Short story

What the Hell Did I Just Do?!


I’m two days away from my four year blog-o-versary.  I love blogging, more than I ever expected to, and for more reasons than I had imagined possible.  One of those reasons involves the connections with others, and the occasional, amazing notes I receive from readers–some who I know from other forums, others I don’t know at all.

As discussed ad nauseam, I’m fortunate to have a wonderfully supportive group of online friends.  One of those friends sent me a lovely message after reading my last post.  Not a Fringeling, she read the post after another mutual friend shared it. In her note, she asked if I had ever considered writing a novel, and I debated an appropriate response.  Laugh? Cry? Slit my wrists and bleed into the keyboard?  I thanked her for her support, gave a way too long response of my history of writing woes, and obsessed over her thoughts for the rest of the day.  Mentioned it to one of my writing friends, who promptly told me this was a gentle nudge from the universe.  It’s nice to have friends with a glass-half-full outlook, my take was this was the universe reopening wounds I’ve been trying to keep closed.

What does this have to do with anything?  The following morning, I received an “invite” (one of those Facebook invite thingies) to a reading, sent by another friend.  I clicked on the invite, and in addition to the published authors reading, the evening includes open mic time slots.  Not to be all metaphysical and shit, but the two incidents happening so close together did seem like some type of universal body check.  I considered.  I could do this.  Could I do this? What would I read?  Is there an actual mic involved? I’m fine with speaking in front of people, but not when I have to speak into a microphone.  Surely there’s a long list of items I’d be better served spending $8 on.  How long is six minutes, anyway?  I asked Nerd Child the last question, he’s the one with public speaking experience.  Hmmm, six minutes would eliminate any of the shorts I’ve got here on the blog, which was my original thought.  I think.  Unless I just read an excerpt.  Why would I do this?  I could just go, see a friend I haven’t connected with in a long time, support my friend’s friend, have a nice grownup evening, a couple of drinks, and bemoan my lack of legitimacy.

Husband woke early today, and was sitting at the table so I mentioned it to him.  He, of course, said, do it.  Holy fuck, I did it.  Bought a ticket including a time slot to read.  I think.  Maybe I clicked the wrong box.  Maybe they’ll sell too many of those tickets and I’ll be bounced, since I’m not a real writer, no pub credits.  But what if I clicked the right box, and I’m not bounced?  What the hell am I going to read?

I’ve got three weeks to decide what to read.  Three weeks to chicken out.

What did I just do, and why?

“You Ain’t No Nice Guy”

W 4th Street Courts, aka "The Cage" Tiny, but one of the toughest, most competitive courts in the city.

W 4th Street Courts, aka “The Cage.” Tiny, but one of the most competitive courts in the city with some of the greatest streetball players.  Unusual because it has nets!

The post title above is one of those quotes that tattooed itself on my brain as soon as I read it–many, many years ago.  It’s from The Stand, by Stephen King, earlier on in the book, before Captain Trips has completely taken over, said to the character Larry Underwood.  Simple, clean, all-encompassing, and it stayed in the character’s head the way it’s stayed in mine. I love those types of characters; not nice but interesting.  I will always vote for interesting, and I think that quote shaped the characters I create as much as anything else I’ve read and learned.

Last year, someone mentioned to me that “satire” is currently the kiss of death in a query. Naturally, I immediately started thinking, “what a great idea, I’d love to try satire!”  Thoughts of not nice guys married the idea of satire, they honeymooned in the too-many maudlin days of nostalgic thinking I had while recuperating from my fractures, and Jack was born, he’s the protagonist in the short I’m posting today.  (I think I posted back in the early days of Mrs Fringe about growing up in Brooklyn and falling asleep to the sounds of dribbling basketballs and hard popping handballs in the park across the street.)

I don’t know how other writers do it, but this is me. Bits and pieces of brain mishmash that probably don’t belong together, but in my peculiar mind they do. In some ways this is a continuation of my last post, about it being ok to reach and try new things, even suck.  While part of me mourns for my quickly fading dreams of publication, another part of me sees this as an opportunity (excuse?) to stretch and try all the out of the box ideas that I’ve got without worrying whether or not it’s publishable. Marketable.

