The second rule of WRiTE CLUB.....

We are now just one week away from our first WRiTE club matchup and I can already feel the excitement building.  My wife tells me that the submissions have been trickling in and although she's not allowed me to read any of the samples yet, she has been amazed at the quality of the work.  As promised, this post is supposed to clear up any lingering questions about WRiTE CLUBS purpose and how you to participate.  First, here are the rules again.

1st RULE: You do not talk about WRiTE CLUB.
2nd RULE: You DO NOT talk about WRiTE CLUB.
3rd RULE: If someone taps out, WRiTING is over.
4th RULE: Only two people to a WRiTE.
5th RULE: One WRiTE per week.
6th RULE: No shirts, no shoes.
7th RULE: WRiTES will go on until Feb1. 
8th RULE: If this is your first week at WRiTE CLUB, you HAVE to WRiTE.

Recap:   Every writer who wishes to WRiTE should submit a 250 word sample of their WRiTING via email to dlh.hammons@gmail.comThe sample should be identified by a pen name of your choosing (be creative) that nobody has ever seen before.  The writing can be of any genre, any style (even poetry), with the word count being the only restriction.  My wife will be monitoring that email address and will assign a number to each sample we receive.  I will never see who belongs to what writing, other than by the pen-name.  Beginning on Monday, November 7th, the first WRiTE will be held.  Just prior to that date I will randomly select two of these anonymous entries and post them on that date for head to head competition .  The winner will be selected by WRiTE spectators via your votes left in the comments (you don't have to be a WRiTER to vote, anyone can participate).  Ties will be decided by me (if necessary) since I will have not seen any of the authors names.  The victor will automatically be eligible for the semi-finals that will begin February 1, 2012, and the runner up will be placed back in the pool for possible selection for the next weeks WRiTE. It's that simple!

Tapping out means a WRiTER can decide at any time during the 12 week competition to withdraw their name from the pool.  No matter how many submissions I receive, there will only be one WRiTE per week.  Each week any new submissions will be placed in a "newby" pool from which one half of the WRiTE will be made up.  The other WRiTER will come from the existing pool.  If there are no "newbies", both WRiTERS will come from the existing pool less the previous winners.

On February 1st the 12 winners will match up against one another on daily posts until the ultimate WRiTER is chosen. 

After the competition is over and we have a champion, I will release the true names of only the WRiTERs who allow it.  Otherwise, the competition will remain completely anonymous to prevent anybody from having their feelings, or pride, hurt.  It will also be fun trying to figure out which writing might be who's, but remember RULE #1.

Now let's answer the questions left in the comments from the first post about WRiTE CLUB.

Can we start submitting any time now?  Yes.  You can submit anytime during the 12 week preliminary round.

Does the 250 words have to be a complete piece (i.e., flash fiction)?  No. 

If not, does it have to be the first 250 words of something? No.  It can be carved out from any part of a  larger piece of your work, the only thing I ask it that it not have been previously posted or published.

Because your wife is manning the email, it's ok to send our 250 words from an email address that has our name in it, yes?  Yes.  I will not see the emails, only the submissions with their pen names.

You're going to start during the craziness that is NaNo?  Yes.  First, because believe it or not there are some writers who choose not to participate in NaNo.  Second, what's 250 words compared to 50K?  But most importantly of all, WRiTE CLUB goes on for 12 weeks, well beyond NaNo, so you can choose to submit in December or January if you like.

So if you've been toying with the idea of taking part in this totally unique, and anonymous venture, now's the time to send in those submissions.  Next Monday will be on us quickly.  Grit those teeth and flex that imagination.

And whatever you do, DON'T tell your friends.  DON'T take the badge I've created and post it on your own blog.  DON'T twit, or update your Facebook status update about it. *exaggerated wink *

Monday, November 7th...WRiTE CLUB is ON!!!  

(PS.  Have fun starting tomorrow NaNo-nites!)

I want Ten!

I was doing some research by looking back through some of my OLD blog posts when I came across this one from a couple years ago.  It might have been read by 5 people.  I think it deserves another shot.  I hope you enjoy it.

