Tag Archives: Author Erika Lance

The Great Sugar Plague – Featured Author: Erika Lance

FEATURED AUTHOR

Erika Lance

www.ErikaLance.com

Erika’s Facebook Page

 

Every time the Ink Slingers meet, we do two to three writing exercises that must include three to four specific words that were unknown to the author prior to hearing the loud “START!” command and then getting to it! We love sharing the end result with you.

Sometimes the author will have three unique shorts and other times the author will write a continuing story from one exercise to the next. These continuations can be tricky to create but this Ink Slinger killed it with this fun story.

Enjoy!

____________________________________

Plague

Sugar

Incongruous

 

She eyed him suspiciously over her modern history book. “I do not think that there was ever a plague caused by sugar, or the lack there of.”

“Of course there was” he replied not daring to raise his head.

“This is what you intend to have our project based on?” her tone was somewhere between annoyed and the ooze of distain.

“Yep” he replied and began to scribble notes.

It was now time for her to assert her superior knowledge “That is incongruous to the subject of pivotal women in history which is the topic we are supposed to focus on.”

There was a brief silence and then from the other side of the book “of course it isn’t. A woman of history caused the great sugar plague of 1983. Her name was Strawberry Shortcake it is on page 384 and will done on the use of the word incongruous.”

She started turning the pages before it hit her what he had actually said.

 

 

Shocked

Fallow

Wordy

She slammed the book closed and stood up “Strawberry Shortcake is not a woman of historical importance!” her voice drawing attention from most of the other students in the library, some giggling.

He responded again without looking up “Did you turn to page 384?” his voice calm as could be.

Her emotions were teetering between shocked and angry. She was shockingly angry in fact. Why in the hell had she been paired with this… this.. she couldn’t even think of the word to mentally call him.

“That’s it” her voice still louder then she intended “I’m done!”

She started to gather her things when he stated “The great sugar fields laid fallow years after the great  sugar plague of 1983. The consumption having been diminished in the effort to remove the continuing threat.”

Now he looked directly at her.

She squinted her eyes and could only say “Your wordy made up story is laughable.”

He turned the book around to page 384 showing a picture of the fields and Strawberry Shortcake in cuffs.

 

Disagreement

Phallic

Board

 

This is not happening she muttered to herself as she opened her book to page 384. She scanned it quickly and only saw a phallic symbol in the middle of the page. She looked closer, it was actually an oil rig and not a …. Never mind she thought.

“Give me your book” she said as she reached for it. His face shifted ever so slightly in disagreement to her request and then he handed it too her.

She looked at the page and sure enough it was about a great sugar plague.

“What the hell….” She said under her breath as she began to flip the pages. There was page after page of history as written by Saturday morning cartoons.

As she looked though several more pages she looked up again to find that her ‘partner’ had pulled out a piece of poster board to begin the project.

“Where did you get this book?” She asked. It, by all appearances seemed as real as hers. “Prof. Dumbledore” he replied smiling as if this answered any further questions she had.

“I give up” she said as she sat back down in defeat.

About Erika Lance

I would say I was fortunate, some would say otherwise, to have a chance to live across the US. Originally from Minneapolis, MN I spent most of my formative years in Hollywood, CA, then NM, CO, GA, WI and FL. Moving around a lot meant I got to see so many interesting parts of our country and the cultures that are all around us. All through my life I was lucky to have many artists; writers, actors, painters, poets and musicians. It made for a very wild upbringing. I grew up as an elusive female nerd. My head was either buried in a book or playing RPGs (if your cool you know what that means), it made for an imaginative existence. My love of writing started at a young age and although I wrote a lot for myself, it took hitting that certain moment in my life to decide I wanted to share my universe with the world. With that said, it will most likely be an amazing ride so hold on tight.

 

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Woo the Assassin – an ISG Writing Exercise

On 21 March 2018, these three words were chosen:

  • Disagreement
  • Phallic
  • Board

And these blurbs were written within five minutes….Enjoy!

FEATURED AUTHOR

LISA BARRY:

I couldn’t look him in the eye with my body responding in such an unprofessional manner. I was here to take a contract out on someone’s life for God’s sake, not woo the assassin. I glanced around the diner only to have my eyes land on a phallic mask that I knew had something to do with the doctors that treated people with the plague.

