Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction Challenge: My Father's Unusual Death

Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction Challenge: My Father's Unusual Death

This story was written for Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction Challenge: Another Ten Words. Here is the challenge:
"I’m going to give you ten words. Your job is to work all ten of these words into a flash fiction story, ~1000 words in length. That’s it. End of mandate.

"The story’s due in a week: Friday, August 30th, noon EST.

"Post at your online space.

"Link back here.

"The ten random words are as follows:
Funeral, Captivate, Deceit, Brimstone, Canyon, Balloon, Clay, Disfigured, Willow, Atomic."
 (You'll notice I took one liberty: rather than "captivate" I used "captivated".)

The characters and situations used in my story are entirely fictional.

My Father's Unusual Death
by Paige Williams

My father's manner of death was fitting since he had been the kind of man for whom one feels the word "eccentric" was tailor-made. I'll tell you more about that in a moment.

When my father met my mother it was love at first sight. I don't have pictures of her but my father said she had long blond hair and a smile that held the sun. I asked him why, and he replied that whenever she smiled, no matter how sad he was, he felt happier. She captivated him.

But nothing lasts forever. When I was three years old my parents left me with a friend and went fishing on a nearby lake. When they'd reached the middle of the lake where it was deepest my mother stared into the water, fascinated by something just under the surface.

"What is it?" my father asked.

My mother bent over the side of the boat and said, "Henry, there's someone in the water!"

"Gilda, be careful, you'll fall in!" My father said, leaning forward as though to pull her back. (My father didn't tell me this, but whenever I play the scene in my mind I imagine my mother rolling her eyes at him for being overprotective.)

As my mother leaned over and touched her fingers to the surface of the water, her breath caught in her throat and she said, "My God! Henry it's ..." Then her body went limp and she stopped breathing.

After the autopsy, the doctor told my father that his wife had experienced a massive aneurism and died instantly. He said it was painless, she probably never knew what happened: one moment she was alive and the next she wasn't. 

Like untempered glass heated in a clay oven to an extreme temperature and then plunged into cold water, my mother's death shattered something deep within my father. He died that day, though his body took another 50 years to follow suit. 

But I digress. I was talking about my father's unusual death.

All his life, or at least as long as I remember knowing him, my father rhapsodized about riding in a hot air balloon, how peaceful it must be, like flying while held in the arms of an angel.

Eight days ago, the day after his 80th birthday, he decided to cross the top two items off his bucket list and ride in a hot air balloon while visiting the Grand Canyon.

The balloonist who took my father up, a man born well before the atomic age, told me that one moment my father had been riding in the basket of the hot air balloon, happy as a clam, but the next he'd vanished.  The balloonist was a religious man so, for one bizarre moment, he thought that, like Elijah, my father had been caught up to heaven. Then, horrified, he realized his client must have jumped.

Panicked, the man peered over the edge of the basket in time to see my father falling through the air, his arms and legs splayed out from his body, his long white hair streaming up behind him as the wind grabbed it. A moment before he plunged into the pool at the bottom of Mooney Falls he shouted, "Geronimo!"

Miraculously, my father survived the fall, though two swimmers nearly had heart attacks. It's not everyday you see an octogenarian plunge through the air, heading straight for you, shouting 'Geronimo'.

Moments later, after my father recovered from the shock of not-being-dead, he swam to the edge of the pool and, throwing his arms out from his sides as though to embrace nature in her entirety, he laughed and exclaimed, "I'm alive!"

Everyone there--three hikers, the two swimmers who were wondering about their cardiac health, as well as a couple on their honeymoon (they had planned on the waterfall being much more private than it turned out to be)--said my father looked happy, even peaceful.

A moment later my father was dead.

The witness accounts differ in many respects about what happened but one thing everyone agreed on was that, as he was about to walk away from the lake, it was as though he saw something just beneath the surface of the water. He took a step closer and peered into its depths--or at least as far as he could, given that he'd just turned 80 and his contacts had popped out in the fall.

"Gilda?" he said, his voice trembling. He looked away, rubbed his eyes, then looked back and grinned. "Gilda, my God! What are you doing down there?" As he said this he reached out to the pond but the moment his fingers brushed the water his face changed. He gasped, eyes wide and staring, then slumped forward and hit his head on a rock, cracking his skull open like an egg.