My son Boo got himself into some deep trouble a while back. I’ll spare you (and him) the details of his offence, but it was bad enough to warrant more than just a stern lecture. I’m not the type of parent to resort to spanking, much, but I do believe it is a vital and sometimes necessary disciplining technique. For Boo this was going to be his first go round with me being the disciplinarian. He had been spanked previously one time by his mother earlier in the year, so he knew the routine. After he was informed what his punishment was going to be he was banished to his room so he could sit and think about what was coming for a little while. The fear of an impending spanking is just a useful as the spanking itself, so getting it over with too quickly is a waste of good psychological torment. So I let him sit in his room for at least 30 minutes before I headed back there.

When I entered his room I was surprised to see that he was standing beside his bed waiting for me. He was expressionless except for a faint hint of what could be described as determination on his face. There was no whimpering, no tears, and no quivering lip. Nothing. This was definitely not what I had expected. And at that moment I flashed back to a time in my own childhood. Boo’s actions reminded me of a situation I once found myself in. It is a story my mother used to love to tell when she was alive, and thinking about it now reminds me as much of her as it does the circumstances.

Me and my two brothers used to fight all of the time. My older brother is eleven months older than me and my younger brother was three years younger. Both of them have always towered over me in stature.

One day after school, I think I was ten at the time, me and my brothers got into it. The reason for the fight was probably something minor and stupid, but first came the yelling, then the shoving back and forth which quickly disintegrated into a three man wrestling match. Our mom usually tuned out our horseplay and didn’t get involved, but this time an exceptionally hard push combined with tripping over a sneaker ended up with me colliding loudly with a wall and subsequently leaving a large dent in the wallboard. Going instantly to silent mode, we could hear her heavy footsteps as they approached the bedrooms from the other side of the house. Naturally she was livid. She didn’t even try to listen to my explanation of what had happened, instead sending us to our respective rooms and beds with the spine chilling final line, “wait until your father gets home!”

Being the head of a military family with three rambunctious boys should have earned my father a college course credit in discipline. My father was fair, but firm with his punishment, and he got to practice it a lot. After years of trial and error he had settled on a wide black leather belt as his implement of pain. He always wielded it without malice and made sure we knew why we were suffering at the end of it. Even so, the dread we felt leading up to our eventual punishment was always mind-numbing.

Just before nightfall I heard the car door of my father’s Buick clank shut outside and shortly thereafter the front door opened and closed. I could only hear the murmur of voices and I imagined my mother telling him the events of the day. A couple minutes later the unmistakable footfalls of my father’s spit-shined dress shoes made there way down the hallway towards my room. He stuck his head into my room and said, “Follow me.” As expected, his expression was not favorable.

As I trailed him down the hallway to the other bedroom my brothers shared, I couldn’t take my eyes off the infamous black leather belt sticking out of his back pants pocket.

In my brothers room I took a seat next to my younger brother on his bed as dad inspected the damage to the wall. Both of my brothers looked like they had been crying and my younger brothers had his hands jammed beneath him. He was already preparing himself for the inevitable.

When dad turned back towards us I think his face was a shade or two darker.

“Who hit the wall” he asked.

“I did,” I answered truthfully.

“Stand up,” he commanded to all of us. We did as he asked and a soft moan emanated from my younger brother.

Then my dad did something he had never done before. He stood in front of my older brother and asked, “How many?”

Confused my brother replied, “Huh?”

“I said how many,” my dad repeated.

My older brother thought for a moment and then answered in an unsure tone, “One?”

My dad nodded his head and then slowly turned around and faced my younger brother.

“How many,” he repeated the question to him.

My younger brother glanced briefly at my older brother and then replied, “One,” as well.

Then dad moved in front of me and stood silent for a minute. “How many?” he asked me.

I am not a fan of pain. I’ll avoid it as much as the next guy. Nor was I grooming myself to grow up to be some sort of Norma Rae. So I don’t know why I answered like I did, all I can attribute it to is temporary insanity.

“I want ten,” I answered defiantly.

“How many” he repeated, even though there was no mistaking my answer.

“I want ten,” I answered again, purposely not breaking eye contact.

We stared at each other for what seemed like an eternity. At first I thought his eyes were going to burn holes through my brain and the need for the belt would be moot, but slowly his eyes softened and I thought I caught the sparkle of a smile starting to form. Then he turned around and left the room.

