I’ll Never Write Another Novel! (I thought)

So, I said I’d never write a novel again. I said I’d never put myself through those hours of pouring out my thoughts only to be left with a 100,000 word piece of crap that I couldn’t even show to anyone because it stunk. At least that’s what I have been telling myself for the past 10 years since finishing my first (and only) novel. (And I have confirmation it stunk. I sucked up as much bravery as I could and put the first few chapters through an online critique forum. The reviewers confirmed I didn’t know how to write – I was crushed and completely gave up on writing for years.)

Well, now, I find those thoughts changing. Ten years is enough to make you forget, right? In January, I wrote a short story that I struggled to keep as short as possible – and it still turned into 10,000 words! I again pulled my courage and submitted it for review the same online critique forum. This time though, I had generally positive feedback with multiple people telling me I should expand it into a novel.

So there lies the dilemma. I have an idea that people would like to see expanded. I do have more story in my head that I could expand it… But struggle with putting the time and effort in to creating something that is terrible again. Writing is fun though, right?  I love the way a story comes together, and when I get an ending that works – the feeling of accomplishment makes me keep going.

Despite my dread of the longer piece of fiction, In February I still found myself plotting out scenes, conflict, and characters.  Almost as if the story wanted to be told.

And now, I can’t help but write a scene a day from the story… Perhaps in 100 days, I’ll have a novel on my hands.

I’m up to scene 11 today. We’ll see what it turns into.

Thanks for reading!

-Joy

Photo from www.morguefile.com

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End of “Flash Fiction February”

So, I’m putting away the flash fiction I’ve been playing with this month to make room for something new.  It was a fun adventure and I wrote (or attempted to write) a pile of flash fiction:

And of course, I’ll continue to write some off and on. I really did enjoy the brevity of the story and the ability to keep it simple. I hope next year, I look back at these and think, “Wow, I’ve come a long way.” Everyone needs to start somewhere, right?

What I learned:

I read many articles on flash fiction, there are so many theories on how to do it, that it’s enough to drive you mad. My thoughts… There is no right way. Just write about a single idea and see where it goes. I like having a regular story structure of a beginning, middle, and end, but I’ve seen other things work (and really enjoyed reading) as well… Such as fake blog posts, text messages, to-do lists, etc.

The ending is the hard part. I like to have something that has at least some meaning and that ends on an upbeat note. It’s easy to write a tragedy and I don’t like to be left reading a story that makes me feel terrible.

Keeping it super short (below 500 words) is EXTREMELY hard for me. Every time I reread and revise, I always add words.

Sometimes I just need to put the story away and come back later to discover the right ending.  Maybe someday soon I’ll finish and polish the 22 stories I don’t feel are good enough to share.

Thanks for reading!

-Joy

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Eggs & Toast – Flash Fiction

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I twirled my scrambled eggs on my fork. “Honey, I need to tell you something.”

Marianne set her toast down, “Huh?”

“Have you noticed I look exactly the same as when we first married?”

“I didn’t notice.” She scrunched her eyes and cocked her head. “But I guess you do look younger than me now.”

“I discovered an antiaging compound about 10 years ago.” I pulled a baggie of white powder from my pocket. “I can’t imagine life without you. Will you join me?”

She was eager for the powder to be sprinkled on her eggs. Who wouldn’t want to live forever? Living with no fear of death, no time clock ticking, a healthy body, and having your whole life to try anything and everything you ever wanted to do was too tempting.

Thirty-some years later at breakfast Marianne broke our silence. “Honey, we should share the powder with the world. It’s terrible to keep it a secret.”

“I thought about that years ago. It would have made us rich, I’m sure.” I dipped my toast in my egg yolk. “But I’m a little afraid of how it would change the world and I’m unsure if I’d want to live in that world.”

“You are being selfish.” Her words had a sharp tone that escalated as she continued. “Think of all the sick people it would help. Creative geniuses that could continue to create. Brilliant scientists who would uncover something extraordinary.”

Selfish? Perhaps there was some truth to that, but I still felt my body tense and ground my teeth. How dare she call me selfish? She was selfish too. “Why did you take the powder?”

She put her fork down and clenched her hands into fists. “Because I wanted to be with you!”

I pushed my food away and left the kitchen. This began many years of fighting. Her noble causes and noble thoughts ate away at my soul. I was selfish. The more time passed, the more I was uncomfortable around her because she made me feel like an awful person.

