Alternate Realities

No new original fiction, this week. Instead, an older 100-word post I did on my own, for my Songbirds.

“Alternate Realities”

Armed with an arsenal of books, pamphlets, and websites, Larry thought himself ready for anything Katie might throw at him: from the logistics of gender possibilities and a tidy explanation of where babies come from, to gentle assurances that nothing or no one could ever usurp the love and devotion he and Sally felt for their soon-to-be elder child.

Throughout his entire rambling explanation, Katie sat quietly in his lap, until he paused, smiled, and asked, “Do you have any questions, about the new baby?”

To which his daughter thought, and blinked, and said, “Can I have a puppy, instead?”

Smiling Dog Face

By Sam, [CC-BY-2.0 (]

I adore the relationship between parents Larry and Sally…but I also really enjoy examining the relationship between their girls, Katie and Billie. I think because the Nightingale family gives me an opportunity to reflect on and remember my own life, while still keeping a touch of fantastic silliness and adventure so integral to their universe.

I’ve been lax with picking up prompts these last few weeks. I think they must be designed more for writers who want to write but don’t necessarily have any larger projects on which they need to concentrate. But, I’ve got two Works in Progress which I want to complete/edit/perfect. I don’t necessarily feel bad neglecting the prompts to work on my larger projects, but I do want to keep some semblance of regularity to this blog.

So, for any of you out there looking for a writing challenge, below are a few good ones I follow. I’m sure there are more out there, too, if you just poke around a bit.

And, for those of you busy concentrating on your own long projects, here’s to a good wordy weekend!

Toothless Sharks and Other Scraps

By the banks of the Stover canal - - 1185117

For the scrapheap

This week, Lillie McFerrin’s Five Sentence Fiction prompt – CHERISH – led me down a few different paths.

Sometimes, a challenge prompt will strike an immediate chord with me, and writing a submission is no trouble. (My Songbirds series vignette “A Deeper Reflection” was one of those easy-peasy efforts.) Other times, a multitude of prompts will converge into a perfect storm of inspiration and interpretation, such as with “Stagger to Sway,” one of my Fearless side stories. And then, there are the times when I’ll start writing one way, go another direction, twist around yet another bend, until I finally end up with a piece suitable for public consumption.

In the case of the “CHERISH” prompt, I eventually settled on a somewhat humorous entry, but below are three other efforts I deemed unworthy, for one reason or another. Take a gander, if it please you.


That first shriek – echoing along the coastline like a banshee’s wail – made Scott drop his board like it was on fire; Finchy and Niall were already tearing across the sand, arms pumping for speed toward the source of those cries. Scott followed quick as he could do, only to pause at the edge of the scene: a young mum bouncing a screaming little girl close to her breast, while a frazzled dad was on hands and knees, scrabbling in the sand.

“Lost doll,” Niall said, his voice ripe with sour disappointment.

Scott almost snickered, when a glance into that girl’s reddened, snotty face made him think of his own tiny Emma, prompting him to shove both his mates toward the beach with a sharp, “Don’t just stand there. We’re a rescue squad; let’s rescue!”

* * *

Toothless Shark”

Venus knew they had sex. As quiet as they’d tried to be, the rhythmic creak of used springs was as tattling as a two-year-old. So when she had to creep past their bed to the bathroom, she always kept her gaze trained forward, for the sake of all their dignities. Except for this time, when she glanced reflexively toward the sound of a muffled sniff, and had to cover her mouth and hold her breath against the most itching, adoring whimper, at the sight of Finchy’s face pressed into Amber’s ruffled curls and his fingers linked loosely with hers.

Swinging the bathroom door closed behind her, Venus laughed softly into her palm, wondering what the rest of the crew would think if they saw their resident shark, now.

* * *


At the precipice, she stood, white and bright and beautiful, the whistling wind swirling her golden curls around her shoulders the same as it ruffled the edge of her dress around her legs.

Seeing her so, warm sweat formed in his palms. He shifted his hands to his sides, to wipe them down, when it suddenly became too late: she grasped his fingers with her own – cool, slender, soft – and moved up close to him, for this moment that would end their lives as two.

They exchanged the words between them, and the precious circles the same. A single kiss, at last, and that was all, to soothe the anxious patter of his heart, and to make them one, for ever.

Now, I don’t think any of these are terrible. I was determined enough to want to finish them, after all (and to be willing to share them, here). But, as you can hopefully see, devoting such effort to these challenges is time-consuming. Even though I’ve decided to cut my blogging down to two posts a week instead of three, these still take plenty of concentration. I don’t like posting my work if I’m not totally pleased with it; I owe you that much.

Junkyard cat


The one good thing about these scraps is that they represent genuine effort. When I go back to them, they make me think, or reflect, or smile.

So, if you liked any of these scraps at least a little bit, remember this: even if what you write doesn’t make your final cut, keep that effort. Don’t throw it away completely. You never know when you might need that smile.

Where do you keep your scrapped efforts? Have you ever used a scrapped effort to start a new project?

100-Word Challenge: A Deeper Reflection

100 Word Challenge for Grown-UpsOnly one prompt this time, for 100-Word Challenge for Grown-Ups. This week (76), Julia’s prompt is:

…beneath the surface…
We are to “keep to the 100 words plus the 3 above,” giving us a total of 103 words to tell the story.

