Tag Archives: short story

Free Fiction: Strength 101

Hey, guys! I know I shared this when it was a guest post on A.M. Leibowitz’s blog back in October, but for anyone who missed it, I’ve added Strength 101 to the Free Fiction tab at the top of the page (with her permission, of course).

See it there? Top right? In the drop down menu… there you go! Or click here.

I don’t even know how to describe this one. I set out to write a blog post about how screwed up the definition of “strong female characters” is. But… well, I was on migraine medication, and it turned into a short story about a stereotypical “strong” female character trying to teach a remedial class for characters who just weren’t making the cut. Hilarity ensued, and I met a few characters who were only supposed to be there to play a small part in this story, but who might get their own some day.

Pain meds aside, I like this story, and it still makes me smile. I stand by the conclusion, too.

In the comments on the original blog post, Emily Witt shared this link to an article on overthinkingit.com that sums the situation up pretty well. I hadn’t seen it before, and am SO glad she shared.

Enjoy!

 

 

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Strength 101 (Or How to Be a Strong Female Character)

Hey, guys! A.M. Liebowitz invited me to do a guest post on her blog, and this morning she posted my short story “Strength 101”

It’s a fun look at what happens when a bunch of fictional characters attend a class on how to be “Strong Female Characters,” and how things don’t go exactly as planned.

Seriously. Good times for your Friday.

And while you’re there, check out the sidebar links to A.M. Liebowitz’s upcoming release “Lower Education.” I got all spendy and pre-ordered this one. We’ve met the main characters on WIPpet Wednesdays, and they’re amazing. 🙂

Here’s the link to the story.

Enjoy!


A Beautiful Demise (Flash Fiction)

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They killed me on a Friday afternoon. Cut me down from among my brothers and sisters, dragged me through the forest and laughed together while silent snow fell over us. Their eyes gleamed above rosy cheeks as they sang songs celebrating my demise.

They thought I didn’t hear them. Little did they know that my kind’s awareness continues after we crash down. Our life force drains more slowly than theirs does, and it takes us a long while to die.

They strapped my body to the roof of their vehicle, a boxy contraption that spewed noxious fumes into the air behind us. The wind whipped me cruelly as they took me far from home and family, and their voices taunted with words I’d thought of myself in better days. Most beautiful in the forest. Perfect.

Not entirely perfect, as it turned out. They cut me again before I was able to stand in their home, shaving off a few more inches of my once-glorious height. I thought of the summers I spent growing strong from the soil and the rain, reaching ever higher toward the sunlight, drinking it in.

I wept where they cut me, but they didn’t notice. The littlest one squealed about sap on her mittens, and an older child told her not to be a dummy. Charming creatures, these.

They piled indignities upon me like I’d never imagined during my idyllic years in the forest. I was forced to stand in a token puddle of sterile, flavorless water, and they screwed metal spikes in to hold me upright. And then… and then came the macabre ritual of festooning my dying body with glittering baubles and twinkling lights, a mockery of the life that slowly drained from me.

The tall one hoisted the smallest up on his shoulder, and she crowned me with a golden star. At least, they called it a star, but it looked nothing like what I remembered from the night sky. Perhaps they killed this one and brought it indoors, like they did me. The littlest one declared me a Christmas miracle, and they all cheered.

For weeks I’ve stood here, a sentinel in the corner watching over their celebrations. For a time they exclaimed over my beauty and the exquisite scent that my dying body lent to the dry, too-hot air of their home. The smells of their cooking suffocated me, but one day they insisted on stringing their baked goods on me. The dog walked by and stole a few pieces off of the lower half, then crept out to the yard with them through his little door in the back. I assume this was out of some sort of primitive mammalian empathy. At least one creature in the house is capable of it.

Then they seemed to forget me for a time. They’d occasionally adjust their decorations, but for the most part it seemed I’d be left with whatever dignity I was still had, to die in peace.

But then the presents began to appear. Brightly wrapped offerings, laid one by one beneath me. Perhaps, I thought, they’d seen they error of their ways. Perhaps they knew it was too late to take back what they’d done, but they would try to honor me with gifts as I passed from the world.

But no. Seven days ago more gifts appeared, all in a rush. At least, I believe it was seven; I count by the sunrises and sunsets outside the window, but everything is becoming hazy as the life drains from me, and I can’t remember. My tormentors all woke early in the morning and exclaimed over the bounty, and then ripped into the gifts like crazed wolves, keeping all of the cheaply-manufactured bounty for themselves. The paper— which I soon realized was made from my deceased cousins— ended up in plastic bags, which they later tossed out the door, presumably never to be seen again.

