Another Round of Shameless Self-Promotion

Howdy, howdy!  Can you believe July is already more than halfway over?  Neither can I.  But I must admit it’s a good month.  First and foremost, Dad’s birthday is tomorrow (happy early birthday, old man!), so drop him some birthday love here or on my social media pages and I’ll pass it along to him.  Secondly, I recently found out that a piece of mine called “Cracked and Broken” will be appearing in Harbinger Press‘s Flash Fiction Fridays.  So, I thought I would take this week’s post as a chance for some shameless self-promotion.

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For Dad.

Harbinger Press is a brand new venue that opened in March of this year and was founded by Marie Robinson and B.C. Palmer.  It will be running its first round of Flash Fiction Fridays from July 19th through November 29th. My story will appear during this time.  I will announce via social media the exact Friday it comes out, plus I will share links to the story in those posts and on my website.  In other words, if you haven’t done so already, please stalk my pages all of which can be found off to the side here or at the top of my website.  And if you want to see all of the flash fiction pieces in this series (and participate future events like the “best of 2019” contest they’ll be having for their flash fiction selections), subscribe to Harbinger Press’s newsletter, which can be found on their website linked above.

If you’re interested in submitting your own flash fiction pieces to them, their winter call opens on August 1st and runs until November 1st.  They’re open to fantasy, sci-fi, and horror according to the submission page.  I know I have some friends whose writing could fit in those categories!  Harbinger Press pays a flat rate of $25 for stories with a maximum of 1,000 words (so, basically semi-pro pay).  You can find their guidelines and the basic rights they purchase on the website I linked above.

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Borrowed from their website.

I’m extremely happy to be included in this debut batch of flash fiction.  “Cracked and Broken” is one of the few pieces I’ve written that I liked even before my writing group  gave their approval of it.  They helped me improve it a lot, so I have to thank them for the suggestions and critiques.  They know who they are.  It was also one of the first pieces I wrote after Stonecoast, without the guidance of my mentors, so it was a little scary to send it out into the world.  But I’m glad it has found a home!

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Will o’ the Wisp by Rob Powell.  Not what the story is technically about, but close enough visually.

As I mentioned above, I’ll announce when the story is released on my social media pages, so stalk me or subscribe to Harbinger Press’s newsletter to catch it when it comes out.  Next week we’ll return to our regularly scheduled program of trying to figure out this writing life.  Or maybe something cripple-focused.  I haven’t decided yet, but I’ll see you then.

The Pale Freak of the Moon

Hello, hello! Today hasn’t been a very pleasant day and I have no idea what to write about, so I decided to have some fun with this post. Earlier, I ran across one of those things where you use your initials to make a random phrase from their options (this one was “your nerd identity”). I really liked mine for once, so I decided to use it as a prompt for a quick flash piece specially written for my blog. It’s a first draft, so sorry if I ramble. As always, feedback and thoughts are welcome!

The initial thing in case you’re interested.

The Pale Freak of the Moon

The dust cascades ahead of me as I slide down the side of the crater, no doubt signaling my arrival like ripples on a pond. At least, that’s what I imagine when the Freak tells me about the motion of the water on Earth.  Nothing like it exists up here, so it’s hard to follow her stories sometimes.

I slip through the shadows, avoiding prying eyes, as I make my way to her cave.  No one else dares to follow me down here for fear of her, but they have no qualms about throwing rocks from above when they see me out in the open.  According to the Freak, bullies are the same whether they’re here or on Earth.  Difference makes you an easy target until you prove yourself otherwise.  But no matter what I do, they still come after me.

“You’re late, child.”  Her voice, strong and deep, rings out from the depths of her home before I even cross the threshold.  “Did you bring it?”

I skitter into the belly of the cave without answering.  A soft glow tells me she’s by the shrine in a corridor off to the left.  She sits by the altar with her legs crossed and her arms stretched out to welcome me.  Her features are that of an Earthling, but her skin is so pale it emits a gentle white light.  Taking me in her arms, she performs the welcoming ritual of a hug.  I struggle with the gesture every time, my tentacles tangling around themselves as I attempt to reciprocate.

“Well?” she asks.

Pulling a vial from my pouch, I hold it out to her.  Inside, a single seed floats in a viscous purple fluid.  Blood.  Namely, the blood of my mother.  The seed, a pulsing green orb, is her life force.  She left it to me when she passed into the nether realm less than a week ago.  Normally, I would be expected to plant it in the ground and raise the resulting child with my life partner in order to keep my mother’s bloodline flowing, but I have no partner.  No one here wants to spend their life with someone whose eyes are as bright as the stars.  Not in a place where darkness reigns supreme.