If you haven’t noticed from my other stories, I like things that are just a little raw, with jagged bits that stay with me.  With any luck, two of my readers/followers do, too. Please click here for “Blacktop.”

Hey You: Story Time

Ahh, romance

Ahh, romance

I kept playing with that story.  It started with the idea of a twisted nod to the pressures of “romance” and idealizing others.  Sounds so modern, so 2014, right?  Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet over 400 years ago.  You know the one where a 13 year old girl and a 17 year old boy decide they’re in love, and within days both of them and several others are dead.  Who wants a glass of champagne?

While I was thinking about it and before I began writing it kept changing, of course.  Filling in some parts and omitting others.  I had the idea to put it in second person POV.  For readers who aren’t writers and well past grammar classes, second person is  when the protagonist is referred to as “you,” as opposed to “I” (first person) or he/she (third person).  Not a popular narrative choice, it can be disastrous, calling attention to the fact that you’re reading a story (as opposed to getting lost in it) or, on rare occasion, it can work very well.

I’m still undecided as to how well it worked, but it was an interesting exercise for me.  I’ve never tried it before, and it brought me very, very close inside the main character’s head, and left me feeling a little breathless, even while I felt the breath of the protagonist.  Strange.  And nice to stretch a bit while I created some new characters.

It’s got a touch of magical realism, which I might or might not leave in if I ever change or expand it, one of the bits inspired by a photo I took on the street recently of a dead rat next to a cigarette butt.  I was going to put it here,  but Husband tells me that would tip the scales from edgy to tasteless and gross.  My gut tells me at least half of my readers would agree with him, so I’m leaving it out–I’ll let Husband know you all said thank you.

Tentatively titled “The One,” I’ve added a page above (cleverly titled Fiction II), you can reach it by clicking up top or the link right here.  

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Mrs Fringe Gets Nekkid!


Exposed, and Overdue for a Pedicure

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about the idea of posting one of my short stories, asking for thoughts from the Fringelings.  The majority opinion was do eeeeet.  I thought about it, and I’m doing it.

This certainly feels like I’ve stripped and opened the bedroom blinds.  Foolish, maybe.  But maybe some fresh air will do me good.

I’ve created a separate page here where the story is, and where any future stories might go, in an attempt to keep this house of Fringe clean and tidy. Perma-link to the page says “Fiction” on top of the home page, next to “About Me” and “Favorites.”

My short stories usually come into my head kind of fully realized as a brief scene, or a snapshot.  No muse, no magic, all the fabulous ideas and mental pictures don’t mean shit without that picture being followed up by BiC. Butt in Chair (or in my case, couch) and doing the work of writing.  Otherwise, I assure you, my imagination is vivid and fabulous, I’d have been on the New York Times Bestseller list three times over already, with at least one Pushcart Prize under my belt.

One afternoon last year I was out walking a dog through Central Park.  I had a moment, in my mind I saw the picture of an old, broken down  Brooklyn fisherman talking to a young girl by the water in the 1980’s, saying the word miserosion, the miseries of life translating into eroding body parts.  At the time I was working on Wanna Bees, so when I got home I wrote down the word, a couple of notes, and left it to be written when I was done with the romance/magical realism of Wanna Bees.

But the idea morphed, as these things sometimes do.  What if the story was hers, the young girl, long after meeting the fisherman, as an adult who has had years of broken souls drawn to her, a lifetime of if-it-wasn’t-for-bad-luck magical realism?  And so started Astonishing, my current WIP.

“Miserosion” is Tommy’s story, back in the 80’s, a snapshot leading up to his meeting with Christina, the young girl who becomes the broken woman of Astonishing.  Yes, it is magical realism.

Fringelings, I hope you read it, I hope you comment.  Most of all, I hope you feel something, whether it’s your kind of story or not.  It’s dark, and won’t be for everyone.