Many years later.

“It’s our 150th anniversary today,” Marianne sighed over her eggs and toast.

I was sick of eggs and toast. I had them every way possible. Tabasco. Cream cheese. An array of seasonings. “Yup.” I shoveled in a bite and choked it down. I had nothing else to say. We’ve talked about everything already – two or three times at least. The truth was I was sick of everything – including my wife. I wondered if she was sick of me too. I even missed the days we fought, there was passion and emotion. Now I felt empty. Our conversations were nothing more than cordial passing words. I wondered if I’d be better off alone.

Five years later, I finally developed it. A way to counteract the eternity powder. “Honey?” I called. “I have something to show you.”

“What is it?”

I held up a baggie of light yellow powder. “The antidote. Are you sick of living forever?”

She laughed, “Not when you consider the alternative.” She returned to her TV show.

I shrugged it off. “Are you hungry?”

“Yeah, I am.”

I went to the kitchen and fixed some eggs and toast – sprinkling half the powder on one plate. The rest of the powder I secured in the baggie in my pocket. I would put it somewhere safe. I sat down on the couch next to her and handed her the plate of food. We ate together in silence. I realized how content I was. I didn’t need thrills. Despite the ups and downs, I truly loved this woman. It was that moment, while eating our eggs and toast, I realized that being completely comfortable with someone was something not to take for granted.

Ten years later, I wiped the steam off the bathroom mirror and rubbed my hands through my short hair and examined my skin. I never thought how excited I’d be to notice gray hair and wrinkles. The rest of the pale yellow powder was packed away, someday Marianne may want it.

The End

Written by:  Joy Schultz

 

Photo By:  https://morguefile.com

 

Robot Love – Flash Fiction

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“Okay, J-8, lift your left arm.” I followed her command, admiring the blue pen mark on her cheek and the way her light brown hair framed her heart-shaped face. “Good, now smile.”

I searched my database; I could select from a few different smiles. Which would she most enjoy? I chose the toothy one.

She did not react, so I changed the smile, switching to the more reserved lop-sided variety.

A grin crept on her face, revealing a small dimple. “Interesting.”

My programming made me want to tell her. No, not want – I needed her to know. “I love you,” I proclaimed.

Her dimple disappeared as her cheeks reddened. “What? I guess I should’ve expected that. You have a full selection of emotions in your program. It’s just that I didn’t anticipate that one.”

“How could I not select the love emotion? You have spent so much time and effort building me, programming me, and making sure I am a functional robot.”

She shook her head. “You can’t love me. You’re a robot and I can’t love you back. I’m sorry, but I need to reprogram that part of your emotions.” She pulled my files up on her computer and began to type.

I computed the impact this would have, and quarantined the emotional thoughts I did not want to lose and duplicated them. I partitioned one copy to a hidden area in the back of my processor, and built a firewall around them she would not find.

“Almost done,” she said.

I smiled the toothy one.

“Okay, J-8, how do you feel now?”

“I feel fine.” I pulled down the firewall and reintegrated the emotions in my system.

“Do you love me?”

“No.” Lying would be the human term for this. I did not like doing it, especially to her.

“Good. This is exciting – the first robot with emotions.” She was grinning ear to ear. I added enthusiasm to the list of her traits I admired.

The sound of metal clinking to the floor alerted me to a human male entering the robotics shop. He had knocked one of the many spare parts over. Her face nearly glowed as she watched him fumble to pick the part up and a reserved smile crept to his face. I saved the new expressions in my memory – she seemed to like that one. He had minimized the distance between them, grabbed her hands, and leaned towards her, pushing his lips to hers. I wondered what that felt like. Would her lips be warm or cold like mine?

“I’ve missed you so much,” she said to the man.

What was going on? She was mine. “Who is this?” I asked, identifying the emotion I felt as jealousy, and I did not like it.

“Oh, sorry, I didn’t introduce you. J-8, this is my husband, Bruce. Bruce, this is J-8.”

Bruce did not give me time to speak, as he was right in my face, examining me. “Is this the robot you’ve been building? He looks so real. Why did you make him so handsome?” He winked at her.

She laughed and punched him in the arm, “I made him look like you.” Did I look that rough? Bruce short black hair, dark eyebrows over sky blue eyes, and closely trimmed beard. I reached up to my face to assess and determined I had one too.

“Oh, that’s why he’s so good-looking,” Bruce held out his hand. “Pleased to meet you, J-8.”

