Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Holiday Surprise - Flash Fiction

To start my new resolution of blogging regularly, here's a holiday story.

Imagine the worst cook ever. Multiply by a hundred. That’s my mom. When she calls that dinner is ready, my sisters and I groan. It’s Christmas eve, and mom has promised “holiday surprise.” She makes up recipes, and combines the weirdest ingredients. We stop decorating the tree and walk to the table. Slowly.

Mom pulls the lid off her favorite blue pottery dish, “Ta da!” It looks like vomit. Rice and chunks of chicken with a yellowish gravy, dotted with bits of green and red. “That’s the surprise” mom says, “holiday peppers.”

Dad says, “Looks great, honey. Thanks. And, remember, you don’t have to cook tomorrow. It’s Christmas.”

Yippee! That means pizza. Dad is sympathetic about mom’s terrible culinary skills, to a point. We’re allowed to say we don’t like something, but we have to thank her for cooking. Worse, he makes us eat it!

It’s not really mom’s fault. Her mom died when she was nine, and her dad worked a lot. To feed her younger brothers, she had to figure out the kitchen on her own.

On Christmas morning, after wrapping paper buries us, dad says, “What’s that?” A fancy silver envelope, with mom’s name on it, nestles among the ornaments on the tree.

The way mom screams in delight, we figure it’s a ticket to Hawaii. Nope. She gives dad a huge hug and says, “Thank you, honey. I’ve wanted cooking lessons my whole life.”

My sisters and I grin. It’s the best holiday surprise ever. 

More One Sentence Stories

I've been having a lot of fun with these. I just write them into the notepad on my phone when I think of an idea, then play with it when I have time.

We stopped hiking so he could remove the stone from his shoe; I said, "Yes!"
Five-twenty-two a.m., the phone buzzes me awake with urgent news - gasp, a Kardashian held up by gunpoint - like I give a flying firetruck.
My aunt called, sad, "I looked in the mirror this morning and saw, for the first time, that I am an old woman;" she's ninety. 
Are there play dates at homeless shelters? 

Friday, September 30, 2016

One Sentence Stories

I recently saw an old ad for a one-sentence story contest. I've decided to write some sentences myself, without reading any of the contest entries first. 

A story needs a twist. Otherwise, it's just a list of events. Making a meaningful story, with a twist, in one sentence sounds daunting. To make it a little easier for myself, I've decided that a twist can be either a story with an unexpected ending, or one that ends with more than one interpretation. Also, creative punctuation is allowed.

Here's a few, with more to come as my brain figures out the twists:

Surprising even himself, Grandpa handed the reins to the grain elevator man, “See that the team gets home, will ya Hank,” and he walked out of town, toward his seventeen-year-old adult life, and me.
I came to on the ICU floor; the doctor said it was my blood pressure, but I knew it was my heart.
Stowing the last of the dishes from her baby's post-wedding brunch, she sighed satisfactorily, the job is finished.
Mom and Dad bickered in the hallway while I sat in the classroom, alone; Special Person's Day is everyday at my house.
Give it a try! Post a one-sentence story.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Work in Progress

Here's an overview of my work in progress (or WIP as the Literati In The Know like to say):

Title: Undertow 
Genre: Thriller
Status: 100% (Looking for an agent)

After fashioning herself into one of the richest and most powerful woman in Russia, Masha Bogdanov orchestrates the greatest deal of her life, but her relationship with quirky young Daria Poplawski threatens to ruin everything.

When beautiful, brilliant, and utterly depressed Masha Lagunov marries Boris Bogdanov, a high-prince of the Russian oligarchy, she embarks on a journey to fulfill her dreams. The voyage takes her from the swirling backwaters of Russian organized crime to the shores of Lake Michigan, where she arranges a lucrative deal with Chicago Mafioso Bernie Matteo. But that is not Masha’s only reason for traveling to America.

Daria Poplawski, her dad unjustly sentenced to federal prison courtesy of Matteo, temporarily lives at the beach with her adoptive mom. Besides Masha, their acquaintances include a drifter who takes an inordinate interest in Daria, an ice cream clerk with a secret, and a middle-aged man who appears at the most unsettling moments. More chillingly, Masha’s competitors lurk in the shadows.

Someone abducts Daria. Matteo’s men, Masha’s enemies, law enforcement, and others all scramble to find her first. Just as the FBI locates her, new assailants steal her from the kidnappers. Masha knows more than she is telling, but the truth will send her to prison, or worse. She must choose between her personal aspirations and Daria’s safety. Either way, waves from Masha’s past may drown them all.

Title: Dead Man in the Window: A Harvest Games Murder at Ivy Loch
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Status: 65% (52,000 words)

Everyone in Ivy Loch, Michigan thinks Rosie Knox outdid herself decorating for the annual Harvest Festival Games. But admiration turns into suspicion when someone discovers that the mannequin in her antique store window is really a dead body. And it's not the only one. Rosie has to find the murderer before he kills again, especially because her family is the next target.