I hope you don’t mind, I left my socks on.  Now I’m getting a draft!

Window half open

Window half open (Photo credit: shinealight)

Itsnot Me, I Tell Ya

Must have been someone who looked like me.


IMG_0010 (Photo credit: RosieTulips)

Here we are, the evening of February 28th, and I’m so damned tired I don’t even feel human.  I want to be positive, and happy tomorrow is Friday, but all I can think is whaddya mean it isn’t already Friday?

*Nothing to do with this post, but there was just a crash and thud outside.  I’m wondering if someone lost a flowerpot from a terrace, or if I’m soon to hear sirens.  Life in the big city, always an adventure*

So, tonight I’ve got boogers on the brain.  Flower Child is still sick.  Not bad, and able to go to school, but still sick.  Lots of sniffling and snuffling and blowing.  This makes me nervous.  March is generally an iffy health month for her, and I was hoping she’d be back to baseline before it started.  On the positive end, Parent Teacher conferences went very well.  The adaptive technology she’s using has been incredibly helpful.  The math teacher’s a little confused as to why she answers every question and interaction with him, “live long and prosper,” but hey.

Star Trek TOS Cutting Room Floor Clippings

Star Trek TOS Cutting Room Floor Clippings (Photo credit: The Rocketeer)

I’d like to explain it to him, but can’t.  Her thinking can be…circuitous.  For some reason she associates the math teacher with Nerd Child, which in turn connects her to the phrase. I’m guessing the teacher regrets his surprised laugh the first time he heard it from my girly girl.  Poor man.  Still, an excellent, creative teacher and I’m grateful for the fabulous team working with her this year.

Seeing as it’s the 28th, I feel I should report on how the writing went this month, since I announced I would be making an all out push, producing as much as possible.  Turns out that between Flower Child’s illness, the passing of my father in law, and life, this might not have been the best month to choose.  Between the morning of February 1st and this evening, I got about 12,500 words added to the WIP.  I also wrote that short, about 3800 words.  Not a wasted month, just not quite the momentum I had started with and hoped to continue.

Speaking of the short, I’ve got a reference in there to snot, connected to the main character, a woman in her late sixties.  The reason I mention this; super interesting to me to find that a few people strongly and specifically associated snot with children, and not older adults.  Is it the word or the mucus itself?  I’m no gerontologist, but I am and have been around a good number of older people.  Boogers don’t disappear when the AARP card arrives.  And someone who would use the word snot at thirty is likely to still be using it at sixty or seventy.  One of my mother’s favorite insults was to call someone snot-nosed.  She had other, more colorful insults, but that one was always used to great effect, with much power behind it.

A man mid-sneeze. Original CDC caption: "...

A man mid-sneeze. Original CDC caption: “This 2009 photograph captured a sneeze in progress, revealing the plume of salivary droplets as they are expelled in a large cone-shaped array from this man’s open mouth, thereby dramatically illustrating the reason one needs to cover his/her mouth when coughing, or sneezing, in order to protect others from germ exposure.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Gesundheit, and happy almost Friday, fringelings!

Justifiers and Qualifiers

The two women friends are shocked at a third w...

The two women friends are shocked at a third woman dressed as a man. But Harlequin and Pierrot are also men. From the Danish “Punch” magazine (not the British Punch), July 1876 no. 30 page 233 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I feel like I’ve done quite a bit of moaning and groaning here on Mrs Fringe in the past couple of weeks.  New week, I’d like to start out positive before beginning my usual obsessing musings.  While I didn’t write as much as I would have liked at this point in the month, I have worked on both my WIP and a couple of short stories.  There.  I’ve given my dear readers unicorns and rainbows, you too, can chase your tail while sorting laundry and cleaning lost bodily fluids from canines and dependents.

