The Kiss

Once again, this piece has a soundtrack. Unconditionally by Katy Perry. (Gorgeous video, too!)

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Photo by Lisa

I bring my fingertips to my lips, holding them there for a moment. It didn’t seem possible that these were the same lips that an hour before you kissed softly, hesitantly, only a gentle brush across my skin. If I didn’t keep feeling the memory of your lips on mine, the feel of your warm breath on my cheek, I would think I’m dreaming.

The room is too noisy, too crammed with people for me to process the kiss. Rustling skirts and laughter and music and conversation overwhelm me. Servers offer me champagne and food. Guests interrupt my thoughts to make small talk. How is your mother? How is your career? Isn’t this a lovely party? I want to look them in the eye and tell them how you kissed me so tenderly I wanted to disappear with the ache of it.

You catch my eye from across the room. You are cool grace now, hiding the nerves that infused your hands as you brushed hair from my face with your trembling fingers. I give you a small smile and am rewarded with the crinkling of your eyes in return. Turning away, I know that in this moment you are mine and I am yours. Secretly. Patiently. Lovingly.

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End of the Line

I don’t usually write with music on, but tonight’s flash fiction had a soundtrack: Beekeeper by Keaton Henson.

Photo by Lisa

Photo by Lisa

end of the line
this is where we stop
hearts strewn upon the ground
beating, beating, beating
an elegy for something just
beginning to bloom

perhaps this end was avoidable
but maybe it was fated to be
opposites always destroy, don’t they?
lessons are learned for a moment,
as permanent as life

I am Earth, I am Mud
burying everyone within me
a living tomb for Love
Air can caress my face but can
never trap me within its windy embrace

this is the end of the line
who knows where the next line begins

The Writer’s Voice Contest

Query:

Twelve-year-old Lila’s greatest wish is for her big brother to leave his boarding school in the bustling town of Rithswald and come home to the family farm. In the days she spends waiting for his annual summer visit, her wandering feet bring her deep into the forest to the ruins of a burned-out manor. It is within these walls that a bodiless spirit lives.

After a childhood of hearing rumors about the evil lurking in the basement of the long-lost manor, Lila wants nothing more than to forget it. But the spirit of Gregor Bransley, a centuries-dead scholar, has been stalking the crumbled remains waiting for someone to bring him a new body.

When Lila mistakenly shows the ruins to her brother, Bransley possesses him, ruining the perfect summer Lila had imagined. To save her brother’s soul, she must leave her family behind and find a way to stop Bransley before he makes a permanent home in his new body and the life Lila cherishes is shattered forever.

First 250 words:

The evening sun warmed my skin as I sat brushing the feather of my best quill pen back and forth across my lips. I loved the way it felt on my skin and it helped me think of what to say to my brother. Dipping my quill into the inkwell on my desk, I began to write.

Dear Sam,

Papa told us you’re coming home in a month for the summer! I’m excited to see you. I can’t believe you’ve been at school for three years now. Rithswald sounds like a lovely city to visit, but I’m glad you’re coming here. The summers are always too short, though, and I miss you a lot when you’re gone.

Life here is the same as always. One of the goats tried to kick me today when I went to milk her but I got out of the way in time. Some days, she doesn’t like me very much but I managed to get the job done.

Bobby Penford pulled my hair in class yesterday but I got him back after school. I tricked him into thinking Mrs. Markin gave us an essay due first thing the next morning, so he ran home to finish it He stayed up all night writing it and was so mad this morning when he figured it out. Please don’t tell Mama. Good luck with school. I miss you.

I signed my name and put the pen down, regarding my work. The large block letters looked childish.

On Beta Reading

If you are looking to improve your writing, having beta readers and critique partners giving feedback on your work is an important part of that. Finding people, however, can be the most difficult part.

How to find Critique Partners/Beta Readers

  • Twitter
    • I resisted joining Twitter for a long time, but once I did I realized I was missing out on the wonderful writing community on there. I’ve met some great people on there who are willing to beta read. Just be prepared to reciprocate!
  • Writers Groups
    • You can find a writers group in your area! I’ve had great success with several groups, but sometimes it can take some searching to find one where you feel like you fit. Meetup.com and your local libraries are good places to start searching for groups!
  • Websites
    • There are also websites where people can sign up to be beta readers. I volunteer my time on a website called Readers for Writers and people can contact the volunteers on the page to have them read parts of their work.

