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Allusionary Assembly

The Writing of Kerry E.B. Black

Year

2017

Book Review: Spectrum Collection of Short Stories by S. C. Jensen

A very nice review of an anthology I’m proud to be a part of!

This Is My Truth Now

Why This Book 
One of the authors in this short story collection, Spectrum: A Colorful Collection of SmartyPants’ Best, is someone I’ve met, so I had to read the whole book coordinated by another author, S.C. Jensen. I was heading out of town for a few days and thought it would be a perfect opportunity to digest a few stories each day.

spectrumApproach & Style 
This book is a collection of about 25 to 30 short stories, organized by various colors on the wheel, a kaleidoscope of fiction, hence the term Spectrum. I found the approach quite interesting, and read a color each day from the Kindle Reader version in my iPad. The book has about 250 pages with each story ranging from 5 to 15 in length. The genres run the gamut of fantasy and science fiction to romance, mystery and contemporary fiction. It has…

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Paperwhites

Charli Mills at https://carrotranch.com issued a challenge to any writer interested. Write a story in 99 words that includes white flowers. My response follows. What do you think?

paperwhite narcissus

Paperwhites

Written by Kerry E.B. Black

Delicate blooms bobbed from fragile supports, yet fragrance rose like springtime that winter afternoon. Cindy ran a finger along its silky petals, marveling at the minute perfection of the Paperwhites. Narcissi. Named for a narcissist so in love with himself he ignored another and drowned attempting to hug his own reflection.

Cindy smiled at the gift-giver. “They’re beautiful.”

He shrugged. “I picked them.” His gaze swept her party dress and updo. “Are you ready? I mean, is that what you’re wearing?”

Cindy inhaled the delicate perfume and sighed. Never fall in love with a narcissist, yet here I am.

A Witch for Epiphany

Written by Kerry E.B. Black

In Italy, presents are delivered to children on the eve of 5 January, Epiphany (also known as Three Kings Day) by a benevolent crone named La Befana. Children tidied up their rooms and hung socks from their bedposts, hoping to earn little gifts from the Christmas Witch. For the well-behaved, La Befana left figs, honey, dates, candy, and other small gifts, but for the naughty, she left onions, garlic, coal, or a switch. Although families left a glass of wine and a plate of food for the hag, any who dared spy on her work received a thump on the head from her ever-present broom. If feeling generous, La Befana sweeps the abodes, as though sweeping away the previous years’ troubles.

Some historians theorize La Befana derives from the Roman goddess Strenia. Strenia presided over the distribution of New Year’s gifts of fruits and sweets in ancient Roman households.

La BefanaAnother legend places her in Bethlehem when Mary bore Jesus. The magi stopped at her house to ask if she knew where to find the new-born king. She did not know of Jesus’ whereabouts, but she offered hospitality to the travelers. La Befana’s reputation for excellent housekeeping saw her rise early to begin chores. The grateful magi asked La Befana to join them in their quest. “Alas, I am too busy,” she replied, and they proceeded following the Star to find Jesus. Later in the day, La Befana reconsidered and sought the magi, but she could not find them or the King.

The tradition states that La Befana regretted missing meeting the holy family, and so on the night of the magi, Epiphany, she travels in search of him. She leaves presents for good children because in them she sees the spirit of God. She hope to warn the wicked from their bad courses with her messages.

Hanging stockings for La Befana

Old lady puppets resembling La Befana often are cast into fires on the night after the New Year in Italy, as though representing the old year’s leaving.

Though since WWII Santa delivers presents to the kids in Italy on Christmas Eve, the witch remains in favor. Throughout Italy and in places with dense Italian populations, parades and performances celebrate the crone. As far away as Toronto finds La Befana choirs singing the praises of the popular Christmas witch.

*First published at Halloween Forevermore

Submitted for Your Approval: A Tribute to Rod Serling

Submitted for Your Approval: A Tribute to Rod Serling

written by Kerry E.B. Black

 

“You’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind; a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination—your next stop, ‘The Twilight Zone!’” With these iconic words, the rich-voiced Rod Serling introduced “The Twilight Zone.”

If he still lived, Rod Serling would be 93 years old this 25 December. Alas, this master of the anthology-style “Twilight Zone” (1959-1964) and “Night Gallery” (1969) television shows died in 1975.

An American screenwriter, play write, television producer, and narrator from New York took stood against censorship in his lifetime. In high school, he wrote for his high school newspaper and joined the military the day after graduation, serving in the Pacific during WWII. Private Serling received the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, and the Philippine Liberation Medal. His later writing reflected his realization of the unpredictability of life after serving. He said, “I was bitter about everything and at loose ends when I got out of the service. I think I turned to writing to get it off my chest.”

He earned a bachelor’s of arts degree from Antioch College in Ohio. He worked in radio, film, and, of course, television, accumulating numerous Emmys, Golden Globes, as well as the Edgar Allan Poe and Christopher Awards. His writing was often recognized the Writer’s Guild of America.

