Simone St. James wrote an intriguing paranormal mystery – “The Broken Girls.” In it, the strong-minded lead, Fiona, is obsessed with her sister’s murder. Under the guise of reporting the reopening of the historic girls’ boarding school Idelwild Hall (where her sister’s body was discovered), Fiona discovers some mysteries won’t – and shouldn’t – stay buried. Though told in two distinct times lines, the book reads like a dream with a lovely rhythm and attention to Gothic details. St. James fleshed out the cast of characters, including a ghost named Mary Hand. Although this is the first time I’ve read a book by Simone St. James, it will most definitely not be the last.
There’s always light at the end of the tunnel. That’s certainly true in Stephen Chboski’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower. In this ya novel, high school freshman Charlie writes letters to us. Yes, I believe they are written to the reader. Charlie’s non-judgemental compassion, self-effacing honesty, and unbiased intellectualism make him a truly loveable friend. His fellow “misfits” Sam and Patrick introduce Charlie to other older teens, and Charlie’s world expands. He truly observes the world around him. Charlie comes from a loving family, but every teen faces challenges. From first dates, kissing, and sex to the importance of a rounded education, freedom of expression, and flouting the rules (and roles), this book negotiates these challenges, all through Charlie’s world view – and Charlie’s is a hopeful outlook, even in the darkest of situations.
This book was too old for still-at-home kids, but I’m going to recommend it to them when they’re a bit older. It reminded me of the difficulties faced at every age, and I wish I’d have found “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” when I was younger. I know it would have made a meaningful contribution to my life and allowed me to know we are never alone, even when we feel the most isolated.
I read this because I thought it was a precursor to Chbosky’s “Imaginary Friend.” I’ve since discovered my error, but it was a happy mistake.
Charli Mills is hosting another 99 word challenge at her delightful Carrot Ranch site (https://carrotranch.com/2020/04/17/april-16-flash-fiction-challenge-2/?contact-form-id=24480&contact-form-sent=24630&contact-form-hash=3fdeccf12fea621e956bf6bb038bba311f090abb&_wpnonce=f52b0f6ec2#contact-form-24480) This one is to include “Crazy” – however the writer imagines the word, or “Go where the prompt leads.” Charli also includes some craft-building book recommendations in her essay, and I recommend giving Miranda Lambert’s featured song, even if you’re not a country music fan, because it’s a lot of fun.
Hide and Seek (99 crazy words that may grow into a much longer story)
June crab-walked under the manicured forsythia bushes surrounding the wrap-around porch, holding her white party dress in an unwieldy bunch before her belly. Sweat straightened her curls and trickled saline into her eyes. Somewhere along here, a tiny door led to a slide she could take into the basement if need be. Of course, then her dress would definitely be ruined, since it used to be the coal cellar, and much of the soot lingered even all these years later – sort of how the “crazy” stuck around her bloodline no matter how hard her relatives tried to dilute it.
Charli Mills and the Rough Writers are at it again, issuing the challenge to write a concise piece of writing using 99 words and a prompt. This week’s prompt: Clarice. Any Clarice. Real or fictional. I forewent Hannibal’s friend and instead went with an American Vaudeville and silver screen actress. I hope you’ll enjoy the story, and I do hope you’ll try your hand at a 99 word piece of writing. If you do, please let me know so I can cheer you on!
Clarice Vance in Court
written by Kerry E.B. Black in 99 words in answer to the weekly challenge put forth by friends at https://carrotranch.com
Miss Kingston represented Mendel Kingston during the court case.
At over six feet, Clarice Vance commanded the courtroom. Her rich voice reverberated. “Your Honor, Mendel Kingston’s cloak material is a blatant copy of my famed dress’s material.” Clarice spun slowly. Mirrored material accented her waspish waist and full, jeweled bodice.
Miss Kingston objected. “My father invented that material over forty years ago. Back then, ‘flirtation numbers’ used hand mirrors to reflect the spotlight, so Papa designed the material to imitate that.”
Clarice smiled. “In 1870?”
Miss Kingston smirked. “Yes.”
“Well, the first spotlights were Jablachkoff Candles. Used in Paris. In the early 1880’s.”
Clarice won her case.
Book Review: The Tenth Girl by Sara Faring
The Tenth Girl begins as an interesting Gothic-type tale set in an elite South American boarding school. The young teacher, Mavi, provides one P.O.V. A spirit named Angel provides another. The timeline jumps around, and there is a significant, and for many confusing, twist at the end. In fact, unless the reader is familiar with certain “lingo,” none of the early clues and foreshadowing will be easily interpreted. Additionally, this is not a “fast read.”
Fair warning: This story includes pedophilia, human sacrifice, and sexual assault. Also, to preserve the surprise at the end, don’t peek at the naked cover!
Book Review: Dear Laura by Gemma Amor
This novella is meant to disturb, and it succeeds.
Told in the third person, limited perspective, the tale of an obsessed killer and a grieving, confused young girl fluidly jumps from past to present. The story feels like a bit of a gut-punch, which is a testimony to the author’s ability.
