Wednesday, October 20, 2021

WEP October Challenge: The Scream


It's October, and that means it's time for another WEP challenge. This month's challenge is inspired by another famous piece of art, THE SCREAM. Perfectly suited to this time of year, I think.

This time around, we're asking members to try their hand at writing their own taglines for their entries. You can find mine at the end of the post.

Here's my entry. I hope you enjoy it!


Cries in the Night

 

I jolted upward, cloth constricting me as I struggled to sit up. My heart raced as I cast my eyes desperately around me, the inky darkness making it impossible to see.

 

Nothing was familiar. I’d been asleep, but I wasn’t in my bedroom. My breath caught in my throat as I struggled to make sense of anything.

 

“What was that?”

 

The words, spoken directly into my ear, nearly sent me flying out of my skin. It took a moment to process and recognize it. “Vanessa?”

 

“Of course it’s me. Who else would be in here with you?”

 

That’s when it all fell back into place. I was in a tent with my best friend, my body trapped in a sleeping bag. We’d chosen to go camping together so we could get some time away from our families for a couple of days. Having turned freshly eighteen, we were both technically adults, but living at home meant we still had to follow other people’s rules. It was nice to get out on our own for a little while.

 

At least in theory. A panicked late-night awakening hadn’t been a part of my plans. “Yeah. Sorry. Forgot where I was for a minute.” I ran my hands through my sweat-soaked hair.

 

As my breathing returned to normal, I turned my attention to Vanessa. My eyes were adjusting somewhat to the darkness, so I could distinguish the ghostly outline of her face. Her eyes were wide, and her shoulders were as tense as I’d ever seen them.

 

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

 

Vanessa’s mouth dropped. “I heard something. For crying out loud, it woke you up!” Her words came out like a harsh whisper, urgent and incredulous.

 

A noise had woken me, then. That made sense, though I failed to recall it. “What was it?”

 

Vanessa bit her lower lip. “It sounded like a scream.”

 

My body froze. Surely a scream hadn’t wrested me from my slumber. We were pretty deep into the woods. It took the entire day to hike out to our campsite. There shouldn’t have been another soul for miles.

 

I’d almost convinced myself that Vanessa had been mistaken when it came again.

 

“Help! Somebody help me!” The scream tore through the night like a blade.

 

It was a woman’s voice, and the terror in her plea sent my heart racing again. She sounded breathless, like she was running for her life. Was someone or something chasing her? How nearby was she? Her voice sounded too close for comfort.

 

Vanessa cursed under her breath. 

 

“What do we do?” I asked, scarcely loud enough for her to hear.

 

For a brief moment, I thought of movies where the heroes ran into the line of fire and saved the day. People who risked their lives to save others in distress. Part of me wished to be that kind of person, but the larger part of me was too terrified to budge from my spot.

 

Vanessa seemed to be of a similar mind. She put a finger to her lips, pleading for me to remain silent. Meeting her eyes, I could read her thoughts so clearly they felt like my own. We were unarmed. If we went out there to confront the unknown danger, we could easily end up running for our own lives.

 

“Help!”

 

I sucked in my breath. That was definitely closer. Vanessa and I stared at one another, both of us coming to the same realization. We were in danger. I thought of the campfire we’d lit outside. It was down to embers when we turned in for the night. Would someone see it? Would the screaming woman see our campsite and seek help from us? Would the person or animal pursuing her see it?

 

Part of me wished I could huddle in my sleeping bag and hide myself from the world. Another longed to run. I dared do neither for fear of making a sound.

 

Several long moments passed as we both strained to hear. The snapping of twigs and crunch of underbrush was audible by that point.

 

Don’t come this way. Please don’t come this way. My silent recitations played on a loop in my mind as I waited for disaster to strike.

 

Then the sounds of fleeing footsteps began to fade, and the next strangled cry was more distant than the last.

 

Vanessa and I waited in silent terror until long after the screaming had stopped.


*     *     *

 

Three weeks later, a couple out on a walk stumbled across the body of a woman. She’d been stabbed more than thirty times and her head had been severed. The location was less than an eighth of a mile from where Vanessa and I had been camping.

 

My blood ran cold when I saw the news reports. I wanted to reach for my phone to call Vanessa, but I couldn’t move. That was the screaming woman. It had to be. What was her name? Who killed her, and why? Could we have possibly intervened and saved her, or would an attempt have merely gotten us killed too?

 

I imagined being in her shoes, fleeing for my life, alone and afraid, while two people hid away nearby, too scared to do anything but wait until it was all over.

