Saturday, June 27, 2015

Flash Fiction: a first attempt at a short story with less than 500 words

I decided to stretch my writing skills and submit a piece for a contest, but I never thought the story would amount to anything. After all, I don't write flash fiction and it was hard enough to come up with a tale that made sense in less than 500 words. But I was surprised by my ability to finish it and by my courage to enter it in the competition. When I received a notification that the story received an Honorary Mention award, I was beside myself. Yes, I was proud to know I was able to challenge myself and conquer something for it. Mission accomplished.

My story is published at along with other talented winners. And don't be shy about trying something new or accepting a challenge. You never know what it can lead you to. Check Spider Road Press' other award winning books, authors and opportunities for more challenging submissions.

Here's the award winning flash fiction piece - enjoy it!

Honorable Mention

Because the Sky Is Blue

by Andrea Barbosa

Lana picked up the broken pieces of crayons she had collected from under the tables when she was cleaning the restaurant, and spread them on her bedroom’s floor. A white piece of cardboard was ready to be used as the canvas for her next masterpiece.
“What do you do with these crayons?” She recalled the customer asking her. She had no idea she was being observed. The gentleman came to the restaurant often with his wife and two children. She had heard the waitresses mention he gave great tips because he was the president of some company and traveled a lot.
“I… I like to draw,” she had answered, a bit embarrassed by the unexpected contact with a customer. The janitorial staff was usually invisible, and had no business interacting with patrons.
“What do you draw?” The man had insisted on the conversation.
Lana had dug inside her jeans pocket and pulled a crumpled piece of paper. She showed it to the customer. The beautiful picture of Burj Al Arab resembling a sail boat in the middle of an island revealed itself.
“You draw places you want to travel to?” He had asked.
“Yes. One day I’ll travel. As sure as the sky is blue…”
“Dream, because the sky is blue,” she heard him saying.
Lana looked around her small bedroom with no windows. The walls were covered in the beautiful, colorful drawings she had made with the broken pieces of crayons, depicting cities she longed to visit: Paris, London, Venice, New York, even Athens. “One day, I’ll pack and go, because the sky is blue,” she thought to herself while coloring different hues of a blue sky on her makeshift canvas as the background for her own Burj Al Arab.
“It was an accident, I’m so sorry,” Lana apologized, while picking up the broken pieces of dinner plates peppering the floor of the restaurant. Waitresses were leading the customers away from the hazard. She was mortified, even more so because it happened in front of the only customer who had ever showed interest in her as a person, someone who hadn’t made fun of her dreams.
“Didn’t I tell you not to enter the dining room during busy hours?” The manager yelled at her with a menacing look. “What the hell happened?”
“I tripped over the broom when she was sweeping,” the waiter said in a shaky voice. He couldn’t believe he had dropped the dishes on the floor. Lana didn’t want to look up and continued to clean the mess she had caused while tears streamed down her face.
“You’re fired,” the manager said to her. “Finish cleaning this up and get the hell out. I don’t want to see your face around here no more.”
Lana marveled at the enchanting view. Like magic, the Burj Al Arab with its entire splendor seemed to be sailing by her bedroom window. She reached inside her purse and picked up the crumpled up picture of the Burj Al Arab she had shown to a customer five years ago, just a few days before the fatalistic day she was fired from the restaurant. She opened up her suitcase and took out the old cardboard canvases that used to decorate the walls of her barren bedroom. They all had red check marks on them. She found her drawing of Dubai and painted a red check mark on it.
“How do you like it?” The comforting, familiar voice asked her.
“I’m amazed! I can’t wait to have the children draw this, looking at the real model!”
“I believe they’re ready to do it,” he said, while his two children ran inside the room in excitement. “You’re the best art teacher. I’m so glad you accepted the offer to work for us.”
Lana smiled at him and hugged the children. She looked out the window again and whispered to herself the words she heard from him long ago. “Dream, because the sky is blue.”

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Books: Interview with talented Author Carol Ann Kauffman

June! Summer time and a great opportunity to pick up new books and do some reading by the pool! Let's introduce to you author Carol Ann Kauffman. Today we interview her to find out a bit more about her books and her background. What about picking up one of her great books for a lazy summer afternoon reading by the pool?

Carol, tell us where are you from and what motivates you to write?