Poor Laura is a bit of a latch-key kid, but the lifestyle didn’t impede her. She’s a sweet girl, a good student, and as she turned thirteen, she and her childhood best friend Bobby began to “go steady.” On their way to school one day, Laura witnessed Billy’s abduction. Shortly there after, the grieving friend receives a letter from Bobby’s abductor. In exchange for information about her friend, the “pen pal” X demands a deeply personal item from Laura.
The abductor manipulates Laura year after year, dropping a letter around her birthday. He stalks her into her adulthood and crushes any bursts of self-possession. After years of living in terror, the letters stop, and Laura allows herself to fall in love with a man, marry, and bare a son. As a middle-aged woman, Laura receives another letter, and this one threatens her son. Laura interprets the clues in the letters to finally confront her tormentor and find closure.
The limited perspective feels claustrophobic, which gives a glimpse of the anxiety Laura experiences. Her secrets distance her from everyone around. Her connection with X and by extension Bobby and her own lost childhood consume her. Sadness, guilt, and terror shroud her until she at last finds her way “always on, and never back.”
Hello, my friends, and thanks for stopping by!
The stories below are the result of their weekly prompts. They’re not great stories, but they force me to think in creative ways due to the restrictions set by the rules. It’s really fun. So if you enjoy playing with words, give it a go! (They’re nice people, honestly!)
Written by Kerry E.B. Black
Carol and Ben had been best friends since the third grade, and as they graduated from college, they decided to take a cross country trip. “It’s our last chance to be kids,” she explained. “We’ll drive all the way across America and see all the little, overlooked places.”
He packed before she’d finished the sentence, and their epic adventure began. They spent a year and a day exploring, but in the end, to their great surprise, they realized an unspoken truth. “I love you, Carol,” Ben whispered, and she replied with a squeal, “I love you, too!”
Hutch of Treasures
Written by Kerry E.B. Black
Grandma asked my cousins and me, “What inside this hutch is my dearest possession?” She creaked as she settled into an armchair to watch our debate.
My eldest cousin took the lead. “The goblets. They’re gold, aren’t they?”
Grandma inclined her head. “Indeed, but they aren’t my treasure.”
Each chose something. Crystal, silver, china, linens. I noticed a stack of ribbon-bound letters in the top right drawer. When my turn came, I pointed to them. “Are these from Grandpa?”
“Yes, when he fought in the war.”
“Then these are your treasured possession.”
Tears dribbled from her white lashes. “Yes.”
In autumn, https://carrotranch.com/ hosted a writing rodeo, and I’m overjoyed that one of my 99 word stories WON a category! The participants produced some fabulous works, and as always, I’ve enjoyed reading them and am honored to display my work with theirs.
Below is my winning entry.
Written by Kerry E.B. Black
Benny stroked his wife’s brow. She hugged a teddy bear he’d given her when they were children. Benny knew even as a kindergartener he’d love her always.
They’d been married five years before the sickness.
“I’m dying.” She nestled closer.
He kissed her sunken cheek. “Not really.”
When she passed, his emotions bled into words. Benny wrote a stirring obituary and composed poetry in her honor. He poured adoration into books in which she was the hero, a beloved literary legend.
As Benny faced his mortality, a biographer asked his inspiration. Benny hugged a teddy bear to his chest.
As always, I recommend you hone your craft with the prompts at https://girlieontheedge1.wordpress.com/2019/12/22/sundays-six-sentence-story-word-prompt-87/ and https://carrotranch.com/2019/12/26/december-26-flash-fiction/
My interpretations were seasonally inspired. Of course, I’m hoping your holidays are bright and beautiful despite all the crazy aspects of life. And may 2020 be brilliant by design!
Written by Kerry E.B. Black
For Candice, the holidays inspired false nostalgia, an overwhelming persistence of glorified remembrance tinsel-wrapped and tied with a glittering, aggrandize bow. She’d long for the days when childhood wonder replaced cynicism in even the most stoic of hearts. Evergreens glistened with lights bright enough to chase away winter’s bite, feasts piled on every table so none felt hunger’s gnaw, and families gathered to nibble away misunderstandings until all that remained was peaceful appreciation.
As she gathered and bound fragrant spruce and holly, she ignored the blood drawn by their prickles and sucked away their stings. When the glorious day dawned, wrapping paper floating like shrapnel and ash to canvas faces scornful of gifts and gift-givers, conversations devolved into arguments, and the news displayed anything but peace on earth – as it had every year of Candace’s life.
By the next November, however, the cycle renewed, and her feverish desire for Rockwellian perfection replaced hurt-filled memories, and she’d pine for what might never be.
Written by Kerry E.B. Black
Karen decided New Year’s resolutions needn’t fail. 2020 could offer “vision,” and she’d craft herself into an ideal. As confetti drifted into her champagne and couples kissed through “Auld Lang Syne,” she visualized a successful self.
Next year, she’d work harder toward her goals. New job. New home. New pant size. New romance.
Before she tipped alcohol from her fluted glass as an anticipatory congratulation, she studied the pattern floating atop. Bits of colored tissue created images, and much like a tea leaf reader of old, she knew them by design.
With a smile, Karen swallowed her private toast.