Where Ladybugs Roar

Confessions and Passions of a Compulsive Writer

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Trouble comes in fours....

Well, yes, that's not the regular saying, but three is prime and odd, and it can't possibly be bad, so I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop still.

So, the scary story contest is continuing to be won by those that cheat, but there is a soft seat in hell for people that cheat. No. Probably not. It's just a kindle. Those seats are probably already reserved for lawyers, politicians, and collection agencies. That would be nail one in the coffin.

Nail two is from yesterday's rejection which featured one of my favoritist words for a rejection AND sounded eerily like my dream. It's not them, Wendy, it's you. I've had dreams that have come true before. (Truly scary stories.) So, who knows. Diana and the husband can attest to it sounding just too close to my dream for comfort. If that means I've acquired prescience, it doesn't bode well because I'm sensing today and tomorrow are going to suck rocks. Big... hefty... gray... rocks. (Btw, I've yet to decide which spelling of the word grey/gray I prefer. I'm in my early thirties... shouldn't I have come to a decision regarding that? Yet, I waffle between. Grey for living things. Gray for non-living things is the way it seems to flow. I also haven't decided on among/amongst or toward/towards.)

The third nail came this morning. The twenty-four hour contest--and I didn't place. It's a huge contest (500 entrants) and I can't really feel bad about it. I loved the finalists' stories. It just creates this seed of doubt in my mind that maybe literary folks don't "get me" though, you know? I'll admit... my writing is a little quirky. I have two Special Needs children, and I'm dealing with OCD, insomnia and agoraphobia. Quirky keeps that shred of sanity that I so desperately need. Still, it seems like the agent/publishing blogs have been full of a mixture of bad news/good news. The bad news is, of course, the economy. The good news is that if you're stubborn, HAVE TALENT, and a marketable idea... you will triumph. Rah rah! Go team! Probably. What if I'm just too quirky, you know?

Anyway, it's unlike me to drag my tail and mope, so... speaking of good news. Since my story wasn't picked up, I'll drop it here. Also, you should go read the finalists. The first place deserved first place. Bravo. Whistle. Clap Clap Clap Plus, he's from Washington state and we always root for the home team. Go team! Yay!

The 24 hour contest, similar to Flashy Fiction, gives you a prompt... and you write a story (heavily reliant on the prompt.) It has to be under 1000 words. My entry coined the phrase "chest burster" between the husband and I.

Here is the prompt:

Weeks of obsessive tending and gentle turning ensured a blue ribbon for his biggest pumpkin next weekend. His chest puffed with impending pride as he fantasized about the envious stares of the other town folk, especially that pretty, stuck-up woman next door, who always looked through him, not at him.

The cold wind started again and he shivered, watching the sky darken too quickly. As bright, painted leaves rained on his crop, he instinctively turned his head toward an infant's cry. At the top of the hill, under the old Maple, his stuck-up neighbor was shielding a bundle from the wind, fumbling with her blouse...

Here is my story:

The Pumpkins are Wrathful

Joad stroked the pumpkin that was his pride and joy. He crouched, gazing across his field of fine crops that migrant workers had tended during the long hours under the baking sun. He was obsessed… driven, but it would all be worth it to see his pumpkin… HIS pumpkin… take first prize. His neighbor, Ms. Rose… once Mrs. Rose, would be impressed. She’d regret her snide remarks. What would she do when he won? Her husband was dead. She needed a protector. He could be that man.

As the sun was setting, a second sun slid high above the hills casting a green hue across the land. He ignored it. That was to be expected. She’d never given in without a fight. It was part of what he liked about her. Her fiery temper was hot and slick, and he had no doubt more would be coming.

A cold wind started. It blew painted leaves across the ground. They were purple. He ignored them too. Perhaps, he should have gone with a vineyard. No… too obvious. Besides, he liked the metaphor of the pumpkin and size. Hopefully, she would go along with that.

