Short Story Tuesday: The Happiest Place on Earth

The challenge: Write a short story every Tuesday in 500 words or less.  Post on your blog, share on twitter with the #shortstorytuesday hashtag.  Tag two friends to do the same.

***

The whispering wind flicked her hair from her eyes.  Looking up, she watched as a flag blew merrily in the breeze. The distinct shape of Mickey Mouse flapped on the yellow canvas backdrop.  The happiest place on earth, they say.  The place were tears aren’t allowed, where children can be children.

What makes it different for me? She wondered.  Am I just that separate from other children?  Deep thoughts for an eight-year-old, she knew.  But she wasn’t like other children.  Not in the usual kind of way.  Other children laughed and screamed and ran amuck while their haggard parents tried to keep up.  She watched as even now, a small boy attached to a backpack with a leash pulled against his restraints, reaching grimy hands for Donald Duck.  The mascot waved at him, bending down to hand him a signed picture.  The little boy squealed with delight.

disney castle

I like to watch, she thought.  I like to observe what families do.  How they act.  What makes them…well, a family.

“Jade!” The voice snapped her back to reality.  Above her head, the flag snapped against the pole.  She hurried under it towards the other children dressed in bright yellow.  Some smiled, some stared in wonder around them, but mainly, none knew what to do.  Shuffling feet, shifting eyes, they huddled like puppies afraid to make a wrong move.

Miss Kathy grabbed her shoulder.  “Pay attention, Jade.  Don’t dawdle.  Sometimes I wonder what goes on in that head of yours.”

Nothing that would interest you.  She dare not say it out loud.

“Leave her be, Kathy,” Miss Margie said gently.  She was Jade’s favorite.  Always sticking up for her, trying desperately to find her a family to call her own.  Organizing things like Disney trips for the kids.  But really, it almost made the pain worse.  So many happy families.  So many children with Moms and Dads.  College in their futures, a bed of their own, more belongings than could fit in a backpack.  Parents who weren’t in jail, or dead.

Or Moms who can get out of bed every day without chasing another fix.  Who don’t give up their kids because she would rather get high instead.  Jade knew she shouldn’t think that way.  But she preferred to live in reality.  Maybe she was too young, or too vulnerable, or whatever adults always said when she dared speak her thoughts out loud.

Really, what did it matter?  Jade found herself looking back at the waving flag as the children followed behind each other, marching to the orders of Miss Kathy. She shouted them like a drill instructor.  Jade filtered out the noises around her and focused on the Mouse.  The happies place on earth.  Maybe, just maybe, if she was good enough, quiet enough, obedient enough…someone would want her.  They would see her here, and instead of seeing an orphan, they would see a daughter.

She turned her face from the flag.   

 

***

Today, there are more than 400,000 children in foster care. More than 100,000 of those are awaiting adoption.  In reality, that isn’t a large number compared to the amount of families who have the means to take in these children. If one family, from every three churches in the United States adopted a child in foster care, it would eliminate the adoption need completely.  Check out your States requirements.  There should be no such thing as an unwanted child.

Freebie Fridays

One marketing strategy for indie authors is to offer free books or novellas.  I like to take advantage of this, not only to find new authors to enjoy, but to help boost their sales and participate in their success.

Here are some various freebies you might want to check out in the indie author world.

Revelation by J.E. Purrazzi.  This happens to be my critique partners debut novella, and I can’t have enough good things to say about it.  If you like dystopian science fiction, with both an adult and a YA feel, this on is for you.

The Crimson Queen by Alec Hutson is free for kindle unlimited subscribers.  This fantasy tale was everything I love about the genre (and I’m super picky when it comes to fantasy!)  Great plot, engaging characters, a well built world…looking forward to the rest of the series.

Darkness Reigns by Jill Williamson.  I’ve mentioned before that I am in the middle of the this series.  Her marketing strategy is excellent, for one thing.  Structured like a mini-series, the first book is free, and the next five are only a little over $3.  They are short, so you don’t feel like you get totally lost in the world.  But they are long enough that you don’t feel like you are being cheated.  Her strongest point, I think, is her incredibly endearing and interesting characters.

Enchantress by James Maxwell is free for kindle unlimited subscribers.  This was another good fantasy read.  The characters were pretty well-rounded, with maybe a little too much cliche for me, but that’s a minor complaint.  The world was unique, and the magic original.  I’m getting ready to read book two in the series.

The Traveler’s Gate Trilogy by Will Wight is free for kindle unlimited subscribers.  I can’t remember the last time I’ve read a series this unique.  The magic system is complicated and unusual, something I’ve never read, which is high praise in the fantasy world.  His characters are entertaining and compelling.  This was my introduction to the indie fantasy world, and he set the bar high.

