Category Archives: story

Sunday Photo Fiction – March 27th 2016– A Vessel for Dreams

A flash fiction for the March 27th Sunday Photo Fiction challenge—  200 words based on this image–

149-03-march-27th-2016

More than usual, this is clearly an excerpt from a larger story.  On the positive side, it’s a concept for a larger story that sprang into existence the moment I saw this picture, so the challenge is certainly helping my creativity.

Copyright 2016 Douglas Daniel

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I came around the corner and stopped.  I stared. “It’s a bus.”

“Yeah, isn’t it great?” Steven said.  “I got it cheap.”

“It’s a bus.”

“Don’t fixate on externalities, John,” Steven said.  He threw an arm around my shoulder.  “Think of this as the vessel into which we can pour our dreams.”

I removed his arm.  “You’re crazier than I thought.”

“No, just willing to see the possibilities,” Steven said.  “We can do this.  I’ve got the concept, you’re the nuts and bolts man, Cecelia is getting our fuel….”

“If she doesn’t get arrested,” I muttered.

“You are so negative,” Steven said.  “Look at it this way– we need to be inconspicuous, or we’ll get shut down.”

“Inconspicuous?  How the hell is a red, double-decker bus inconspicuous?!”

“They won’t be expecting it.”

I stopped.  “Okay, you got me there.  But will it be strong enough?”

“Yeah, with our gear in it!” Steven said.  “With our equipment we can take this baby anywhere.”

“That’s what I’m afraid of,” I said, but I sighed.  “All right.  I volunteered for this insanity, so I guess I can’t complain.”

“Great!” Steven said.  “You won’t regret this, John– building the world’s first starship is worth it.”

 

 

Sunday Photo Fiction – January 17th 2016- ICE

Sunday Photo Fiction for January 17th 2016– 200 words of flash fiction based on this image–

139-01-january-17th-2016

Copyright 2016 Douglas Daniel

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“You have to leave, Grandfather.”

The old man shook his head.  “I would just hold you up.”  His breath steamed thick.

“Nobody’s coming,” Celia said.  “The snow’s too heavy….”

“And you can’t take me,” her grandfather said.  “No, don’t argue with me.  You should go.”

Celia knelt beside her grandfather’s chair.  “I can’t….”

“You must.”  Grandfather smiled.  “Don’t fret.  I’ve done most everything I’ve ever dreamed of.  You need to go and find what future you can. I won’t be able to contribute to this world.  Go.

Tears tracked down her cheeks.  “I’m sorry.”

Her grandfather kissed her on the forehead.  “You have nothing to be sorry for, child.”

Wrapped in layers, Celia stepped outside.  She wiped the tears from her face, to keep them from freezing on her skin.

Her breath hung before her, a freezing fog.  The cars on the street were all frozen solid, welded to the ground by the ice.  She would have to walk out, or die. The houses across the road were all dark.  Beyond them, the wall of ice loomed, massive, implacable.  Celia craned her neck back, trying see its top.  It was lost in the gloom.

She turned and walked south, toward life.

Mondays Finish the Story – August 24th, 2015- A Family Visit

Mondays Finish the Story challenge for August 24th, 2015– 150 words based on the following picture–

 © 2015, Barbara W. Beacham
© 2015, Barbara W. Beacham

and this initial sentence–

“The family had no idea that little Luigi would grow up to be…”

Copyright 2015 Douglas Daniel
******************************************
“The family had no idea that little Luigi would grow up to be…”

“Do not speak of it.”

“But, Auntie…the whole world….”

“Silence!”

“…he was such a beautiful child….”

“…Yes.”

“I used to read him stories, remember? He would laugh. Afterwards he would always kiss my cheek.”

“I know.”

“It broke my heart, what he did in Marseille. And then Shanghai. And London…dear God, London….”

“As I said, it does no good to speak of it.”

“Auntie, we have to speak of it. He is coming….”

“…Yes….”

“Where did that little boy go?”

“Power…the world…what some people call ‘real life’.”

