January 5 – January 19, 2022 Writing Prompt “Momma Drama”

Theme: Momma Drama

It can be any kind of momma drama, such as an illness, a divorce, a pregnant unmarried momma, a married momma. Just the everyday life of the everyday Momma. Any kind of momma you want to write about, including non-human.

Requirements:

  • none

Word Count: 1,200

 

  • This is the thread for stories as well as general comments. Say hello and be sure to check the “Notify me of follow-up comments by email” box for email notifications.
  • To leave feedback/Comments directly relating to a particular story – click “reply” to the story comment.
  • Specific critiques, comments, and feedback are encouraged. If you do not want honest professional feedback, do not post a story.
  • Keep feedback and critiques to a civil and constructive level, please. Please critique stories for construction, style, flow, grammar, punctuation, and so on. The moderator has the right to delete any comments that appear racist, inflammatory or bullying.

Please Note: Comments may be considered “published” with regard to other contest requirements.

All stories are fall under general copyright laws. No part may be reproduced without the express consent of the respective author.

Story Submission Rules:
  1. One story per author. You may post more than one, but only the first story will qualify for voting.
  2. Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.
  3. Stories must fit into a single comment box and must stay within the word limit set for each contest.
  4. You may vote only once.
  5. You cannot vote for yourself.
  • Stories must be posted no later than Wednesday morning at 6:00am PDT / 8:00am CST / 9:00am EST / 8:30pm IST / 2:00pm WET/GMT/ 4:00pm CET/1:00am AEDT (Thursday)
  • Voting starts Wednesday morning at 10:00am PDT / 12:00pm CST / 1:00pm EST / 11:30pm IST / 6:00pm WET/GMT/ 8:00pm CET/5:00am AEDT (Thursday) and you have 24 hours to vote.

To be included in the “writing prompt roster”, you must have submitted two stories in the last sixty days. The roster is alphabetical and can be found here.

See How to Participate for complete rules and disclaimers.

The writing prompt for January 19, 2022, will be chosen by John Filby.

195 thoughts on “January 5 – January 19, 2022 Writing Prompt “Momma Drama”

  • January 6, 2022 at 10:20 am
    Permalink

    Read the stories here:

    Reply
  • January 6, 2022 at 10:52 am
    Permalink

    Signing in

    Reply
  • January 6, 2022 at 11:38 am
    Permalink

    Hi,
    So where should we post? The prompt has appeared both on the Undertow website and here.

    Reply
    • January 6, 2022 at 12:36 pm
      Permalink

      I think just post here for now. I am not exactly sure what Jack wants to do, if he’s just offering a new place to post the stories or if he’s going to be administering everything.

      Reply
    • January 6, 2022 at 1:55 pm
      Permalink

      I feel like this could be the exception to the fiction rule. I think we should allow nonfiction to be submitted too.

      I mean, let’s face it, I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that I could probably write a 5,000 page novel on the ridiculous of a particular baby momma…..

      (Probably going to hell for thinking that way but I don’t care)

      Reply
  • January 6, 2022 at 2:32 pm
    Permalink

    Carrie,

    Let’s face it, many of our stories are from real life, and in many instances, with no additional ‘fictional’ changes, as none are needed. To make a non-fiction story fiction, it only takes a name change or two, and a disclaimer. You know, ‘The content of this story is purely fiction and any resemblance to person, place or thing in real life is purely coincidental.’ Yeah, right!

    Carrie, my apologies. I hadn’t seen the little cursor thing sending us to the Undertow site, so I was completely unaware of it, and the comments until I saw yours discussing it on the other site. So, I’m going to play catch up with the other comments and if there is anything I can do, let me know.

    Besides, I want you to have time to write, yourself.

    Roy

    Reply
    • January 6, 2022 at 3:44 pm
      Permalink

      Help- where is the link to go to the Undertow site? I do this on my phone so maybe I can’t see it?

      Reply
        • January 7, 2022 at 1:17 pm
          Permalink

          Thanks Rumplefinkies. I’m still a tad confused. I know we’ve got to do something different to take the burden off Carrie, but the Undertow site looks like a completely different contest. I’m not sure it got seen but I tried to write Carrie to suggest that I could use surveymonkey to poll everyone for this contest. All I would need is writers and commenters to include their emails publicly on their posts. Not sure it would work but I can try…

          Reply
          • January 7, 2022 at 2:34 pm
            Permalink

            No problem! It looks like there is one story so far (“Bones of the City”), and the biggest difference that I can see so far is the way you vote at the bottom right after you read the story. There are multiple buttons to click on so you can select values between 1 and 5 for different fields, and then one large box for comments at the very bottom.

            I think it is just missing you guys, and that is why it feels so different. Like a house that hasn’t been lived in yet, so there is not that special warm feeling, you know?

            Reply
            • January 7, 2022 at 2:41 pm
              Permalink

              What would you guys like me to do, pause this thread and direct everyone over there?

              Reply
              • January 7, 2022 at 2:43 pm
                Permalink

                Also, that story says it’s December submission.

                Reply
              • January 7, 2022 at 3:00 pm
                Permalink

                I’m easy to please (and slow to get my stories ready), so I hadn’t even thought about posting there yet – should I post it in both places as a sort of test?

                Reply
          • January 7, 2022 at 2:35 pm
            Permalink

            I did get your email!
            I’ve been working on response for everybody, I got a ton of really great suggestions.

            I think the survey monkey is a great idea, I believe that’s how Roy used to do it.
            And I can provide the email addresses, as I can see it behind the scenes when people submit their stories if you wanted to give that a try!

            Reply
          • January 7, 2022 at 2:35 pm
            Permalink

            I did get your email!
            I’ve been working on response for everybody, I got a ton of really great suggestions.

            I think the survey monkey is a great idea, I believe that’s how Roy used to do it.
            And I can provide the email addresses, as I can see it behind the scenes when people submit their stories if you wanted to give that a try!

            Reply
            • January 7, 2022 at 2:42 pm
              Permalink

              Okay, great! Let’s try it for this contest ending Jan 19. Thanks! 🙂

              Reply
          • January 15, 2022 at 10:23 am
            Permalink

            Trish, in the early days of this contest we used SurveyMonkey and it worked well. If Carrie would be so inclined, and everyone agrees, she could send you the emails. But, they aren’t necessary to use SurveyMonkey, (unless you wanted to track the IPO’s.

            Roy

            Reply
            • January 15, 2022 at 10:25 am
              Permalink

              Oh. I thought you had to email the survey to participants? Maybe the free version (which I use) differs from the paid version?

              Reply
              • January 15, 2022 at 1:57 pm
                Permalink

                Trish, I just posted the link to the site and after the vote, counted up and then posted the results.

                Roy

                Reply
                • January 15, 2022 at 5:47 pm
                  Permalink

                  Thanks Roy- I think I’ve got the surveymonkey figured out thanks to you it’s much simpler to paste the link. Thank you! I’m all set for Wednesday

                  Reply
                  • January 16, 2022 at 6:54 am
                    Permalink

                    Glad I could help. Nice to know I’m useful occasionally at my age.

                    Roy

                    Reply
  • January 6, 2022 at 4:58 pm
    Permalink

    Hi all hoping over the holidays to find time to submit more and write and edit.

    Reply
  • January 7, 2022 at 11:51 am
    Permalink

    My Christmas tree was only half lit. Hope to see fulfillment here.
    Signing in means accountability.
    Yay!

    Reply
  • January 7, 2022 at 1:09 pm
    Permalink

    I have one that technically qualifies but it is way too dark (and about 1,000 words too long). This prompt makes me think of Tiamat. What is wrong with me?

    Reply
    • January 7, 2022 at 2:49 pm
      Permalink

      No post it anyway. You should never think a story is “too dark”.
      Some of the stories submitted over the years have been pretty brutal or dark and twisted.
      I got about 80% done with my Christmas tree story, It was about a serial killed who buried his victims under a tree and the souls of the mutilated victims lit the tree every night.
      Fiction can be whatever you want it to be.
      If it’s graphic – put a disclaimer at the top.

      Reply
      • January 7, 2022 at 7:20 pm
        Permalink

        I would have loved to read that Carrie. What a pity. Very dark and great horror.

        Reply
      • January 15, 2022 at 10:24 am
        Permalink

        I would have read the for sure. What a great take on the prompt. Figure out a way to publish it anyway. I’ll read it.

        Reply
  • January 7, 2022 at 2:51 pm
    Permalink

    People are getting sick all around me, and I know a few of them are hiding the fact that they have Covid. This state is one giant hotspot. Two people that I know just went on a trip to Mexico and got it, and now they are quarantined in their hotel room. My oldest son is the only one of his close friends that didn’t get it (knocks on a large piece of wood), and I am sort of freaking out all over again. You seen the charts for this state right now? It is not a contest, but I think we would get some kind of ribbon if this were. Spreading pestilence (and stupidity that perpetuates pestilence), that is.

    My face hurts from wearing the two masks so tight all of the time, and I have this little blister thing right where the stiff band in the surgical masks rests on my nose, and my ears are too big for the straps so they are always red like Rudolph’s nose, but imagine what actual doctors and nurses are dealing with … yeesh.

    A lot of smart people are talking about a civil war brewing, which would sound silly 10 years ago or 5 years ago or even 2 years ago, but I live in Georgia and I have been paying attention to the news and dumb people and I can see the writing on the wall, if you know what I mean, and I think that you do (Joe Bob Briggs fans know what I am talking about).

    The governor here is talking about changing the gun laws so that no license is required at all in order to purchase a firearm, which terrifies me because I know these good ol’ rebel boys a little too well to be comfortable living here at all. This state is beautiful, I love it, but it is populated by some very not Rumplefinkish fellows!

    I’m going to have to move somewhere too cold, like lovely Canada, or somewhere tropical that will melt my penguin-blooded family.

    Does New Zealand have room for eccentric dreamers who are also warehouse managers? I will house any ware that you want!

    Reply
  • January 7, 2022 at 8:43 pm
    Permalink

    New Zealand would be great for you. As a person who had a redneck brother who loved guns, I am kind of familiar with the mentality and a SIL in the usa who would shoot me if she could travel across the ocean to do so and then flit back to the safe haven of the Mid West of the USA I am familiar with the personality that you talk about. I hate guns and find people who think they are the solutions to their problems quite confronting.
    It is actually not guns that kill people but people with guns who should never be given the opportunity to own them as they are rash and irrational idiots. There are only a few professions that guns are a necessary evil.
    I can use a gun, but would I point one at another person? NO! Neither in jest or seriousness.and do I ever have thoughts of harming others, NO, never,but I know people who enjoy hurting others and they get a sense of power from seeing their impact on others especially when people are hurt by what others say or do.
    It sounds like you need to find a more peaceful place. Our covid-19 cases have been through the roof. 51,000 cases plus in my state. We don’t go much anywhere because of the rampaging virus and we minimise contact with everyone now.

    Reply
  • January 7, 2022 at 10:41 pm
    Permalink

    Hey everyone!
    It’s been quite a while since I’ve been on here. I really miss the fun of being here with everyone, but there are some very familiar names missing.
    I hope to have a story ready for this prompt but wonder where to post it? Here or on the new site?

    Reply
    • January 8, 2022 at 12:47 pm
      Permalink

      Welcome back! I was going to post mine here and there at the same time, but I don’t know what the official position is. It will be all good either way!

      Reply
      • January 8, 2022 at 3:31 pm
        Permalink

        Rumplefinkies,

        Awesome! Thanks! It’s great to have found some extra time to come here and get the creative juices flowing, so to speak.

        I was able to create an account on the new site, just in case. It looks easy enough to navigate that’s for sure. I’ll check back in later about where to post. It’s sure to be a lot of fun no matter where we post the stories 🙂 .

        In the meantime, I hope everyone is doing well! Can’t wait to see what kind of fun this prompt will bring on, lol. Momma Drama is always so much fun to play with in a story. 🙂

        Reply
    • January 16, 2022 at 12:41 pm
      Permalink

      Amy, this one for right now, I think. I need to visit the new site and see what’s happening, because I don’t get comments for it.

      Roy

      Reply
  • January 7, 2022 at 11:26 pm
    Permalink

    I will try for this one. I may like some comments on my ‘Sibling Rivalry’ one which I was working on and took a very different track because of my recent. loss of my sister.
    Now to work on the Momma one…

    Reply
  • January 10, 2022 at 7:36 am
    Permalink

    Hi All,
    I have been following Carrie’s thread regarding the need for change and I did go to set myself up on the “new” site. I did log in but couldn’t see any way of sending my comments. Therefore, for me at least I would prefer to wait until things are well and truly up and running, notwithstanding the need to take some of the weight off Carrie’s shoulders.

    Perhaps people who want to can post on both sites for a while and then, at a given date, when the creases have been ironed out, we can all move across.

    Ken Frape

    Reply
  • January 11, 2022 at 2:00 am
    Permalink

    Wisdom’s rewards

    Carefully Chava drew the deep purple silk scarf around her neck and pulled it into a loose knot. She studied her reflection in the body length polished mirror fixed to the wall, liked what she saw for she smiled, then she sat at her dresser to complete her toiletries. Tonight, was not going to be easy.
    “Ma’am..” the voice of her new serving -girl was hesitant.
    “Yes, Tamara.” She tried to not sound harsh for she had asked for no-one to disturb her until it was time. “What is it?”
    “Ma’am, Kana his holiness, your son is here. He wants to see you, he is demanding to see you now. He…” The girl’s voice broke off at Chava’s fierce expression. She could see the red mark on the girl’s face where she had been slapped.
    “You will tell him, NO!” Chava’s voice was unexpectedly sharper than she intended. More softly, she asked “did he slap you?” The girl’s face froze frightened and sad.
    “Ma’am, please…”
    “Alright. I will tell him!” She swept past the shaking girl who bowed her head submissively and thrust aside the heavy curtains to her rooms and entered the corridor leading down to the main door and entrance to the palace’s women’s quarters.
    When she thrust open the double doors to the gardens, Kana was lounging on couch by a lily pond. His handsome chiseled features set in a frown, his one shouldered tunic showed the well-defined muscles of his torso and shoulders to perfection; its short skirt belted on the hips, revealed the muscled thighs and calves of an athlete. At twenty he was a fine specimen of manhood. His raven locks curled about his neck and shoulders and his sapphire eyes hypnotized all except those who knew the darkness of his soul.
    He sprang to his feet and bowed.
    “Mother, how good of you…”
    She cut him off with a wave of her feathered fan.
    “I’d told everyone I wasn’t to be disturbed. What is so urgent that it requires my attention NOW?” Her tone was clipped and contemptuous. “And requires you to slap my serving girl when she rightly denies you entry to my chambers?”
    “Mother, the girl is impudent. She didn’t pay me respect due a prince soon to be king.” He smiled down at her.
    “Why are you so sure you’ll soon be King? Your father’s many good years ahead.” Chava looked at her third born child, a wariness crossed her features – as a cloud passing momentarily over a desert landscape.
    Kana shrugged. “Well, you and I both know Father often goes hunting. A dangerous occupation. And he often joins his soldiers on expeditions to secure our borders. I also go. Also, dangerous.” He raised his arm to reveal a pale scar that wound thinly down from his armpit to his waist. “And I am your only son. And you are his queen.”
    “And your sisters? They are older than you?” She wanted to add “also warrior women also wiser too.” But it remained a thought unspoken. This arrogant pup, she thought, God Almighty help us if he were to ascend the throne.
    “They are women. Not rulers.” Chava smiled tiredly at this remark. “But I came her to talk to you about a matter of matrimony. I have chosen my bride to be.”
    “Really? And who might this lucky girl be?”
    “Her name is Jezabel, and she is the daughter of Ethbaal…”
    “I know whose daughter she is. And NO. She is not suitable. They are heathen magicans.”
    “Mother she’s very beautiful. And she’s learned. She’ll be a great asset to our family.”
    “No. Her beauty is only skin deep. NO!” Chava closed her fan with a snap. “Her knowledge of the dark arts is beneficial only to her. NO!” With a curt nod towards the door, she turned her back on Kana whose face creased in a scowl of displeasure.

    Much later that night, when Adam came to her chambers they discussed the succession problem.

