Tag Archives: Short Stories

Happy Birthday, Edgar Allan Poe

“Words have no power to impress the mind
without the exquisite horror of their reality.”
– Edgar Allan Poe

The Masque of the Red Death

Image by ProfessorMortis via Flickr

Mention his name and goth girls swoon, black cats hiss, and the timid turn away.  Edgar Allan Poe was born January 19, 1809.  More than 200 years after his birth, cities still fight for ownership of the dead writer’s corpse, whose tortured life and mysterious death were as strange as the tales he told.  Tales like “The Cask of Amontillado,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and “The Masque of the Red Death” still have the power to shock and enthrall readers all these years later.

In pop culture, Mr. Poe is most often revered as the master of the macabre, but his pen and his influence reach far beyond that.  He and Nathaniel Hawthorne are credited as the fathers of the American short story.  “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” was the first detective story and created the genre.  “The Balloon Hoax” was an early form of science fiction and was an inspiration for Jules Verne’s “Around the World in Eighty Days.”  His poem, “The Raven” is still one of the most famous poems ever written.

He was born in Boston, was orphaned at age three, and taken in by the Allen family of Richmond, Virginia.  His older brother Henry died young and his sister Rosalie went insane.  He lived in Philadelphia with his wife and mother-in-law, before moving with them to the Bronx, New York.  He was married only once, to his 13-year old cousin Virginia Clemm, who died at age 24 of tuberculosis.  He was an alcoholic and a drug addict and was labeled paranoid and perverse.  The day before he died, he was found on a Baltimore street, delirious, incoherent and wearing clothes that weren’t his.

All five cities have landmarks or museums dedicated to him and the Poe Wars over who gets his corpse (Baltimore has it now) aren’t cold yet.

edgar-allan-poeIn honor of his birthday, I’m happy to share this fantastic party favor, a make-your-own Edgar Allan Poe doll, courtesy of the Toy-A-Day blog. (Caveat: Lots of pop-ups, but definitely worth it.) Mr. Poe might roll his eyes at the frivolity of the gesture, but I like to think it would make him crack a smile.

Resources: Post A Day, Edgar Allan Poe Museum/Richmond, Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Sity/Philadelphia, Edgar Allen Poe Cottage/The Bronx, Edgar Allan Poe Society/Baltimore.
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Writing Prompt for Tonight’s Silent Writers’ Retreat

William Faulkner's Underwood Universal Portabl...

Image via Wikipedia

Tonight at 9 EST and PST, the Silent Writers Collective holds its weekly online writing retreat.  All writers are welcome to join in and be quiet.

You can work on your own project or use the writing exercise provided below.  For those participating in the WordPress.com Post A Day challenge, it’s a great time to stockpile a post or two.  For those who aren’t sure what they want to work on, here is an interesting exercise from Poets & Writers’ new series, “The Time is Now.”

This exercise may be more writing than you can fit into one hour, but if you’re inspired to keep writing, that’s the whole idea!

As J-Lo would say, I’m “Waiting for Tonight!”

Resources: Post A Day, Silent Writers Collective, PW.org

Time Machine Visits #FridayFlash Intro

Time machine to late September 2009 …

Spinning Optical IllusionIt’s a quiet Friday afternoon, and I’m trying to learn my way around Twitter.  A steady stream of tweets with the odd looking designation of “#FridayFlash” keeps catching my eye.  Easily distracted and always looking for an excuse to put off my writing, I’m drawn in.

“What could zees be?” I ask out loud.  (My alter ego always has a French accent.)

Curiosity gets the best of me.  I click one of the tweets and enter into a world I never knew existed.  It’s a world of horror and humor, intrigue and romance. Action, adventure, heartbreak and suspense.  I’ve entered the surrealistic wonder world of #FridayFlash.

What is this wonder world, you ask?  According to creator Jon Strother, #FridayFlash is an Internet meme designed to increase your visibility as a fiction writer.   According to me and most of the writers who participate each week, it is so much more than that.