I quickly looked away only to hear the last of a disagreement a couple was having behind me, where verbiage about appendage size was loudly announced to the room. The man must have gotten up so quickly that his chair hit the ground. He rushed out the front door, slamming it so hard the board in the bottom half fell out. I giggled. Martin chuckled.

And everything seemed normal again.

“I need my nephew to go on vacation,” I stated. “He’s deserved it with everything he’s done for this family.” Anger boiled under my skin but when I turned back to Martin, his lip curled slightly, and the anger dissolved.

“I’ll do it on one condition,” Martin said and leaned back in his chair.

I raised my brows.

“Let me take you to dinner.”

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NICOLE DRAGONBECK:

The huge stones were arranged in a series of circles around the largest one, sitting in the center of the formation, casting a vaguely phallic shape against the darkening sky. “So, what do we have to do?” Lily asked, a nervous tremor in her voice. “We have to wait until the first star appears, and then it will lead us through the stones, into another realm,” Maria answered with infinite patience. The place had been boarded up and signs warning of imminent death or fines tried to scare would-be trespassers away. Maria ducked under one such, but Lily remained outside, shifting her weight from one foot to the next. Maria sighed. She couldn’t believe they were still having this disagreement, and when they were so close. “Look, do you want to find out what happened to Billy and the others or not?” she called out, all patience gone from her tone. “Yes, but,” Lily faltered. “Look, we don’t have time for this,” Maria called back as she stood and looked up at the sky. “I’m going to look for them. You can come if you want, or not.” She found the first faint glimmer of a star, and followed it into the dark, disappearing from view. “Maria?” Lily called, more agitated than ever. “Maria?” When Lily ducked under the forbidding sign, she looked up to find a million stars glittering in the sky and no trace of her friend.

h under her chin.

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ERIKA LANCE:

This is not happening she muttered to herself as she opened her book to page 384. She scanned it quickly and only saw a phallic symbol in the middle of the page. She looked closer, it was actually an oil rig and not a …. Never mind she thought.

“Give me your book” she said as she reached for it. His face shifted ever so slightly in disagreement to her request and then he handed it too her.

She looked at the page and sure enough it was about a great sugar plague.

“What the hell….” She said under her breath as she began to flip the pages. There was page after page of history as written by Saturday morning cartoons.

As she looked though several more pages she looked up again to find that her ‘partner’ had pulled out a piece of poster board to begin the project.

“Where did you get this book?” She asked. It, by all appearances seemed as real as hers. “Prof. Dumbledore” he replied smiling as if this answered any further questions she had.

“I give up” she said as she sat back down in defeat.

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DESIREE MATLOCK:

Jack and I were out here in front of the college trying to collect signatures to save the endangered southern warbler from encroachment, and there was a small gang of coeds surrounding him waggling fingers. It looked like the disagreement was getting out of hand.

I could see I needed to intervene.

“What’s going on here, Jack?” The man was clutching his clip board close, looking like he was trying to turn beige and sink into the bricks behind him.

“This MAN was trying to coerce us into signing a petition and waved his phallic symbol in front of our faces yelling about what we needed to do,” said one of the ladies.

“Do you mean… his pen?” I asked, surprised. I spotted the same T-shirt on all the women. It said “GIRLS JUST WANT TO HAVE FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS”.

“So typical of the patriarchy to just order us to do things. We don’t need your commands, MAN,” another one of the girls said, and everyone nodded. They obviously meant “man” as an insult.

“Well, here’s mine. Want to look?” Apparently my phallus, I mean pen, was okay, and the ladies signed and left.

“Sorry Jack, tomorrow we’ll go back to standing in front of the Target store.”

www.DesisTwoCents.com

JM PAQUETTE:

Jeremy followed behind her, unable to break her hold on his hand, glancing behind at the girl with a look of woe that would have torn her heart if she hadn’t spent more than half of her life listening to him whine and complain. No, not complain, she corrected herself. She recalled the lengthy diatribe she’d received when she told him that–apparently, to complain meant to write love poetry back in the Middle Ages, a fact that Sara found hilarious, but Jeremy was definitely not writing love poetry in her honor. He’d worn himself out over the centuries writing love ballads about his beloved anchoress, trapped behind her walls of stone, wrongly persecuted for a crime she was of course completely innocent of, a minor disagreement with the Church that ended with her judged to die in solitude for some no doubt phallic-inspired sin that Sara didn’t even recognize or care about.