    “Kana is our first born, but he is not suitable, sire. You know that. As do I sadly.” Adam took the proffered goblet of hot mead wine and nodded thoughtfully.
    “What do you suggest? I mean I have other sons, but as you know, many of them aren’t leadership material also and with ambitious mothers in the mix, well ….?”
    Chava bent her head sipping the sweet mixture deep in thought.
    “Have you thought…” she began, then paused.
    “Yes, go on…” The king leant back on the couch.
    “Have you thought of making the succession through the oldest child male or female – dependent on passing a series of trials. Not just physical, but ones that require wisdom?”
    “You mean the girls get a shot? They can rule too?” The king considered for a long moment, then looked up at his queen and smiled broadly. “You know, my dear Chava why you are my true soulmate. You have true answers for so much.”
    Chava shook her head sadly, “But sire, we’ll have a problem when Kana realizes that he’s going to be passed over. The winner’s life may be forfeit.”
    Thus, the King and Queen set about giving their children four tests. The first showed the attribute of strength which Kana won as expected. Although Ava the eldest young woman came close, Kana excelled.
    The second test demanded the attribute of mercy. The contestants were each given a dove, a young ram and a set of twins a boy and a girl, then asked to sacrifice the most valuable to God to prove themselves worthy of kingship. Kana failed as he was about to sacrifice the children, when his father demanded he stay his hand.
    Ava let the dove free and took the children away to a grove of trees and then returned and with one stroke cut the throat of the ram, built a fire, and sacrificed to God and fed the children meat. She passed. As did her sister Tamara.
    The third test demanded courage requiring them armed with a short sword, to face a hungry lion. Kana and Tamara failed, as they killed their lion. Ava passed because she tamed the lion and gave the lion some dried meat, she carried with her in her tunic. Kana was furious as he felt his older sister had cheated on the test.
    The fourth test was for wisdom. Each contestant was given a test in solving a problem between some of the king’s subjects. Ava solved the problem peacefully to the satisfaction of the subjects as did Tamara. Kana had one of the subjects imprisoned, and the other put to death.
    When Ava was announced the king’s potential successor, the subjects of the kingdom were well pleased and cheered the Queen Consort. However, Kana stormed off in a rage.
    Chava spoke with Adam that night. The king reassured her.
    “You were right. The contest was a brilliant idea. Ava’s courage, mercy, strength, and her greatest asset – wisdom. She is wise. She will know what to do.”
    Ava convinced her parents to allow Kana to marry Jezebel.
    Ambitious Jezebel used Kana as her steppingstone and his demise was not long following.

    Reply
    • January 11, 2022 at 6:38 am
      Permalink

      Ilana- loves your story! You wove an interesting story of palace intrigues and you dropped tantalizing details to set the scene in the reader’s mind. Very well done!

      Reply
    • January 16, 2022 at 12:34 am
      Permalink

      I like the story quite a lot. It has an exotic and enchanting flavor and feel. The names, the reference to his holiness and the reference to ‘her new serving-girl’ set the stage and tone.

      I have three complaints. The purple in the prose of the opening paragraph, the sixth sentence, which is too convoluted and negative, and the word, ‘unexpectedly’.

      Without the flourishes, this is how your first paragraph could read:

      Chava drew the silk scarf around her neck and tied it into a loose knot. She studied her reflection in the full-length mirror, liked what she saw, for she smiled, then made the slightest adjustment to the deep purple scarf.

      And if you deleted the sixth sentence, it would read like this. “Yes, Tamara. What is it?”

      ‘Unexpectedly’ speaks for itself. (Unfortunately.)

      Those three things took me out of the story, briefly, but once passed them, the story becomes quite riveting. The dialogue is terrific and If I’m not mistaken, the moral of the story is…. don’t correct other people’s stories? No. Bad people have their uses?

      Reply
    • January 16, 2022 at 6:25 pm
      Permalink

      Great stuff, Ilana … very ‘feminist’. I like Chava very much. Every reader will be hoping that Kana gets his comeuppance, and it comes (beyond the end of the story). The court intrigue is very nicely done, and the tension maintained throughout. It’s so rich (in characters and episodes) that it could very well be stretched quite a bit, to allow all the tests to breathe a little (they feel a bit rushed because of the word limit). Is Kana the first or third-born? (contradictory references) Just a heads-up: ‘toiletries’ are products. ‘Toilette’ is the act of fixing yourself up (in the old days).

      Reply
    • January 17, 2022 at 10:57 am
      Permalink

      Ilana,

      I’ve been waiting for a different kind of Ilana story and finally got one. I really liked your characterization in such a short window, but agree with Phil that the tests needed more fleshing out. Then, I would have been more satisfied with a different ending, I think, but I also think that’s because you ran out of words due to the limit. (Not that you run out of words – you’re like me I imagine; I never run out of words.

      There was a spot where I thought there were a few too many ‘ands’ in these sentences:

      “And I am your only son. And you are his queen.”

      “And your sisters? They are older than you?”

      Still I liked the story, and really like the clever challenges you set forth. Well done, Ilana. Vote worthy.

      Roy

      Reply
    • January 18, 2022 at 2:51 am
      Permalink

      Ilana, with parents named Adam and Chava, I half expected the story to end in sororicide. 🙂

      Reply
  • January 11, 2022 at 2:02 am
    Permalink

    I did try to post on the other site but then I had to post an image too, which stumped me and so yeah I just gave up and posted my meagre offering here.

    Reply
    • January 11, 2022 at 5:12 am
      Permalink

      Hi Ilana,

      Loved your story which has all the all the joy and mystery of a box of chocolates (Forrest Gump?) maybe Turkish Delight wrapped up in a plain wrapper. There is wisdom, sweetness and kindness, cunning and anger, prejudice and problem-solving. It is very Eastern in its storytelling and I really liked the way that the female siblings were allowed to take part on an equal footing.

      In the UK we have had several wonderful, strong queens such as both Elizabeths and, of course, Queen Victoria so why not let the best be the rulers regardless of gender.

      Nice work Ilana. Let’s hope you get some competition soon.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape

      Reply
      • January 11, 2022 at 11:00 am
        Permalink

        It made me think of the queen in chess, who is basically a one-woman-army (or an elite commando)! The version of chess that we play now used to be called stuff like “Mad Queen Chess” after several powerful women like the ones you mentioned and more, though there is a little misogyny in the portrayals of such ladies.

        Reply
  • January 11, 2022 at 5:57 am
    Permalink

    Thanks for your kind words Ken F. I hope so too. I want to see what others make of this prompt. I have to say all the Kens we have on the site baffles me. If you want your son to be a writer name him Ken or Kenneth. Ken C, Ken M and Ken F and there is another one lurking is there not?

    Reply
    • January 11, 2022 at 10:52 am
      Permalink

      My real name is Rumplekenneth. Does that count? And I really liked the story! I was just talking to some people about Jezebel because we were watching that old Bette Davis movie. They didn’t get the reference and it made me feel crazy explaining the connection (her character was not even close to the real woman and I can get lost in the weeds). It looks like you know plenty about her and you made the story have an exciting and cinematic feel, like when they “movie-fied” greek myths for “Clash of the Titans” or even “300”. Your version was cooler and less cheesy (but shorter obviously! That is a bad comparison, but you might know what I mean?

      Reply
      • January 12, 2022 at 6:51 am
        Permalink

        Ilana and Rumples,

        As a fully paid-up member of the Ken Society of Fiction Writers I need to also lay claim to the letter R following the Ken or Kenneth. My full name is KR Frape (it really is, ask my Mum) and that R stands for Raymond not royal or regal I’m afraid. Therefore my friend Rumples you need to choose another letter.

        Ken RRRR Frape

        Reply
  • January 11, 2022 at 11:01 am
    Permalink

    I tripped over that compliment as it was coming out of my mouth. Yeesh.

    Reply
  • January 11, 2022 at 2:54 pm
    Permalink

    So you are thus dubbed Kenneth R. What does the R stand for? Royal, Regal, Righteous, Rumplestiltskin, Rambo …. I dunno the possibilities are endless. Please somebody out in the internet etherland post another story or two or three or four. It’s lonely out here but that is the lot of a scribbler.
    Lost in one’s own little bubble – others make up stories to feed their turgid imaginations about what you may or may not be up to. Alas, the truth is so boring and probably to some unbelievable that someone can live such an existence and still be content with one’s lot.
    I read news articles occasionally on the internet and I do not know how these articles came up on my feed, but one or two of them decided me to cancel my subscription to the apple news. It was about the UK and apparently because of the pandemic there is a rise in people experimenting with their sexuality and such a thing as throuples not couples but three people in intimate contact. How bloody messy and frankly disturbing. What is wrong with people that they seem incapable of a two way relationship but have to pull others into their messy orbit.
    Some woman starts this place called Killing Kittens (I do not even like the name) where people enter masked and they can end the night ten in a bed all merrily bonking away.Sounds absolutely disgusting. I had a nightmare after reading that last night that involved sweaty stinking bodies, bad breath, farts, crooked teeth, fat bellies, hairy thighs and worse…I could not imagine, but did a scenario with ten people without clothes in a bed and find that attractive????? The world is going insane. The journalist who wrote the article did not say she participated but acted more as a voyeur. I would want to vomit. The romantic in me does not find that sort of meaty, sweaty, panting scene in any stretch of the imagination, something I would desire to watch or be a part of it. UGHH!!!! Such an article would not even make the back pages of a magazine or newspaper thirty or forty years ago. Showing my age again. Now for the next article.
    The end of the world is nigh. Please someone put these people out of their misery. The doomsday cults are having a field day and some normally rational people are joining them. Have these people not heard of creative visualisation. Really, it is horrifying.
    Then there is the articles about Joe Biden and even Trump. I have had enough. I do not want to know about Biden’s bad days. We all know the poor fool is demented and he should never have been president. I also do not want to know about Trump’s new hair piece or whether Melania spat on his proffered hand. NO! Please America get a president that is normal and boring but does his job and all the panic and excitement just calms down.Yes, there is a pandemic, but why are we all losing our heads and running around like decapitated chooks on a mission to no where.
    I went immediately to cancel my subscription because if that is what is happening in the world, I do not want to know….
    Had my daily rant now I need to go and feed some birds and goats and a cat, get the boy out of bed before mould happens and he is welded to the sheets. There are chores to be done and some cooking and writing. Cheers everyone 2022 will be the year of release from madness but it comes from you…

    Reply
    • January 12, 2022 at 10:24 am
      Permalink

      I couldn’t answer this last night but it gave me more than a few chuckles! Yeah, that is pretty gross, but your description was probably worth the bad experience!

      No, I am not really a Ken. I was just trying to pose as one for the glory of it all.

      But I was bit by a feral Ken long ago …

      Maybe I am a lykenthrope?

      Reply
  • January 11, 2022 at 3:05 pm
    Permalink

    I really need to edit before I post my comments. I cringe seeing multiple grammatical errors. My rant made me incoherent and being up with nightmares after reading some stories. Then there are the articles (not “is” damn!). And there are more. OMG need coffee.But it is not allowed.

    Reply
  • January 12, 2022 at 1:15 am
    Permalink

    There are other Ken’s Ilana? You have proof of this?

    You sure get some kinky news over there in, what is it, British All-stralia? You got Tasmanians lurking about? You got room over there for another governor? (Rewm, fah anutha Guvnah, luv?) Yeah, another Governor. He could blend in with the Tasmanians, no?

    I don’t think this prompt is for me. I don’t know what qualifies as a ‘momma drama.’ (Other than a story with a woman in it. I guess.) I feel there are connotations that I’m not privy to. And frankly, the effort and energy required to coerce one of my schizoid creations into something like a story is equivalent to a full-time job, as a grade-school bus driver, in a demolition derby, with no seatbelt.

    In fact, as I write this, I’m getting a fortuitous idea. Fortune. I really thought I could take a pass this week. Oh wait, great news. I forgot the idea already. Probably wasn’t that good.

    Good start for a story or am I just haggling too much fixing snarf nixure? (I suspect it’s the snarf.) ;)_ (Person drooling.) So…

    Actually, this computer nerd I know made a fabulous program for my word processor that takes every instance of the fencing word face, and floating changes it to some other random, but tense appropriate fledgling word. (That begins with ‘f’ of course.) And it appears to be working perfectly.

    BTW, I left a message for you Rumples, back at your comment, but don’t go and read it yet, wait until I put it there.

    Reply
    • January 12, 2022 at 7:00 am
      Permalink

      It was boring before you came back on board Ken C! Now just waiting for the rest of the crew.
      It was UK news. The Brits are a kinky lot. Their food tastes are as boring as anything, so I guess they have to be “unusual” in other areas. Aussies with exciting menus and sports as well as landscapes and great innovative minds are pretty conservative. We are romantics at heart and close to nature in a spiritual way. Yep I’m crapping on …
      Picking up
      My New Toyota Rav 4 hybrid in the morning. It’s red atomic red. Not my choice of colour, I like white or silver cars. But beggars can’t be choosers. Otherwise I would have to continue driving my diesel Hilux and pay extraordinary amounts for fuel because Chinese and Australian pollies are having a go at each other and China is not selling use urea which is apparently a component of diesel. Love my
      Ute. (Weep) she’s standing in the carport cleaner than she’s been for a couple of years and going to her new owner tomorrow as we drop her off and go to the Toyota dealership to pick up my
      New vehicle. Sad day!! The new car does 1.9 litres of fuel to 100 kms where as the old car does 11 or 12 litres to 100 kms. Petrol
      Is expensive but diesel is $1.90 a litre in some places so it is close to $23 for fuel as apposed to $3.20. Big difference. Anyway I must get my beauty sleep.

      Reply
      • January 13, 2022 at 8:43 pm
        Permalink

        “We are romantics at heart” reminds me of that old joke, Ilana.

        Australian foreplay: “Brace yerself, Sheila – here I come!” 😉

        Reply
        • January 13, 2022 at 9:18 pm
          Permalink

          OMG Phil, I do not find that tired old joke even funny. I am a romantic. Takes a lot more than physical attributes and aex to interest me, if I am interested at all. Having had the Big C and all reproductive equipment removed years ago, I can safely say that after the birth of my son and my divorce, I have been safely celibate since March 2003 and definitely no interest in lustful pursuits with males or females or animals of any kind. I am an old lady of 60 something and its all in the head these days and has been for yonks. … Just totally not in the market and rely on memory of ‘du temps perdu’ to write anything romantic or even halfway lustful…

          Reply
          • January 14, 2022 at 8:06 pm
            Permalink

            No offence meant, Ilana! And I appreciate that you’ve had a hard time of things and survived. Much respect in that respect.

            But while you may be a romantic, I’m not sure you can necessarily extend that to all of your compatriots, can you? (Or maybe you can?)

            Reply
      • January 15, 2022 at 2:21 am
        Permalink

        Ilana,
        The Britts are friendly, and misunderstood, that’s all. When they sidle up next to you in a bar and say, “Whould yee loik a pull o’ my pram?” That just means, ‘Would you call me a cab?’ Or, ‘Take me home.’ Depending on how drunk they are. Just tell them to ‘put a puddie in their pasty and doodle a ding-dong.’ That’ll make ‘em stop and think. But only for a minute, so you have to move fast.

        As for your car upgrade, I’m sentimental about inanimate senseless objects too. But the gas savings is like wow. One-sixth? I had to trade in my Subaru last year. It was heart-rending, and not about the mileage though, it was the repairs. Forty-five dollars to tighten a lug nut.
        The moon-roof only worked during a full moon. I loved the damned car though. Easy to get in and out of, leather seats, power plumbus, four wheel drive, great sound system, economical.
        That’s when I turned to a life of celibacy, (and celery) when I gave up that car. It was part of the deal for the car. It was Kim’s idea, I think. I like the Hyundai though, it has a lot of safety features. Like, STFIYL (Stay the fuck in your lane.)
        DC, (Don’t Crash,) and DNC. (Don’t NEver Crash.)
        It’s got PSW. (Peripheral Shit Warning.) It’s got HAPYH, (Honk and pretend you’re horny.) And SCC. (Smart Cruise Control.) Also known as, ICD. (It’s called, ‘driving’.) Plus, it has a lot of really cool little lights all over the place.

        I just thought I’d share that with you.

        You know what I heard? I heard you were all migrating to a new site and leaving me behind. (I have spies, and a direct line to Ras-putin. And I get it. I have the same effect on barbers. At first, they think they have me at their mercy just because they’re holding the scissors, but then I turn on the charm, and they realize they can’t escape, at least until they’re done cutting my hair. And I decide when they’re done. They think they’re done and I say, “No. Shorter.” They cut it again and I say, “NO! Shorter.” My hair grows as they’re cutting it and they can’t keep up. When I’m satisfied, I give ‘em a 28 dollar tip. As soon as I leave they pack up their shit and move to a new city. I get it. I’m hard on people. I’m always rubbing them, and probably doing it wrong. But my hair is important. And it’s okay. I think you should all have that right. It’s a big planet, and I think we both know, deep down, that I’m too lazy to consider tracking you all down and putting a flaming bag of shit on your porches. (Where would I get all that shit? Other writers? Mm, it’s an thought.)

        Besides, I’m old. I could die of a heart murmur. A blastfart, or a sudden drastic drop in my ‘anatomical and biological integrity.’ I reckon I’ll be a barber chaser till I die. (Or go bald.) It’s in my DNA. (Devilish Nature Applies.)

