Tuesday, September 22, 2015

NYC Midnight Round 1 Challenge 2

Ok guys, here's the second challenge story.
Genre: Drama
Location: Fashion Show
Object to Mention: Neti Pot (I had to look it up)
Feedback: Appreciated

Neti Pot to the Rescue
Heschew!! Sniff. Dammit. I don’t need this. Today of all days.
“Damon! That better be her!”
I look back towards the rear of the cafeteria hoping she isn’t coming for me.
“Girlfriend, you look ratchet,” Damon calls out before I can spot him coming from the side entrance. “She’s not happy. You’re late, for one, and now, you look like death.”
I knew I was in trouble when I woke up this morning with a sore throat.
“Damon, it’s not that serious,” I say attempting to convince myself more than him. “Where is she?”
Tsk. “Where do you think she is? She’s been sitting in that wannabe dressing room waiting for you,” he says and saunters off towards the back.
Awesome. It took me half a year and all of the favors I could call in to get her to do this show for my kid sister’s school. My school. I told her it would look good for her agency to be philanthropic. I begged. I told her I’d pay her with my earnings. That was the final deal maker. Money. It all came down to money.
“What the fuck happened to you,” she yells, and I smile.
“Gabby, I’m fine. I just haven’t put my face on yet.”
“Honey, it’s going to take more than make-up to help your face at this point,” she snips and snatches up a bottle of foundation. “You better not ruin this for me. I cannot believe you talked me into this show, but now we’re here, it’s my name on the line. My reputation. You’re nothing. This is my show.”
“You better suck that shit up. You’re the lead tonight. Don’t fuck this up.”
I try to take a deep breath as she walks away, but the phlegm is too thick in my throat and nasal cavity. Please just clear up, I tell myself. As much as this is for the school, I can’t let my sister down. Gabby’s a bitch, and I’ll deal with her later, but now I care more about my sister. “Damon,” I call out hoping he’s close enough to hear me, but my voice cracks and a small choking cough comes out camouflaging his name.
“Oh honey,” he says and squeezes my shoulder. “You really do sound horrible.” He reaches up and wipes the smeared foundation on my forehead. “And you’re burning up. You can’t go on.”
Shaking my head, I just roll my eyes. “D, I’ve been way worse than today. This show is im…” SNEEZE “portant.” DAMMIT! NOT TODAY! “Just help me get ready. Please.”
He nods his head and immediately starts digging through my make-up case. One device after another. First the foundation to replace the foundation I’ve already sweat off. The wet sponge wiping my cheeks coats my skin and make me feel clammy all over. Between the coverage and the blush comes another two layers of color as an attempt to make me look human again. Damon holds the mirror up to me. “Now, we’re getting somewhere.”
I look into the reflection and only see failure dreaming of a pillow and a mound of blankets. My eyes feel like fire searching for an extinguisher. I breathe in through my clogged nostrils and get minimal air. I cannot succumb to this yet. I just need another hour and then I can rest. I hand him back the mirror. “Keep going. I have to be perfect,” I tell him in my nasal mocked voice.
“You got it.” He pulls out the color pallet and begins to shade my lids. “Green’s not your color today. Thankfully, your dress is blue. We can work with that.”
I just nod trying to imagine how disgusting the natural pea hue courtesy of this plague that’s taking up residence in my body is at the present moment. Closing my eyes feels like heaven. Sleep. Instead, he finishes them with black liquid liner and matching mascara. “All done, chica.”
I look to the mirror once again, but this time I don’t recognize who I see. I actually look healthy and fresh. The only tell that remains is how I feel inside…like shit. COUGH…SNEEZE…now the snot comes. “I need a tissue,” I say and cover my nose. He quickly grabs me one in time for me to blow, but when I pull it away, my makeup is ruined. “Oh, no. I’ll fix it.”
“You better or you’re fired,” Gabby says as she shoves the blue CK dress into my lap. You’re on in ten. Get your shit together.”
Defeat and exhaustion take over. “Damon, I don’t think I can,” I whisper. “I’m just so tired.”
“Oh no, honey, you’re not giving up on me yet. After all of the magic I’m performing, you’re getting dressed and out on the runway.”
I just laugh and shake my head.
“Oh! I have just the thing.”
Before I can say anything, he’s running in the opposite direction. I hear him digging through bags searching for the unknown. He comes back and shoves a teapot looking device at me. “Here. Use this. I swear it’ll work.”
“Damon, what the hell is this?”
He laughs at my ignorance. “It’s a neti pot.”
I have no idea if I’m doing it right, but I follow his instructions and hold a bowl in one hand under my nose while I flush with the other. When all is said and done, I take a breath and feel instant relief. “How long until I’m on?”
“Four minutes,” he answers and begins to fix my face yet again before working a miracle on my hair within seconds. “Now strip,” he commands waiting for me to step into the royal blue gown and matching stilettos. “It’s time. Go.”
I run to the stage entrance and walk. Ten. Nine. Eight. I count the steps to the turn. Pause. Smile. Return again. Five. Four. Three. I make it to the back.
Done. I can sleep now.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Round One

