Harmony, VT

So, I am starting a new fiction project. I am going to do a 100 Prompt challenge and write a chapter for each prompt. The chapters will be intersecting character pieces all about the same small town and the people in it. They will all be part of one narrative, if I can pull it off. The prompt will be the title, and they will relate as directly or indirectly as seems appropriate.

We’ll see how it goes! I’m going to give it a try, anyway. First chapter is down below:

 

Introduction

Bethany Grant

Bethany inhaled a few times outside the small pub, steeling herself for what was about to happen. She could already see the entire scene unfolding in her mind’s eye, just as real to her now as it was sure to be in about forty-five seconds.

She would open the pub door and that stupid bell over the door would tingle far too loudly, alerting everyone inside to her grand entrance. There was no way around it. She couldn’t just sidle in and vanish into the small crowd before anyone saw her. All eyes would be on her, and she would be able to hear the whispers immediately diffusing through the acrid-smelling room.

“Beth came? How brave of her!”

“Look at her!”

“That poor, poor girl.”

To the people who were already gathered in that pub, no matter what she did, she would always just be a poor, poor girl.

Why the hell did she come to her stupid high school reunion, anyway?

She hadn’t even liked high school. What kind of sociopath actually enjoyed their teenage years? Not that hers had been particularly bad. All things considered, she had gotten off fairly easy. She had always had a group of friends hanging around, though she was never part of the “popular group” that went off and got hammered in the woods off of Evans Road every weekend. She had been in the drama club, but never gotten a lead role in the school play, and she had written for the school newspaper and helped out with planning the school dances, though she had never been voted a homecoming queen or prom queen or anything like that.

Yes, until Senior Year, high school had been just a normal, third-circle-of-Hell teenage experience. Senior Year pushed it over the edge and into Complete Shitshow territory. And now, ten years later, here she was. Standing outside the stupid town pub, waiting to be scrutinized by people she hadn’t even friended on Facebook or spoken to since graduation.

Hell, she hadn’t even gone to graduation.

“What am I doing here?” she groaned, realizing too late she was actually speaking out loud and not just in her own head. “I don’t have to do this. I don’t have to prove anything to anyone.”

She spun around, now determined to just leave without even going inside, and bumped into a tall, just-starting-to-bald-ever-so-slightly man, nearly causing both of them to tumble off the flimsy half-step. 

“Whoa!” the man grunted, equal parts surprised and trying to appear suave. “Careful, there.”

He reached out a hand to steady her before she fell, resting it on her shoulder.

Normally, that would have sent a cold chill through her spine. Normally, she would have pulled away or told him to get his mitts off her. But, something about his touch seemed… familiar.

“Hey!” he grinned broadly at her. “Beth! You made it! I didn’t think we’d see you tonight!”

That was all it took, seeing that doofy grin rip across his face, for her to immediately recognize him. She looked into his eyes, and he smiled at her, his own pale blue eyes flashing with a moment of recognition.

“Alex?” she asked.

“In the flesh.”

His grin faded into a warm smile, then he suddenly realized his hand was still lingering on her shoulder and immediately dropped it. “Sorry,” he mumbled, eyes cast down at the ground. “I didn’t mean to startle you or anything. I thought you heard me walking up.” 

“I wasn’t paying attention,” she admitted. “I was… in my own world. Sorry. I was just leaving, actually.”

“Leaving?” He looked confused, almost hurt. “Why would you leave? You haven’t even gone in yet, have you?”

“No. I changed my mind. I thought I could do it,  but I can’t.”

Alex nodded slowly, his mind chugging through the entire thought process she had gone through just a few minutes before. “Yeah, I guess I get it. I mean, it won’t be the same without him.”

Bethany smiled, sad but not broken. “He hasn’t been here for ten years. I’m used to him not being here by now. I’ve accepted that.” She nodded firmly at the pub door. “What I’m not used to anymore is being the poor little girl whose boyfriend was murdered. No one knows about it in Philly. I don’t have to answer the questions. I don’t have to deal with the stupid, goddamn patronizing looks–”

“Hey,” he raised his hands in the air in a don’t-shoot-the-messenger gesture. “I totally get it. It was my first thought when I saw you, too. You’re going to be the topic of conversation all night, guaranteed. Hell, Harlan dying like that was the biggest thing that happened in this podunk town in decades.” 

“Of course it was. Why do you think I haven’t been back?”

“Same reason no one comes back after graduation,” he shrugged. “You got out.”

 “So did you,” she pointed out. “New York, right? The big Broadway actor.”