For a moment the witnesses to my fathers demise were stunned and stood, frozen, watching his disfigured body float down the pond toward a lazy stream, a red ribbon of blood trailing out behind him. Later that day, searchers found his body nestled against the boughs of a desert willow.

The medical examiner said the blow hadn't killed my father, that his heart had stopped beating before his head hit the rock. When I asked what had killed him, the doctor shrugged and told me, "It was heart failure. The man was 80 years old after all."

Considering that everything born must also die, it was probably one of the better ways to go.

My father's funeral service was not at all what I'd expected. I'd imagined a hell and brimstone sermon, one that promised an eternity of damnation to the unsaved. As it was, the pastor quoted a piece of scripture that summed up my father perfectly: "he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth."

The day after the funeral, the balloonist found a note from my father wedged inconspicuously between two of the basket's floorboards. It contained a neat listing, in pencil, of 10 activities under the heading "Bucket List", seven of which were crossed out. The remaining three were, in order: 'Ride in a hot air balloon,' 'See the Grand Canyon' and 'Free fall.' At the bottom of the note, hastily scrawled, as though it was an afterthought: 'If I don't make it, water my plants.'

"My Father's Unusual Death” copyright © 2013 by Paige Williams.

If you'd like to leave a comment, or leave a link to your work, please do. Cheers!

Photo credit: Freshwater lakes.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

How To Make Your Protagonist Likable

I was over at CreateSpace just now and found a great article on the importance of making one's protagonist likable.

Here's an excerpt:
But here's the interesting thing: Dexter is without a doubt likable. Why is that? Has Lindsay hypnotized us into thinking his psychopathic protagonist is likable when he's really not? Is part of his appeal that he satisfies his bloodlust by killing really bad people? No, I'd say Dexter is likable because he wants to be good, but he struggles with it. In his own twisted way, he wants to do the right thing even if it is untoward and disturbing.

To make a protagonist likable, even one who's not a model citizen, give him an inner conflict between serving a greater good and satisfying his own self-interest. That sacrifice your protagonist makes to forego his or her own selfish desires and indeed serve the greater good is what makes him or her likable.
To read the rest head on over to: Make Your Protagonist Likable.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Story Behind Stephen King's "Joyland" Hitting The Top Of The Charts

The Story Behind Stephen King's Book Joyland Hitting The Top Of The Charts

Stephen King is my favorite horror writer so I was fascinated by Kevin Quigley's article: How Stephen King’s Joyland Broke a Decade-Long Dry Spell and Dominated the Summer.

Kevin Quigley details Stephen King's rise on the charts, particularly the New York Times bestseller list for mass market paperbacks. Apparently Joyland is his first book to reach the top of that list in a great many years.

Kevin Quigley writes:
... King’s hardcovers have topped their chart nearly as regularly as he’s released them, but until very recently, King hadn’t had a paperback book hit the #1 spot since 2003 – and that was for the movie tie-in edition of Dreamcatcher, which stalled at #2 on its first chart run over a year prior. ...
. . . .
When Joyland entered the charts on June 23rd, it looked like business as usual, sliding in at #2 just below the newest Sylvia Day Crossfire novel ...
. . . .
After hitting #1 during the last week of June, Joyland managed to hold the top spot for five more weeks – all of July and the first week of August – before being pushed out by J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy. Even then, it managed to stay at #2, meaning that for its entire chart run, Joyland clung to one of the top two slots on the paperback chart.
All in all a fascinating article.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Stephen King, The Shining: "... an unexpected monster lying in wait, crouching among the dried bones of its old kills."

I'm reading Stephen King's book The Shining. I can't believe I haven't read it before.

No, that's not right, of course I can believe it, I just regret it. Why did I wait?

I started reading King's books as a late teen on the advice of a friend's mother. (Yes, that's right, my friend's mother got me reading horror!) I've read all his books since, but that leaves his entire backlist for me to work through.

My advice: for those of you who have just discovered King, make The Shining one of the first books you read. Here's a quote, this is Jack Torrence describing himself:
"He was like a man who had leaned around a corner and had seen an unexpected monster lying in wait, crunching among the dried bones of its old kills."
Scary reading!

