Friday, September 28, 2012

Flash Fiction Fridays: What a Show!



Under the Big Top
By Rosemary Biggio

The harvest moon, like a seamless pumpkin, hung in the night sky, unnoticed by the folks of Clayhatchee. Ida, bookkeeper at the A&P, stuffed the money bag for the assistant manager Hank Ridley's night deposit. He corralled the carts scattered in the parking lot and locked up. Mr. Ridley had come to Jesus by way of Gideon’s Bible, compliments of the Budget Motel. Reborn, Hank would take the yoke of matrimony by resolving to make an honest woman of the bookkeeper. He pulled a circus flyer off the window of his pickup and shoved it into his shirt pocket. Ida hoisted her short body into the cab, snuggled close and pulled the flyer from Hank’s pocket.

“Hey, you didn’t tell me about this. “ Ida pouted.

“Just found out. Now, don’t get your panties in a knot. I was just about to ask if you wanted to go Saturday night.”

Ida punched his arm. “Of course, I do.” She giggled. “And don’t be talking trash about my panties.”

With Ida’s ample breasts pressed against him, Hank forgot about storming heaven.

******************

Toby had finished stocking shelves at the supermarket. He waved at the couple in the pickup and headed home on his bicycle. Taking the long way home, he followed the river that paralleled the old railroad tracks. The tracks crackled, signal lights flashed, the train gasped emitting a whoosh. Mealey’s Traveling Circus appeared out of nowhere and pulled into the station. In his sixteen years, Toby could not remember another circus train in Clayhatchee. At home his father snored and his mother sputtered in syncopation. He knew the roustabouts would set up the big top tomorrow. For Toby, sleep did not come.

******************

The call of the calliope lured him from school to watch the circus parade down Main Street. A gilded wagon housing the instrument was drawn by a white stallion. The gold pipes whistled and steamed. He thought of the picture he had seen in Sunday school of the Ark of the Covenant. The clowns tumbled behind the jugglers. Uncle Sam on stilts made his way through the crowd blocking Ace hardware.  A float blooming with American Beauties drifted by. Men hooted. Sequined girls twirling batons closed the parade. Boys and girls followed the music out of town.

******************

Toby closed the gate and saw his father on the porch, a fresh switch in his lap. He leaned forward in the rocker.

“Teacher sent a note home with your brother. She says you cut school. That right, son?”

“Yes, sir.” Toby stared at his untied sneakers.

“Your ma says you’re too big for this switch, so you’re grounded for the week.”

“But, I had plans to go to the circus on Saturday,” Toby pleaded.

Mr. Martin, a foot taller than his son, stood up, tossed the switch, lifted his straw hat, scratched his head.

“You can go, but you’ll take your brother.”

“I’d rather have the switch. Benny’s a pain in the butt,” Toby scowled.

His father raised his hands as if bestowing a blessing. “That’s it; I don’t want to hear another word about it.”

******************

Saturday came; Toby dragged his brother past the barkers and circus freaks. Benny left a trail of peanuts. Ida greeted them when they entered the tent. Bending down, breasts overflowing, she pinched Benny’s face. His eyes widened, the propeller on his beanie spun.

Benny looked at his brother. ”Whatcha call that?”

“The Big Top,” Toby said.

When the Ringmaster began, Ida wiggled away murmuring,”Nasty, nasty boys.”

*****************

The crowd, necks craned, watched the flying trapeze artists. Toby saw no safety net. A whip cracked. Lions roared. Slick seals tossed balls. Dogs, dressed as jockeys, rode galloping horses. Exotic ladies tightened their grip as the elephants stood up. Bewildered, Hank Ridley watched a lady swallow a sword. For a finale, Rocket Man shot out of a cannon. Returned to earth, he kissed the ladies in the audience. Ida puckered up as he draped his cape around her. Hank clenched his fists, flexed his jaw muscles but did nothing.

*****************

The circus packed up, pulled away and traveled under a starless night. Ida had clipped money from the bank deposit to run off with Rocket Man. She left Hank Ridley holding the bag. Benny strung clothesline in the backyard, making a tightrope. He fell and fractured his right arm. Toby took his first date to a movie billed “The Greatest Show on Earth.”  Somewhere beyond Clayhatchee, children heard the calliope’s call.




Rosemary Biggio was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. A retired high school teacher and college instructor, Biggio is now a freelance writer.




Monday, September 24, 2012

In Praise of Autumn


My apologies, summer people — with your beaches, Coronas and shorts — your season is officially over. Time for strolls through nature’s changing art studio, pumpkin spice lattes and sweaters.