She was really tired of listening to Jeremy’s lectures, of the way he bemoaned his past, the way he judged her every move. She paused. What was she doing? She could let him go back inside, leave him to the teenage witch, and be done with him.

Maybe this was what she was supposed to do all along. Maybe her trial was over, her long journey to the end reached, her score on the tally board of destiny even. She looked down at their linked hands, then back up at the wistful expression on the old ghost’s face.

She stopped walking in the parking lot. “Jeremy?” she began. “Do you…” She let the words trail off. Was she willing to let him go? She thought of the girl inside, so young, so eager, so…absolutely unequipped to deal with a spirit of Jeremy’s caliber. What was she thinking to cast off her burden to another so clearly unprepared for the job? This was probably why she had been cursed with the ghost in the first place. She was unworthy, unable to follow through to the end. She stared at him, perplexed as always when she wandered down this path. Jeremy knew the reason why, but he would never tell her.

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BRANDON SCOTT:

Some disagreements are sensible, and some are not. However, there is a third category of this that some might not consider or validate as such: and that is the ones that are so odd and out of the realm of normal conversation that they enter perhaps a different phase of human understanding.

This disagreement, held while shopping for a new board, a headboard for a bed specifically, was of that last section.

“I swear to you, on my mother’s grave, that man’s head was so phallic is represented the patriarchy.”

“You mean phallic symbols do?”

“No.” He shook his head. “No. His head, his head of all heads, specifically, represents men’s hold on this world.”

She stared at him for a moment, pondering this: considering this. Wondering as to what might have been going on for this baffling man. Then, with a deep sigh beforehand, she asked the only question that seemed obvious to her to ask. “Are you drunk?”

He did a double take and even looked a tad offended. “Umm, no? I think that man’s head is the avatar of sexism.”

“I want a divorce,” she replied immediately.

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Strawberry Shortcake in Cuffs – an ISG Writing Exercise

On 21 March 2018, these three words were chosen:

  • Shocked
  • Fallow (not in use/utilized, light brown color)
  • Wordy

And these blurbs were written within five minutes….Enjoy!

FEATURED AUTHOR

ERIKA LANCE:

She slammed the book closed and stood up “Strawberry Shortcake is not a woman of historical importance!” her voice drawing attention from most of the other students in the library, some giggling.

He responded again without looking up “Did you turn to page 384?” his voice calm as could be.

Her emotions were teetering between shocked and angry. She was shockingly angry in fact. Why in the hell had she been paired with this… this.. she couldn’t even think of the word to mentally call him.

“That’s it” her voice still louder then she intended “I’m done!”

She started to gather her things when he stated “The great sugar fields laid fallow years after the great  sugar plague of 1983. The consumption having been diminished in the effort to remove the continuing threat.”

Now he looked directly at her.

She squinted her eyes and could only say “Your wordy made up story is laughable.”

He turned the book around to page 384 showing a picture of the fields and Strawberry Shortcake in cuffs.

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LISA BARRY:

I stumbled mentally as our gazes held. My heart thumped heavily and then twisted slightly. My eyes widened, shocked at what my body was telling me. Impossible. An assassin? Really? My usually wordy self failed me.

Martin cleared his throat in an effort to fill the sudden silence. He sipped his coffee and I took a bite of my muffin. I wondered if he knew.

A very short, fallow skinned fellow came through the door. He glanced at Martin, then at me, his eyes lingering for a little too long. I felt Martin tense and it confused me. The little man must have noticed, he turned away and rushed to a seat on the other side of the restaurant.

As I watched the man settle in to the table, a dark and melodic voice spoke.

“What can I help you with?”

My traitorous body swooned. Martin chose that moment to smile at me. I sighed.

“I need someone taken care of,” I whispered.

Martin leaned his head on his hand, elbow on the table and leaned in to me.

