Saturday, June 30, 2012

Critiques Incoming

This is my first week having a story critiqued on Critters. I've been a member for a little while, but I had no idea what to expect on my own story submission. Tonight the first few critiques have trickled in for A Negotiation. The reactions are pretty evenly spread: one "meh", one "bleh", one "yay". The overall picture is that it's well-written but has some endemic problems.

I've already collected some rejections on this one, and I will give it a revision pass and submit to new places, but I get the feeling that this one is going to end up in the trunk, which is disappointing. C'est la vie, on to the next.

I will say that it's nice to get feedback from people that I don't know personally. In short, I'm sure I'll be submitting something else for critique soon.

K

Friday, June 29, 2012

FFF: The Red-Haired Nun


Every Friday Kurt is posting a new Flash Fiction story. If you have a word or phrase in mind that you think might make a good title to a short story, post it in the comments and maybe I'll try to write something that fits it.

The Red-Haired Nun

Word Count: 600

Sister Lucia had joined the convent in 1962 and in the intervening seventeen years she had never uncovered her fiery red hair except to sleep or bathe. The thick mass of curls had been a point of pride when she was still in the orphanage, even though the sisters warned her against vanity. But as an adult it, like all other signs of her womanhood, lay hidden beneath a simple habit.

Such was her appearance on the Tuesday when Herbert Rosen visited her, asking about a child he’d given up for adoption. After pouring over files from early fifties, they’d come up with nothing. For hours Mr. Rosen had looked at possible candidates and their pictures, only to shake his head after each and conclude that it wasn’t the right child.

“Can you narrow down when you would have dropped her off?” asked Sister Lucia. There were a few files that Mr. Rosen had hesitated over before dismissing, and she was convinced that one of them had to be his daughter.

“I’m afraid not,” said the elderly man. “I’m sorry.”

“Can you at least tell me why you want to speak to her?”

Rosen’s eyes were glassy, brimming with tears. “I just want to be sure she’s all right, that she’s had a good life. I just… there are so many… doubts. Regrets.”

“What did she look like?”

“She looked like a baby,” said Rosen. “I would know her if I saw her.”

“What about her mother? What did she look like?”

“I don’t remember so well,” said Rosen. “She died right after little Rachel was born. Maybe she was about your height, heavier than you, though. But she had a face like an angel.”

“Is that why you gave up the child?” asked Sister Lucia. “Because your wife died?”

“No, it wasn’t that.” Lucia intended to inquire further, but decided against it. Some things should remain private. Meanwhile, the old man was beginning to cry in earnest. “I just wished that I could find her,” he wailed.

“Why now?” asked Sister Lucia.

“What’s wrong with now?”

“Why not any time in the last twenty-seven years?”

Rosen hung his head. “My wife. Rachel’s stepmother. She’s no longer with us. I could not have pursued this while she was still alive.”

Sister Lucia blanched. What was he saying? “Do you mean,” she asked, “that your new wife made you give up your baby?”

Rosen nodded. “You don’t understand. I don’t either, really. She was an Englishwoman and kept ranting a raving about having a ginger.”

“I’m sorry?” asked Lucia.

“Red-haired and freckles. Rachel’s hair was dark, but you never know how it will turn out, and her mother had bright red hair. It shone like the sun.”

Lucia’s hand drifted up to her own head, her own hair. Could this man…? No, it was impossible. Her parents were long dead. That’s what the sisters had always told her.

“I’m sorry,” said Rosen. “I’ve taken too much of your time. You have my address, in case you find anything.” He stood to leave.

Lucia tried to stop him, tried utter some word that would keep him in the room, but found none.

“It’s a shame,” said Rosen, “Rachel’s mother fades in my memory more every day. Her face is almost gone, but it was like an angel’s. You remind me of her.”

And then the man was gone.

Lucia sat alone with her thoughts. She could investigate. She could contact him. She could. But she knew that she would not.

Some thing should remain private. Her hair would remain covered.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Housekeeping

I've purged over 200 pages from the archives, but I've still got a ways to go. In a fitting twist of irony, I managed to purge the page notifying followers that I would be purging. So there's that.

Also, I've added a new static page with resources for my fellow aspiring writers.

K

Friday, June 22, 2012

FFF: Who Are You Talking To?


Every Friday Kurt is posting a new Flash Fiction story. This is the first week, so don't judge it too harshly. Also, if you have a word or phrase in mind that you think might make a good title to a short story, post it in the comments and maybe I'll try to write something that fits it.

Who Are You Talking To?
Word Count: 600

“Hello, Charles.”

“Hey, Greg. What are you doing here?”

“Oh, I frequently find myself here on Sundays, especially in May. I’ve been coming out here regularly for the last six years… yep, since 2006.”

“Oh… okay. Uh, well, it’s good to see you.”

“And you, Charles. It’s nice to run into friends from work.”

“Yes… Anyway, it’s good seeing you, but I’ve got to run.”

“Oh, and where are you going on this fine afternoon, Charles?”