Genre - Satire
Location - High Stakes Room in a Casino
Object to be Mentioned - Swiss Army Knife

Education Reform

The crimson crushed velvet lined walls are a harsh contrast to my multicolored bulletin boards and 38 desks and chairs. When I started teaching, I never imagined entering into the poker room at the Paris, but here I am and playing with four of the most powerful people in my world.
            “Reeta, thank you so much for joining us here tonight. After the ceremony, the others and I decided that we’d really like your opinion on the situation. It needs to be fixed, but the ceremony wasn’t the right environment.”
            I still don’t really understand why they chose me, but National Teacher of the Year is a big deal so I roll with it. “Bobby, it’s just such an honor to be here. Thank you, again, for this privilege.”
            “How about we get some drinks before we play,” Mr. Alexander suggests and takes the seat to my left while pulling out the toothpick from his Swiss army knife. He waves to the waitress in the corner. “Sweetheart, come on over and get us some drinks. I’ll have a scotch. Ms. Frimoundo, what’ll you have?”
            “Rum and Diet, please.” I take the seat and welcome the first drink handed to me. “Will Ms. Murray be joining us as well, tonight?”
            “She was right behind me,” Arne says as he saunters through the private entrance. “Jager. Make it two.” He sits to my right and extends his hand to mine. “Reeta C. Frimoundo, congratulations. Once Patty arrives, we can get down to business while we play some innocent cards.”
            Impatient, I turn to Mr. Scott. “Bobby, you mentioned needing my help. I’m a bit unclear.”
            He nods and takes another drink. “Damn it, Patty. Why is she late again?”
Thankfully, before he can say much more, Ms. Murray comes through the doors eyeing the room for the final chair. “Bob, enough already. I may be late, but I’m here.”
At this point, I’m so confused. Rather than ask questions, I just drink.
“Ms. Frimoundo, now that all are present, let’s get down to business. No Child Left Behind has destroyed education. Every year we attempt to make change for improvement, and we thought Common Core would do the job, but it’s not working. Kids are getting progressively dumber and teachers are growing more and more apathetic. Something has to happen. As the teacher of the year, we are hoping you might have some insight on how to motivate teachers and kids to work harder and succeed. At the end of the day, the teachers are the answer. They have to be.”
Choking on my drink, I try my damndest not to spit my rum in his face. “I’m sorry, Mr. Duncan, I think I just heard you say that the teachers are responsible for the failure in education. Is that correct?”
Arne runs his hands through his grays and loosens his tie. “Reeta? Can I call you Reeta?” I nod and wait for him to continue. “Reeta, this is a safe room. We want your honest opinion, so to answer your question, yes, teachers are to blame. Not ones like you, but the rest.”
“Mr. Duncan, I am not quite drunk enough to tell you what I really think, but to save time I’m just going to get right to it.” I stand and straighten my skirt before proceeding. “The problem is not with the teachers, but rather the students. They don’t respect authority. This is simple to fix. Corporal punishment was outlawed years ago, but when it was legal, kids worked. Rather than handing paddles and rulers to the teachers and administrators again, let’s skip the lag time in discipline by putting all students and their desks on grids.”
            The four educational leaders nod their heads in unison, intrigued by my proposal. “By wiring all desks to a metal grid in the classroom and providing the teacher with a panel of corresponding buttons on her desk, we take immediate control of our classrooms. Any infraction including talking with neighbors, not turning in homework, being tardy to class, etc. can be handled by one push of the button. An electric shock will be sent to the student and he or she will receive immediate feedback.”
“This is fascinating,” Patty says softly. “Electric shock therapy.”
Mr. Alexander nods in agreement. “I like it.”
They like what I’m saying, so I keep going. “The cost of setting up the classrooms one time is drastically less than creating all new standardized tests, setting up new teaching standards, and purchasing all new textbooks to align with the changes.”
Arne says nothing. Instead he waves to the waitress for another drink and looks to the dealer who is setting up the game. “Go on. What about the opposing views?”
“I’ve thought about that as well. Some may say it’s inhumane. It would be more effective to tie tax credits to student achievement, placing more responsibility and motivation on the parents. Students with over 4.0 GPA will earn their parents $5,000 tax credit. It will decrease by $1,000 for each academic point it decreases, and for students who have less than a 2.0, their parents will receive nothing. Motivating parent involvement could improve the family unit as well. This would be beneficial for society as a whole.” I pause for a moment to take another drink. “This option may sound like a feasible option, but electric shock therapy is instantaneous. We won’t have to wait a year to see its effects on education.”
I wait for their response and motion for another drink.
“I like it. I say move forward.”
“Patty, shouldn’t we get the people’s opinion before making such a drastic change?” Bobby asks.
“Hell, no. The people don’t know what’s good for them. Let’s shock the bastards,” Arne declares. “Now that we have a solution for education, let’s get to the game. I have some money to make.”

            The dealer hears his command and deals the cards. Finally, we can have some fun.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

10 Years a "Writer"

Today, I logged in to my writing laptop for the first time in I'm not sure how long. I sent out some queries and then looked back into my query history. I have been querying varying manuscripts for almost ten years. I know to some that sounds pathetic, or even a sign that I should just stop. Obviously, if I haven't hooked an agent in ten years, it's probably because of me, but I REFUSE to believe that. I, honestly, must believe that it's all about timing.

I look back at my journey over the past ten years, and holy moly, it's been quite the journey. When I first started writing and querying and all that, I was HORRIBLE. I wrote a "book" called Confessions of a Serial Dater geared towards Chick Lit. I gave it to a friend to read, who hated it. I tried querying it the old fashioned way (snail mail), but after just about a year, I threw it in the garbage - literally. It's gone. I sometimes regret that. Anyway, after that was All's Fair in Love and Texts. After years of querying, I opted to self-publish on Amazon. It's not done poorly, but it's been a long time. Then came Keridwen. My story of druid magic and a girl named Caitlyn. This was my favorite. It, too, went onto Amazon after years of querying.

After Keridwen, I went through a period of mourning - both as a writer and a human. As a teacher, I realize life is a cycle, but for the second time in five years, I lost a student who meant quite a bit to me and my family. Randy died in combat in Afghanistan. The devastation knocked the wind out of me, and all I could do was write. I knew I was a failure at finding an agent (being good in my mind), but writing made me feel better as I worked through my grief. To Where and Back was my work of sadness. It, too, went onto Amazon after not getting anywhere with an agent. After that I took a very long break trying to figure it all out.

Then I got the itch again in 2013. I wrote Waiting for Heaven (first draft) in nine days. Whoa! What an accomplishment everyone told me. I edited, rewrote, edited, rewrote, and more. I queried, but only a few agents. I have to admit, I'm skiddish about the whole thing, but today I sent out seven more. Who knows? I need to at least try. 

Now I want to write again. The first six months of this year have been quite the challenge. It began with me starting a new job at a fantastic school. It was going great, but on March 1, it all changed. My 10 year old son was hospitalized and diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. The "new normal" has altered our world. In May, 12 year old daughter was referred to Shriner's Hospital. Her left leg is one centimeter shorter than her right and causing her scoliosis, as well as a 2 centimeter tilt in her hips. The soonest she can be seen is October, so until then, she has supports in her shoes. My husband, graduated from college in March, and he has been interviewing for teaching jobs since April. He's been on five interviews, but nothing has happened yet, but I know it will. 
Timing in this life is everything. I have faith that things will turn around, and because of that, I'm going to start writing again. I have two projects in my pocket, but I am now wondering about a third. Perhaps something will happen with Waiting for Heaven. If not, it's ok because there is always Amazon.

I've been a "writer" for ten years, and I hope to be one for ten more years - at least. :)

Bye for now.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

My Green Light

My class is reading The Great Gatsby and we have been discussing the significance of the "green light". I gave each kid a green light bulb shaped paper and had them write down what their "green lights" were. Afterwards, I had them each come up in front of the class to share with every one. Immediately, they asked, "why do we have to get up and do this?" My response was that when we say something aloud to a group of people, it becomes real and we are held accountable. Well, each kid came up and did as I asked. There were a lot of "go to college" and "graduate from high school." I enjoyed it quite a bit. When we were done, the kids asked, "Mrs. Handling, what's your green light?" I had to think about it.

When I finally decided what it was, I told them. "My green light is to rewrite my book and get it ready for whatever is next." I said it aloud, and felt the pressure. So, during spring break, I did it. Now, for the first time in two years, I have a new ms I'm ready to query out into the writer world and it scares the crap out of me. I've written a query letter and sent it to a friend; though, I admit I have sent it to an agent as well. I'm nervous.

I would love to progress as a writer to a traditionally published author. That would be my next green light. Now, I'll stand on my dock (my couch) and stare out across the sound at the green light shining in the night (my computer).

Monday, March 9, 2015

New Focus on Writing

So, I have taken a considerable amount of time off of writing. I sit and pull up something old to edit and rewrite, but my schedule just keeps being too chaotic to allow for writing. Since August, I've changed jobs in January, and one week ago, my son was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. I want nothing more than some time to myself to write, but life is getting in the way.  Is that a bad thing? Not at all. If anything, it's shown me that there is more to writing than fiction.

I started a new blog called Type 1 Diabetes, My Son, and Me. It's going to chronicle my family and my experience with this new diagnosis. I hope those of you who are here will come check it out. I do plan on writing fiction again...soon, but for now I have to focus on my family.

Wish me luck, and say a prayer for us.