Autumnal equinox arrived Saturday for those of us in the northern hemisphere, a day I have been eagerly anticipating since, well, June 1. Every 90+ degree day this summer, I closed my eyes and chanted the words “autumnal equinox” three times, then quickly ran inside the air-conditioned house.

The day and night are of equal halves on autumnal equinox. Traditionally, it is a time to search within and seek stillness and contemplation — the perfect time to write!

© Yuri Arcurs/Dreamstime.com

Maybe it is because I am a child of October, but I love crunching through the fallen leaves, the fresh crispness of the morning, the gorgeous texture of pumpkins and gourds, and, of course, the hot beverages that accompany this wonderful time.

Autumn is the opening note of a wonderful triplet: October (Halloween), November (Thanksgiving) and December (all of the various Yuletide celebrations). It makes me delirious with joy, and that is saying something. I am not the giddy sort.

Happy Fall, my friends.

What are some of your favorite things about autumn?




Friday, September 21, 2012

Flash Fiction Fridays: Listless




Missing Stephen
By Richard Bon

Shari rearranges the pillows on her couch, vacuums the living room floor, and does two loads of laundry. She makes pancakes from scratch and then realizes she’s out of maple syrup. Improvising, she mashes some fresh raspberries, throws them into a pan and adds lemon juice, sugar, and a pinch of salt. The ingredients reduce to a sauce for the pancakes and she eats breakfast with a tall cup of coffee.

She remembers how Stephen would sit beside her on the couch and nap while she watched television. She’d give him kisses and he never seemed to mind if she walked away to do something else. It’s been five days since she’s seen him.


Restless, she leaves the house and walks up the street, turns down Brown when she reaches North Third, bustling with weekend brunch goers. It’s Fall, and the leaves are turning color, and she loves this time of year. Images of Stephen in their backyard surrounded by red and orange and brown leaves nearly drive her to tears.

She examines every row home on Bodine Street. Walking the narrow block, she tries to imagine the neighborhood a hundred years ago when the houses were built.

Back at her house on Fairmount, in the kitchen, standing at the sliding door to her yard, she hears rustling amongst the leaves.

She turns around and there, staring back at her is a ragged Stephen, meowing.



Richard Bon lives in Philadelphia with his family. He posts new flash fiction of his own or by a guest author on his blog, liminalfiction.com, every other Monday.




Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Electronic Autographs


Here is a fun idea I stumbled upon the other day. Kindlegraph makes it possible for e-book readers to get their copies "autographed" and have personal digital inscriptions. There are more than 4,500 authors listed on the site.

If you are interested in more information on Kindlegraph, click here for a tutorial. 

If you would like a Kindlegraph for any of my novels, just click on the widget below. 






Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Win The Bibliophiles: Book One


To celebrate my WOW! Women on Writing Blog Tour 2012, I am giving away ten copies of the first book in the Bibliophiles series, A Whisper to a Scream. Paperback or e-book — your choice.

The Bibliophiles begins with A Whisper to a Scream, the story of Sarah Anderson, a stay-at-home mother of two, and Annie Jacobs, a PR executive dealing with fertility issues. The second novel, Until My Soul Get It Right, follows Catherine Elbert as she bounces from coast to coast in search of her true self.

Unlike most series, which follow one character through various adventures, mine is a little different. Each book club member "stars" in his or her own novel, giving each book a very different feel, while still remaining under the Bibliophiles' umbrella.



She could be your sister, best friend, wife, daughter, neighbor. 

An overwhelmed stay-at-home mom whose husband is too preoccupied with work to spend time with his family.

A PR executive scared to death she waited too long to have the baby she has always wanted.

When they meet through a Classics Book Club, each thinks the other one’s life is so much better than her own.

But, is the grass truly greener on the other side of the fence?

A vivid portrayal of contemporary marriage and its problems, A Whisper to a Scream speaks to a longing in all of us, a yearning that might start as a vague notion, but eventually grows into an unbearable, vociferous cry.

The contest will run throughout the duration of the blog tour. To enter, just fill out the Rafflecopter form below. I will announce the winner in the Rafflecopter widget on Thursday, October 19th.

a Rafflecopter giveaway







Monday, September 17, 2012

Until's North American Tour 2012



Today I am launching my WOW! Women on Writing Blog Tour for Until My Soul Gets It Right (The Bibliophiles: Book Two). It is all very exciting.



Visiting multiple blogs over the next month, I will be writing guest posts about such fun topics as "A Bibliophiles' Guide to Chicago" and "How to Throw a Literary Halloween Bash," holding giveaway contests and generally having a great time at each site.