“Yeah,” he mumbled, running one hand over the back of his neck. “That’s me. The big Broadway actor.”

He said it flatly, without any sense of pride or accomplishment. 

“You came all the way back here from New York just for this stupid thing?” She asked, prodding just a little. It would be nice to get the subject off of her and onto something else. Anything else. 

He laughed and shook his head. “God, no. I moved back six months ago. My dad needs help running the store. He’s not as young as he used to be… you know how it is.”

There was something behind his words. Not dishonesty, exactly, but he was holding something back. She could feel it in her bones. It was the same feeling she used to get when Harlan would promise he wasn’t going to actually kill anything when he went hunting with his buddies.

She didn’t get a chance to call him on it, though, because he was grinning again. That same grin as when they were in high school and he would intentionally gross her out during the frog dissection just because he could. 

“We don’t have to go in there,” he told her, gesturing over his shoulder with his thumb. “The only people who go to these lame-ass things are the townies who never left.”

“That’s not us.”

She said it so adamantly, she almost believed it.

Alex wasn’t the only one who could lie.

“No,” he agreed, just as eager for the raw denial as she was. “That’s not us. We got out.”

Neither of them mentioned the fact that they were standing there, in the same town they had both vowed to escape someday. The town they had both stayed away from until now.

They hadn’t seen each other in ten years, hadn’t spoken in ten years. It was almost like meeting a stranger for the first time. They knew nothing about each other’s lives anymore, they knew nothing at all apart from, in that moment, they had a connection. A mutual agreement.

They both got out.

They had to agree on that.

“You wanna ditch this place and grab a creamy at the Dairy Shack?” he asked, his pale eyes meeting hers. 

God, neither of them could help it. He still called a soft serve ice cream cone a creamy, just like they all did. Just like she still did.

No one else in the world called them creamies.

It was this town.

Even when you left, you were never really gone.

She smiled, brushing the stray strands of hair off her forehead. “That sounds better than going to a reunion right now.”

She let her hand brushed past his as they stepped off of the half-step of the pub and started up the sidewalk together towards the Dairy Shack.

She didn’t tell him the truth about why she was there.

She didn’t tell him the truth about Harlan.

Not the whole truth, anyway.

After all, Alex wasn’t the only one who could lie.

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If You’re a Dude Who Hates Cats, I Don’t Trust You.

If You’re a Dude Who Hates Cats, I Don’t Trust You.

By Sarah

 

Everyone has a natural affinity for certain animals. Some people prefer dogs, some prefer cats. Obviously, there is nothing wrong with a preference. But, cats inspire a particular level of loathing in some dudes that makes me severely distrust them for several reasons.

 

If you’re a dude who doesn’t just not prefer cats, but outright hates them and thinks they’re “evil”, this is what I know about you.

 

1 – You need to be the center of attention

When you have a dog, you are the center of their world. You are the sun, the moon, and the can opener to them. This is not the case with cats.

Don’t get me wrong. Cats are loving. But, they also have their own lives, and you are definitely not the center of it. But, do you know why that is? Because you’re not the center of the universe. The cat’s inner-life is more interesting than yours, so why do they need you, exactly?

If you need to be the center of attention, I don’t trust you. It will be a one-sided relationship where I will have to listen to you endlessly drone on and one without ever once asking me how I am. I don’t need that in my life.

 

2 – You think you’re entitled to physical affection on your terms

I hate to be the one to break this to you, but you’re not entitled to anyone’s affection who doesn’t want to give it to you. No one has to fuss over you, hug you, kiss you, or make you feel important.

The complaint I hear most often about cats is that they “don’t love you” the way dogs do. Translation: They don’t put out. They don’t beg for tummy rubs all the time. They don’t slobber over you and snuggle 24-7.

But, you know what? That doesn’t mean cats aren’t affectionate. They are, but not with just anyone. They show affection to people they feel safe with. When you earn a cat’s trust and affection, they will give it to you in droves. And it is wonderful to snuggle with a purring kitty. The mere act of walking into a room isn’t enough for a cat the throw themselves at you. And you know what? That’s not wrong.

If you don’t have the patience or desire to show a cat the kind of affection they prefer, if you can’t be bothered to build a relationship before expecting affection, that says more about you than it says about the cat. And I don’t got time for that, either.

 

3 – You don’t have any desire to listen to someone else

Cats will tell you how they like to be loved. My little angel likes to lay next to me while I pet him. He doesn’t really like being snuggled or held, though he’ll put up with it for a time with me. If you get bit or scratched, it’s because you weren’t listening to a cat’s signs. They will show you when they are uncomfortable, or scared, or tired. You just have to be willing to pay attention and read their body language, and then respond appropriately.