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NICOLE DRAGONBECK:

“The sad part of the whole tale was that the finest mind in all the realms was sentenced to lay fallow and go to ruin and waste, locked in a tower until the man died or the world ended,” James finished, only slurring a little, pointing dramatically at the ceiling of the pub. Trema leaned close to Halfard. “Does he always get this wordy when he’s drunk?” Halfard looked shocked. “Lass, he isn’t even close to being drunk.” Trema frowned, doubting the large man’s perception, but then she spied James collecting the coins from the other habitants of the pub with a hand that was steady and eyes that were clear and sharp. He looked up, caught her staring, and winked. She turned away, warmth infusing her cheeks, and didn’t look up until a thump and the protest of the chair announced that James had returned to the table. “Dinner’s on me,” he announced grandly. Halfard grunted, and took another chunk of bread. Trema nodded in thanks. “What was all that?” she asked. “All what?” James replied. “On the stage? Nothing. Remnants of a life best forgotten, my dear. By me, you, and everyone else.” He smiled brightly at her, but it didn’t reach his eyes.

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DESIREE MATLOCK:

Uh oh, Josh was up next. After Dee’s dental mishap, we knew the story was in need of some serious beefing up, and nobody but nobody could manage that quite so well as their resident Wordy McWordsmith.

Especially since this was a fantasy story, and not only had the second flash fiction speaker killed off the dragon – their only protagonist – but now we had yellow-toothed zombies running amok, and Jess was worried that they wouldn’t be able to get the story back on track before it got to Alina, their final contributor. She honestly wrote fantasy best, and would make it all end in a cliffhanger of epic proportions, which was great for once it was uploaded. Lotsa twitter followers from that. It would have shocked half the group into stunned silence if she ever ended anything without a cliffhanger. Josh stepped up.

“The zombies turned as one toward the fallow field away from the villagers, which frightened them more than simply attacking would have. As they all congregated on the ashes of where our dragon fell, those ashes rose from the ground and formed back into a mangled broken dragon, Smoke more than fire belched forth. The villagers cowered as a zombie dragon flapped before them, torn wing still working by some unknown magic. Now our noble hero knew that the villagers truly were doomed.”

Boom. Epic save. Over to Alina to wrap it up in a tidy little bow for the blog. They were totally gonna get at least ten new followers from this, Jess thought.

www.DesisTwoCents.com

JM PAQUETTE:

A gasp from a few feet away made her look up and she caught the shocked expression of a teenage girl standing on the other side of the coffee dispensers. Sara followed the line of the girl’s gaze directly to where Jeremy stood in all of his disapproving, judgemental glory.

She narrowed her eyes at the newcomer. What was this? No one else could see Jeremy. Her was her ghost, dammit, her burden to bear, her problem to solve, her crusade to….whatever. She cursed herself. Sometimes it didn’t pay to get too wordy. She had to do something, and fast.

The ghost was also noticing this new attention, and he lit up like a glowstick, preening in his elegant, ancient costume, preparing to make a leg at the young girl who was clearly looking at him, the first person to acknowledge him in centuries.

“Madam,” he began, and Sara shoved herself between them, breaking their line of sight, and hopefully their connection. His diplomacy skills had lay fallow for a long time–he didn’t need to rekindle them now. Not here. And certainly not with her.

“But–” the girl was saying, mouth open in awe.

“Oh no,” Sara told her, reaching out to grab Jeremy’s hand, knowing that he would respond to her touch as he always did, but to nothing else in the real world. “No freaking way.” There was no way her ghost was going to haunt her for all these years only to run off at the last second with some second-sighted tramp in a convenience store.

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BRANDON SCOTT:

“They left the field fallow, okay?”

“Fallow?”

“Yes, fallow.”

“Look, Kent, I get that you know a lot of words, but I…well, I don’t. English is a lovely language, perhaps use it?”

“I am using it.”

“But you’re being so wordy about it.”

“Okay, fine. My point is this: in my story, there is a tree, and the tree is very tall, and it has a lot of stuff on top of it that is very green.”

“Okay, now you are just being purposely child-like.”

“Yes, I am. It’s called sarcasm, are you shocked by it?”

“A tad—yes.”

“Why?”