The tour starts today on The Muffin, WOW's fantastic and informative blog. If you would like, check out my interview here. You can track my appearances in the column to the right. Each time I'm on a new blog, I will post the link. I have been churning out copy like a crazy woman. It's like the old newspaper days!

To treat readers to the first in the Bibliophiles' series, I will be giving away copies of A Whisper to a Scream (The Bibliophiles: Book One) starting tomorrow and running throughout the month.

Here we go…


http://www.karenberner.com/books.htmlhttp://www.karenberner.com/books.html

Friday, September 14, 2012

Flash Fiction Fridays: TGIF



Restaurant Story
By R. Doug Wicker

Recently, at an upscale, family-oriented bar and grill, two men sat next to us at a nearby table to my left. They were dressed in conservative business suits in a comical parody of unmatched bookends — a light gray suit with navy blue tie seated across from a navy blue suit sporting a light gray tie. After several minutes of rather boring talk, one of the men said to the other something that piqued my interest.

The man in the blue suit with gray tie said, “Have your ever had…What the heck do they call it when you want to say something but say something else entirely?”

The man in the gray suit with blue tie said, “Freudian slip? Is that what you’re thinking of?”

“Yeah, that’s it. Ever have one of those?”

“Just last week. Really embarrassing, too. I was at the airport checking in for a flight and I couldn’t get the darned automated check-in thing to work. I wound up going to the counter agent, who happened to be a very lovely young woman with huge, uh, well, really big assets, shall we say. She asked if she could help me and I said, ‘Yes.  I can’t get the self-check-in machine to work, and I have a picket to Titsburgh.’ That was incredibly embarrassing. I apologized profusely, and she said, ‘That’s all right, sir. Happens all the time. Don’t give it another thought.’”

“OOOooo. That would be embarrassing.”

“Well, how about you? Have any stories like that?”

The other businessman thought for a moment before saying, “Yeah. Yeah. I did, in fact. Just last week. It was my thirty-fifth anniversary, and I took the wife out to her favorite restaurant.”

“Well, what happened?”

“My baked potato arrived, and I meant to say, ‘Honey, could you please pass the salt?’  But, instead, it came out as, ‘Bitch, you ruined my life.’”

Meanwhile, to my right sat a younger man who was having trouble placing his order. The waitress said to him, “Sir, I’m Lorin, and I’ll be your waitress this evening. May I take your order?”

The young man looked up at the waitress and said, “Yes, ma’am. You certainly may. I’ve decided I’d like a quickie, Lorin.”

Well, the waitress looked absolutely horrified. She said, “Sir, that kind of proposition is totally unacceptable. Now, what is it you want?”

“I want a quickie, Lorin,” the young man repeated.

Now the waitress was really miffed. She gave him a stern look and said in a low, menacing voice, “Sir, this is a family restaurant, and I’m not that kind of woman. I will not tolerate this kind of thing again. For the last time — what …do…you…want?”

The young man tapped his index finger on a spot on the menu for emphasis and in cadence with his words.  “I…want…a…quickie…Lorin. I want it hot, and I want it now.”

I’ve never seen a waitress get so upset. Next thing I know, she hauls off and slugs the guy, who holds his hands over his face and yells, “My eye!  My eye!”  The waitress ran off, presumably to go get the manager.

Being the ever helpful sort, this was when I decided I’d better intervene. I leaned over and whispered to the young man, “You know…I believe that’s pronounced, ‘Quiche Lorraine.’”




R. Doug Wicker is the author of two mystery novels, The Globe and Decisions. He is a graduate of Kubasaki High School in Okinawa, Japan. He attended college for two years at Clemson University before enlisting in the U.S. Air Force. His stint in the Air Force began a thirty-four-year career as an air traffic controller, serving with both the U.S. Air Force and the Federal Aviation Administration. Today, Wicker lives in El Paso with his lovely wife, Ursula, whom he married in 1978. He enjoys writing, reading, travel, art, photography, gourmet cooking, fine wines, and bridge (the game, not the structure). To learn more about Doug, visit his blog.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Really, Chuck E. Cheese?



Photo by Dave Parker


The other day, I heard a commercial that literally made me stop and do a double take. I could not have possibly heard correctly, I thought, but then the lyric blared through the television again.

“Everybody say cheese is funner.”

What?

As if the United States was not in a bad enough grammatical state, let’s make it worse by teaching millions of little kids “funner” is a word and repeating it until our ears bleed.

Awesome, Chuck E. Cheese.