Does that sound like too much work?

Guess what.

That says a lot about you.

Dogs are great. I love dogs. But, cats are much more reflective of a real, human relationship. Loving a cat involves give and take, compromise, and paying attention. The reward is the most loving, trusting relationship you could ever ask for. If you hate cats, actively hate them, it tells me more than anything that you are more interested in yourself than you are in the needs of other living things.

And if you’re thinking right now, “But how is all that work worth it just for a cat?”, you still don’t get it. Which is why I still don’t trust you.

Why Ed Rooney is Not The Secret Hero of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off by Sarah

The Internet loves nothing more than positing ridiculous fan theories about our favorite movies. Usually, these fan theories boil down to someone is actually dead and/or in a coma from a certain moment onward, and the rest of the movie is just a dream. With the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, however, there is a fan theory that I find deeply disturbing.
This fan theory basically states that Ed Rooney is actually the secret hero of the film. In this theory, Ferris is a sociopath-in-training, luring his friends to The Dark Side with no qualms about destroying their lives. He lies without remorse, steals, uses people, and seems to have little to no actual emotion about anything that happens. Ed Rooney, on the other hand, is the put-upon school administrator who is the only person who sees Bueller as he really is. He’s just a man trying to do his job, trying to save his students from the bad influence of a future serial killer.
Ferris Bueller, as a character, doesn’t hold up as well today as he did in the 80s. That’s undeniable. He comes off less as charming through modern eyes, and seems more like a spoiled, privileged brat. However, these character flaws do NOT make Ed Rooney the hero. Ed Rooney is in no way, shape, or form a good educator. He is not trying to do his job. Ed Rooney is a bad person, a bad educator, and a villain in every sense of the word.
“He’s just doing his job,” is the central argument of this fan theory. That would be all well and good, if anything he does is actually part of his job. Checking up on students who called out sick? Maybe. Speaking condescendingly to that student’s parent and heavily implying they are negligent and out of touch? Absolutely not. Besides, if he was so concerned with Ferris’s attendance, why did he wait until the ninth absent to call? Why not call on the eighth? Or the seventh? Or the sixth? The answer is simple: He didn’t call because he doesn’t actually care. He’s not out to help a student, he’s out to nail a kid he hates.
From the very first moment, the hatred Ed Rooney has towards Ferris is palpable. He can’t even say his name without spitting it like a viper. Disdain drips from every syllable. That is not the attitude of a good educator. His goal is not to help Ferris, as he makes clear time and time again. His eyes gleam with the thought of “bringing down Ferris Bueller”. His goal is to ruin his life, not to hold him accountable. Again, if the goal was accountability, where was the call to the parents on the eight previous absences? Rooney wants Ferris to fail, not just at school but at life. He wants him to get held back, to not get into college, to not have any success. This is not the attitude a man who is “just doing his job” should have. This is the attitude of a true villain.
When Rooney thinks the young man is on the phone pretending to be Sloane’s father, he says horribly inappropriate things to him, not because he doesn’t realize he’s speaking to a student but because he believes he is speaking to a teenager. There is no justification for ever speaking to a student like that. That is not an educator trying to do his job, that is an educator who has lost sight of any sense of purpose.
Additionally, Rooney shows little to no concern for any other student in his school outside of Ferris Bueller. When he personally witnesses Sloane kissing her “father” (actually Ferris) in a way that heavily suggests an incestuous relationship, his response is complete and utter indifference. “So that’s how it is in her family,” he shrugs and walks away, back to his life. He does not follow any of the standard abuse reporting procedures that every educator are required to follow, as mandated reporters. Rather than wasting his entire day tracking down a student whose parents have already given him an excuse for being absent, he should have been calling Child Protective Services. Educators can lose their jobs, their licenses, and potentially even serve jail sentences for ignoring signs of suspected abuse. That is part of your job, Ed Rooney. Do your job, sir.
If you’re still not convinces Ed Rooney isn’t the real hero of this film, also consider how many laws he actively breaks just to trap this one kid in one lie. Is Ferris Bueller the only student who has ever skipped school? Of course not. Has Ed Rooney gone after all of these students with equal fervor? Nothing in the movie indicates he has. He is focusing all of his ire on this one kid. Targeting a single student for extreme punishment is not “part of your job” as an educator. Letting personal feelings into your discipline practices is not “part of the job”. Breaking and entering, assault, and animal cruelty are not part of your job.
In short, if you don’t like Ferris Bueller as a character, that’s fine, but do not over-compensate by assigning positive attributes to Ed Rooney that don’t exist. Nothing about his character is reflective of an educator concerned with what is best for his students, or with being a good educator and doing his job at all.