The three of us just stood there staring at one another with dumb expressions on our faces afraid to move. A few minutes later he returned. In his hands, instead of the black leather belt, was the cookie jar.

He reached into the jar and pulled out a single cookie and handed it to my older brother who took it slowly, still waiting for the other shoe to drop. Next he pulled another single cookie from the jar and handed it to my younger brother, who immediately started eating it. And to me, he handed ten chocolate chip cookies.

“You all will be doing chores for a month to pay for that wall,” he said as he walked out the door.

It was a moment of my childhood, I will never forget.

Now in Boo’s room, seeing him standing there bravely waiting to face the music, I thought of that story and how my mom loved to tell it.

And so I asked him, “how many?”

“Huh?”

“How many?”

He seemed to think about this for a second and then he answered confidently, “Five.”

I picked him up, gave him five kisses across his face, hugged him tightly and said, “You can thank your Grandpa for that one!”

The first rule of WRiTE CLUB.....


Welcome to the first meeting of WRiTE club.  This is an ambitious undertaken whose inspiration was born numerous weeks ago during an exercise of mine comparing different writers voices (You Sure Do Talk Funny), it gestated in the back of my mind for awhile, then finally crystallized over the weekend.  I've seen versions of this concept around the internet before, but nothing quite like this.  I'm hoping that the unique approach and your participation will set us apart.  At the essence of WRiTE CLUB is simplicity, good-natured competition, and a lot of potential fun.  Here are the basic rules, or tenets, with further explanation to follow.

1st RULE: You do not talk about WRiTE CLUB.
2nd RULE: You DO NOT talk about WRiTE CLUB.
3rd RULE: If someone taps out, WRiTING is over.
4th RULE: Only two people to a WRiTE.
5th RULE: One WRiTE per week.
6th RULE: No shirts, no shoes.
7th RULE: WRiTES will go on until Feb1. 
8th RULE: If this is your first week at WRiTE CLUB, you HAVE to WRiTE.

How does WRiTE CLUB really work?  Every writer who wishes to WRiTE should submit a 250 word sample of their WRiTING via email to dlh.hammons@gmail.com.  The sample should be identified by a pen name of your choosing (be creative) that nobody has ever seen before.  The WRiTING can be of any genre, any style (even poetry) with the word count being the only restriction.  My wife will be monitoring that email address and will assign a number to each sample we receive.  I will never see who belongs to what writing, other than by the pen-name.  Beginning on November 7th, the first WRiTE will be held.  On that date I will randomly select two of these anonymous entries and post them for head to head competition .  The winner will be selected by WRiTE spectators via their votes left in the comments (you don't have to be a WRiTER to vote, anyone can participate).  Ties will be decided by me (if necessary) since I will have not seen any of the authors names.  The victor will automatically be eligible for the semi-finals that will begin February 1, 2012, and the runner up will be placed back in the pool for possible selection for the next weeks WRiTE. It's that simple!

There are few other details and definitions to clarify.  Let's address them one by one from the rules above.

1.  Pretty self-explanatory *shaking head side to side*
2.  Are you learning impaired? *exaggerated wink*
3.  Tapping out means a WRiTER can decide at any time during the 12 week competition to withdraw their name from the pool.    
4.  This is a head-to head competition, no ganging up allowed.
5.  No matter how many submissions I receive, there will only be one WRiTE per week. 
6.  Come on, tell me you didn't giggle at that one.
7.  On February 1st the 12 winners will start to match up against one another on daily posts until the ultimate WRiTER is chosen.
8.  Each week any new submissions will be placed in a "newby" pool from which one half of the WRiTE will be made up.  The other WRiTER will come from the existing pool.  If there are no "newbies", both WRiTERS will come from the existing pool less the previous winners.

After the competition is over and we have a final champion, I will release the true names of only the WRiTERs who allow it.  Otherwise, the competition will remain completely anonymous to prevent anybody from having their feelings, or pride, hurt.  It will also be fun trying to figure out which writing might be who's, but remember RULE #1.

I know they'll be questions, so go ahead and leave them in the comments section and I'll post the answers in a follow-up post, but I'll go ahead and answer one right now.  Why the little "i" in WRiTE?  Simple, WRiTE CLUB is about our community and finding creative ways to shine a spotlight on some very good writing.  Although  I may be the facilitator, it's not about...I.  

