fiction

Flash Fiction – Because She Loves Me

I open the window, allowing a light breeze and the neighborhood noises to come inside.  The curtains flutter, a horn sounds and I am reminded of another time.  Slowly, I make my way around the bed, stopping when I reach my chair.

“There was a time when I was just like our neighbors—always in a hurry, needing to be somewhere, trying to make a dollar.  Yep.  But that was a long time ago.  Back then, I thought I had it all figured out.  Work hard.  Pay the bills.  Take care of the family.  It’s what my father did so that’s what I did.  Hell, it’s what I taught our boy, John, to do.”

My easel is situated by Martha’s bed, across from the window, which offers a surprisingly wonderful view of a dogwood tree. Picking up the paintbrush, I dip the fine bristles into a dab of paint and smear it around on the pallet before gently adding the color to my canvas.  I pause long enough to look at Martha, hoping that maybe I’d see a glimmer in her eyes.  I don’t.

Martha was my high school sweetheart, the first girl I ever kissed.  As faithful as the day is long, that’s my Martha.  I think she deserved better than me.

“Remember how we always talked about going on that vacation?  You wanted to go to Paris and I wanted to see the pyramids…” I chuckle, patting Martha’s leg with my free hand.  “I should have taken you to Paris…”

I continue to dabble paint onto the canvas.  “I called John, yesterday.  But he wasn’t home.  Laura said something about him working overtime.  Said she’d have him call.  Maybe she forgot to give him the message…”

I glance at Martha, her eyes have become window into the bleakness of Alzheimer’s.  And once again, I feel the loss of her companionship, her quick wit, her constant support.  Tucking my hurt in a little box, I lock it away and focus on my painting.  “You know, Sweetheart, sitting here with you, painting and all—I reckon I have time to wonder what our life would have been like if I had followed my dreams.  Who knows?  We could have lived in Paris—me painting and you learning to cook French cuisine…  Who am I kidding?  You probably would have taught the French a thing or two about cooking!” I smile to myself.  “You deserved Paris.  Instead you got me…”

coupleI remember how pretty she looked, standing at the train station, waiting to welcome me home.  It was thoughts of her that got me through boot camp.  It was thoughts of her that accompanied me to Korea and it was thoughts of her that kept me going during my time in that frozen hell.

Laying down my paintbrush, I turn to her, lifting her soft, delicate hand to my lips.  “I must be the luckiest man in the world, having you for my wife.  I don’t know why a girl like you would have ever wanted someone like me.”

Clarity.  I see it in her eyes.  No matter how fleeting, I pray for these moments.  “Lo-ve you,” her voice croaks.

“Martha,” I cry as the spark fades away…  And this is why she deserved Paris—because she loves me.

-Deb

(Originally written in 2014)

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Flash Fiction – Night Runners

 

droneTrying to keep to the shadows,  Flint hurried through the streets, desperate to make his escape.  He glanced over his shoulder—no drones in sight—but, they were coming.  They were always coming.  It was just a matter of time before the incessant hum of their motors filled the air.   He darted down an alleyway, dove into a dumpster and covered himself with garbage.   The foul stench was a small price to pay for concealment.

Closing his eyes, he took a shallow breath and willed his racing heart to calm down.  Now was not the time to panic.  Now was the time to regroup, to prepare for the next phase of his mission—to get back to base camp with his precious find.  His hand moved to the pocket of his jacket, feeling for the pack of batteries.   The relief flooding his body was short-lived as the dreaded humming drew closer, echoing in the alley.

He lay still, waiting for the drones to leave.  After what seemed an interminable wait, the hum drifted away.  It was time to go—he knew this—but something in his gut warned him to stay put—so he waited.  Two minutes.  Four minutes.  Five minutes more.

And then it happened…

The sound of a drone as it started up…  He stopped breathing – his attention focused on the mechanical whining as it receded down the alleyway.

The operators, he realized, were getting smarter—powering the motors down—operating in a stealth mode, waiting for their prey to expose themselves.   Cautiously, he exited the dumpster.  He crept down the alleyway, hugging the building walls.  The going was slow but slow was good when it meant the difference between freedom and captivity.

The first rays of sun painted the morning sky as Flint entered the compound.  Quiet voices welcomed him.  He looked at the worried faces.  “Where are the others?” he asked.

They shook their heads, unable to answer.  But it didn’t matter—he knew what it meant.  The Community wasn’t safe.  They had to move and move quickly.  The Guard were masters of extracting information and considering the missing Night Runners—nothing needed to be said.  They gathered their meager possessions and separated, hoping that smaller groups would offer a better chance at survival.  With any luck, they’d find each other again.

Note:  This is a piece I wrote several months ago. After reading it last night, I tweaked it a bit. It’s one of those stories that keeps tickling the back of my mind and on occasion, I find myself checking in with Flint – just to make sure he’s still alive and well…  And he is. At last check, he had met up with his buddy, Clem – but that’s a story for another day.

The Importance of Supporting Characters – Thoughts on Jenny from Forrest Gump

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about supporting characters and the important roll they have in telling a story.

Okay, she's not Jenny buthttps---unsplash.com-juliacaesar I thought the pic is a good representation of the character.I love the movie Forrest Gump.  One of my favorite characters is Jenny Curran, played by Robin Wright (adult) and Hanna R. Hall (child). Jenny is such a complex character.  At face value she’s a wild child – going through life making terrible decisions.  But when you look deeper, you see a character that mirrors Forrest in many ways.

Like Forrest, Jenny is an outsider.  While the reasons they don’t fit into local society are different, they recognize they are both outcasts, so to speak. Forrest is born with physical and mental disabilities. Jenny is born into poverty and sexually abused by her father.  Neither have the ability to save themselves.  But because of their life experiences, they recognize that they are safe with each other and they develop a beautiful friendship.

