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Dystopian Gardens / Micro-Fiction:Lying in the Dirt

I’ve noticed that whenever a writing prompt leads me to some kind of dystopian or post-apocalyptic story, there is always nature or garden imagery. It happened with the prompt that inspired me to a story that grew into “Necromantic Buzz.” It happened with a piece of flash fiction that was published in Burning Waters Magazine, and  happened again in this week’s cracked flash competition. My story didn’t win, but it was an honorable mention.

I’m starting to think this is my way of smothering fear with hope. The political turmoil and climate problems make me fear some kind of societal upset or end of the world as we know it is coming. I’ve placed my hope for the future in nature’s resilience, and in local, sustainable food.

While the following story isn’t directly about food or an apocalypse, it is packed with garden imagery and hints at some kind of corporatism
gone wrong.

Micro-Fiction:Lying in the Dirt

By Sara Codair

“You lied to me?” Carrots hung from Donn’s hands like the flop over ears of a pathetic puppy. “Why lie about that?”

Susie shrugged, watching the way Donn’s fingers curled around the carrots. His nails dug through the dirt and pierced the bright orange beneath. His eyes widened. He pursed his lips.

“I just couldn’t disappoint you.”

“Well, you did.” Donn looked at the red boxes brimming with carrot tops, the cucumbers climbing a white trellis and tomatoes bursting out of their cages. “If you told me, I could’ve helped.”

“How?” Susie looked down the driveway, where the bank men were coming to take the keys, the house, and its contents.

“I have a few secrets of my own.”

He placed the carrots on the potting table, picked up a shovel, and zigzagged through the labyrinth-like garden to a spot where nothing was growing. He dug. The bank man came with his suit and guns.

“Sir and madam, you must vacate the property.”

Donn laughed and kept digging.

The man crossed his arms. “Unless you can produce 200,000 Cred in the next 60 seconds, you are leaving.”

“Give me five minutes and I’ll give you 250,000.”

He watched as Donn dug until he hit a wooden box, brushed it off, opened it, and pulled out stacks of green bills. “Now, what is the conversion rate for old USD these days?”

The man gulped. “This morning, a single was fetching a 1,000 on the market.”

Donn handed a banded stack to the to man. “Here are 20 for your bank, and 5 to keep. Get off my property. I’ll expect the deed tomorrow.”

The man scurried off. Donn glared at Susie. “Next time you have problems, tell me.”

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Can on only child mentality be the key to a successful writing career?

Writing and Publishing with an Only child Mentality

By Sara Codair

Only children, especially those of the millennial generation, have a reputation for being spoiled: needy, narcissistic, socially awkward brats who always get what they want.

While some of the stereotypes may be true for some people, only children have strengths too. We are often comfortable being on our own, imaginative, and self-motivate.

Many of the writers I interact with in “real world,” meaning people I speak to in-person, not online, often seem to marvel at my ability turn out a high volume of stories, handle rejection, persist, and get my work published.

While I’ve been writing since I was old enough to hold a pen, I’ve only been publishing for a little over a year. I’ve done well for my first year, but I still have a long way to go before I reach my goal of being a full-time, professional fiction writer. I’m starting to think that my initial success, and potential for further successes, is tied into my only child mentality.

To start off with, I’m used to getting my way.

“No” was not a word I liked hearing as a child, and often, I could turn a “no” from either parent into a “yes.” At first, I worried this would hurt me. I do hate rejections, but more a market rejects me, the more determined I am to get published by that market. I know I cannot argue with rejections, so I just keep writing new stories so I can send that editor more stories.

I’ve been sending Daily Science Fiction at least one story a month for the past year, and in December, I made it to their second round for the first time. In the end, they didn’t buy my story, but I know I came close, and sooner or later, they will buy one of my stories.

This past fall, I got a rejection from Dark Magic: Witches, Hackers and Robots, an anthology I wanted to be, so I sent them another story, and got another rejection, then sent them a third story, and got an acceptance.