Photo credit: "The bird and the moon II"

Friday, August 9, 2013

How To Add A Widget To Your Goodreads Page

I had to hunt for this link so I'm posting it here:

Goodreads Widgets

Stephen King makes a supernatural musical: The Ghost Brothers of Darkland County

Stephen King makes a supernatural musical: The Ghost Brothers of Darkland County

Today was my day to catch up on what one of my favorite authors, Stephen King, has been up to.

Supernatural Musical: The Ghost Brothers of Darkland County

You probably heard what a hit Under the Dome, the TV show, is and that it's been renewed for a second season, but what you might not have heard--I hadn't--was that Stephen King and John Mellencamp are working on a musical together called Ghost Brothers of Darkland County.

Here's an excerpt from the site:
The musical’s superb blues ‘n roots songs, performed by a stellar collection of guest artists, drives this haunting tale of fraternal love, lust, jealousy and revenge, 13 years in the making.
Music and lyrics: John Mellencamp
Libretto:  Stephen King, 
Musical direction: T Bone Burnett

Billed as a supernatural musical, Ghost Brothers, stars Elvis Costello as the devil (Old Nick), Rosanne Cash, Sheryl Crow, Kris Kristofferson, and many more.

Official Site:
The Ghost Brothers of Darkland County

Good write up on Stephen King and what he's up to:
Looking for more Stephen King this summer?

Let me leave you with this quote from the king of horror. It is in reference to his TV series, Under the Dome:
“There’s only one element of my novel that absolutely had to be the same in the novel and the show, and that’s the Dome itself,” he wrote. “It’s best to think of that novel and what you’re seeing week-to-week on CBS as a case of fraternal twins. Both started in the same creative womb, but you will be able to tell them apart. Or, if you’re of a sci-fi bent, think of them as alternate versions of the same reality.

“As for me, I’m enjoying the chance to watch that alternate reality play out; I still think there’s no place like Dome.” (From: Stephen King addresses ‘Under the Dome’ critics)
 "... there's no place like Dome." And that, folks, is why he's the king. ;)

My latest story, The Invasion of Dryreach, is currently free on Smashwords.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Dumb and Dumber 2

Apparently Dumb and Dumber 2 is in the works. Or, as it's said to be titled, Dumb and Dumber To.

I've been watching The Newsroom and loving it. One of my friends told me: Hey! Did you know Jeff Daniels (he plays Will McAvoy on The Newsroom) was one of the leads in Dumb and Dumber?

So I watched the movie. It was lowbrow humor at its best, but it was strange watching the same actor who plays such an intelligent character playing someone a few fries short of a happy meal.

I think this clip from YouTube sums it up:

Monday, August 5, 2013

A documentary on the making of Pet Sematary: Unearthed & Untold: The making of Pet Sematary

The making of Stephen King's Pet Sematary

I love Stephen King's books so I was excited to learn a documentary is being made about the filming of Pet Sematary. Read all about it here: The making of Stephen King's Pet Sematary.

Here's the trailer:

Writing progress

I'm halfway through my second draft of the prequel to Dryreach (yes!) and hope to be well into my third by Sunday.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Daily Update: Dryreach Prequel, First Draft, Done!

Writing Progress

Yesterday I wrote about 2,500 words, about 1,500 on the first draft of my Dryreach Prequel--which I finished--and 1,000 on the next story I'll be working on, tentatively titled Samantha.

Samantha is about a girl who learns she's half Fae after her father dies. It's about a lot more than that but I generally don't talk about my stories while I'm writing them, only afterward. I think Samantha will be either three interlinked novellas of 20,000 words or so, or it will be a novel.


I vaguely remembered my dream last night but I let it slip away. Grrrr ... I need to be more disciplined about writing them down.

I do remember that, a few days ago, I dreamt about the number 2376. Interesting number ...

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

My Dream: A Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley Mashup

Last night I dreamt I was Bram Stoker.

Only I wasn't.

I was Bram Stoker, the author of (among other things) Dracula, but I was chasing down a creature I had tried to assemble and breathe life into, but (surprise, surprise) my experiment had gone horribly wrong.

One of my assistants/associates had betrayed me and now, pursued by a mob, I raced against time to find my creation before my enemy did.

What, exactly, the betrayer wanted with the monstrous product of my pride, my vanity, I don't remember. That information didn't come through the veil of sleep.

All in all it was a tantalizing dream. I don't usually write my dreams down but I'm trying to change that. Hopefully, if I do, I'll be able to recall more of them.

Fingers crossed!