An infant’s cry pulled his gaze to the maple that separated their properties. Mrs. Rose… no… Ms. Rose was there fumbling with her blouse as she held a bundle against her chest. Would she do it? Some part of him was… well… disappointed that she’d given in so easily.

Then, the alien child burst from her chest snarling.

Joad sighed. Perhaps, he could ignore this too, and she’d get back into character momentarily.

The alien child scrambled up her chest and began choking her. Rose fell to the ground, writhing, and making gurgling noises.

“End Theater Simulation,” he called, standing up. Rubbing his face, Josh walked toward Ellie in the large green screen theater. His footsteps echoed against cyber mural screens on all sides which pulsed in anticipation. “Ellie… what the hell was that? We agreed it was my turn to pick the play this Friday. My turn.”

She stood up and smoothed her lycra suit down. “You went too far, Josh.” Gesturing down at herself, she said, “These breasts are not feeders. They’re perfect just as they are. Plus, don’t think I didn’t know where you were going with that. Rose? She was the chick at the end of Grapes of Wrath that ends up breastfeeding that old guy. I’m not playing out this sick fantasy of yours just so you can get your rocks off over Steinbeck.”

“I was King Arthur last Friday.”

“No… you were Lancelot,” she said, raising an elegantly sculpted eyebrow. “Lancelot gets the girl in the end, remember?” Ellie crossed her arms over the aforementioned breasts and smiled. Tossing her shoulder-length black hair, she took a few steps forward. Damn… but she looked good in lycra. Hot… very hot. She pressed her mouth against his briefly before stepping back. “Well, lover, it’s your choice. I’m telling you now, though, that this Joad fellow will not be getting Ms. Rose. I knew that from the moment my stage directions hung in front of me with that whole breastfeeding business.”

“It was a symbolic metaphor,” he said defensively.

Ellie grinned. “As was your pumpkin’s size. Yes… I know.” Coughing, she commented, “That pumpkin was exceptionally large, Josh.”

“Yeah… it was,” he admitted, grinning too. Then, he sighed and asked, “If I cut the breastfeeding business?”

She shrugged, wrapped her arms around his neck, and rubbed her body against his. This was why she won all their arguments. Her date plays typically were much more exuberant than his. He liked that vitality about her.

“You’re not really going to make us go to a State Fair, are you?” she asked, wrinkling her nose. “I seem to remember your pigs and horses actually have a very realistic odor. I don’t know how or why you do it.”

“It’s the experience…. It’s supposed to be like real life,” he complained. He prided himself on that aspect of his simulated play. It should be realistic. Sound effects were always slightly over-blown, but that seemed acceptable in his mind.

“Josh…,” she whined.

He relented as he always did. “Okay… no Fair. I want to keep the pumpkin, though.”

“If you need that as a… prop.” Ellie rolled her blue eyes and smoothed the lycra down her body again. She looked so great in green. Glancing up, she caught him admiring her, and a sly smile slid across her face. “Okay… no breastfeeding and give me a name that doesn’t make me feel downtrodden.”

“No one would dare trod you down.” Josh smiled and rubbed a hand through his light hair as he rethought the play. He wanted a classic. Moby Dick maybe? He thought of her comments on the pumpkin. Maybe not. He put his hand to the earpiece and pressed the ‘record’ button. The field spun around them as before, though it was drier and a faint smell of smoke hung in the air.

She was dressed in a lacy, scarlet gown that she looked over fastidiously.

He was dressed in a riding uniform, and an enormous black horse grazed nearby. In back of them, a beautiful white plantation house scrubbed the sky. In deference to his girlfriend, he made the horse unscented. Hopefully, she appreciated this as it was definitely a compromise on his theatrical principles.

“Ahh… I see our metaphorical pumpkin made the jump,” she said, looking down at the giant pumpkin.

He shrugged.

She tapped one of her pale fingers against her red lips. If she saw more of the actual sun, she might not be so pale. She was beautiful, regardless. He saw the moment the script he’d built in his mind hung in the air between them. Scrolling her eyes through the words that only she could see, Ellie tilted her head, considering.