One can even download the song from the company's website, so apparently they are proud of their grammatically incorrect plebian summer anthem and encourage sharing it.

Even urbandictionary.com, the premier site for colloquialisms, states “funner” is “The dumb person's way of saying 'more fun.’”

Why would anyone want to encourage that? I know Chuck E. Cheese is not PBS, but why does “fun” have to include wrong language that will only further dumb down our kids’ linguistic skills?





Monday, September 10, 2012

What Are You Up To This Week?


When my husband asks me that question, my usual response is "About 5'2"." I know. I'm hilarious. What's really disturbing is that I am shrinking. At my height, I cannot stand to lose any inches for two reasons. First, that means I look fatter both in the mirror and on the BMI charts, which is never good. Second, thirty years from now, I will be small enough to fit in a pocket. Maybe if the books don't sell, that can be my new career when I am about eighty — writer in a pocket — ready for all of your communication needs.

I am back to work full-time this week after dropping my oldest to college. We have been in contact several times (his initiation, I did not want to be a nag), which made me exceedingly joyous and leads me to believe I will survive this latest of life's adjustments.

Writing, writing, marketing, promotion, writing, and, surprise, more writing are on tap this week, as I prepare for my WOW! Women in Writing Blog Tour.

"A Bibliophiles' Christmas," my holiday short story will head out to the editor next week, which is exciting. It is already at the cover designer's. Should be exciting to see what she comes up with.

My son's first football game with his junior high team is Wednesday. Very exciting. Oh, and lacrosse starts up a fall ball league on Saturday.

Speaking of sports, how 'bout them Bears??!! They trounced the Colts in yesterday's season opener after a less than stellar opening offensive series. Woot!

How about you? What projects are you working on? What extracurricular activities will be keeping you moving this week?

Friday, September 7, 2012

Flash Fiction Fridays: Honesty


I have hesitated to write anything about the cheaters — the ones who purchased reviews, set up sock puppet accounts, gamed the system — and ongoing debate that accompanies them.

They were wrong. They deceived readers and flipped a middle finger to their fellow authors. They have cast doubt upon indies, as if any of us needed more of that to combat, and cast a shadow upon our years of hard work. 

I do not appreciate this, but rather than blather on through some sanctimonious sermon, I’ve decided to combat this the best way I know how — by providing you with one hell of a piece of flash fiction by Jack Andrew Urquhart who holds a Master of Arts degree in English, Creative Writing, from the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he was the winner of the Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Award for Fiction (1991). His work has appeared at "Clapboard House Literary Journal," "Crazyhorse Literary Journal," and "Standards: The International Journal of Multicultural Studies Online." 

And he is a self-published author. 

We must let our work speak for us. It is what we do. We are writers.

Karen



Throw-Away People
By Jack Andrew Urquhart


He blames it partly on Daddy, but mostly on the NSA.

Broken families make broken minds — fertile territory for the experiments these government sadists, these purveyors of insanity, conducting brain games in the name of national security, national security in the guise of mind control.

“But not today!” Cal, newly defiant, yells down the back alley where he’ll take a stand. “Today it ends!” Today he’ll call the shots, outfox the government geeks back east at their computer terminals; Daddy Dearest down the coast with his smart phones and Über-rigged laptops.

It’s a strategy — sharper now that he’s amped — so brilliant it cracks Cal up, sends him bounding into the alley, cackling like a crazy man.  What’s cooler than pre-empting the Fort Meade brainiacs in their concrete bunkers, Big Daddy frantically texting from his Los Altos mini-manse?

Let ’em try ’n beam him now — now that he’s good to go in military regalia: genuine officer’s trench, friggin’ epaulettes ’n all; M-1 brain bucket strapped tight on his head. Let ’em mess with him now that he’s stoked — pint of biker coffee under his belt, 0.8 g’s of ‘strawberry quick’ I-don’t-give-a-shit fizzing in his veins!

Tweeking the system—that’s what it’s about. And it’ll be a bitch to track him in this concrete canyon, only the single bar showin’ on his cell.

“Not enough juice to zap me on that,” he mutters. Fucking government brutes ’n their super computers, programming mischief, beaming microwave malice.

Then there’s Daddy-O. Probably in cahoots with the eggheads — his sappy texts to “get off the street,” “get clean,” “get back t’school,” nothin’ but ersatz mercy missives, scams to lure him back to the laboratory. Christ!  What a picture the old man takes, Cal chortles scrolling the BS. A hoot, the fool’s caller I.D. shot — those hair plugs like sawgrass sprigs sewn into spur leather. He’s pushing sixty now, losing his sap, tree trunk not making wood like it used to. Nothing better to do than tippy-tap crybaby texts.