Rod Serling's Night Gallery

The popularity of “The Twilight Zone” found resurrection in a comic, a magazine, two later television series, and a film. Rod Serling’s image visited the television show, “The Medium,” and his likeness appeared on a US Postage stamp. His name graces the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

To celebrate his life, I plan to re-watch the seasonal “Twilight Zone” special “Night of the Meek” and recall my thrilling trips on the Tower of Terror in Walt Disney World.

“As long as they talk about you, you’re not really dead, as long as they speak your name, you continue. A legend doesn’t die, just because the man dies.” From “A Game Of Pool,” written by George Clayton Johnson, aired on The Twilight Zone, October 31, 1961.

*First published at Halloween Forevermore in 1994.

#FFRodeo – Arachnid Cacophony

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Geoff Le Pard wanted participants in his Carrot Ranch #FFRodeo event to make him laugh using about 300 words. The winners can be found here, and my feeble entry is below.

Winner of Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #2

Arachnid Cacophony

Written by Kerry E.B. Black

 Christine and Sarah enjoyed a lazy summer afternoon. A light breeze ruffled the grasses and the old dog’s fur. Latte’s nose twitched, catching interesting scents and perhaps remembering puppyhood.

            With a start, Christine pulled her flip-flop-clad feet up onto the lawn chair. “Uh oh, Sarah. Look. There’s a huge spider on Latte.”

            Sarah squinted. A wolf spider crawled along the dog’s shoulder. Sarah gulped. “What should we do?”

            “We’ll have to get it off.” Hugging her legs, Christine shrunk into herself. “She’s your dog. You get it off.”

            “Come on, Christine. You’re older.”

            Christine blushed. “Yes, but guess what? I’m terrified of spiders, and that one’s gigantic.”

            “Well, I’ll call Latte over and knock the spider off with my crutch.” Sarah lifted her forearm crutch to illustrate.

            Christine nodded. “Be careful, though. Don’t hit Latte. Just knock the spider off.” She fixed her friend with a serious look. “And don’t send it flying over here, either. Got it?”

            “Got it.” With a mock-calm voice, Sarah called her dog. “Latte.”

            Latte’s ears perked. She wagged her golden tail, and an unaccustomed glint infiltrated her chocolate-drop eyes. The usually slow-moving retriever surprised them by leaping to her feet and, with great galumphing, undulating bounds, closed on the women. The spider flopped with each stride, seemingly suspended for seconds before bouncing against the dog’s shoulder, a horrifying progress intensified by arachnophobia.

            Christine screamed and in her haste to escape, knocked her chair to the ground. Her foot tangled in the nylon webbing. The chair slapped against her as she dragged the unwanted tag-a-long in her shrieking, arm-flailing retreat.

Latte followed Christine, unable to hear Sarah’s commands to sit over Christine’s cacophony. Christine ran around the front yard, chair and dog in tow. By the time all calmed, the nobody could find the spider.

#FFRodeo Contest: Twitterflash Stories

For #FFRodeo contest #5, C. Jai Ferry provided a #Twitterflash story. Participants were asked to write a complete 99-word story using Twitter. Every #Twitterflash story also had to be 11 sentences with exactly 9 words each.

The results were interesting!

Winner of Flash Fiction Contest #5

For my entry, I explored a bit more of the complicated relationship between Erin and Marlin, the main characters in my Middle Grade novel WIP, Mae in May.

#FFRodeo

Erin’s Diary

Erin seethed. “Don’t you dare open that book, Marlin!”

Marlin’s mouth twisted bedeviled innocence. “And why not?”

He held her diary over his head. “Whatcha hiding?”

Marlin laughed as she leapt to retrieve her book.

“Give it back now, Marlin!” Mirth bubbled from him.

He stretched, using his height to advantage, and read.

“Mom gave me this to keep track of thoughts.”

“Please! I’m not kidding. That’s private.” Erin pleaded, hot-faced.

Marlin’s eyes sparkled with mischief. He pushed Erin back

He spoke in falsetto. “So much of life’s changed.

She kicked his shin and scooped the dropped book.

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However, I first wrote an exploration for another of my WIP’s, Wolves at Bay. I usually write late at night, and when I wrote it, I must have been a bit blurry in my Swiss cheese brain, because I misremembered the rules. Instead if 11 lines of 9, I wrote 9 lines of 11. (sigh.) This is the product of my sleep-deprived imagining.

Nina’s Courtroom Entry:

They dragged Nina into the courtroom, twisted legs sprawled behind her.

Dried blood marred her too-pale skin, and her sparse hair tangled.

Guards thrust her onto a stool; Ward sickened; he’d made it.

Just as his father’d taught, he’d whittled delicate but sturdy legs.

At home, the utilitarian piece would never have served for Nina.

Her muscles knotted and her nerves spasmed, and she bolted sideways.

