NYC Midnight – Flash Fiction Challenge #1

I am a sucker for competition, especially in regards to trying to prove my intellect or skill. When it comes to writing contests, there is no other drug I would choose. I love the stress and panic that comes with the possibility of winning. The awards given would prove, once and for all, that I was worth-while and had talent. However, only until recently have I even received any kind of recognition.

As I’ve mentioned before, I won third place for my column “Gay Agenda” in the Renegade Rip.  That award gave me so much self-worth I didn’t know what to do with it or myself.

When the chance to compete in the “NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge” arose I had to enter. Sure it cost me $50, but it guaranteed two of my stories would be read and critiqued by the judges; and it entered me into a chance at winning a cash prize.

The idea behind the contest is that the entrant is put into a group of around 30 people, and in that group each person has to write a 1,000 word story in a specific genre, that takes place at a designated location and must include a single item. Whether the item is crucial to the plot is up to the writer. For the first challenge, I was given the genre of Sci-Fi. My location was “a man-made island” and the item to be included somewhere in the story was “a skeleton.”  I have included it below so that people could read it. Followed immediately after is the feedback I received, and I have to say I agree with everything noted, with the exception of one.

Without further ado, here is my first entry into the flash fiction competition, brought to you by NYC Midnight Madness. I placed 13th out of 15 spots, in a group of 31 contestants.

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SCHIFF’S ISLAND

Darris Shiff stood on the shore of his newly formed island with his arms crossed over his chest. His eyes bounced from one aluminum robo-mech to the next as they bustled about the land mass spreading like a bubble across the surface of the ocean. 

“What do you think?” he said, gesturing with both arms to the scene. 

The young woman with chestnut skin glanced around at the construction with a blank expression. 

“I imagine the Terrestrial Brethren will be pleased.”  

“Good. All it took were a few quadrillion global credits, and here I stand on the precipice of a new age, away from the stench of poverty and war.”  

The young woman licked her lips, turned, and walked to the small table that had been set up for the meeting. A large blue and green hologram spun counterclockwise at the center, with a series of dots typing out flags of data. The sound of the robo-mechs and the waves lapping at the shore dulled the sound of the robotic voice reading each tag. 

“Your assistant informed me that the expected completion date is two weeks from now. That will not sit well with the Brethren. ” 

Schiff sighed, “No, it won’t, but you can’t rush progress. So, it will have to do. Most of the heat and salty ocean air has had a hand in the destruction of the majority of my mechs.” 

“And yet you persist.” 

Schiff turned to her with a broad grin. 

“One does what they must to survive.” 

The woman circled the table and examined the hologram. The grid of illuminated digital lines formed the peak of a single mountain rising like a beak from the tropical foliage and numerous buildings, turrets, and barriers surrounding its base. 

“I could survive here,” she said.  

Darris walked to the table and pressed a single button on the panel at its side. The hologram flickered away.  

“When can we expect them? I am ready for the Dalian Eclipse.” 

The woman smirked. “Are you so certain of that?” 

“Who are you to-” started Schiff, but the loud hum of an approaching ship cut through his response.  

The two looked up toward the sound to see a hover yacht emerged from the dense fog that circled the island. A long, red flag trailed from the rear to signal their station and identity. 

“Finally,” Schiff said. 

The woman narrowed her green eyes at the back of Darris’ head. 

The leisure cruiser pulled close to the island and dropped anchor only a few meters from where the two stood. A shimmering electron gangplank birthed forth from its side and rested at the edge of the shore, as a group of five men in billowing gold garments stepped to the edge of the craft. 

Schiff rushed forward and took his spot at the end of the walkway, as he tugged, tucked, and pressed his clothes to impress. 

“It is a pleasure to meet with you, gentlemen,” Schiff said, with half a bow. “Welcome to my island.” 

The man at the head of the group, with a gaunt face and a hooked nose, pursed his lips together and nodded. 

“Indeed, Mr. Schiff.”  

The men stepped around their host and walked onto the shore. 

“As you can see, everything is coming along nicely. I have developed the technology to build new lands, away from the coppers, for those willing to pay the price.” 

The five men moved about and appraised the scene before them like a flock of birds. 

“Pay?” one of the five said. “Hopefully, that does not include us. Considering what we’re offering you.” 

“Of course not, gentlemen.” 

The men chittered their approval. 

Schiff stepped next to the table and ignited the hologram.  

“As you can see the look of the finished product. We have all the amenities to protect us from pirates and the poor.” 

The Brethren circled the display and gestured to each of the features with their commentary. 

“You’ve done well. A man with your talents deserves what the Brethren offer.” 