 

My hands began to shake violently, and I barely made it to the bathroom before the nausea overtook me.


Word Count: 896

FCA


Now here's my tagline: Two girls, alone in the woods, face the choice to help or hide when an unexpected danger approaches.


Have a great October everyone!



Wednesday, September 1, 2021

The Insecure Writer's Support Group-September 2021

 


It's the first Wednesday of the month, and that means it's time for another meeting of The Insecure Writer's Support Group. Our leader Alex J. Cavanaugh has assembled a great group of co-hosts: Rebecca Douglass, T. Powell Coltrin @ Journaling Woman, Natalie Aguirre, Karen Lynn, and C. Lee McKenzie.

Be sure to check out the IWSG website for great advice for writers!

The optional question for this month is: How do you define success as a writer? Is it holding your book in your hand? Having a short story published? Making a certain amount of income from your writing?

For me, success depends on how the rest of my life is going. When things in my normal everyday life are chaotic and busy, success is getting words on the page. That was especially true over the summer when my kids were out of school.

Now that life is settling back into a normal routine, success would be finishing the novel that I'm currently working on, as well as getting a short story published again sometime in the near future. I'm really hoping I can get that done.

What does success look like to you?


Wednesday, August 18, 2021

WEP August 2021-Freedom of Speech

 


Hello everyone! It's time for another WEP Challenge. This is a special one, because Jemi Fraser, a valued WEP participant, has joined the WEP team as an admin! Please give her a warm welcome!

If you would like to join us this month, stop by this month's post to sign up!


Here is my entry. I hope you enjoy!


Unapproved

Camina’s heart thudded in her ears as she placed the paper on the lectern. The familiar words stared back at her, all pre-approved by both the principal and vice principal. The entire thing was reminiscent of all the graduation speeches that had come before. Both forward-looking and nostalgic. Poetic words about the opportunities that lay ahead of them all.


Graduation was supposed to be an occasion for all of them to celebrate and reflect. Camina’s best friend Sunny should have been there too, but she wasn’t allowed to walk the stage.


Her heavy breathing was amplified by the microphone and transmitted to the entire crowd. The hot gymnasium lights glaring down on her sent rivulets of sweat down her back. She waited for a couple moments before addressing the crowd. “Hello, Class of 2021. We made it this far. We got through mountains of homework and a global pandemic to be here today. It didn’t always feel possible. We should all be proud of ourselves.”


Camina paused to take in another deep breath. Was she really about to do this?


“There are many things to love about this school,” she continued, trying to hold her voice steady. She swallowed hard, but the lump in her throat refused to budge. She could only push the words out around it and hope they weren’t too strangled to be understood. “Wonderful teachers. Great classmates. A gorgeous campus. Our school has a lot to be proud of, and as I prepare to walk away from this institution, I want to remember everything.”


One quick motion of her hand pulled a folded piece of paper from her pants pocket, previously rendered invisible by her flowing robe. She held it there in her palm for a long moment, keeping it hidden behind the podium. As long as it remained there, concealed from sight, she hadn’t done anything irreversible. Thus far, she had yet to deviate from her pre-approved remarks. She could continue with that sanitized, run-of-the-mill speech and go on with her life.


Then she pictured Sunny sitting at home in her room when she should have been there. The injustice of it made her blood boil in her veins. Someone needed to stand up for what was right. No one had listened to her earlier protests, but they would have no choice but to listen now.


“That includes the good and the bad. No school is perfect. Speeches like this are only supposed to focus on the good, though. It may be an unwritten rule, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t enforced.” She swept her eyes across the audience, seeing a few curious expressions scattered throughout.


“When I found out I would be giving a speech today, I was told I would have to submit it for approval. No big deal, right? It’s a graduation speech. It’s easy enough to write something inoffensive that fits the bill. And it was. I wrote a bland speech that passed with flying colors. Every word of it was hollow and meant nothing to me, because the real things I wanted to say would never have made the cut.”


A low murmur rumbled through the crowd. Camina dared a quick glance over toward the teachers and various staff seated in the front row. Most of them leaned forward in their seats, curious to see where this was going.


The principal had gone red in the face.


“I want to talk a bit about Sunny Masterson. She should have been giving the speech. She’s the rightful valedictorian, after all. I came in second. Nothing to be ashamed of there. Sunny is brilliant. All of us know it. She earned the right to be on this stage, accepting her diploma. So why isn’t she here? Most of you probably don’t know, so I’ll tell you.