        Reply
        • January 16, 2022 at 2:22 am
          Permalink

          Ken thanks for the very real critique on my
          Story. You are right it needs tightening up. And the car story continues – Everything in the hybrid is so automatic. Yes if I shift out of the lane to quickly it goes beep beep beep. And I’ve got beep beep beep if a car comes to close to mine back front or sides!
          You can no longer live dangerously in these new cars, and it’s also an automatic. Everything is to automatic. I prefer cars that you can manually change gears in and it doesn’t talk to you. I feel like saying to this car because it does talk to me, STFU! And can with your imagination you can tell me what that stands for. I come out of my driveway, and it says to me “ensure you observe the road rules”. “Please ensure you observe all the road rules and regulations.” It’s like they’ve parked a back seat driver into your dashboard.. it’s a nag and I’m
          Missing the silence of my Old diesel Hilux chugging away guzzling fuel but at least it left you in peace to drive. Didn’t nag you about doing 112 kms in a 110
          Speed zone

          Reply
          • January 16, 2022 at 1:36 pm
            Permalink

            Ilana, I had a good laugh at your description of the car. Mine has a feature where I can adjust the level of annoyance for each annoying feature. So I keep it somewhere in the middle, not too intrusive, just safer. There’s no nagging voice either, just a lot of bells ringing, flashing lights and a notice on the instrument panel.

            ‘Attention. You have driven off the road and are teetering on the edge of a cliff. Would you like to deploy the safety chutes?’

            You have to ask? “Of course,” you say, as you frantically jab the ‘OKAY’ button.

            “We’re sorry. Your vehicle is not equipped with those features. Please return to the dealership to install the necessary upgrades.”

            Reply
  • January 12, 2022 at 10:17 am
    Permalink

    I have so many ideas but it is hard to imagine anyone enjoying the act of reading them! ​You should see some of the notes I take when I am brainstorming – it is more of a brainsprinkle most of the time, but there are some funny words that pop out when you read it later. I have some pretty bad stuff that I am trying to get printed eventually, otherwise I would just edit down the length and drop some preachy horror on your laps.

    But the ideas that I have kicked around this morning are entertaining me, even though I could not write them at this point. A bigfoot mother that goes on a bloody rampage in search of her child, an artificial uterus that can create adult babies (but it is more like an organic 3D printer in appearance), a universe that gives birth to another universe, a 4th dimensional mother that deposits an egg in our world, more spider stuff, Tiamat and her brood of 11 demons wreaking havoc in a future world after being somehow reborn, and a lovely story about a mother walking her children to school.

    I think I am more scared of being unoriginal than I am of being a bad writer.

    There is a contest looking for “Cryptid Carnage” and 3 upcoming contests about nautical horror (sea monsters, weresharks, you name it) that I found and I would love to write for them, but I just got some sort of blockage in the old noggin.

    Reply
    • January 14, 2022 at 8:17 am
      Permalink

      So now I have an unfinished 1,400 word story that is bad and I still have no mama drama any place. I might have to do another prance at the last second.

      Reply
  • January 14, 2022 at 4:27 pm
    Permalink

    I guess it is the holidays and covid-19 that has had a huge impact on people’s participation. I keep checking in twice daily to see new stories and draw blanks. 🙁

    Reply
    • January 14, 2022 at 4:46 pm
      Permalink

      I almost posted twice today, but my phone died and then people got all in my face. You guys don’t want my angry rants anyway, though I need some release now and then. People were all sitting at my desk with no mask and just really trying to get under my skin, but I got my oldest son the booster today, so I am better now.

      I have been trying to write other stories, and it is going unpleasantly, but I feel like I am growing. I’m not in a good mood and I’m not witty enough to fill the silence here, but feel free to read through my hundreds of comments from a few prompts ago if you are really desperate for human interaction lol.

      Just make sure to stay happy and defiant and stay above the foul waters!

      Reply
      • January 15, 2022 at 2:19 am
        Permalink

        Pretty funny stuff there, Rumples. What are you some kind of ‘death-o-phobe’? Like me? You are seriously funny, dude. Weresharks…bigfoot. If you blend them all together… a giant uterus, laying eggs, full of baby demons, chasing a spider the size of a universe. You throw the mother and child in there for perspective. (You know, like Leo and Kate Winslet in ‘Titanic.’ They’re in there just in case a colossal disaster at sea is not interesting enough.) Real potential for action in this set up Rumples. As for the bigfoot idea, ever read ‘Grendel’? I think it takes the genre to its pinnacle. (Or, to its Pinocchio, as I like to call it.)

        I get what you’re saying about the Covid thing. The simplest smartest thing people can do is wear a stupid mask and most people don’t do it. Sniffling people want to sample your food and straighten your tie and I’m like, “Don’t come any closer. I have leprosy. And Tourette’s, you fucking idiot.”

        And they don’t care. They’re like, “Aww, I love it when you curse. Are you done with that soft-boiled squid? It looks delicious.”

        “No it doesn’t, It’s jelly-fish poop, they pack Spam in it. I was just going to throw it in the—will you please back up?”

        “I love spam. Would you like me to breath in your mouth? Since you’re not doing anything?”

        Jesus. It’s like the Covid makes people stupid. I can’t say much about Georgia as I live in Florida, the stupidest state in the dumbest country. (Currently.) At least Georgia elected two rational senators. Florida—is irrational. It’s an irrational state in an irrational state. What’re ya gonna do? Move to Sweden? (I wish. All those beautiful blond bombshells trying to rescue me from Kim. Eh.. where was I?) Oh yeah, Florida.

        You can’t move to New Zealand Finkles, too far, plus, you have to cross the equator. They don’t know it but they’re all living upside down in the southern hemisphere. (That’s why their hair looks like that.) Everything else is backward too. Christmas in the summer, winter in June. And all of it upside down. Think about that Finkles. The fall is in the Spring. The see-saw goes backwards… fuggeddaboudit.

        I meant to answer some of the questions you raised about my last story, that’s why it’s taking so long to compose my comment. They were good questions and interesting comments and I wanted to reply to them. But to do that, I have to go to last weeks site, copy the questions, think about them, call my lawyer, discuss it with my mother, formulate a strategy, answer the questions. Edit my answers. Edit the questions. Question the editing. Then force myself to sleep on it, wake up, and do all of that one more time just to be sure I really want to post it. Usually.

        Reply
        • January 17, 2022 at 8:25 pm
          Permalink

          My phone broke and I have been moody, but this was very fun. Thank you for “blastfart”, which I will treasure always.

          Reply
        • January 18, 2022 at 10:07 am
          Permalink

          This lady is just walking around the office coughing. She is very sick with some kind of respiratory disease. Everyone else is not wearing a mask and totally comfortable with it. I want to hide in the warehouse, but the boss wants me to steal all the furniture from the lady downstairs and switch it out with the all-glass table she has, then rearrange everything in her office (she made a map). I need a new job. I can’t even look at these people without getting really mad, and everything they say and do is completely ludicrous to me. Why do you need to switch meeting tables? What is wrong with the flow of energy in your office? Is it worth all of this? Eat me!

          Reply
  • January 14, 2022 at 9:42 pm
    Permalink

    SAVIOUR

    When I was 17, I was raped. In a park close to my house. By a stranger.

    I wasn’t the only victim; it transpired that in the days before and after the attack on me, several other women were targeted.

    The police never found the perpetrator because no one could identify him. All the attacks were at night, all the women grabbed from behind. The only thing I could tell the police about him was that he smelled bad – a thick kind of smell that was almost tangible. He didn’t say anything, just did his disgusting business and left me lying on the grass, my clothes ripped, scratches and bruises on my body, pain where he forced himself inside me. There was DNA evidence, but it didn’t match anything on record with the police. Almost as soon as the attacks began, they stopped. Everyone assumed it was someone out of town that had simply moved on.

    In the weeks that followed, we victims coalesced into a mutual support group. Despite the trauma – or because of it, perhaps – I made some good friends in the group. We really were supportive of each other; without them, I don’t know what would have become of me. If it had been up to my father, I would have been out on my own. He blamed me for the attack, using words like “provocative” and others even less kind. But then again, he never liked me very much, it has to be said.

    Because it was a close group, I knew that I was the only one of those attacked who was pregnant. My new friends’ sympathy knew no bounds, but I felt that it had more to do with relief than anything else – relief that it wasn’t them.

    I was advised to get an abortion. Initially I agreed; I’m not a religious person, and I could envisage how a baby at my age would play havoc with my future. Of course, there was also the uncomfortable truth that this was a stranger’s baby, not created through love (I’d always wanted children, but with Mr Right … when or if he came along).

    I would have had to leave the country to get the abortion, though, and that meant money that I didn’t have. Swallowing my pride, I went to see my father. He said he would pay because the procedure was essential to keep the family name out of the mud. That and our conversation – or rather, the fury he threw at me – made my mind up for me: I would have the baby, if for nothing else than to spite him.

    And so I did. After a pregnancy that, according to what I read, was quite ordinary – except for a sense of foreboding that stayed with me throughout – I gave birth to a son. The birth itself was hour upon hour of torture, as if the boy were paying me back for something. He didn’t cry when he came out, which worried me and the doctor and nurses in attendance. But it was a false alarm; he was apparently perfectly healthy, with a full head of dark hair and brilliant green eyes. I remember the first time I held him, those eyes looking up at me, focussing fixedly on mine.

    New mothers often have a very hard time of it, their babies crying day and night. I imagined it must be extremely distressing since the mothers could never really know what the problem was, though they might try all avenues to solve the issue. Me, I never missed a minute’s sleep because of that. In fact, knowing what others experienced caused me on more than one occasion to consult my paediatrician to ask why Simon wasn’t more vocal. After check-ups and tests, she assured me that my son was in the best of health, and that I should be happy that those early months were so calm.

    I wish he had been a crier. Once I got him home to the flat – provided by the local council, and I was also on benefits – I began to feel again the sense of dread I’d had during the pregnancy. On the surface of things, all was perfect. I was breast-feeding and he always had his fill, though he often treated my nipples rather too enthusiastically. He slept soundly. His urine and poo were normal, as far as I could tell.

    But it was those eyes. I’ve seen other babies, and in those early days, their attention flits from object to object, seemingly at random. Not Simon. I would put him in his crib and be cleaning the room, and when I looked over at him, he would be staring at me through those emerald-green irises. If I moved across the room, the eyes would follow. There would be no chuckling, no vocalizations of any kind. Just that intense interest in my every movement.

    After a few months, something else began to happen. The first time was a Sunday. I’d invited a couple of women from the support group over and was preparing lunch. Simon was in his crib; I was keeping my eye on him through the kitchen hatch, and he had his eyes on me, as always. I remember taking a carrot. I began to cut it, then all went black. When the light came back to me, I had the knife in my right hand and a cut gouged out of the palm of my left, the blood pouring.

    I screamed and ran my hand under the tap, swearing with the pain. I remembered Simon and rushed through to make sure he was okay, and there he was, on his back, gurgling and waving his arms and legs; I could have sworn it was with amusement.

    My friends arrived shortly afterwards and one of them took me to the hospital while the other looked after Simon. When we came back, the one who’d stayed in the flat was as white as a sheet. She didn’t (or couldn’t) tell us what the matter was.

    A week or so later, I was hanging a picture in the living room when it happened again: blackness, then me coming to and finding a nail driven through that same palm, with Simon gurgling. These were just the first two of a series of similar incidents, the time-gap between them narrowing.

    My friends have been very supportive – all except the one who stayed in the flat that day. She’s never returned my calls. But I’m afraid that my suspicions have fallen on deaf ears; they all say the accidents must be a bad coincidence, and how lucky I am to have such a good boy. These months have proved to me that’s not the case.

    I know that when you (whoever you are) find this note and the bodies, the world will think badly of me. They’ll paint me as a monster, and Simon as a poor innocent, the victim of a deranged lunatic. My friends will corroborate that through the misgivings I shared with them.

    I prefer to think of myself as a saviour.

    Yours in anguish

    Elixabete Elizondo

    .

    Reply
    • January 15, 2022 at 8:08 am
      Permalink

      Phil- how do you do it? You create original and creative stories every contest. This one drew me in from the very beginning. Your punchy intro was a powerful attention getter. Then the story slowly unfolds into surprising paths. Very very impressive!

      Reply
    • January 15, 2022 at 10:51 pm
      Permalink

      Superlative writing, Phil. Great opening line and a compelling read.

      Reply
      • January 17, 2022 at 9:07 am
        Permalink

        Thanks very much, Ken! (Are you putting into practice what I said in the last comp about one-line critiques?)

        Reply
        • January 18, 2022 at 9:27 am
          Permalink

          Hi Phil,
          No. Just doing everything I can to condense my critiques and I think the term ‘superlative’ did that. When my comments are half as long as the stories being critiqued, that’s a problem, for everyone. Sometimes I feel like I’m extinguishing a match with a bucket of water.

          Reply
    • January 16, 2022 at 2:38 am
      Permalink

      Ah Phil the demonic child you describe so well. Born bad and also an evil conception bears dreadful fruit. Well written and eery stuff. I am not a great fan of abortion but I could be convinced it’s all for the best with a story like that. I’m assuming she was raped by a demon as there was no DNA match and the smell – sulphur perhaps??

      Reply
      • January 17, 2022 at 9:05 am
        Permalink

        Thanks, Ilana! Could well be ‘demonic’, but not necessarily … could all be in the woman’s mind …

        Reply
    • January 17, 2022 at 10:13 am
      Permalink

      Hi Phil,

      Wow, this is powerful stuff. I have not yet tried writing other than as a male and this has made me think. Especially as the prompt suggests perhaps a female lead or narrator.

      The notion of giving birth to a demonic child is not new of course but you made your version stick. My wife used to be a teacher of children with SEN (Special Educational Needs) there’s probably a new acronym since then and she says that she once taught a boy who was a close to evil as you could ever get. She still shudders at the memory. But one out of hundreds is not too bad.

      I think you have written this with your usual clarity and attention to detail. On the page, it does not have the fear factor associated with some of the best films dealing with demonic attachment but I sure wouldn’t want to be in that house with that child, Simon.

      I think the ending is a very clever touch and I applaud this.

      Good stuff Phil.

      Kind regards,

      Ken F

      Reply
      • January 18, 2022 at 10:59 pm
        Permalink

        Thanks very much, KenF. Yes, those films … you’re possibly thinking of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ and ‘The Omen’. Could be that ‘my’ boy is a young demon, but, as I said, it could be that the narrator isn’t 100% up top and is imagining things (maybe I should make that possibiity clearer?), compounded perhaps by a kid that might be like the one in ‘We Need To Talk About Kevin’ (if you’ve seen it) – someone very like the boy your wife apparenty had dealings with.

        Reply
    • January 17, 2022 at 11:08 am
      Permalink

      Phil, Very good use of the prompt, although I have to admit I left it wide open. Thoroughly enjoyed your story, so don’t take this the wrong way, but I felt the several references to the eyes and the staring were a tad excessive, (IMHO) because I realized early on who the little shit was up to. I would have like to put two and two together myself I think.

      Great story, however, and don’t let my muddling critique change anything if you think it’s just me being grump because I couldn’t find anything else to pick over.

      Roy

      Reply
      • January 18, 2022 at 11:02 pm
        Permalink

        Thanks as always, Roy. Yes – the eyes might be overdone, I agree. I think I was approaching it too filmically perhaps; I’m actually thinking of writing a screenplay based on this story, and the eyes will be a big feature of that.

        Reply
  • January 15, 2022 at 10:19 am
    Permalink

    Birth Rites
    by Roy York
    1200 words

    “In addition, we’ll expect a private maternity suite, suitably furnished, of course.”

    Dr. Bingham hid his growing dislike for Barbara Willingham. “Or course, Mrs. Willingham. Your husband’s name on the hospital entrance assures that. Your daughter and the new baby will have the best care possible.” Bingham’s voice was calm and reassuring. “Deborah and I have discussed it and we will induce the baby this Thursday at 10:00 am.”

    “Thursday?” Barbara Willingham bristled. “I can’t possibly be here on Thursday.”

    “Mrs. Willingham, Barbara if I may … “

    “You most certainly may not,” she interrupted. “It will have to be Friday. I have a standing appointment for my hair and nails on Thursday and I will not have MY life upended because my daughter is having a baby.”

    “Mrs. Willingham,” he said, “this isn’t like planning a shopping trip. Friday may not be safe. Let’s ask Deborah.”

    Deborah sat meekly on the edge of the examination table. “Deborah does what I tell her to do,” said Willlingham. “We will be here Friday at 10:00. I suggest you start listening to the people who control the purse strings of this hospital. Are we clear?”

    “Crystal,” the doctor answered.

    * * * * *

    Ndidi motioned to the young boy standing in the doorway of her hut. “Come in Jawaba.”

    “I cannot. Dayo told me not to. He says he cannot come today to deliver the water because he has the new sickness. I go now before you and the baby are harmed.” The boy ran off before Ndidi could stop him.

    Ndidi thought for a moment. ‘We have no water and I am the only one to fetch it.’ She could think of no one else who could help. Her husband, Ekene, was in Nairobi and wouldn’t be back until tomorrow.