Schiff moved to speak, but his voice escaped him. Instead, his jaw opened and closed like the limbs of one of his malfunctioning robo-mechs. 

“Provided you guarantee our own private property in this ocean world, you can join the brotherhood and live forever, like us.” 

Schiff nodded. 

The man with the hooked nose grinned and pulled from a pocket a clear plastic box that contained a single squirming creature that resembled a grub. 

Darris’ hands shook as he lifted them to grab his prize. For so long he had heard the rumors of what it took to be a Brethren, but he had never believed it until the leader placed it in his open palm. 

“Thank you.” 

The growl of an engine drew the attention of everyone gathered on the beach to the ship that exploded from the fog flying a tattered acid-green flag, adorned with the skeleton of a shark. 

“Pirates!” One of the men shrieked, sending the brethren into a panic. 

The young woman seized her moment. With moves as quick as lightning, she pulled a pistol from her boot and shot a single bolt at the gangplank where it short-circuited the walkway, trapping the men on the island. 

“You’re not going anywhere.”  

“We will give you money!” one of them shrieked. 

The young woman sneered. 

“I don’t want your filthy credits.”  

The young woman fired a charged bolt into each of the Brethren’s heads and stopped when she came to Darris. 

Schiff dropped to his knees, with the box still clutched in his hands. 

“Why are you doing this?”  

“One must do what it takes to survive,” the woman said. “And the world without your kind is better off.” 

Schiff glanced from his captor to the dead men on the ground, to the Kubuli in his hands. 

“Thank you for building us a beautiful new world.” 

With one final bullet, the Brethren were no more. 

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JUDGES’ FEEDBACK:

{1751} I truly appreciated the revenge that the young woman takes on the people who would obviously have only used the newly invented land to serve themselves (because that’s what they do best).  {1739}  Schiff’s struggle to join a secret society is intriguing. The tech that he has developed to prove himself, makes him a sympathetic character.  {1743}  This is quite a taut and penetrating flash science fiction.  The slam bang ending is a working hologram itself, italicized with a “Kabuli.”  That pirate ship bursting through fog, flying its shark flag is a real keeper.  Fine piece of writing, this.  WHAT THE JUDGES FEEL NEEDS WORK – {1751}  It seems astounding to me that the men who have such power and wealth would have no bodyguards and only one ship on and off the island; you might improve the story if the young woman had disabled even more obstacles, such as bodyguards or more ships, as it might make her victory seem less miraculous and more plausible. However, this is only a suggestion.  {1739}  The story really begins once the Brethren arrive. Consider truncating the opening sequence. Nothing is written that makes the Brethren or Schiff bad people. They all seem to be pretty hard working folks. Schiff mentions that steps are taken to protect against pirates, yet his facility is immediately overrun. This is a big conflict.  {1743}  An em dash is rendered as: –.

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My Gay Royalty Proclamation/Coronation

I have decided to name myself the voice and face of the gay community. Why not? Who’s going to stop me? Sure it’s self appointed, and sure most of my opinions tend to run against what most feel, but I find that the ones that have stepped up to the plate are shameful and stupid.

I sat down the other day to see if I could in fact think of gay icons that represent or are the final voice for my homo homies. The ones I could think of were infamous characters who should be banned from ever stepping foot in public again. I speak of course about Perez hellno and Milo yaya-BGB. They made themselves famous by saying off-color remarks and having hard opinions on things, which, to their credit, is what someone claiming to be a voice for their people should have. None of this wishy-washy bull-shit. We need leaders. I can be that voice.

To offer some credentials I have dabbled in most scenes or are VERY aware of them, however I live a very sedate life with my husband, longing for an expanded family through invitro or adoption. (The jury is still out on which route we intend to go.) While I have hard opinions on most things I have a thing that those other gents lacked… what was that word again… Oh yeah, apathy. However, I am by no means a pushover. Sometimes the gays can be so immersed in their own bull shit that they can’t see the pile of shit for the turds. It’s a horrible an unfortunate analogy but I was going for a cohesive image.

Then, my gleaming credit is that for two semesters I wrote a column for my college paper called “The Gay Agenda.” It dealt with a bevy of topics, all of which were discussed within the limited character length. My first column, discussing my coming out twice to my parents, won me third place from the California College Media Awards. Sure, I had to pay $65 for a ticket into the banquet to physically receive the award, but that doesn’t lessen the fact that I did in fact win. (First and second were both columns about Colin Kapaernik, so… That’s way more important than the baring of my soul to an audience primarily comprised of conservative individuals that own guns. So thanks for that.)