“No…something else went wrong. Not enough love…the cruelty of his father, that bastard….”

“Rehearsing it all does not help us now.”

“No. You’re right…. I’m afraid.”

“Courage. He’ll be here soon.”

“But we’re family….”

“Family or no, it’s all the same. All of humanity has to bow to Luigi Cavallo.”

“…Dictator of the World.”

“Do not speak of it….”

Mondays Finish the Story – August10th, 2015– The Mute Witness

Mondays Finish the Story flash fiction challenge for August 10th, 2015– 150 words based on this image–

Ruins – © 2015, Barbara W. Beacham
Ruins – © 2015, Barbara W. Beacham

and this initial sentence–

“Where did they go?”

Copyright 2015 Douglas Daniel

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“Where did they go?” Syban asked.

“Nobody knows,” Kour said.

The red-stone ruin lay in tumbled silence before them, as if a mute witness to an ancient crime. Hills beyond sported green foliage, but hints of other structures peeked through the growth.

“These ruins extend for many kilometers in every direction,” Kour said. “Here, and in many other places.”

“To come so far, just to find this,” Syban said.

One of her feet stubbed on a stone. “Look,” she told Kour.

Together they dug and scrabbled away the earth, to reveal a stone tablet, meters long. On it were incised sigils– not random marks, but the symbols of some language unknown to them–

N RTHGAT M LL

They stood back to contemplate the symbols, as this world’s shattered moon rose.

“Cryptic, indeed,” Kour said.

Syban sat back on her hind legs. “I wish I could have met them.”

Mondays Finish the Story – April 20th, 2015 – The Pursued

Mondays Finish the Story challenge for April 20th— 150 words based on this image–

© 2015, Barbara W. Beacham
© 2015, Barbara W. Beacham

and this initial sentence–

“They followed the buffaloes and their babies along the trail heading into the woods.”

Not sure what I ended up with here, but here it is.

Copyright 2015 Douglas Daniel
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They followed the buffaloes and their babies along the trail heading into the woods. They had no choice.

There were only four of them left—Walt, Pete, Liz, and Harper. Behind them the whole horizon burned.

“We can’t outrun that,” Walt said. He held Pete up, who stumbled, his face covered in blood.

“Look,” Harper said. Giant shapes moved, silhouetted against the fire.

Hunters. “Keep moving,” Liz said.

Deep in among the cottonwoods they found the pool of water. The buffalo all stood in it, up to their bellies. They know this is a safe place.

But not for us. “Harper, open the Path.”

“The Truth here stutters like a man frightened,” Harper said.

“Well, that makes two of us,” Walt said.

“Do it,” Liz said.

Harper took out his moonlight sword. He spun it overhead. Its light glittered, then spread out across the whole pool.

Liz smelled lilacs, felt a cool morning breeze. “Go!”

They all stepped into the pool, and were elsewhere.

Connoisseurs from Elsewhere

Mondays Finish the Story – March 9th, 2015— based on this photo–

Copyright 2015 Barbara W. Beacham
Copyright 2015 Barbara W. Beacham

and this initial sentence–

“On March 9th, 2015, three objects were reportedly seen in the skies over the Borracho Todos los Tiempos Vineyards.”

I guess I’m in a silly mood.

Copyright 2015 Douglas Daniel
************************************************

On March 9th, 2015, three objects were reportedly seen in the skies over the Borracho Todos los Tiempos Vineyards.

06:45– the objects passed over the vineyards. Because of fog, their exact configuration could not be made out. Some observers reported the object with the single light as a sphere, and the other two as disks.

07:05– the objects hovered over the vineyards. A red light swept the area, north to south. Everyone touched by the light lost consciousness.

07:37– stricken observers at the vineyard began to regain consciousness.

Shortly thereafter it was discovered that most of the vineyards’ stock of wine was gone. One hundred gallon casks stood empty, and all bottles had been removed from the vineyards’ wine-cellars, except for five bottles of pink champagne and a single bottle of Gewürztraminer.

