Why I’m Here

I started this blog a little over seven years ago. At the time I didn’t quite know what the focus of it should be. Most definitely it would cover my writing life. You see, I aspire to become a published author. The dream’s still the same, but I no longer have the delusion that it’ll happen over night.

Over the course of this blog’s life, the focus has changed. More accurately, it’s lost all focus. So here I am attempting to correct that.

There are three aspects of my life I want to bring into balance:

Mind, Body, and Spirit

What are the things I’m doing to stimulate my mind, to stretch its learning? How am I keeping my body healthy? And how do I acknowledge and commune with what I feel is bigger than me?

It sounds deep, and sometimes it might be. Many times, though, I’m more inline with Jack Handy’s Deep Thoughts than anything deeply devotional.

I want to share my journey in each aspect. Where I’m succeeding. Where I can improve. And never in a manner that makes it sound like I’m preaching or an all-knowing authority on anything.

My opinions are just that, mine. If you agree, great! Let’s talk about it. If you disagree, great! Let’s talk about it. In either case, I’m putting it out there for whoever to see.

This should bring better focus to The Shadowed Quill. And once it clears up, who knows what we’ll find. Maybe something cool, or maybe just the ravings of a lunatic. Should be fun either way!

First book!

S. C. Green:

A most sincere, heart-felt thank you from a most sincere, heart-felt writer. My congratulations can’t compare.

Originally posted on Unbound Leaves:

About two weeks ago, I got some news that I was asked to keep quiet until it could be announced officially, but it’s officially official now: My story collection, WHEN ARE YOU COMING HOME?, won the 2014 Prairie Schooner Book Prize and will be published by the University of Nebraska Press.

Um, that prize. The Prairie Schooner. The University of Nebraska Press.

Me.

I am still stunned and elated and teary and grateful and holy smokes and pinching self and pinching others and oh-where-did-I-put-my-keys? and and and —

I’m a little bit of a mess, actually. More so than usual, I mean.

I found out while I was on the mountain in Sewanee, TN, teaching for the first time at the Sewanee Young Writers’ Conference (a wonderful time all on its own merit!). After a dropped call and frenetic redialing, I sat under a tree outside the dining hall…

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Me Incognito

Does This Look Like the Face of a Liar?

Me IncognitoI mean, seriously. How can you not trust a face like that?

Well, there’s at least one lady out there that doesn’t. We’ll get to that, but first let me take you back to early February. I was driving home, minding my own business, when an accident decided to happen right in front of me. Literally (and I use the term correctly) an inch in front of me. I’m in the right lane and the car on my left decides my lane would be better for her car. Fuck all if another car is occupying it. With ninja-like reflexes and new tires, I was able to avoid the collision.

Rather unsatisfied in missing my car, she clobbers the car in front of her which had stopped unexpectedly. I can still see the shattering plastic and glass flying past like confetti in a ticker tape parade.

In short, the paramedics come and haul Ms. Speed Racer off on a stretcher. The police come and take my statement. I go home.

So you can imagine my surprise when I get a subpoena to appear in court to testify on behalf of the state. Like there’s any way it could be contested that this lady was a crappy driver.

Fast forward to today.

While waiting for the judge to enter, I caught up with the officer that took my statement and the girl who got hit. He filled me in on what happened after I left. Apparently when he went to the hospital to give this lady her ticket for lousy driving, she refused to sign it, claimed she wasn’t speeding. It wasn’t her fault. He ended up having to drop the ticket on her hospital bed, “You’ve been served.”

Fifteen minutes after the assigned court time, she speed races into he courtroom. Mere seconds before the judge was going to give a default judgement. So we begin.

From the get-go it’s obvious she doesn’t have a full grasp of the English language. Just enough to choke on her own tongue. If she was at least Hispanic, I’m sure more than half the room could have translated for her. I don’t know where she was from and won’t try to guess at the chance of being mistaken as racist.

Before the officer can complete his details of the event, she has already tried to testify on her behalf three times. To the judge’s credit, he was patient with her and did his best to explain what she was doing, and why she couldn’t do that yet. After that she held her tongue.

Then the girl who was hit told her side of the event.

Ms. Speed Racer held her tongue.

Then it was my turn. I told my version of the accident just as I stated above, but without the swearing and all the courtesy owed the court (I’m no idiot). That’s when Ms. Speed Racer yells out, “He’s a liar!”

When asked to give her side of it, she obviously didn’t understand what I was saying. But she sure as hell knew the word liar and used it as often as she could with plenty of gratuitous finger-pointing. “I don’t know why he lies! He lies! I saw! He’s a liar!”

A diagram was emitted into evidence, showing the positions of the cars in the accident.with all of us standing in front of the judge he asked if Ms. Speed Racer objected to it being submitted as evidence. She said, “Yes.”

We all stood and stared at her. The judge took another tack. “Is it okay if I look at this for this case?”

As if he didn’t understand her the first time, she said, “Yes.”

Since I wasn’t actually in the accident, my car wasn’t depicted. Being sympathetic to the language barrier, I asked if I could show where my car was in relation to the accident to help clarify my account. I did, and everyone agreed my account was sound in what actually happened.

Except for her.

Thankfully it didn’t go much further than that. I think the last thing she said on her behalf was “…but I don’t know why he lies.”

Seeing that communication was an issue here, he didn’t fine her more than the original ticket (and court costs). We were excused out one door while Ms. Speed Racer was pointed to another door to settle up.

It’s been almost three hours, and I’m still in shock. Well, mild amusement, maybe. That is until I get another subpoena for the appeal based on a “liar’s” testimony.