“You’re not usually sarcastic.”

“Oh—well, fine, I guess.”

“I’m just saying. But, do tell me, what is the deal with the tree you’re blathering on about?”

“The tree that grew in that fallow earth?”

“Ugh, yes—that one.”

“Oh. I wanted to show you it.”

“So, this is a real tree?”

“Yep. Real tree. Come on, it’s got something on it, I wanted to show it to you.”

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Among the Humans – an ISG Writing Exercise

On 21 March 2018, these three words were chosen:

  • Sugar
  • Incongruous (doesn’t match/fit) not in keeping with the surrounding
  • Plague

And these blurbs were written within five minutes….Enjoy!

FEATURED AUTHOR

BRANDON SCOTT:

“All I’m saying is that sort of reaction is entirely incongruous to a normal human reaction.”

Skreet raised his eyebrow in annoyance. “And?”

“And, if we want to go among the humans, we are going to need to not do stupid things like eating someone’s head.”

Skreet was about to say something in his defense, but burped, and looked around for a moment as if being told something from off-stage in a play. “Okay, I can see how that might have been an overreaction, but he was pissing me off.”

“Sugar works better than acid,” Hew said to him. “Human’s are rather egotistical creatures.”

Skeet nodded to the wisdom and bent down to drag away the body that he had made in anger. He winced a bit as his hand touched the skin—disguise suit or not, he did not want to catch a plague from these filthy little meat apes.

“Fine, fine,” Fleet added as he shoved the body into a closet and sprayed a thin stream of acid onto the corpse. He hoped the smell would not be much of an issue, as it could potentially give him away. “But, please, let’s get on with it—I don’t want to spend much time on this freaking planet.”

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LISA BARRY:

Martin put another spoon of sugar in his coffee. He stirred, lifted the cup to his nose, took and long inhale and then put the cup back down. He went for another spoonful of sugar.

I was here, in this odd diner decorated with medieval influences of the plague and hoping to hire an assassin. Martin had come highly recommended. I was impressed with his attire. Sharp, custom suit in a navy blue, bold yellow tie. His green combat boots were an incongruous addition, but it worked somehow. His red hair was cut short and neat. I thought it odd that his eclectic dress would be conducive to being an assassin but since my father had recommended him, and my father pretty much thought everyone was incompetent, I overlooked the appearance.

After two more scoops of sugar Martin seemed happy with his coffee and took a sip. I was thinking that perhaps he was half-fae. I had lost count of the total sugar added but it seemed like it may have been half a cup or so.

Martin’s bright blue eyes met mine.

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NICOLE DRAGONBECK:

She walked into the old shop, assaulted by the smells of dust and mould and time. A bell chimed, but it sounded far away, and she didn’t think the store was that big. “Hello?” she called out, her voice tiny in the dim space. This was the right place, she had stood outside and checked the address written on the scrap of paper a half dozen times before working up the courage to come inside. She didn’t know what she was afraid of. It wasn’t as if she were going to catch the plague or anything horrible like that. “Hello?” she called out again. This time her voice bounced back to her from several different corners, making the hair stand up on her arms. She wished she had brought a jacket. As she kept walking through the shop, her eyes taking in the myriad of objects and furniture on display to the non-existent customers to keep her mind off why she was here, she noticed something that made her stop in her tracks. At first she thought it was the incongruous nature of the object – a shiny and immaculate tea set complete with sugar tongs and silver tray, sitting among such dusty and forgotten objects, but that wasn’t it. She stepped closer, and saw clearly what it was that had caught her attention from the corner of her eye. The pattern along the dishes was a repetition of the same symbol on the paper that had brought her here.

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ERIKA LANCE:

She eyed him suspiciously over her modern history book. “I do not think that there was ever a plague caused by sugar, or the lack there of.”

“Of course there was” he replied not daring to raise his head.

“This is what you intend to have our project based on?” her tone was somewhere between annoyed and the ooze of distain.

“Yep” he replied and began to scribble notes.

It was now time for her to assert her superior knowledge “That is incongruous to the subject of pivotal women in history which is the topic we are supposed to focus on.”

