Friday, July 29, 2011

Flash Fiction Fridays Top Five: #1

During the month of July, Flash Fiction Fridays has been counting down our Top Five flash pieces since Bibliophilic Blather began this feature in September 2010. These are the five stories that received the most hits over these ten months. We hope you have enjoyed reading this eclectic assortment again.

Coming in at number one from our December Holidays theme....Mission Santa Claus.


Mission Santa Claus
By Richard Bon

The boys hid their bikes and an empty duffel bag behind the bushes and knelt beside one another at the foot of the steep, grassy hill leading up to the old man’s house.

“Remember,” Nathan said to Billy, “if you see a light go on, run back and grab your bike and ride to the end of the road and wait for me by the Smithfield barn.”

Billy nodded and hoped Nathan didn’t notice his hands, trembling.

“You ready?”

Billy nodded again, eyes wide.

“Okay, then let’s go.  Follow me.”

Staggered, Nathan ahead of Billy and to his right, the boys trotted up the hill until they reached an old weeping willow tree about twenty feet from the grand old wooden house’s long front porch.

“Just wait here,” Nathan instructed Billy.  “I’ll go get it and then we’re outta here, piece a cake.”

Billy did as he was told while Nathan made a sprint toward the object of their desire, the reason for their stealth nighttime mission: the brightly lit Santa Claus with its waving, flashing arm. From the house’s location at the top of the big hill, the flash could be seen from all around the small town, a bright white light turning on and off with every motion of Santa’s arm. Rumor had it the old man bought it from overseas years ago, less than ten were made, and it was priceless. At least that’s what the older boys in their school told them, the fifth graders who didn’t let them play touch football at recess even though some of the other fourth graders got to play.

When Nathan reached the Santa and lifted it off the ground, Billy could see a power cord hanging from Santa like a tail. Nathan started taking slow steps toward the house and Billy understood; the cord ran to the house, and Nathan had to unplug it.

Suddenly a bright light turned on, lighting up the entire porch and the lawn where Nathan stood.

Billy recalled Nathan’s instructions to scram if a light came on, so he started running down the hill. When he looked back for Nathan, though, he saw his friend sprinting toward the house, still going to unplug the Santa. Scared, Billy kept going down the hill.

By the time Billy reached the Smithfield barn, he was completely out of breath. The five minutes he waited for Nathan seemed like forever.

“Did you get it?”  Billy asked Nathan when he arrived, nervous and excited.

Nathan removed the duffel bag from over his shoulder, and Billy could see that it was full.  The boys rode home in silence.

That Monday in school they told the fifth grade boys about their adventure and the priceless Santa they stole. The older boys laughed out loud for a few minutes, bewildering Nathan and Billy.

“What’s so funny?”  Nathan asked.

One of the fifth graders asked, “Haven’t you ever been to K-Mart?”


Richard Bon lives in Philadelphia with his wife and daughter.  He posts a new micro story, written to be read in five minutes or less, every other Monday at LiminalFiction.com.



Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Talk to Me


Hello. Please sit down. May I offer you some tea? Iced or hot?

I need to discuss Flash Fiction Fridays with you. You see, I’m not quite sure what to do about this beloved feature for August. The lack of submissions for next month’s theme of Pets/The Dog Days of Summer (approximately one) makes me inclined to think it was not as clever of an idea as I had originally thought.

Hey, what can I say? This is my first year of doing this. They are not all going to be great.

It could be because it is summer, the kids are out and everyone needs a break. It could be because several of you are busy doing blog tours and PR for your recent releases. (And if you are, please drop me a note. I would love to feature your book here.) Or, it could be because the theme is rotten. I understand all of these completely.

Whatever the reason, what should we do about August? I will run the one story I received a week from Friday, but what after? 

Are you up for a writing prompt? Perhaps I post the writing prompt for a few weeks, then the next two weeks, publish the results? Should we make it into a contest? Do you have anything you would like to write about or something you would like to see here?

Please let me know what you think in the comment section below.

And,in the meantime, here are the Flash Fiction Fridays themes and deadlines for the rest of the year.