Growing up getting the things I wanted didn’t turn me into a weak, whiny person who cries when someone tells her no. It taught me that persistence, determination, and hard work lead to success.

In addition to being stubbornly persistent, my imagination and comfort with solitude also help me write. When there weren’t other kids to play with, I would entertain my self by making up stories. When there were kids, or adults willing to play like kids, I often directed them in acting out my stories. It was like Live Action Role Playing (LARPing) using my imagination instead of dice or game cards.

Making up stories is a habit I never got out of. I do it when I am sitting in traffic, running, waiting for an appointment and trying to follow asleep. Whenever the current task I am doing is not occupying my full attention, I have a story going in my head, and I don’t mind staying home on a Friday night to type out the story I made while commuting instead of socializing, especially since my friends aren’t really into LARPing.

Even the worst qualities associated with only children can be useful.

A small amount of narcissism can be useful, or almost necessary for anyone who goes into novel writing. The concept writing/publishing is narcissistic at its roots. I have to be a little in love with my self and my words in order to think that anyone would want to PAY for the things I made up while sitting on Boston traffic.

Some might say this is simply confidence, but to me, confidence is believing in your skill to write and tell a story. Believing your imagination is something that needs to not only be shared, but also sold, crosses the line. As long as it doesn’t get out of hand, a drop of narcissism can be the difference between wishing you were writer and actually becoming one.

Like other aspiring writers, I have plenty of self-doubt and anxiety. However, I think the difference between me and my colleagues who “want” to write but never finish anything is that I have that annoying drop of narcissism and entitlement that allows me to believe I can and should sell my work.

I’ve grown up believing that with enough persistence, I can get anything I want. Rejection discourages some writers, but I am fueled by it. This mentality has gotten me published in token and semi-pro markets, and its even led to a few pro-sales. Hopefully, it will eventually lead to a career writing novels.

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The Dreaded Short Story Query

The Dreaded Short Story Query

By Sara Codair

Querying short stories is the most stressful part of the publication process for me.

The word query has a slightly different meaning in the world of short stories than it does for novels.When you query an agent of publisher about a novel, you are essentially submitting a cover letter and sample to see if they are interested. However, when you submit a short story, you generally include an extremely brief cover letter and the full manuscript. Writers refer to this as a submission, not a query.

 

The short story query is actually a follow up letter. If the publisher does not respond to the story in their advertised timeframe, then you are allowed, and in some cases, expected to follow up with an email. For me, this is more stressful than the actual submission.

The longer a market takes to respond to my story, the more I start over-analyzing their silence. Did they forget about my story? Did they put it in their maybe pile? Are they just really backlogged? Any of these are equally possible.

If they are just backlogged, I feel bad adding more material to their reading list, even if it is just one email, so I always keep my query email short.

I take cues from their submission guidelines regarding how and when I can query. Most publications will provide some information about querying in their submission guidelines. For example, Firefly has this near the end of their guidelines: “if a month has passed from the day you have submitted to us and you haven’t heard from us, please feel free to send a query with either “Query” or “What The Heck” in the subject line. We find the latter more cathartic.”

I queried them once, but in the end, they were just backlogged and rejected my story. Other markets, like the Sockdolager and Museum of Science Fiction, have responded to queries telling me my story has made it past their first round and is being held for further consideration. The most successful querying experience I had was with Helios Quarterly as it turned into an acceptance.

Some markets have made querying unnecessary with extremely specific guidelines and efficient submission managing systems that allow writers to track their stories progress through the queue. However, many smaller and/or new markets can not afford said software, so they rely on email.

The best advice I can offer is keep it short, and make sure you read the guidelines first. If a market says “don’t query until three months have passed” then make sure three months have passed before you query.

Most of my queries look something like this:

Dear Editor (s),

I sent you my story, “The Best Short Ever,” on June 4, 2016, and have not heard anything. Could you please confirm you received it and provide an update on its status?

Thank you,

Sara

Or

Dear Editor (s),

I sent you my story, “The Best Short Ever,” on June 4, 2016, and have not heard from you. Are you still considering it?

Thank you,

Sara

If I addressed my cover letter to a specific person, I will use their name. Otherwise, “Dear Editors” works fine.

I’ve never had an editor get made at me for querying. Most of the responses I get are sympathetic or apologetic. If a market says you can query after X days or months have passed, then do it. Just keep your letter short and polite. It will give you peace of mind and remind the editor you exist.

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A win on Cracked Flash with “Survival 101”

Cracked Flash’s writing prompts have been part of my weekly writing routine on and off for about a year now. Over the summer, I had stopped writing for them because I was judging. They had a brief hiatus in the fall. When they started up, it took me a few weeks to work in back into the routine. The few pieces I wrote were political rants pretending to be stories. Last week, I wrote a real story, and it won.

Here is it:

Survival 101

By Sara Codair

“Try a different one.” Joe frowned as the wriggling worm fell into the bucket of dirt.

I arched my eyebrows. “A worm is a worm.”

“The fat ones are juicier and slower. Easier to hook, more likely to attract fish.”

I sighed. “I don’t even like fish.”

“Would you rather eat the worm?”

“I’d rather eat nuts berries.” I gazed at the sun glistening on deep blue, vibrant leaves with orange-tinted tips and wispy seeds forming atop grass.

“Those’ll be hard to come by next month.” Joe dug weathered fingers into the bucket, pulling out a short worm barely able to wriggle, and handed it to me. “You want to survive, don’t you?”

“I used to be vegan.” My stomach wriggled like the obese worm, half-heartedly threatening to eject raspberries.

Joe’s laughter shook the remains of his shrunken belly. “Just hook the damned worm.”

Despite its protest, my stomach knew food was hard to come by, and held the berries while I jabbed the rusty, barbed metal into the worm, scrunching it like I was forcing a new curtain onto an old rod.

“That’s the spirit. Plant your feet and cast like I showed you.”

I obeyed. My tortured worm plopped into the shimmery blue. I watched the ripples grow as they approached shore. “What now?”

“Now we wait.” Joe lowered his raisen-like body onto a silvery rock. “We wait and we pray.”

I nodded, but remained standing. Winged-insects flittered across the water close to shore. A water-strider fell victim to a frog blending his body with a rotten log. A dragon fly landed on my nose, its wings tickling a smile out of my face. The last scientist I met said the human population might never recover. Nature, though, was doing just fine.

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See the original post here: http://crackedflash.blogspot.com/2017/02/year-2-week-25-results.html#comment-form

Version 2

Micro Fiction: Voter’s Remorse

Voter’s Remorse

By Sara Codair

“I can’t answer that! You’ll beat me up!” He looked up at Evvie, wondering if he needed to get down on his knees and beg. She was as arrogant as she beautiful, as passionate as she was tall, and as violent as she was smart.They had been dating for a couple months now, and he didn’t want to jeopardize the fiery roller coaster their relationship was becoming.

She glared at him.

His face flushed. He resisted the urge to get on his knees and crossed his arms. “You won’t like it.”

She glared at him.

“Just trust me, alright?

She glared harder. “Tell me who you voted for or I am going to walk out of this apartment and never come back.”

They stared into each other’s eyes. She didn’t blink. His palms began to sweat. His lip trembled. She didn’t blink. He glanced down at his feet. “I voted for…for him.”

She punched him in the face and walked out of the room muttering. “Effing Nazis.”

“Please don’t tell anyone,” he pleaded as he wiped the blood off of his nose. “It was a dumb idea. I’ll go to the protest with you and donate to the ACLU. If I could go back in time, I’d do it differently. I didn’t know he’d be like this.”

She paused in the hallway, turned around and stared daggers at him. “We warned you.”

“I wish I listened. Please, forgive me.”

“I’ll think about it.” She turned her back on him and walked out the apartment, locking the door behind her.

He laid back on the floor, not caring that blood was running from his nose to his cheek. She had said maybe.

***

I wrote the following story a couple weeks ago for Cracked Flash in response to the prompt “I can’t answer that! You’ll beat me up!”It’s a snippet of satire with a touch of hyperbole that simultaneously abusive relationships and the divide politics can cause in them. I’ve changed the title and made some revisions. If you want to see the original and/or how other writer’s responded to the prompt, click here

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Happy #TRT – Tummy Rub Tuesday (Week 132)

Every once and a while, its good to stop thinking about politics for a few minutes and look at some really cute pictures of cats! Katzenworld’s Tummy Rub Tuesday post is a great way to do that! Enjoy the cuteness, and if you have your own kitties, don’t forget to give them some love. 🙂

Katzenworld

Hello everyone,

Welcome to another week of Tummy Rub Tuesday! Oh, and if you haven’t subscribed to our newsletter yet, why not sign up by clicking here to never miss a TRT again.

We have setup a Katzenworld Forum and ideally would like to encourage everyone to make their entries for Tummy Rub Tuesday on our new dedicated Tummy Rub Tuesday post. Simply leave a comment on this post and attach the image you’d like to use. If you’ve got more than one image to use make multiple comments!

Alternatively you can still send them in via info@katzenworld.co.uk. Or just leave a comment with the link to the post / photo you’d like us to use.

And in case you missed last week’s post click here to see the full list!

Brenna from Faith, Hope, Love, & Luck is always looking for a way to amuse herself on a…

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The True Danger of Fake News

While I do not shy away from politics on my social media accounts, I’ve tried to keep my political blog posts to a minimum. However, this post is political, and regardless of your views, I hope you will read on.

The True Danger of Fake News

By Sara Codair

No matter what side of the political divide people stand on, it is hard for them to deny that America is divided. What people do seem to disagree on, at least in comments, tweets, and Facebook posts, is what the source of this division is, who is encouraging it, and which side holds the majority.

While I don’t believe Trump created the divide from scratch, I am not alone in believing that he engineered its explosive growth. In his Atlantic article titled, “What Effective Protest Could Look Like,” David Frum, a former Bush-administration speechwriter, says “Trump wants to identify all opposition to him with the black-masked crowbar thugs who smashed windows and burned a limo on his inauguration day.” After an intense debate on an article about why Trump is not a Hitler-figure, I realized Trump had already done what Frum claims he wants. In an attempt to discredit me, his supporters kept bringing up allegedly violent liberal protestors who destroy people’s property. They wrote as if I been there,  destroying property and causing violence even though I’ve always believed violence undermines and delegitimizes protests.

In this political climate, the actions of those resisting Trump are being held under a virtual magnifying glass that highlights the worst of their actions. Frum writers, “Protesters may be up against something never before seen in American life: a president and an administration determined to seize on unrest to legitimate repression. Those protesters are not ready for it. Few Americans are.” I agree with him. We are not prepared for the information-manipulating Trump brought to the presidency with him despite all the warnings we have received from writers of dystopian fiction.

Whenever I try convince Trump supporters that they are being played, and/or that the liberals are not the evil baby-killers Trump portrays them as, they laugh at me. They tell me I am blinded by fake news and by snakes in sheep’s clothing and/or accuse me of living in my own little fantasy world. They say the “violent protestors” and “liberal media” are to blame. One person called The New York Times and The Washington Post liberal rags. Others called MSNBC and CNN fear-mongering fake news networks.

I won’t deny that the media has played its role in the growing divide, but I suspect they are being played, or possibly paid, by Trump. However, I cannot prove that last statement and will not even attempt to in this post because it is almost irrelevant. What matters is this: fake news exists on both sides. Regardless of who propagates it and which media outlets are actually fake news, it is out there. It exists. It is making the divide between American’s extremely difficult to bridge.

