Sunday, February 19, 2017

Janet Flash: Gray Happiness

by Michael Seese

Sometimes Janet throws us a curveball. This week, I stood in the batter's box as a hockey puck came whizzing at me. As you all are well aware, the usual contest requires us to incorporate five keywords in a 100-word story. The same day she posted last week's winner, Janet said, she'd read about a Ray Bradbury short story that seemed to be inspired by a poem.

"And the idea came to me: why not use a poem as a prompt!" 

So our mission this week was to read her "favorite poem of all time," Happiness by Jane Kenyon and craft a story.

    There’s just no accounting for happiness,
    or the way it turns up like a prodigal
    who comes back to the dust at your feet
    having squandered a fortune far away.

    And how can you not forgive?
    You make a feast in honor of what
    was lost, and take from its place the finest
    garment, which you saved for an occasion
    you could not imagine, and you weep night and day
    to know that you were not abandoned,
    that happiness saved its most extreme form
    for you alone.

    No, happiness is the uncle you never
    knew about, who flies a single-engine plane
    onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes
    into town, and inquires at every door
    until he finds you asleep midafternoon
    as you so often are during the unmerciful
    hours of your despair.

    It comes to the monk in his cell.
    It comes to the woman sweeping the street
    with a birch broom, to the child
    whose mother has passed out from drink.
    It comes to the lover, to the dog chewing
    a sock, to the pusher, to the basketmaker,
    and to the clerk stacking cans of carrots
    in the night.
    It even comes to the boulder
    in the perpetual shade of pine barrens,
    to rain falling on the open sea,
    to the wineglass, weary of holding wine.

I focused in the line "the way it turns up like a prodigal," and within a few minutes had 95% of "Gray Happiness" written. 

He frowned as he threw a ladle’s worth of the glop at my tray. It landed with a sound somewhere between a SPLOOOORK and a whimper.

I trudged my ration across the sepia courtyard, finding a spot at a table that had long since surrendered to its fate. Close, but not too close, sat the others. Ashen faces contemplated their own oozy destinies. I couldn’t read their minds. I didn’t have to.

They’ve lied before.

I decided death might be an improvement. A weary hand guided a spoonful of the horrid stuff toward my mouth.

And then there was sunlight.

What would the poem make you think of?

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Janet Flash: Cleaning House

by Michael Seese

After a few weekends of photo-prompt flash fiction, Janet is back with one of the classic 100-word contests.

In honor of the publication of Death & the Gravedigger's Angel, the the third book in the Auction Block series by Janet's client Loretta Sue Ross, she asked us to don our thinking caps.

Write a 100-word (max) story using:


And, look! "Death." Right up my alley. So I give you "Cleaning House."

Finally on her own, Amber treated herself to an extra tap on the SNOOZE. The folks at Starbucks poured her a freshly brewed cup of happy. 

Today will be great, she thought.

On the bus ride home, Staci suggested they get together. 

“Sorry. I've got to clean. You know how messy Dad is.”

“Girlfriend, he works you to death.”

“Yeah, since Mom’s been gone…”

Only a few broken dishes to sweep up. A little rubbing alcohol for the wrench. Digging the hole would suck.

Her favorite pajamas, still speckled with his red, she'd box up and hide. Like the memories.

Judging will be tomorrow.

I welcome your feedback.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Janet Flash: Colin In Heaven

by Michael Seese

The author community, though naturally HUGE, still manages to find small pockets of intimacy here and there. So it was with the group of writers to took part in Rebekah Postupak's now-defunct weekly Flash! Friday. And so it is with the folks who haunt contribute to Janet Reid's blog. Even though I've never met any of my literary brethren face to face, I do feel as though I know many of them.

One fellow devotee of Janet The Wonder Agent is Colin Smith, a fine writer and a good cat overall. Check out his work here.  

He recently paid a visit to Janet's office -- aka The Shark's Reef -- the other day. Janet, of course, decided to memorialize the event with a contest. Examine the pictures below, then in 50 words say what happened next. 


Focusing on the second, I wrote "Colin In Paradise."

A chipper BING BING signalled his arrival in Eden.

Like all prophecies, Janet's message had been cryptic.

"I want to discuss a book deal."

Spying the agente provocatrice, Colin's heart raced ahead to greet her.

"Yes, Janet?" he stammered.

"I’ll pay you $20 to shelve these books. Alphabetically, by author." 

What do you think happened?

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Janet Flash: Separation Anxiety

by Michael Seese

This morning as I made my rounds of the blogs, I came upon another quick Janet Reid flash fiction contest. In 25 words or less, we had to say what was going on in this picture.

I immediately glommed onto the idea that became "Separation Anxiety."

As Pen and Gossamer awaited the surgery to separate them, one thought crossed their mind.
Mom and Dad have a lot of explaining to do.

What do you see in this pic?

Thursday, January 19, 2017

It STILL Never Gets Old

by Michael Seese

Back in October, I posted an entry from the "never give up" files. To make a long story short (if a writer can do that), "TinkerHell," a piece I wrote in 2012, finally found a home. 

Today, I hold in my hands that home.



As I say every time I get one of these in the mail, it never gets old. 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Janet Flash: The Purrfect Plan

by Michael Seese

I got a call the other day from one of my biggest supporters, Jim Lewis, who owns the Fireside Book Shop in Chagrin Falls. He wondered if I as still blogging, since my words had not polluted graced his inbox lately. I agreed I had not been blogging much lately, owing to three factors:

1. The demise of Castle
2. The demise of Flash Friday, which ensured that every week I would have a story to share
3. The fact I've been so busy writing my current WIP I haven't had time to write about writing.

But yesterday I tuned into Janet Reid's blog, and saw that she'd posted a quick flash fiction contest

This time, in 25 words or less, we were to describe this picture.

Here is "The Purrfect Crime."

“We need a cleaner,” Eunice whispered.

“Nah. They'll assume she fell.”

Indeed, their plan was purrfect, save for one detail.

“Um... Who’ll open the can?”

What would YOU have said about this, in 25 words or less?

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Janet Flash: Inured

by Michael Seese

This is another "ummm" story. I have no idea where it came from. The words Janet lobbed our way for this week's 100-word story contest were:


I recall starting with "whip" and "bat an eyelash" and it kind of took off from there. So here is "Inured."

Inured, by now, to his belt, Sadie didn't bat an eyelash when he brandished the whip. A perfect reflection of her father's defiance, she shot one across his bow.

“You don't have the guts!”

The crack cut straight to her core. Practice, though, taught her how to swallow a scream. Thirty minutes later he smiled, spent and satisfied.

“Here's your money, Sadie,” Jack said. “Same time next week?”

“Sure,” she said, dabbing the tiny red rivulet running down her cheek.

“Sorry about nicking you. I'll try harder to control it next time.”

“No worries.”

Dad always said the same thing.

So what do YOU think was on my mind? Since I've never done "that stuff" (and harbor no secret desire to do so) I'm at a loss.