Nina’s head lulled, and her eyes rolled like a painted saint.

Feelings of suppressed protectiveness rose like a fever in her brother.

Ward balked, long accustomed to disgusted embarrassment of his disabled sister.

 

 

 

#FFRodeo entry: Invisible Scars

Irene Waters designed #FFRodeo contest #4 to expose scars. The winners’ heartbreaking stories are posted here: https://carrotranch.com/2017/11/28/winner-of-flash-fiction-contest-4/

Follows is my entry.

Invisible Scars

Written by Kerry E.B. Black

Some scars are invisible.

Three-day Labor Day weekends break Kayla. The change of the air rouses latent fears. The scent of blooming chrysanthemum and backyard barbeques inspires panic. She scratches skin grown feverish, leaving bloody tracks. Her head pounds with remembered shame, and she battles a torrent of emotion. Anger. Fear. Revulsion. Her eyes grow wide, not seeing the world of that day, plunged into reliving an abuse that left lasting and invisible scars.

A man Kayla trusted betrayed her. When visiting her father, he violated what should have been a loving relationship.

She fought disgrace and disclosed the act to her mother, to her doctor, to any teachers who would listen. CYF sent agents. She answered their questions, ignoring the mounting stomach sickness caused by reliving. She endured forensics exams, psychological consultations, and police interviews. In the end, CYF and the state dropped charges against her violator.

She railed. “This is wrong. Why isn’t he punished?” Her mother plead with the courts to help protect her daughter. They put small safe-guards in place. With a PTSD diagnosis, she entered a weekly therapeutic program.

The strangest little things trigger reactions to unresolved memories. These invisible scars demand acknowledgement.

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My First Writing Rodeo

In October, Carrot Ranch ran a series of contests instead of hosting weekly prompts. Judging for the events is completed, and the result of the interesting challenges are posted. Please take a moment to read them here: www.https://carrotranch.com/events/

For my part, I entered all of the contests, and in light of the high-quality stories from all the entrants, I’m thrill to have won one! I posted the winning entry in an earlier post. It’s title is “Like Retribution.” However, I’ll post my other entries here now that the judging is completed. 🙂 Below is my entry for #FFRodeo #3 designed with a magical twist by Jules Paige. Find the rules and winning entries here: https://carrotranch.com/2017/11/21/winner-of-flash-fiction-contest-3/

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Winner of Flash Fiction Contest #3

My septolet-containing entry was Russet Leaves Jacob found the scrap of parchment while raking Oma Rochinka’s yard. In shaky handwriting were the words:

Russet leaves

Reveal skeletal keys

Otherwise hidden

Toadstool rings

Powdered, infused, consumed

Discover

doorways

 

He slid it into his pocket. Maybe Oma’s writing poetry.

He raked and wondered which of the leaves qualified as russet. He picked a couple, sniffing their elegant decay, and slid them into the warmth of his hoodie’s pocket. Music crooned from his left earbud, but he left his right ear music-free to enjoy the last autumn bird songs. Red-capped mushrooms made a circle at the foot of the maple tree. Wonder if that’s russet? He picked a couple and slid them beside the leaves, determined to ask.

Jacob tapped the song’s back-beat. He played with his high school band, but he aspired to create a country music group. Trouble was, nobody around wanted to put in the work required to make a go of such a thing. When people heard about his dream, they laughed and said, “Better have a back-up plan.”

After Jacob bagged the leaves, the old lady beckoned. Inside a small room crowded with old-world charm, delicious baking smells enveloped him.

“Good work, Jacob. Have some cobbler.”

Oma always baked something delicious for him. As he tucked in, he handed her the note. “Is this yours?”

Her eyes twinkled behind chained spectacles. “No, it belongs to you.” She produced a mortar and pestle. “Well, let’s have them.”

He knew Oma too well for surprise. He set the mushrooms and leaves on the table. “Are they russet?”

“Near as I can tell. Crush them into a powder.” She dropped the results into a bottle of rosewater. “When you’re ready, you drink. This’ll guide you.”

Jacob never questioned, but accepted the bottle and its future.

 

 

 

Ninety-nine

Ninety-nine

Written by Kerry E.B. Black

 She commands I capture a story using ninety-nine words, but I have lifetime to present. I chafe at the confines, yet by honing the message and pruning the words, I achieve brevity. Brevity is beautiful, right? I strive for beauty. I face doubts and strike blows at fear. A story has an arc, and mine begins with an idea. I face adversity in a stifling word count, fail, edit, and at last reach my goal. In only ninety-nine words, I present a baseline, a struggle, a resolution. It may need flesh, but it is there, only in ninety-nine words.

*Written for the weekly challenge presented by the supportive writers’ group https://carrotranch.com headed by the amazing Charli Mills.

If you’re interested in honing your writing, I recommend you mosey over to the Ranch and check it out. Everyone is welcome to participate!

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