One of the gay icons I love is Jonny McGovern, and he has a song called “Gay Questions” where he croons “I got gay questions, and I need gay answers.” Well, Mr. McGovern, while you have the questions I may certainly not have the answers, but I will try my darndest to find them. And I don’t know how the two fisting bottom doesn’t get trunk but. Kegel exercises on the reg? Or Maybe they just made a deal with the devil.

So for my first and foremost “final answer” to end all commentary and questions, I will discuss the comments made by Andrew Garfield.

If you are not in the know he said he considered himself a gay man, just without the whole nasty business of taking it or giving it up the butt. He was a little more eloquent in the way he conveyed it, but I am trying to reach my readers through humor.

How I see it is the man had nothing but love in his heart when he said it. Sure it’s weird, but at the core of what he was trying to say is that he sees through our eyes in such a way that he can identify. Sure he won’t face the same kind of discrimination most of us will encounter (luckily I have found next to none, praise Albus) yet he will be the first to step up and defend us. At least I would hope. What we need are allies. We can’t do this alone and getting angry with him over something he said, when his intent was kindness, is just petty. It appears that at times the community allows ourselves to be consumed by our own victimhood and we let it run our lives.

The truth is Andrew Garfield will never understand what it truly means to be a gay man. Ever. Unless he’s a fucking gay man. If he is… bitch… Quit  being a pussy about it and come out. The more people are honest with themselves and those around them, then will change occur. The Gay rights movement has made leaps and bounds in such a short amount of time. I say that with certainty because we seem to be more accepted by people than most people of color. We are still fighting that shit today.

So, kids, when someone says something that seems off-color, stop and THINK! Ask yourself, what are they trying to say? Are they a friend/advocate? Is their message coming from a place of love? People make mistakes in an effort to show their a friend. Don’t overreact with some bullshit about using the wrong pronoun or assuming someone’s gender. (Fuck, that stuff irritates me.)

So sayeth the spokesman for the gay community, J.R.

 

Hello, Writing, My Old Friend

I have missed writing. A lot. It was something I have turned to time and time again because I have this need to emote every thought and the written word is my medium of choice. In the past it has been acting or “singing” (it’s in quotes because whether I can carry a tune is debatable) but writing has always been a constant. Ever since I was a little kid I have wanted to be a writer. And to be a “writer” one has to write, so why have I been so lazy about it?

I am in a constant battle with myself over whether my anti-depressants are necessary or not. While at times they seem mandatory, there are others where it feels like in the end all they do is turn me into a zombie. I have no emotion and the things I tend to feel passion for or about dissipates and I am left with apathy. I hate it. But I have read that it is the “emotional rollercoaster” that those who suffer from depression or bipolar disorder like. They like the crazy manic mood swings that typically accompany the disorders. And I may just be another statistic in that regards.

One of the biggest reasons I hate taking my meds is that I will literally be in the midst of writing, because it has called upon me, and for whatever reason the action hasn’t held my attention or I lose interest the in the thing that was ushering me to the task. So I inevitably hit “save as draft” and it sits in my blog forever unpublished because it’s unfinished. I hate that with every fiber of my being, because in my mind and in my heart I feel like this medication is taking away my personality and my voice.

However, the dark reality is that at times I need them. My emotions become to overpowering that I end up making irrational choices that from a distance are totally out of character and detrimental to my health. So it is that fear which keeps me tied to this prescription.

This never-ending battle has grown in fervor recently because of a particular episode of the “Well Red” podcast. It is episode 15 if you’re interested, which discusses the idea of dreams and dealing with the reality of achieving them. Everything they said I agreed with, which happens quite frequently with me and audio show. At one time I may not have, as I was an artistic dreamer that didn’t see the forest for the trees. Everything was possible as long as I “believed.” My husband comes along and straps blocks to my balloon. Now, that sounds harsh, and it is, but I needed it. He pushed me to think about what I wanted realistically and to not be the “head in the clouds” kind of person. At one time I resented him for it but now I love him more because of his ability to be honest with me. He wasn’t saying I couldn’t do it, he was just giving me a healthy dose of the reality that it may not happen and if it doesn’t to not be destroyed because of that “failure.” (I don’t want to use failure in this instance, but until my mind comes up with another more appropriate one it will have to stay.)

If you haven’t had the pleasure of listening to that podcast, do yourself a favor and do it now. These gents are super intelligent and such advocates for the gay community. I couldn’t love them more than I do, without knowing them personally. I’ve been binge listening to the whole series thus far and have only come across 1 episode I didn’t like and that was because the person they were interviewing reminded me of a toxic individual I removed from my life. Other than that… they’re hilarious and I could listen to them all day, and have.