Hopefully, she approved, but frankly… he didn’t give a damn.


  1. Sorry about the 'nails'. Your story was great, though. I hope things start looking up for you.

  2. Interesting story, Wendy! I like it :)

  3. Wow. I think Nathan Bransford is rooting through my insecurities today. Okay! I get it! The world is against me.

    Mostly kidding.

    The husband borrowed Pride and Prejudice and Zombies for me to read. So far, I'm digging it. Maybe that's a faux pas among/amongst the literary crowd, but meh.... My soul is feeling gray/grey today and I need something motivating me toward/towards a better day. Zombies are good for that.

  4. I love your writing. (Yes, you know this, or you should by now, but I enjoy saying it). Your insecurities are a part of you and I won't trivialize your feelings. Rejection is flat-out the hardest thing to accept about writing. Whatever it's from; contest, agent, critiquer, whatever, it always sucks. I've shared with you that I used to take it very hard and I don't know how I got past that. I really don't, and maybe not everyone does. I have to admit though, if someone had told me three years ago that I'd ever see a rejection, click reply and write, "Thanks for taking the time to respond. All the best, Diana" and move on without thinking about it again I would have been filled with boiling indignation and would have felt like they were absolutely brainless and knew nothing about me. It went counter to my being to understand that I would ever get to this point, to the feeling of a rejection being literally nothing more than, "Thanks, but no thanks. Not my cup of tea." Not every book I read is my cup of tea, either. Maybe it's the same for all the people I've shown my stories to. Maybe I'm deluding myself, and I should be taking the rejections to heart like I did before... but I don't even want to go back there. I do flip constantly, half the time feeling in my gut that I can write the story that will get me published, and half the time believing I suck, absolutely suck rotten eggs. But those feelings would be there with or without the rejections. I have so little time to write anymore, I can't take a day to be sad :( Maybe that's it. Maybe I only have so much energy to give, and I don't feel like giving it to rejections anymore. Thanks but no thanks to them, too. In any case, you are dealing with a lot more than I am, which is probably magnifying every emotion you have... especially the ones connected with your passion for writing. I believe in you, for whatever it's worth. And I'm not the only one :)

  5. Wendy, The Pumpkins are Wrathful is a great title! and I hope your next few days don't suck rocks....kind of a Charlie Brown thing, really...you know, everyone else getting candy....

    Okay, so I'll weigh in on the grey/gray thing. One of my favorite words because BOTH are okay!! I love the ambiguity!


  6. Haha!! I loved this story. You have a very engaging, tongue-in-cheek style that is really fun to read. I'm sending good wishes your way! Sorry about all the drawbacks. Maybe you will have a really good dream soon and it'll come true, you never know...

    I passed an award to you at my blog! Check it out when you can :)

  7. Julie, I laughed when I saw your comment because I had the worst, freakiest nightmare last night. It involved being locked in a small studio apartment with a psychopath, the husband, and T. The psychopath was playing mad scientist and trying to adhere an exoskeleton to the husband by welding it to his bones, and I kept trying to escape with T. I finally escaped and ran with T and kept running--while screaming and screaming and screaming. It was horrific, but luckily so bizarre that I could discount it the minute I woke up. So... uhh... yeah... Hopefully that one stays locked up inside the dark corners of my mind.

    Shelley! Hi! Doesn't it seem like there is a tactile difference between the two spellings, though. Gray is cold. Grey is warm. (Of course... reading those out loud would sound ridiculous, but you know what I mean.) I would never say someone has gray eyes, but I would say that a rock is gray. The sky is gray, but elephants are grey. It's this weird distinction in my mind, but I don't know where it comes from.

    Diana, we're supposed to send thank you notes for rejections? Wow. Miss Manners didn't cover that... or did she? I had no idea. I don't have a problem with it, but it just seems like one more thing that agents would rather NOT weed through. Maybe you just do it on the personalized ones, though... or what?