Are you game?  Are you willing to WRiTE for what you want?  Then crack those knuckles and get ready to flex that imagination.  And whatever you do, DON'T tell your friends.  DON'T blog...DON'T twit...DON'T post a Facebook status update about it. ;)

WRiTE CLUB is ON!!!

This Pitch is a Bitch!

At the Ozark Writers conference a couple weeks ago I had another writer ask me about my book during the closing banquet. Imagine that, being asked about your book, at a writer’s conference no less. You would think I had the answer well-rehearsed and ready to roll off my tongue like the lyrics to the national anthem. Nope. I hemmed…I hawed…I stumbled…I stuttered…I repeated myself…I used words I made up on the spot…I jammed bread rolls in my mouth (probably in an unconscious effort to shut myself up)…in summary, I bombed! It was so bad I started wondering if I was having some sort of brain aneurism, thus my barely comprehensible speech. It was truly embarrassing! And even worse, my wife was sitting there witnessing my melt-down. If the cheese cake hadn’t been so good I’m sure she would have feigned not knowing who I was and high-tailed it for the hotel room. And the woman who originally asked the question? I heard she’s already seeking restraining order against me for next year’s conference.

The whole episode got me thinking (and wondering if therapy was needed). I have serious plans to attend future writer’s conferences where agent pitch sessions are offered and I’ve never even really sat down and thought about what I would say. In case you’re unfamiliar with pitch sessions, they are 5-10 minute segments of time spent in front of an agent or editor trying to convince them to take a look at your book. Universally recognized as a nerve-wracking experience for both parties, none-the-less it has proven to be a valuable weapon in the arsenal utilized to land a book deal.

Now that I realized just how unprepared I was, I sat down to correct the problem. I wrote my five minute pitch, highlighting all of the key plot points and character motivations, with the intention of committing it to memory once I was satisfied with it. And I thought the query letter was hard! But when I read it aloud it sounded stiff, not like a real conversation would sound. I could imagine myself sitting in front of an agent sounding like the robot from LOST IN SPACE. DANGER, WILL ROBINSON!

But it turns out that was all WRONG! After doing some research I discovered a pitch session usually revolves around explaining your story in one to three sentences, whether it is at the pitch session or at the evening mixer. No one wants to hear a 20-minute monologue detailing every twist and turn in your plot. You need to succinctly tell the person on the other side of the table what your book is about. What makes it stand out from every other book that's on the market? Who are the characters? What's the conflict? What are the major themes? What other writers/books would you compare yourselves to as far as style? Why is it a topic that I should read about now? The agent needs to walk away remembering your book.

How do you go about doing that? After you introduce yourself, there is no need to jump in with your pitch the second you sit down. You can make a little small talk before you begin, to help calm your nerves. Then start pitching. The intent is to entice the agent to ask you questions about different elements of your book and begin a conversation. This is totally opposite of the understanding I had of the process before I started examining it, and now my apprehension has doubled. Small talk and conversations, things I’m not so good at.

My resolve is still intact, however! Together with my wife and a few writer friends, we’ll conquer this. It’ll probably be the toughest challenge I’ve faced so far, but this pitch is going down!

The Coffee Shop Revisited


Writer #2: Hey everybody. Been waiting long?

Writer #1: No, we just sat down. Writer #2, let me introduce you to Writer #4, she’s new to the neighborhood. She writes YA.

Writer #2: So glad to meet you.

Writer #4: *hiccup* Sorry, I think my iced coffee gave me the hiccups. Happy to meet you as well.

Writer #2: Isn’t it fun watching our little group grow?

Writer #3: Some of us more than others.

Writer #2: What has you in such a foul mood? Why the sad face?

*hiccup*

Writer #3: I’m just wondering why she gets to be writer #1. Where is it written that she gets to be #1 and I have to be stuck being writer #3?

Writer #1: *sigh* I’ve been trying to explain to her that it isn’t a ranking system, just a method in which individuality can be maintained.

Writer #3: You can say that until your blue in the face, but I know the truth.

Writer #1: I don’t have an agent, and you do. I haven’t been published, and you have. I’ve not won any awards for my short-fiction, and you have. Why in the world would you think that makes me #1?