One—two—three, Cal selects them, fingers flying over the touch screen. Poof! Deleted!

“Turnabout, Arsehole!” he exults, thinking how ironic that it irks the old man now — being ignored.

Hangin’ up, Pops.  No more rehab & boarding-school slammers 4 me! His last text home.

Not another dose of group shrink either, of study halls‘n’placebos; not another night in some hellhole dormitory, voices making brainskeeze in his head. Pops can damn-well suck-it-up! Make do with his Barbie Doll wife, his little blue pills, his flat-screen TV with its 300-cable channels of daily disaster‘n’porn.

Cal wants to shout it from the rooftop — what he’s only just learned — that it’s anyone’s game to throw.

Instead, he pulls a bottle from his coat pocket, leaves the other in place for later. One hard swig and — up‘n’away! — the liquor still dripping off his chin as the bottle soars into space.

No need to wait for the crash; random destruction’s a certainty.

No pity for Pops either; only fair he should get what’s coming — the price of tossing the baby with the bathwater.

“Done with ‘em!” Cal vows, confident that he’s cracked their modus operandi.

“They start with the lowest,then work up!” he yells at the scrawny chick relieving herself beside the Goodwill dumpster. “Let ‘em in your head, and they’ll have you up on the roof, prolonging the agony; zapping you with a chorus of ‘jumps!’”

But it’s wasted effort, nothing for his trouble but an obscene grin when she stands, lifts her skirt, flashes the hungry eye.  Shot as shit, she’s another ‘Bernard’ crapping in the street — another dog waitin’ to be run down.

Ten yards up, there’s more — pack of fags smokin’ rock, doin’ doggie under a cardboard box.

“We’re throw-away people!” he screams at them.  “Bunch ’a guinea pigs!”

But who’s listening?

Only the ones a few rungs up, the Arseholes in their subsidized gulags.

“Shut the fuck up, ya junkie shit!” one of them yells down at him.

“You’re next on their list!” Cal screams in warning. “Lab animals! That’s what you’ll be!”

No surprise, the chorus of ignorance that befalls.

“The ‘polis’ don’t smoke ya, I’ll come do the job!” one of ’em bellows.

They are cattle queued at the abattoir.

“Bring it on!” he howls. “I’m armed to the teeth!”

Soon another one bawls: “Yo! Big guns! Copper’s on the line for ya!”

Five minutes shows the heifer’s good for her word.

It’s like he figured; two of ’em stand sentinel at alley’s end.

Cal has met the baby-faced one before. The other is older — has a mug like a bunion.

They wait by their bikes, legs splayed in a show of authority, batons swinging like dildos from their duty belts.

“What’s up, Sarge?” the younger one shouts. “On the meth again? How long before that shit kills you?” he asks, grinning like he doesn’t know.

The other one, hand twitchy on his holster, isn’t so nicey-nice.

“This ain’t what I signed up for,” he snarks at smiley boy before getting down to business. “Lose the helmet, Soldier Boy!”

It takes the Arse a moment to notice, to snap to attention.

“Shit, here we go! Got us another player! Whats’zat in your hand, Bro?” he shouts, assuming the stance. “Up’n the air, nice’n slow!”

Cal keeps still, relishes the sound of adrenalin-drenched fear.

“Christ on a cracker!” he hears the fool growl. “Train for CSI an’ draw this shit?  Lousy bike beat? Bunch’a junkies, hookers, and beat-up bookies dyin’ to check out?”

Cal draws a breath, feels the ‘strawberry quick’ sizzle in his veins. He watches them watching him, wonders why they don’t get it.

“Your turn’s comin,’ Man!” he blurts, feeling truth rise to power.  And then: “Here! Get ready for it!” he laughs, throwing it away all by himself — the bottle arcing through space.

No need to aim.  Everything’s a target.


©2012 Jack Andrew Urquhart



Jack Andrew Urquhart is the author of So They Say, a collection of self-contained, inter-connected stories, and "They say you can stop yourself breathing", a short story available for Kindle. Formerly a writing instructor at the University of Colorado’s Writing Program, Mr. Urquhart was, until recently, a senior analyst for the Judicial Branch of California.  He resides in central Florida. For more information, please visit his blog.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Be Back Friday

 Hello, dear readers.

Just a quick reminder that I will be back blogging on Friday with another great piece of flash fiction.

College moving-in day is Wednesday, so we are busy getting our oldest ready for freshman year. Yikes!

Have a good week,
Karen