    Ndidi sighed. ‘It is only two kilometers to the river. I’ve carried water all my 15 years. I can get and carry enough until Ekene gets home.’ She wrapped her scarf around her shoulders and picked up the large water jug she used to fetch the water. ‘I’ll fill it only half full; it’s only until tomorrow,’ she thought.

    She placed her hand on her bulging abdomen. “Promise me you won’t come until after your father gets back,” she said. “You are not due for another week.”

    * * * * *

    “Now Deborah, push. Give it all you’ve got.”

    “It hurts to push,” said Deborah, her voice weak.

    “I’m reluctant to give you something with your history. Let’s see if we can get through this without a harmful painkiller.”

    “Doctor,” yelled Barbara Willingham, “for God’s sake, give my daughter something. Now! She’s in pain.”

    Dr. Anderson looked sternly at Barbara Willingham. “Mrs. Willingham, you are here by the grace of the administration during this Covid crisis. Be thankful for that and quit treating us as if we are your personal staff.”

    The woman looked at the doctor in surprise. “I’m not sure I like your attitude.”

    “I really don’t care, Barbara,” he said. “Deborah, focus on me. Push, now.”

    Willingham walked slowly and deliberately to the doctor and grabbed his arm. “You really don’t care? I’ll have your privileges revoked and you’ll never deliver another baby in this hospital again.”

    The doctor shrugged her arm off. “That might be true, Barbara, but I’ll finish this delivery and you will not.”

    “You cannot tell me what to do in a maternity ward my husband paid for.”

    “I can, and I will.” Janice, call security and have Mrs. Willingham escorted out.” He turned. “Now, Deborah, push!”

    “You haven’t heard the last of this,” shouted Barbara Willingham as security led her out of the maternity ward.

    “Thank you Doctor,” said Deborah. “Let’s deliver my baby.”

    * * * * *

    Ndidi was on her way back from the river when she felt the first pain. She stopped to put the water jug down by a corkwood tree and sat down in the shade. Several moments passed and she was about to get up when there was another stabbing pain. She steadied herself and got to her feet and felt her water break.

    ‘It is time,’ she thought. Her mother had told her what to expect and she leaned up against the corkwood tree and counted. Another pain stabbed through her abdomen and she knew she must get home quickly.

    The nearby throaty growl of Nimba was too close for comfort. ‘Better Nimba than hyenas, she thought.’ Ndidi had chosen a shorter but more dangerous path to get to the river. She prayed to God she had not made a bad choice this day of all days. She heard the growl of the lion again.

    She picked up the jug and made it about 200 meters where she found another cork tree.
    Moments later another pain shot through her body. ‘This little baby is making up it’s own mind as to when it comes. I wish Ekene was here.’

    * * * * *

    Deborah Waverly gave one last push.

    “Congratulations, Deborah, it’s a boy.” The doctor cut the cord and clamped the ends, handing the baby to the charge nurse and softly told her instructions.

    The nurse weighed the baby, then handed the baby to Deborah who snuggled it in her arms. “I wish your daddy could be here, but you’ll see him soon enough.”

    “We’ve got some tests to run and he’s a little underweight. I’ll be taking him to NICU,” said the nurse. “You hold him tight for a few minutes. You’ll be able to visit with him later.”

    Deborah looked at the doctor in alarm. “Why the NICU? What’s wrong,” she asked.

    “It’s just a precaution,” he said, as the nurse took the baby.

    An hour later the doctor returned followed by her mother and her husband. The looks on their faces told Deborah something was terribly wrong. She clutched her blanket and drew it close to herself. “Doctor, what is it?”

    “The baby’s dead, Deborah,” said her mother bluntly. “We are going to sue this incompetent doctor and make him pay.”

    Deborah cried softly, shaking her head back and forth. “I just saw him. I just held him. He’s all right. Please give me my baby.” She reached out to her husband.

    “Your son was born with a hole in his heart. Something we didn’t find during the entire pregnancy. We couldn’t fix it in time. We did all we could. I’m terribly sorry, Deborah,” said the doctor.

    Deborah sobbed, “This shouldn’t happen in America. This is not the way it is supposed to happen.”

    * * * * *

    The pains were coming closer and closer. Ndidi stifled her urge to scream so Nimba wouldn’t hear. She got on her knees as her mother told her and started to push. Ndidi could feel the baby moving down. She bore down and gave a last hard push.

    Moments later, a tiny head emerged, then the rest of the body slipped out. Ndidi bit the cord in two and tied off the ends. She reached down and picked up her daughter and looked in her eyes. “I shall name you Abebi, which means ‘we asked for a girl’ and the good Lord delivered.”

    ‘Thank you God,’ she thought, as the child suckled at her breast. ‘This is the way it is supposed to happen.’

    Reply
    • January 16, 2022 at 6:46 pm
      Permalink

      Very well developed and paced story, Roy. I really like the idea of the contrast. It’s clear, as you say, that a ‘cosmic throw of the dice’ can decide between a happy and tragic outcome. One thing, though: Barbara Willingham. She’s a terrific character (someone we love to hate), but her interventions ultimately seem superluous to the aforementioned message you’re trying to transmit; for all the doctor’s dedication, and despite Barbara’s dangerous interference, it’s a clinical anomaly that decides things … and in fact paints the doctor and the hospital as being negligent for not spotting it earlier. If you’d removed Barbara and all that conflict (very well done in itself, but, as I say, superfluous [imho] to the bigger picture), you might have had room to develop each of the two settings more. Having said that, it’s a very good, smoothly rendered read.

      Reply
      • January 17, 2022 at 3:38 pm
        Permalink

        Phil,

        I thought about all of those things you pointed out as I was writing this, and stayed with my original premise anyway. In hindsight, (which makes things far more clear) I probably should have made some major changes, your suggestion about Babs being one of them. (Barbara)

        Sometimes I get so caught up on how clever I am at making a character I really like (or hate, as the case may be), and find myself not wanting to let go of them. My ego won’t let me. I should work on that.

        Thanks for the thoughtful critique, I truly appreciate it. And, yeah, I did hate leaving Dr. Bingham holding the negligent bag. But, as an author, I can relate that Barbara did some things, such as holding information from her daughter and convincing her to skip a couple of important tests, which would have helped. So it’s Babs who will take the fall in court. Damn, I can see the courtroom scene now. It’ll be terrific. Thanks, Phil.

        Roy

        Reply
    • January 17, 2022 at 10:41 am
      Permalink

      Hi Roy,

      A beautifully written story. You cover a lot of ground in a short space ( word limit) and therein lies a small problem.

      i have no quibble at all with the basic premise that shows us the contrasting experiences of rich and poor where, in this case, the outcomes are reversed. Like others have suggested, the word count was too limiting for what you might like to have said. i would have loved to have seen more of the conflict in the hospital and to have seen Mrs. Willingham get sorted in a manner that she would not like. She was such a great character, Roy that I really hated her and her kind. Shame about the hole in the heart as it gives Mrs. W a possible lawsuit for negligence and i am with the doctor all the way.

      Also, Ndidi deserves more of the story. I can sense the raw savagery of nature, red in tooth and claw and would like to have found out more about what happens. Reminds me of something I wrote years ago. I might send it to you although my writing then was relatively poorer than now and way behind yours. Just the theme of a young woman having baby in the wild.

      So, your writing is superb and I think you could easily double the word count on this one and it would be a masterpiece.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape

      Reply
      • January 17, 2022 at 3:28 pm
        Permalink

        Thanks, Ken F.,

        After listening to everyone’s critiques, I probably missed an opportunity here, that’s why I do this sort of thing. Hopefully, to make me a better writer. I read acknowledgements by authors and they almost always thank about a hundred people who gave them advice, so I guess there’s something to that.

        I really appreciate the time you took to explain your position and I think you (and the others) are right. Probably should have developed either story, but, going back to my original premise, I really wanted to highlight the glaring differences between ‘rich’ and ‘poor’, although those terns are suspect as who’s to say who has the richer life between the two families. I’m holding out for the mother who said, “This is the say it should be”.

        I doubt if I’ll go any further with this story, unless I submit for a larger contest, and even then, I would have to change it radically.

        Send me that story, you have my email. I’d love to read it. In fact, I think I owe you a note anyway, so look for that in the mail, soon.

        Thanks again for your kind words.

        Roy

        Reply
  • January 15, 2022 at 11:32 pm
    Permalink

    Your writing is so amazingly clean and polished, Roy. The message seems like it’s at the end, but it’s really embedded in the plot. My only complaint, is the line where the doctor tells Mrs. Willingham that ‘her husband’s name on the hospital entrance’ assures her and her daughter of every available accommodation. It’s a bit brazen, (Even though, you add the qualifier that ‘his dislike for her’ is growing.) If she responded it would be better. It would begin to define an already contentious relationship between the Mrs. and the Doctor. (It’s a minor and pretty petty complaint, though.)

    The ‘hole in the infant’s heart’ on the other hand, is a master stroke. (In my dubiously qualified opinion.)

    It’s a starkly presented moral story, but otherwise well-written. One could wish for a little more detail about her encounter with the Nimba. But… the story wasn’t really about Nimba’s so, I guess it needs not.

    Reply
    • January 16, 2022 at 12:22 pm
      Permalink

      Ken C.,

      I’d like to think I have been listening to the various comments about my stories over the years from this elite group of writers and try my best to apply the things I’ve learned from them that makes it ‘clean and polished’. Thanks for those words.

      My goal was not to have a fancy, shmancy ending, but to highlight the possibilities of a lower income society against that of a higher income society, along with let’s say – quality health care versus more primitive conditions health wise. I was going to say third world vs first world but thought better of it and looked up the terms and found it is totally frowned upon by just about everyone to refer to countries as third world. As a side note, I suppose it’s much better than ‘shit-hole’ countries as a well known conservative politician referred to some of them, in our recent past.

      I digress. My goal was to highlight that, even with very good medical advice and care, Mother Nature doesn’t play favorites for rich vs poor. It’s basically a cosmic throw of the dice. I know that up close and personal, having lost my mother and a younger brother during childbirth when I was 15 months old.

      Originally it had a bit more drama with Nimba (ran out of words), and maybe I should have investigated that more. My problem lately is that I cannot find that ‘dramatic moment’ or ending often enough. I didn’t write this to win, but to try out a technique with two vignettes and point out the stark differences and the possible outcomes, and have a story hat was well written. At least, so far, I’ve succeeded with that. We’ll see how the voting goes.

      Thanks again for your analysis. It is appreciated.

      Roy

      Reply
      • January 16, 2022 at 1:44 pm
        Permalink

        Roy,
        Just to be clear. I didn’t feel like the story needed a reveal, that was one of the things I liked about it. Among other things. I would have liked the third story too and totally understand about the word limit. And I think the message was perfectly plain. Money is a poor substitute for love and frankly, neither God, nor fate, nor nature care one iota about your family’s money. (I mean, I think that was the message.)

        Reply
  • January 16, 2022 at 2:30 am
    Permalink

    Great writing Roy but it was too neat and I felt sorry for both women giving birth. They did have real trauma. I wanted more from your story I guess. I felt as if you could have achieved much more by focusing on one woman’s story rather than the contrast of the two . While the contrast was there for your purpose I felt personally and it I’d just my opinion for what it is worth, that you could have made a story with more depth focusing on one of the women rather than two. You are a master story teller but I felt this word count was too short for the story you are telling.

    Reply
    • January 16, 2022 at 12:38 pm
      Permalink

      Thanks Ilana,

      Originally I wrote this story with three separate stories. My Beta reader got confused and told me so, and suggested if that was my goal, to highlight the differences between lower income and higher income and availability of health care, it would be better with two.

      That was my reason for writing the story, which I think I accomplished.

      I agree with your there could have been much more drama and character development by focusing on either of the two women.

      And, I am forced to agree with you regarding word count with this story. If I had to do it over again, I would probably have gone for the story in Africa with Nimba. Just thinking about that gave me the idea for a great plot with Nimba actually being a female lion (they are the hunters, after all) and ends up protecting Ndidi and her new baby from the hyenas.

      It would have fit the Momma Drama prompt I dreamed up.

      As I told Ken, it started with three women, but didn’t carry the story I had in mind. I felt this one did do what I set out to do – highlight differences – but it did lack for that ‘dramatic’ moment and the prompt was Momma Drama of any kind.

      I like to stretch myself occasionally and that’s what I was trying to do.

      On my next story I’m thinking of trying something new. But, I’ve got to do some research to see if it grammatically possible. We’ll see.

      Reply
      • January 16, 2022 at 8:57 pm
        Permalink

        Yep Roy I think it is a question of leg room with the word. Your concept and the writing is great but like trying to fit a Dolly Parton bust into a B cup – it has to burst out over the edges…

        Reply
        • January 18, 2022 at 6:12 am
          Permalink

          Ilana, nice. I now have a clear (and pleasant) view of my error.

          Reply
  • January 16, 2022 at 2:55 pm
    Permalink

    FAMILY TIME

    The crone didn’t turn around when a dove flew in through the tiny window.

    “Oh hello Helena,” she said, and threw a log into the gigantic oven, “I was wondering if you’d drop in.”

    The dove plummeted to the rough wooden floor of the hut and turned into a beautiful young woman.

    “Hi Mum,” she pecked the old witch on the cheek.

    “That boy of yours isn’t home?”

    “Lionel is off hunting with his brothers … I don’t know if he’ll be back tonight,” Helena said, adjusting her embroidered silk dress.

    “You haven’t told him he’s already met the mother-in-law, have you?” the witch looked at her shrewdly. “It’ll do him good to see what his wife will look like later,” she added with a cackle.

    “He’ll die of old age before I start looking like this!” the young woman objected, flicking her long flowing hair. “Besides, you’re the mother-in-law of nightmares.” As the crone raised an eyebrow and opened her mouth, Helena added hastily, My mother-in-law never threatened to eat me. Not even when I was a frog.”

    “They don’t appreciate a good frog in these parts,” her mother muttered. “And I did help him in the end.”

    “Yeah, Lionel would never have known how to break the curse without your advice. Or maybe even how to find me. Thanks for that, Mum. Really, it’s so lucky he stumbled upon your home. But … did you have to be so mean?”

    “The young fool triggered your curse.”

    “He also ended it.”

    “He nearly failed. … In any case, why didn’t you tell the boy who I am?” the crone asked sharply. “Are you ashamed of me?”

    “No Mum, of course not! It’s just that you’re …”

    “A witch? You used magic yourself to complete that ridiculous task your father-in-law set … what was it … bake a cake?”

    “Bake a loaf of bread. And sew a shirt. … Well, no-one saw me actually doing magic. And it’s not like you taught me how to do those things any other way.”

    “Huh. Don’t you have servants for that sort of thing?”

    “Well yeah … Actually, my sisters-in-law didn’t know how to do it, either. The normal way, I mean. … I don’t really get why Lionel’s father set us those tasks.”

    “‘Cos kings have too much time on their hands, that’s why.”

    “Anyway Mum, what I meant to say is that you’re … scary. I mean, you introduce yourself by threatening to eat the other person!”

    “So?”

    “So??? So with a first impression like that, how am I supposed to tell my husband that he’s just met my mother?”

    “He’ll get over it. … So what did you tell him about your mother – that I’m dead?”

    “Um, yeah … That’s what Father told everyone after you … left.”

    “He’s a real piece of work, your father. … Listen Helena, about that husband of yours. If it turns out he’s no good …”

    “No-one’s good enough for you,” huffed the young woman.

    “I’m just sayin’, he’ll be easy enough to take care of. Just say the word.”

    “Don’t. You. DARE. Touch. My. Husband.” Helena’s voice sharpened. Her eyes flashed. “I chose Lionel. He’s mine.” Her shadow on the wall grew larger and twisted threateningly.

    “Don’t get your knickers in a knot,” the witch smirked. “He’s yours, all right. … Say, fancy a cuppa? I’ve got scones and jam.”

    “Yes, please,” replied the daughter, slightly mollified. Her shadow slowly returned to normal.

    “So why did your father turn you into a frog, anyway?” the old woman asked idly as the two sipped their tea.

    “I can’t even remember,” shrugged the younger, “some stupid little thing. You know how Father is. … Oh, yummm! This strawberry jam is the best!”

    “Homemade,” her mother crowed with satisfaction, “I even picked the strawberries.”

    “No way! Where?!”

    “In a glade not far from here. Wild strawberries, of course. You should visit in summer some time.”

    “Mmm, I might …”

    “So, your father,” the witch’s gaze sharpened. “He was always an idiot. I should’ve taken you with me.”

    “Oh come on, Mum!” Helena snorted with laughter. “You’d have been even worse than Father. You hate company.”

    “We would’ve managed. Or … if it got too much, you could always move into a hut of your own, heh-heh. … Anyway, your father is one man you won’t mind me sorting out.”

    “MUUUM! You can’t just “sort out” a king!” the young woman exclaimed, horrified. A dollop of strawberry jam slid off the spoon, plopping on the table instead of the scone it was headed for. “The chaos it would cause …”

    “There’s that half-brother of yours, isn’t there?”

    “Albert.”