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to argue with Trump supports, trying to get them to at least consider my point of view. What always prevents me from getting through to them are, believe it or not, facts. If I cite facts from a publication I consider reputable, like The New York Times, the Trump supporters will tell me it is fake news and either cite a conservative news cite that I consider to be fake news, or deflect completely by brining up mistakes made by and/or outright lies about past presidents (or presidential candidates). They like to assume that since I oppose Trump, I am a big fan of “Killary” and her husband.

Yes – I was not protesting somethings Bill Clinton did in the early 90’s like I am protesting Trump. Why? Because I was a child in the early 90’s. I was a sheltered, innocent child who cared more about playing outside and making up stories than what some snobby, rich grown-ups were doing in what might as well have been a different world. When I tell them that much, the Trump supporters either stop responding, or resort to personal attacks and/or completely irrational statements.

Some of the Trump supporters historical counter arguments date back before Bill Clinton. They go back to the civil war and beyond. When history fails to convince me, they resort to what I perceive as nonsense. For example, I told one person I didn’t care which political party had ties to the KKK in the 1800’s because it was completely irrelevant to the argument were having. This person responded by telling my the democrats had a new KKK called Black Lives Matter.

Another person told me everything I believe about the democratic party was wrong. They said democrats don’t care about the marginalized and minorities but are using programs like welfare and food stamps to enslave them.

Someone brought up the proverb:

give a man a fish and you feed him for a dayteach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime

I said that is what the democrats are trying to do with affordable public college.

They thought college was a joke and “not good enough” and didn’t seem to care about successes I’ve witnessed working at community colleges.

Whether you think I’m right, a deluded “libtard,” or something in-between, I hope you can at least see that I seem to live in a different reality than the people I was arguing with. They think the democrats are evil and out to get them and have been conspiring to take their freedom. They see Trump as a savior and nothing I say, not matter how factual, can make them see otherwise because they claim facts they don’t agree with aren’t facts at all, but fake news. Perhaps those people, or you, might accuse me of the same thing.

As a person who was born and raised Catholic, and who still practices Catholicism and believes in the teachings of Jesus, I often feel alienated by other Christians. To me, and to many of my Catholic friends, Trump is the antithesis of our beliefs. We struggle to see how anyone who follows the teachings of Jesus could follow a man so filled with green, hate and arrogance.

Last weekend, I posted this tweet in reply to Fox Business’. screen-shot-2017-02-06-at-2-01-02-pm

And here are some of the replies I received:

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These people and I seem to exist in different realities, and I do not know how to bridge the gap between us without comprising my own values and faith.

America is divided.

As Abraham Lincoln said “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

 How much longer can America stand if her citizens remain so divided?

###

If I do not find myself to depressed or discouraged, I may write further posts exploring some of the issues I touched on briefly but did not fully explore in this post, like Christianity, Media, and Dystopian stories. Thank you for reading. Please feel free to comment, but please try to be respectful. Keep an open mind. Please.

 

 

Version 2

Micro Fiction: Be Better by Sara Codair

Note: This piece was originally written for Cracked Flash’s weekly writing contest. It didn’t win, but I still thought it was worth sharing since it is one of the first pieces I’ve written using gender neutral pronouns. I’ve been researching them for a while and often feel that if they were more known, I would rather use some neutral than she/her.

In the end, I think this piece was more of an excercise than a full story, but I’d love to hear what you all think of the Ey/Eir and how it worked in the piece. -Sara

Be Better
by Sara Codair

Eli, the captain of the guard, watched two figures silently move through the shadows. Ey unholstered eir blaster then stalked after them. Eir heart raced as they approached the supply house. The manager reported canned goods and medicine stolen, but no one had caught the culprit. Eli suspected that was because eir investigators pitied the fools who lived outside the compound.

The figures walked right past the supply house into the scrapyard. Nothing was reported stolen from there, though they rarely inventoried it since no one used cars. It was too dangerous for Eli’s people to leave the compound.

