Tag Archives: Flash Fiction Online

Free Fiction Friday: Steadfast

Poppy fell the moment Carlos showed her his feet. She’d never met a man—or rather, a civilian man—with feet uglier than her own. But ballet slippers weren’t any kinder to toes than combat boots were.

Before she saw him, she’d planned on making a tactical retreat from the reception. It’d been a mistake to take leave for this wedding, an even bigger one to wear her dress uniform. Coming home never worked. Hadn’t she learned that by now? Too many awkward questions, too many thank yous.

What made her pause at the ballroom’s entrance, Poppy couldn’t say. She didn’t see the groom twirling his bride or the bridesmaids in clouds of chiffon floating across the parquet.

Only Carlos.

With uncommon grace, he crossed the room. He navigated the maze of chairs, tables, and guests like a man intimately familiar with each muscle of his body. When he landed in front of her, he didn’t speak but merely held out his hand.

“I don’t dance,” she said.

“Everybody dances.”

“Not me. I march.”

He tipped his head back and laughed. “I can dance well enough for both of us.”

And yes, he could. Demanding to see his feet came several glasses of champagne later.

“Stay,” he whispered the next morning. “Spend the week with me. You can come to rehearsal. I’m dancing the role of the steadfast tin soldier.”

She laughed at the audacity of it, of burning a week’s worth of leave in New York City, with this beautiful man whose world was so different from her own.

“Do you know anything about being a soldier?” she asked.

“That’s why I need you. You can be my technical advisor.”

“No one will believe that.”

Everyone did. Or, rather, they indulged their principal dancer. She taught Carlos how to drill with a wooden rifle. During breaks, he taught her how to hold herself so he could lift and spin her around.

With Carlos, she could dance. With Carlos, she was weightless.

At the airport, he tucked a necklace into the palm of her hand, the pendant an exquisitely engraved poppy.

“We both have demanding mistresses.” His words were so soft she barely heard them above the clamor of traffic and travelers. “You don’t need to come home to me. Just come home.”

She wore the necklace every day in Afghanistan. Poppy no longer regretted attending the wedding, or even wearing her uniform. Her only regret was never seeing Carlos dance on stage.

They wrote letters, the old-fashioned kind, hers torn from a notebook, the paper encrusted with sand and dotted with dirty fingerprints, his on the back of paper placemats, or cleverly crafted in the margins of playbills.

Then her world erupted in fire. When the burn subsided to mere embers, it was too late and Walter Reed a world away from New York City. Still, Poppy vowed: she would see Carlos dance.

Sleeping Beauty gave her the chance.

She had flowers delivered to his dressing room—white roses laced with red poppies. That way he’d know. That way, if he didn’t want to see her, he could hide until she abandoned her vigil at the stage door.

Poppy waited there, her head still buzzing from his performance, her weight sagging into the crutches, her foot heavy in its cast.

Her cheeks flamed when she caught sight of him emerging from the door, her skin hot against the December air. He scanned the alleyway behind the theater. The moment his gaze met hers, he froze.

“Bet my feet are uglier than yours now,” she said.

He exhaled and laughed. It was only then she saw the poppy tucked in his lapel. He took in her crutches, her foot in its cumbersome cast. His eyes grew somber.

“My steadfast soldier.”

“I’m home,” she said.

He moved close, fluid and graceful, and cupped her cheek with his palm. “So am I.”

All at once she was weightless.

Steadfast was first published at Flash Fiction Online (and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize as well). It was my attempt to retell Hans Christian Andersen’s The Steadfast Tin Soldier.

So I did, with a gender flip and an unapologetic happy ending. And if you like, you can also read a review of the story here.

All in all, how could I not share this story on Valentine’s Day.

Miss a story? Check the titles here.

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Free Fiction Friday: Straying from the Path

First published in Flash Fiction Online, Cicada Magazine, and in audio at The Centropic Oracle.

It was a wolf, rather than an ailing grandmother, that tempted Red into the woods. All day his cries echoed, small, plaintive-sounding things that filled the forest. By the time she found him, night had fallen and the blood on the snow looked black.

By moonlight, she pried his paw from the rusted jaws of the trap. He ran from her. And why wouldn’t he? It was her kind that set the trap to begin with. The wolf limped through the underbrush, tail between his legs. Later, if you asked her at what point she fell in love, she would’ve said that night. At the time, all she knew was how his injured gait made her heart lurch.

Later that night, Red spied his yellow eyes from well beyond the woodpile at the edge of the forest. The next evening, she left a meat pie on the lowest stack of wood. By morning, the tin had been licked clean.

And so went the winter. As the days grew colder and her supplies dwindled, she cut back on her own portion of meat. She could go without, but the wolf was still healing. Now, when she walked in the forest, she never feared brigands or the overly friendly woodcutters. When men called on her, they found the howl of a single male wolf so unnerving that they left their teacups half full, crumb cake uneaten.

When at last the snow melted and the sun heated the earth, Red took to bathing in the stream behind the house. No one dared disturb her. Every night, she set out a meat pie. Every morning, she collected the empty tin.

Except for the morning she didn’t. Flies buzzed around the soggy crust, the filling, chewed and pilfered by tiny mouths and claws. She threw on her cape and ventured into the forest—alone.