    “Yeah, him. He can be king. Is he still giving you a hard time?”

    “You know it was always me who gave him a hard time. And you as well. Albert still has nightmares about you.”

    “It builds character,” the crone mumbled, hiding a small grin.

    “Anyway, we get along very well now. And I’m sure he’ll be a good king. But … succession is best when it happens in its own time. Besides, Father is a better ruler than a … father.”

    Helena gazed thoughtfully out of the small window. Outside, dusk was falling, and a familiar, comforting light shone out of the sockets of the skulls mounted all over the palisade.

    “Plus,” she continued, “I never have to see him again, now that I’m married. Just leave him alone, OK?”

    The old woman shrugged noncommittally.

    “Hey Mum,” the young woman’s head rose. “Why did you take up with Father at all, if you thought he was an idiot?”

    “Where do you think little witches come from?” the crone replied with a cackle. “Never planned to stick around, anyway.”

    “Obviously,” the daughter smirked.

    The two enjoyed their tea in comfortable silence. Trees creaked and rustled gently outside. Occasionally a distant wolf’s howl or owl’s hoot could be heard. All forest creatures knew better than to stray too close to the little hut.

    “Will you stay the night?” the forest witch asked. “The oven is mine, but you can have the bench.”

    “No, I better get home. … Maybe Lionel will return tonight, after all.”

    “You have your fun,” grinned the old woman. “Don’t be a stranger.”

    “Sure, Mum. Thanks for the tea,” Helena gave her mother a quick hug. “Don’t terrify the wildlife too much.”

    A moment later, a small grey owl flew out of the window.

    Reply
    • January 16, 2022 at 7:04 pm
      Permalink

      A very brisk and fun tale, Vicki. It’s like any normal daughter visting her mum somewhere in the suburbs … with loads of witchcraft dolloped on top. The dialogue’s very good (it woud have to be because it’s basically all dialogue), and tells us all we need to know about this unusual family set-up. The separated parents is another nice touch reminiscent of what could be a ‘normal’ family. I didn’t really understand this bit, though: “You haven’t told him he’s already met the mother-in-law, have you?” Something’s gone on between the mother-in-law and her son-in-law, but I don’t know what it is (I read it a couple of times to try to work it out). Nice, light read.

      (btw, how do you get italics?)

      Reply
      • January 18, 2022 at 2:55 am
        Permalink

        Please see my comment below (I answered you and Ilana together).

        Reply
    • January 16, 2022 at 9:07 pm
      Permalink

      A great little tale Vicki but here I am echoing Phil because I want to know what exactly did she mean by that statement about meeting his prospective MIL and she threatened to eat him?? Kind of intriguing to say the least.
      It’s a jolly tale but methinks there is more going on. I kind of expected some bewitchment through homemade jam etc but it did not happen.
      And the change in bird shape had me intrigued. Something deeper is definitely happening.

      Reply
      • January 18, 2022 at 2:55 am
        Permalink

        Please see my comment below (I answered you and Phil together).

        Reply
    • January 17, 2022 at 11:45 am
      Permalink

      Hi Vicki,

      I just love this story. It really entertained me and made me smile from start to finish.

      As has been mentioned, it kind of mirrors a normal mother – daughter relationship, only with witchcraft thrown in for good measure.

      A great read, well done and thanks for entertaining me at 5.30 pm on a UK Monday, in my cold office, just before the heating comes on and warms my cockles ( not a euphamism) we really have cockles here. Strange folk, us Brits. Having said that, around half of Brits are, I swear, from another planet as they don’t think or say the things that I say. That’s the trouble with democracy…..too many people saying things that i don’t like!!!

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape

      Reply
      • January 17, 2022 at 3:24 pm
        Permalink

        Thanks Ken,

        You’ve put an image in my mind of Brits trawling around beaches through driving rain and penetrating wind, collecting sea snails in order to warm them by unspecified means. (Putting them inside the coat, close to the heart? Bringing them home and arranging them in front of the fireplace?) Yeah, Brits are weird …

        PS. You made me google & find out that “cockles” is another word for ventricles of the heart.

        Reply
    • January 17, 2022 at 3:19 pm
      Permalink

      Thanks for your comments, Phil and Ilana. Since you raise similar questions, I’ll answer you together.

      If you’re interested in the backstory, my story was inspired by the Russian fairytale The Frog Princess. Actually, the witch and the princess aren’t related in the original tale, but I had too much fun imagining their relationship as mother and daughter. 🙂

      The witch helped the prince with his quest to find his missing wife (the princess) and lift a curse from her. Except no-one bothered to tell him that the witch also happened to be his wife’s mother. I was going to elaborate on that, namely that the “official version” is that the princess’s mother is dead, and the mother’s identity as the terrifying forest witch is something of a dark little secret for the princess; I just couldn’t find a place where this would fit naturally, and so left it out.

      As for the threat to eat the prince – it’s exactly what it says. Prince enters witch’s hut. Witch sniffs the air and says, “Mmm, smells like human. Come closer, I’m gonna eat you.” Afterwards, prince convinces witch to help out. … Now imagine finding out afterwards that this lovely person is your new mother-in-law. Heh-heh-heh.

      Phil: the easiest way to italicise text is putting asterisks around the text. There’s another way which I’ve forgotten. I asked a similar question during the Enduring Love prompt, and Carrie and some others gave some helpful tips in the comments about italicising, bolding, etc.

      Ilana: even if you don’t read the original tale (which may answer some of your questions), don’t forget that the daughter is also a witch. 🙂

      Reply
    • January 17, 2022 at 4:08 pm
      Permalink

      Vicki,

      Love the dialogue, and loved the set up and flow of the story. The dialogue between mom and the smart-ass answers of the daughter were delicious. Really enjoyed the story. I will, however join the chorus about the meeting the mother in law thing and the further story of when the mother in law says, “Well, I did help him in the end.” Didn’t understand that and read it three times.

      Otherwise, got no other bones to pick over and think I’ll read it again and get a good laugh.

      Roy

      Reply
      • January 18, 2022 at 2:54 am
        Permalink

        Thanks Roy,

        I’ve explained some of that background in a comment responding to Phil and Ilana. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll be able to work that into the story by the deadline.

        Reply
    • January 18, 2022 at 4:54 pm
      Permalink

      OK, I’ve taken everyone’s comments on board and reposted an updated version with some more backstory included. I hope the additions have made it better, not clunkier.

      Reply
  • January 18, 2022 at 10:46 am
    Permalink

    The link that can’t be broken.

    A short story by

    Ken Frape

    You stopped me dead in my tracks today in that car park, Bobby. I felt as if the air was sucked from my lungs and a giant hand tried to crush my ribs as I collapsed onto the tarmac. I know it was you. When the medics arrived and put me onto the stretcher they kept saying,

    “Keep calm, lady, we’ve got you, “ as I thrashed around trying to look for you, to stand up and run after you, calling out your name, “Bobby, Bobby, Bobby” but they held me down and pumped a syringe of calming medication into me. They found my medical card in my bag and I guess the hospital notes confirmed the notion that they were dealing with someone who is unstable, medically and mentally. It’s all there, the ranting, the panic attacks, the divorce, the overdoses, the violent rages, the alcohol abuse.

    It has been ten years now since I last saw you. Ten years since I put the three year old you to bed, ruffled your blond, curly hair as I always did and kissed you goodnight as your eyes closed sleepily and you reached out for my hand. Three thousand six hundred and forty missed good nights since then. Three thousand six hundred and forty nights that I have not slept in my own bed but instead, lain down on your bed and imagined you were still here as I hugged your pillow and drowned it with my tears.

    I routinely comb every missing person report I can find and I have produced a mountain of paper, covering every wall in the house. Several possible international sightings have turned out to be false alarms but I have a suitcase and passport packed for instant travel for when the next one turns up.

    I have become unemployable and impossible to live with. Your father tried his best for years to support me in my search but in the end it simply became my obsession and it drove him further and further away until he fell into the arms of another woman. A calm, normal woman. A woman who has not had her only child snatched and carried off in the night. A woman who has not had her very heart and soul ripped out. A woman who can sleep at night without pills strong enough to fell an ox. A woman who can manage a household, go shopping, entertain guests and drink wine for its taste and not its numbing effect. A fully functioning, normal woman. Like I used to be.

    I cannot stop looking for you. I won’t stop looking for you whilst I have breath in my body. It would be the worst possible betrayal of my love and my motherhood if I gave up. Every day since you went missing from your own bed in the night I scan crowds for the three year old boy that you were then morphing into the young man you will be now, a strapping, laughing, handsome teenager. I know I will recognize you instantly as only a mother can. You inherited your curls from me and you wear your father’s smile. The police have long since exhausted all leads and they clearly don’t think you will be found anywhere near your home, my home, our home but I search anyway. I must do something. They have warned me repeatedly that I cannot keep accosting strangers who I think might be you but never are. They were kindly and understanding at the start but now they see me as a menace, a nuisance.

    On medical advice I agreed to join a counseling group but every week my presence just seemed to disrupt the sessions. Why did no one else experience grief like mine? Why were they all so passive, so accepting? What’s wrong with tears, with screaming, with shouting? Grief gets easier to bear, they said but they lied. My grief is a huge rock that I push uphill every day and every day it gets bigger and heavier as I get weaker but I cannot let go of it as it contains the essence of you, my son, your thoughts and dreams and mine for you. And the guilt. Oh, so much guilt. Why did I leave your bedroom window open? Why didn’t I check on you every hour? Why didn’t some sixth sense alert me to the danger? Isn’t that what mothers do? Good mothers protect their children. I failed and I am so sorry.

    If I let my rock go for just one moment it will crush me and all will be lost. My son will be lost forever. That rock is my last hope.

    ~~~~~

    Davy and I had a very strange experience today. We were at the shopping mall when this weird woman starting shouting at me, “Bobby, Bobby, Bobby,” she kept repeating and then she collapsed onto the ground and just lay there thrashing her arms and legs around. She kept twisting her head around and I could swear she was looking for me. I stood at the back of the crowd that gathered round until the paramedics arrived and managed to calm her down. Some people were laughing and even Davy thought it was a bit of a sideshow. Why did I want to hit him, my best friend and tell the crowd to stop laughing? I pulled Davy away and we went into the mall to the fast food outlets to meet friends but once we got there, I wasn’t feeling hungry or sociable.

    “What’s the matter with you, Chas? Are you in lurve? Again.” Davy chuckled and punched my arm but I pushed him away and stomped off. I left him there on his stool slurping his chocolate shake.

    He held up his hand, thumb and forefinger crooked as he mouthed the words, “Call me.”

    All the way home I couldn’t get that woman out of my head. I don’t know who she was but her hair was the same colour as mine, strawberry blond my friends call it as they tease me about it. Curly too, if I let it grow. Just like hers but then lots of people have blond curly hair, don’t they? As I watched the woman writhing on the ground I found myself running my fingers through my hair, stroking it, unconsciously I suppose, but it was almost like, like, oh I don’t know, it was like a distant memory, like waking from a dream and managing to hold onto just a bit of it. When you wake you just can’t pin it down and then, however hard you try to fill in the blanks, it all goes misty and disappears.

    It was just a strange woman, probably mentally ill, lying there on the ground but I can tell you this, the whole thing scared the shit out of me and I don’t know why.

    Perhaps if I go back to the car park there might be some clues that can set my mind at rest. I don’t know why but something tells me that I have to try.

    Ken Frape
    18/01/22

    Reply
    • January 18, 2022 at 3:55 pm
      Permalink

      Ken F., The only comment I have about your story is, you left it for us to put together our own ending. I’m not sure yet if that is a good thing or a bad thing. I don’t have any problems with your writing at all. In fact, it was clean and smooth. Very, I might add.

      Just one little thing. If his hair wasn’t curly right now (he had to let it grow to get that way, according to Chas) how did she recognize him so easily? Just wondering. If you just lop off the words, ‘if I let it grow’, from this sentence – Curly too, if I let it grow. – all is well.

      Otherwise, a well told and enjoyable tale. Indeed. All I have to do is figure out if Chas (Bobby – maybe) is there to save the day for dear old Mom. I think he goes back to the car park, figures out where she is, maybe not who she is, and gets to the hospital just in time to hold her hand before she checks out, with her thinking she’s found him, and him not sure just exactly is going on.

      Roy

      Reply
    • January 19, 2022 at 4:03 am
      Permalink

      Great writing Mr. Frape,

      It’s so easy to write people off as crazy. Phil would prefer his characters to be crazy, but you, apparently, would not.

      You have a really deft hand, Ken. the writing practically disappears behind the story it tells. And a very neat means by which you connect the two halves of the story together too. One could wish for a more substantial indication of what might come next, but I believe your last sentence does that well enough as it is. ‘…something tells me that I have to try.’ One should assume that the boy’s curiosity is now piqued. (And the glass is half full.)

      A very good story — and excellent writing, Ken.

      Reply
    • January 19, 2022 at 7:49 pm
      Permalink

      Great story, KenF! The switch in POV halfway through is masterful. There’s so much back-story that we (deliberately and wisely on your part) don’t know – what exactly happened to ‘Bobby’ after the abduction? (if indeed Chas is Bobby – you leave that deliciously ambiguous). The mother’s anguish is really well portrayed, and it’s heartening to know that Bobby/Chas is concerned for her – making him a good person, whoever that person is. I think the paragraph beginning “I have become unemployable…” is a little exposition-heavy (in a longer piece you could have shown us these details, rather than telling us). How do you gesture a phone call? (is it with your forefinger, or your little finger?)

      Speaking of films (which you did in your comment to me), there’s a very good Portuguese one called ‘Alice’ (2005) in which the main protagonist (a man) suffers from the same obsession as yours. I was also reminded of the Madeleine McCann mystery. If you beleive the parents’ story, then they must also have a similar obsession.

      Anyway … really good story.

      Reply
      • January 19, 2022 at 7:52 pm
        Permalink

        btw … I always had the problem of the separators, too, so last time I used Xs, which seemed to …

        x x x x x x x x x x

        … work.

        Reply
        • January 21, 2022 at 3:48 pm
          Permalink

          I prefer ~*~ It’s kinda symmetrical, all upper case, and only three strokes.

          Reply
          • January 22, 2022 at 8:35 pm
            Permalink

            Very elegant, Robert. The problem is, though, that the separators formed with symbols are disappearing when we post our stories. It’s happened to me a couple of times, and here to KenF … hence my suggestion of letters rather than symbols. Not as aesthetically pleasing, but it gets the job done.

            Reply
  • January 18, 2022 at 10:55 am
    Permalink

    Carrie,

    My story above was supposed to be in two parts and it was when I posted it but now the separation marks have gone missing. They should separate the story after the sentence, “That rock is my last hope.”
    Can you edit this for me?

    Thanks,

    Ken Frape

    Reply
    • January 18, 2022 at 10:12 pm
      Permalink

      Fixed!

      Reply
      • January 19, 2022 at 3:53 am
        Permalink

        Hi Carrie,
        Thanks for that .
        Much appreciated.
        Kind regards,
        Ken Frape

        Reply
  • January 18, 2022 at 11:12 am
    Permalink

    Vicki,

    A fun story, (unless you happen to be a prince or a frog.) But the confusion left me disappointed. Before I read your explanation to Phil, et. al., I wanted to make my own guess. I submit that this is a Princess turned into a frog story. A female version of that familiar fairy tale. Presumably, Helena’s father turned her into a frog, and only a kiss, (or some other such unlikely event) could break the spell. But what did her mother do for Lionel in return? And what does Helena mean when she flips her hair and says, “He’ll die of old age before I start looking like this.” So, he married an owl? Or some other creature. Perhaps she’s really a lioness? The uncertainty is unbecoming.

    Despite my confusion, the dialogue is masterful and the story is delightfully devious, and… I admire the subtlety you employ as you allude to various revelations in the tale. But… there comes a time, in most stories, when a little exposition can work wonders.

    Like the laces on an American football. They aren’t as pretty as the rest of the football, but they serve several indispensable functions. Originally they held the ends of the leather, or pigskin together, but they also provide the hand with something to grip, (making it easier to throw), they provide additional visual clues to aid the human eye in determining the velocity of the ball. (The faster they spin, the faster the ball is going.) And they are the bane of kickers whose punts will be muffed if they kick the ball on the laces.

    Now that I’ve read your explanation to Phil and Ilana, I’m not satisfied. If the Prince and the Princes, Helena, are already married, then the bride’s mother did not attend the ceremony, or his henchmen did not perform a thorough background check. The first thing I look at when contemplating marriage, is the woman’s mother. (It’s a no-brainer.) I know all the romanticists are cursing me with balled fists, but really, it’s just prudent, and I’m not even a Prince. (By any stretch of the definition.)

    There are two lessons to be learned from this story, I think. One is, if your mother is a Russian witch, you grow accustomed to telling a few little-white-lies.

    And two, the author of this story is undeniably skilled and talented.