Listening to Trae’s story about holding a job during the day and doing stand-up at night, with kids, has reminded me that it is possible to try. Success, however, is all about luck and timing. And that won’t happen if I don’t keep at it or even make an attempt. And this show has reignited that spark in me.

Writing has taken a backseat lately because of my pills, as previously mentioned, but also because of my obligation to complete my appraisal courses and working to get my AA in journalism from my local college. Something had to give and it was writing blogs or working on my novel. But… as of last Monday I have completed my appraisal courses and can now get my license.

It’s funny, the first thought I had after passing my course (other than immense relief and the want to break down crying) was that I can finally get back to working on my novel. And I mean, immediately after. I was walking away from the testing center when it came rushing to my mind.

It warms my heart to know that no matter how much time passes or what obligations get in the way, the thing I return to time and again is writing. If only I could figure out this pill situation…

The Want of Journalism

For the past nine months I have been consumed by producing my school’s newspaper the Renegade Rip. As my teacher likes to share, is that it’s a tradition of almost 100 years and we were the next to carry the torch.  With them I followed ledes, wrote stories, photographed events, and for one semester was the Photo Editor.

Now, my time is coming to an end with the paper and I feel so unbelievably lost. It’s weird the little habits that become all too familiar until they’re no longer there. I would bitch about the chaos and consuming nature I had allowed it to play on my life (because I like to complain as it gives my misery purpose) but in reality I loved it. Without it… Well, I will go on, because I survived without it in my life before. It is just that after having experienced it has made me crave something I never knew that I wanted or needed.

During these months the two things I held as my own was a column I wrote each issue called “The Gay Agenda” and the calendar. The second was not as glamorous, but the first won me an award. I won 3rd place for my first column that recounted my two times coming out to my mother. The columns that beat me out for first and second place were both about goddamn Colin Kapaernik which gives me a reason to join the conservative masses that dislike him. Except he has personally affected my life as opposed to just “offending” me.

One of my fellows editors says that we are a unique fraternity and that no others will understand what it was like to be an editor. I truly agree with him. My biggest worry in regards to my frat brothers is that we will drift apart. I’m sure we will, that’s kind of the nature of college life when you don’t have the same classes and are at varying degrees in the life of higher education. I will try to keep in touch but… Life gets in the way.

This Wednesday will officially be the last day of class. It will be bitter-sweet. I imagine the two people in my life who will be more than enthused are my boss and my husband who both dislike the all-consuming nature the class has played on my personal and business life. Whatever. It is definitely an experience I will not soon forget.

 

Five Simple Rules

In typical pattern, as winter slowly changes into spring I myself am going through my own transition.  It may be because I have grown-up some, being almost thirty, or I am just longing for a purpose.  Right now, I lack any real directive.  Instead, I waste my time on events and relationships that go absolutely nowhere.  I want to be established.  I want to have a career.  I want a goal!

The other day I had decided to delve further into my novel.  I want it to submerge me.  When I was younger I’d become so engrossed in my own creativity that nothing else mattered.  That is the place I long to return too.  Maybe then it will inspire a goal.

I made the decision to post one of my novels on Watt Pad and see what kind of response it gets.  And because I am a perfectionist I have been going through and revising it to be viewable by another pair of eyes besides my own.  Although, I am questioning whether I want to post my novel there since my niece informed me last night that plagiarism is a huge problem on the website and creates a good amount of drama.  That makes me uneasy, as I am already paranoid about people stealing my work that is not accessible for the whole world to see.  I go so far as to shred any page of my book I print out and no longer need.  Yet even with that fear, I find myself driven to create a “platform.”

“Platform” is the buzzword I keep running across in blogs, articles, or books about writing and getting agents.  Literary agents want the writer to have done most of the legwork building an audience through social media or blog posts.  That is a lot of pressure.  While it is not mandatory, it is preferred.  Therein lays my desire to publish my novel online.  (Well, that and I am looking for validation.)

Being an artist is tough.  Until one’s art is complete, he must live inside his own head and judge his talent on his own.  There is a lot of doubt and fear that comes with that kind of responsibility.  I think that may be why so many people never finish what they start.  The inner critic just kills any beauty that may blossom from one’s creative mind.  In an effort to combat that, I have created my own rules of writing.

1 – Throw all the paint on the canvas as quick as you can.

2 – Take your time editing and refining the details.

3 – Trust your gut!

4 – Don’t take criticism personally.

5 – Always finish what you start.

