Category Archives: Showers and Half Spaces

Showers and Half Spaces: Installment Three

So it’s time for another chapter in the short story series!

Be sure to pop on over to Myra McEntire’s blog to read her third segment.

Someone recently guessed that the overall framework was Scheherazade/1001 Arabian Nights. Ding ding. Both mine and Myra’s narrators are our own personal versions of Scheherazade, and each week we pull the prompt from a different tale. Some fables, some fairy, and some from the Arabian Nights themselves. Last week was the Pied Piper.

Can you tell what this week’s inspiration was?

Part One/Details: HERE!

Part Two: HERE!

And now, Part Three…

The girl across the aisle, the one with the red headband, leaned forward. “Wow,” she said. “That must have been a really pretty song.”

“Must have been a really strong string,” said a new voice in the cell beside her. She stepped forward, and her body seemed to chime. The sound followed her, the clink of bangles and bells. But when she slid her arms through the bars, they were bare.

I caught a glimpse of a smile in the dark cell, white as a Cheshire cat’s and just as crooked.

“Hands inside the bars,” called the guard, but the smile only widened. A green eye gleamed in the shadows.

I felt ill. I knew that face.

“Ali,” I said.

“Long time, Cassie.”

I winced at the name. I hadn’t used it in a long time.

“There once was a girl and she was lost,” Ali echoed my line. “Bit of an understatement, Cassie, even for you. How about this? There once was a girl who liked to play games. Games on beds. Games in backseats. Games in—”

“Enough,” I growled.

“The past always finds the present. I told you that, remember?” said Ali. “Sad to say you’re looking better. Murder’s done wonders for your complexion. You’re glowing.”

The girl with the red headband coughed. “I want to hear the story.”

“Which one?” asked Goldilocks. “There seem to be a few.”

“Oh, I assure you,” said Ali, folding her long tan arms around bars. “It’s all one story in the end.” Her green eye found mine, and she began.

*

The strip was filled with men so rich it weighed their pockets down. Down around their ankles. A girl on the strip could make a good living if she knew how to make music. The bangles echoed in the cell.

But a girl would get bored with the same old turns.

Then along came a man of a different sort, a rich, rich man. A girl could tell he was rich because he didn’t wear rings. Didn’t flash or sparkle.

A girl like a cat lounged on the strip and bathed in moonlight the way others did in sun. She knew the magic words to make the man open his pockets, and then forget he had.

The bangles echoed and the smile went sharp.

Then a new girl came, a mousy thing, and she saw, and she wanted, and she asked. The cat was kind and showed her how. But the little mouse was greedy, greedy. She didn’t say all the right words. And she got caught.

The rich, rich man without any rings decided to cut off her hands. But the cat leapt in and saved the silly little mouse, and the mouse, it fled, as fast as it could.

*

Ali leaned forward, her wavy hair covering half her face. She tilted her head so that the hair slipped, revealing a glass eye and a scar that ran from temple to chin.

“I’m glad I saved your hands, Cassie,” said Ali, admiring the scars left by the steel string. “You finally made good use of them.”

That’s all for this week! Thoughts? Comments? Questions? (You can always just leave a note to say “Hi!”) Can you tell what the prompt was?

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Showers and Half Spaces: Installment Two

In case you missed last Monday, Myra McEntire and I are doing a series of interconnected short stories (make sure you click the link and go read hers! But then come back). We both start with the same prompt. Can you guess this week’s inspiration?

Details and Part One: HERE.

Now onto Part TWO!

“It started with a story.”

“Doesn’t everything?” said Goldilocks.

I looked down at my hands, at the ribbon of scars across the backs of my fingers. And then I started.

*

There once was a boy and a steel guitar.

The boy sat on a stool in the middle of a stage, under a single light, in a quiet club, where everyone waited for the song to start.
And it did. And it was beautiful. One of those songs made up of simple chords that somehow, strung together, transform themselves into something…more. Glasses stopped clinking. People stopped whispering. The whole room stopped, pinned beneath the melody.

And the boy smiled, dark and beautiful as the song.

There once was a girl and she was lost.

Right in the middle of life, she had simply wandered off her path and ended up lost. Until she heard him play. She closed her eyes in the middle of the club and listened and imagined she could see a path, simple as stone laid out for her. And so she followed the boy, not just to the end of the song but after.

She let him lead her away.

But he was bad. And bad got worse as the nights wore on. And then, somewhere between songs, the girl started to fear that she was still lost. More lost even than she’d been in the club.

She tried to leave. But every time, he played for her, and drew her back. Simple, sharp chords that tied her to him, steel strings that cut into her and hurt but held her fast just the same.

One day she tried again, and again he played. But the girl was clever now, and plugged her ears under her long dark hair, and when he played she didn’t hear it. She thought she was free.

But when the music didn’t work, the boy broke the guitar, and then he tried to break the girl. They made a new song of their struggle, of breaking glass and screams and bodies pushed against walls. The girl fell hard beside the broken steel guitar, and grabbed one of the strings, snapped free by the force of it hitting the ground.