On to the whine portion of happy hour.  As I’ve said  in the past, I write romance (the current WIP) and literary fiction (short stories, and a temporarily shelved WIP).  None of this includes the blogging, which is another entirely different style of writing.  Everybody’s a critic.  Those who like romance,  other types of genre fiction, or even–squee–my romances, don’t understand why I write lit fic.  “Ew. Oh. It’s so dark.  Aren’t those the books where nothing ever happens?  Why do you write that?  Well, it’s not my cup of tea.”

For those who like lit fic, or even–squee–my lit fic, when they hear I also write romance.  “Really?  Why are you wasting your time with that shit?  You can do better than that.  Well, I guess it’s easy money.”

I can’t win for losing.  First of all, let me repeat, for the 8000th time, nothing in writing is easy money, or an easy path to publication.  After 40,000 years I am still, but hopefully not always, one of the unwashed and unpublished masses.  Maybe not unwashed, I bought an absolutely divine magnolia pear scented soap.

As a reader, I have a wide variety of books on my shelves.  Romance, lit fic, short stories, poems, biographies, essays, non fiction books about economics, various religions, cookbooks, thrillers, horror, mysteries, even a fantasy or two.   Some people are more focused, but I know many whose bookshelves look like mine.

Fiction Stacks

Fiction Stacks (Photo credit: chelmsfordpubliclibrary)

So why do these same people with varied titles on their reading lists sneer at me for writing two seemingly disparate styles?  Yes, the style of writing, pacing, sentence structure, word choice, these things are different.  One is more introspective and character driven, the other quicker paced and it’s true, the black moment is a lot more, ummm, navy blue.  But honestly, most (all) fiction is about exploring people, our emotions, our responses, our needs, wants, desires, connection to others, how we respond in any given situation, societal dilemmas and individual dilemmas.

I’m guessing there are slurs for every style and genre, but it feels like the two I write in are particular targets.  Romance is for frustrated housewives, girly-porn (not sure what these critics make of M/M romance, but hey), they can be knocked out in a week, blah blah blah.  And this doesn’t begin to touch the many subgenres of romance, or the different levels of “heat,” from sweet to yowza!  I like writing romance.  It isn’t easy, but it’s fun.  How do two people (or vampires, if that’s your thing) fall in love?  What makes someone heroic, or lovable, for that matter?  What makes someone with an independent, fulfilling life want to make the drastic changes necessary to incorporate a significant other and arrive at happily ever after, or even happy for now?

And literary fiction.  Sigh.  It’s pretentious, self conscious, an excuse to break the rules of grammar, there’s no plot, it can’t be literary if it hasn’t won an award, navel gazing, yada, yada, yada.  If you haven’t been following Mrs Fringe for long, let me tell you, I’m quite fond of navel gazing, and wondering why the fuck we make the decisions we do.  Yanno, the human condition.  Also, not easy to write, and for me, even the pace of production is slower than when I write romance.  Is it “fun” to write?  No, but there’s a depth of satisfaction I can’t describe, and I love it.

I wish I was like Stephen King, able to create believable, relatable characters that battle unreal creatures and situations.  I wish I was like Margaret Atwood, sculpting a marriage of poetry, brilliant prose, and speculative fiction.  I don’t have either of their levels of talent, certainly not the imaginations required.  But if I did have an imagination that leaned towards alternate realities and creatures that go bump in the night? I’d write those stories too.

Why this rant?  Because I am feeling good about working on both, I get different but definite satisfaction from working on each, but I’ve received several of  these not so sly little pinches in conversation this week.   Unknot your panties, folks.  If I’m ever blessed enough to be published in both, they’ll be in different sections of the bookstore (assuming there still are brick and mortar bookstores by then), and I’ll use a pen name for one of the styles.

“Another belief of mine: that everyone else my...

“Another belief of mine: that everyone else my age is an adult, whereas I am merely in disguise.” Margaret Atwood (Photo credit: katerha)

SAD Sunday Blues

I have a very specific distaste for Sundays.  Something about them has always stressed me out, it’s the day I’m most likely to feel depressed (especially during the winter), regardless of what days I was working, what’s planned for the week, etc.  It doesn’t help at all that the temperature outside is dropping again, with the wind blowing garbage on and off my terrace.  This is my official Sunday song:

Oh Aretha, her voice makes my heart weep.  Very unfortunate that my rendition makes everyone else’s ears weep.