Dear John

A year of writing prompts by Brian A. Klems and Zachary Petit
January 22
Write a ‘dear john’ letter to your writer’s block.

Dear Writer’s Block

After our many good years together it’s time we see other people. As people tend to do they mature, grow, and want other things from life and I am no different. You are an infantile boob that has stood in the way of my ambitions for too long. I had kindly tolerated it because it was cute but it has grown tiresome.

I could tell you that it’s me and not you, but why lie. We both know it’s equally our fault. You woo me with your lies and I fall for it every time. This time I have learned.

If you were someone to care about anyone but yourself I would say, “don’t you want me to be happy?” “Don’t you want me to succeed?” The reality is you do not. You really, really, don’t.

For the past two years you have stood in the way of me finishing my book. I’ve given all the excuse that it’s been your fault but the blame comes mainly on my shoulders. I let you.

In time or no time at all you will find some other foolish person that will tolerate your hijinks. But it will not be with me.

Farewell.

To my grandmother…

A Year of Writing Prompts by Brian A. Klems and Zachary Petit

January 16

“You are given the opportunity to talk to one dead person and tell him/her one thing that you didn’t get to before they passed away. Who would you pick and what would you tell him/her?”

I have to say that I am blessed. Death is something I am not familiar with. At least, not when it comes to someone that is close to me. Sure, I have had the distant relative that I saw on an occasional Christmas or family reunion pass, but no one that was part of my every day. That being said my pool to pull from is rather small. Yet it doesn’t diminish the weight of my choice. If I wanted, I could choose from a dead celebrity who affected my life in a way that they will never understand, but has deep emotional meaning for me. (I’m thinking of C.S. Lewis by the way. If you were wondering.)

If I could talk to one person that has died it would be my grandmother. She lived with my parents and me for a good portion of my life. As I got older I started to be very disrespectful. My parents were good parents but a little lax and my grandmother would step in to take up the slack. She was never one for sitting idle. She bustled around the house, cleaning my clothes, and reminding me to do my homework.  We both shared a love of the TV show The Golden Girls and every time I watch it I think of her.

It’s strange the things one remembers.  For instance, the last thing you ever say to someone will live with you forever.  (So make it good. ) I deeply loathe the last thing I ever said to my grandmother. “Do you want the TV on or off?” It was so cold.  So empty.  Absolutely worthless words.  What’s worse is, she hadn’t been feeling well ever since her surgery, and instead of asking how she felt or spend any time with her I went to bed after my question.

At the time I had been working nightshifts at Best Buy, helping with the store remodel. It was good in the sense that I made a ton of money, but it destroyed any kind of living.  I was awake long enough to work and when I got home I slept the entire day. It was a temporary thing, but horrible while it lasted.

On the last night of my over-night shifts my grandmother died. My mother had telephoned while I was working and left me a vague voicemail.  It’s still a mystery to me why I never called her back, instead of just rushing to the house. Instead I did 65 on city streets until I pulled into the driveway. I’m certain that, in my heart, I already knew what had happened. Come to think of it, I had started to cry before I even knew for sure.

When I got home there were unfamiliar cars in the driveway. My heart began to go even faster. I could just feel it. I walked into a silent house.  A small gathering of people had congregated in the family room.  Then my mother told me the news.  I wept and crumpled to the floor. It is the first and only time (so far) that I lost someone I really loved.

More than anything, if I could talk to her I would say that I’m sorry for how I treated her. Like I said, as I got older I started to rebel against her parenting. I got to be a dick and I regret that more than anything. More than our final, hallow, conversation.  I wish I had said more to her before she died. I wish I could have told her that I did love her, very much. She had such a profound impact on my life.  It’s because of her that I love to read, play cards, watch the tv show The Waltons. She was the first person to know that I wanted to be a writer. My grandmother read all of my stories and would tell me each time how good they were, even when they were most certainly not. I promised myself that if I ever had a book published I would dedicate it to her. Although, as of late, the project that has been begging to be finished (and very nearly is) would be something she would not read. I don’t think my Southern Baptist grandmother would really approve of a book about a gay boy who gets dumped and then grows wings. At least, one of the chapters she would just skip all together because of its explicit content.

I’ve heard some before me say that they wish they had told their loved one that had died who they truly were.  I never got to say it, but I’m pretty sure she had a hunch.  The woman’s room was right next to mine and I had a habit of talking late into the night to my husband on my cell phone.  It’s strange to me that my husband even got to meet her once.  He attended my high school graduation and unknowingly sat behind my parents.

My heart tells me she would have loved Charlie.  To see how my parents love him…  It shows me how powerful love is.