September 2011, Getting Schooled, Due 8/29

October 2011, Nightmares, Due 10/3

November 2011, Travel, Due 11/1

December 2011, Winter, Due 11/28

Send your submissions to karen@karenberner.com. Please put "Flash Fiction Fridays" in the subject line and include a short bio and links with your story.


Coming Friday... 

We will reveal who is number one in the Flash Fiction Fridays Top Five. Who will it be?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Editing for Grammarphobes: Vocabulary Building

I am a word nerd. In high school, I would memorize the vocabulary lists, making sure to incorporate at least one of those words in my writing each week. This is how insipid, plethora and a myriad of other words entered by vocabulary, including myriad itself.

Have you ever read a dictionary? Whenever I edit, I often end up reading a few pages before or after my initial inquiry. It is fascinating.

For instance, do you know what the following five words mean?

Alacrity

Alacrity means "promptness in response, a cheerful readiness."

Didactic

Didactic is an adjective used to describe something that is "designed or intended to teach, or the intended to convey instruction and information, as well as pleasure and entertainment." It also can mean making moral observations.

Haboob

A haboob is a "massive dust storm," such as the ones that recently rolled through Phoenix, Arizona. The word comes from the Arabic, habub, which means "violent storm."

Parsimonious

This word means "frugal to the point of stinginess." Merriam-Webster.com gives the example of a parsimonious woman who insists that charity begins and ends at home.

Schadenfreude

Schadenfreude is "enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others." It comes from the German words for "damage" and "joy."

All definitions courtesy of Merriam-Webster.com.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Flash Fiction Fridays Top Five: #2


During the month of July, Flash Fiction Fridays is counting down our Top Five flash pieces since Bibliophilic Blather began this feature in September 2010. These are the five stories that received the most hits over these ten months. We hope you enjoy seeing this eclectic assortment again.

Coming in at number two from our June 2011 Escape theme....The Totem Pole Escape.


The Totem Pole Escape 
By Cleveland W. Gibson


I am a jungle Totem pole, so scared of the night, because bad things happen, things I can't put right.

I am scared of little things, things you might not see, but they all have long legs, and walk and walk on me.

I feel the lick of the spider, the patter of hairy feet, the snakes also keep coming. Ugh! Beetles never look neat.

It is because when it comes to walking, I feel I have the curse, I cannot escape or leave this jungle, for better or for worse. And I must.

Then I heard that sound, in the middle of the night, the devil striking matches, turning dark into daylight.

The flames creep up from tiny, they grow to terror tall, dwarfing all the green trees, me too, who now looks small.

Up high in a soot-black forest, the smoke curls to the sky, but trouble didn't end there and it's why I know I cry. The chainsaws cuts the trees, one day they'll see me too, their blade attacks will weaken me but what else can I do?

I call up the moon spirit, shout her beauty is divine, do lots of things like that, I act while there is still time.

As Miakoda's name hits the wind crowds wait and wait to see, a wonder in the moonlight, what walks away is only me!

As I hear the kettle drums, I'm itching to the beat, I look down at the ground to see I've grown two feet.

What a wonder of wonders, and it's kind of true, my height has dropped to inches around sixty-two. I see the jolly scarecrow, love the jacket tweed, the dandy hat and braces, I borrow all I need.

My face keeps on shining, I'm dapper you see. A pole dressed to kill? Who else can it be? I'm in the pub drinking two pints good and strong, 'til the Morris men come, invite from me a song. I shake my legs and dance, my wooden feet click a treat, the crowd go wild clapping, dogs chase me in the street.

Come morning and first light, I feel the fever spring, hot cross buns a quiver, my God I love to sing.

Then quickly out of a time zone, I look towards the sea. I hear a marching band, grim faced men after me. Closer still the Press Gang, marching to click and beat, heading for the famous pub, bang men on head they greet.

My legs are full of beer, plenty in my head, I catch a noggin pin, and think I'm only dead. But I've escaped at last to... the Land of Dreams.