That’s why I have to do this.

Mother understood my decision to interrupt her eternal cycle, even condoned it.  She knew how miserable I was here.  Still, guilt pulls at my hearts when the Freak takes the vial from me.

“It’s beautiful,” she says.  “Are you sure you want to do this?  You can’t come back if you’re unhappy there.”

My tentacles raise in an involuntary shrug.  “I know I’ll never be happy here, so what’s the point in staying?”

The Freak nods and turns to the altar.  It’s covered in things from Earth: leaves, stones, flowers.  I wonder, not for the first time, how she keeps these items alive, but don’t voice the question.  She chants in a language I have never heard.  It sounds older than time itself and lulls me into that place between waking and sleep.

When I’m finally pulled back into consciousness, I can’t tell how much time has passed.  I wipe the sleep from my eyes, but instead of the usual tentacle, I have a hand.  The flesh is a rich tawny beige that I always imagine when the Freak speaks of sandy beaches.  My entire body now appears to be that of an Earthling.  I rush to the reflective glass she has hanging on the wall in the main room as fast as I can on legs I’m unaccustomed to, falling countless times before I get the hang of it.  My eyes are still the pale blue, almost white,  I’ve always been scorned for, but they somehow seem natural in my new face.

“Amazing,” I say.  “You’re a miracle worker.”

“It was all you.”  She touches my shoulder and turns me toward her.  “I only allowed your human form to come out.  Everything else was already a part of you.  I told you you were beautiful inside.  We’re not done yet, though.  Are you ready to make the journey?”

I swallow hard and nod.  Words refuse to form on my tongue.

The Freak opens the vial I had given her.  My mother’s scent fills the room and tears prickle at the corners of my eyes.  Pouring the seed into her palm, the Freak makes a fist.  She chants more unknown words until the fabric of space and time rips open.  Past the ragged hole is a beach unfolding into the ocean.  It’s just as I always imagined.

“It’s now or never,” the Freak says.

The seed in her now open palm is withering.  The opening to Earth begins to shrink.  Hesitating, I take a shaky breath.  The scent of saltwater hits me for the first time and a calm comes over me.  Yes, I can be happy as long as I have this view and this aroma to get lost in.  I step through the portal and into a place where no one knows me, where I’m not yet hated.  I start my life anew.

The End

The One Who Got Away: A Christmas Flash Fiction

Hello, hello!  It’s almost Christmas, so I thought I would give you a little flash fiction that I’ve been noodling around with.  Feedback is always welcome.  This is just something I threw together real quick, so don’t expect perfection.  Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!

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The One Who Got Away

By: Shawna Borman

Her voice had the sweet ring of silver bells and wrapped itself around the mind like garland around the tree. It drew people to her. Hanging thick in the chilled December air, her presence lingered long after she disappeared into the night with her prize. It kept the others warm and coming back for another chance. They never noticed that the ones who went with her never came back. At least, that was how the rumors went.

On Christmas Eve, I made the mistake of cutting through the park on my way home from my parents’ party. It was late and I was drunk. Alcohol was the only way I could stand the façade my parents required. I wasn’t who they wanted me to be, so I hid behind suits and ties when I was with them.

According to the legend, she should’ve been gone hours earlier. But there she was, singing to the crowd of men stupid enough to wander into her path. Singing to me. My eggnog-soaked brain vaguely registered the song, I’ll be Home for Christmas. It was a lie. The man she chose wouldn’t go home ever again. My steps faltered, steering me away from my path and right to the front of the group.

Men fell to their knees at her feet, tears streaming down their cheeks as they pled for her to choose them. Her pull was strong. I felt it somewhere deep in my soul, like a star being dragged into orbit. It was something I had never felt for a woman. Disconcerted, I took a step back. The star dimmed and her voice gained a jagged edge, like a broken ornament. I wanted to run, to break away from the group, but my feet remained frozen in place.

She turned her attention to me, causing the star to flare bright once more. I swayed, refusing the urge to sink down in front of her. Her fingers, icy cold, brushed my cheek and trailed down my arm into my palm. Green eyes, like holly, stared up at me. A mischievous smile crossed her poinsettia red lips.

“Let’s go home,” she whispered.

I followed her deeper into the park, down paths I never knew existed, until we came to a house made of snow. A door of bleached white bones stood ajar, exposing the inky blackness inside.