Since entering that world over a year ago, I’ve met some wonderfully supportive and encouraging people, I’ve read some remarkable stories, and my writing has come a long way.  Finding #FridayFlash was like falling through a trapdoor into a hidden fantasy land, and it’s a land open to all; writers and readers, alike.

Icy Sedgwick offers more insight in this Fuel Your Writing interview posted this week:  #FridayFlash — Interview with Jon Strother.

There’s so much more to say about #FridayFlash, but the important information is covered in the interview and in the links I’ve included.  Now I need to hurry and publish this post, because that time-machine-depicting optical illusion up there is freaking me out.  It really is not moving.  Is it?

Resources: Post A Day, Flash Fiction by Olivia Tejeda

Flash Fiction: Christmas Past

© Olivia Tejeda

“My great-nephew over in Prescott invited me.”
“Say again?”
“MY GREAT-NEPHEW!”
“Criminy! Irene, what are ya hollerin’ at?”
“Turn up your hearing aid.”
“They’re up, they’re up …  Are you going?”
“Where?”
“To your damn nephew’s house.”
“Land sakes, Bea, your language!  Yes, I’m going.”
“Is he the one with the kids?”
“The screaming kids, the fat wife, and the drunk mother-in-law.”
“You gotta drive all that way for that kind of nonsense?”
“What else am I gonna do?”
“Stay home!”
“By myself?  No how, Mister!  Not on Christmas!”
“My sister-in-law is flying in from Utah.  We’ll have dinner.”
“Oh good, so you’re covered.”
“I’d rather be alone.”
“Oh heavens, Bea! It’s Christmas.  Why would you want to be alone?
“You never met my sister-in-law.”
“But being alone … on Christmas … what could be worse?”
“My sister-in-law.”

Writing this story, I was reminded of one of my favorite songs, Hello in There, performed here by Bette Midler.

Thank you for reading.  To read more flash fiction from a great group of writers, search #fridayflash on Twitter or visit Mad Utopia.


Now in Print: Best of Friday Flash – Volume One

There aren’t many shopping days until Christmas, so save yourself some trouble and give a gift that will please everyone on your list.

“Best of Friday Flash – Volume One”

What could be better?  This collection gathers sixty-seven of the very best flash fiction from writers around the world.  Mystery, intrigue, romance, sci-fi, horror, slice of life, humor.   Just about every genre is represented and each story comes in a quick hit, flash fiction format — one thousand words or fewer.

Don’t let the short format fool you.  There are some powerful stories here, including mine, “Bottom of the Ninth,” about a nervous preteen whose softball team championship rests in her pudgy little hands.

The flashes were written by members of the Friday Flash community, an online writer’s group that posts stories on their blogs and announces them via the #fridayflash hashtag on Twitter or Facebook.  The variety of styles and the amount of  talent included in this anthology will keep you turning the pages, and wishing for more when you’re done.

“Best of Friday Flash – Volume One” is available in paperback for $7.99, and  ebook for just $2.99.

Don’t wait!  Act now!

 

Best of Friday Flash – Volume One

Great news!  The “Best of Friday Flash – Volume One,” an anthology that includes one of my flash fiction stories was released today in ebook format at smashwords.com.

Bottom of the Ninth,” my flash about a nervous preteen whose softball team championship rests in her pudgy little hands, is part of the first collection by Friday Flash writers, a group of writers who publish flash fiction on their blogs every Friday.

The anthology is available via smashwords.com in just about every ebook format for just $2.99.

WHAT A BARGAIN!

To see the book and download a sample (or BUY it!), click here: Best of Friday Flash: Volume One.  The printed version will be released shortly.  Stay tuned for details.

For a little info on the book release, visit Mad Utopia, the site of Friday Flash founder Jon Strother.

As you might imagine, I’m just beside myself with excitement! I feel like I should be passing out cigars and champagne.

Friday Flash: OMG at Barnes & Noble

© Olivia Tejeda

“Oh my God,” Fredrika’s husband gasped as she approached the table where he sat reading “The Portable Jung” at the Barnes & Noble cafe.