Cleveland W. Gibson is the author of digital shorts, Silver Wolf and Only the Best, plus several novels available through amazon.com. He was born in colonial India in an atmosphere of colour, mystery and intrigue. In the UK, he worked in the government, trained as a life guard and was a road race director for over ten years. Since taking up writing he’s published over 200 short stories, poems, articles in over eighty-five countries. His current project is a fantasy novel, House of the Skull Drum


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Editing for Grammarphobes: Too Hot to Think

Since most of the United States is under a severe heat warning today, with temperatures soaring in the upper 90s to over 100 and heat indexes around 115, I find myself wanting to stay in my lovely air conditioning and avoid anything that requires too much brain capacity. 


So, here is a grammar quickie courtesy of The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law.


who's, whose


Who's is a contraction for who is, not a possessive. Whose is the possessive. 


Examples


Who's there?
I do not know whose coat it is.


Coming Next...


Join us on Friday when we reveal who came in at number two for the Flash Fiction Fridays Top Five.



Monday, July 18, 2011

A Monday Morning Surprise

Much to my dismay, I was awakened at 4:30 a.m. by a short downpour outside my window. It was like the Supreme Being turned on the faucet and let it run for five minutes. This is not a good sound for a woman of my age. You can guess the correlation.

Once I returned to bed, my mind took off. What was I going to write the blog about? How am I going to get more stories for Flash Fiction Fridays? Is “The Dog Days of Summer” a stupid theme?

It was useless. I got up and made some tea. Might as well get to work.

While checking my e-mail, I came upon a Google Alert for A Whisper to a Scream. Usually these show up a week or so after the fact and almost always are alerts for mentions I have written myself here on Bibliophilic Blather. Whoopee, right?

Not this morning.

It was a review from a site that I did not have to solicit or beg, as the case may be, to review my novel. How wonderful! And the reviewer liked it. All the better!

This lovely little review is on a site called Picks‘n’Passions. Here’s what she wrote.

"This book is for the woman who has experienced infertility issues or the woman who has felt overwhelmed by her role as a Mom. I could personally relate to each of these women because I have experienced both situations. At times I felt those old desperate feelings of wanting a child as Annie suffered countless disappointments, and at times I belly-rolled with laughter at what Sara faced with her children. The author, Karen W. Berner, brings these characters to life so vividly that you can't help to feel a connection with both. This is a great "chic" read and one that you will not regret reading." 

Apparently, the submission came from a great site, Cheap E-Reads, who had featured Whisper as a piggy pick (affordable books for Nook e-readers) a few weeks back. If you have a Nook, please check out Cheap E-Reads. There are many great novels listed there.

Now that is a nice way to start the day.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Flash Fiction Fridays Top Five: #3


Before you read this fantastic story, I have to put in a little plug for my author interview over at The Writing Apprentice. I met Penny on She Writes, a great networking site for women writers.  Her blog, www.thewritingapprentice.com, is an all-encompassing writing tutorial. She has an MFA and teaches creative writing at the collegiate level.


Okay, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

During the month of July, Flash Fiction Fridays will be counting down our Top Five flash pieces since Bibliophilic Blather began this feature in September 2010. These are the five stories that received the most hits over these ten months. We hope you enjoy seeing this eclectic assortment again.

Coming in at number three from our May 2011 Parenthood theme...Three and a Half Minutes.



Three and a Half Minutes
By Jules Carey


Molly had run out of ideas. She kept smacking him, over and over, pounding her little son’s back. Was he turning blue? No, it hadn’t been that long. Had it? She wished for someone to be there who knew what the hell to do. Nothing she did worked.

Bang! Bang! Bang!

She had heard that the brain could only last four minutes without oxygen. How long had it been? The panic in her chest distorted time, making it difficult for her to track. Ten minutes? An hour? Couldn’t be or the paramedics would have arrived already.

Wouldn’t they?

Molly feared something would break if she kept hitting him so hard, but the desire to free his airway outweighed any other concern. She couldn’t see the obstruction while looking down his throat. It must be deep.