A cryptic inscription burned into the floor of the main tasting room was eventually translated as, Thanks, pay you back later.

Moral: didn’t anyone understand naming a vineyard “Borracho Todos los Tiempos” would be an invitation?

How to make money writing…or destroy yourself…

At the moment there is an active thread over on Amazon’s Kindle Authors forum, debating the best way to make a living writing. I’ve restrained myself from commenting on the thread, because I would be tempted to use words like “hack” in my response to the original poster. Name-calling does not foster reasoned debate. Besides, there has already been enough of that kind of thing.

The more I read through the posts, however, the more I start to wonder if the OP isn’t on to something– not necessarily something nice, or useful to me, but perhaps just a spark of truth.

The poster’s point– which he presents as rock-ribbed truth, rather than as opinion– is that, to make money as a writer, we need to identify the “niche markets” that are currently “hot”, and write in those niches. Our personal tastes and desire to express ourselves in our writing must, according to him, take a back seat, if not get shoved into the trunk. He says, “Do you want to write what you love to write or do you want to write what sells?” which just about sums up his attitude.

My initial reaction to this sort of assertion is disgust. I have to admit, though, looking at the current state of publishing, and, in particular, self-publishing, it is hard to argue with his basic premise.

Erotica on Amazon, Smashwords and elsewhere sells well. The world of genre publishing is currently flooded with Hunger Games imitations. Supernatural romance/adventure, particularly involving vampires, zombies and werewolves, is everywhere. What’s left over seems largely occupied by people who want to be the next Diana Gabaldon or J. K. Rowling or Rick Riordan.

And, of course, we are all suffering through the Age of Fifty Shades of Grey, perhaps the greatest niche novel of them all. I recently saw a self-published author on Google+ advertise his novel as “Fifty Shades of Grey on Steroids!” The mind boggles.

It is evident a lot of people are trying to jump on a number of different bandwagons. This is, however, nothing new. There was a time when every new fantasy book seemed to be a re-tread of The Lord of the Rings (many still are). When Mickey Spillane was big, everyone wanted to do violent, hard-edged detective fiction. You can, in fact, trace this sort of thing right back to Homer– we know that subsequent writers/poets elaborated on The Illiad and The Odyssey.

There is, in short, an instinct in many writers to want to imitate what has succeeded before. It’s easier, perhaps, to adopt the formulas of others than to create your own, especially if those formulas appear to be lucrative. Hollywood, in fact, nowadays largely runs on this principle. And there has never been a shortage of writers willing to slot themselves into formulas that appear to pay dividends– who are willing to create material, not based on their own creative vision, but on someone else’s.

This all raises a central question– why, after all, do we write?

Perhaps, however, that’s too broad a question. There’s no accounting for all the different motivations people bring to writing. I can really only talk honestly about why I write. And when I focus on my motivation, the answer becomes clear.

I write because I have stories in me. And I always have.

When I was six or so my father bought a plastic model kit for a KC-135 Stratotanker. I watched him as he assembled it. He did a beautiful job on the model, working hard to put it together just right. When he was finished, he mounted it on a stand and put it up where I could not reach it and told me, “Don’t touch.”

I remember going absolutely mad with frustration.

Because I didn’t want to admire the model as a piece of statuary. I wanted to take it down and play with it; to make it fly, at least as well as my pudgy little child’s hand could make it fly. I wanted to go adventuring with it, going on bombing runs (the distinction between “tanker” and “bomber” being fuzzy in my six-year-old mind). Maybe there would have even been an encounter with a UFO or a crash-landing or two.

In other words, I wanted to create stories with it.

Most of my childhood play was story-telling in one way or another, and when I grew older, my play simply transmogrified into actual narrative. My earliest tales were, of course, derivative of Star Trek and Lost in Space and DC’s Legion of Super-Heroes, and mostly narratives I told myself before I went to sleep, but they were explicitly stories, and before I was eleven I knew I wanted to write them down.

Eleven was a long, long time ago, and I hope that my tales have become a little more sophisticated and a little less derivative in that time, but they have all come out of the same story-telling impulse. And more and more, I have come to insist on writing down my vision, not someone else’s.