 

 

MAY’S WINNER – SARAH’S PICK: The Dancing Seahorse by V.L. Marsell

I selected this month’s short story, written to eventually be turned into a picture book for children, because it’s a simple yet inspiring tale of sticking with something, even when it’s hard. Something all writers know about, I’m sure! It’s a good reminder to be yourself and never give up!

The Dancing Seahorse

By V.L. Marsell

Serena the Seahorse is the odd one of her family.

She is rainbow-colored; everyone else is just plain orange. They never really treat her like she’s different, but she still feels like she doesn’t belong.

Some of the other sea animals, however, do make fun of her because she is different. This makes her sad. It was because of this that she prefers to be by herself.

Places where no one else can see her are her favorites.

She is afraid for anyone to find out what her secret love is. She was afraid they would make fun of her.

Serena loves to dance.

She goes to a little alcove in the more shallow water—where she could hear the music playing from the beach. First, she starts swishing her tail and moving her head from side to side, until she gets into a rhythm. Then she begins twirling.

One day, without her knowledge, one of Serena’s sisters follows her.

She is curious as to where Serena goes every day after Fish School ends. Savanahh watches in amazement as her sister begins fluttering and twirling around. She doesn’t know what to think. It is strange and beautiful at the same time. She watches her for a long while before heading home.

Savanahh wants to tell her parents what she had seen. But she was afraid that if she tells their parents, Serena will be mad at her.

She already knew that Serena feels out of place because of how she looks. But if the other sea animals know about her dancing, maybe they could see how special and talented her sister really is. Maybe she can even talk Serena into entering the Fish School Talent Show that’s taking place next week.

Later that evening, Savanahh tells Serena about following her and watching her dancing. Serena feels sad. Because once the other sea animals find out, they would make fun of her more often.

Her sister tries to reassure her and tells her that she needed to enter the Talent Show. “Everyone should see how beautiful you dance,” Savanahh says.

At first, Serena is scared to let anyone see her dance. But the more she thinks about what her sister had said, the braver she feels.

She didn’t tell her sister, but she decides to enter the Talent Show.

On the day of the Talent Show, Serena is terrified, but is ready to dance. From where she stands, she can see her family. When she swims out on stage, she sees all the other sea animals watching her and she almost swims away.

But she doesn’t.

She musters all of the courage she has inside and she starts to swish her tail. Then she closes her eyes and just dances. She forgets about everyone, pretends she is in her secret alcove, loses herself in the music of her mind, and dances with all her heart. When the music stops, she opens her eyes and sees everyone clapping.

After the show, when the winner is announced, Serena couldn’t believe her little ears.

She WON!

The next day when she goes to school, everyone tells her how beautiful she had danced. From moment on, no one ever makes fun of Serena again.

And she dances every day.

 

V.L. Marsell wrote this for her friend’s granddaughter, Serena, who is a dancer and loves seahorses. She is working on a novel and other short children’s stories. Her previous short Christmas story published on UpwriteLadies is being looked into for publishing.

Mother’s Day

Whether you want to admit it or not, Mother’s Day is a day fraught with raw emotions. It’s a day that is meant to honor our mothers, and the truth is they deserve that and so much more. Mothers are awesome, and they need respect and honor every day of the year.

That being said, this Sunday there will be people who are missing their mothers. Nothing is more difficult or painful than losing your mother, and this day will bring up all of those emotions all over again.

There will be people who are sitting in your pew at church, trying to hold it together while they watch the little children give their mothers gifts and hugs and kisses.

Of course mothers deserve those things. No one’s saying they don’t. No one’s saying don’t celebrate and observe. No one is that much of a monster.

I’m just talking about those women who are forgotten. Those women who are silent. Those women who would never speak for themselves, because the last thing they would ever want to do is shift the spotlight from mothers to their own pain.

But, just because they’re silent doesn’t mean the pain isn’t real.

I can’t speak for all women. I am not all women. I am me. And personally, I have no real issues with Mother’s Day. It’s always been a fine day, because it’s not about me.

It’s not for me.

I’m not mother.

I never had a chance to be a mother.