There was a brief silence and then from the other side of the book “of course it isn’t. A woman of history caused the great sugar plague of 1983. Her name was Strawberry Shortcake it is on page 384 and will done on the use of the word incongruous.”

She started turning the pages before it hit her what he had actually said.

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DESIREE MATLOCK:

Dee was motioning with her arms ferociously, really getting into telling her piece of tonight’s flash fiction exercise, way too overzealous, but since she’d eaten the entire delivery’s worth of sugar donuts while the rest of them worked on their Moo Goo Gai Pan and General Tzo, it made sense.

“It was then that a plaque of zombies descended on the peaceful villagers, and our noble hero was fending them off with his bat, when-”

“Wait wait – you mean a plague here, right?” Jess interrupted. “A plague can descend. Plaque doesn’t descend, well maybe, but very very slowly from the upper teeth.”

Dee looked confused, answering at a mile a minute. “No, I mean, it’s plaque, right? ”

“Unless your hero is a dentist, no.”

“Argh. Again?” Dee had apparently learned all her words from books, which made for some hilariously incongruous uses and pronunciations.

“We’ll wait while you look up the difference between these two words, love.” Jess said kindly. The rest of the group nodded. It had happened to them all at some point, although perhaps not at quite the same level.

Dee deleted, edited and continued on. She really was quite a good writer, as long as the rest of her friends were there to catch her misnomers. But, that’s what a writing group is for.

www.DesisTwoCents.com

JM PAQUETTE:

Jeremy was watching her as she fixed her coffee. His voice was bland when he spoke, “You want some coffee with that sugar?”

She glared at him, allowing the stream of white grains to trail slowly off before grabbing the stir stick to slowly, deliberately, mix her drink. “I don’t think you’re in a position to judge,” she commented, taking a small sip and closing her eyes in pleasure at the sweetness filling her senses.

“I just think if you’re going to have the pleasure of actual coffee, you should be able to taste it, to appreciate it.”

She took another small sip, the heat nearly taking the skin off the roof of her mouth, but totally worth it for the slice of heaven that exploded against her taste buds.

“I am absolutely appreciating it,” she told him. “More than you ever could.”

“What do you know?” he snapped. “You don’t appreciate anything you have.”

“Look,” she said, turning to face the ghost directly, his faded shape incongruous against the bright lights of the convenient store. She knew no one else could see him. She’d gotten good at having quiet conversations no one else noticed. “Just because you died during the Black Plague does not mean you get to judge me for every modern convenience.”

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A Figure Came into Sight – an ISG Writing Exercise

On 7 March 2018, these three words were chosen:

  • Hoodie
  • Green
  • Sight

And these blurbs were written within five minutes….Enjoy!

FEATURED AUTHOR

NICOLE DRAGONBECK:

A figure came into sight over the crest of the hill, a green hoodie obscuring their features. Berryl waited, leaning against the tree and taking small sips from the waterskin, waiting for the stranger to come to her. When the person got closer, she raised her hand in greeting, but the figure did not return the gesture, and simply continued down the road at a fast clip. Berryl blinked, her hand still in the air, and then hastily lowered it. She had been on this road for two weeks, and had encountered three people coming from the opposite direction before this fellow. They had been amiable enough travelers, and had stopped to talk and give news of the road conditions ahead. One had even offered her an apple they had pilfered from an orchard several days ahead. Berryl shrugged, picked up her pack, and set off down the road. She crested the hill the stranger had just come over, and surveyed the land on the other side, which looked much like the land she had just traversed, farmland interspersed with woodland. In the distance, a faint smudge suggested a larger forest, or perhaps mountains. Just as she proceeded to take her next step, a knife came from behind, and pressed against the tender flesh under her chin.

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LISA BARRY:

When I walked in the room the first thing that was not quite right was the grey hoodie thrown over the living room chair. As I continued toward the back of the house, the second thing to make me frown was the green… well it looked like hair. The hoodie wasn’t mine, but it could have been the cleaner’s who had come earlier or even the meal prep chef who hopefully had left the next week worth of meals in my freezer but the hair? Fuzzy blobs of green continued to greet my sight as I made my way into the kitchen. There was a ridiculous amount of on the floor near the sink and more leading to the back door.

