Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Westside Writers 2011 Happy Holiday Challenge Entry


“Knock, knock.” The grey-haired woman said, unsure if her mother was sleeping. “Ma, it’s Lizzie.”

“Come in.” The old woman turned from the window and examined the unfamiliar face with eyes clouded by so many decades. “Are you new here, dear?”

“No, Ma, it’s Elizabeth. Your daughter.”

“Yes, my daughter’s name is Elizabeth, but we call her Lizzie. Is she coming to visit?”

Lizzie let out a gentle sigh and looked at the plastic box in her hands. “I’ve brought your favorite Christmas cookies.” She approached her mother’s wheelchair and popped open the red lid. The heady smell of spices spilled out of the green container transporting the women to a warm kitchen.

“It’s just me, Ma.”

“How was school, dear?”

“I got a B+ on my history paper. Yum. That gingerbread smells super! When are you going to teach me the recipe?”

“We can mix up another batch of dough for Christmas Eve. Change out of your school clothes.”

Lizzie shot out of the kitchen and returned wearing jeans and an old sweatshirt before her mother had set out everything they needed. “Wash your hands; then, an orange.” Lizzie complied. “Next we put some sugar in a saucepan. I use this old, chipped cup to measure. Fill it to just below the chip.”

Lizzie carefully spooned sugar in the cup, unsure of exactly how much was needed.

“A little more, dear,” her mother coaxed. “Then you do the same with molasses; only remember to coat the cup with a bit of oil so the molasses won’t stick.”

“Then what, Mama?”

“Then remember to use a bit more molasses than sugar. I fill the cup to where it just starts to flow over the chip. Now we add the spices – never use powdered.”

First they noticed the spark of orange peel, then the bite of ginger, followed by the warmth of cinnamon being grated. Lizzie’s mother helped her gauge how much was needed as the girl dumped each into the pot. Next they crushed the cloves and cardamom. The aroma was exotic but even as the mixture came to a boil on the stove, it was nothing like what seeped out of the oven as the gingerbread baked.

After boiling the sugars and spices, they added butter and allowed the mix to cool before adding some whipping cream. Finally, sifted flour and baking soda and eggs were added to form dough.

“Then we have to let it sit in a cold place,” Mom instructed. “Overnight if you can’t wait, but a week is much better.”

Lizzie’s mother leaned forward slowly inhaling the exotic, pungent aroma. She returned to her normal posture allowing the memories to wash over her. Her lips drew back in a contented smile. “It’s good to see you, Lizzie.” She reached out to kiss her daughter.

“Merry Christmas, Mama.”

2011 Happy Holiday Challenge Guidelines

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Westside Writers Fall 2011 Challenge Entry

Here is my response to the challenge made by Westside Writers:

I wailed seeing Benny’s body hanging from a tree. His arms and legs stuck out at right angles, his clothes hung off his frame: a grotesque fuchsia and the General’s message.

She smothered my screams, pulled me into the shadows, and pressed something in my palm. “Quiet message. Seven d son, set frankly dead swan.” Pointing at a sedan, she pushed me forward. “Fast go.”

I stumbled across the deserted street and looked at my hand: my lover’s passcard and a key. Can’t go home, they know where we live. The key worked. Why’d he have to come out?

In gear, the car lurched north. At a red light I shook myself. Not seven d – seventy! It was code. Take Highway 70, but which way? Seventy sunset… West!

City lights fading in the rearview mirror, it was a long way to anywhere. Frankly dead swan? Frank lead Aswan?

Another car entered the road behind me. The lights flicked high and low. Was I paranoid or being followed? I sped up but they followed through the curves. On the floodplain, the horn wailed and they overtook me. I slowed and tried not to think about Benny. Frankly deads won?

Low fuel! Where’ll I find gas? Twenty to forty miles and the car’s dead. Rounding a bend a faint light glowed. A gas station and someone stood inside the door. I alighted, he was gone, but left a note: “Half mile turn left, follow gravel road to inn.”