As the story progresses, we see Jenny continually running from her past, from her pain, from her feelings.  Not only does she choose men who abuse her, she abuses herself. She is a person that lacks a sense of self worth.

If you’ve seen the movie, you know Forrest falls in love with Jenny.  It appears to be an unrequited love.  At this point in the movie, my husband and boys are furious with her. (One son calls her the Mega Skankosaurus which loosely translates into the swankiest dinosaur ever.) But I can’t help but feel sorry for her.  The guilt she carries knowing that she is hurting Forrest. And then thinking of her love for him and the confusion that it might bring.  Does she love him as friend?  Or is it more?  And if it’s a romantic love, would she be happy? Maybe it doesn’t matter.  Maybe Forrest is a unwitting reminder of the past she longs to forget…

The beauty of Forrest is that he knows and accepts himself.

And then we have the night

Jenny and Forrest make love and afterwards, she runs away again.  Only this time, we see Forrest run, too.  While her running is more figurative, his is very literal.  He is actually running from the pain of a broken heart.

For me, it is this periodic intersecting of their lives that help to propel the story. Without Jenny, the story of Forrest Gump would be ho-hum at best.  It is precisely the solid multi-layer construction of a supporting character that helps make this story great.  And that is true for any story.  No matter how intriguing a main character might be, if the supporting cast is flat, the story will be too.  This is not to say that all of the supporting characters must be well-rounded.  However, those who frequently interact with the main character should be fleshed out. (Think Samwise Gamgee in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.)

These are some questions I ask myself when considering my supporting cast – particularly those characters who are more important to the story.

Supporting Characters

So – what about you? Any thoughts or tips on how you develop your supporting characters?

 

 

 

 

 

Author Interview & spotlight – Lisa Becker

clutch cover final

Thanks for stopping by and joining in the celebration of the release of clutch: a novel

Clutch is the laugh-out-loud, chick lit story that chronicles the dating misadventures of Caroline Johnson, a single purse designer, who goes through a series of unsuccessful romantic relationships she compares to various styles of handbags – the “Hobo” starving artist, the “Diaper Bag” single dad, the “Briefcase” intense businessman, etc.  With her best friend, bar owner Mike by her side, the overly-accommodating Caroline drinks Chardonnay, puts her heart on the line, endures her share of unworthy suitors and finds the courage to stand up for the handbag style that embodies what she ultimately wants – the “Clutch” or someone to hold onto.

 

Check out the book trailer:

Meet Lisa Becker:

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m fortunate to have had a series of wonderful careers outside of writing including being a wife, mom, PR professional, college professor, volunteer and Girl Scout troop leader.   Clutch: a novel is my 4th book  and is the laugh-out-loud, chick lit story that chronicles the dating misadventures of Caroline Johnson, a single purse designer, who goes through a series of unsuccessful romantic relationships she compares to various styles of handbags – the “Hobo” starving artist, the “Diaper Bag” single dad, the “Briefcase” intense businessman, etc.  With her best friend, bar owner Mike by her side, the overly-accommodating Caroline drinks Chardonnay, puts her heart on the line, endures her share of unworthy suitors and finds the courage to stand up for the handbag style that embodies what she ultimately wants – the “Clutch” or someone to hold onto.

Each writer has their own rituals – some listen to music while others drink coffee. What do you do to bring on your muse?

I like to write with the television on in the background.  When I first started writing years ago, I was obsessed with Law & Order reruns.  Now, I can’t seem to get enough of NCIS.  I guess there’s a part of me that likes to see justice served.

When it comes to a new novel, what/who usually shows up first? The idea for the story or the characters?

Clutch: a novel actually started out as a screenplay that was optioned by a production company housed at one of the major movie studios summer 2014.  Unfortunately, it fell out of development.  I was eager to have this fun story with some of my favorite characters told, so I turned it into a short novel earlier this year.   My hope is that the book will renew interest in the story as a movie.

When I was writing part of the Click Trilogy, (Click: An Online Love StoryDouble ClickRight Click) I saw an episode of NCIS where one of the characters mentioned that men were like purses – something useless to hang on a woman’s arm.  I started thinking about how men are like handbags and the idea grew from there.

How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on their meaning or because you like how it sounds? What other things do you consider when naming your characters?

Names certainly can tell you a lot about a person.  For this book, I tried to think of names that fit the characters’ regional, cultural and economic backgrounds, as those were important qualities to understanding who they are as people and why they act the way they do.

Thinking about your latest novel:  If one of the supporting characters could step off the page and join you for lunch, which would you choose and why?

Mike is definitely a character I would enjoy spending time with.  I must admit that I developed quite a crush on him while I was creating him.  I told my husband he better watch out or he just may lose me to my book boyfriend.

Which would you prefer:  Hiking/Camping   or   Dinner/Movie

Dinner and a movie for sure.  And if it happens to be Chinese take-out from Bamboo and a good chick flick, even better.

At the end of your life, when it is all said and done, what would you want your tombstone to read?

Here lies Lisa Willet Becker – a great wife, mother, friend and citizen who wrote books and movies people loved.

About Lisa Becker

In addition to her new book, clutch: a novel, Lisa Becker is the author of the Click Trilogy, a contemporary romance series comprised ofClick: An Online Love Story, Double Click and Right Click.  She’s written bylined articles about dating and relationships for “Cupid’s Pulse,” “The Perfect Soulmate,” “GalTime,” “Single Edition,” “Healthy B Daily” and “Chick Lit Central” among others.  She lives in Manhattan Beach, California with her husband and two daughters.  To learn more, visit www.lisawbecker.com.

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