Bang! Bang! Harder. Softer. Change the rhythm. Higher on his back, then lower. Still nothing popped out of the little boy’s throat.

What the hell did he swallow?!

His eyes rolled up and closed. She flipped his little body over on her legs, his face to the ceiling. She shook his shoulders desperate for something to work.

“Open your eyes! Open your eyes, dammit! Grayson! GRAYSON! OPEN YOUR DAMN EYES!”

Her voice grew horse; her face soaked. The room blurred from through the tears. Sobs wretched from her lungs making her whole body shake.

“God! God! God!” she begged. “Don’t take him. Please, don’t take him!”

A powerful force flung her to her back and whisked the boy from her lap. Without hesitation, Molly bolted upright to see a man in dark clothes turn his back to her, blocking her view of Grayson. A fearful rage sprang from somewhere deep inside. She’d be damned if someone would take him away from her now. The last few moments of his life were hers to witness.

Bolting for her son, Molly was again thrust to the floor. This time the hands that grabbed her didn’t release. She thrashed her body, squirming and hitting the arms that pinned her down, but as quick as it had come, the rush of adrenaline was spent.

A short cry pierced the room. Molly’s heart skipped when she realized her voice was too hoarse to have made it. She stopped breathing for fear that any movement may disturb the room and prevent the sound from coming back. The hands that held her eased up, but she remained staring at the popcorn plastered ceiling.

One second... Two seconds... Three seconds...

There it was! The cry rang out again, softer this time. Small and scared. She would know that sound anywhere.

Renewed adrenaline flipped her over and sent her scrambling on hands and knees. Nothing stopped her this time as she clawed her son away from the man in uniform and clutched the boy to her chest. Her continued sobs filled the room, now accompanied by words of praise and gratitude.

“That’s alright, Ma’am. Just doin’ our job.” The paramedic laid a gentle hand on her shoulder while his partner gathered the equipment they had dropped rushing into the room. “Don’t think he has any permanent damage, but we’d like to take him in just in case.”

Molly only nodded as she wiped the back of her hand across her face. Neither man attempted to take her son from her again. She rode to the hospital in the back of the ambulance with Grayson, crying and thanking the paramedics the entire way.



This piece was originally published in Zouch Magazine.


Jules Carey spends most of her time in a world whose language has no translation for the word “normal”. Five kids and a self-employed husband keep life full for this Ohio-based author. After spending five years writing technical documents for marketing companies, Jules decided to embrace the craziness surrounding her and pursue creative fiction. Look for her most recent flash fiction in the May 2011 issue of AntipodeanSF. When she isn’t reading, editing, revising, or setting her keyboard on fire, you can find her tutoring math and reading to young children. To learn more about Carey, visit her blog.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Editing for Grammarphobes: Revisiting Homophones


Do you remember what a homophone is? They are words that sound the same, but are spelled differently. Homophones can trip up even the most seasoned of writers. And what 
is worse, they are never picked up by 
Spell Check. 

hangar, hanger 

A hangar is a building, which usually houses airplanes.

People use hangers for their clothes. 


cannon, canon 

A cannon is a weapon.

Canon is a law or rule, usually of a church.


straight, strait 

Straight means something not crooked or curved.

A strait is a narrow passageway between two bodies of water.




Coming Up Friday...

Number three in the Flash Fiction Fridays Top Five. Who will it be?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Editing for Grammarphobes: Weird Words

 Do you remember that song by the Carpenters?

“Rainy days and Mondays always get me down.” 

Well, that is most certainly true today. A thunderstorm rolled in right when I was catching up on my Monday morning correspondence. I was about to start writing this post, when our power went out and did not return until three hours later. Needless to say, several explicatives were uttered, followed by a brief period of panic and wringing of the hands.

Ugh.

On this goofy morning, I present words that are not spelled the way one would think, for whatever the reason.

cancel

canceled (Makes sense.)

canceling (I can see that.)

cancellation (WHAT? Why the double “L” all of a sudden?)


bologna (Why is this the proper spelling for the lunch meat, and why is it pronounced bah-loan-ee?)
 

Phoebe (How can this name possibly be pronounced fee-bee?)