What choice did I have? Was it a trap? All manner of places are tucked away in coastal coves screened from the road by a ridge.

A sign flickered, “Lily and Swan.” I parked, entered, and was greeted, “Sorry about Benny. I’m Frank. You’re safe here until we can smuggle you over the border.”

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Westside Writers Fall 2011 Challenge

Westside Writers, a semi-monthly critique group meeting in the Reedsville area of Hillsboro, is inviting other Washington County writers to join our Fall 2011 Challenge.

Basically, the challenge involves creating a piece of flash fiction that incorporates six words in the text. No prizes, just the chance for Washington County writers to connect with other Washington County writers. We will publish submissions on the Westside Writers blog or include a link to the author's blog/website. Details are available at and the deadline is Oct 12th.

Follow me on Google+

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Addiction: The Writers' Campaign Challenge

Cheryl, from Beaverton Evening Writers, wrote about a challenge to write a piece of 200 word flash fiction on her blog. The original post is on Rachael Harrie's blog. And here's my attempt:

The door swung open.

“Come to Mama,” she moaned. “I need more of your sweet, creamy satisfaction. Melt in my mouth, lover.”

He was silent, but I heard, “I’ve got what you need. Don’t I always take care of you?” So smooth.

When would I ever learn? She told me she would stop: yesterday, last week, for my birthday. But it was always the same. A day went by and she’d have to have it. Problems at work and she couldn’t get enough. A long commute and she’d stop on the corner to score.

Twain said giving up smoking was the easiest thing he ever did: he did it a thousand of times. She made him out to be an amateur.

I’ve tried to get her help: twelve step programs, rehab clinics, even threatened and cajoled. It’s been useless: useless as a critic without an audience.

“It’s me or him.” My voice was strong, but my eyes were weak. “Choose. Now.”

“What’s your problem? I can handle it.” She laughed. At me. “It’s not like I’ve got a real problem!”

He said nothing. What a cad; bury him I will. Someday.

I turned and walked away.

The door swung shut.
Word count courtesy of Microsoft Word 2002 SP3 -- take it up with Uncle Bill if you count other than 200 words.

Monday, September 5, 2011

“Welcome to Portland”

After driving a thousand miles, I pulled into the driveway of rental house in about the only neighborhood I could afford: SE 67th off Flavel. I was beat; grabbed my sleeping bag, found the key under the mat, and sacked out in the back bedroom.

Next morning I got up with the sun since the place had no curtains. After splashing some water on my face, and something else on the toilet bowl, I headed out to start unloading my Subaru station wagon.

On one side was painted “Go Ducks;” the other, “Go Beavs.” The car was empty. On the windshield was a computer-printed note: “Welcome to Portland. Thank you for your donation. The Felony Flats Unemployment Committee.”

Free of earthy possessions – hey, at least they didn’t take the car! I knew I was going to like it here.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Fuzzy at Free Friends PDX

My writing has suffered a lot recently thanks to all my volunteering. Simply put, after my hours at the library and Senior Center, I don't have much left inside. The apartment is a disaster and I'm plum worn out.

Unfortunately, volunteers are difficult to find for Senior Center Bingo, so the really don't want to lose me. And, truth be told, it's good to feel like the work I'm doing makes a difference. All I have to do is not show up one Wednesday (as I now do on the fourth Wednesday of the month) and I'm greeted with lots of warm welcomes.

Sure, the library staff appreciate the help as well, but they have lots of permanent staff and many volunteers. But for the first hour on Tuesday's they have difficulty finding a place for me. It's okay when I'm doing well; I help with pulls or shelving DVDs. But when I'm not doing well, like last Tuesday, there's nothing for it.

I've already cut my time on Fridays by a third. Will have to talk with the supervisor about Tuesdays and make a decision.

Back on Key

I've got plenty that I want to work on both in finishing my Japanese Fairy Story and researching the vampire story (with my own special twist on the now saturated genre). So it's not an issue of inspiration: it's a matter of fatigue.