“What’s wrong with this?” she asked holding out the copy of Oprah she brought back with her.

Her husband looked up, eyes only, over the top of his glasses.  He said nothing and went back to reading.

She leaned in and said through tight lips and a clenched jaw, “I asked you if there’s something wrong with this.”

No response.

“Edward!” Louder this time.

Edward closed the book and slid his glasses down.  He pondered the pinched looking woman standing in front of him as he stroked his short salt and pepper beard.

“Can I … help you?” he said.

“Why did you say ‘Oh my God?’ ”

“You are truly pathetic.”

“Wrong again, Edward,” she said, pointing a sharp finger at him.  “You are an impotent troll.”

Fredrika sat down and noticed the woman at the next table, caught mid-sip and still staring, surprised and embarrassed by their candid contempt.  Fredrika smiled and began flipping the pages of the magazine.

Flip.  Flip, flip.  Flip.

“Did I do something?” she said.  “Is that why you said ‘Oh my God?’ ”

Edward sighed. “Really, Fredrika? Really?”

“Just tell me.”

“I’m reading.”

Flip, flip, flip.

“Want pizza for dinner?” she asked.

Edward grunted.

“Chinese? You want Chinese?”

Silence.

She flipped more pages.

“We can have dinner with the Crandalls.  You like the Crandalls.”

“Fredrika,” Edward said.

“Hmm?”

“Fredrika,” he said

“Edward,” she said.

“Fredrika,” he said.

“What?” she hissed.

“Can I tell you what I want?”

She sat mute.

“I want you to shut up,” he said.  “For one minute of one day in the entirety of your life, I want you to shut your mouth and be silent.”   Then he went back to reading.

Fredrika huffed and straightened her posture.

Flip.  Flip, flip.

After flipping the last of the pages, she took a deep breath and rubbed her forehead.

Edward looked up.  “Are you all right?” he asked.

“My contacts are bothering me.”

“Do you want to leave?”

“I hate to disturb your book, but yes, yes, I think so.”

He closed the book and stood up.

“Here,” he said reaching out.  “Give me your magazine.  I’ll put it away for you.”

When he returned, he took her hand and they walked together to the exit.

Thank you for reading.  To read more flash fiction from a great group of writers, search #fridayflash on Twitter or visit Mad Utopia.

Flash Fiction: Waiting Room

© Olivia Tejeda
I kiss him and hold onto his hand until the orderlies roll his bed out of reach.

“It’s a routine procedure,” the doctor assured us last week. “We’ve done it thousands of times.” I secretly Googled it when we got home and found out the doctor was right. It is routine, but Google also told me everything that could go wrong.

In the waiting room, my overstuffed tote sits stupid and useless on my lap. The doctor said between two and four hours, so I brought along enough diversions to fill the time. A pile of paperwork, sudoku, my iPhone, they all seemed sensible when I packed them, but now I can’t focus on anything but the gurney rolled into another room on another floor where I’m not allowed. What’s going on in that room? Did they cut him open yet? Did they find out what’s fucking everything up? Did they fix it? Can they?

He has to be okay.

“Honeyyy,” he teased, slurring from the sedative and holding up four fingers. “I’ll be out in five minutes.”

“I know,” I said, smiling, but I don’t know anything except all the things that can go wrong.

I try to settle in among the plants and the artwork that have been arranged to make the room feel homey, but waiting rooms are awful places. No matter how much they try to feng shui it, the hum of the fluorescents and the milky hospital stench that’s imbedded into every crevice tell the real story.

Magazines are fanned neatly on the coffee table. The linoleum is yellow with age, but it’s spotless and shiny. I keep looking into the corners searching for dust balls to see how careless this hospital is, but there aren’t any.

I appreciate the effort they’ve made in this room. I do, but I don’t want to be here. I want to be in the operating room making sure they do everything right. I Googled it! I know what could go wrong, and I want to be in that room with my checklist, making sure the doctors go over every single thing.

“Did you check everything?” I would ask.