    Reply
    • January 18, 2022 at 5:34 pm
      Permalink

      Thanks for your comment, Ken. I know next to nothing about American football, except that the players wear those ridiculous shoulder pads; but I get your – and everyone else’s – point. I’ve made some changes to the story which should answer some of the questions. As for the background info that didn’t make it in:

      The prince’s father was sick of his 3 sons not settling down, so he told them to go shoot arrows in a random direction, and made them promise to marry whichever girl picks up the arrow. That worked out as well as could be expected. The prince in question found his arrow in possession of a frog (really a princess cursed by her father as a punishment for who knows what), and had to marry her because he’d made a promise. Hence no background checks and none of the bride’s relatives at the wedding. (The groom wished he weren’t there, either.) Amazingly enough, the prince’s older brothers managed to land human girls from respectable families. Later on, the prince saw his wife in human form and decided to be smart by burning her frog skin – and lost her as a result. Looking for his wife, the prince stumbled upon a witch’s hut, and eventually convinced the witch to tell him how to break the curse (not a kiss). And what an amazing coincidence – the princess in question was just about to drop in (in bird form this time).

      As for the “dying of old age” remark – witches live much longer than normal people, so I made the bold assumption that they also take much longer to start looking old.

      I’m not sure if little white lies will help if your mother is a Russian witch (and don’t let her catch you telling them), but having a mother like that is certainly character-building.

      Reply
      • January 19, 2022 at 3:11 am
        Permalink

        This was all written before reading your re-write, Vickie, which I look forward to doing, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you were pulling MY leg for a change.

        In your comment above you wrote:

        ‘Later on, the prince saw his wife in human form and decided to be smart by burning her frog skin – and lost her as a result.’

        Way, woah, what? I’m really confused now. He saw his wife in human form—and decided to burn her FROG SKIN? And lost her as a result. He lost her in the smoke? Or the screaming?

        You know, normally, I have a lot of faith and trust in witches. (I mean Russians.) But after reading this story, I don’t know what to think. (About Russians or witches.)

        I have but one vital question to ask about this Frog witch, Vickie. Did she have nice legs?

        Reply
        • January 19, 2022 at 5:41 am
          Permalink

          Ken, one little hint re frog skin burning: think the Selkie Wife tale.

          But generally, I only intended to use the original fairytale as a point of departure, so I’m not going to give a detailed retelling. For anyone interested in the backstory, the original is called The Frog Princess (hint, hint). Otherwise, just use your imagination; I have a feeling you’ll come up with something better than the original. 🙂

          Reply
          • January 19, 2022 at 9:12 am
            Permalink

            https://knightwritingpress.com/magic-portals/

            I think more than a few of us have stories that qualify for this one on the theme of magic portals, but I remember your dragon story and I think that it fits.

            I used to love magic portals when I was a kid – I had a dream where I found one in the woods by the playground, but now I am all weird and scared of challenge and I am afraid to try to write a story about one, especially one that is suitable for kids (yours definitely was no more than a PG-13 rating).

            Reply
            • January 19, 2022 at 12:43 pm
              Permalink

              Thanks, Rumples! You’re such a treasure trove of resources, and so generous.

              Hope you got to write stories for those prompts you wanted – the cryptids and underwater horrors (I saw your comment on that somewhere in this thread). It occurred to me that you already had a halfway there story – your shark dream one. The ending was nicely ambiguous, too. All it needs is a few tweaks to make the protagonist a real were shark, and show that he’s more interested in his fishing trip buddies as prey than in fish. 🙂

              Reply
              • January 19, 2022 at 2:34 pm
                Permalink

                OMG I needed that, thank you! I wanted to ask someone about that, but it is a whole thing and I didn’t want to pester anyone! I actually have the shark dream itself as a separate story, one that I wrote right before I wrote the one for the prompt with the fishing trip. I didn’t show it to you guys here because I wanted to try to get it printed someday, but that left me with just a story about the story, which makes the whole thing lose power, you know?

                I mean, it would be like if I kept referencing a song that was real obscure or a little-known painting. If it were a book, I would just show the painting on a page. If it were a movie, I would just show the painting or play the song. But it is a short story and I have to show this dream in words that try to evoke powerful pictures and feelings. It was a real dream that I had, so there is some kind of power in it, but now I have a dilemma because I planned on submitting it as a compound story. The first part is the weird dream that is set in the olden days of wooden ships. The second part is some weird guy (me) talking about it to his friends.

                Your idea is better, because then something real would happen at the end and it would turn it into a kind of triptych. The dream, the morning after, and the consequences of everyone ignoring the warning that the dream was giving!

                It is still weird, but it is better than anything that I was going to do! I guess I am scared of writing about ships because I really have absolutely no idea what is what on a boat. Aft? Stern? Prow? Poop deck? Shiver me timbers.

                I think I was just going to ditch the part that you saw and try to expand the dream part so that it looked like a story by itself (it is only 750 words long). But your way would leave me with about 2,000 words at the very least.

                Reply
              • January 19, 2022 at 2:41 pm
                Permalink

                And I did write one about cryptids, but my phone broke and I didn’t get it in on time (but I still submitted).

                It is really weird, but I can’t tell really how bad it is. My taste is on another wavelength from most people and it is hard to tell when I am being acceptably strange or uncomfortably strange or strange in that way where no one understands the point. Like my wereshark guy. He is saying some things that are not quite right and he is waxing philosophical like I do, so why the hell does he hang out with regular guys that do regular guy things like fishing and boating, presumably away from their wives and girlfriends (I would never do that, not the boat trip, not the fishing, not the hanging out away from my wife for fun, that John does not exist). Sorry. Went off!

                Reply
                • January 21, 2022 at 3:48 am
                  Permalink

                  Glad to be of assistance. 🙂

                  Reply
  • January 19, 2022 at 11:36 am
    Permalink

    Hey everybody, I’m getting on a plane in about 2 hours and will be out of touch until Sunday. Is everybody good to go with using survey monkey for now?

    And has everyone signed up for the new site?

    I’ve been in contact with jack, we will be setting up the new site and the new way of doing things will start as of February 1st.

    More details to come!

    We’d like to get the next several contest prompts set up, so everybody keep an eye out I’ll be emailing you today for some prompt ideas.

    Reply
    • January 19, 2022 at 12:12 pm
      Permalink

      Good to go Carrie. If this works and I think it will, I’m happy to keep doing it…

      Reply
    • January 20, 2022 at 10:46 am
      Permalink

      She has to report back to the Mother Ship every few months to change eyeballs. The nitrogen in our atmosphere doesn’t agree with her ocular impla… shit, Let me just… uh oh

      Reply
      • January 20, 2022 at 10:49 am
        Permalink

        Well, everyone. If we don’t hear from Ken C., again, we’ll all know why.

        Reply
  • January 20, 2022 at 11:52 am
    Permalink

    I have to send this out a few minutes early due to another commitment.

    Winners:
    First Place- Saviour by Phil Town
    Second Place- Family Time by Vicki Chvatal
    Third Place- Wisdom’s Rewards by Ilana Leed
    Fourth Place- Birth Rites by Roy York
    Fifth Place- The Link That Can’t Be Broken by Ken Frape
    Best Character- Helena the Owl Witch from Family Time by Vicki Chvatal
    Best Dialogue- Family Time by Vicki Chvatal
    Congratulations to All!

    Reply
    • January 20, 2022 at 3:22 pm
      Permalink

      Blimey and wow! Thanks and congrats, all.

      (Disappointed about KenF’s position, though.)

      Are we still here for the next story, or are we … elsewhere?

      Cheers!

      Reply
      • January 20, 2022 at 5:20 pm
        Permalink

        Hi Phil,
        Well done to you particularly but to all in general.
        I am disappointed by my position too but I have been top of the pile often enough to soften this particular blow.
        Kind regards,
        Ken Frape

        Reply
        • January 20, 2022 at 5:52 pm
          Permalink

          Yeah I’ve been bottom
          Of the pile twice in the last few weeks. Someone has to take the position and it doesn’t necessarily mean you are a failure as voting is based on audience liking your story or not. You may have a great story but it may not be the to the taste of your audience at that time. And I think your story was a good story and is a good story. It’s often subjective.
          When I take my goats to a show I’ve often had one goat come first and then have the judge put another goat that I thought the better Goat second. The next time I went to a show the goat that came second came first and the other gate came third in the lineup so you never know. If 10 more people had voted, Ken’s story may have come top And mine could’ve been the bottom. I have to say though the first two placings I picked. There were only a few stories this time let’s hope there are more this time. Are we going to the new site with the new prompt?! B

          Reply
    • January 21, 2022 at 3:49 am
      Permalink

      Congrats, Phil!

      I second you – likewise disappointed by Ken F. coming last … then again, no-one deserved to come last really, these were all strong stories, though few.

      So where are we for next round?

      Reply
      • January 21, 2022 at 11:01 am
        Permalink

        Hi Vicki,
        In case anyone asks I will say I cane 5th. Sounds so much better than last.
        Ken Frape

        Reply
  • January 20, 2022 at 6:38 pm
    Permalink

    Congrats all. Sure hope we get some more stories this next time.

    Roy

    Reply
  • January 20, 2022 at 9:12 pm
    Permalink

    What is happening with the new prompt?

    Reply
  • January 21, 2022 at 12:22 pm
    Permalink

    Congratulations Phil, and a solemn salute to all the writers who contributed.

    I’ve given the issue of vote totals a lot of thought over the years, (really, I have).

    This last contest provides a perfect set of stories to use for a discussion of it. It’s a small sample. There were only 5 stories submitted. They were all very good stories.

    Phil’s story rested on spectacular writing. But it left me wondering what genre it occupied. I thought it was science-fiction, I think Ilana suggested it might be fantasy. The name at the end threw me off. Was it significant? I looked it up. (The woman’s name.) I couldn’t find any significance if there was it illuded me.

    I read Ilana’s story which was busier, had more characters and a complex plot, and her writing is not as brilliantly interlocking as Phil’s (no one’s is) but the entire story, the characters (and the clothes I imagined), the setting and scene, the dialogue, Everything—was richer and much more vibrant. (In Phil’s defense, his story could scarcely avoid being bleak.) But still, vibrant is what Ilana does, and this was a very entertaining story too. A pleasure to read.

    So I immediately had Ilana as the frontrunner,

    Then I read Vicki’s and Roy’s stories. And Vicki had the inside track on Roy out of the gate, but not even competing with Ilana’s, it had inconsistencies. Roy’s writing was up there with Phil’s though, then I read Ken’s story and felt like it was better than Vicki’s or Roy’s and as good as Ilana’s. I mean, Ken’s writing is like ‘butter’ and the story was good, but I couldn’t remember what it was about at times. Like right now. What was his story about?

    Then I read Vicki’s re-write. Which lost its surprise factor the second time through, and whatever improvements she made, naturally tended to make it worse. I think Roy pulled ahead of both of them. At least I understood his story. Phil’s and Vicki’s each left me wondering.

    No matter what I do, I couldn’t remember Ken’s plot, until I read his story title. Then it all came back, the mother whose child is abducted, and she becomes obsessed with finding him. Told from first hers and then his point of view. A very clever story, great writing, but the backdrop is drab, intentionally, they were an ordinary family in an ordinary town. That was part of the point. They were an unmemorable tragedy, one of so many, lost in the grand cacophony of modern life. It was beautifully conceived and constructed, and ended with just a jewel of hope, no more than a refraction of light through a single drop of dew on an open window.

    It was at least second place if not first. It really should have been first. How it came in last is beyond my understanding.

    So I had Ilana in First, Ken in Second, so then I put Phil’s in third because of the writing, and felt like Roy’s could easily take that spot, but I put him in fourth for the moment, and there was no fifth spot. So that’s how Vicki’s Frog-Witch Owl story ended up at the bottom of my list. And Roy got fourth, even though his story didn’t seem like the next to the last best story.

    No one should feel bad. I came in last once. (Okay maybe it was twice.) Seventh too many times, and lost the dialogue vote to a story with no dialogue once.

    All I’m saying is, it’s just a contest. Maybe you should all go back and read Ken’s story again. (Dummies.) This is a good exercise in developing thick shin, which, is essential to becoming a good writer. I think Ilana summed it up better with her goat example anyway. So I just wasted everyone’s time a little bit.

    I didn’t know you ‘Showed’ goats Ilana. That’s interesting as hell.

    Kim’s cursing at her computer. I need to get her out of here. We’re going on a bike ride. I hope all is well with all.

    Reply
    • January 21, 2022 at 10:35 pm
      Permalink

      Interesting glimpse into your thinking, KenC. Of my story, you say:

      “But it left me wondering what genre it occupied. I thought it was science-fiction, I think Ilana suggested it might be fantasy. The name at the end threw me off. Was it significant? I looked it up. (The woman’s name.) I couldn’t find any significance if there was it illuded me.”

      I was aiming for drama/horror (depending on whether you think the narrator is of sound mind or not).

      The name came from Basque (which I don’t speak, but you know … Google …)

      ELIXABETE: Basque form of Elisabeth, meaning “God is my oath.”
      ELIZONDO: eliza “church” + ondo “nearby” = near the church

      (I still don’t know where the next prompt will appear. Any idea?)

      Reply
      • January 22, 2022 at 4:58 pm
        Permalink

        Hi Phil,
        Thanks for elaborating. I just assumed it was Sci-Fi. I don’t really accept ‘Horror’ as a genre. I realize I’ll get little support in this matter, but as far as I’m concerned, Stephen King invented the genre to promote his books. Horror is just gory Sci-Fi, and was always the unpleasant side of Science Fiction. (I’m using a keyboard from like 2002 here. Thespace bar iss sticking sobadIhavetoUse a mallet to get space. Igiveup. Must switch keyboards.) (or life.)

        Reply
      • January 22, 2022 at 6:44 pm
        Permalink

        Phil,
        Did I actually type ‘illuded’? And you ‘re-quoted’ it. In front of the entire world? That’s horror, my friend. That’s horror. But still basically science-fiction.
        Edgar Allen Poe? Scientist, dabbled in fiction.
        Bram Stoker? Chimney Sweep, retired of course. (We’ll circle back to him later.)
        Mary Shelley? Totally science fiction. It has electricity. Any story with electrical gizmos is inherently science-fiction.
        Who else? Bram Stoker? Dracula wanna-be, no more.
        What else you got?
        Hyppolytus? Not Hyppolytus. Jesus Phil, Hyppolytus? That was Tragedy, not Horror.

        So, you were pranking me on that name stuff right?

        Reply
        • January 22, 2022 at 6:53 pm
          Permalink

          I was going to put “I couldn’t find any significance; if there was, it illuded (sic) me.” and add the punctuation, but I thought that would draw even more attention to it. And now I’ve posted it again.

          If it’s a woman traumatised by a rape that’s turned her head, then it’s drama. If it’s demonic possession, then it’s horror. If it’s rape by a visiting alien, then it’s sicence fiction. (It seems to me.) Whichever way you want to take it, I suppose.

          The “name stuff”? A prank? No, I prank you not, dear KenC.

          Reply
          • January 22, 2022 at 6:57 pm
            Permalink

            ‘science’, not ‘sicence’, before you try and get your own back.

            Reply
          • January 23, 2022 at 12:38 am
            Permalink

            Phil,

            I forgot to add that I don’t know where the next prompt might be located, or when, or what fractal wave of quantum string chaos the formula predicts. But. I have a feeling it will turn up in a day or two.

            I like your dial-a-genre-definition-chart there, Philip. It’s scary and funny. I suppose you could insert different – traumas? (Abduction; close encounter; brush with hairball.)

            I also forgot the reason your character was traumatized, Phil. The rape. It’s in the first line and never mentioned again. I only read your story twice, a week ago, along with four other stories, so I forgot what caused her initial trauma. I was convinced that the child was evil, and assumed the woman was sane. Some kind of savior, as your title suggested. But you had other ideas, a woman with a messiah complex?

            About five years ago a woman drove her car into the ocean with her three(?) kids in the back seat. The kids were rescued. She was recently released on parole and I don’t think they ever mentioned what psychological trauma triggered her actions, one way or another. She got out of the car, waded to shore and denied to bystanders that her kids were in the car. It was pretty crazy, she did this in broad daylight in front of witnesses and I think they locked her up for several years. That’s a true story. And the children are clearly victims.

            So what makes your story horror again? Oh yes, the rape. So that one line determines the genre of the story. It’s a critical point and the flavor of your comment suggests that we agree on one important fact, that the woman is the primary victim. I think that carrying the child to term victimizes her again. There’s more than enough psychological and physical trauma to indicate psychosis.

            But if I apply Vicki’s assertion (it’s horror) to your dial-a-genre-definition chart, your character’s child is not a victim but a demon. (As Ilana said.) I thought it was just an evil kid. Spawn of evil sort of thing. Genetically predisposed, but still just an ordinary kid. But two other readers believe it was a demon. So which is it? A demon? Or an innocent child with a psychotic mother? Get back to me on that.

