Rousted (Jane Doe Six Sentence Stories)

“What happened to the sleeping stuff and clothes that were in the basement?” Jane asks.

The woman heaves a garbage bag into the trash dumpster that wasn’t there this morning and dabs at her face with the hem of her Zippy Maids T-shirt. “Nothing here but trash when I got here,” she says shortly, and turns back inside, disappearing into echoing banging and the sound of – Jane is sure of it – running water. Jane’s padlock is gone from the back door, lying twisted on the crumbling square of cement.

“But my dog was here!” Jane persists, heart trip-hammering. “None of this is the dog’s fault!”


Each week, Ivy at Uncharted hosts the Six Sentence Stories flash fiction linkup. This week’s cue was “fault.” This Six is a vignette from The Life and Times of Jane Doe. Fun Sixes from other writers are here.



For the Watchers (Jane Doe Flash Fiction)

Each week, Charli Mills at the Ranch hosts the Congress of Rough Writers flash fiction challenge. This week’s prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about an audience.

“So, the roof will be done next Friday,” Torry confirms. She makes a note to drive by and check on Wednesday. At some point she needs to go through the inside, see what needs to be done. She’ll need a heavy cleaning crew and painters at the least. Then the fun stuff: choosing flooring, draperies, a living room suite. Patio furniture. Wet bar.

It all depends on how you carry it off. She is not in reduced circumstances; she is living in the investment house she intends to flip.

Always leave your audience thinking you meant to do that.


This flash is a vignette from The Life and Times of Jane Doe. More fun flashes from other writers are at the link above.

The Mountain Story by Lori Lansens (Reading Challenge Book Review)

The Mountain StoryThe Mountain Story by Lori Lansens

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This was #23 (a book set in the wilderness) and #25 (a book by an author from a country you’ve never visited, and that would be Canada) on my 2017 Reading Challenge.

Bookshelves: abandoned, adventure, coming-of-age, dnf, man-vs-nature, reading-challenge, love-the-cover

Admittedly, I was trying to read this book after suffering the ignominiousness of losing a job, which is a pretty serious emotional hit and a fairly distracting situation. But on the other hand, I had another job the very next day, because I had already decided I hated where I was and had been looking. Also on the other hand, a good book could have drawn me in, balm for my wounds. I have to conclude this was not a particularly good book, or not for me at any rate.

It’s not that the writing is bad, or that the premise is bad. Neither is the case. The blurb hooked me: “Five days. Four hikers. Three survivors.” I like man-vs-nature stories, and stories of internal reckonings. I love the cover. But the story couldn’t draw me in; it felt draggy and repetitive, and I never felt invested in the characters. I kept doing anything except read this book, which I was attributing to my unusual mental state, until last night when I decided that I would enjoy the story if I’d just settle down and pay attention, and I was by god going to finish the damn thing. So I read–until the part about the coyotes, who attack humans only very, very rarely. That two coyotes, apparently well-fed and not in denning season, would stalk four people, all of whom are three times their size, was just not believable to me. It did serve as a nice contrivance for the next disaster to befall the group, though.

That’s when I counted it all up. I’ve been reading this book for 8 days, I’m only about halfway through and it’s due back at the library in 2 more days, after which I’ll have to go back on a waiting list to check it out again, and by the time I get it back I’ll have forgotten where I left off and what happened before.

When I was still working at We Suck, Inc., I’d escaped for a lunch hour and hit the jackpot at a used bookstore, scoring a copy of Pat Frank’s Alas, Babylon that had lately been on my mind a lot for some reason (couldn’t have anything to do with Der Pumpkinfuhrer having the nuclear controls, could it?) as well as some Sue Monk Kidd, Erik Larson, and Barbara Kingsolver. As with my former job, I will conclude that we are not a good fit and leave The Mountain Story to someone who will enjoy it.

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What’s the Point? (Jane Doe Six Sentence Stories)

Jane shoves her backpack under the desk and snatches up the envelope waiting on her keyboard.

Payday. Her first payday, after how long?

She tears the flap open, eager to see how far she has come, how far she can go now that she’s among the working again, and her face falls in dismay as she reads the number. Even two of these a month will not cover rent on the lowest listings she’s seen, and what about all those other luxuries, like food, electricity, toilet paper?

That she hates this place merely adds insult to…well, insult.


Every week, Ivy at Uncharted hosts the Six Sentence Stories flash fiction linkup. This week’s cue was “point.” More fun Sixes from other writers are here. Join us!

Gone Art (Jane Doe Flash Fiction)

Each week, Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch hosts the Rough Writers and Friends flash fiction challenge. This week’s prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) go down the rabbit hole to a place where art is not allowed.

Jane sits quietly in the sand, eyes toward the horizon. The trees blur into smudges as the lines of sea and sky draw her eyes.  The breeze whispers to her, a voice without words.