“You must come in and warm me up.” Her skin glittered blue in the silver moonlight. “We can be together forever. What more could a man ask for?”

The word hit me like a thousand reindeer. I was a man to her, to everyone. The suit suddenly felt like wrapping paper, hiding the gift inside me. It was a gift I believed no one would actually want. The tie tightened around my throat, choking me. I tore my hand out of her grasp and clawed the tie away from my neck.

“What’s wrong, my love?” she asked, her voice nothing but shards of broken glass. “Let’s go inside and talk about it.”

Her beauty melted away like snow revealing a muddied mess underneath. The vibrant hue of her eyes drained until all that was left was the same creamy shade of that evening’s nog. I wanted to scream, but only a whimper escaped.

“Get in the house, before you ruin everything, you bastard.”

She grabbed my wrist, pulling me toward the open door. Part of me wanted to let her take me, to let her extinguish the life of the man I was supposed to be. That was when I understood what needed to be done, what I needed to do in order to be happy.

I yanked away once more, shoving her across the threshold. She teetered, as if on the edge of a precipice.

“I’m a woman,” I said out loud for the first time in my life.

With that, she fell and the house collapsed into a pile of snow and human bones.

I left my small town that summer to transition fully into my new life as a woman, but I never heard rumors of the singing woman again.

Changing of the Seasons: A Flash Fiction Piece

Hello, hello!  I didn’t really have anything to blog about today, so someone suggested that I post a flash piece inspired by the pictures I post on Mondays (follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or G+ to see the posts).  I decided what the hell, I’ll try it.  I picked a picture and wrote the following piece.  It’s a first draft, unedited, so keep that in mind.  I will admit that I like the idea, but I’m not sure that flash is the right format for it.  Maybe a short story?  Feel free to offer constructive criticism and feedback.  What format do you think would work best?  Advice.  Or just a quick “it sucks/rocks” works too.

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Photographer: Peter Brownz Braunschmid

Changing of the Seasons

Autumn leaves swirl and twirl on a breeze tinted with the scent of blood. The lifeline of thousands seeps through the soil, bathing and nourishing me as it beckons for my awakening. They pray to me, the mothers and daughters and sisters of those lost at war. Why me? Because only a woman will understand their suffering. The men pray to Him for victory, for the ability to rule, no matter the cost. But the women, they simply ask for peace. They don’t realize how peace is achieved, they don’t know what they’re truly asking for. Still, I will soon be able to grant their wish.

Once every five thousand years, as the ground becomes inundated with spilt blood, I will inevitably rise from the roots of the Mother Tree as Fall passes into Winter. The changing of the seasons allows my release, for I cannot be freed while the Mother Tree lives. Their blood slowly poisons her until she can no longer survive the first freeze. I bide my time, soaking in the nutrients they provide while the tendrils that bind my wrists slowly weaken, becoming as brittle as the dead leaves clinging to the Mother Tree’s branches.

The days pass as if each second has morphed into an hour, but it is almost time for me to rise. To bring peace back to this chaotic world. Their cries grow ever stronger. Peace. Victory. Whichever will put an end to the suffering.

Fear not, my little loves. A new day is coming. I have heard you.

Finally, a twist of the wrist shatters my shackles. Fingers pale as sun-bleached bone are free to break through the slush of soil and blood and ice crystals. The air up here is thick with a metallic, rotten scent. The frigid temperatures haven’t had time to wash away the aroma of death. It’s invigorating. Mixed with the pleas for help, some might call it downright orgasmic.

I know what I have to do.

Near the Mother Tree is a spring. I must bottle the icy water as the full moon strikes it. I will take this gift to the children of the nearest town. Once they drink of it, a deep sleep will overcome and protect them. Then, I will feed. First, the women, unprotected in the fields and the shops. The children unaffected by the elixir will come next. Lastly, those on the battlefield. I will rid the entire world of the agony perpetrated by humanity.

Once the world has been purged of this plague, I will return to the slumbering children. They will awaken and I will raise them as my own. I will teach them compassion and respect and compromise. Peace and love will reign for many years to come.

And when they no longer need my assistance to survive, I will dig my toes deep into the ground on a pleasant Spring evening on the edge of town, where I will transform into the Mother Tree. My branches will reach out to protect my children even as future generations forget my teachings. As they inevitably devolve into a world of bloodshed once again. All the while, the mothers and sisters and daughters will pray for peace, which my next incarnation, growing among my roots, will provide.