August Flash Fiction Fridays 

We are open for submissions for August 2011 and beyond. 

Next month’s theme is “The Dog Days of Summer.” Pieces are due 8/8. As always, send your submissions to karen@karenberner.com. Put "Flash Fiction Fridays" in the subject line and include a short bio with your story. Please sign up to follow Bibliophilic Blather, so we can build our online writing community.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Flash Fiction Fridays Top Five: #4

During the month of July, Flash Fiction Fridays will be counting down our Top Five flash pieces since Bibliophilic Blather began this feature in September 2010. These are the five stories that received the most hits over these ten months. We hope you enjoy seeing this eclectic assortment again.

Coming in at number four from our February 2011 Romance theme...A Walk in the Woods.



A Walk in the Woods
By Margaret Lake


Mathias the Wizard strode through the forest, seeking the perfect subject for the most perfect spell ever invented.

He could feel the magic humming around him. Finally, he stood where the trees grew thickest and let the atmosphere of this dark place fill him body and soul. He spun slowly three times, eyes closed, then opened his eyes. A slender willow tree that he was sure hadn't been there before appeared in front of him.

This is the one, Mathias thought, tall, slender, soft, leaves drooping gracefully to the ground.

He pulled out his wand and gently tapped the trunk. “Exorior Spiritus Salix Alba”, he intoned, once, twice, thrice. At each tap, the tree shivered and Mathias knew he had the right one. When he finished the spell, he stepped back a pace, waiting for the wood nymph to appear.

She was more magnificent than he could ever have imagined. Pale skin, luminous green eyes, long, slender limbs. And when she spoke, it was like the sighing of a summer breeze.

“What do you want, wizard?”

“To free you from your prison.”.

“I am not imprisoned,” she replied haughtily. “I am the handmaiden of the Willow and I guard her spirit from all who would harm her.”

“Ah, but it is you who are the spirit of the Willow.”

“If what you say is true, then the Willow will die if I leave her.”

“But you would live as a human!”

“What has humanity to offer? I take my nourishment from the earth and sky. My limbs feel the caress of the wind and the birds sing their sweet music among my branches.”

“And except for the seasons, your life never changes. Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall, you stand unchanged and unmoving. Do you never long to see the world beyond? Do you never long for the sound of a human voice? The touch of a human hand?”

“Never!” she declared.

“And yet you listen to me talk, gazing into my eyes. Do not tell me you are not curious about me as a man.”

“I am curious, wizard. Show yourself to me.”

With a shout of triumph, he threw off his wizard's robes, letting her look her fill.”

“You are indeed a fine specimen, wizard,” she acknowledged. “Come closer so that I may wrap my branches around you.”

“I will come closer if you let me say the spell to make you human,” he bargained.

“Then do so and I will enfold you as you say the spell so that we may become one.”

And so Mathias cast the greatest spell ever invented. “Mutatio Arbore Homo…” But before he could say Femina, she wrapped her branches around him and he felt his limbs grow long and wooden as he turned into a mighty Oak. And as she promised, they became one, their branches entwining, their roots entangled forever.




Margaret Lake is the author of five novels, including Ariana's Pride and Catherine and the Captain, as well as a fiction anthology. To learn more about her, visit her website

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Writer's Life

Yesterday, I had a lovely lunch with one of my kindergarten classmates. We have known each other for 2,500 years. Through the magic of Facebook, we reconnected. I was able to visit with her and her wonderful daughters while they were in town.

This friend is the very first person to purchase A Whisper to a Scream in paperback. She has been mentioning it in her Facebook status and PMing me to ensure I sign her copy before she heads home to Colorado.

It is very surreal, autographing one’s book, isn’t it? Those of you out there who have done proper book signings at various events are probably used to it by now, but I paused for a good long time, pen in hand, title page open at the ready, and continued the conversation at the lunch table until I could control the butterflies in my stomach and finally put pen to paper.

Upon my return home, my children greeted me, asking how it went. I walked past our powder room, where a plunger lie across the toilet. In my haste to get out the door, I was unable to fix the clogged toilet before I left.