So you’ve found a beta reader. What now?

  • While not necessary, giving your beta reader an idea of what you’re looking for in their critique can be helpful.
    • Are you looking for help with a difficult plot line? On developing your character? If you have something specific, let them know!
  • Find a reader whose writing skills are equal to or above your own.
    • This might seem obvious, but you’ll learn more from a person with more experience in the craft than you.
  • Know that beta readers are not editors.
    • The point of a beta reader is to find the weaknesses in your story and give feedback on how to improve it. It’s not their job to make sure your grammar, spelling, and punctuation are correct.
  • Find people unrelated to you to read your writing.
    • Family and friends are often not the best people to ask to critique your work. It’s extremely rare that they will give the feedback necessary to improve because they often don’t want to risk hurting your feelings.
  • Remember that their feedback isn’t personal.
    • Writing is personal and our work can feel like our children. It’s important to remember that you asked your beta reader for help and it’s a waste of everyone’s time if you dismiss their comments because they’re difficult to hear without at least considering them.
  • Find more than one person to read your work.
    • If everyone is telling that something doesn’t work, you should listen to them.
  • That being said, you, the author, have the final say.
    • After carefully considering what your beta readers have said, you don’t need to make every change they suggest. If you feel strongly about something, you aren’t obligated to change it.

An important thing to remember when finding beta readers is that the writing community is very small. It’s important to be polite and kind because people tend to remember those who are not. But go out, join some writing communities, and have fun.

Happy writing!

Moving On is Not Forgetting

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Photo by Lisa

Your pictures are hidden deep under floorboards in the attic
buried under seasons of clutter and dust
lying unseen and half-remembered in the darkness.
I need no photos to remember your laughter like rolling waves
and yet I struggle to trace your lips in the sand.

How strange it is to have memories
of a different kind of warmth beside me as I sleep.
Not the gentle ember
of the man who lies there now,
but raging forest fires and the dying hearts of stars.

I smell you in the ocean air at daybreak,
I hear your voice on the breeze at twilight,
I feel your hand in mine as we walk the darkened dunes at midnight.
I see colored light dance on your face as it streams
through the stained glass windows you loved so much.
But these are only in my dreams
and in the morning I sigh, wistful, and avoid questioning eyes.

He knows of you,
the one who stepped into your place in my life
but not in my heart.
He does not mention you, though,
as if the mere utterance of your name would be enough to resurrect your soul.

But I know better than he does
that I do not need your physical presence
to feel you all around me.
I love him deeply in my own way
and he’ll never replace you, but he keeps the darkness at bay.

The Old Woman

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Photo by Lisa

Neatly manicured lawns and trees and shrubs glow golden in the setting sun and gently pass you by as you take your evening stroll. You know every knoll on every tree, every flower in every garden. This is the same route taken day after day like there are no other roads in town open to pedestrians.

“Where’s the old woman today?” you turn and ask your friend as you meander past the large porch where she usually sits.

“What woman?” your friend replies.

“The one who always sits there and waves as we go past.” You gesture mildly towards her house. “She’s always there.”

Your friend locks eyes with you, creases forming around his mouth as he frowns in concern.

“There is no woman who sits on the porch and waves to people.”

“There is! I see her every day! Except not today. I wonder where she is…”

“There is no woman.” Your friend’s voice is hard and angry. “There never was a woman.”

Your mouth goes dry and sweat beads up on your forehead. Mumbling to yourself, you try to remember what the woman looks like. The sun glares down on you, blinding you, and the sweat drips down the sides of your face. You know she exists, but she is formless in your mind and the more you try to grasp at the memories you have of her, the more she slips away into fragments.

“There is no woman,” your friend repeats.

“No woman,” you mutter in response, knowing he must be right.

Your friend nods and his face becomes serene once more. You continue your walk, the same as it was yesterday. The same as it will be tomorrow. An endless loop of repetition no longer interrupted by the cheerful wave of a woman you can’t remember.