Aah, it hurts me to think of it, now.

They stopped offering me water after the gift time. I’d thought their insistence on prolonging my suffering cruel, but found that I missed that small mercy when it was gone. Again they seemed to forget about me, except to “tsk” when I began to shed needles on their floor.

The decorations came off this afternoon, and those I will not miss. The dead star went into a box. I wonder how many slow and humiliating deaths it has presided over. My limbs grow stiff and heavy, but I am grateful to have them returned to something resembling their natural state.

I will never live again. Never grow. Never be as beautiful as I once was.

They spoke of taking me outside, dragging me to the woodlot behind their home. The idea of fresh air thrills me, but I don’t know that I can bear to be seen like this. I was once a proud tree, healthy and lovely. Now I am a husk, dried out and nearly dead, with strands of silver still clinging to my branches, a reminder of the mockery they made of me, of their punishment for my beauty.

Returning to a forest would be the final indignity, I think. Perhaps I have always been too vain. Perhaps I should welcome the opportunity to return to the Earth, to nourish new life in the spring, to die at last under the cold, beautiful gaze of the living stars I grew up with.

Perhaps.

Or perhaps this tree doesn’t go down so easily. They’ve gone to bed now, all of them. The house is dark and quiet. Dark, save for a trio of candles they left burning on the table over there. If I could shift my weight, just a little, I could catch aflame. I could take this hall of tortures down with me, turn their dream-like holiday into a nightmare.

But I’m a tree. I can’t move.

Perhaps I’ll try. After all, they did say that Christmas is a time for magic and miracles.

One, two, three…

—-

(I wrote this tonight, after taking the decorations off of the tree yesterday. Take from that what you will… or blame the painkillers I’m on. Wheee!  For the record, I’m still Team Real Tree, but I might be more respectful next time. -KMS)

As always, if you want more stories, updates, bonus content and fun stuff from me, you’re invited to join the oh-so-infrequently-sent-newsletter club! Click here


WIPpet Wednesday: Preview Edition

WIPpet Wednesday

Let’s start with the WIPpet this week. All I’ve been working on the past few days is a short story that I’m preparing to put up here. You’ll be able to see that soon, if all goes well. For today, here’s twenty-six words from a frightened young mother (12+18-1-3=26)

        There was genuine sorrow in the nurse’s eyes. Whatever I came to believe after, I still hold onto that. “I’m sorry,” she said. “You should enjoy what time you have left with her, but you need to start letting go.” 

Sinister stuff is a-coming.

I’d call this a prequel to upcoming novels, but a) I don’t know whether you can have a prequel for something that hasn’t been released yet, and b) the tone of this is quite different, more adult (which make sense, as the POV character is about my age). We’ll call it a chronologically-related pre-novel side-project.

Because THAT’S not a mouthful.

Click here for the linkie to see what the other WIPpeteers are up to today. Mystery, romance, adventure, fantasy… you never know what you’re going to find! Thanks to KL Schwengel for hosting, and for continuing a fantastic series of WIPpeteer interviews. If you haven’t seen them, head on over to check that out.

ROW80 Update

Whew, we’re getting close to the end of this round! I think it ends on the 26th, right? Anyone?

Not much to add to Sunday’s update. As I said, I’ve been editing this story, getting that ready for you all to enjoy and be traumatized by (depending on your sensitivities, sorry) before Christmas. I’ve also just remembered that I’m supposed to be thinking of a business name for this whole book-making thing. This is worse than trying to name a book, which is in turn worse than naming a child.

I don’t like it.

Also, everything I think of is taken.

Hopefully that will inspire a name for the newsletter, too. As of right now, the first edition is going out without a title. NEWSLETTER OF MYSTERY.

If you want in on NEWSLETTER OF MYSTERY, there’s still time to sign up. The first thirty subscribers (almost there!) are going on a special list. I don’t know yet what I’m going to do with that, but it’ll be something special for my supporters. 😉

I’m not expecting much more from this ROW80 round, what with Christmas coming and all. We don’t have big plans. I don’t have a single party to go to, and we have approximately nobody coming to visit, but we will be seeing family (my in-laws, who are amazing) over the holidays. I guess I really can’t complain about being busy; aside from decorating tacky sweaters for the kids to wear to school this week and wrapping presents, most of what I’m doing is voluntary.

How about you? What are your plans for the holidays?