I’m from northeast Ohio, the gray land, the flyover zone.  I honestly do not know.  It’s like eating and sleeping and other primal necessities that seem to be hard-wired into me.
Seems you were born to be a writer, so when and why did you begin writing?
With me, reading and writing have always gone hand in hand. I wrote as a child. I won an essay contest in middle school, and wrote an article for a teen magazine in high school. But college, job, life got in the way and I didn’t pick up writing as a serious endeavor again until I retired.  
That's great, reading and writing do have to go hand in hand, and I'm glad you decided to write when you retired! Do you have a favorite author and has he/she influenced your writing in any way?
My favorite authors are M.C. Beaton (Hamish MacBeth and Agatha Raisin series), Janet Evanovich (Stephanie Plum), Sue Grafton (A is for Abili, B is for…), Dan Brown, to name a few.  I love indie author Loretta Laird, whose Passers trilogy is a Tolkien-like saga of a princess and a passer, love and duty. I like an author who drags me into the book no matter how I am feeling when I sit down to read, one who can make me put everything else aside and just read.
And what do you think is the hardest part of writing?
I tend to suffer from too many subplots.  I see twists and turns at every corner. One publisher wanted to divide my novel into three separate books.  I wasn’t thrilled with the idea, so I declined.  Though a few subplots are good, too many can certainly strangle a good story. Simplifying my story line is the hardest part for me.
Definitely not an easy task. With all your experience, having written several books, what is the best advice you would give to inspiring authors?
Write every day.  Don’t let the people who haven’t succeeded squash your success.  Today, everybody’s a critic.  Do not get discouraged.  And this is a hard one: when someone is giving your book criticism, emotionally detach yourself from the book and try to glean something constructive from them. Discard the snide remarks and wrinkled noses. Find something they said that you can use to improve your craft. Someone used the term “too trashy” for one of my books.  I howled with delight! My work is not sexual explicit or graphically violent, and most rejection letters said I was too tame, for example “this is something one might find on Mary Poppins nightstand” or “use a more modern descriptive phrase for man part”, or, my favorite, “throw a few fucks in, young people say fuck a lot.” So, if you can’t find something constructive, then find something amusing.
What are you working on now?
I have a new book out with BTGN (Books To Go Now, out of Seattle, WA). It’s part of a five-book anthology called The Monday Mystery Society. It takes place in a small Ohio town, where members of the book club find more than their next favorite author. Each book in the series revolves around a mystery novel. It’s an exciting concept. My book is called Daisy’s Dilemma.
Also, Sea Witch came out in May.  Life extraterrestrial life scientist Dr. Laura Martin hires a new assistant, Dr. Scott Conner. Mayhem insures, mainly because of the mermaid/siren/monster in the basement.
And I have another installment in the Time After Time series that is due out in July, called MacKalvey House. Young American woman/older British gentleman find love and heartache.
THEN the sequel to Madison’s Christmas is due out November 1st. This one, Christmas at Star Lake, picks up almost a year after Madison’s Christmas ended, when Madison discovers the deaths of her father and best friend were murders.
Do you research different topics to write your books? What have you learned from your experience as a writer?
Oh, absolutely. For Sea Witch I had to learn the naval officer rankings and the geography of southern France. I also studies the folktales from the Nordic countries about hooked sea monsters, as well as old tales of mermaid and sirens.
The biggest thing I learned as an author was to make a table with columns and rows as you are writing, noting chapter number and title, page numbers, character POV (point of view), location, month or time of year action is taking place, new characters added, etc.  BELIEVE ME, you will save time and aggravation not flipping and scrolling to find specifics.
Where do you get inspiration for your books?
Anywhere. Everywhere. The bridal section on the newspaper. The police blotter. Lyrics from a song on the radio. Kids playing at the dog park. Something that happened to me personally. A long drive in the park. The people screaming at each other in the hotel room next door. 
Thank you so much for your time and to let us know more about you! Much success with your books and new releases! 
For more information about Carol and her books:
Carol Ann Kauffman is an author from Ohio. She is a retired teacher from a local school district, where she taught for thirty-five years. She has worked as a printer, managed a department store office, worked in an insurance agency, retail sales, and automotive. She was a Red Cross volunteer. She loves to travel; her favorite places being Italy, and Aruba, which show up in her novels quite a bit. She loves to play Bridge and to garden. She grows African violets and orchids. She loves dachshunds and trains. She is the author of the Time After Time series, which follows a pair of lovers through their many lifetimes together. Her novels, classified as romantic action adventures with a sci-fi/ fantasy twist, are about life, love, loss, and lunacy. 

Twitter:  @Cay47
tsu: CAKauff
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