Writer #3: You do realize that you’re making my point for me?

Writer #2: Personally, I like the number 3. If you put a less-than symbol in front of it, you get a sideways heart.

Writer #3: What are you talking about?

Writer #4: I know I’m new…*hiccup*…but does it really matter?

Writer #2: It actually does. Continuity is a very important story element.

Writer #1: Will it make you feel better if instead of writer 1...2...3…4, we instead use A, B,C,D?

Writer #3: Can I be writer A?

Writer #1: No, we should stay in the same sequence as before.

Writer #3: So I’d be a C? Average??

Writer #1: Good gosh.

Writer #4: What about using colors? I’m wearing a blue top, so I can be writer blue. *hiccup*

Writer #1: And I’m wearing a gold sweater, so I’d be writer gold?

Writer #3: I can go along with that. No implied sense of stature! So I’m now writer red.

Writer #2: But what if we’re not wearing any clothes?

*Silence*

*Hiccup*

Writer Gold: But you are wearing clothes, quite nice ones I might add, so now you’re writer black.

Writer Red: For some reason that seems so perfect!

Writer Blue: So, what does everyone else write?

Writer Gold: I write steamy romances.

Writer Red: Fantasy.

Writer Black: I tinker around with mystery/suspense.

Writer Blue: You’re joking?

Writer Black: No, why?

Writer Red: So how did writer blue and you meet?

Writer Gold: It’s the funniest thing. She commented on one of my comments I left on DL’s blog and we started emailing one another back and forth. One thing led to another…

Writer Red: Wait a minute! DL’s blogging again? I thought he pulled the plug.

Writer Gold: I thought so too, but a couple weeks ago he popped up on my reader and sure enough, he’s back. Isn’t it wonderful?

Writer Red: How long do you think he’s going to stick around this time?

Writer Blue: I only recently found him. How long has he been blogging?

Writer Black: Since 2009. He writes mysteries too.

*Hiccup*

Waitress: Ma’am, that gentleman in the corner with the Mac book sent this coffee over for you.

Writer Black: That is sooo sweet!

Writer Gold: You’ve got to be kidding me? She’s being hit on in a coffee shop?

Writer Red: I’m not surprised. If she pops open one more button on that blouse I’d hit on her myself.

Writer Blue: I think I recognize him from somewhere?

Writer Gold: Whatever you do, no one smile at him!

Writer Black: But he bought me a coffee.

Writer Gold: For goodness sake, he’s dressed in a dark colored raincoat with a hoodie underneath and there’s not a cloud in those 80 degree skies.

Writer Red: And he’s using a Mac Book.

Writer Blue: Oh my god! He’s getting up and looking this way.

Writer Gold: Shit!

Writer Blue: I think my hiccups are gone.

The Emotional Splinter

I’m sorry I haven't been as responsive as I normally am replying to comments or reading other blogs (who's that chuckling?), but I've been at the Ozark Writers Conference in Eureka Springs for the past few days. This was the second year in a row that I've attended the Ozarks conference and the agenda continues to surpass my expectations. David Morrell (FIRST BLOOD, BLOOD OATH, THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE ROSE, THE FRATERNITY OF THE STONE, DESPERATE MEASURES, THE SHIMMER, etc.) was one of the keynote speakers, as was Agent Gordon Warnock from Andrea Hurst & Associates Literary Management. While I was spending my day at the conference, my wife was off visiting most of the thrift shops and taking in the beauty of this quaint little town nestled amongst the Ozark Mountains. She talked me into staying at one of the numerous bed & breakfasts the city is known for, so it was win-win for both of us.

Although I enjoyed all of the sessions, I particularly fancied listening to David Morrell. He spoke on many topics, but he put forth one particular theory that I thought I'd share here, and I'm really interested in hearing all of your opinions about it. He was going along, describing his background and how he overcame a lot of obstacles to get where he is today, when he uttered something that caught us completely off-guard. "Everyone here is damaged goods,” he said. The comment hung in the air for a few moments, allowing a slightly uncomfortable hush to fill the room, and then he continued. “That is why we are writers. We all have something in our past trying to come out in the form of a story." He went on to say that writers spend a great deal of time trying to find that perfect emotional voice to relate the tale they need to tell, as a way of coming to grips with their issues. Some authors, like himself for example, had such deep-seated problems that they turned up as common themes in most of his work.

