Spirited Performance

PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson

“Where’s Donald?” demanded the ethereal presence of the woman known as Ethel in her mortal life.

“How should we know?” Stu replied from behind the cello. “It’s not like we can text him, being that we’re spirits.”

“He’s probably haunting his children again,” sighed Ellie at the microphone. “He’s into the literary tropes.”

“This band is nothing without percussion,” moaned Ethel, hovering over the keyboard. “Donald needs to be here.”

“Would you say,” joked Ellie, “that our band’s just a ghost of itself without him?”

Not wanting to hear any more bad puns, Ethel’s spirit fled the empty stage.

Feels good to have my first Friday Fictioneers story of the year posted.

The Stretch Ahead

On the final day of 2020, I posted about my writing accomplishments in that year. Thought about posting my goals for 2021 the following day, but decided to take a few days off. Got up at 7 today, wrote for five hours, so I’m back on my game.

Found out last week that it’s actually pretty easy to create a table in WordPress, once you locate the command button:

Stories DraftedStories RevisedStories SubmittedTotal SubmissionsBlog Posts
Minimum96625156
Goal129950182
Stretch15121275208

Total Submissions is an activity I didn’t track in 2020. This represents journal submissions for all stories, even the ones I completed in previous years. In 2019 I made 23 submissions, which increased slightly to 28 last year. I have nine stories still seeking a home, with several more to come; averaging five submissions for each story shouldn’t be burdensome.

Blogging isn’t essential to my fiction writing, but it’s an important communication tool. Posting three to four times a week should keep me in touch with the world.

I also want to return to my novels, something I barely considered last year. It’s time for a third draft of Gray Metal Faces, plus an initial draft of a completely new project for this year’s National Novel Writing Month event in November. Don’t know what I’m going to write yet, but I plan on having fun with whatever I decide to write.

I’m also eliminating one of my benchmarks from the past: writing income. When I began this adventure two and a half years ago, I set my ambition towards making a living as a writer. Since then, I’ve concluded that’s actually backwards thinking. Living a writer’s life was my actual goal; trying to make that life pay the bills was becoming an obstacle. Once more I shall express gratitude for the resources available to me, not only financial but also in support from family and friends. Instead of trying to make it on my own, I’m going to rely on help.

I’ve got 361 more days to complete the tasks I’ve set for myself. Let’s revisit this post in late June, and see whether the Minimum benchmarks in the above chart have been reached and how far I’ve come in the latest revision of my fencing novel. That mid-year progress analysis will show how much work remains in the second half of what should be a very productive year.

Stretched Out

At the beginning of March, I announced a set of goals for my short fiction in 2020. On the last day of the year, it’s time to revisit and evaluate.

After finally figuring out how to create a table in the new WordPress interface (which sucks, absolutely sucks), here’s the goals I set for my short stories in the past year:

DraftedRevisedSubmitted
Minimum633
Goal966
Stretch1299
ACTUAL1299

In other words, I had a productive year.

I had other writing goals as well that didn’t make it into that March post. I wrote yesterday about my year-long series of weekly journal reviews; reaching that goal was as significant as my short story accomplishments. I also wanted to post three times a week on this blog, and as today’s will be the 159th post of 2020, that makes for another goal reached.

I’d also set a monetary goal of $25K, income I hoped to accumulate through technical writing, tutoring, and whatever I earned through published stories. Actual income earned was around $18K, well under my target. I’ll have more to say about income goals when I set my goals for 2021 in a future post.

I’ve developed significant momentum in my writing career over the past year, and as I close out this post it’s important to identify why this happened. Being home more because of COVID-19 certainly contributed, but not nearly as much as my early-morning commitment. It’s entirely possible I haven’t blogged on this yet, but in early May I accepted an invitation from a fellow writer to write for an hour at 6 AM. I don’t enjoy early mornings, but frustration over my lack of progress inspired me to try something new. I can’t do it every day like my colleague does — three days of rising at 5 is all I can comfortably handle — but the results speak for themselves. My early mornings will continue into 2021.