That is my basic motivation for writing. Would I like to make a living at it (or even just a noticeable amount of money)? Certainly, and at one time I thought that was a possibility. In the last year or so, however, that possibility seems to have dwindled away. It’s quite possible, putting it in the terms of the original poster from the Kindle thread, that my Divine Lotus series does not belong to any recognizable niche. In fact, as a novel about a teenage girl that’s not truly a young adult work, and a science-fiction tale that is as much about the impact of development and cross-cultural assimilation as it is about adventure, almost certainly not. It is entirely possible that this is why it has not attracted a noticeable audience.

If so, will I be re-writing these novels to fit some niche that’s currently selling?

$%#%@!%! no.

I could try to fit my writing to someone else’s scheme, but I can hardly think of a quicker way to destroy myself. I have written what I have within me; to try to do otherwise would be self-betrayal. Not that I have some tremendous artistic vision, worth of a Sistine Chapel– I just have mine, and that’s enough. And if that doesn’t attract an audience, well, I wasn’t planning on quitting my day job anytime soon, anyway.

So, perhaps there’s a grain of truth in the OP’s assertions. Making money from writing is not the same thing as expressing yourself, and never has been. We live in a cynical age in which a piece of garbage like Fifty Shades of Grey can, somehow, hit the zeitgeist’s happy button and make millions. If you come to writing just to make money, pick your bandwagon and hop on.

But that’s not for me. And I’m okay with that.

Later.

Mondays Finish the Story – February 16th, 2015– Jazz in Amber

Another Mondays Finish the Story challenge, based on this image–

Copyright Barbara W. Beacham
Copyright Barbara W. Beacham

and the initial sentence–

“Little did they know when the photographer took their picture that they would find themselves trapped in a painting.”

Well, I followed the prompt for the most part, but I completely blew away the word count limit, so I won’t be adding my link to Barbara’s page. As usual, I’m not sure this works, but I’ll go with it for now.

Copyright 2015 Douglas Daniel
*****************************

Little did they know when the photographer took their picture that they would find themselves trapped in a painting. The photographer was a Derinti cross-dimensional Preserver in disguise. He was so taken with their performance that he felt compelled, in the whimsical way of his race, to preserve it, and the performers.

In doing so, he created the first immortals of the human species—Jimmy, Blake, Lawrence and Steve. The living image in which the four found themselves was now a part of the back wall of the First Mercantile Bank. In this state they knew neither age nor decay. They merely played on and on, and anyone who had the ears to hear could detect their sweet brand of jazz, and, for a moment, feel their hearts lift.

The four musicians saw the building up of the city, in the years of the Great Warming, with massive towers two and three miles high rising to blot out the sun. They saw the towers fall into ruin, during the dark years that followed, and witnessed the savagery of men and women who had forgotten their heritage.

They saw the rise of the New Men, and glimpsed their silver ships rising into the sky as they abandoned the Earth forever.

They saw the return of the ice, and the long frozen wildness that embraced the forgotten husk of the city. They played on when only strange, mutated beasts in their dens of ice were there to hear them.

They beheld the rise of the seas, and for millennia played only for the sea beasts, the great porpoise-whales, the sapient squid and the terrible thalassadonts.

They were buried in sediment, and for ages played on for the secret beings of the deepest earth.

The sediment hardened into rock; in the fullness of time, as the seas receded, and erosion wore away at the rock, they saw the sun once more. The ice returned, encasing the world in glittering armor, and then melted again as the Sun flared and scorched the Earth.

They saw the Sun return to its quiet, ordinary ways, and the Earth grow green once more.

They saw the rise of the Silenidons, who heard their music and worshipped them for millennia. They found this distressing, as Jimmy and Blake were Catholic, Lawrence was a Presbyterian, and Steve, the tuba player, did not believe in God at all. They could do nothing, however, but continue playing. The four saw the Silenidons rise to mastery over the Earth, achieve great heights of intellect, and then fall into war with themselves. Rites of blood were performed before the ruined wall of the First Mercantile Bank, while the four played on. They played on while the Silenidons faded and dwindled away, until there was nothing left but their empty halls.

