White Piping

Hola, folks! If you’re wondering why everything looks new around here, it’s because I decided my blog needed a change of scene, or should I say, a change of theme. Yep, that’s the best joke I can crack early on a Sunday morning before my cuppa. 

Also I thought what better way to declare a short story win? 

If you haven’t heard of the literary journal On The Premises, do head over there straight away! They hold nifty theme-based contests every few months. These are free to enter and offer excellent prize money. If your story becomes a finalist then they even offer a critique! 

Their last themed contest that ended in March centred on clothing, titled ‘It’s on you.’ 

I am more than thrilled to report that my story earned 2nd place in the contest! This story was particularly important to me, with all the conversations around #MeToo and #TimesUp entering the mainstream. 

This is one of the fastest acceptances I’ve ever received. I sneaked in my entry minutes before the deadline as I usually do, and a week later came to know I’d been shortlisted. Fast forward, another week and I received the fabulous news that I had placed second! 

I’d love it if you popped over to read the story and let me know what you think!

Please note: Opinions expressed in the story belong to the characters only!

Image Credit and Rights: Rare Vintage

The Demons of November

In honour of the first anniversary of demonetization, here’s a little crime story that I published on Juggernaut to celebrate the occasion. 

Read, like, share, let me know what you think, please! 

If you like the story please share it with your friends and family. If you don’t like it then definitely share it with everyone you know – what better way to torture them!

Here’s the link!

Mini-Update

I have been light on writing-related work this year. No Short Story Challenge, and definitely no other brand new work. I’ve spent most of my available free time on editing and whipping older pieces into shape. Per my records, I have about 28 of these essays and short stories that I need to whittle and carve to perfection, or at least start submitting them if I find I cannot revise and edit them any more.

Despite that I have a couple of acceptances to report. One was my short story targeted for a YA audience, titled Miss Quit which found a home in the lit mag Youth Imagination. I wrote this as part of the Short Story Challenge 2014, and it had been simmering ever since. When I did finally send it out I got a fairly quick acceptance.

The second was my article for writers, titled The Maturation of a Writer at Walrus Publishing. I wrote this last year on the spur of the moment one day, while reflecting on the differences I felt as a more experienced writer now compared to when I had started out.

Do read them and tell me what you think! Feel free to post links to your own recently published work in the comments below!

The Sound of Silence

In April last year, I participated in Writer’s Weekly 24-Hour Contest, just to challenge myself. In this contest, 24 hours are given to write a story. A prompt and a word count are provided on the given day and within a day writers are supposed to send their stories in. The entry fee costs $5 and I had nothing to lose except perhaps a bit of pride!

The prompt was as follows, and stories were not to exceed 950 words:

Sitting on the porch steps, she stared, ignoring the scent of lilacs from the overgrown bush. Her heart lurched when she saw the mail truck approaching, dust in its wake. Would it arrive today? The ancient mail carrier took his time handing her some envelopes and, finally, a large package in brown paper. As he drove away, she dropped the envelopes on the porch, and walked quickly around the side of the house, praying nobody inside saw…

Without further ado, here’s the story I penned. It won no accolades, but considering I wrote, edited and submitted it all within a space of twenty-four hours, I was pretty pleased with it. Tell me what you think!

#

The Sound of Silence

Mary’s bones ached as she sat on the porch steps. It had taken weeks of preparation. Now everything she needed lay in one place, except for one last thing. And if she wasn’t wrong, it would arrive today.

Her heart lurched when she saw the mail truck approaching. The ancient mail carrier took his time handing her some envelopes and, finally, a large package in brown paper. As he drove away, she dropped the envelopes on the porch, and walked quickly around the side of the house, praying nobody inside saw her.

Mary slipped to the shed behind the house, shuttering the door behind her quietly.

For a second she stiffened, her ears perked up against the wall, waiting to pick up even a note of wakefulness from within the house. No sound came to her.

She set the kettle to boil and got down to work.

The package was large but not heavy. She opened it and gingerly extracted the items, one at a time.

Two skeins of yarn and the four double-pointed size 5 needles were set aside for later use. She had only a little work left on the mittens.

The sheet of satin was so smooth it fell out of the package. The color was a bit too baby blue for her tastes, but it would have to do.

She loved the bells best, but they jangled and broke the quietness in the shed.

A rustling sound broke her concentration. She dropped the package and padded over to one corner of the shed.

The girl, still in her wedding dress, seemed to be stirring awake. The duct tape over her mouth was intact. Mary checked the ones binding her wrists, and those were tightly secured too.

The girl’s eyes fluttered open. She looked groggily around the room. Her wandering gaze found Mary, and her eyes widened instantly.

Mary smiled. “Up already, my dear? You had better take some rest. We need you fit for the evening now, don’t we?”

The girl shook her head vigorously.

Mary dropped to her knees beside her, and picked up something from the floor. “Ah, the cat’s whiskers. Now if only I could find the cat.”

The girl looked even more scared and tried hard to make as loud a sound as she could with her mouth closed. Mary caressed her delicate cheeks. “Be careful my dear. I’m sure you don’t want to join your friends in their habitats.”

She nudged the girl’s face to the right. There the girl saw her companions. Her eyes opened so wide that her long lashes almost feathered her brows. The girl shuffled in her place, but she couldn’t move much. Mary had taken care of that. The sedative was too strong.