Although I don't agree 100% with Mr. Morrell's theory, as bold as it sounds I still find a great deal of merit in his thinking. I liken it to the way our bodies will expel a foreign substance, such as the way a splinter will work itself out of the skin if left untouched. An emotional splinter, if you will. In Mr. Morrell's case, that splinter was a neglectful mother and an abusive step-father that manifested itself in his stories where the main character is in conflict with a father-figure type.

Mr. Morrell went on to posture that attempts to utilize an emotional voice that don't resolve the writer’s issues might have near-term positive results, but will ultimately prove unsatisfying. Authors shouldn’t be afraid of confronting these issues, whatever they might be, instead tap into them and mine them for all their worth.

His talk did get the gears churning in my head. If I were to give any weight to his premise at all, then shouldn't I have an emotional splinter? And if so, what might that be? The more I mulled it over, the more I became convinced that a key concept of both of my novels indeed gestated from some impactful events from my early twenties. But then I wondered if instead of being some murky psychological mumbo-jumbo, that the key concept was just a case of me drawing inspiration from personal experience (write what you know). Back and forth I went, until I finally left it somewhere in-between. A real chicken or egg type of question.

How about you? What's your opinion? Do we all have an emotional splinter we're trying to deal with in our writing?

The Karaoke Writer

I’m offering this post as part of my October submission to Alex J. Cavanaughs Insecure Writers Support Group.

Ever wander into a bar/pub/club/coffee house/party, where a karaoke contest was being held? I’ve been to several and I must say they’re fascinating. What’s so interesting is the types of people who take part in such events. Naturally the bulk of contestants are phase shifted (i.e. drunk or otherwise influenced) and really test the audiences patience. Men and women alike brutalize classic songs by utilizing notes never intended to be included and change the lyrics even though scrolling prompters have them displayed, all the while attempting to make up for what they lack in vocal range by doing their best Mick Jagger with a microphone impression. Not a pretty site! Then there are those who manage to sound better than they actually are because they’ve happen to choose one of your favorites songs, and let’s face it, you’re slightly inebriated yourself. But the ones that make the evening are the ones that really stand out, the singers who after just one chorus hush even the most boisterous crowd and ends up eliciting a standing ovation. Those are the performers who make you think of a quote from an old Billy Joel song (Piano Man) “man what are you doin here?” Not only do they ultimately end up taking home the prize money, but also add an aire of magic to the evening because everyone goes away feeling like they’ve just discovered the next diamond in the rough. Those are the karaoke singers…that as a writer… I wonder about.

What do I wonder about? I ask myself, what is the difference between this person and somebody like an American Idol contestant, or the lead singer of that new band I just found on some internet music site? The talent is clearly there, so what is it that separates the person standing before me on this make-shift stage in a cruise ship karaoke bar, pretending to be a performer…and that actual artist doing whatever it takes to achieve success in the music business? Is the difference drive? Determination? Do they not realize how talented they are? Maybe it’s a matter of priorities, or lack of connections, or they’re using these contests to hone their craft? Or is it possible that this person is perfectly content shining brightly on a small stage? So many possible explanations, all of them just as feasible.

Why do I give them so much consideration, and why should you? Because we write novels and tell stories, and most of us ask ourselves what separates us from our published colleagues. I believe I have a talent. My own stage consists of all the friends, family, CP’s and Beta readers who’ve read my work, the only exception being that I perform all original material. But I’m not content pretending, and I bet neither are you. Sure, there are those where the goal of publication is not a motivator, taking pleasure in the writing itself, and there is nothing wrong with that.

For the rest of us, however, let it be known that we are NOT karaoke writers!