That chance was taken away from me when I was ten years old. I’ve known from that young that it just wasn’t in the cards for me. Sure, there’s always adoption, an option I heartily endorse and value, but telling a woman “Well, you can always adopt” is like telling someone, “Well, you can always just use your left hand when I cut off your right hand.”

Sure, it’s possible.

But it sure as hell would be nice to have to option of using your right hand.

I’ve grown to accept this over the years, for the most part. It’s part of who I am, and I’m generally okay with who I am.

But, it’s a process of grieving. A process of acceptance. It isn’t something you’re told and you just nod and say “Okay. No kids. Sure. That sounds great.”

If you’ve never been told that, you don’t understand.

You just don’t.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

There are parts of your life that I will never understand.

That’s just life. We all have something we have to deal with. This is my thing. Your thing is yours.

A lot of women out there struggle with it more than I have. A lot of women have gone through miscarriages and years of infertility treatments. A lot of women have gone through pain and tears and frustrations you will never understand.

You just won’t.

It’s their thing.

Not yours.

I’ll never fully understand, because I guess at least I knew since I as 10. I never had that spark of hope that it could happen for me. It was just part of my life that never existed, so how can I miss it? It’s like a phantom limb, you know it’s not there, but sometimes you can still feel it itch. Just a little.

Sometimes, it hurts. A lot.

It just does.

So, please. Appreciate your moms on Sunday. Love them. Honor them. Revere them. Have brunch with them.

Maybe just remember that sitting next to you might be someone who is in pain.

And that pain is real, whether you see it on their faces or not.

What Makes a Compelling Character? Part II

Last time, we focused on writing dialogue for your character. Today, we’re going to talk about figuring out who your character is as a person.

A lot of times, you won’t know who your character is when you start writing them. You might know one or two of their dominant personality traits, but the odds are you will discover the shades and nuances of their personality during the writing process. This is not only okay, it’s wonderful. Writing should be as much a process of exploring and learning as it is a process of merely dictating to your readers what to think or feel.

It is okay if you begin knowing one thing about your character and nothing else. For example, you may know your character is a smooth-talking con artist. You may know they are a soldier struggling with PTSD. You may know they are a kind, patient teacher. Starting from one point and building up from there is a great way to begin the process, as long as you don’t leave their entire personality at that one trait. Writers tend to write flat, uninteresting characters when they mistake a single trait for an entire character. No person is one thing and only one thing. No one is all noble and good all the time, and no one is generally all evil all the time. There are nuances to humanity, and a character without any nuance will feel two dimensional to your readers.

For many writers, it is easier to write a character if you “base” them on someone in real life. Sometimes, this means basing your character on yourself. Now, there is nothing wrong with giving your character some personality traits that you have, or that your family has. The danger, however, is when you don’t go any deeper than that. If your character is merely a stand-in for yourself, you won’t be able to objectively find their flaws and downsides. You will be so concerned with the audience liking your character that you will try to make them flawless and perfect. Not intentionally, of course, but it will happen. That’s when the dreaded Mary Sue label pops up. Your audience is smart. They’ll catch it. Don’t take them for granted, and don’t try to fool them.

Please note, this does NOT mean that you just tack on something like alcoholism or a drug addiction to every character just to give them depth. That is not depth, it is lazy writing. Whatever flaws your character has must grow organically out of their core. Any “turns” a character takes, such as a villain having a moment of nobility or a hero falling from grace, have to make sense for who they are and who they are trying to be.

You’ll know you’re on the right track when your character begins to do and say things you would never do. When your character can wholeheartedly believe and defend a position you disagree with, you have a fully fledged character and not a Mary Sue.

  • Sarah

5 Podcasts That Prove Not All Podcasts Have To Be “Dudes With a Mic Cracking Jokes”

Podcasting is still a relatively new medium, but it is quickly becoming more mainstream. Due to the success of shows like WTF with Marc Maron, it sometimes seems like the only viable format for a podcast is “dudes with a mic cracking jokes”.

This format varies slightly, but it basically boils down to one or two dudes sitting in front of a mic, just talking about life with no real structure. Sometimes, they do this with a special guest (usually a stand-up comedian), and sometimes they do it without a special guest.

Now, there is nothing wrong with these types of podcasts. I love them. There are some amazing shows that follow this format and use it to its full potential. However, just like I wouldn’t want every movie to be a comedy, or a drama, or a documentary, I don’t want my podcasts to all be cookie cutter shows. I want variety. I want originality. I want… more.

And that’s just what the Internet gives me.