“Sunny got straight A’s. Most years, she was also involved in lots of extracurriculars. This year was a bit more of a struggle. Her mom has been sick a lot over the last several months, and she’s needed people to help her around the house. There were days when it made the most sense for Sunny to stay home from school to take care of her. Her grades never suffered, though. She arranged to get her homework each day and kept up with all of it. You would think Sunny would be rewarded for her dedication, wouldn’t you?”


A hollow laugh escaped Camina’s lips. “Instead, Sunny was pulled aside last week and informed that she had simply missed too many days. Three too many, in fact. Miss too many days, you don’t get to walk at graduation. Doesn’t matter what your grades look like. Nope. She’ll still get her diploma, but she won’t have the memory of being here with all of us. The thing is, Sunny doesn’t regret anything. She’s sad she can’t be here, but she wouldn’t change it. If you ask me, that makes it all so much worse. She’s brilliant and selfless and the exact kind of person who should be here right now. I get that rules are rules, but we also have human judgment. Surely someone could have looked at the situation and seen that an exception could be made.”


Camina dared make eye contact with the principal once more. He trembled with rage. There were going to be consequences for this. Would the school try to withhold her diploma? She would find out soon enough.


“You should have let Sunny walk the stage and give her speech. I can guarantee you would have been much more pleased by her words than you are with mine.” Then Camina spun on her heel and moved to descend the stairs, leaving both of her printouts behind on the lectern.


She could hear the distant sounds of people clapping and cheering. Most of her classmates were on their feet. So she wasn’t the only one who felt this way. 


Whatever the fallout, Camina had said what she needed to say.


Word Count: 1,000

FCA


Be sure to check out the other entries!



Wednesday, August 4, 2021

The Insecure Writer's Support Group-August 2021

 


It's the first Wednesday of the month, and that means it's time for another meeting of The Insecure Writer's Support Group. Our leader Alex J. Cavanaugh has a great group of co-hosts for this month: PK Hrezo, Cathrina Constantine, PJ Colando, Kim Lajevardi, and Sandra Cox.

Be sure to check out the IWSG website for great writing resources!

The optional question for this month is: What is your favorite writing craft book? Think of a book that every time you read it you learn something or you are inspired to write or try the new technique. And why?

I've read a lot of great craft books over the years. If I find one I love, I keep it on my shelf and refer back to it often. The one I've been consulting the most as of late has been Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody. It takes the great advice from the original Save the Cat!, which is focused on screenwriting, and adapts it to novel writing.

This book looks a lot at various types of stories, story structure, and how structure helps to create a compelling narrative. It also breaks down many popular novels beat by beat, so it's easy to understand. I think this book has definitely helped me in my own writing.

What craft books do you love?

Thursday, July 8, 2021

The Insecure Writer's Support Group-July 2021

 


Note: Sorry this post is up late! I had it written, but somehow forgot to schedule it. Silly me. Still, better late than never, right?

It's the first Wednesday of the month, and that means it's time to convene another meeting of The Insecure Writer's Support Group. Our leader Alex J. Cavanaugh has assembled a great group of co-hosts for this month: Pat Garcia, Victoria Marie Lees, Chemist Ken, and Louise-Fundy Blue.

Be sure to check out the IWSG website for great writing resources!

The optional question for this month is: What would make you quit writing?

I can't think of a scenario where I would ever quit writing. I go through dry periods where I struggle to write, but those always pass. Sometimes life gets crazy and I have to step back for a time, but I start to feel strange if I go too long without writing. I feel less like myself. I've been writing since I was a kid, so I guess it's just a fundamental part of who I am. It doesn't matter how many writing successes or failures I have. I'm going to keep writing. The only thing that could stop me is if I become physically incapable of writing.

Is there anything that could make you quit writing?




Wednesday, June 16, 2021

WEP June Challenge-The Great Wave

 Hello! It's time for the June WEP Challenge-THE GREAT WAVE. This month we once again draw inspiration from another remarkable work of art.

If you'd like to join us, click here.


High Ground

The world is ending today.

It sounds so strange when I say it that way. Doomsday prophets have been saying such things for thousands of years. I guess they were bound to be right eventually.

Earth will survive the cataclysm, of course, but it will look markedly different after the impact. Human civilization will largely be wiped clean. Many species of plants and animals will be obliterated. Forests will be leveled. The ground will be scorched from the blast of heat. The ocean water will leap into the sky as the giant asteroid slams into the seafloor.

My entire life as I’ve known it will be erased by the great wave that will crash into our seaside home.

Seaside views have long been in high demand. Concerns about rising sea levels didn’t do much to impact this fact, oddly enough. A lot of people have this idea that they are somehow immune to consequences. It’s a common human failing amongst the people I know. 