Not a terrible day today, as Sundays go.  If I ignore the fact that it’s been a full week since I had a reasonable and uninterrupted night’s sleep.  I got a positive critique for the short story I worked on last week.  Man Child helped me do the shopping before he leaves for school this evening.  And yes, now he’s totally back to school, not popping in and out during his internship. The week’s gumbo is made for the dogs, Flower Child and I have at least four days worth of clean underwear, and it’s a four day weekend for FC.

I did some writing this morning, not enough, but some, back to the WIP.   Whenever I have to close the file, stopping earlier than I want to, I always swear I’m going to write again later in the afternoon or evening, but it just doesn’t happen.  Lose my focus, lose my energy.

So what do you do on your blah days, when you can’t just go back to bed, but also can’t be productive in the way you’d like?

Flower Child is feeling a little better, able to eat a bit again, so I made cookies.  Now someone tell me how to avoid going into the kitchen until tomorrow, so I don’t have to see the pot from the gumbo and the bowls from making the cookies.

Here, have a snickerdoodle, it will help you think.

I'm pretty sure enough cinnamon will cure anything, including the Sunday blues.

I’m pretty sure enough cinnamon will cure anything, including the Sunday blues.

The End

First draft of the short story, finished.

Confetti, Times Square

Confetti, Times Square (Photo credit: StuartMoreton)

I’m working on graphics, because I want the pages to have unicorns watermarked on them when printed.  The unicorns will be bright blue, to make the reading of the royal purple print easier on the eyes.  I’m going to ask the people here at WordPress how they made the snow appear on the blogs during the holidays, because I want glitter to positively bounce off the screen.

As you know, Bob, I was sure to describe every last detail, so my readers don’t have to get stressed out using their imagination, or trying to make personal connections. My protagonist has long golden locks, aquamarine eyes, and legs that go all the way to her slender feet.  And a prettily heaving bosom. Also, she’s as pure as the driven cornfield, though sometimes her naughty bits tingle alarmingly. She sighs, whispers, pleads, and gasps, but never says. That would be boring. She does it all beseechingly, but endearingly. Nothing ever happens, and there’s no plot, so there’s no confusion when the aliens pop out of her concave belly and threaten her hero’s throbbing manhood. It’s wholesome in the way only urban and edgy can be.


Barbie_01 (Photo credit: MarinaCr)

I have Copyright in the header of every page, next to my pseudonym, Pink Peony, so no one steals my brilliance. They can do that right through the Googles these days. Now I’m going to put together an email and will cc it to every editor and agent listed in the Publisher’s Marketplace, 2003 edition. Don’t worry, I’ll let them know to act fast, before someone else signs me.  My children and husband–who all loved the story, by the way–are standing by to field phone calls.  Frankly, I’m surprised I even have to send it out.  My words are GOLDEN! like my heroine’s hair.

So…yes. Mrs Fringe did finish the first draft of a short story. And it does have much suckage, lots of telling and not enough showing. But it has a beginning, middle, and an end. It’s a start.

Pursuit of Personhood

Pursuit of Happiness

Pursuit of Happiness (Photo credit: changyang1230)

January 2nd and I haven’t given up, woot!

Back to life today, for me and most of the other parents of school-aged children.  Took Flower Child to school this morning, and Husband just took Nerd Child to catch the bus back to boarding school.  Man Child is still home, but will be setting off any day for an internship in something I can’t spell, related to theater.

The Christmas tree is gone, the wreath gone, but the ribbons, bells, and fallen pine needles remain to remind me I’m still going to be me and behind on housework no matter my intentions.

I am not, however, going to say I’m getting back to my usual routine.  First of all, my routine is a great big fail. A huge to-do list, and each day I begin by trying to do more than is added.  That hasn’t been working so well. I’ll just try to accomplish the things that are most necessary, like clean underwear. Does anything else matter?