The four saw more inundations, more burials, the rise of mountains and the delving of seas, more ice and flaring sun, over and over across periods and eras and eons.

At last, they saw the Sun, swollen and dying, rising on the last day over the worn-out and weary Earth, and they played for it. They thought, perhaps, this would be the end, at last.

It was then, following up on a review of the files of the Preserver Corps, a Derinti scout appeared. He beheld the shattered remnant of the back wall of the First Mercantile Bank, saw the faded images of the four musicians, heard their music, and said, “Oh, dear,” which is a very loose translation of the Derintinese, and in no way, shape or form captures the profound dismay of the original.

Even as the bloated Sun reached out tendrils of fire to engulf the Earth, the scout erected a temporal realignment-decoder. With swift commands to his machine, he lifted the four from the wall and transported them back to the sidewalk on which they had been playing, on that one summer day, mere moments after the Preserver had departed, feeling pleased with himself.

For several minutes the four of them stood there, not speaking, not meeting each other’s eyes, while pedestrians streamed around them and traffic passed by. Then, still not speaking, they packed away their instruments and left, each their several ways.

Lawrence caught the Number Five bus across town, to the quiet street where his house stood. He went in, and put his trumpet case down inside the door.

“Lawrence? Is that you?” Millie peeked into the living room from the kitchen. Her apron was stretched over her bulging belly. “Your timing is good—I’m just starting dinner.”

Lawrence went over to her. He peered into her puzzled face for a moment; then he went down to his knees. He embraced her, ignoring her startled protest. He put his ear to her abdomen, listening for the heartbeat of their unborn child.

Monday’s Finish the Story– The Swag

Monday’s Finish the Story flash fiction challenge for February 2nd– 150 words based on this picture–

Copyright 2015 Barbara W. Beacham
Copyright 2015 Barbara W. Beacham

and this initial sentence– “Diamond Jack had his hideout next to the Rattlesnake River.”

Copyright 2015 Douglas Daniel
************************************

Diamond Jack had his hideout next to the Rattlesnake River. It was the only human habitation in three hundred square miles.

The day after his biggest heist ever, Jack rode down to his hideout, rejoicing. In his saddle-bags were crammed ten thousand silver dollars, taken from the Denver express. It was all Jack’s, because after the robbery he had shot his two accomplices, Sergei McCooley and Chihuahua Chelsey, in the back. He piled the silver on his table, gloating over it and admiring its gleam.

He went down to the river to get a bucket of water for his coffee and was bitten to death by a rattlesnake. In 1973 his swag was found by a hippie couple searching for themselves. They used the money to open a health-food store and, later, a pot dispensary.

Moral: who the hell builds a hideout next to some place called Rattlesnake River?

Mondays Finish the Story – A Whole New World

A flash fiction challenge, to finish the story, using this image–

Copyright 2015 Barbara W. Beacham
Copyright 2015 Barbara W. Beacham

And this initial sentence– “They finally made their escape.”

Hmmm…not sure this works, but I gave it a whirl…

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They finally made their escape. The jeeps splashed through the mud and rain to the ridge. There they paused to look back. The blue sphere of light filled the valley.

“It’s becoming unstable,” the physicist said. “An hour, maybe less, it’ll collapse.”

“When it does,” the engineer said, “it’ll take the entire facility with it.”

“Too bad about the workers,” the general said.

The physicist shrugged. “Nothing we could do. We had to get the data out. That’s valuable.”

“Where they will end up?” the engineer said.

“Who knows?” the physicist said. “The effect is running wild. They could end up anywhere in this universe.”

“Or the next,” his assistant said.

Everyone clambered back into the vehicles. They sped off.

The PhD student climbed out of the brush where he had been hiding. He hefted the backpack, heavy with the spare technical manual, up on his shoulder, and started back down the ridge.