Her fingers almost itch to feel the smoothness of the blank page beneath their tips, to hold a charcoal pencil. She has written poetry on her phone before but in these days of want, sketch pads and pencils are a luxury she cannot afford.

As if by magic, a stick is in her hand and her hand is moving, lines in the sand, then more.


So, I walked away from the cue with the wrong thing in my head. It read “a world where art is not allowed,” and I had taken with me only the idea of no art, not disallowed art. I could have had a horrific little dystopian flash there.

I think my take would be same, though: A world with humans in it, and no art, is simply not possible. I’m not trying to normalize defunding national arts and humanities programs; far from it. But I also believe that, once again, Der Pumkinfuhrer just doesn’t get it. This is a guy who only thinks of tits and makeup when he thinks of beauty; who measures success by the size and altitude of the office and how much gold gilt crap is covering every visible surface. We had art long before we had programs or even schools for it, and we will have art even without those things. The human spirit has always communicated itself, expressed itself for others to know: its dreams and nightmares, its love and its fear, its laughter and its anguish and its thanks to God, by whatever name you choose, for such a beautiful, terrible world. The Talking Yam can take away money all he wants, but art is about so much more than money. Just ask a typical artist, the community theater actor or writer or Etsy shop-owner who has a day job because art doesn’t pay that well. Even without financial support, artists will make art.

This doesn’t mean I think we should sit by and let this defunding just happen; no. Captain Chaos will never get it, but that doesn’t mean we should let him win. Art is vital to humanity, which is why it’s always been. Where there have been human beings, there has been art. Art reflects our society, and informs it; graffiti is art. Art tells stories and changes minds. Art makes us look at ourselves, and it looks back at us. Humanity does not exist without art that expresses it. Why else is the study of the arts called “the humanities?” (And this is why The Trumpster doesn’t get it: He’s not human. He’s a space alien. You heard it here first.)

Keep making your art, even if you’re drawing pictures and scribbling haiku on the backs of old bill envelopes. And just as importantly, keep resisting. My lovely friend Soraya turned me on to this cool tech that makes it a piece of cake to perform one act of resistance every day: ResistBot. Check it out.

An Interesting Woman (Reading Challenge Twofer Book Review)

For my 2017 Reading Challenge, #31 was a book about an interesting woman. I couldn’t choose between The Vatican Princess (about Lucrezia Borgia) and The Dream Lover (about George Sand). Good thing I had a backup, because I couldn’t finish one of them.

The Vatican Princess: A Novel of Lucrezia BorgiaThe Vatican Princess: A Novel of Lucrezia Borgia by C.W. Gortner

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This is not a historical novel. It is rapey romance with a Renaissance setting.

“And then the truth washed over me like a freezing wave from the ocean pounding ceaselessly against the cliff atop which I stood, my finely embroidered satin slippers no protection against the bitter cold. What I had come into with hope, with belief in the promise of history given life, was nothing but a lie. Like a fool, I had accepted the promise of beauty and truth, something I could hold close to my heaving bosom forever; only now did I see I had been fooled by tawdriness and depravity, brass masquerading as gold. I should have known, the first time desire washed over me as he sneered at me with sordid intimacy, * that my happiness was of no consequence when this match was made for me, that my only value was as that of gold in a purse. What I had hoped would be a mutual communion was not tender at all but merely cavalier. My silken tresses tumbled about my creamy shoulders as I stamped my foot and shook with sobs, knowing that no matter how much I resisted, I was doomed to submit to a malevolent lust.”

And so on, ad nauseum. Fuck you, book.

New things, entirely unsatisfactory: The book tells of the bishop slipping “twin gold bands onto the index and fourth fingers of our left hands” during a wedding ceremony. All I can find about wedding rings and index fingers relates to Jewish marriage ceremonies (the Borgias were obviously Catholic) and the right hand, not the left. This is the kind of thing I like to learn about in historical fiction, but no. All get is sweetmeats and codpieces.

*Okay, I made all of this up, except that a man actually did “sneer with sordid intimacy.” That was when I threw the book across the room.

Bookshelves: bloody-awful, historical-fiction, rapey-romance, purple-prose, ugh, abandoned, dnf, renaissance

The Dream Lover: A Novel of George SandThe Dream Lover: A Novel of George Sand by Elizabeth Berg

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I found exactly one heaving bosom and exactly one instance of hair tumbling around shoulders, and they never belonged to the first-person narrator. This is more like it.

George Sand’s life is what makes so many of us want to be starving artists in Paris garrets. This is what romance is!

I had known very little about George Sand. Like, basically, “Did you know the writer George Sand was really a woman?” That was what I knew, and I surmised the male pen name was taken because female artists in the nineteenth century were dismissed as dilettantes if they were given any attention at all. That much was correct, and I learned a lot more. George Sand, or Aurore Dupin as she was born, was a woman who sought love — a deep, soaring, spiritual kind of love — and broke with pretty much every convention there was in her search for it. In the story, she first dressed as a man to get cheaper tickets for the plays she reviewed for Le Figaro (that Pink Tax has been around a long time), and kept it up because it was simpler, less expensive, and she liked the way the world treated her when it assumed she was male. This is a woman who, in the nineteenth century, refused to accept the proper lady’s lot of approving menus and sewing, and who broke away to have it all: The writing that was as natural and necessary to her as breathing, love in all its expressions, passion, art, motherhood, nature, friendship, any lover she decided to take, and the freedom to be all the things she was without a husband who was, basically, a real drag. And cigars, too.

This book is brimming over with history, place, passion, and sentiment, but without the purple prose that turns so much historical fiction into drivelly, rapey romance. Thank you, Elizabeth Berg.

Bookshelves: fictionalized-biography, chick-lit, historical-fiction, defying-gender-roles, feminism, lifestyles-of-the-rich-and-famous, reading-challenge, love-story-not-a-romance, women

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Tap (Jane Doe Six Sentence Stories)

Jane gasps and twists her shoulders, trying to relieve the strain. Only another half block.

Finally  she is “home,” kicking open the back door, at last able to set down her burden. She opens one of the gallon jugs and fills Troubles’ water dish. It leaves that much less for her own drinking and bird baths, but this poor dog must get tired of lapping up puddles all the time.

What she wouldn’t give for something as simple as a working tap!


Every week, Ivy at uncharted hosts the Six Sentence Stories flash fiction linkup. This week’s cue was “tap.” Fun Sixes from other writers are here.

SSS. Join us for the fun!


What Lies Beneath (Jane Doe Flash Fiction)

Every week, Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch hosts the Congress of Rough Writers flash fiction challenge. This week’s prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a honeymoon story.

“And after ninety days we offer health insurance, dental and vision, along with Aflac, HSA, and a 401(k) with 3% matching.”

State-of-the-art technology, nice offices overlooking the river, attractive furniture and art on the walls. Coffee right in the building, restaurants nearby. A good, busy workload.

She’d thought she’d landed in heaven. Did it get any better?

Well, she sure couldn’t see how it could have turned out worse, Jane reflected. The job from hell.

At least ending up unemployed and homeless had helped her lose the weight she’d packed on, soothing her anxiety with lattes and muffins.



Fun flashes from other writers are at the link above.


Cuba Libre by Elmore Leonard (Reading Challenge Book Review)

Cuba LibreCuba Libre by Elmore Leonard

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is what I’m talking about!

Bookshelves: americana, action-with-a-body-count, adventure, historical-fiction, literary-fiction, manly-men-kicking-ass, western, reading-challenge, this-is-the-stuff-right-here

Before starting Cuba Libre, I abandoned The Vatican Princess as rapey romance drivel masquerading as historical fiction about Lucrezia Borgia. A full review on that one will come as soon as I finish my alternate selection for my reading challenge book-about-an-interesting-woman category, so I can make that a twofer review.

After I tossed The Vatican Princess aside in disgust, I picked up #11 on my 2017 Reading Challenge, a book in a genre I don’t normally read. Cuba Libre is generally listed as a western, but it’s so much more. Although as far as I know the characters are not based on real people, I got the historical fiction fix I’d been after, this being set against the sinking of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor and the outbreak of the Spanish-American War. Arriving in Cuba three days later is cowboy and ex-con Ben Tyler (who didn’t start out to rob banks, he just robbed the bank accounts of people who owed him money, big difference, and he just got into the habit), with a string of horses for sale as cover for the smuggled guns that’ll make him the real bucks. There’s love at first sight, gunfights and train ambushes and saloon shootouts, Guardia officers and insurrectos and sugar barons and their lovely mistresses, military battles, a sweet heist, and lots of players making a run for the money that’s every bit as fun as Rum Punch/Jackie Brown.

Elmore Leonard was one of those writers who could make you feel the setting without a bunch of blathery description, and nobody could do dialogue like he did. Excellent.

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USS Maine PD
Public Domain

Where There’s No Will (Jane Doe Six Sentence Stories)

“So Jane, “Caroline says, handing a file off to Becca, “while it’s on my mind, since you work for an attorney, you should have a will in place. I’m happy to help with that, at a discount. ”

Jane presses her lips together. “I took care of that with our family lawyer just recently,” she says, then forces what she hopes is a gracious smile. Not that I have a family lawyer, or a family left, or anything to leave to anyone anyway. And my last two lawyer bosses did it for free, you cheap hag.
Ken Mayer Flickr CC
Ken Mayer/Flickr-CC

Every week, Ivy at uncharted hosts the Six Sentence Stories flash fiction challenge and linkup. This week’s cue was “will.” Fun Sixes from other writers are here