Man to Man (2018 Flash Fiction Rodeo Honorable Mention)

This is the only contest of the 2018 Second Annual Flash Fiction Rodeo at Carrot Ranch that I entered, but it was a great time, just like the first rodeo.

The first weekly contest was themed around dialogue and all the different ways to use it, not only through what people say, but perhaps what they don’t say. How they dodge questions, interrupt each other, make assumptions, and the picture they paint. The point of the contest, of course, was to tell a story in 99 words (no more, no less) using dialogue only. The second point was to use the photo prompt as a jumping-off place.

Judging blind is a wonderful thing, and in this case it highlighted a good dialogue writer, who took both first and second places. I got an honorable mention which thrilled me, being in the company of such talented writers. The winners are here; check them out!

Dialogue Prompt
Photo courtesy of Geoff Le Pard, Rodeo Leader

MAN TO MAN

“You seem like a wise old thing. May I ask a question?”

“Well, I don’t know from wise, but I’m old enough. Ask away.”

“It’s just you’re the first I’ve come across where I feel comfortable asking. You look like you’ve seen a thing or two.”

“Or three, sure.”

“Don’t tell anyone, but I’m having woman trouble. We don’t move through life at the same pace.”

“Can’t she slow down? Can’t you speed up? Compromise?”

“We’ve tried. Nothing works.”

“Then maybe it’s time to move on.”

“I live in a giant terrarium! How far am I going to get?”

Good Intentions (Jane Doe Six Sentence Stories)

“Oh my god, Becca.” Cupboard doors slam, one after another. “We’re trying have a bff chick flick night here, and you’ve got no movie food–no ice cream, no buttery popcorn, no chips and dip, no cookies, no nothing!”

Becca’s voice is rueful. “Unfortunately, I was being a good girl when I did my shopping. My budget and my list and my desire to eat healthy all agreed, which of course means there’s nothing to eat in the house.”

Foundry
Photo: Foundry

Hey, not bad, considering I kinda wrote this in my sleep–I was in bed, slowly swimming up toward consciousness, and this was writing itself in my head. Now I can’t decide if it’s a sign that I’m a “natural born writer” or that I need to do some grocery shopping. Maybe both.

Every week, Girlie on the Edge hosts the Six Sentence Stories flash fiction linkup and blog hop. This week’s cue was AGREED. Fun sixes from other writers are at the link. Join us!

Charleston by John Jakes (Book Review)

CharlestonCharleston by John Jakes

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I remember adoring the Kent family chronicles back in the 70’s, starting with The Bastard. It’s been a while since I’d read anything by John Jakes, so I picked up Charleston.

I learned a couple of things as a result of this book, but I didn’t learn them from the book.

This novel is very poorly placed in time. I kept having to jerk myself back to the Revolutionary War, because the constant references to the issue of slavery had me thinking I was reading about the Civil War. I’d be reading along, my thoughts all blue and gray, and then a reference to General Washington would yank me back. Slavery, slavery, slavery. At no time did anyone raise any other issue that lead to the Great Flipping of the Bird to King George. No mention of the Stamp Act. No mention of the Boston Port Act. No mention of the Quartering Act. No mention of either of two Currency Acts. No mention of the the increased taxes levied on colonies to pay for England’s disastrous French and Indian War. No mention of the Massachusetts Government Act, or the Administration of Justice Act, or the Quebec Act. No mention of the Proclamation of 1763, that prevented colonists from pushing farther westward. Certainly no mention of harbors and tea.

But it got me curious and I started looking around. It would appear “some historians” believe slavery was one cause of the American Revolution (those “some historians,” as far as I could dig, being limited to the book’s author–although he never comes right out and says so–and some guy on Quora). Their argument seems to center around Somerset v Stewart, a British legal case from 1772. However, England didn’t do anything to outlaw slavery or the slave trade until decades after its American colonies rebelled. Nowhere else do I find slavery mentioned as a cause of the American Revolution, and my son Monster the historian (M.A., specialty American and with a focus on civil rights, he knows his shit, folks) points out that our Constitution went out of its way to delineate how the slave population counted toward congressional representation — the Three-Fifths Compromise ratified by the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Poking deeper, I learned that four states had outlawed slavery prior to that (Vermont, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Connecticut in 1777, 1780, 1783, and 1784 respectively), but at the federal level the United States, no doubt pragmatic about the money flowing in from the slave trade and slave labor, did not specifically mention slavery either way until the Thirteenth Amendment was adopted in 1865. Before that, the Constitution referred to slaves rather delicately as “other persons” and mentioned race not at all.

None of which supports the notion that the slavery issue contributed to the Revolutionary War, and most of which contradicts it. If anyone knows of a good academic source that says otherwise, both Monster and I would be intrigued.