Who would have imagined that, in the end, global warming won’t be what takes our home away?

It’s not so absurd, I suppose. It happened to the dinosaurs. Why is it so outlandish to think it could happen to us?

It comes down to technology, I suppose. We assumed that we would use our technological might to avert this kind of disaster. Yet, here I sit beside the viewing window in an orbiting space station, one of three that circle our little blue world. I can’t help but think we do have the means to change that asteroid’s trajectory, though the experts have said otherwise.

Dad said it was probably a cost/benefit analysis. Those in the upper echelons of government might’ve seen a way of getting rid of the “undesirables.” The poor and uneducated. The disabled. The elderly. I won’t say that out loud in front of anyone else, of course, and neither will he. Misfortune always befalls those who say such things to the wrong people.

In either case, the most corrupt people will survive this. They have the means. Many of them did what my family opted to do and booked a place on one of the space stations. Others chose to get a place in one of several underground bunkers. Many were given a place due to their expertise in an important field, but most of the spots went to those who could pay. They’re expecting our economy to come out of this largely intact, albeit considerably smaller.

I’m not sure if I want them to be right or wrong.

I don’t want to think about that right now. It’s too dark. Too close to home. I don’t want to think of how my parents, successful CEOs, paid for our accommodations. My stomach is knotted with guilt when I think of all the people I know who aren’t as fortunate as me, but at the same time, I’m also relieved. I still have a future to look forward to. Whether or not I deserve it is another matter altogether.

Earth looks peaceful from up here. The deep blue oceans. The lush green of the land. The swirling white clouds. We’re over Italy right now. We’ll complete two more orbits before impact. Two more opportunities to see my former home from the sky.

Two more chances to say good-bye.

The people left on the surface are saying good-bye in their own way. Some have gathered in their homes to have a final meal with their families. Others have decided to party until the end.

One of the largest end-of-the-world bashes is happening right now on the beach in front of my old house. The tsunami will sweep them all away when it comes. I wonder what it’s like for them when they know it’s coming. Tsunamis typically kill with little warning, and when there is some warning, people try to make it to higher ground.

There is no higher ground now.

Except there is. This space station. I made it to higher ground. I wonder what that massive wave will look like from here.

That great wave will tear down all we built as it goes. It’ll sweep buildings from their foundations and wash away the topsoil. The blast of heat will roast all in its path. Earth will be remade into something new, something we can scarcely recognize. And when the dust settles and it’s safe to do so, we’ll descend and begin the process of rebuilding our civilization.

I’d like to think we’ll do it better the second time around, but considering how we got here, I’m not too optimistic.


Word Count: 769

FCA

 



Wednesday, June 2, 2021

The Insecure Writer's Support Group: June 2021

 


Hello everyone! It's the first Wednesday of the month, and that means it's time to convene another meeting of The Insecure Writer's Support Group! Our leader Alex J. Cavanaugh has gathered a wonderful bunch of co-hosts for this month: J Lenni Dorner, Sarah Foster, Natalie Aguirre, Lee Lowery, and Rachna Chhabria.

Before I answer the optional question for the month, I'd like to acknowledge why I haven't posted for this in a while. Life has been crazy lately. Don't worry, it's been a good kind of crazy. My husband and I did some house hunting. The process of finding a house and getting everything in place was intense. We finally found a house and officially purchased it in mid-April. Then came the intense process of moving and getting everyone settled in. That isn't easy when you have a family of six, but we did it. We love our new home, and the kids all agree that living in a house with two bathrooms is superior to living in a house with one.

Today is also me and my husband's anniversary. We've now been married for 14 years.

And lastly, my kids are finishing up the school year this week. They're definitely thrilled that it's almost summer.

Now on to the optional question for this month: For how long do you shelve your first draft before reading it and re-drafting? Is this dependent on your writing experience and the number of stories/books under your belt?

It often depends on the project. For a short story, I might wait a week before diving back in. When it comes to a novel, I need more time to distance myself from it. I say I like to wait at least a month, but no more than two. I need to be able to look at the project with fresh eyes, but if I wait too long, I'm afraid I'll never get back to it because my passion for it might begin to fade. That doesn't mean I haven't dusted off a project that I haven't looked at for a year or more. Sometimes reading something I wrote long ago can reignite those embers and get me excited for the project all over again.

I think I came up with this number from listening to the advice of fellow authors, as well as getting a sense of what works best for me over years of writing.

How long do you like to wait before redrafting a story or novel?