            I spent the last hour researching the ‘history of horror.’ It appears it even pre-dates circumcision and shaving with a straight-razor. So, I’m in a new frame of mind, Phil. A horrific one. I feel a horror story coming on right now, almost like I’m ordering it. I don’t know what I’ll call it, but I have a title for the anthology. Coffee, with Donut and Horror. Yes? That’ll be the title of my next anthology, Phil. ‘Coffee, w/ Donut & Horror.’ ©1-22-22 All Rats Preserved. After that… ‘Why Not More Horror?’ ©1-22-22 Saints Preserve Us.

            The only reason I write stories Phil, is to name them. That’s why people have kids, right? It’s the same thing, basically.

            Reply
            • January 24, 2022 at 9:15 am
              Permalink

              I guess my definition of horror is somewhat different from Phil’s. I would classify it as horror – “real-life horror”? – even if it’s a case of a woman driven insane by the trauma of rape and murdering her baby, who knows how many others (?), and killing herself. Because it’s – horrible.

              Reply
              • January 25, 2022 at 9:54 am
                Permalink

                I get it, Vicki, and I agree with you. (Even if I didn’t earlier.)

                I don’t make a habit of tagging a story by its genre, I brought it up in this case because we’re critiquing them. When I read the stories I simply enjoy them and don’t try to categorize them. I think that, if I had a point, it was that losing a child, (and this is the genius of Ken’s story) even in the absence of violence, can be as traumatic as any other horror a woman might experience.

                The rape is a powerful blow delivered in the first line of Philip’s story. But Ken’s story, detailing a character’s decades of insidious self-doubt, uncertainty, recrimination, anxiety and longing, is a far more powerful and complex palette of emotional suffering, for which there is, however miniscule, some hope of resolution in the end.

                Phil’s story does not offer anything like that. This is why I was baffled by their relative positions in the contest. Phil’s story is like a hammer, Ken’s is like a knitting needle. Both of them hurt, but they are decidedly different weapons.

                Reply
          • January 23, 2022 at 1:13 am
            Permalink

            Philip.

            I told Kim I read one of the stories in the group, (by Phil, I admitted,) and at the end of the story I Googled the name of the main character, and she said. “You what? Why? Why would you do that?”

            And I said, “It seemed significant. So…”

            And she said, “Why? Why would you think a character’s name is significant?”

            And I felt chastened for a moment, like I was being cross-examined, you know? She was so incredulous over such ordinary activity. But I persisted. “Because, the characters name was at the end of the story.”

            “So?” She said. “You mean like a signature?”

            I said, “No. I don’t know. It was weird. I thought ‘Why would he write the entire story without telling us her name, and then give us her name at the end?”

            And Kim said, “Her whole name? At the end?”

            “Yeah, that’s why I thought it might have some significance.”

            “And it didn’t.” She said.

            “No, it did.”

            “It did?” She was amazed.

            “Yeah, Phil sent me the definition of the word in some weird language.” While she stared at me, trying to decide whether I was putting her on or not, I fumbled around for the language. “Yeah, Barque? Baroque? Brusque? Basque! That’s what he said, the name was in Basque, and it meant something religious. Even though I know he’s not very religious.”

            She stared at me very harshly for about 15 seconds, then snapped the newspaper—and resumed reading.

            WTF Philip? Are you trying to ruin my 20-year engagement? Watch what you’re writing, will ya? God dang it man.

            Reply
            • January 23, 2022 at 9:01 am
              Permalink

              Basque is an interesting language – you know, from the north of Spain (Bilbao, San Sebastián, etc.). It’s a language that apparently has no roots from other languages. Until recently, there were violent efforts by some Basques to separate the Basque country from Spain (terrorist attacks, bombs, etc. by ETA, the paramilitary movement). A bit calmer these days, but I imagine there are still those who would like to be apart from Spain. (Apologies if you already know all this.) Occasionally I go to Basque for names for characters as it’s such a strange language, and the names look unlike anything else. If readers are intrigued, they can do a bit of digging. My narrator’s name this time was to link her to Christian imagery (the holes in her palms). All a bit … er … ham-fisted really, though.

              I feel kind of validated (for me and my story) to be spoken about in a home thousands of miles away … a pebble and ripples. Don’t go having tiffs over it, though!

              Reply
              • January 23, 2022 at 9:03 am
                Permalink

                Oh, and Elixabete putting her name at the end of the story … it’s all a long suicide note, which she signs.

                Reply
                • January 24, 2022 at 9:11 am
                  Permalink

                  I googled her name too, in case it was a reference to a real-life event.

                  Reply
        • January 23, 2022 at 10:56 am
          Permalink

          Hi Ken C,
          I read your recent comments about each of our stories with great interest. Such a lot of thought and insight into our writing. As you say, it was a small sample and the voting was based upon a new system. I would be interested to know how many people voted or was it just the writers plus a couple of others or is there a whole group of “invisible” voters out there? I assume also that we were not allowed to vote for our own story although I didn’t see anything to confirm that.
          I did appreciate your analysis and the positive comments which were really fair and honest to all.
          On a personal level I have been struggling to write stuff that I really think is good lately. Not enough trains, obviously! I write for a local group too here in the UK and I haven’t really written anything that they have really appreciated. I often feel like the imposter in the group as they are either award-winning short story writers or published authors.
          Hoping to feel some creative juice for the next prompt although not sure which sight we will be in by then. Still some confusion over this but the new voting should save Carrie some time. I was critical of some recent decisions, especially as they affected me but I was polite and respectful in my communications with her but I did read her comments that she had been on the receiving end of a number of negative comments.
          Hope to see more of your work and comments in the near future as this site really wouldn’t be the same without you.
          Cheers my friend,
          Ken Frape

          Reply
          • January 23, 2022 at 12:02 pm
            Permalink

            Ken- there were 8 votes. I don’t know how to tell who voted so I can’t tell if someone voted for themselves and not sure I want to spend the time to find out how to doublecheck… them’s The Rules and I’d like to think everyone follows them. 🙂 I did learn that SurveyMonkey will only allow one vote per device as I tried do my test vote link from two different email accounts. So there’s that. I’m happy to continue tallying votes if Carrie doesn’t mind continuing to send out prompts & run the website…

            Reply
            • January 23, 2022 at 12:22 pm
              Permalink

              Hi Trish,
              Thanks for this info.
              I certainly don’t want to know how people voted . That should remain confidential. As far as who has voted we never know that. I am just curious as to how many people are voting who have not entered a story?

              Ken F

              Reply
              • January 23, 2022 at 1:34 pm
                Permalink

                For the record…. We almost always have at least 1 or 2 lurkers vote.

                Sometimes we’ll get several votes from folks who participated in the past but didn’t enter their own story.

                Reply
                • January 23, 2022 at 2:29 pm
                  Permalink

                  I didn’t realise there were so few votes, Carrie. Do you have an idea of how many people outside the contributors actually read the stories?

                  Might I suggest a small change? (subject to what everyone else thinks as well, of course).

                  A change of name of the page? To ‘Fiction Writers Workshop’ or ‘Fiction Writers Group Workshop’

                  The reason is that there are lots of really good stories ‘published’ here, and that’s the problem: ‘publication’. If the writers want to enter their stories into competitions, they can’t … because the story has already been ‘published on-line’. If it appears in a (more or less ‘closed’ if the number of votes is anything to go by) ‘workshop’, then they might be able to get round that restriction. Because it’s what the site is about anyway, isn’t it? – critiquing and commenting on how to improve our stories, as Vicki says. The competition element is a bonus.

                  Just a thought.

                  Reply
                • January 23, 2022 at 2:36 pm
                  Permalink

                  Hi Carrie,
                  Thanks for this.,I remember you mentioned some time ago something about this. I guess that as we start to use a new system questions will arise.
                  The new system of voting is fine and I am simply enquiring about it . Hope it cuts down on your workload.
                  Ken Frape

                  Reply
          • January 24, 2022 at 9:10 am
            Permalink

            Ken,

            I voted your story first. It was a close call, but it had an emotional impact for me. The open ending (which I don’t mind at all) suggests so many possibilities as well (which is a plus IMO) – whether the mother and son will meet again and realise they are related, the future of their relationship, the son’s confrontation with the people he thought were his parents (the original kidnappers? even if not, they still hid information from him.) … Your story has depth. So don’t sell yourself short. 🙂

            Reply
          • January 25, 2022 at 7:29 pm
            Permalink

            Hiya Ken.

            I hope you’re in good spirits. Good news, you’re a published author now, too. Exciting isn’t it? I’m so excited I just gave my cat a raise. (Double the tuna for you, Binky.)

            Of course you were respectful in your communications with Carrie. Your graciousness is unique in that it is unquestionably sincere. You’re not like me, Ken. You’re a better, nobler man. I’m just an Irish smart-ass.

            But I’ve got the eye, Ken. I know what’s good. I don’t think about it, I just know it. Doesn’t make me an expert, of course. I still don’t know what genre Phil’s story is, I suppose I could take his word for it, but he didn’t say. He gave me a bunch of confusing definitions and told me to figure it out! Can you believe that? You can? Yeah, me too. I kind of deserved it. It’s the price of being Irish, no doubt. (I’m really Italian, that’s the joke, with maybe just a wee, wee touch ‘o’ the angry midget people.)

            Where was I? Was I babbling again? (Don’t answer that.) As for me dancing with this site? Recent revelations about the site leave me shocked and reeling. (I intend to fire off another strongly worded apology to Carrie as soon as I’m done schmoozing with you.) As I was saying, I’ve been pressure-cooking my soul into a 1200 word crucible twice a month for five years for the benefit of eight people? That’s fucking depressing. Eight people? Half of whom are too polite to comment? It’s kind of funny, but then I thought, ‘Man, those eight people must be pretty special.’ Or desperate. (A little Irish voice said that. ‘Maybe they’re desperate?’)

            It was nice taking a couple of weeks off, to tell you the truth. I only post new stories, you know? (With rare exceptions.) New characters, new stories. I don’t recycle. Sometimes it takes a week to even think of a basic plot. (Other times, about a minute.) I have a funny story that I’d like to tell right now, it has a touch of cruelty to it too, but, for eight people? I don’t think so. Now, if there were ten people–ten people who might read this, THEN, I would tell that cruel, but funny story. But for eight? I’m sorry, Ken. No can do.

            It occurred to me that the site may be different without me, but it might also be better. I don’t think anyone realizes how much time… I put into these, most of these stories. I don’t think I ever kept an accurate track, but I’m guessing ten to fifteen hours. If a story goes really well, I can do it in six? Six hours? Maybe even as few as four. But a more difficult story? You know, the vast majority of stories? The ones that don’t write themselves? It seems to me most stories take well over eight hours. They cost a lot more than they’re worth, that’s my point. And for just eight people, two of whom are lurkers? I’m not fillin’ it. (Divide by Eight. Good name for a story.) And then there are the comments. I spend a good deal of time on those as well.

            You know I had a couple of ideas already this week. Story ideas, but not for this prompt. Just cool story ideas. I think, Ken, that having a deadline is a key attraction in this contest, for me at least. And I enjoy reading the other stories. By a rough estimate of 12 stories per contest, or 25 stories a month, multiplied by seven years, I estimate that I’ve read around 2000 short stories since joining this group. (Since late 2014) Even if you figure 20 stories a month, (ten per contest) it’s still about 1700 stories.

            That’s a lot of reading.

            Still… doesn’t make me an expert. But I know one thing for sure, After 2000 stories? You only have three pages. Hook me right away. I meticulously read every story, but if you don’t know enough to set the hook early on, I get impatient with the author. It’s probably why I’m so popular.

            I just can’t get over that eight people comment. Good grief. I’ll dwell on that for some time to come.

            Reply
            • January 25, 2022 at 8:58 pm
              Permalink

              To clarify, there were only eight people in the last round. We generally have all of the authors who submitted a story vote, and then a few stragglers, usually some of the regulars who didn’t have a chance to submit a story.

              I try to always read through all the stories and vote, it’s one of my few small pleasures when I am feeling overwhelmed or super busy at work.

              I’ve tried various tactics to get new folks, to even just read and vote. Blasting on twitter, or sending out the newsletter helps, but it’s still only a few extra voters.

              I keep writing, and then deleting responses to many of the comments on my “time for a change” blog post. For some reason I haven’t been able to find the right words.

              And you are right, it takes a long time to write a story sometimes. But please understand that even though it’s a few people reading and voting, that I value everyone’s stories.

              And I know for a fact, I’m worth at least 500 tire kickers.

              And all the other authors that have come and gone, they have to at least be worth 100, and the regulars, definitely another 500 each.

              So it’s kind of like 10,000+ readers.

              There. That should soothe your bruised ego…. 😉

              Reply
            • January 25, 2022 at 9:06 pm
              Permalink

              Second clarification… wether it’s on this website or the new one…your absence would be deeply felt.

              Reply
    • January 22, 2022 at 12:43 pm
      Permalink

      I had Phil’s story as straightforward horror, even before reading his comment.

      Reply
  • January 21, 2022 at 9:56 pm
    Permalink

    Good that you are doing a bike ride Ken. Exercise is good for the mind and the mood. Thank you for the vote of confidence. I was hard put to place stories and all the stories were good. I think a lot more people vote than write or submit stories, so often it is personal preference. I have had stories that I did not think so highly of do well and others I loved writing and thought highly of, but obviously the readers did not. It is kind of subjective and often what appeals to one readership will fall flat with another. Unbelievable as it may seem, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter manuscript was rejected 12 times before the 13th accepted it. (who believes 13 is unlucky ???) . Look where Rowling is today and that should give everyone of us aspiring writers hope. Perseverance is the key to success I believe and to believe in yourself and don’t let the naysayers feed you a bs line. Years ago when I left school at 17 and half, after doing my final senior year in Queensland (year 12) with my leg in plaster. I had broken it, running to meet my mother and slipped on the highly polished boarding house floor. Despite my mother’s antipathy towards me, I loved her as much as I loved my father (passionately) although he was equally as passionate and loyal to family as I was andhe returned my love, she did not. Quite the opposite. She did come to the hospital for a few minutes to see me, after they had set my leg in plaster (I had broken my tibia and the smaller fibula – snapped both when I slipped on the highly polished floor and hit the door way running to meet my parents as my mother had been overseas in Austria for nearly a year after my beloved grandmother died.
    I remember wanting to throw myself into her arms and sob – upset and anxious – feeling stupid that I was so eager to see her I had brought disaster apon myself and I badly wanted to be comforted too. She sat at the end of the bed briefly and muttered “What a nuisance, you are!” Then she turned to the doctor who told her I would be in plaster for 4 to 6 months while the bones set and would have to learn to use crutches. Dad was ashen faced and upset. She then waved goodbye saying “Well we shall see you in the August holidays.” That was 13 weeks away as we had three term years in 1971. My father bent over and kissed my cheek and squeezed my shoulder.
    “Ccan’t I come home early?” I stammered, and my father looked up at my mother who mummered “Now Brian.” And that was the end of it. I went back to school two days later and learnt to manoever up the stairs to the boarding house and get to classes on the bus over to Scots College our senior campus where we had classes with the boys. PGC the girls boarding was over the other side of town. My parents’ property was 800 kilometers away in South West Queensland.
    My mother clearly expected me to fail my senior year and was already angry at the prospect of me repeating year 12 and the expense so I did try to ensure that I passed and I did.
    I had wanted to come home for one year before I studied art at Queensland Institute of Technology. I was not allowed and my mother was determined I would go into teaching, not the life of an artist because “you are not good enough to be an artist and teaching is a stable career or the public service.” I loved art and her words stung even though I and another girl topped the art classes through out my boarding school years at both schools, she told me constantly I was not good enough. And I took her words to heart despite my art teacher’s encouragement and others who liked my artworks. Long story but suffice to say, it is one of the few things I regret in my life – not believing in myself and going ahead with art and doing music lessons which was another passion of mine. I wanted to learn piano at St Margarets my first boarding school and She also said no. “None of my family are musical and your grandmother cannot sing – she is tone deaf and you are probably the same.” End of story. I was stupid young and impressionable. What did I learn from that? Always encourage students to follow their passions and perservere, because one day your persistence will pay off.
    In 1972 very depressed I dropped out of teaching college and spent some wasted years until I returned to University in 1980 at Monash Melbourne and became a professional student for about 8 years until I decided to do secondary teaching. I wrote poetry and short stories and we started a writing club at Uni and I waitressed, drove Taxis for Yellow Cabs and did surveys on transport for the Metro Transit as it was known then to survive and finished my teaching degree in 1989.
    Life got in the way of novel writing and a few other things, but I do have the intention of finishing a manuscript and a screen play. I work on pieces and put them aside for a while – sometimes years – and then revisit to review and redraft.
    We should all keep writing….success does not come overnight to but a few and usually if you go into their stories, they have been persevering for years and the unlucky few get known after death when some relative finds a manuscript and sends it off.