I listen to podcasts every day of my life. I walk a lot and take public transportation, so I burn through my podcasts like a box of Girl Scout cookies. It’s hard to explain to someone who doesn’t listen to them just how devoted you get to your shows, just how invested you get in that weekly fix. It’s different than any other medium. You feel connected to a podcast. You feel like part of a family. You feel like you’ve uncovered a long lost treasure, and you want to share it with the world.

That’s what this list is – my chance to share my treasures with the world. I’ve written about some podcasts in the past that I love, but this list is going to focus specifically on my favorite shows that shatter the “dudes with a mic cracking jokes” format.

1 – Limetown

Limetown is an old school radio drama that plays off of the success of Serial. In the first season, American Public Radio reporter Lia Haddock investigates the mystery surrounding the community of Limetown, which had a strange tragedy strike it ten years ago. As her investigation pries deeper into the mystery, she quickly starts getting answers to questions she didn’t even know to ask.

I don’t want to say anything else about the plot, because it’s far too delicious to uncover yourself. Do yourself a favor. Grab a cup of tea and a blanket, curl up in a comfy chair, and just enjoy the journey.

Intense at times, scary at times, and always intriguing, Limetown is by far the best example of the recent rash of serialized mystery podcasts. It is well-produced, well-written, and well-acted. It is also addictive from the very first episode. Luckily, the entire first season has already aired, so you don’t have to go through the agony of waiting for the newest episode to drop. Now is the perfect time to get caught up.

Of course, we’re still waiting on the second season…

You can check out their webpage at http://www.limetownstories.com/ to start your own listening adventure.

2 – You Must Remember This

If you have any affinity at all for old Hollywood, old movie stars, or history, you have to check out You Must Remember This. Helmed by Karina Longworth, who also narrates, this show takes you on a trip through the fist century of Hollywood, digging deeper into the lives and scandals of the people you thought you knew.

What impresses me most about this show is the depth of the research Karina does on each and every topic. It is truly a passion project for her, and it shows in every episode. She is able to present the history of Tinseltown in an informative, personal, and entertaining way that manages to humanize the revered, and revere the forgotten.

My personal favorite episodes are the series she did about Charles Manson’s Hollywood. They are truly frightening and sad. The episode focusing on Dennis Wilson was particularly moving and poignant.

To listen for yourself, you can check out the website at: http://www.youmustrememberthispodcast.com/

3 – The Arkham Sessions

Okay, I’ll admit it. This one might be a little niche for some. Even if you’re not addicted to all things Batman the way I am, however, I think there is still something to enjoy. If you are addicted to all things Batman, how are you not listening to it already?

Dr. Andrea Letamendi and Brian Ward walk us through Batman: The Animated Series, episode by episode, and dive into the psychology of the characters, including Batman himself and his greatest foes. It’s a fascinating dive into the very nature of the human mind, and I daresay you may just come out on the other side a wiser, more compassionate person.

Who would’ve thought you could do all that with a cartoon show about a grown man in a cape?

I enjoy this show for the serious way they approach the subject matter, and how clinical the discussion is, while never losing the sense of fun and almost whimsy.

You can check out their website at the following link: http://www.underthemaskonline.com/the-arkham-sessions/.

4 – Crime Writers On…

Of course, anyone who has ever heard of a podcast knows about Serial. Its the gold standard against which all other podcasts are measured now. Crime Writers On… started off as a show about a group of crime writers sitting around and talking about the minutiae of every episode of Serial, but it has since evolved into so much more than that.

Rebecca Lavoie, Kevin Flynn, Lara Bricker, and resident naysayer (as they lovingly call him) Toby Ball have done an excellent job expanding a simple concept into an artfully produced show that discusses not just Serial, but all true crime related topics. This includes reviews of crime-related television shows and podcasts, interviews with authors, journalists, content creators, and law enforcement officials, as well as looking at current headlines for (often humorous) crime stories. The charm and chemistry of the hosts really sells the entire show, and the production values are top notch.

Follow Crime Writers On… at http://www.crimewriterson.com/

5 – Read it and Weep

Read it and Weep might, on its face, seem like just another one of the plethora of “bad movie podcasts” out there, but the truth is that it is much more than that. First of all, the hosts tackle bad books and television shows as well as movies, but that variety alone is not really what sets this podcast apart from the pack.

Read it and Weep is truly unique in the way it approaches the pain of enduring bad art. Most podcasts just go through the movie they watched plot point by plot point, poking fun and cracking jokes as they go along. Read it and Weep adds another layer of madness and hilarity by integrating games, elaborate ads, and forced, (mostly) genuine, compliments from each participant at the beginning and end of the show. It also benefits from having a mostly stable cast of hosts, with a variety of returning guests rounding out each episode.