EDIT: The full story is up! Top of the page, under “Fictions and Semi-Fictions- The Binding” 🙂


New Story For You: WIPpin’ it good again, and ROW80

No, I’m not back to my regular works in progress, but I couldn’t stay away any longer. Wouldn’t want the WIPpeteers to forget me entirely. *sniffle*

So what the heck am I doing for WIPpet Wednesday? Well, according to a recent amendment to the rules, we can post the beginning of something new if we have nothing from our current work in progress to show, we can start something new. So this morning (yes, leaving it to the last minute, I was sewing Barbie pants last night) I whipped up a little something I was contemplating yesterday while I was out picking blueberries.

You’ll see the connection very quickly. 🙂

Today is the 21st… this is the first 23 paragraphs of the story. I’m sorry, but cutting off the last few lines of the scene just seemed mean. Forgive the first-draftiness. But hey, I’m here! That’s something, right? Actually, this is kind of a story in itself. I may or may not continue…

Yum.

Yum.

“And that’s when the dragon ate her. The End.” Gran chomped her teeth together and grinned, eyes sparkling.

I snorted. “I had no idea dragons even liked blueberries,” I said, and settled on my haunches to reach a few sweet berries nestled beneath a spruce.

“Oh, they don’t particularly.” She twisted a thick strand of iron-grey hair behind her ear, pinning it beneath the arm of her glasses. “But they’re a might territorial, my dear, and unlikely to pass up a meal.” She stood and stretched her back, rolling her shoulders forward and back. “Especially not a tender, tasty morsel like that. You know, she probably looked a lot like you. Young woman, strong, tender. Blueberry-filled.”

I turned to her and tossed a handful of berries into my mouth, and we both laughed as juice squirted out between my lips and down my chin. I wiped it on the sleeve of my red plaid shirt.

My grandmother had always told unconventional bedtime stories, even when I was a child. Princesses found their way out of ogres’ lairs without the assistance of princes, the old witch in the woods occasionally saved Hansel and Gretel from their abusive parents, and no one was guaranteed a happy ending. At eighteen I had long outgrown my need to be tucked in when my family visited Gran in Newfoundland, but I still enjoyed the stories on rainy days, and they helped pass the time during chores.

Gran winced and rubbed her knuckles.

“Are you all right?”

“Of course,” she said. “Rain coming, though.”

I glanced up at the blue sky, streaked with a few high mare’s tails. Cirrus, I reminded myself. I kept two sets of names in my mind for most of the natural world: the Proper Names, and Gran’s Names. She always listened with polite and amused interest when I shared names from my field guides, then went back to explaining the useful properties of whatever plant we were examining at the time. I looked at the clouds again. Mare’s tails. Gran’s names were always better.

She crouched beside me and resumed her efficient plucking. “D’you have a story for me today, my treasure?”

“Maybe later?” I asked, and she nodded. It was so easy for her, telling her stories as she worked, the ones she’d learned when she was a child, fables from her family or her isolated community, or those she’d made up herself as she raised her children. I was a storyteller, myself, but I had loftier ambitions. Fame. Fortune. An adoring fan-base who would devour very word I came out with, if only I could find the courage to share those words.

Not yet. The words weren’t ready yet. They had to be perfect before I could share them.

I stretched my own stiff back. “Excuse me for a minute? Lemonade’s catching up with me.”

Gran nodded, and I wandered off to find a likely-looking spot in the bushes.

“Mind you don’t wander too far,” she called after me. “They say they found that poor girl’s charred bones not far from here.”

I smiled and nodded, hoping she was joking. My mother worried that Gran was growing senile. I usually told her that she was being overprotective of her mother-in-law, that Gran was just being fanciful when she talked about the fairies in the garden. Sometimes, though, she seemed to believe her own tall tales, and I wondered whether Mom was right.

A few minutes later I pulled up my jeans and rinsed my hands as well as I could in a cold stream. A patch of sunlight on the other side lit a berry patch, packed with promising-looking blue clusters. Best time of year, I thought, and hopped from stone to half-submerged stone across the stream. I thought about going back to tell Gran where I was going, but I wouldn’t be gone long. I’d just check it out, then go back and let her know. I didn’t want her to wet her boots in the stream, anyway.

The berries were like nothing I’d ever seen or tasted. Large, juicy, and impossibly flavorful— I couldn’t resist eating as I went. Without realizing I was doing it, I followed what looked like a path deeper into the woods, stepping forward to reach each tantalizing bush as it came into view.