“Are you sure?” I would ask.

“Double sure?”

He has to be okay.

I pick up a copy of Woman’s Day from the table. A picture of chili dogs on the cover makes me think of how much he loves hot dogs.  He ate six in one sitting once.  Mention them and his blue eyes light up like a little boy’s.

He’s amazing.

What he loves, he loves completely.  Hot dogs, travel, Lewis Black, architecture, and me.

He loves me. Completely. I don’t know why, but I’ll take it. I’ll take it, and I’ll gobble it up, just like he gobbles up hot dogs. I don’t care about the heartburn.

He has to be okay.

I decide to make him chili dogs when he’s feeling better. That will be our celebration dinner. I flip open the magazine to see the recipe, but someone’s ripped it out, and I burst into tears.

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Thank you for reading my flash fiction. Please share any constructive criticism and feel free to let me know about any errors you find here. To read more flash fiction from a great group of writers, search #fridayflash on Twitter or visit Mad Utopia.

“Creative Writer” Blogger Award

Thank you to Anne Tyler Lord at Don’t Fence Me In for bestowing on me the dubious distinction great honor of Lesa’s Bald Faced Liar “Creative Writer” Blogger Award. I certainly appreciate the award, but my natural cynicism curiosity begs the question, Who’s Lesa, and why is she annoying liars awarding writers? A quick google tells me Lesa is a Library Manager and book reviewer living in Arizona… quite possibly within a few minutes of where I live. Cool coincidence. She started the award on January 22, 2010. Her post can be found here: The Inaugural Lesa’s “Creative Writer” Award.

In accepting the award, there are some rules to follow. This is I hope going to be a fun exercise and a nice little break from the fiction slog. But,

First: The Rules:

1. Thank the person who gave this to you. [Thanks again, Anne!]
2. Copy the logo and place it on your blog.  [Done]
3. Link to the person who nominated you. [Done]
4. Tell up to six outrageous lies about yourself, and at least one outrageous truth or six outrageous truths and one outrageous lie. [Coming up]
5. Nominate seven “Creative Writers” who might have fun coming up with outrageous lies and truths. [Stay tuned]
6. Post links to the seven blogs you nominate. [Working on it!]
7. Leave a comment on each of the blogs letting them know you nominated them.  [I'm getting there, I'm getting there]

Second: Lies and/or Truths:

Here’s my list. I’d love to know which ones you think are which. After some comments, I’ll tell you which one is the truth. Or is that a lie?

  1. I worked as an extra in Woody Allen’s movie Sweet & Lowdown and was called back for a walk-on role in Small Time Crooks.
  2. I jumped off the back of a moving yacht to save my dog.
  3. When things were going bad in my marriage, I used to spit in my husband’s dinner before serving it.
  4. It took me seven and a half hours to run the NYC marathon.
  5. At 12 years old, I was so superstitious that I was petrified of turning 13.
  6. Security at a Las Vegas casino detained and questioned me for over an hour on suspicion of cheating.
  7. I order veal and give it a name whenever I go out to dinner with my vegetarian friends.

Now, it’s time to share the love and award this honor to seven more  “Creative Writers.”  Sorry, gang, but now’s your time to shine.  To accept the award all you have to do is follow the rules.

Third: And the Winners Are:

  1. Dennis Tafoya at Dennis Tafoya’s Bad Neighborhood
  2. David G. Shrock at Draco Torre
  3. Cathy Olliffe at Life on the Muskoka River
  4. CJ Hodges MacFarlane at Mostly Other Things
  5. Tim Van Sant at otoh
  6. Cecilia Dominic at Random Oenophile
  7. Deborah Szajngarten at DeborahShinegarden.com

Okay, here are some truths … honestly! This took some time to put together, but it really was a lot of fun! Thanks again to Anne Tyler Lord.

Flash Fiction: Just Like Her Mother

by Olivia Tejeda
Sunday mornings were special for Penny. It was the one day a week Julian didn’t rush off to work and they could spend time together. This Sunday was especially exciting. It was Valentine’s Day and she had plans.