Little Incredibly Dumb Dog needs a bath. Really, really needs a bath. And yet, still smooshable. Especially if you don’t breathe in through your nose while smooshing. See how easy it is to drop something down to the bottom of the list?

On New Year’s Eve, I rejoined a writer’s forum I used to belong to. Couldn’t remember my old username, and I’m fairly certain I was using a different email then, but that’s ok. A fresh commitment.  I like having a connection to other writers, keeps me motivated, accountable (sort of), and humble. There are a lot of excellent writers out there,  producing and submitting.  And then, I didn’t cry.  True, I sniveled a bit, and indulged in a large glass of Baileys, but I’m quite certain there were no auditory sobs.

This morning I did something I haven’t done in too long. I started a new short story. I did not give in to the temptation of spending my writing time fiddling with the short story I’ve been fiddling with for 6000 years.  Don’t I have two full length WIPs? Yes, yes I do. But I felt the need for something fresh. And I like it.  Just a beginning, still needs a middle, an end, and about a thousand hours of editing, but I like it. I am woman. I can do this.

Once upon a time #2

Once upon a time #2 (Photo credit: Andrea Marutti)

Telling Stories

Quiet Please

Quiet Please (Photo credit: bixentro)

Do you ever just feel quiet?  For someone who has too much to say most of the time, I go through periods (a few days or a few weeks) where I need to be quiet. Minimal phone, internet, writing, talking. Just quiet.  Often, these quiet spells precede a productive writing time, so if I don’t let it morph into self indulgent and mopey, I’ve become ok with this side of myself.

When I’m done being quiet, I want stories.  I like hearing them, telling them, watching them on tv.  I loved the way my grandma called the daytime soaps “stories.”  Not too many soaps left anymore.  I think about the soap stars I used to pass on the street regularly when I was picking Man Child up from elementary school, and they’d be on their way home from work.  What are they doing now? It seems like the Housewives franchise has taken over the soap slots.  Not in time period, but in the need they fill for the viewer.  Bad behavior, some over the top Mrs Thurston Howell III accents, weddings, divorces, torrid love affairs, fabulous clothes….Fun. I enjoy them without reservation, and yes, I’m rooting for Theresa.

AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA) benefit, Los A...

AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA) benefit, Los Angeles- Sept. 1990- She played Mrs. Howell on Gilligan’s Island (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I woke up today thinking about a short story I wrote years ago.  More than thinking about it, I had to find it, print it, hold it in my hands, read it, and begin tearing it apart and reconstructing. I’ve lost and discarded plenty of writing over the years; poetry, stories, aborted attempts and poor execution.  Some I saved because they represent something I may want to revisit later, or have a line or description I like, if nothing else. I knew I had to have this one somewhere.  Two file drawers and three flash drives later (Hey Nerd Child, I found your flash drive!), I located it.  I suspect I flipped past it earlier in the day, but since the working title is “Title Here” (clever, hmm?), I probably clicked right on past. I suck at titles, always leave them for last, sometimes only bothering if and when I’m going to submit a piece.

This story, I like the opening.  Where the opening leads, oof! Lucky for me, there’s plenty of little edits and corrections to make while I decide where it should go, how to reshape. I enjoy those little edits, slashing all those extra “thats” and ugly adverbs. These give me time and head space to really think about what I’m saying and why. Is it necessary? Of course, here lies the danger of self editing and reflection, how quickly the questioning of a word, phrase, or scene can turn to questioning the necessity of the story.

Why do I do this?  I think it’s a mental detour, to see if I really need and want to finish the work. Maybe I’m not sure I’m sponge worthy. Cause what else would pop into my head other than a show that was scripted to be about absolutely nothing–certainly no necessary moral story– that was absolutely brilliant? Because fiction tells our stories. All of them, and all of us.

red pen

red pen (Photo credit: Mad African!: (Broken Sword))