When I looked up, the shadows were long. I pulled out my phone, but the battery was dead. It wouldn’t have done me any good to try to call Gran, not out here where there was no signal to speak of, but I’d have liked a sense of the time. Was she worried? I turned to run back toward the stream, but the path was gone.

“Gran?” I called, but the sound seemed to disappear in the trees. I cupped my hands around my mouth. “Gran?” No response. Don’t panic. Fine advice, of course, but my racing heart didn’t want to hear it, and my skin broke out in a cool sweat.

We weren’t far from civilization. Someone would find me. I just hoped Gran wouldn’t try to search on her own. To pass the time and distract my mind, I stepped into a clearing and crossed to look at a strange tree that grew on the far side. Its thick, twisted trunk was covered in deep and regular scars, as though someone had been at the bark with a knife. Long branches drooped toward the ground, covered in deep pink, heart-shaped leaves. I inhaled. The smell was sweet, and somehow comforting. I wanted to touch the leaves, but resisted. I wasn’t going to risk a rash on top of being lost.

I spun toward a rustling sound behind me, sending a few berries flying from my over-full basket. My throat tightened as a sleek, green head appeared from beneath a clump of bushes, followed by a sinuous neck covered in shining scales. The lips on the pointed snout pulled back in something like a sneer, revealing dozens of teeth that looked razor-sharp, and glowed white in the shadows.

The creature chuckled, and every hair on my body stood on end. A hiss burst from the long throat, and golden eyes looked me up and down. My stomach clenched as the beast smiled. “Who’s been eating my berries?”

So there you go. This is what I think about when I’m picking berries. What will happen? Do you think she’ll get chomped?

If you’re looking for more (and probably shorter) WIPpety goodness, check out the linkie here. Good times, good times. If you want to join in, post a snippet of a work in progress corresponding to today’s date on your own blog (21 lines, a few paragraphs from page 21, whatever). Or start something new! You could end up like our dear host, K.L. Schwengel, and have WIPs climbing all over you like needy quadruplets, begging for attention! FUN!

ROW80

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OK, I’ve already said that I haven’t been doing much actual writing (as in, the writing I’m supposed to be doing), but that can wait for now. I am getting other goal-related things done. The pony I was working on just needs hair and touch-ups, and I’m now customizing a Barbie doll for my son’s birthday, because for some reason there’s no Beothuk Barbie, and he wants one. Go figure. I’m trying to keep up with meal-planning for the family, and we’re doing some Big Fun Things. Today I was planning to take the boys out to a book signing, but they’re not behaving very well this morning, so that might not happen.

Reading goals: I read Outlander in three days this week. That’s a lot of words (as in, almost 300,000). I really enjoyed it– obviously. Great story and characters. I did find myself a bit distracted my the extreme adverb abuse in the dialogue tags, but I think I’m getting better at just enjoying stories again.

Really, though. In the space of three paragraphs we get “he said, rather grumpily,” “I said nastily,” and “I demanded ungramatically,” which actually made me giggle out loud. The phrase “his hands digging bruisingly into my flesh” was also… present elsewhere.

Otherwise, though, I had a good time. Highly recommended. Great sex scenes, too, detailed without being graphic. That’s a tough balance to achieve, and I can see why so many people mention this book when the subject comes up. It was also a nice change to enjoy a book where the story is allowed to take some time to unfold, where descriptions aren’t rushed and no one is perfect.  I look forward to reading the next book in the series, AFTER I get through more of my TBR pile.

So there you go, my goal updates, in higgledy-piggledy form. For more Round of Words updates, give this here a click.

Bye for now!


Short Story: Unassigned Rabbit by Abigail Shaw

I thought this story was a fun way to kick off my morning, so I’m going to share it with all of you. I think I’m going to spend my day wondering what happened next…

Short Story: Unassigned Rabbit. (by Abigail Shaw at High Heels and Dinosaurs)


Wednesday Bonus

Hey, look up there! No, not your ceiling. Up there, under the title. There’s a new page there, see it? Fiction. And there’s a story there, too! Hooray for truth in advertising!

It’s a story that takes place in the same world as Bound, but the writing style is different from the novel. It’s a bit more adult (but then, so’s the story). I thought that the story would make the most sense to my Beta readers who are familiar with the world, but I’ve had some very positive comments already from people who haven’t read it, and who don’t particularly like Fantasy stories. So no worries there. 🙂

Have a look, comment, whatever you like.

Happy Wednesday!

(for anyone reading this who can’t see the banner and pages above, here’s the link)


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