Tag Archives: WWII

Free Fiction Friday: The Potato Bug War

May is all about odds and ends, those strange little stories that sometimes pop into my head.

First up is flash fiction piece that takes place during WWII.

Her students collected so many potato bugs that Emilienne had to dash back to the vineyard for an extra wagon and a pram, all under the glare of a German soldier. The pram squeaked its protest, the wheels jolting along ruts while Henri’s words rang in her head:

Make it a game. Let the children have some fun.

So Emilienne handed each of her charges a jar and sent them into the potato fields under the hot Burgundy sun.

“Whoever collects the most wins a sweet!”

The children scampered through the fields, hands greedy for the tiny bugs. The damage was minimal—for now. But a blight was a blight, the potato crop at risk. As Henri put it:

Can’t deprive les Boches of their pommes frites, can we now?

Her students bent and plucked. One girl stumbled across the furrows, jar clutched to her chest in triumph.

“Mademoiselle! Look how many I’ve collected!”

The girl ran off with another jar but turned before resuming her spot in the field. “Will it be enough?”

Emilienne patted her skirt pocket, the one with the sweet. “We’ll see.”

She arranged the jars in the wagons, glass scraping against metal, sun baking the striped creatures inside. They crawled over each other, all in search of an opening that was no longer there.

So many bugs, and yet, she wondered. How many did the Germans expect them to collect? Would it be enough? How much was enough when it came to potato bugs?

In the end, she awarded the sweet to the industrious little girl. The child’s two older brothers lugged the wagons into town while Emilienne pushed the pram. The jars rocked and clattered, her strange, many-legged babies squirming. Sweat trickled down her spine, and a taste, like rusty grit, filled her mouth.

At the turn-in point, a lone soldier waited. He was no more than a boy, this German, this Nazi. In her head, she heard Henri:

Poor bastard probably has to count them all.

“What will you do with them?” Emilienne knew better than to start a conversation. She wasn’t a collaborator. And no matter how much her belly rumbled at night, she wouldn’t accept those kinds of favors.

Still, she wanted to know. As if the fate of these potato bugs mattered to her, to Burgundy, to the war.

“Drown them.” The boy grimaced as if he, personally, was responsible for the task.

Poor bastard, indeed.

In the end, she relinquished all but one jar. It was such a foolish thing to do, hiding it there beneath the pram’s tattered cushion. Would they line up a firing squad? Shoot her? Perhaps, but only after the Gestapo had their turn.

Tell me, Fraulein, why have you deprived the Reich of these potato bugs?

Yes, why had she? Emilienne couldn’t say. That didn’t stop her from gathering potato leaves from the field. That night, in the wine cellar, she stabbed the lid with an ice pick. She shoved handfuls of leaves into the jar and fed her hungry, many-legged babies.

That summer, whenever she overheard the Germans complain about the harvest, Emilienne thought of a jar, hidden in the wine cellar, and swallowed a smile.

It was enough.

This strange little story was first published in Pulp Literature, Issue 19. And yes, the Germans really did send French citizens into the potato fields during a blight to collect potato bugs.

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Filed under Free Fiction Friday, Reading, Stories for 2020

Weekly writing check-in: the one with the binge-watching cure

We had lots of fun at last week’s author visit with Liza Wiemer. If you ever need a speaker for school/group of teens (especially those who like to write), I highly recommend Liza. Also, check out her wonderful debut YA novel Hello?

I also finished writing An Army of Toads this week. It came in at ~9,000 words, which is an awkward length for a short story. (Technically, it’s a novelette, which is a cute name but a hard sell.)

My big news this week is, of course, the acceptance of The Saint of Bright Red Things to The Binge-Watching Cure:

The Binge-Watching Cure will be an anthology of short stories of increasing size. The first story will be 100 words—anyone can read that. The next, 200 words. Then 500, then longer, all the way to novella length.

Sounds pretty cool, doesn’t it? My story was selected for the 4,000-word slot, and I’m very excited about that. This is a story set in France during World War Two. Here’s a quick summary:

In Nazi-occupied France, Marigold Jenkins, the daughter of ex-patriot Americans, must keep her identities—all three of them—a secret. She navigates the streets of Paris armed with a bright red handbag, scarlet lipstick, and a compact tailor-made for her role as a courier in the resistance.

But when a train accident leaves her concussed and stranded in a provincial hospital, Mari must navigate a new reality, one that leaves her at the mercy of a German officer. She must decide whether she can trust this man—and what she must sacrifice in order to do so.

For writers, they’re currently taking submissions for a horror anthology.

And last, but not least, Coffee and Ghosts 3: The Complete Third Season is finally in print format.

Writing Work:

  • Planning/researching new series
  • Outlining/Draft writing ~ 4,000 words, An Army of Toads = done!

Submissions:

  • Fire and Ivy

Rejections:

  • Fire and Ivy

Acceptances:

  • The Saint of Bright Red Things

Publications:

The print version of Coffee and Ghosts 3: The Complete Third Season is now available!

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Filed under Coffee & Ghosts, Publishing, Weekly Writing Check In, Writing

2009 Reading Challenge

wwii

Because I’m not just about the writing.

I’ve decided to do the War Through the Generations Reading Challenge: World War II. My goal is five books, but I hope to read more. I’ll update as I go. So far, on the list:

  • Skeletons At The Feast
  • Tamar
  • Women of Valor
  • The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

That’s four, but there are some terrific books on the reading list here. You can join at any time during the year, but to be entered in the giveaways (oh, giveaways; I love giveaways), you need to sign up before January 31st.

Happy reading!

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