The girl closed her eyes. Mary thought she might be crying. She jumped to her feet and strode to the other side of the shed, where two cages housed the girl’s companions – a Siberian Husky in one, and a Welara stallion in the other.

“These aren’t your problem, my dear girl. What will give you a run for your life is this little thing.” Mary pointed to a glass cloche on the table backed up against the wall of the shed.

A bumblebee buzzed about inside, its wings hitting the sides of the glass in vain as it tried to escape.

Mary stroked the curve of the cloche. “It’s just like you – it has wings, it can fly, but it can’t escape. It’s trapped, just like so many of us.”

She fell into a pensive mood, but just as suddenly, snapped out of it.

“Right, let’s get to work. Lots to cook and make merry. I’m thinking, veal cutlets, apple pies and noodles. What do you think?”

Mary brought out a meat cleaver. The girl’s eyes, now red from crying, fixed upon the weapon.

Mary banged down a perfect cut of veal on to the table. With one firm stroke she swung the blade down.

#

In the evening when the whole family was gathered around, Mary said, “I’d like to thank you all for your support. But my shrink says I’m fine now! So I’ve made a small presentation I’d like to share with you all.”

The cheers and whoops of her family was drowned out by a persistent banging on the door.

A hush fell over the gathering.

Mary’s son Phillip opened the door. A young policeman stood at the threshold. “We got a tip-off about a missing person who was reported last seen around here.”

Everyone looked at each other. Mary stood rooted to the spot. Phillip said, “I thought I heard some noise in the shed.”

Mary piped in. “That’s all my stuff.”

Phillip turned to her. “What do you keep there, Mom?”

“Ma’m can we see the shed?”

Mary shrugged. “Let’s go. I was taking everyone there anyway.”

“For what?”

Her face shone with excitement. “To show them my presentation performance!”

She led the way to the shed. When she opened the door, a gasp issued from everyone gathered.

Lined up in a neat row were roses with water droplets on them, a clutch of cat’s whiskers, two copper kettles, colorful mittens, brown paper packages tied up with strings, even a horse and finally, the girl in the wedding dress wearing a sash.

The officer rounded on her. “What’s all this ma’m? Did you know that girl’s been missing from her wedding since two days now?”

“What’s the big deal? I was going to return her anyway.”

“That’s crazy. And why is she wearing a blue sash?”

Mary said, “Oh come on, Officer, I thought you’d have realized by now. These are a few of my favorite things.”

 

Distant Echoes

At the beginning of 2014 I joined a group of eclectic writers for the Short Story Challenge, in which we committed to writing one short story for the month. We shared stories, exchanged critiques and reveled in each other’s successes. Nine writers emerged victorious, successfully completing the challenge.

The result is an amazing collection of stories called Distant Echoes, published this month on Amazon. It features my story as well as those of the eight other writers, which includes debut novelists and award winners among them.

This is very exciting for me. Though I am part of other collections available on Amazon such as the Bartleby Snopes Issue 8, eFiction and BookMuse Reader’s Journal, this qualifies as my first foray into self-publishing, albeit not with a book that has my name on the cover. But there is time enough for that. Do check out the collection and help spread the word. I hope you enjoy the stories.

In other news, I am striving hard to write regularly. A sprinkling of successes here and there keeps my spirits buoyed up.

If you feel funny, i.e. if you want to write funny and inject a little humour into your stories, take a look at my article A Shot of Humor on FreelanceWriting.com.

My personal essay Digital Devotion is up on Cecile’s Writers magazine. It’s one of my favourite pieces and I’m glad that it found such a good home.

As always, I continue to write one story per month for Short Story Challenge 2015.

What news on the reading/writing front for you?

New Beginnings and 2014 Wrap-up

Happy New Year, everyone! The year begins on a positive note. My humorous essay Its Not Personal is up at Page & Spine on The Writer’s Table. 2014 had been a stellar year for me in terms of my writing. I managed a grand total of 80k words which amounts to little more than 200 words a day. The breakup is as follows:

19 short stories
16 essays
10 pieces of flash fiction/nonfiction
12 blog posts

I made a total of 165 submissions:
Accepted – 15
Rejected – 108
Withdrawn – 8
Submitted – 23

The rest were no responses, even from markets that don’t have a ‘No response means no’ policy. Those befuddle me a little, but I understand there might be reasons for this, so for me it’s just better to chalk it up as a lost cause and move on.   On the final day of the year I received 3 rejections. Ouch! Luckily I’ve grown too thick-skinned to allow this to affect me! I have renewed my commitment to the Short Story Challenge, and will continue writing one a month for 2015. Among other writerly tasks, revising the stories I’ve written and submitting them is of paramount importance. If I don’t work on that soon then I’ll land up having acquired a platoon of stories and no action taken on them.

It hasn’t been a great year for me in terms of reading as I finished only around 20 books this year, a record all-time low for me. However I’ve made up for it by reading tons of short stories and entire issues of literary journals, both to understand markets I intend to submit to as well as to analyze the components of well-written fiction and non-fiction.

Resolutions are passé, or they should be, at least for people like me who never manage to keep them. However I do plan to commit to my writing and make time for it as much as possible.

What are your plans for the New Year?