Plus I want to be able to get out and enjoy life now and then a bit. Even if only after having a tooth worked on...

Just sipping on some Moroccan mint ice tea at Three Friends in Portland.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Show and Tell

I have been wrestling with the writing maxim "show, don't tell" recently, especially in terms of critiquing other writers' work in the writing groups to which I belong. Here are some useful links for the time being:,_don%27t_tell

Here is my example:

He was angry. He wanted a beer. He walked up to the bar and demanded service.


He stomped up to the bar. “Where the hell’s my beer?”

The first example is clearly telling. I, as author, am telling you, as reader, what is happening, and little more than what is happening, rather like a reporter writing for a high school newspaper might relate the events.

But as a writer, it is my desire, some might argue calling, to engage the reader with logic and emotion. So while the second version cleanly communicates some emotion, it honestly still feels a bit too much like telling at this point.

Hmmmm, still needs work.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Currently Reading...

Among the books I'm currently reading -- and I'm often the type who starts and never quite finishes many books (I must have 20+ books 'in process') -- there are three related to writing, two of which have to do with writing and critique groups.

The first is The Writing Group Book: Creating and Sustaining a Successful Writing Group ©2003 edited by Lisa Rosenthal. [author's website][WashCoLib website].

While generally an interesting read -- it is fun to read about other writer's experiences in writing groups -- I have not found this book quite as useful as I had hoped. I have taken some notes that I plan to consult as Westside Writers grows, but it seems more like a 'getting started' book than 'so your group could be better' book. It's an easy read and one thing I still want to do before returning it is compile the list of links here for future reference. I think the other resources listed (books and periodicals) can also be of help if one is looking for assistance in a specific area as well. Certainly worth checking out from your local library!

I just started The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide: How to Give and Receive Feedback, Self-Edit, and Make Revisions © by Becky Levine. [publications's website][WashCoLib website]

So far this one is providing more information about how to deal with actual critiques -- giving & receiving -- and provides tools to make such easier. Check out the worksheets on the publications's website: these come right out of the book. More on this later.

Last, for today, I'm reading Schaum's Quick Guide to Writing Great Short Stories ©1999 by Lucke, Margaret. [WashCoLib website]

I've actually been reading this one very slowly; had to return it because I used up all renewals and have checked it out again. It seems a pretty decent quick and dirty (read that Idiot's Guide if you like) to writing short fiction. It is certainly a great starting point if one is interested in writing, though I wonder how helpful it would be for the person who had never writing a piece of fiction before.

Okay, need to actually spend some time working on critiques before tonight's Beaverton Evening Writers meeting!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sheron's Alysian Universe

Imagine what your life would be like if, at any moment, a disturbance in the time stream could alter events. It's one of the more interesting, and disturbing, features of time travel oft explored in science fiction. I'm interested in a fellow member's (of Beaverton Evening Writers) work as we complete chapter 9 of the second book in the Alysian Universe series.

Details about the first book published in the series Caught in Time can be found on the Alysian Universe website.

Additionally, Sheron writes about science fiction at SciFiBookReview.

Friday, March 25, 2011

At Human Bean, Hillsboro

Well, I got tired fighting with these high-bandwidth apps online over dial-up so I am at a local coffee shop a few blocks from home. Still trying to find some place closer for when the library is closed. Oh well, free wi-fi has its drawbacks.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Writers Groups

I am currently an active member of two Washington County Oregon writers groups:

Beaverton Evening Writers - meets 1st/3rd Tuesday of the month at Shari's Restaurant, 6035 SW Murray in Beaverton.

Westside Writers - meets 2nd/4th Thursday of the month at a private office in Aloha

Current Projects

While I have a number of projects that I'd like to work on, I'm currently only working on a screenplay for a short film and some short stories. In the future I plan to work on novels as well but want to get some experience (and maybe a little ink) first.

My short screenplay has been workshopped and is ready for another draft.

I am also actively working on several short stories, one of which will be workshopped during March.

At Shute Park Library