And when the boy came at her again she begged him to stop. She told him she was wrong, and she was sorry, and she loved him. His smile flickered sharply as he wiped blood from his cheek, and turned away. The girl pushed herself up, and wrapped her arms around his shoulders, and whispered words that only the two of them would ever hear. And then she pulled the steel string around his throat.

*

I examined my hands, fingers now curled around the bars of the cell, and admired the scars.

The girl across the aisle, the one with the red headband, leaned forward. “Wow,” she said. “That must have been a really pretty song.”

That’s the end of Installment/Segment/Chapter 2!

Thoughts? Rotten tomatoes? Questions? Can you tell what this week’s theme was? Regardless, leave a comment! Say something! Even if it’s “this blows” or “Hi!” Because as Myra put it so well “comments salvage my neuroses”.

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Showers and Half Spaces – Installment One

A few months back, Myra “Awesomesauce” McEntire and I were talking short stories. I had written one called “The World on Fire” (if you search my posts you’ll find it), and I gave Myra her own prompt. Little did I know she’d turn it into a book!!

Then the other day, we were chatting over fruit tea and cupcakes (that’s how we roll) and the topic came up again. We wanted to play, and we wanted to share some of our writing, our voice. We started talking about where we get our ideas (hence the title of this post), and decided to have some fun.

Here’s the thing: THE NEAR WITCH doesn’t release until next summer (yes it’s a long time please don’t ask me if I wish it would come out sooner <–I get asked that a lot, and it is giving me a slight eye twitch), and I’d love nothing more than to just post bits of NW here, but I CANNOT. It would not make my publisher very happy :(

SO, we’re doing a series of short stories. We both start with the same prompt, and go from there, and all the stories are contained within a very specific framework (we and we’ll tell you more about that next week).

If anyone can GUESS what the framework, or the inspiration is, I WILL GIVE YOU A PRIZE (and I won’t forget, just like I didn’t forget about the cookies, those will be in the Wednesday vlog, I promise!)…

We have completely different styles, and brains, so this should be interesting!!

ONE.

The jail was all metal and murmurs and dirty light.

The bars divided the hall into a thousand gray strips of space, each just big enough for a hand, a jaw, a dark curl or a sharp glare.

It smells different than I thought it would. Not that I spent much time thinking about this place, about ending up here. I spent weeks convincing myself to kill Tal, wrote the whole story before I ever picked up the knife, dreamt about what I would say, what he would say, the way the bed would look without him calling me back to it, asking for the end. Demanding the end. I gave it to him.

The cell slid shut behind me. Too quiet.

I expected it to slam with the heavy clang of metal on metal the way you hear in movies, but there was only the hush of the a snug fit, and then the scraping sound of the bolts. And I was trapped again.

I tipped my forehead against the bars and closed my eyes. I was beginning to forget what freedom felt like. A sudden jarring sound and the violent shake of the bars against my face sent me backward into the cell.

“No leaning on the bars,” growled a guard with a few days worth of five o’clock shadow and a paunch. That was the one thing about Tal—at least he was nice to look at. I rubbed my cheek and thought about the kind of story I’d write this guard into. It would involve pain, that much I knew.

“Don’t mind Bob,” said a voice above me. I looked up to find two very long legs dangling over the top bunk.

“Bob?” I asked, the laugh stuck in my throat. “People still name their children Bob?”

A face appeared above the legs, large blue eyes, blonde curls and rose-red cheeks. If she had been wearing a dress she would have made a perfect goldilocks. In a prison jumper, she looked terrifying.

“His name’s not really Bob,” said Goldilocks (if Goldilocks had murdered the three bears for their porridge and been sentenced to a decade in federal prison). “He won’t tell us him name, so we just call him Bob. When he started working here, we liked to make up names.” She pouted. “But Bob doesn’t have a sense of humor.”

And then she hopped down from the bunk, and landed on the concrete without displacing a single curl. She was nearly a foot taller than me, and I was no short girl. Who the hell was she?

“Well,” she said, appraising me, “What brings you to my less-than-lovely abode?”

I cocked an eyebrow.

“Theft, arson, kidnapping, assault, or murder?” When she said murder, she smiled a little, her blue eyes glistening.

I cleared my throat. “Self defense.”

Goldilocks let out a sudden, perfect laugh and shook her head. “Please,” she said, leaning back against the bunks. “None of that. You’re in my home now, and I don’t like liars.” She kept smiling at me. With teeth.

Across the aisle a set of hands curled around the bars, and a girl who looked too young to be here came forward, a red headband pinning back dark hair. The red stood out like a candle in the gray prison, and I wondered for a moment how she was allowed to wear it, before she looked right at me.

“Do tell,” she said, in a voice just above whisper. Still it cut through the din of the aisle, between the bars and reached my ears without losing so much as the edge of a syllable.

Bob was nowhere to be seen, so I leaned against the bars and stared up at the stained concrete ceiling, trying not to think of how the stains got there.

“It started with a story.”

That’s the end of the first snippet. Next Monday Installment Two will go up, and that story will (hopefully) pick up where this one leaves off!

Make sure to go read what Myra did with the exact same prompt, and comment below with any thoughts, questions and/or guesses.

*bites nails*

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