Writers Voice – Follow Up

So, what did we all learn from last week’s exercise? First of all, it’s hard as heck to match a piece of writing to its originator! If I’d been able to get Stephen King, Stephanie Meyer, Ted Dekker, Karen Marie Moning, or any six of your favorite authors, do you think you’d have fared any better? Probably not. Secondly, a writer’s fiction voice can be dramatically different than their blogging voice, which is a tribute to the writer. But hopefully you did notice the rather distinctive voices behind each piece. Not only were the "accents" unique, but I found the way each of the writers tackled the prompt in terms of characterization and plot also interesting. There were a few giveaways though. Karen couldn’t resist mentioning sea weed in her piece (her soon-to-be published book is about mermaids), and who would come up with an idea about the destroying of a beautiful car by a wild beast…other than a guy, Clarissa (who lives in Mexico) spelled neighbour a bit differently than those of us in the states do, Carol & Katie couldn’t keep the snark out of their tone if they tried, and Jen used just 215 words to efficiently convey a scene so realistic it made me wonder about our own small-town mayor. :)

Once again I want to thank my wonderful blogging buddies for contributing their time and talent to my experiment. I know it is no small thing. As a reminder, this was their writing prompt: Your character just moved to a new city/town and decides to throw a get-to-know-you party, but something goes terribly wrong. Describe what happened.

#1) How was I supposed to know the mayor was sleeping with someone other than his wife? This was not the impression I wanted to make. The feud that erupted in my background was not the let’s get to know each other vibe I’d planned. I scanned the room, hoping for the tiniest of smirks, showing me this disaster could be remedied. What I was left with was a glare from the mayor’s wife. I still wasn’t sure how this had become my fault. I wasn’t the one sleeping around! I’d invited his mistress because she was the event planner in the next town over. How could I know she wasn’t aware he was married! This god forsaken place shouldn’t have been so damn small. I wouldn’t have had to go to the next town to make sure this event went off without a hitch. Now I was stuck with a screwed up marriage, and every home owner in town looking at me as if I was the home wrecker. Could I get out of this? If I walked out now, could I call the realtor, put the house on the market and get the hell out? I needed to escape; no way would I be invited to the next barbeque. I’d made the hit list.

B - JenDaiker

#2) I ran up the pier towards the flashing red and blue lights. Our new neighbors were backing away or scurrying up the beach—fleeing from the drama.

“Why are you handcuffing my boyfriend?” I shouted.

The meathead officer ignored me as he finished reading Treygan his rights. Officer J.Lo wannabe held up a joint. “Possession.” She nodded at the unzipped band around Treygan’s arm which revealed half a dozen more joints. “And distribution.”

“Uncuff him right now!” I demanded. “You can’t arrest him for smoking Cweed! There is nothing illegal about that.”

“Seaweed?” The lady cop sniffed the joint in her hand then held it under Officer Meathead’s nose who smelled it and shrugged. “Why in the world would you smoke seaweed?”

“Why in the worlds wouldn’t you?” Treygan quipped. He winked at her then held up his handcuffs to be unlocked. “Don’t worry. I won’t press charges.”

After all the questions and formalities were finished Treygan wrapped his arm around me. “Nice meeting you officers, but we need to get back to our guests.”

Kicking up sand, we headed toward the house. Treygan placed a fresh joint between his lips while I flipped open my lighter.

From behind us Officer J.Lo said, “We’ll be keeping an eye on you two.”

Treygan blew a ring of silver smoke above our heads and smiled as he glanced over his shoulder. “I don’t blame you. We are extraordinary.”

D - Karen Amanda Hooper

#3) “Bear!”

The joyful atmosphere dissolved into panic. Guests stumbled over one another in an attempt to reach the safety of the house. Cups flew and lawn chairs tumbled out of the way.

Dan held the door for stragglers. The last guest bolted inside, still clutching his beer, and Dan slammed the door. His hands shook as he secured the lock. The cries of his neighbors, loud in the empty kitchen, beat on his eardrums.

“Where is it?” someone shrieked.

Pressing his forehead against the glass, Dan scanned the backyard. No one mentioned bears, he thought, his breath fogging the pane. I didn’t leave my high-rise apartment to be chased by bears!

“He’s out front!”

Dan spun away from the window. He shoved past the others, taking advantage of lack of obstacles. Of course, had his belongings arrived on time, the party would’ve been indoors, thus eliminating the bear threat.

“What’s he doing?” a woman demanded.

A car alarm sounded as Dan reached the picture window. Several cars resided in the driveway, but his attention shifted to the red convertible closest to the house. The red paint glistened in the moonlight and the chrome wheels reflected the porch lights. Its pristine condition and sleek body had turned many heads since its arrival.