“Um… why do you keep saying my name?”

“No reason, Charles. I just like people to know when I’m talking to them.”

“Uh-huh. So, I’m on my way to a movie and it starts in twenty minutes.”

“At 2:45?”

“Yes, at 2:45.”

“That’s excellent, Charles. Are you going down to the little cinema on Long Ave or the multiplex on 67th?”

“The one on Long. Look, I’ve really got to get—“

“Ah, that’s such a glorious little cinema, Charles. With the trees out front, and the art deco lobby and the gold moulding around the screens—”

“Greg?”

“Yes, Charles.”

“Who are you talking to?”

“I’m talking to you. I was just commenting on the art deco in the lobby and butter dispenser that’s shaped like a Buddha—”

“Greg, you’re narrating.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Charles.”

“I’m… okay, well, I really have to be going.”

“Before you do, Charles, I was hoping you could assist me with something.”

“Um, sure, Greg, as long as it’s quick.”

“You see, I was standing under that oak tree there, the one near the pond, and I noticed that woman walking by with her dog—”

“Seriously, Greg, who are you talking to?”

“You, Charles.”

“You don’t have to describe the park to me. I’m right here. I can see it.”

“Of course you can.”

“Fine, so what’s the favor?”

“What was that, Charles?”

“You said you needed my assistance with something.”

“Well, that’s true, but if you’re going to be cross—“

“I’m not cross.”

“You seem a little cross, Charles. Your forehead is scrunched and you’ve started breathing faster, and I dare say your face is getting a little red.”

Who are you talking to?

“Charles, maybe you should head on down to the cinema. You’re movie is going to start soon and you’ll have to walk a block and a half down Hitt Street and then turn left onto 64th—“

Stop doing that!

“Charles, you’re getting a little over-excited. I can see sweat forming in your medium-length brown hair.”

Sweet Jesus, Greg, you’re really freaking me out right now.”

“Charles, I’m—“

“No, shut up.”

“But, Charles, I’m just—“

“Shut. Up.”

“…”

“Greg?”

“Yes, Charles.”

“I’m going to go away now. Because I’m afraid that if we spend any more time together, I’m going to end up punching you in the face. And then things would be awkward when we’re both back in the office and Jesus Christ, now you’ve got me doing it!

“Charles, I—”

“Greg, I’ve got an idea. You see that woman over there with the dog?”

“Yes, the one I pointed out to you earlier, with the pink sweater—“

“Yes, her. Why don’t you go chat her up?”

“Well, I was going to ask you to introduce me. I smiled at her earlier and she just ignored me.”

“Greg, she’s blind.”

“Really?”

“I’m pretty sure that’s a seeing-eye dog.”

“You think so, Charles? You think that labrador—“

“Yes, I do.”

“You think I have a chance with her?”

“Greg, I think you two might just be a match made in Heaven.”

“Well, Charles, I think I will… Goodbye, Charles.”

“Goodbye, Greg.”

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Re-Branding: Kurtharsis.com is now KurtPankau.com

Kurtharsis.com is now KurtPankau.com

Which means a whole lot of links won't work anymore. I'm going to spend the next few days cleaning things up here and turning this into more of a personal/professional site than just a blog. Commence turmoil now!

K

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

New Project: Friday Flash Fiction

So I had a stupid idea for a writing project. Taking a page from Jonathan Coulton's career, I've decided that for the next year or so, I'm going to post a bit of flash fiction every week. Flash fiction (not to be confused with slash fiction) is not formally defined anywhere, but a useful guideline would be the submission rules for 365 Tomorrows, which defines Flash as anything shorter than 600 words. I'll use that as a target with no minimum and a hard cap of 1,000 words.

Now, 600 words is pretty damned short, when you think about it (for reference, this post is in the neighborhood of 400). Furthermore, it's not a mode I'm used to writing in. Seriously. I tried to write something short the other day and it still came out to 1,500 words. So this is as much an exercise for me as it is anything else. I'm not going to submit it anywhere, I'm not going to send it to my writing groups, I'm just going to post it here. Maybe after a while I'll collect it all and self-pub an ebook, but for now I'm committing it to the ephemerality of the web.

So what are the rules? It needs to be original (no fan-fiction), although I reserve the right to return to cross-pollinate characters and settings and MacGuffins from within this project. That is to say, fun stories may get revisited, but I promise not to do that too often. Stories should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. They need to meet the length criteria I've posted above. They need to post no later than 8:00 am Central every Friday, and they should have at least some entertainment value.

I'll start this experiment this week and we'll see how it goes. Maybe it will fizzle and die after a month, but I find that giving myself arbitrary goals is a decent motivation, and I need to get back in the habit of writing on a quasi-regular basis. I encourage any other prospective writers to join me in this. It could be fun.

See you Friday,

K

PS - Oh yeah, I want your help. I need titles. Give me a word or phrase or just something that sounds cool, and I'll try to write a story for it. Sound like a plan? Good. Post title suggestions in the comments. Thanks.