***

My friends, these past 365 days have been a challenge. I’m grateful for having the resources to weather the ongoing storm of this pandemic, and appreciate how I’ve been able to stretch for and reach my most significant writing goals. A year from today, I hope all of us will be able to look back on a year of recovery.

The Most Valuable Commodity

Submitted another story recently to the weekly Reedsy Prompts contest. I was pretty satisfied with most of it, but the ending was a little weak. I’m enjoying the occasional prompt contest as it seems to engage my creativity and give me energy to work on my other stories. And who knows, maybe I’ll win one of these weeks if I keep at it. Fifty bucks ain’t much, but I’m not playing this game for the money.

Old Friend

PHOTO PROMPT © Roger Bultot

When I was a child, this park was but a quarter of its size at its largest. But that was twenty years ago. Since its heyday it shrunk by half, still larger than my childhood’s imagination.

And next week, it’ll close forever. The developer who purchased the bankrupt park will demolish the rides and pools, and raise apartments and condominiums in its place.

I can’t bear walking into the park again. But just outside its gates is a burger shack with picnic tables outdoors. The view of the park is good enough to say goodbye to an old friend.

Friday Fictioneers is a weekly flash fiction contest.

Eight

“How odd,” Johnson observed, stopping and looking down at the sandstone pavement.

PHOTO PROMPT © CEAyr

Henrietta followed his vision and saw the object which had attracted his attention. “Just some string,” she said disinterestedly.

“But in a very specific shape,” her husband countered. “A near-perfect figure 8. Hard to believe it would’ve just fallen into such perfect order.”

“So you think someone took the time to lay it out as an eight, knowing it would likely be kicked by someone walking or dragged by some animal?”

“Why is that so hard to believe?” asked Johnson.

“What’s hard to believe is your fascination with mundanity.”

One thing I’ve learned from participating in Friday Fictioneers is an appreciation for contractions. They really help in meeting the 100-word barrier!

Unstoppable

PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson

In years past, Julia’s family would bring the holidays to her and Carlton. Quarantine orders, lockdowns, and social distancing precluded such visits in 2020. Even carolers, routine in her neighborhood each December, had been prohibited.

But nothing was going to stop Julia from celebrating Christmas.

“Perhaps we shouldn’t put the lights around the front door,” Carlton suggested. “Why draw attention to an outside world that’s been shut down?”

“Oh I’ve a plan,” Julia replied. “Small LED screens over the windows, coordinated to show holiday images.”

“You really are determined to celebrate Christmas?” Carlton asked.

“I’m unstoppable.”

Friday Fictioneers is a weekly flash fiction contest.

The Absent

PHOTO PROMPT © J Hardy Carroll

It’s the activity I miss most, the students’ energy between classes, shuttling books between their lockers and backpacks, the student voices a chorus of youthful grievances, earnest braggadocio, and conspiratorial whispers.

An energy not replicable over Zoom.

I return to the school building weekly, more out of longing than necessity. Walking through the long empty and now dusty corridors today, I remembered my dream from last weekend. Students at their lockers, gathering their books in the black-and-white of all my dreams.

“Where are you going?” my dream-self asked.

A nameless teen looked up at me. “We’re not here,” she said.

Friday Fictioneers is a weekly flash fiction contest.

Slip 78

PHOTO PROMPT © C.E.Ayr

This has setup written all over it.

The marina, slip 78, 4. Elliot’s entire text message. Would have asked for more information if previous experience hadn’t taught me there was no hope of response.

The bike was attached to the pole when I arrived at 3:45. The bike has a rear storage compartment. Already checked it; the goods aren’t there, so the cash stays in my pocket.

After 35 minutes, a boat with a familiar pink hull finally back into slip 78. Somebody other than Elliot is at the helm. He leaves, doesn’t take the bike.

Somebody’s coming for me. And it’s won’t be Elliot.