Curiosity had me stop and check the freezer. Yep! Yummy meals for the week. I walked to the back door and flung it open looking out into the shadowed yard, the sun almost set. I heard a low growl and turned in time to see pale white skin with weird blotches of green fur and teeth. Very large teeth. A blur lunged at me and as it tore into my throat I could only think of one thing.

I’m not getting to eat those yummy meals.

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ANNE CARGILE:

“Well what do you think?” Mickey asked as he turned and showed off his new hoodie.

“I think you look ridiculous boyo. That green clashes badly with your red hair,” I replied, unimpressed.

“Oh come on, I thought it was quite dapper!” Mickey made a sad face, and started playing with his collar, adjusting the hood. It made him look like a twitchy green and red hunchback.

I harrumped and shook my head. Damn kids. “I don’t know what happened with ya kid, but as a leprechaun you’re a sad sight for sure. What are ya trying to do? Scare the wee ones from ever coming out?” I could tell I was upset by the length of my brogue. I may have lived in the new lands for a few hundred years, but the mother country never really leaves one.

I sighed. St Patrick’s Day was a blessed day, and one of the few days leprechauns could come out in the open without fear. My job was to teach the youngsters, and make sure no one got caught. As a breed we’re a greedy bunch, and any pot of gold one of my charges lost, I’d have to replace.

I looked at Mickey again. “I guess you could pass for a daft college boy,” I said.

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DALIA LANCE:

She flicked more cupcake off of her and although the towel was now covered she was still a sight.

“Explain what happened?” I asked trying to gather up all of the make-up wipes she had cast off. The alley didn’t need cleaning I just needed to do something so I wasn’t staring as she finally dropped the tablecloth to skirt level and pulled on my green hoodie I handed her.

“I wanted to surprise Steve as you know” I nodded as I could tell she was getting worked up now and just let her continue “and it turns out when I asked him what he wanted he said what he had really wanted was for me to meet his ‘book club’ which seemed weird, so instead of the awesome plan I had set-up I went over to his house.” I nodded again realizing she was waiting for encouragement.

“Turns out there isn’t books he meets once a month with a bunch of guys that like to watch girls sit on cakes and smash bakery items on themselves.” I pursed my lips so I wouldn’t laugh. I wanted to ask how she had agreed to such a thing along with about fifty other questions but all I could ask was “So did he have a good birthday?”

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JM PAQUETTE:

“I shouldn’t even be here,” I moaned an hour later, my arm numb and about to fall off, useless weapon landing in the dirt that was soon going to be drenched with my blood. “They weren’t even looking for me.” I glared at him, at his long, lanky body, at arms that had clearly seen some training, at those feet that knew exactly which way to step. “This is all your fault.”

“My fault?” he echoed, bending to pick up the flail and shove it back into my useless fingers. I used my other hand to hold it in place, knowing that all of this was useless. “I wasn’t the one who started shouting at the guards.”

I sniffed, looking away from his accusing green eyes, trying to ignore the sight of a slightly flushed sweaty elf standing less than a foot away from me. He was, after all, the elf that was going to kill me soon. It was just like that old gypsy woman said. “I wasn’t shouting at them. I was trying to find out what they wanted.”

He shrugged. “Don’t you know that guards never actually find what they set out looking for? They just find the next person who gives them any crap and lug them down to the stadium for some good times with Cyrus.” He gave me a once over, similar to the one he’d given me when we’d met at the bar last night, though with a different objective in mind.

“You’re pretty enough,” he commented. “I’m surprised you ended up in here. I figured you’d end up with him.”

I pulled my arms close around my body, barely ignoring the urge to pull up my hoodie and cover myself. But my arms didn’t work anymore, and I was sweating from all the movement.

He thinks I’m pretty, my mind yammered at me. Of course, now I’m going to die.

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ALANNA J. RUBIN

“Joe, are you sure you feel okay? You’re looking really green.” Joe pulled his hoodie tightly around him and nodded, afraid that speaking would break his concentration on keeping the contents of his stomach inside his body. He hated boats, but wanted to impress Rebecca by showing her the sights.

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BRANDON SCOTT:

Coming Soon!