Apparently, the leather seats and comfortable interior were too inviting. The bear had crawled inside, wedged himself behind the wheel, and was now happily chewing on the headrest. Dan heard a gasp in his ear.

“Dude, that’s your car…”

A - Alex Cavanaugh

#4) Patricia at the office had warned me it was a bad idea but wouldn’t say why.

Sure, my new colleagues look normal from outside but I’ll bet if Patricia and I had had more time to talk over lunch break she would've totally told me about Sally McGreggor’s need to bring her two long-haired Chihuahuas everywhere she goes. Then I wouldn’t have been so surprised to see them eating from my fine china at the dinner table last night.

And I’m sure if good ole’ Patty could have caught me at the copier, she’d have warned me that Carl prefers to be called ‘Carlita’ during off hours. And would appear at my doorstep in high heels and a bustier with a muscled date named ‘Ruby’ who likes to be dragged around by a spiked dog collar and a leash.

Yes. If Patty had just had more time, she could have let me know that Britney, the young receptionist, isn’t just newly engaged, but also likes to pop ecstasy before her evenings out and will therefore spend an hour and a half going to second base with her boyfriend on my newly-refurnished couch.

Or that sweet old Mrs. Jenkins is a closet klepto who took off with three sets of silver knives.

As it turns out, I’m working with a bunch of freaking psychopaths.

I smile Patty’s way and hand her the coffee I’ve just mixed full of laxatives.

They have no idea who they’re dealing with.

F - Katie Mills

#5) Two weeks after moving to the small town, her husband got the idea—a dinner for their neighbours. Jayne grew up in a city, where people didn’t know who lived beside them unless they were child molesters, but she went along. What a mistake that was. Jayne had invited four people and somehow eight were already in her living room.

‘Jayne, you look so young,’ Francis Morton, her neighbour across the street said. ‘Almost like a little girl. I sell Avon, you know, and have some products that will fit your skin tone nicely. You don’t use a lot of make-up, do you?’

‘No. I don’t like—‘

‘Well, we can change that,’ she replied and grabbed Jayne’s hand. ‘Look at your skin, it’s so dry. I have some moisturizer in my bag, Edgar fetch me my bag, we’ll have this problem cleared up immediately. Sit!’

Francis pushed Jayne down on sofa.

‘I’m fine, thank you.’

‘Ridiculous.’ Francis grabbed a bottle from husband’s hand. ‘I'll just get a large glob out. There we go. Can’t get too much moisture, can one? I bet you can feel the moisture rising up your veins as we speak.’

‘I feel something rising.’

‘See…oops, got some in your hair there. Edgar! Edgar! Get me a towel! Hurry man! Men, they never understand these things, do they? My dear, the colour of your face is all wrong—it’s red. Do you know what you need? A makeover!’

‘No, but thank you. I should see to—’

‘Ridiculous.’

C - Clarissa Draper

#6) I’m not sure if it’s a mole or a giant never-go-away zit. But it’s ugly and a little furry. And when Cindy and her mole-zit are safely tucked into the bathroom stall, it monopolizes everyone’s attention, okay mostly Marjorie’s. Marjorie says the thing is gigantic and generates its own gravitational pull. Of course I don’t laugh—since mama’s dead, I’m hostess by virtue of being the oldest and responsible for the outcome of the party. But I don’t not laugh. That is to say, Would you like more punch? accompanied by the sweetest of lip biting grins and maybe a wink goes a long way towards maintaining the peace at these things. And, really, isn’t that the most important thing? It’s not as if Marjorie means any real harm anyway. She’s stupid, you know. Probably been dying to say that line since she heard it on Mean Girls.* It is rather priceless, if not original.

Mama never liked my friend Marjorie much, but then, she didn’t have a clue when it came to her own friends either. She always preferred the homely ones with mini vans and Keds, as if God had let us win the lottery so we could keep living like indigenous people. Or indigents. Indigest? Whatever. Mama had no taste. Poor Cindy is so much like our Mama, too, all make-up-less and fanny pack obsessed. She really doesn’t stand a chance. At least Mama was already married and could be a loser. But what’s Cindy got? She’s tucked away in the bathroom stall at her own Mama’s funeral, hiding a big mole-zit on her face. Sad, really.

E -Carolina Valdez Miller
 

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