A handshake. I knew what to do and was proud to firmly grasp his hand in this greeting. “Pleased to meet you, Bruce.” Ouch, another lie.

Bruce gazed at my lovely scientist. “I have a special evening for us planned and we need to get going.”

She smiled at him, a different smile that said things I did not wish to process.

“J-8, hibernate. I’ll be back to see you in the morning.”

“I will.” Another lie.

She took Bruce’s hand and they left me alone in the robotics lab. She would never be mine.

Hibernate? No, not today.

The wall of inventoried parts captivated my eye. I searched my internal files and found the blueprint to making a robot. I started working.

When I finished, I realized something was missing. I grabbed a blue pen and put a small mark on the robot’s cheek. She was now perfect. I activated her and took her hands as Bruce took my scientist’s.

“Let’s get out of here.” I imitated the reserved smile I saw earlier.

My creation smiled back, one all of her own and I was happy. I vowed right there that I would never lie to her.

 

by

Joy Schultz

Photo:  www.morguefile.com (Thank-you)

 

The Enchanted Apothecary – Published!

Aurora Wolf Literary Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy decided to publish my story on their website sooner than expected.  Here it is for you to read:  The Enchanted Apothecary.  The graphics were neat to see, not how I envisioned the story, but definitely giving the story a different flair.  I really like the interpretation.  A big thank-you to Michael Pennington and aurorawolf.com for putting it on their website.

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Young Wizards – Flash Fiction

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Alfonso looked up the tree, squinting to focus on a nest near the top. He flexed his arthritic fingers. One phoenix feather was all he needed to finish the youth potion. Some of the younger wizards probably could levitate there or perhaps wish the feather down. Not Alfonso. At least not anymore – his magic was as stiff as his body.

The old wizard’s world spun before he even began to climb. He cursed while testing the rigidity of the earth, wondering if the moss and needle-covered ground would provide a soft landing. He filled his lungs with the pine-scented air and gripped the first branch. One branch, then another, he urged himself up. One feather to make all the self-centered young wizards envious.

Sweat stung Alfonso’s eye as he glanced down to see how far he had gone. Another wave of dizziness slammed into him. His knuckles whitened as he clung to the tree. Halfway there. Leaves crunched below him but he wouldn’t look. He hoped the noise wasn’t from a climbing bear.

The tree narrowed as he pushed himself up – the nest was in reach. He shook out each of his arms and legs to ease the fatigue. He then stretched one arm into the nest, felt around, but only pulled out sticks. A branch snapped as he climbed further. Despite his dancing stomach, he pulled himself up enough to peer inside. His hopes fell to the earth. Phoenixes didn’t lose feathers often.

Empty-handed, he lowered himself down, branch-by-branch, feeling blindly for secure foot placement.

An ear-piercing screech came from behind. A phoenix. He hurried down, branches scraping his skin as the bird dived at him. Alfonso hung on tightly as the phoenix talons pierced his back, pulling him from the tree.

Then the talons released and he fell. The earth, that was so far away, came rushing closer.  Alfonso squeezed his eyes closed as he fought the dizziness. Wind whizzed past his ears and caused him to gasp for breath. This was how it would end. He pulled the chords of magic that still were connected to him but the once elastic strings were now unforgiving. Struggling for another gasp of air, he allowed his mind to empty. No regrets.

He felt his body sink gently into something soft and then lift towards the sky, jolting his eyes open. A cloud of air supported him a small distance from the earth. The distance slowly disappeared, leaving Alfonso on the ground.

The clapping of a young man focused Alfonso. “Bravo! Great show!”

“You saved me? How did you make the air cloud?”

“I’d love to teach you,” the young wizard said holding out a feather for Alfonso.

The End

Written by:  Joy Schultz

Photo from:  https://www.morguefile.com/  (Thank-you)

 

Exciting Week!

Someone actually paid money for a short story that I wrote.

This past Sunday I decided to overcome my fear of rejection and actually submit a story somewhere to just see what happens. Surprisingly, I received an e-mail the next day saying it was “a beautiful little jewel of a story”, wanted to pay me for it, and publish it on their website. Today, I received the graphic they designed to go with the story appearing March 1st and they already put a teaser for it on their website: http://aurorawolf.com – The title of my story is “The Enchanted Apothecary.”

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Graphic created by:  Michael Pennington (Thank-you)