Blog, virtual reality and story writing.
Living Virtuality, virtual reality.
Imagining the Impossible, virtual reality and story writing.
Writer's Kaboodle, interviews to upcoming writers and book reviews.
More Graffiti, drabbles and haikus.
Wide Awake But Dreaming, story writing.

... to the

Note: I wish I could've nominated Honour's Post Menopausal as well, but... the number of followers is way above the 300, which only shows what a great job Honour is doing!

Finally, I'm told that it's part of the award to ask you a few questions. Here are my 11 Questions for you, should you choose to accept the Liebster Award (copy and paste them to a post on your blog and then try to pick 10 other blogs to nominate, that have less than 300 followers):

1. What is your favorite place in the world (virtual and/or real)?
2. What is your favorite character trait?
3. What is your favorite book?
4. What are you reading at the moment?
5. What is the most exciting thing that has happened to you in the last 10 years?
6. Are you a cat or a dog person?
7. What is your biggest pet peeve?
8. Do you have a dream you’d like to share?
9. Which would describe you best, a romantic idealist or a philosophical pragmatist?
10. What is your biggest fear?
11. Why do you like to blog?

Thursday, May 1, 2014

A Story Waiting To Happen...

Annwn Willows
... Annwn Willows (click here for full text).

This post is part of a series of monthly articles  for the Virtual Writers Inc. website about sims in Second Life that could be inspiring for writers. My goal is to trigger ideas for new stories, new characters and new settings.

Note: One of the characteristics of Second Life is the fact that it's constantly and rapidly changing. Sims come and go; others look quite different, as time goes by. Do take that into consideration when using the links provided. 

Annwn Willows

Annwn Willows is about a story still asleep”, writes Joanna Corith as she introduces her sim. How could I not write about it, with such an introduction? How could we not drop by for a visit? After all, we are writers incessantly looking for stories.

I decide to follow Joanna’s suggestion and open my browser. With Ólafur Arnalds’s breathtaking song Ljósið playing in the background, I sit on a bench in the island where visitors land upon their arrival, and watch. Night time is slowly fading away and the sun is coming up. Everything looks mysteriously beautiful. Annwn Willows makes me think of being born, of growing up, and getting old.

Four islands populate the four corners of this water sim. We shall visit all, tracing a fine balance between Time and Life. I invite you to join me for a tour of this wonderful world of stories and dreams.

From where I sit, having as a confidant the sweetest looking squirrel, I face an island across the water. I wonder how I could get there. I grab a bird and fly over (spread across the sim, there are a few stars and other objects you can click to get a ride).

The first island I take you to beams with yellow grass that clears, here and there, giving room to a few sit-down areas around a ruined ice-cream van. A rotating chair by the line of lights draws my eye to a cup resting on the table, promising the outbreak of spring. A “Welcome” banner invites me to check the van, while a deer grazes placidly behind it. This makes me think that a group of teenage friends could meet here and, with the excuse of having a few ice-creams, hang out throughout the afternoon, delaying the inevitable moment of returning home.

Despite the visible decay, there’s a sense of magic as I approach a table where a few candles burn inside clear glass bottles. Underneath the glowing bottles, a newspaper announces both worrisome and interesting news. On this island sheltered from the world, the deer grazes on by the edge of the waterline, oblivious of everything.

As I walk farther away from the van, I see an old piece of wood floating about and a door on the ground, lying on its side. A fragile line is holding it sideways, which is something quite impossible to comprehend.

Above the water, a meteors shower is falling. Or is it being pulled back into outer space by an unexplainably powerful force? The pallet raft and the two floaters make me think that there will be a positive outcome though, come what may.

I grab a raft and head west toward an island covered in blue grass. There, a piano whispers a song played by two, a symbol of Life moving onwards and shared with someone special. The bike, the hammock and the table with the tea set, are also made for two.

Farther into the island, a secluded spot in the middle of a dense wooded area, much like a playground, is covered by water. Two small toy boats and a toy raft roam around peacefully while yellow particles (are they glow-worms?) seem to be as playful as the small boats. I look up. A meteors shower makes its appearance here as well, a symbol of Life’s troubles to be overcome. As I look to my left, I see a horse. It seems to be a carrousel horse, unpaired from its siblings. As playful as it may look, a sense of mischievousness and danger, the kind of danger we all put ourselves in one point or another in life, takes over.

As I prepare to move onwards, I still have time to visit a small mound surrounded by water and connected to the island by a fragile log bridge. Three brown pelicans took possession of the area and one seems to be quite impatient with my presence. Perhaps this is a family of pelicans, the father eager to protect mother and child.

I then head north, to the next island. As I arrive, I am greeted by a pair of shoebill storks. You may not know these birds, but I can tell you that they do look awkward! It is said that we all act oddly as we grow older, but that doesn’t stop me from trying to engage in a conversation with them. Perhaps they can tell me a bit more about this place. However, they are totally uninterested and point the way toward a ruined windmill, crumbling on the ground.

I notice there’s a bed inside. Above it, a junk-chime tinkles softly. It’s made of a can of tomato, a few keys, a wrench, the cable of a knife, a porcelain cup and a spoon, just enough elements to write a whole story.

I lie down. A butterfly is flapping its wings gently at the foot of the bed. Through the wood planks, I notice a swing, a vague recollection perhaps, hanging from a meteor. The swing is for one or for two, and I cannot help thinking that our journey to discover stories untold is approaching its end.

Funny thing, these meteors, they come crumbling down, destroying, devastating everything, and I dare say everyone who has the misfortune to stand in their way. However, they also have the enthralling power of making you look up, toward the sky, embracing change, taking on a new path, a new future.

I hop on an old bath tub and sail away east, past a few geese flying. The last island is bordered by snow. The water is still there, omnipresent throughout our voyage, yet here it’s colder. The rocks are grayer as are the flowers. The water lilies still bear a touch of yellow, stubbornly, while white lilies threaten to invade. An old wooden bench resists the flow of time. I sit down. It’s only for one. From my seat, I watch the flamingos, immobile, in their elegant beauty. A lonely sparrow sings merrily. Oh, wait, there’s another nearby. That’s good.

By the edge of the island, I see a rowboat, half sunk in the water. I imagine an old retired sailor preparing the bait for his afternoon of fishing and telling, perhaps his grandchildren, stories from back when he was a young man.

Curiously enough, I notice now, there is no meteors shower here, only yellow fireflies. Well, they are particles, but in our stories, they’ll be fireflies!

It’s time to leave. I grab a ride on a bird. I decide to fly away with the geese. They are going back to the island in the middle of the sim where we landed as we arrived. Its waterfall draws me to explore the world beyond the surface. Something tells me that there is much more under this placid water mirror. Well, I must confess. I know there is!

This sim is impressive and remarkably symbolic. Its aesthetic design is empowered by colors, shapes, and details. The right hint of sound, here and there, makes the beauty of silence stand out.

I close my eyes and listen. Yes, I do hear stories of “memories, dreams, thoughts and passion”. As Joanna Corith states, Annwan Willows is a “temporary vision”. As temporary as Life is, I dare add.

Finally, I’m back where I started. I sit one last time by my confidant, the lovely squirrel. He asks me about what I have seen. I tell him about the new stories I have in mind, so many stories!

Oh, and there’s a moon, stars, and a Little Prince as well, somewhere in a dream. But that’s for you to find out, because… there’s a story waiting to happen at Annwn Willows.



Disclaimer: Virtual Writers Inc. and I are in no way affiliated with any shop located in the sims featured in this column nor do we intend to promote them.