Shortly after waking up, she took a deep breath and cuddled against Julian’s back, feeling his familiar warmth. He stirred slightly and she seized the opportunity.

“Happy Valentine’s Day, Dreamboat,” she whispered into his ear.

“Oh, that’s right,” he mumbled. It’s Valentine’s Day, isn’t it.”

“Don’t pretend you don’t remember, Penny said, niggling him with her finger. He rolled his eyes, but was grateful for her trust. The truth was he hadn’t really remembered, not for her.

“I have a conn-fehh-shuuun,” Penny said, drawing out her sing-song statement.

She has a confession? Julian thought.

“Do you?” he said, forcing a smile and turning to face her in bed.

“Well, I didn’t want to spoil your surprise, but …” she said, stretching the short word into three syllables. “I stopped at the post office yesterday? To pick up the mail for you?” Her nervous habit of turning statements into questions infuriated Julian but his impatience was tempered by what she just told him. His smile froze as heat started prickling up his chest and neck, and his mind started running through the possibilities.

“Why didn’t you tell me, Sweet Dumpling?” He feigned patience. “You know I like to go to the post office. I drove all the way over there yesterday, and didn’t even need to.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry, Daddykins” Penny said, deflated. “I was on that side of town, and I thought I’d do you a favor. But then I saw something I shouldn’t have, and I … I just didn’t know what to do.”

Julian’s heart stuttered. Why would she pick up the mail? He didn’t even remember giving her a key to the box. He kept calm and turned his smile into the glare that kept Penny in line. Penny stayed silent.

“Well, Gum Drop,” he said in that clenched-jaw way he had that allowed him to be menacing, but didn’t allow her to protest. The few times she did, he told her she was being overly-sensitive and ridiculous, just like her mother. “Are you going to tell me what you saw or are we going to play guessing games?”

“Oh, Cuddlebug,” Penny sighed. “I’ve upset you.” She looked at Julian with puppy eyes. “I guess I have to tell you now.”

She took a deep breath. “There was a little envelope from Pamela’s Floral Cottage in the mail. I thought it was just an old ad, so I opened it,” she glanced up at him, his handsome face was not so menacing now. Penny blinked a few times, looked down, and continued.

“I’m sure you know what I found and … and … Well, I just think you are the sweetest husband in the whole wide world to spend that kind of money on roses for my Valentine’s Day gift!” She threw her arms around him and squeezed him tight.

“Well,” Julian breathed, relieved at having the moment to figure something out. “You’re the sweetest wife in the whole wide world, and you deserve them.”

“But listen, Sugar Cube,” he continued quietly. “Since you spoiled my big surprise. I think I should have a chance to get you something else.”

“Oh you don’t have to do that. I’d love to get those flowers. I’m sure they’ll be beautiful considering what you paid for them. And the invoice said two dozen red roses for delivery on February 14, so they’ll probably be here any minute!”

“But Angel Face, it is Valentine’s Day and you should have some kind of special surprise, so …”

Penny interrupted. “Well, my Prince Charming, when I was at Schneider’s Jewelers yesterday with my mom, I saw the most beautiful necklace I’ve ever seen. I didn’t want to get it without asking you first, so we put it on lay-away and …” She looked at him again, batted her big browns and looked away.

“Don’t say another word,” Julian said, happy to be reminded that his wife was so naive.

The next day when Penny and her mother met at the mall, her mother saw the necklace right away.

“He went for it again,” her mother said.

“He sure did,” Penny smiled as she twisted the necklace around her finger. “He got me roses, too.” she said.

“That’s my girl.”

Penny leaned over and gave her mother a squeeze. “You’re the sweetest Mom in the whole wide world,” she said.

“Come on,” her mother smiled. “I’ll buy you lunch.”

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Thank you for reading my flash fiction. Please share any constructive criticism and feel free to let me know about any errors you find here. To read more flash fiction from a great group of writers, search #fridayflash on Twitter or visit Mad Utopia.