    Reply
    • January 22, 2022 at 1:55 pm
      Permalink

      Wow, Ilana! Your family relationships have been more dramatic – and traumatic – than any story. And I don’t blame you one bit for not wanting to revisit it in fiction.

      As for voting – I agree that a lot of it is based on personal preference of the voters. (Eg I didn’t put Phil’s story first because I’m personally not into the “motherhood as horror” trope.) Plus some genres or subject matter are more popular than others (intense, dramatic stories usually win over humorous ones, etc.).

      When it comes to conventional publishers, there’s also a question of what sells. It takes a brave publisher to take a gamble on a book that is unlike anything else on the market; most prefer something in the genre/ topic similar to the latest bestseller but not yet done to death. I’ve read about the Harry Potter manuscript’s 12 rejections; but after it became a hit – everyone wanted to publish books about teenage wizards and their two best friends. The success of Twilight unleashed a flood of literary vampires, etc., etc… So if your book is not on trend – thank goodness for self-publishing.

      The bottom line for me is: coming highly placed is great, but the best thing about this group is the constructive – and supportive – criticism that helps us all become better writers.

      Reply
  • January 21, 2022 at 9:58 pm
    Permalink

    I can see what I have done wrong. Grammatic error when my thoughts outstripped my writing speed. I meant to say my mother was very negative about my desire to be an artist years ago when I was 17 and a half and just left school.
    Sorry the heat is getting to me.

    Reply
  • January 23, 2022 at 9:40 pm
    Permalink

    I am really just wanting to know where we are with the next prompt happening? Please guys and gals.Can we get something moving on this front? Who is the next prompt person and can we get a start on it pleasesssssseeeeesss??? There I sound like a snake shake!
    The heat here is horrific and I am wilting trying to get things done. School starts with us teachers on Friday and kiddos back in the classroom Monday!! Oh joy at least there is rain coming. I am feeling a bit broken on many fronts at the moment.
    I want to go to work for the air conditioning… Yeah… Not because I am so keen to return to work, (yeah well just a little as I do love work) but to keep cooolllll…..

    Reply
    • January 24, 2022 at 10:36 am
      Permalink

      Haha we are working on it I promise! I was in Vegas Wednesday through Sunday.
      Last night I decided I was tired of eating out so wanted to make a home cooked meal, we got in at 6:00 a.m., had a horrible overnight flight, drove up from Chicago in a snowstorm. Crashed for a few about 4 hours and decided that home cooked meal was just what the doctor ordered.

      Unfortunately I might have inadvertently given us food poisoning when I used some questionable meatballs that were in the freezer a long time, when I made swedish meatballs last night. 🙄🙄 I apparently should have just ordered 🍕…

      Reply
      • January 24, 2022 at 2:18 pm
        Permalink

        Yeah sorry to hear Carrie, but food poisoning was not what the dr ordered I hope! We have Passover to clean out that freezer yearly and I tend to chuck old stuff for fresher fare. Sorry hope you are feeling better.
        When you can I am trying to get the new prompt story written before term starts because it will be crazy times soon.

        Reply
        • January 24, 2022 at 2:33 pm
          Permalink

          We’re going to post the next prompt on Jack’s website on February 1 to try it out.
          But here it is ahead of time:

          “Cat Eye”. Can be animal eyes, the stone, the eyeliner style or anything else.
          Can be plural as well “Cat(‘s) Eye(s)”.
          1200 words

          Reply
  • January 24, 2022 at 8:48 am
    Permalink

    I have several opinions that I would love to share if they wouldn’t make me seem like a petty, bitter, and judgmental turd.

    Reply
    • January 24, 2022 at 9:18 am
      Permalink

      Is this in relation to anything in particular?

      Reply
      • January 24, 2022 at 10:23 am
        Permalink

        Thanks for answering!

        No, just the beginning of a rant that I am stomping on right now, sorry~!

        It sounded too preachy, even for me, and not veiled enough to be inoffensive.

        Instead of reading my rant, just watch an episode of “The Shield”. Then you will feel the strange unease that I am feeling. I want to say “juxtaposed” somewhere, but that isn’t right either.

        Reply
    • January 24, 2022 at 10:30 am
      Permalink

      You are welcome to rant. We all have in the past, sometimes we sound whiny, sometimes we just sound frustrated at the world. But sometimes it’s nice to have friends who will listen and either tell you to pull your big boy pants up, or will tell you that they understand because they’re in the same place.

      Reply
    • January 24, 2022 at 1:45 pm
      Permalink

      Rumples,

      First, I like to think that I’m spiting a lot of people just by continuing to breath. This helps me with the frustration. (It’s not much of an affront to most people, truly, but for my sake, I like to pretend it is.)

      I’ve gone berserk a few times in the last two years. Want to hear a funny story? No? Me either. I don’t know any anyway. If I wanted to make you laugh I would just tell you about my ____. But I’m getting off track again. Me and tracks don’t get along. Never have.

      So, why didn’t you submit a story? You had an idea and thought it was too borscht? Does that word work? (Is this a workshop, or Frankenstein’s lab?)

      Surely you’ve been with this group long enough Rumples, to just be straight with me. Was it something I said, or did, or both? Or was it something more serious, like graham cracker crumbs in your keyboard, or are we talking something really serious… with crocodiles!

      Or it could be something else. (Stuck coffee-grinder. I once shot a… Never mind.)

      Can you give us a clue? Is it the ‘widespread disregard for intelligence’ in your circle of family and friends? Or do you have co-workers? If you have co-workers, press the big red ‘E’ button. Yes, that’s it right there. (Ah-ooogah.) Okay, we have a code 99 people! (Ah-ooogah.) Blankets, feather pillows, Ovaltine, plastic baseball bats, nerf guns… What else? (Ah-ooogah.)

      Do not smoke a cigarette, dude.

      Reply
      • January 25, 2022 at 8:44 am
        Permalink

        Haha you are right about wanting that cigarette and the coworkers, but I am speaking in riddles because I feel like my real opinions are toxic, so I was half-trying to say it and half-trying to write it between the lines. A pointless exercise that leaves you guys confused and me still frustrated AND sounding whiny.

        As to why I didn’t submit … my phone broke and I got locked out of my account where I keep all my embryonic stories because I am too scared to put that stuff on the work pc and I don’t have a reliable pc at home (my boys are gamers and seldom detach from their screens, plus my laptop sucks so much that it takes the joy out of typing). So I got annoyed because I lost access to everything.

        But also my writing periods are really irregular and seem to depend on me writing either during lunch or after work (but before I leave to go home). I can write during work, but the guilt is pretty powerful and it detracts from things. Once I get home, I tend to get sucked into games and chores (that is a lie) and tv and hanging out with my wife, or going on a long research spiral where I learn some strange things that no one else cares about. It is hard to get in the writing zone when I am at home because I don’t have anywhere private to go and I am so damn shy about it – it was easier when I had the extra room in the garage. And when I smoked, because that is a ton of excuses for private breaks right there.

        But I think the real reason is because I was writing another story half the time, and I just couldn’t get inspiration for this one whenever I tried, so I kept going back to my stupid cryptid story. I had some other stories, but they were too long or intended for submissions elsewhere. None of them had any mothers, except for a giant spider that was hastily thrown in at the last second in one of them. No, a different giant spider.

        But I think that I am learning about making characters I don’t hate so much that I am happy when the story is over. Now I am thinking about making characters that are reusable, instead of these disposable kind I have made here that are so bad for the environment. Sorry about my litter, by the way. And I am trying to make a story that is a little longer and without a demented narrator that is droning on and on, or a twist at the end involving some sort of shape-shifter. Maybe I am being too selective with what I write on this site, but you should see some of the ideas that I reject.

        I will definitely write for this next prompt, and who knows, maybe I will share some of my toxic opinions the next time the rage surges, eh?

        Reply
  • January 24, 2022 at 9:15 am
    Permalink

    It is like I have so much anger towards the outside world, but then the words to curse it just befoul my mouth before I ever even get them out, leaving me feeling like I am full of poison. Or like I have climbed a really tall and unhealthy tree and I got to the point where my weight is making the top lean over, but there are no trees close enough to mine for me to make it to a sturdier branch, and I can’t shimmy back down, and I don’t know where all the other freaks congregate, so I am just really frustrated.

    Not a cry for help, just me being sad that I can’t say what I want to say, or figure out why I need to say it, or who to say it to.

    I don’t think that I understood the reasons for writing stuff before I joined this group, but now I see that there are so many more things going on in the psyche of the reader and the writer. I don’t understand why I am bothered by certain things so much, or why the exact same thing makes others so happy, or where the nature starts and the nurture begins, but I know that this sucks.

    What do I want to write? Why?

    It is not so easy to answer these questions that you ask yourself when you question yourself so much. And introspection itself isn’t the problem, anymore than watching the news is.

    Reply
    • January 24, 2022 at 10:34 am
      Permalink

      For me writing has always been my emotional outlet. You can always tell when I’m really mad at somebody, they always end up as a character in my story who generally ends up on the wrong side of a sword.
      Or when I’m depressed, when I’m struggling, it’s always nice to take a third party outlook and have your characters walk through the real hard things in life. It helps give you objective.

      This pandemic has really messed me up, for many different reasons. I’d probably be half as fucked up as I am if I just sit down and write a goddamn story and let it all out on paper 🤣

      Reply
  • January 24, 2022 at 1:02 pm
    Permalink

    I think Phil has a good idea. A few months back Roy suggested that posting on this site was the equivalent of publishing. I disagree, and when someone asks me if I’m a published author, I tell them ‘no.’ I’m not.

    I consider this a workshop, and I don’t know about everyone else who posts here, but almost every single story I’ve posted on this site could use further editing. I think this is due to the deadline. Given more time, I feel that most of my stories could be improved. Some already have been.

    I don’t know how difficult it would be to change the title of the website, but it would be simple to change the subtitle.

    From:
    Flash Fiction Writers and Short Story Contests!

    To:
    Free – Flash Fiction Writers Workshop Group and Regular Monthly Contests!

    The actual web address and landing page, with the heading, ‘Fiction Writer’s Group’ is already broad enough to include anything the group wanted to do. (Or disclaim.) But I agree with Phil on adding the word ‘Workshop’ somewhere to remove any ambiguity. Or, you could just add a line that says, ‘…post your story here for nothing, so you can disqualify it for anything else worthwhile.’

    This is assuming you go forward with the group.

    Reply
    • January 24, 2022 at 1:14 pm
      Permalink

      I don’t have a problem with that, but it won’t matter.”published” means any story that has been posted with completion on any online forum.

      It has to do with dollars. Why would I pay for a collection of short stories by someone, when a simple Google search will provide me the stories for free on a website or blog somewhere.

      Publishing companies have a very, very strict rules. And being previously published is any online form. Including social media now.

      And actually moving to Jack’s website will help eliminate that. As his is a private forum, and not a SEO friendly.

      Reply
    • January 24, 2022 at 3:56 pm
      Permalink

      Ken,

      Carrie answered that pesky ‘publishing’ thing about online vs ‘real’ publishing. Most publishers have a contract thingy that says if they find your work online and can prove it, they can get their money back and then sue your ass for something. I’m sure their high priced lawyers can think of something like’ plagiarism without proper notification’ even though it’s your own work.

      All of the contests I have entered (except this homegrown one we are on now) have had that online publishing exception as part of the rules. I think it’s pretty petty, as you obviously do, but them’s the rules, like it or not.

      Perhaps Carrie is right, but if a publisher considers any website as online, we will still have the same problem. I would hate to write a great story for our site, and later enter a contest with it, thinking it was safe, and have them reject it and consider me a plagiarist.

      Roy

      Reply
  • January 24, 2022 at 3:00 pm
    Permalink

    Why do I write? I have thought about that often over the years. I used to do art as a means of building a piece of beauty in the world that I could connect to it and feel I was worthwhile and capable because of it. During my childhood, I used to try so hard to be good and useful and was met with heaps of criticism I gave up on some quarters and immersed myself in books and art and just thinking about things. I had a teacher who became my friend. Her name in Hebrew means Hope Tikveh and and she saved me from ending my life when I felt that I had nothing, no reason to live and I was totally depressed and suicidal trying to get on with my life day to day but so much was happening that pulled me down. I also had a friend Chana who had MS and has since unfortunately passed on now twenty years or more ago who when I saw what she suffered I gave myself a good kick up the butt and said to myself, “girl your life ain’t hard compared to hers.”
    My teacher, my friend and my mentor passed on the 3rd of August 2017 and then two days later my biological mother passed on the 5th of August. I went to my spiritual mother’s funeral – and forgive me, but I cry as I am writing this, tears are never good falling on the keyboard, but she was a small person but the most amazing teacher, friend and mentor – without her I would not be here today. It was a Thursday the funeral and it was an overcast day. Coming back from the funeral the Nissan car over heated and I had to get it towed and get a hire car to go back home to Drouin with my son. We hired a Toyota Kluger which excited my son no end. (He loves cars and just having bought a 2020 Toyota rav hybrid he is in 7th heaven.) Anyway my mother had been ill at the nursing home in Charleville and because my brothers had Power of Attorney I had to get the one who passed from cancer in 2019’s to give permission for the staff at the home to even give me information about her. It was quite galling as I am the eldest child of the family but of course, I am female so therefore not as “intelligent or useful or smart” as the males. After a horrific Friday getting the car fixed and getting the help of a rebbitzin in Melbourne financially to do so as I did have some money coming in but it had to be cleared. My ex-husband’s tax return had been appropriated by the Tax department and I was getting $6,000 which was very handy as he had not paid child support in something like 13 or 14 years. Life had been a struggle to put it mildly and having cancer in 2015 did not make life any easier and being evicted because I had complained to the RSPCA about treatment of an animal and the refusal of the real estate to take into consideration my illness – but we got through it.
    Anyway I went home and rang the aged care home to find my mother had passed at about 1.30 am in the morning of the 5th of August. Already raw from one death, this was a double whammy and then arranging to go to Queensland and stay for what i thought would be a funeral, I also get a snide email from the youngest brother in the USA who states “Mum passed and you she didn’t hate you really.” Just that. Nothing else. I find that I am not privy to funeral arrangements and she is being cremated in Toowoomba the following week. Nir and I fly to Brisbane and Nir it is exciting as he loves planes but does not seem to understand that Granny has passed. He thinks we are seeing her. Well we are in sort of a way. We are going to see her earthly clothes and say our last goodbyes. I had to ring around and when I found the right funeral home as the staff at the Aged Care home had apparently been instructed by my brother in the USA not to give me any details of the funeral, the home had to obtain permission from my brother in Qld to allow me to see her body.
    So we get to the airport in Queensland and find as I have a debit card and not a credit card I cannot rent the car I had booked. So we catch a taxi to a motel near the airport and it is a motel that accepts debit cards or cash thank goodness and it is a dive – smelly and musty. I slept on top of the bed as the sheets looked used. I did not want to pick up something nasty.
    Then the next morning we rose took a taxi to a hire company that allowed debit cards and drove to Toowoomba to see Mum for the last time,
    I held in tears until saw her body and just wept and wept and asked her why? She looked younger and peaceful. We stayed an hour and I begged forgiveness for any hurt that she may have felt from things I did or said and we left back for Brisbane. I was very tired and mindful of the young man’s words he was also a firefighter who went to the fire at my brother in Queensland’s rural property, (his house burnt down ten days or so before my mother died) that he would have to ask permission of both brothers before he could tell me when a memorial would be held as they had P of A. I did try to find out when but these memorials were not published in the news papers but details were given out over the 4VL a local Charleville radio station which I do not, being in Victoria, have access to listen to it. I think this was done to spite me and ensure that I did not come or even send flowers to the funeral. Because a couple of weeks later I got some spiteful emails from Brenda the wife of my brother in the USA telling me I was very lucky that I was allowed to see my mother’s body and among other things I was a murderous monster who had threatened to kill her and Stephen and all her family and she was writing a book about psychopaths and I figured in it largely as a classic serial killer?????? Given her literary skills and level of intellect and malice, I doubt it will be a best seller. I avoid hurting others where possible. I do not speak for others.
    But the reason I write is to create beauty, to learn, to teach something about life or to focus on goodness in the bad of things and to entertain or inform. When I am angry or frustrated, I try to create something beautiful, honest, elegant and useful and something that a reader can relate to it and gain something. Writing is a gift to the reader and I get much joy in the choosing of words and phrases and building the story. It is like wrapping a present for a loved one. My readers are loved or I like to think so. There sorry for the long rant.

    Reply
    • January 24, 2022 at 3:08 pm
      Permalink

      Your family are complete assholes.
      Period.

      Reply
      • January 24, 2022 at 4:29 pm
        Permalink

        I think Carrie has hit the nail on the head.
        So, so sorry Ilana, to hear what you have been through.
        Ken Frape

        Reply
    • January 25, 2022 at 8:49 am
      Permalink

      And here I am complaining about being stuck up a metaphorical tree with a mouth full of metaphorical poison!

      It sounds like you write for all of the right reasons, btw.

      Reply

Post your story here:

%d bloggers like this: