May 29

Flash Fiction

After reading a wonderful Flash Fiction piece by  Sally Franklin Christie, I remembered how much I love this form of fiction for the extremely short attention span. In case you aren’t  familiar with the concept, Flash Fiction is a complete story with all the necessary elements: plot, characters, etc. contained in 1000 words or less. If you’d like to know more, check out Flash Fiction Online. My story weighs in at 364 words. Tell me what you think.  

 

I Know What It Looks Like

By Teresa Elliott Brown 

My morning chores in the vegetable garden complete, I decide to shower. The phone rings and I let it go to the machine while I shampoo and rinse. Wrapped in a towel and dripping, I check the message. He wants a haircut. Big date tonight and he’s short of cash. Okay.

“Why don’t you come over around two o’clock? While the boys are asleep.” I braid my hair and dress in white shorts and a peasant blouse. I know what it looks like, but it’s just a favor for a friend—a haircut.

 When he arrives we gossip about our mutual friends. He rants about what’s going on in our theater group as we move toward the kitchen for the shampooing.

While he’s leaning over my kitchen sink, surrounded by children’s utensils draining in the rack on the counter, I realize how broad his shoulders are. I notice the curling gold hair, like wispy smoke clinging to his tanned, hard forearm. I want to touch the gold smoke. We’re no longer speaking. I massage his scalp with soapy fingers. I know it looks like I’m shampooing his hair.

My friend brings one of the dining room chairs into the kitchen. With a towel wrapped around his shoulders, he tells me about the new girl he’s dating. I cut his hair, slowly moving around him. My arms and legs and hips moving rhythmically to the clicking of the scissors. Up and down to the rolling pitch of his voice. I know it looks like I’m concentrating on this haircut. 

How long since I’ve been on a date?

Almost finished now.  I always have trouble cutting the hair over the ears, and wish I had real training. I step closer. Move slower. Try to do it right.  I know it looks like I’m telling him a secret. 

Brushing away the clipped hair with flicks of my fingertips over his eyebrows and ears. Neck. Throat. His lips. I know it looks like caressing strokes. 

I stand in the doorway with my two sons, waving goodbye. I’ve given a friend a haircut—a small favor between us.  

 

 

May 22

A Tale of Three Pillows–Part II

 

The girl grew into a woman, and she did travel. She journeyed by car, train, and by airplane. She went North and South. She went East and West. Her collection of travel treasures included trivets, towels, t-shirts. Sometimes she brought home salt and pepper shakers or postcards. Her shelf of memories contained a miniature Chrysler Building, a tiny Statue of Liberty, and a glass apple. From Mexico City she brought a three inch pyramid and a tiny stone Olmec.

But search as she may, she never found a pillow like her mother had showed her as a girl. Of course, now that she was a woman she knew her mother’s pillow was NOT beautiful. In fact, it was spectacularly tacky. But she still loved it and wanted one of her own from one of her trips. 

Eventually, she traveled to San Francisco. Here, she thought, is where I will find a wonderful, tacky, glorious pillow. After all there was the Golden Gate bridge, the hills, the trolley cars, the bay. All of those thing together with gold fringe would be just the thing. 

In San Francisco, she searched high and low. She scoured Chinatown and all the linen outlets she could find. She and her friends spent hours looking for the pillow of her imagination. It seemed that no one else had the vision for tacky pillows she had. So she bought a pillow in Chinatown that said, “Good Fortune.” Maybe it would bring her good fortune in her search for THE pillow. To be continued…

Good Fortune from San Francisco
Good Fortune from San Francisco

May 20

A Tale of Three Pillows


Once upon a time a young girl knelt on the floor beside her mother as the woman opened a deep wooden chest. Trembling with curiosity,  the girl leaned forward to see the treasures in the chest. A shimmer of gold beneath an old book caught her attention. “What is this, Mama?” 

Mama laughed and tugged the fringe from the bottom of the chest. “Bobby gave this to me a long, long time ago.” Mama flattened the fabric across her knees and smiled. Letting the silky fringe slip over her fingers, she said, “Bobby was my first boyfriend. Long before I knew your Daddy.” The fringe was attached to a colorful picture of a far away place–Texas. 

Mama read the poem on the pillow cover.

Sweetheart

I thought that you would like to know

That someone’s thoughts go where you go.

That life is richer sweeter far.

For such a sweetheart as you are. 

The young girl sighed with the romance of it. This boy had loved her mother enough that he thought of her while he was so far away–in Texas. The pillow cover with all it’s bright colors and sweet words and gold fringe seemed to be everything interesting and romantic and adventurous to the young girl. She determined that one day she would travel to far away places–like Texas, and even beyond–and she would collect beautiful things to remind her of love and adventure. 

Mama folded the cloth and put it back in the chest. She closed the lid, trapping the glimmering golden fringe and cedar aroma until the next time the treasure chest would be opened. The girl locked away in her memory the image of the pillow cover and planned her journeys from the swing set in the back yard.

 

To be continued…

The Texas Sweetheart Pillow

The Texas Sweetheart Pillow

May 19

Travel Serendipity–The Copper Penny Ranch, Tularosa, NM

ser-en-dip-i-ty n The faculty of making fortunate discoveries by accident. 

Perfect travel would always be serendipitous, don’t you think? A happy journey of sweet and memorable events?  Alas, travel is hardly ever perfect. Even the best laid plans fall victim to traffic jams, mechanical failures, operator error.  In April we took our new motor-coach on a cross country journey–Florida to California and back in two weeks. Fourteen days of new scenery rolling beyond our windows. Fourteen days worth of serendipity. As many fortunate discoveries as our wee little minds could recognize.

Jonas gives Teresa tips on handling Storm

Jonas gives T tips on handling Storm

One of my trip wishes was to ride a horse while I was out West. I’m an inexperienced rider, but love the idea of riding. As we left the White Sands National Park,  we happened upon the Copper Penny Ranch and RV Park in Tularosa, New Mexico. This is a working ranch with about eight RV spots out front. When we arrived a young cowboy was practicing roping a bail of hay while a father and his very young son rode horses in the training ring. How lucky could we be?
After checking in the with the owner of the ranch and discovering he couldn’t give horseback rides because there was a clinic going on that weekend, I thought my chances of riding were gone.  Hiding my disappointment and soaking in the sights and sounds, I watched as the father and son rode over to the  young roper. I realized that HE had horses. Wish revives and I saunter over to introduce myself. No, I didn’t say, “Howdy, pardner.”
I just did a little  sweet talking to convince the  roper to let me have a turn around the ring on his horse. Jonas, the young roper, obviously loved his lifestyle. He lives with his parents on a ranch that runs about 500 head of cattle in Tucumcari, New Mexico. He was in the area to compete in a high school level rodeo, with hopes to earn a college scholarship in rodeo. He introduced me to Storm, one of the horses, as I explained just how inexperienced I am. “Riding is one of those things I think everyone should experience,” Jonas told me.  While I made friends with Storm, Curtis and his dad said hello.
4 year old Curtis teaches T how to rope

4 year old Curtis teaches T how to rope

Jonas and I took a few turns around the ring as the sun was setting. He said he didn’t think anything was quite a pretty as a New Mexico sunset. I think I’d have to agree. When the sun slipped below the pink and purple mountains on the horizon, we reined in the horses and took them back to the trailer for their dinner.

 
Then Curtis, a four year old with his heart set on being a calf roper, gave me a lesson in roping. Believe it or not, I lassoed that that bale of hay on my second try! Yee-haw! So trip wish number one granted! I celebrated by making Jonas and Curtis brownies, and wishing Jonas success in his calf roping rodeo competition the next day. 

Sep 12

Think About Entering RWA’s Golden Heart Contest, Part II

Today we’ll think about some of the reasons you may want to want to wait another year before entering the Golden Heart Contest. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, the Romance Writer’s of America’s Golden Heart Contest is one of the biggest contests for yet-to-be published authors. It’s also one of the most expensive contests to enter. Here are a few things you might want to think over before plunking down your $50.00. 

T’s Top 9 Reasons NOT TO Enter The Golden Heart

1. Do Not Enter the GH If You’re Still a Contest Virgin

RWA’s GH contest doesn’t offer any written feedback from the contest judges. You get a number. That’s all. Which is great if you happen to have all high numbers and become a finalist, but not much help with making your manuscript better. My advice is to enter some of the chapter sponsored contests which use detailed judging sheets. Most contests let you preview their judging sheets on-line. Use some of these contests and their excellent judging before jumping into the Golden Heart.

2. Do Not Enter the GH If You Want Feedback on Your Manuscript

See above.

3. Do Not Enter the GH If Your Manuscript is a Category Bender

Yesterday I mentioned the importance of knowing the rules RWA has established for contest categories. But sometimes we’ve written a great manuscript that pushes the envelope. If you’ve written a time-travel, spy thriller set on the romance planet Ulovus, you could sell the book and be on the lists before you’ll do well in the GH. You just need to find the right contest for your manuscript. 

4. Do Not Enter the GH If You Can’t Handle the Hard Numbers

Without written feedback, those low number HURT!

5. Do Not Enter the GH If You’re Certain This Is The Key to Publication

Unfortunately, a win or a final in this or any contest doesn’t guarantee publication. But doing well in this contest does provide many opportunities for your work. Just keep in mind that there are no guarantees and don’t let it get you down.

6. Don’t Enter Expecting the Final Judge to Fall in Love With Your Work

Sometime the editor who is the final judge will call RWA and request the manuscript. A few of my fellow finalists have sold their first manuscript this way. But by the same token, some of the winners haven’t sold yet. You never know, but chances are you won’t hear from your final judge.

7. Don’t Enter Expecting This Contest to Change Your Life

Final, win or sell, you are still you. A good thing to keep in mind no matter what is going on.

8. Don’t Expect the GH Window of Opportunity to Remain Open Forever

Take advantage of the NOW, and query, query, query while you’re hot!

9. Don’t Enter the GH if You’re Camera Shy

This is a minor detail, but still…. If you final, you’ll be required to send in a photo for use in the “Romance Writers Report” and during the conference. Make the most of this and get the best photographs you can. These will be useful on your website and for future publicity opportunities. You don’t need to break the bank, but do go with a classic, professional look. 

Well, that’s all the advice I have on this one!  Good luck!

Sep 10

Think About Entering RWA’s Golden Heart Contest

You know it’s almost fall when the kids head off to school and yet-to-be published writers begin to think about whether to enter Romance Writer’s of America’s Golden Heart Contest. This is the premier contest for us. If you final in this prestigious contest, your work has risen to top of about 2,200 entries. After being judged by your peers, your partial manuscript then goes to the final judge–an editor who can buy your work if he/she likes it. The Golden Heart Contest is a great opportunity.

But you need to make a few personal decisions before you send in your registration fee, and to help you make those decisions, I’ve come up with two T’s Top 10 Lists. Today I’ll give the reasons to enter. Check them out and see what you think.

Come back tomorrow and find out why you might want to wait. 

By the way, I’ll be entering again this year with a new manuscript I’m in love with! I’m hoping for final number 4 and a sale this year!

T’s Top 10 Reasons TO ENTER the GH

ENTER BECAUSE YOU ARE READY

1. You’ve gotten feedback from other contests, made revisions

The Golden Heart judges give you a number score only. I suggest entering contests that give you an in-depth critique and concrete suggestions for improvement. Enter several contests to compare and contrast comments–if something comes up several times, FIX IT.

2.Your manuscript is complete and error free

One of the rules of the GH contest is to submit a completed manuscript, so finish it! And of course, you always want to present your best work. Always!

3.You know which contest category to enter

Very important! Study the RWA definitions available on the website (www.rwanational.org) or in the Romance Writers Report magazine. These are the standards you’ll be judged by. Don’t blow your chance by entering the wrong category.

ENTER FOR THE NEWTORK

4. Your GH class is an important network of support and publicity

The Wet Noodle Posse, the group of finalists in 2003, changed forever the value of the GH class by establishing one of the first group blogs. Besides a communication loop, this on-line presence is great publicity for published and yet-to-be published writers. Check out the Posse at www.wetnoodleposse.com. Coming soon from MY class of 2007 is www.nobodywritesitbetter.com, where I’ll be a regular contributor. My 2006 class’s group blog is www.romancebandits.blogspot.com. You can bet the Banditas are always rockin’.

5. The Golden Network offers unique support and education

JOIN the special interest RWA chapter for GH finalists as soon as you get your invitation.It’s always a great party at the conference and The Golden Network retreat is an outstanding opportunity for education and networking with industry professionals. This year’s retreat was Speed Dating–three minutes to pitch your story to editors and agents. What a great opportunity!

ENTER FOR THE APPOINTMENT OPPORTUNITIES

7.Wear your Golden Heart and your ribbon on your badge and be ready to talk 

Plan to enter the RWA National conference if you are finalist. When you wear that pink ribbon as a finalist, everyone will be congratulating you, including editors and agents. If they happen to ask about your manuscript have your 30 second TV Guide pitch ready. Check you TV Guide description for your favorite show. Copy that style.

8.Take advantage of early registration for editor and agent appointment

You’re GOLD! You get to register first and usually have a one-on-one appointment. Be prepared, be confident, hit the important points. Don’t just pitch, ask questions and listen.

ENTER FOR THE VALIDATION

10. Enjoy and treasure the validation of your peers. Soak it all in and have fun! 

Good luck!

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