What’s On My Reading List

One of my favorite things is supporting indie authors and their efforts.  And as everyone knows, if you want to be a good writer, you have to read, read, read.  Here’s a run-down of what is on my list.

Jill Williamson’s epic Kinsman Chronicles Series.  So far, I’m really enjoying it.  Will review when I’m through with all six.

The traditionally published Tim Keller’s “Walking with God through Pain and Suffering.”  Of course, nobody can say it quite like this modern-day CS Lewis.  I started this awhile ago (read: months ago) and as it sits on my nightstand, I savor it, like a hot cup of coffee I’m afraid will end.

Hugh Howey’s Wool.  This needs no explanation.

James Maxwell’s “Hidden Relic”, the second part of his Evermen Saga.  So far so good…will also review when I’m through with the series.

book stack

On the docket:

Looking forward to diving into some not so Indie titles: Ender’s Game, Pillar to the Sky, and perhaps a thriller, to branch out a bit.  Any suggestions?

One of the coolest things, in my humble opinion, about the indie author community is the ability to support each other as we all work hard at improving our craft.  I’m biased towards fantasy and sci-fi, since my own work in progress(s) are in the fantasy genre, but I’m pretty sure the same thing goes for ANY genres within this community.  What are some of your favorite things about it?  Comment below!

Vine

vine

 

Wispy tendrils stealing softly, fire embeds my mind

Flinging seeds of suspicions blind

Hearken now to my story, listen if you dare

A tale of rejection and despair

The seeds of vine’s worries stem from roots of doubt

Can my heart be free from wounds of gout?

 

What’s this fearsome frenzy, of soul’s shaking sight?

No center for my eyes to focus light

Clouding all my thoughts, dimming shadows views

Fleeting prose and dreadful, soundless muse

Be silent, oh accuser! Be silent, thoughts constrain!

Final dusk creeps to ponder vain

 

Conflict and torture! Angst and sorrow large!

Loom ever-present taking charge

Vine slinks closer still, darkening my door

Mist steals gradually up the shore

Vine of abysmal anguish! Vine of coarse regret!

Rises imminent fostering final threat

 

Linger no longer, plant of floundering pain

My true heart desires righteous gain

I cannot attain it! It slips through my fist!

A traitor betrays with conniving kiss!

Flesh rises in me, virtue it defeats

If only grace could peaceful mercy meet!

 

Reckless is my falling, dreadful fear abounds

I must travel to the burial ground

There I find death, to shameful gloom regress

There my comfort waits to oppress

Consolation in shame, because I know it well

I’d rather have my immortal soul to sell

 

What’s this vine I see!  Wrapped upon the tombs!

I can’t escape its sacrilegious blooms!

Where is my freedom? Where’s my liberty?

Oh this vine of deceit and trickery!

Vile you await, to mock my calm reflection!

Wherever you await is my rejection!

 

So flee I must, from restful deliberation

And bid this sanctuary salutation

But where is there to go? Can I escape your wares?

Wherever I go, there is your deadly stares

Thorns envelope you, oh poisonous plant you are!

You shoot out darts to wound and scar!

 

Running aimlessly, my life a repulsive race

I long to find a truly restful place

Does such a thing exist?  Or is all fantasy?

My soul will never be given amnesty

Fie soporific waters! You do not endure!

You are fleeting, and certainly unsure!

 

Shame, doubt, fear, dread, call out my name

Their cries echo forward to proclaim

There is no peaceful life, there is no harmony

Evil reigns supreme triumphantly

So slip away I must, collapse in flesh and bone

A soul rejected, no hope, no love, alone      

Conformity

conformity As a writer, finding a way to “stand out” from the crowd of other amazing authors with brilliant story ideas can be challenging (to put it mildly.)  Depending on your genre, there are beloved tropes of that genre that readers want, regardless of whether it’s new and exciting or not.

So does conforming to these tropes make you a sell-out?  Well, not according to Neal Gardner.  He says, “One does not necessarily have to cluck in disapproval to admit that entertainment is all the things its detractors say it is: fun, effortless, sensational, mindless, formulaic, predictable and subversive. In fact, one might argue that those are the very reasons so many people love it.”

 Life the Movie: How Entertainment Conquered Reality

The issue is, of course, at what point do we stay in conformity with a genre, and at what point do we dally within the constraints that keep a genre…well…a genre.  As a fantasy writer, examples of tropes would be magic, new worlds, swords, good vs. evil, coming of age, etc. Just to name a few.

What are your thoughts?  Do you have trouble with this, too, or is it just me? Continue reading “Conformity”