This one came pretty easily to me, as I cranked it out in about an hour. But, then, I think this is likely a situation close to many of our hearts, not just my own….

“A Deeper Reflection”


Doodling the bod

Fixing her gaze on her disrobed reflection, Sally sighed.

What lay beneath the surface was more important, she knew…but, what had happened to that surface? The flat belly, high breasts, slim hips – where had they gone?

The creak and click of the bedroom door, signalling Larry’s return, made her scramble for pants and bra.

His warm, damp embrace stopped her. “Just a mo’.”

Cringing from his tickling hair, she laughed, despite herself. “You’re wet!”

“You’re gorgeous,” he replied, nuzzling her neck.

She hummed. “You think?”

He plucked her clothes from her hand; they fell to the floor with his towel. “I know.”

I have some writerly friends who can use this short form of storytelling to weave tales of excitement, danger, whimsy, and mystery. I can manage that, on occasion. Mostly, though, these prompts tend to lead me to more mundane places, such as Sally’s fretting over her aging, motherly body…and Larry’s still-full love of the same.

Writing for these Songbirds often feels like writing my own life (sans the fantastic timey-wimey stuff, of course). Maybe that’s why I keep coming back to them. I suppose I should feel blessed that my life and loves are basically happy. And, I certainly am. It doesn’t exactly make for riveting storytelling, though.

How did you look beneath the surface, this week? Let me know!

100-Word Challenge: Shattered Silence

It’s Week 69 for the 100-Word Challenge for Grown-Ups!

This week, Julia is being particularly timely, with the prompt of …Bah Humbug!….

I’ve been writing plenty of 100-word stories for the Nightingales, but this one struck a familiar chord in me, as it’s based on a true story. I hope you enjoy!

“Shattered Silence”

Despite the danger of discovery, Sally let herself whine. For so much sweeter than any cinder toffee was the taste of his shoulder, so much more warming than any port was his breath against her neck. Even all the wrapped, ribboned prizes tucked beneath the tree in the parlour – she’d trade them all for just a few more minutes clutched in his strong, stolen embrace…!

But Katie’s shriek – “It’s Christmas!” – followed by Billie’s less articulate echo after, shattered the moment like a delicate glass ornament.

Larry groaned. “First thing tomorrow,” he muttered, “I’m arranging for a vasectomy.”

Happy, safe, restful holidays to you all!

100WCGU: Fade to Grey

It’s Week 68 for Julia’s 100-Word Challenge for Grown-Ups! This week, Julia gives us the prompt of:

We’ve got 100 words to use to interpret the prompt, so, here’s mine:

“Fade to Grey”

“I made this,” Billie declared, as she sorted through ornaments. “And this-”

I made that,” Katie corrected, snatching at the yarn doll.

Chuckling, Sally turned, to catch Larry’s reaction. He wasn’t watching the girls, though, but staring at his reflection in a tiny glass ball.

“What’s wrong?” she asked softly.

He ran his fingers through his fringe, frowning. “I’m going grey.”

Sally hummed. Growing old didn’t appeal to her, either. Although, the idea of growing old with him charmed. So, pulling at one pale strand with a grin, she teased, “I made this.”

Larry blinked, then laughed. “You certainly did!”


Let’s admit it: no one really wants to get older, see those lines and fading colors in the mirror. But, when you find someone worth the time and effort, it makes the changes seem not quite so terrible as they might otherwise be.

George Clooney and Helen Mirren: proof you can go grey and still be awesome.

This story is one rather close to my heart, as today marks the fifteen-year anniversary of when my husband and I met. (Fifteen years! Oftentimes, it feels more like fifteen minutes. …underwater. No, no; just kidding!)

Personally, I see more grey in the mirror every day. But, like my Songbirds above, I’ve managed to find someone with whom the prospect of growing older doesn’t seem so scary.

What does “GREY” mean to you?

100-Word Story: The New Girl

The New Girl”

She looked so much like Sally: bright, sparkling eyes; cute, upturned nose; precious pink lips; and dimples, just the barest hint of them, like Sally had when she smiled.

Larry fell in love with her instantly.

“You’re beautiful,” he whispered, stroking gently at the soft round of her cheek. He bent his head and kissed her then, smelling deeply of the sweet scent of her.

“She is,” Sally said.

Larry looked up, into the tired, teary face of his wife. He smiled. “She looks just like you,” he said.

Sally smiled, too. “I was going to say the same thing.”

(image courtesy

I’ve had such a good time reading new-mummy updates from jennybennyk on Twitter (you can also follow her blog at itsjennythewren), it reminded me of first moments like this, and how your perspective can change of an instant.

Husbands/fathers are especially susceptible to daughters, I think. I know when I met my husband, there was talk that I would always be foremost in his life.

Then our little girls came along.

I don’t mind, though. That loving bond is precious, and I wanted to see if I could capture it a little bit, here, with my Songbirds. (And, to itsjennythewren: Don’t worry if Daddy is starstruck by Baby right now. You’re still Mummy, and that’s a truly special person to be.)

Have you ever been struck by a memory from a Tweet or an update, and pushed to write about it?

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