Title: Sinless and Sorrowful
Genre: Literary Fiction
Status: 25% (20,000 words)

Elsa Harman reminisces about her family - riddled with mental illness that compounds by the generation - but she never anticipates the tragedy of her ninetieth birthday party.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Flash Fiction Contest

Entered a fun writing contest yesterday. Flash fiction - write a whole story in a hundred words or less. As an extra challenge, there were five words writers had to use: dixie, mom, eleven, lies, home.

Image result for free clip art flashIt was fun to write, definitely forced me to weigh every word. I found it harder than it sounded. I want to write these more often, just for fun and practice. I'll post them here when I do, with the flash symbol.

Here's my entry:
Dixie found Sammy, a salamander. Grandmom had Alzheimer’s, bad eyes; she ground Sammy in the disposal.

I said, “All drains lead to the ocean.”

Kids still howled.

“Can’t sell salamanders.”

Brought two geckos home, seventy bucks, plus two-fifty for habitat and eleven live crickets. Jonathan died; flushed him. Vet bill for Gecky: one-fifty including medication. His tail still shrank.

Damn thing should die, costing a fortune.

Weeks later, Gecky shivered. I stroked him with water. Desperate to relieve suffering, I wanted to suffocate him. Just couldn’t. I stroked him with tears. He lies in my garden, shrouded in Dixie’s blankie.

You can see all of the entries at under "Dixie Durpee writing contest."

First prize is a copy of the new book, The Education of Dixie Dupree by Donna Everhart.

No word yet on the winners. Some of the stories were stunningly good!

UPDATE: See the site (link above) for the winners. Not me. Next time!

Saturday, September 24, 2016


One thing I learned, first from research, and now from experience, is that writers get a lot of rejections. Of their work. I'm trying to remember that. It's my work that they don't want, it's not me. And actually, they're not really rejecting my work. They're just saying that they don't want to read more of it. (I know, it may be splitting hairs, but it still makes me feel better).

Here's how it works: You write a query letter, which is about 250 words that should attract an agent or publisher to your book. Based on that 250 words (assuming they read the whole letter), they make a decision. No one claims that the process is objective. Just the opposite, it's completely subjective. If the agent likes post-modern crime novels featuring dragons and talking cats, then you either provide that, or they reject you. Even if you do provide that, they may still reject you.

The rejections, if when you get one many, are form letters. Really nice, kind, and encouraging form letters. Actually, "letter" is too strong a word. It's more of a note, or maybe a sentence. And it means nothing, absolutely nothing, except, "No thanks." There's no feedback about your actual work. It just means they won't ask for "pages."

Pages means that an agent invites you to send a portion of your book, She reads a little, then decides if she wants more pages to read. If she's bored, she says, "No thanks." Then you send more queries. (And guess what? Even if you find an agent to represent you, you have to go through the whole process again with a publisher. See why I'm still a working consultant? The road to publishing is paved with boulders the size of Mt. Rushmore.)

(It would be better if they just put NO in the subject line of the email and let it go. That would save everyone time. I'm not being bitter, just practical. Literati In The Know say not to give up until you've sent at least a hundred queries for a book. And someone has to read each query. Since the rejections don't really say anything, just keep them simple and streamlined. No.)

Anyway, it's important to stay positive during this gut-wrenching, heart-tearing, blood-boiling, kick-in-the-teeth dance of nix, pass, rebuff, turndown, brush-off, veto, renunciation. Oops, there I go again.

Hence my word cloud. It's pretty, and the biggest words acknowledge that I do work, and they thank me for the effort. (I wish that "Best" denoted agents' assessment of my work, but that's just how most of them sign their responses.)

I like the look and feel of my rejection word cloud, and we'll see how it changes after a few more weeks.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Where to start

In writing a novel, there are all kinds of things to think about:

Image result for free clipart womenPlot
Who cares?

I know that.

But honestly, it never occurred to me that deciding my name would require so many mental gyrations.

When I started my consulting business, I named it after myself, M. Kathleen Joyce & Associates ( The company name is unique, but M. Kathleen Joyces live all over America. Most of them are doctors. (Who knew I'd rate as an underachiever just because of my name!)

So, I decided that my writing name will be Kathy Joyce. That's what people normally call me. (Except in second grade, inhabited by seven, yes seven, Kathys, so the teacher called me Mary Kay.)

Well, guess what? Those early Joyces must have been very prolific, and I'm not talking about writing. Kathy Joyces abound, several with published books.

Do I change my name? Write under a pseudonym?

Nope. It's just me. Kathy Joyce. When my books are published, you'll have to pay careful attention that you're buying the right one. If you don't, I'm sure the other Kathy Joyces have great books too.