Read it and Weep also allows sponsored episodes, so the variety of bad books and movies they are forced to endure is painful and wonderful. I haven’t researched it so I can’t say for sure, but I’d be very surprised if any other podcast has covered My Immortal, Look Who’s Talking, Fuller House, Star Wars Episode I, all the Twilight books and movies, and 50 Shades of Grey.

Catch Read it and Weep at: http://read-weep.com/

APRIL WINNER- AMBER’S PICK Sunday Afternoon By Rachel Oberg

Throwback Thursday! Let’s Throwback to last Friday, when I should have been posting this amazing story. It’s a great short story worth waiting for, though, so I think that’ll make up for it.

I present to you my pick for winner of the April submission period – Sunday Afternoon by Rachel Oberg. I dare you to read this and not be immediately a) compelled by the story and b) hungry! It’s such a descriptive and captivating piece. Like most good short stories, it’s a complete tale of its own but it’ll leave you wanting more.

 

Sunday Afternoon

By Rachel Oberg

The smell of garlic burning brought her out of her daydream. She swore and clicked off the flame. She dumped the scorched garliac into the compost, wiped out the cast iron skillet and set it back on the stove. She minced a few more cloves, setting aside their papery skins to use in veggie stock. The carrots were in the oven already, soon to be browned at the edges, sweetened by honey, with a touch of salt and pepper and a sprinkle of cayenne. The bread had come out just before the carrots had gone in. When she leaned in close she could hear it crackling as it cooled. She inhaled and closed her eyes.

Freshly baked bread took her back to childhood. Mom pulling out the fresh loaves of her signature bread, ready to be slathered with butter (or margarine, it was the 90’s). It took her to early memories, hazy enough that they could have been a dream. Oma’s hands showing how to shape the Zwiebach buns, her little hands trying to mimic the motion. Praise from Oma, her gentle voice encouraging her young granddaughter as she learned a generations old recipe. Her eyes flitted over to the framed recipe on the wall. Written by Oma’s hand. She would make them again soon aided only by memories this time. She couldn’t call Oma to help over the phone. She missed that.

She turned the stove back on and added a bit more oil. She loved the way it rippled when it got hot. She added a big pat of butter and then another and watched as they sizzled and began to brown. She threw in the garlic and the smell wafted up to her nose. She breathed deeply. The garlic just needed thirty seconds. This time it wouldn’t burn. She added some white wine and turned the heat down to low. It would reduce into a simple sauce, perfect to coat the homemade pasta she’d spent the afternoon rolling and cutting. She didn’t mind. That kind of work was good for the soul.

She opened the screen door and the dog shot past her. Hopping and barking at the tree where he’d seen a squirrel earlier. Then running over to her husband at the barbecue. She smiled. She bent over her garden box to see what was growing. The beans had popped up, some squash plants were flowering, and the tomatoes were getting tall. She snipped off some garlic chives and plucked a big handful of basil leaves. The smell was intoxicating. No wonder the bees wouldn’t leave the basil flowers alone. She walked over to the barbecue. Her husband pulled her over and hugged her tight. He smelled like campfire. “Chicken’s almost ready” he said. She smiled and called the dog to come back inside and keep her company.

She washed and dried the herbs, chopping them with her sharpest knife. They’d be passed around the table for people to sprinkle on the pasta as they wished. The salted water was boiling. Huge rolling bubbles, sometimes jumping over the edge of the pot and making the flame sizzle. She added the pasta, stirring so it wouldn’t stick. It would only need a minute. She tasted the browned butter sauce. It had reduced nicely, but still needed to be seasoned. Just salt and pepper this time. She added a bit of the starchy pasta water to the sauce before draining the pasta, then added the pasta to the skillet. She stirred it gently then tasted it. She sighed. It was good. She took the carrots out of the oven. They needed a pinch more salt. The best way to bring out the flavors of a dish.

She pulled the parmesan cheese out of the fridge and scraped it along the grater, transparent curls falling and melting over the hot pasta. The dog ran over, eyes begging for a taste. She laughed and tossed a chunk of the rind that bounced off his nose and fell to the floor. Her smile widened as she shook her head. As she sliced the bread she heard children laughing outside. Not hers. Maybe someday. Her heart ached a little at the thought. For now, this was enough. She walked to the stove and took another taste of pasta. The cool breeze through the open window mingled with the smell of the sauce. They were like refreshment to her soul. She heard voices outside. These she recognized. Their family away from family. The doorbell rang. She took a breath and walked over to open the door.