The trail was easy enough to follow. Drops of blood, tufts of gray fur. The farther into the forest she walked, the slower her steps became. What was done was done. All she could do was delay her own knowledge of it, spend a few more minutes free of a world where, every time she closed her eyes, all she saw was matted fur and severed paws—far too many to count.

That night, for the first time in months, she did not bake a meat pie.

The scratching came when the coals in the fireplace were mere embers. There, at the door, sat her wolf, bloodied but no weaker for his fight. He cocked his head as if to say: Where’s my meat pie?

She threw her arms around him, buried her face against his neck, and cried until the dirt in his fur became streams of mud.

When the townsfolk came, bearing axes and ropes, she threw open the door for them.

Why, no, she hadn’t seen any wolves at all lately. In fact, she’d stopped her treks through the forest for fear of them. Instead, she now cared for her grandmother here, in her very own cottage.

The men tiptoed from the room, not wishing to wake the old lady. The women rubbed their chins, hoping old age would not bring such a crop of whiskers.

After that, suitors stopped visiting. Although Red always sent them on their way with a meat pie, they found her grandmother’s beady eyes unsettling.

People forgot about Red and her grandmother who, while always ailing, never departed this world for the next. But on moonlit nights, townsfolk stumbling from the tavern swore they heard a woman’s laughter mixed in with the howls echoing in the night air.

If you liked Straying from the Path, consider the fairy tale compilation of the same name. Straying from the Path contains two novellas and four short stories in my Sour Magic fantasy world. Available in e-book and print.

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Free Fiction Friday: Flash Fiction Online

Need a quick read this weekend? Hop on over to Flash Fiction Online and read their June issue. All the stories are wonderful, but I warn you, Five Times I Have Slept at Your Bedside should come with a supply of tissues (but go read it–it’s wonderful).

And while you’re there, you can also read Steadfast, my (very) short and modern retelling of The Steadfast Tin Soldier (with an unapologetic happy ending) from the December issue.

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Weekly writing check-in: Steadfast

Busy week! My daughter had a dance meet this week (the first of the season) and then an invitational on Saturday. I. Am. Exhausted. You’d think I was the one doing all the dancing.

A little writing, a little work on a fairy tale project, and that’s about it. Oh, except for Steadfast, of course.

Writing work:

  • Series work (structure, brainstorming, research)
  • Fairy Tale project
  • Writing ~3,000 words

Submissions:

  • None

Rejections:

  • Moving Day

Acceptances:

  • None

Publications:

My story Steadfast is in the December issue of Flash Fiction Online.

The story is a modern retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Steadfast Tin Soldier, with a gender flip and an unapologetic happy ending. (Take that, HCA!)

Head on over and give all the stories a read.

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Weekly writing check-in: the one with the Flash Fiction Online anthology

Well, that was a nice surprise. Flash Fiction Online has published a 2014 anthology of their stories. And look! It has Straying from the Path. Plus? My name on the cover as well. Very, very cool.

Also, if you like to read and write flash fiction and want to study an excellent market, pick up a copy of this anthology. You’ll get a great feel for what the editors are looking for.

In other news, I didn’t quite make my 1,000 words/day goal this week, but I came close. I also did a little formatting and other whatnot in prep for this week’s Kindle Countdown Deal for The Fine Art of Holding Your Breath.

Speaking of which, three more days to enter the giveaway:

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Fine Art of Holding Your Breath by Charity Tahmaseb

The Fine Art of Holding Your Breath

by Charity Tahmaseb

Giveaway ends January 28, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Writing Work:

  • Writing ~6,257  words

Submissions:

  • None

Rejections:

  • None

Acceptances:

  • None

Publications:

flash-fiction-online-2014-anthology-coverIt’s the 2014 anthology! What a cool cover.

It’s available in MOBI, EPUB, and PDF from Weightless Books. You can also grab a copy for your Kindle at Amazon as well.

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Weekly writing check-in: the one with the mock award

More writing this week, up about 2,000 words, for a nice 1,000 words per day pace. This, I might add, is a good pace to write at. Also, the total manuscript word count is currently at 65,065, which is so symmetrical I almost hate to add to it.

Well, almost.

This week, I also received an email from a professor at a university in Pennsylvania. She’s teaching an introduction to creative writing class, and as part of the course work, her students had to comb through online journals, find stories they liked, and then hold a mock prize committee to select the best one.

Why was she emailing me? Well, her students found my flash fiction piece, Straying from the Path, that was published last month over at Flash Fiction Online. Not only did they find it, they awarded it first place.

The professor not only sent her note, but all the commentary from her students as well. I can’t tell you what a wonderful experience that was. As a writer, you hear from critique partners, beta readers, editors, and eventually, reviewers. So seldom, if ever, do you get the chance to see your story so completely through someone else’s eyes.

In this case, several pairs of eyes. Oh, they each had their own take on the story, some I never even thought of.

All in all, it was delightful and truly made my day.

Writing Work:

  • The Time After ~7,214 words

Submissions:

  • None this week (soon, soon)

Rejections:

  • What Little Remains

Acceptances:

  • None

Publications:

  • None, but coming this week, Sucker Literary Magazine Volume 3 will be out, with my YA novelette, Just a Matter of Time.

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Publication: Straying from the Path

Straying from the Path is live over at Flash Fiction Online! This is another fairy tale retelling, this one about Little Red Riding Hood.

Click on through to read the story and view the cool and scary artwork they paired it with.

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