The other thing I learned, by looking it up on my own, was that Carolina was one of the original thirteen colonies. I feel like I should have already known that, so now I’m even more annoyed with this book for shaming me.

Nobody likes so much exposition it feels like reading a history textbook, but who wants to read a book about a war in which none of the characters have any feelings or beliefs or even knowledge about what actually led to the goddamn war? There is a lot of action, as far as I got, but it still reads flat. Most of the characters have one motivating trait that exists in a vacuum; the arrogant asshole loyalist is an arrogant asshole loyalist because the story needs an arrogant asshole loyalist and he drew the short straw, readers are all gonna hate him, sucks to be him. The slutty greedy one is a greedy slut; the spunky one is spunky; the saintly slave friend is a saintly slave friend. That’s it. They don’t shape events and events don’t shape them. These same characters could just as easily have been plunked into the Spanish-American War or the Whiskey Rebellion or maybe even the Great Emu War of 1932 (that story is a howl; listen here ).

I am underwhelmed. Hang me for a deserter.

Bookshelves: historical-fiction, american-history, family-saga, abandoned

Join me on Goodreads: View all my reviews

Super Mash (Jane Doe Flash Fiction)

“Pass the mashed potatoes, Mom?”

Eleanor’s eyes glint  as she hands the bowl down the table. “Torrey needs the whipped potatoes,” she says. “We don’t do mashed if Torrey’s going to be at the table.”

Her needle hits Torrey square; always so prickly. “Mom, don’t, not that dumb story.”

“It’s just,” Eleanor tells the company at large, “that Torrey cannot abide lumps in her food. It’s like a super power, the way she can find the tiniest lump and gag on it.”

Torrey’s face thunders.

Eleanor concedes. “Very well. Let’s talk about something less contentious. Religion or politics, anyone?”

mp1746
Photo: mp1746

Every week at the Ranch, Charli Mills hosts the Rough Writers and Friends flash fiction challenge. This week’s prompt: “In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that pairs mashed potatoes with a superpower. It can be in any circumstance, funny or poignant. Go where the prompt leads.”

Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote (Book Review)

Breakfast at Tiffany'sBreakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Interesting paradox here. I really don’t like Holly Golightly very much, and at the same time I kind of want to be her. That is, the her who comes off as carefree and independent and living in a new York brownstone with a tufted satin bed and an endless array of lovers and pearls and drinks at El Morocco. The lonely escaped-child-bride racist alcoholic, not so much.

(One annoyance: The store is not Tiffany’s. It’s Tiffany. Tiffany & Co., if you want to be pedantic.)

Truman Capote was a wordsmith, capturing moment after moment to weave a tapestry of a time and a place and a woman the narrator cannot forget. This is one case where I’d seen the movie before I read the book, but even so I had trouble picturing Audrey Hepburn as I read, picturing instead more of an ethereally captivating blonde. That shows how well Capote paints a picture, as I can’t recall now whether Capote directly described her as blonde or not–if he did, it wasn’t repeatedly. After I finished the book I read that Capote wanted Marilyn Monroe to play Holly and felt double-crossed that she hadn’t, out of concern for what playing a harlot would do for her image. And Audrey was ethereally captivating, too, and I’m not complaining about her performance at all. It was iconic. But it was brunette.

So, was the book better, or was the movie better? Neither. They were only loosely the same. The film was lighter, Holly cleaned up to meet the Hays Code’s proscription against a female protagonist using her beauty to live off the expense accounts of businessmen and weekly payola from an incarcerated gangster. Movie Holly is naive and breathless, tripping through life like a happy creek, as charming and disarming as her name. Book Holly is much darker, with a secret past, street savvy, and a sex life that was unacceptable movie fare in 1961. Movie Holly was unabashedly trying to marry up; Book Holly was, well, maybe not a call girl exactly, but if a guy slipped her a fifty as powder-room money at “21,” he’d be more likely to get her into bed later. The movie has a happy ending; the book…well, read it. And for days after watching the movie, I walked around singing “Moon River” to myself; all through the book I could hear that song by Deep Blue Something playing in my head, and neither of those is a bad thing.

Excellent.

Bookshelves: literary-fiction, classic, pomo

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Up (Jane Doe Six Sentence Stories)

“I don’t care what the alarm says; it’s warm in here and I’m not getting up.”

“But Self, you actually have a job interview today–it’s your up, take your swing and make it count!”

“I don’t think I’m up for this.”

“Life can’t be down all the time, there’s gotta be an up coming.”

“My get-up-and-go seems to have upped and left me.”

“Get. UP.”

fda54
fda54

I dunno, peeps, that sounded better in my head. I’ve not been up for writing much lately; been kinda down. But I’m trying! This week’s Six Sentence Stories flash fiction blog hop and link-up is hosted, as always, by Girlie on the Edge. This week’s cue (in case it wasn’t obvious) was UP.