Ey followed the thieves right up to a rusty carcass of a pickup truck and waited until their heads vanished into the hood. Ey aimed eir blaster. “Freeze! Put your hands where I can see them.”

The two figures turned. Judging by their wrinkles, stubbly pale skin and flat chests, Eli guessed they were two middle aged white men – the kind of people that made it too dangerous for eir to live in out in the world.

“Please don’t shoot.” Both men dropped to their knees. “The government has gone nuts. We need your help.”

“Get off my property!” Eli undid the safety.

“Please let me take this. I’ll pay you back with labor. I have no money, my truck is broken, and my daughter needs to get to a hospital. She’s has a major infection.”

Part of Eli wanted to send the men away, reject them in the same way society had rejected eir, but as ey watched them look at her like they were praying to some forgotten god, ey couldn’t do it. “Take the part and bring your daughter here. We have doctors, and could use some help turning over the fields next week.”

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Purrsday Poetry: Lunch Nudge

I had a poem blogged on Katzenworld. Check it out.

Katzenworld

Lunch Nudge

By Sara Codair

Me:

focused on a wordy screen

until a black cloud

obscures my sight.

Fluff in my face

tickles my nose –

a feather duster

made of fur.

I sneeze.

He leaps.

Paws thud

on carpeted floor.
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Trilling chirps

precede the tail

that floats

like a periscope

as it wanders

towards the kitchen.

Trills evolve,

meows break

like rollers

in my ears.

Fluff rubs

on bare calves.

Feathered tail

caresses knees.

Meows demand

what’s in the can

be transferred

to the bowl.

I obey.

Purrs rumble

out of the fluff.

Content,

the kitty eats

while I stand guard.

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Need to Binge Read

Why I Need to Binge Read

By Sara Codair

 

The Binge Read is a dangerous thing for me. If I find a good series that reads like one long book, I can be lost in it for days, sometimes even weeks. The laundry piles up. The floor stays dirty. My spouse complains I don’t talk, that all I do is read.

One summer, while partially unemployed, I spent a little under two weeks reading all the Game of Thrones books. The year I discovered Jim Butcher, I did something similar with the all the Dresden Files books that were out at the time. Most recently, I binge read five Throne of Glass books, not realizing there was still one more book that had yet to be published.

Now, as I am wishing I didn’t have to wait for the 6th book, I am remembering why binge reading is so necessary once and a while. It lets me see how series come together over time, teaches me about character, and provides a much needed break from reality.

15781567_10101166390456465_3749649748742396582_n.jpgWhile reading the first book in the series, I saw a novel that wasn’t much better, at least in my biased opinion, than the one I am presently trying to sell. It stood on its own, but was clearly part of something bigger. It wasn’t perfect, but the vibrant characters had loads of potential, and the last scene teased me just enough to make me want to read on. So I did.

I was sick, and still one winter break. I grabbed my kindle and downloaded book 2. I watched the characters fall in and out of love, beat the odds with sass and swagger, all while I saw the author set up a plot that went well beyond what was hinted at in book 1, also giving me about how I could use that growth and progression in my own work.

I saw characters change, and I believed it because of how vivid the world was, because the actions and events made that change seem realistic, and because the emotion roiling behind their poker faces was so raw.

I’m still processing what, exactly, I learned about writing novels from this binge, and will be for some time. However, that is not the only benefit. The world is going crazy right now, and it was refreshing to see some arrogant, dirty, greedy rulers get their asses kicked by the people they oppressed. It was like, here is a guy that is way worse than the ones you have deal with in the real word, and oh look, that former slave is really kicking his ass, even if the plot later does follow a LOTR/Star Wars type thing and reveal the heroine is actually heir to a neighboring kingdom’s throne…

While I miss some of the characters like they are real people, I have a better appreciation for my own world, and a renewed motivation to not only use my own writing to play and create, but to revise the hell out of my WIP’s hoping that one day, someone will binge read my work.