 

Rachel grew up in Ontario, Canada, but now resides in Southern California with her husband and dog. She loves everything to do with food (except doing the dishes), could spend all day reading Lee Child novels, and is obsessed with eating French baguettes and croissants.

APRIL/MAY 2016 SUBMISSIONS OPEN!

Hey, all! We’ve picked our April winners. Now it’s time for you to get something submitted for next month!

We accept all fiction and non-fiction pieces, including blog posts, short stories, opinion pieces, thought pieces, clickbait, lists, news analysis, political analysis, general interest pieces, pop culture reviews and opinions, whatever you got, we want it! Send it to UpWriteLadies@gmail.com. This month’s deadline in 11:59 PM PST on APRIL 28. Get writing!

 

APRIL WINNER- SARAH’S PICK A Rainy Day By Susan Belshaw

Below is my (Sarah’s) pick for April, 2016. It’s called A Rainy Day, and it is a non-fiction devotional piece. I selected it because it is a beautifully written example of finding a spiritual depth in your everyday life, an example I personally aspire to each and every day.

A Rainy Day

By Susan Belshaw

“Mommy,” my 5-year old daughter called out to me from the kitchen table, “why doesn’t God make peas M&M green? I might eat them then!”

As I continued with my dishwashing I replied matter-of-factly, “Because that’s not the way He makes them. Now eat up, we have a lot of errands to run.”

I moved into the bedroom to make the bed. I heard Rachel in the living room beginning to serenade me with her banging on the old upright piano. “Mommy,” she called out, “why doesn’t God make it so everyone can play the piano? Then we’d have such beautiful music.”

“Because,” I called out,” He makes everyone special in his or her own way. Now get your shoes on, it’s time to go.”

I was putting on my coat and looking for the umbrella when she asked me, “Why doesn’t God give us whatever we want when we want it so we can be happy all the time?”

I found the umbrella, but couldn’t find the car keys. As I rummaged through my purse I answered, “ God knows what’s best for us, and He always does what is best, even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time.” Ah, I had found the keys, the umbrella and the answers to some of life’s tough questions all in one afternoon. I was on a roll!

The rain was really coming down. I got drenched trying to help Rachel into her car seat. I was thinking of all the important errands I had to run as I slid into the driver’s seat and hoped the car would start right up. As I put it into “reverse”, I noticed that the windshield wipers did not come on. I pressed the button again: nothing. I put the car back into “park”. I muttered, “ Not today, I need them today.” I repeatedly pressed the button to no avail. Why today of all days, I wondered.

“Mommy.” Rachel spoke up. “I bet God knew we needed to have our windshield wipers break today. He always does what’s best.” she smiled.

I dropped my head on the steering wheel and sighed audibly. The last thing I needed was a simplistic, childish answer to a very real and complex problem I was experiencing. Then it hit me. It hit me so hard, I sat up straight. Had I been giving Rachel simplistic answers to her complex questions all morning?

We all have questions. Life is a journey of ever changing circumstances. Nothing is set for life. There are always changes and with the changes come questions. Many times we offer each other solutions based on our own limited experiences, merely to put each other off instead of seeking after the truth. Look at Job and his friends. They were more interested in tying up loose ends than they were in trying to discover the truth.

The questions in life can be just as important as the answers. Life is a journey, a process, and that process contributes to our growth and produces our character. Why do we try to rush through it? Reaching out to God is as important as holding on to Him.

As I sat back contemplating the morning and the windshield wipers, I looked in the rear view mirror at Rachel. She was hesitant, no longer smiling. I knew she was waiting for a cue from me. The errands could wait.

.” What say you and I go into the kitchen and make some hot chocolate?”

“OK Mommy!” Dashing from the car to the house she squealed at the rain drops. I watched her as she wiggled out of coat and shoes. As she climbed up onto the stool in the kitchen, her eyes danced with anticipation of the hot chocolate. I poured some chocolate syrup onto a spoon and let her lick it while I stirred the pot. For the first time today I didn’t feel hurried or stressed. I was able to stop and smell the chocolate, so to speak, as we waited for our drink to heat. Life is a journey, not a destination. So right then, I decided while watching Rachel, with chocolate dripping down her chin, to enjoy the ride.

Susan Belshaw is an ageless writer and stand-up comedian who currently resides in Florida. She enjoys spending time with her three grandchildren.