This time, a different butterfly flitted about my abdominal regions.

I picked up the plunger and got to work.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Independence Day!



Independence is a great thing, isn't it? Sometimes extremely difficult and downright frightening, but always liberating. So, on this 4th of July, Bibliophilic Blather is celebrating some great indie writers.

Feel free to add your favorites in the comments section. Some were picked up by major publishing companies after first self-publishing their novels and/or poems.

Here is my list of "old school" favorites.


And the new indies...


Who are some of yours?

By the way...

A Whisper to a Scream is featured in Cheap e-Reads today and throughout the week. It is a site dedicated to finding affordable books for Nook e-readers. Please stop by for some great deals.


Friday, July 1, 2011

Flash Fiction Fridays Top Five: #5

During the month of July, Flash Fiction Fridays will be counting down our Top Five flash pieces since Bibliophilic Blather began this feature in September 2010. These are the five stories that received the most hits over these ten months. We hope you enjoy seeing this eclectic assortment again.

Coming in at number five from our April 2011 Spring Fever theme...Pandemic.



Pandemic 
By Jason G. Anderson


Dr. John Andrews looked through the transparent wall in his office toward the hospital entrance below. Hundreds of people filled the normally clear area, all seeking medical help. He turned as another doctor entered his office.

“We’ve received another sixty-seven patients in the past two hours,” said Dr. Susan Hallow. “They’ve all tested positive for Xyalo’s Syndrome.”

“Damnit.” John turned back to the window. Xyalo’s Syndrome, or “Spring Fever” as the original colonists had nicknamed it due to the time of year it struck, was a disease that had once killed hundreds a year. No one had ever worked out exactly what it was that caused Xyalo’s Syndrome. Starting as a simple body ache and fever, it progressed quickly to coughing and vomiting of blood, then the lungs and brain liquefying. Death was always the result.

Fifty years ago, a vaccine had been developed on Earth. When injected annually, had proved 100% effective in stopping the disease.

Until now.

“Has the lab determined why the vaccine isn’t working?”

Dr. Hallow shook her head. “We ran a comparison of the latest batch of the vaccine to some old stock we located. They were a perfect match. Dr. Wu is trying to figure out what has changed, but it’s going to take time.”

John closed his eyes. He had feared that. More than a million people lived on the planet. They were all at risk.

Dr. Hallow continued. “Has there been any response from Earth?”

John snorted in disgust. “Sure. They’re sympathetic to our plight and assure us that the vaccine is fine. They’ve offered us the full services of a ‘consultative’ team via hookup to assist us in diagnosing what’s really wrong, because we must be morons to think it’s a disease that they cured decades ago.”

“What? You can’t be serious. Eleven people have already died! What more do they want?”

“No liability.” John sighed. “While Dr. Wu is trying to create a vaccine that works, have the lab start synthesizing penicillin and probenecid.”

“Penicillin? We haven’t used that in over a century.”

“Not quite true. The early colonists found it was the only thing that would slow the progression of Xyalo’s. Until the lab can give us a working vaccine, a penicillin with probenecid dose is our best bet at keeping people alive.”

“How long will it give us?”

“Three days. Five if we’re lucky.”

Dr Hallows nodded. “I’ll tell him right away.” She turned to leave.

“Susan...”

Dr. Hallows stopped, looking back in surprise. “Doctor?”

John shook his head. “Never mind. I’ll be down to help in a few minutes.”

She left, still looking surprised. John looked at his hand as he flexed it, the ache already starting to spread to his elbow. He didn’t think five days would be long enough for Dr. Wu to synthesize a new vaccine.



Jason G. Anderson is the author of The Vampire Drabbles: 40 Bites of Fiction. He lives in Hobart, Tasmania (Australia) with his wonderful wife, Marina, and their three cats. During the day, he assists scientists researching Antarctica, analyzing satellite imagery and helping the scientists to manage the large quantities of data they acquire. At night, he prefers to write about imaginary worlds far removed from our own. To learn more about Jason, visit his website.