On Blogging, On Writing

Christmas Contest!

Ho Ho Ho!
Ho Ho Ho!

When I heard that it was time for Susanna Hill’s Fourth Annual Holiday Contest two thoughts sprung to mind:

  1. YAY!
  2. Didn’t I just do the Halloween Contest? (Answer: Yes. Yes, I did.)

But that’s holidays for you; they like to creep up when you least expect ’em.

So, between the decorating, the cards, the shopping, and all the extra work that makes me a Christmas crabbypants, I wrote a story!

And writing this story, I am pleased to say, made me a lot less crabby. So thank you, Susanna, for that much-needed dose of de-grinching. 

The contest rules are simple: In 350 words or fewer, write a story in which wild weather impacts the holidays. 

Enjoy!

 

A CARBON CHRISTMAS

Santa numbly stared at the enormous hole in the ice.

“Did everyone get out?” he asked.

“We’re all here,” an elf replied. “But the toys…”

Santa nodded. His beloved factory was deep underwater. All the toys were inside.

“I told you we needed to move,” Mrs. Claus sighed. “Haven’t you heard of Global Warming? Why would you build a factory on a glacier? And Christmas is just one week away!”

Santa nodded once again. One week wasn’t enough time to make new toys. He needed to get them from someone else.

 ***

“We’d love to help you, Mr. Claus!” said the chipper factory manager. His factory was a lovely place, filled with happy workers making excellent toys of all kinds. “Here’s the estimate!”

“Estimate?” Santa asked.

“Well, sure! We don’t give toys away. Making toys for millions of children costs 32 billion dollars.”

Santa coughed. “Could I maybe pay you in cookies?”

“Get out,” said the manager.

***

The second toy factory had much lower prices.

“Is that lead paint?” Santa asked.

“Just a little,” the man assured him.

“Are you putting broken toys in boxes?”

“Broken toys are cheaper!”

Santa walked away in disgust.

***

“It’s no use,” he told his elves. “We can’t make deliveries this year.”

He went on TV. Through his tears, Santa let the world know. Then he sadly steered his sleigh for home.

When he arrived, he found an enormous pile of boxes waiting for him.

“What are these?” he asked.

He pulled a note off one box. It read:

Dear Santa,

I was sad to hear you couldn’t make toys this year. So I took my allowance money and bought this one. Could you give it to somebody who’d like it?

Santa looked at the other notes. Every box was a gift for someone else. And more boxes were arriving by the second.

“It’s unbelievable!” Then Santa remembered how long his “Nice List” was and it didn’t seem so unbelievable anymore.

“We’re delivering toys!” Santa announced. The elves cheered.

“And, for the record,” he added. “We’re no longer giving out coal.”

I think I'll just give the bad kids underpants.
I think I’ll just give the bad kids underpants.

 

On Blogging, On Writing

Boo.

it's the great pumpkin charlie brown 18 - I got a rock #1

I have never liked Halloween. Even as a kid, I found the act of going door to door begging for candy to be unseemly.

I disliked the itchy discomfort of the costume. I disliked being stared at. (When you wear a costume, you are, pretty much, giving people permission to stare.) I disliked running all over the neighborhood like a dodo when, at home, a perfectly good TV was going unwatched.

And, at the end of the evening, all I had to show for my efforts was a sack full of itty bitty candy bars that I would’ve never picked out for myself at a store. (Seriously, is Krackle anyone’s favorite candy bar? Answer: No.)

Long story short, I gave up on Halloween as soon as it was socially acceptable. The ominous power of peer pressure kept me going until the fourth grade (and, yes, I’m still holding that grudge, Carl Johnson).

But Halloween isn’t all bad. It is also when Susanna Leonard Hill’s kicks off her Halloweensie Contest!

Now that’s a Halloween tradition I can get behind. Woo!

Here are the rules: Entrants have to write a Halloween-themed story no longer than 100 words. (In Halloween parlance that means the story is “Fun Size.”) This story also must contain the words “broomstick,” “creak,” and “pumpkin.”

So here is my humble submission. Enjoy!

***

SNACK-O’-LANTERN

“Nibbles,” sighed Chester Cat. “You’re supposed to carve a pumpkin.”

“They’re too big,” the guinea pig replied. “So I am carving a Halloween-o Jalapeño. Scary, huh? Does it make you want to run away?”

“No,” Chester sniffed. “That wouldn’t make anyone run away.”

They heard the creak of floorboards and the clatter of the broomstick Buster used for fetch.

“I bet it’ll make Buster run.”

“No way.”

“Let’s see,” Nibbles challenged. Then he shouted. “BUSTER! SNAAACK!”

Buster galloped in. He gobbled the jalapeño.

His eyes sprang open.

Yelping, he dashed to his water dish.

“Told you he’d run,” Nibbles giggled.

 

On Blogging, On Writing

Career Highlights

Our hero.
Our hero.

I love to take part in flash fiction contests because they force me to push my mind in new and unexpected directions. So last year, when Susanna Leonard Hill announced a “Fourth of July Mystery” writing competition, I was eager to give it a go.

The timing of the contest also turned out to be excellent. I was in-between projects and was stumbling around trying to figure what to work on next. So, a Fourth of July Mystery it was! Even though I was less than eager to tackle another holiday story, I figured that, at the very least, it would be a fun writing exercise.

My first instinct for a Fourth of July Mystery was, The Mystery of The Missing Fingers (Spoiler Alert: The Cherry Bomb did it!), but I came to my senses. Instead, I submitted a story titled Harold’s Hat. Want an elevator pitch? Here ya go:

“Mwah-ha-ha!” This year the ever-inventive Harold is definitely going to beat Betsy Lominzer in the Fourth of July Patriotic Hat Contest. His creation has it all: flashing lights, a siren, megaphone, music, battery-powered flag waving action and shooting sparks. How could Harold possibly lose with something that awesome? Here’s one way: He could lose his hat! With only minutes before the competition begins, can Harold find his creation and get to the town square in time to square off against his hat-making nemesis?

I was pretty happy with the result, so I decided to revise the story and attempt to sell it somewhere.

About three seconds after finishing said rewrite, I stumbled upon the theme of the 2014 Highlights Fiction Contest: “Holiday Stories.” This, I figured, was too big a coincidence to ignore. So I didn’t.

And I won!

When the Highlights editor wrote to tell me, she said that she was “eager to announce my win to the world.” She followed up this statement with a “Mwah-ha-ha,” which I found pretty hilarious.

Needless to say, I am so very grateful to Susanna — who is the very definition of wonderful. Just one look Susanna’s blog proves it; every post – every single freakin’ post – is designed to help her fellow writers succeed. That was certainly true in my case. If it wasn’t for her contest, I never would have come up with this story.

When I rewrote Harold, I asked several talented bloggers for feedback. Cathy Ballou Mealey, however, deserves to be singled out for special praise. Her thoughtful critiques inspired me to push Harold in new and considerably more exciting directions. I believe that if it wasn’t for Cathy’s comments, Harold’s Hat wouldn’t have won a darn thing.

What I’m trying to say is that my writing is so much richer now that I am a part of a blogging community. This win proves it. Thanks, everybody. I am so very grateful.