Mustache on a Stick

Carrot Cake

Light the Candles

Carrot CakeJess lines the candles on the cake. First lining the sides with all twenty-three candles. Then randomly across the top, careful to cover up holes. Maybe it’s because she can’t decide. Or maybe it’s because she likes the excuse to lick the knife after filling the holes. Either way she sets and resets the candles until she’s convinced the cake looks like Swiss cheese under a layer of cream cheese icing.

Carrot cake was always his favorite. The texture of it made it hard for Jess to swallow, but Milo could shovel it down and be licking his plate all the while staring at Jess’s plate. He knew she would give it to him. She always did.

She spells his name with the candles.

Twenty-three years, but Jess had only been around for the last three. And what a three years. Excitement? Oh, yes. More than her fair share, she was sure.

He stole her heart the first time they met, and he refused to give it back. Not that she ever really wanted it back. She did wonder at times if she had stolen his equally. That’s usually never the case, is it.

She groups three candles in the center and places the rest to the edges.

Of course he stole more than that. Never from her. Well, nothing important, anyway. She learned too. Teaching might not have been his strong point, but she caught on easy enough. A trinket here. A snack there.

Without a doubt it always differed on what they stole. Milo thought it all should be his. No, that’s not it. He thought it all was his. it might be in your pocket, but it belonged to him. It was only a question on whether or not he thought he needed it at the moment.

Jess thought of it more like a game. A small game. If it interested her, she took it. Sometimes she would walk out of a store and not even realize until she got home that she had something new in her purse or pocket. Usually she only did it when he could see.

It was for him after all. She imagined it felt like lifting her skirt or opening her blouse where only he could see. Though she would never do that. That would be indecent.

She puts the candles in a straight line, one hiding behind the other. She almost lights them then.

Almost.

Jess watched Milo steal lots of things. Watches, cars, cash. Sometimes he even stole them for her. Not that she wanted them. Just him.

She always remembered his birthday. None of the other dates. Not the other stolen hearts. Not the last job. Not the media coverage. Why would she want to remember that? She even thought about adding more candles.

No. Twenty-three was the number. No other.

The knife clatters on the table. Done filling holes, Jess lights the candles. This year ending with them in the shape of a heart. A rather lopsided heart with one hump larger that the other, but unmistakably a heart.

***

This little piece of flash fiction differs from my usual brand of story. I took the prompts from the last 500 Club (I’ll let you decide which prompt I used), and decided to just go where the story took me. I think I might be as surprised as you to find a story devoid of ghosts, demons, aliens, action, or dialogue. I think it’s good enough to share though. Feel free to let me know what you think. It’s all for fun, but there’s no reason I can’t turn it into a learning experience.

Lights Behind

I think the blog is in need of some new fiction. Here’s a little some’in’-some’in’ I whipped up just for me, but decided to share with whoever wanted to read.

Lights Behind

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALooking from the sealed case on the passenger seat to the rear view mirror now filled with glowing lights, Vince knew this was going to end badly. He looked up in time to slam on his brakes. A sea of red brake lights filled the freeway. If the glowing lights behind him were confined to the ground like he was, he might have a chance of getting away.

Vince pulled onto the shoulder and tromped his foot on the gas.

Tammy yelled from the backseat, a leg flying up as he swerved the car.

“Watch it, Vince!”

“Maybe if you wore a seatbelt…”

“How the hell am I supposed to work this thing strapped in?”

Vince didn’t answer. He had a million responses to that, but knew better than to be baited into it. Instead he concentrated on the road ahead, and the lights from behind. If he didn’t get off this freeway now, the two of them only have seconds left.

The clank of latching bolts and sliding metal came from the backseat. Then the twang of a spring and something shot past him to ricochet off the windshield.

“Dammit,” he groaned into the steering wheel. “I can’t drive and put the thing together. If you couldn’t do it, you should’ve let me.”

“The hell is that supposed to–” she cut herself off. “No don’t tell me. Your almighty-ness would be more than I could take.”

Up ahead, a car began to pull onto the shoulder. Whether they had the same idea he had, or one of those jack asses that got off on blocking the way didn’t matter. Vince clipped fenders with the driver and sent a shower of sparks up along the guard rail in the process.

A variety of swears and curses came form the back in the midst of falling metallic pieces. Always dropping something. Couldn’t blame it on the pregnancy this time. Couldn’t tell her otherwise. Couldn’t so this or that.

Well, the fuck he could.

The off ramp came up quick and just as full of slow or stopped cars as the freeway. With more luck than skill, Vince jerked and spun the wheel to maneuver the old Chevy around and through traffic, though he’d never admit it to Tammy.

“I can still get this.”

He could hear her scrambling in the back seat reaching for parts. He didn’t bother with the piece that shot up front. He knew she wouldn’t get it together in time. His eyes dropped an instant down to the case in the passenger seat.

“You can’t do this.”

His voice barely audible over the revving engine.

“What? Just give me a… Dammit! Stop swerving!”

“I said,” and Vince took a deep breath, “you. Can’t. Do. THIS!”

Vince tugged the wheel had to the left and skidded to a stop beneath the underpass. Almost before the car stopped, he kicked his door open and stepped out. He hurried to the passenger side, but didn’t run. The look of blame, hurt, and yes, hatred, pierced his heart.

The lights started to fill the little underpass. Left, right, overhead. He knew there was no getting away. She knew it too. But this time it wasn’t up to her.

He yanked open the door and grabbed the case. As he flipped the latches open and stuck a hand inside. He couldn’t look at her.

“I’m done. With your way.”

I wrote this piece of flash fiction based on the prompts given at The Parking Lot Confessional. It’s been a while since I’ve played along, and frankly, I needed a little push to get me writing tonight. I chose the first prompt, but I think I managed both in one shot. It might not be pretty. It might not be great. But what it is, is writing. Getting the words out as I was thinking them. No revisions. Just raw thought and creation. Enjoy and let me know what you think.