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Are We a Coterie? – an ISG Writing Exercise

On 7 March 2018, these three words were chosen:

  • Flail
  • Rushed
  • Coterie (an intimate and often exclusive group of persons with a unifying common interest or person (sense of negativity as the group excludes others))

And these blurbs were written within five minutes….Enjoy!

FEATURED AUTHOR

ANNE CARGILE:

“So are we a coterie or not?” Sandy asked.

Debbie glanced at her friend, her arm mid swing with the flail. “I don’t know. I hadn’t really thought about it. What does that even mean? Can you look it up?”

“Sure,” Sandy said as she pulled out her iPhone, her fingers flying over the mini keyboard.

The flail finished its swing and the scream echoed across the cavern. Sandy’s eyes darted to the sacrifice, then back to the glowing screen in front of her.

“Damnit , the cell service really sucks down here,” she whined. “We should pay for wi-fi.”

Debbie nodded in agreement as she eyed her victim critically. She hated to be rushed in these things. “So what does it say?”

“Oh. Sorry got distracted checking my snaps. Um, like, we’re an exclusive group or club with common interests it says.”

“Yeah, I guess we are then,” Debbie said as she laid another stripe down the man’s back. She grinned as the cavern filled with another round of echoes.

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LISA BARRY:

Christina’s arms flailed as she started to fall, the light moss on the ground deceptively slippery. Reno rushed to grab her but he too hit the moss and fell with her. Her turned as they went down, landing heavily on his back, Christina’s only damage ended up being her pride as she lay on top of him haphazardly. She scrambled from his grasp despite the strong pull to stay there. Reno stood and brushed himself off.

“Thank you,” Christina whispered, the sky was getting darker and despite her urges, she had to stop even thinking about Reno in any way especially that way. Mardella, the head of her coterie was betrothed to the man, since she was child they say. It broke Christina’s heart. A quick glance at Reno’s blushing face and she thought it might break his as well.

They rushed toward the distant fire burning in the clearing ahead.

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NICOLE DRAGONBECK:

“You can’t excommunicate me, I founded this Coven!” Tera screamed at the robed figures condemning her from their high perches behind the half-moon table. Tall figures were suddenly on either side of her, grabbing her arms and rushing her out of the old cathedral, as she flailed and screeched. The sounds of her displeasure echoed long after she had been removed, and only when they had died down did the members at the table remove their hoods, casting uneasy glances at each other. Redd watched them with a carefully neutral expression. No one was certain about what they had done. As Tera had pointed out, she had formed the group, but under her tyrannical guidance, the Coven had become more of a coterie, and when Witches and Wizards who disagreed with her methods and beliefs started disappearing, and then turning up dead, it was determined that her influence was most likely at fault, and it had to end. “She won’t stop,” Treven, a nervous looking Wizard at the far end of the table said. “This will just make her angrier.” “Our laws won’t allow for anything more,” Nell answered briskly, pushing her glasses up her nose. “We have people watching her. She won’t cause any further trouble.”

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DALIA LANCE:

“Send me the address” I said trying not to giggle too hard. I could tell she was distressed and I didn’t want her flailing around spraying the cupcake all over the alley. That could be dangerous. I laughed at that thought as I rushed out the door ordering the Uber on the way.

She wasn’t far it turned out. In less then ten minutes I was able to get to the building and find the alley “Chrissie?” I tentatively asked, hoping she would reply.

She walked out and she was in fact covered head to toe in cupcake matter. “Ummm… What?” I didn’t get my question out before she was sobbing “It was terrible!”

I wasn’t sure what ‘it’ was, but again before I could form the right question to ask she blurted out “It was a coterie of cupcake smashers.” She was pulling frosting full of glittery sprinkles from her hair. I handed her the bag I brought with make-up wipes and towel and asked “Cupcake what?”

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JM PAQUETTE:

He stared at the weapon in my hand, eyes squinting. “Did you honestly just pick up a flail?”

I shrugged, trying to look as though I used weapons like this all the time. “Yeah. So what?” I asked. When he didn’t reply, I added, “You said to get a weapon. I pick this one.”

“Bloody farmer. There’s no need to be so rushed,” he told me. “You can take a moment, think things over. We have all afternoon to do this.”

I ignored the insult and looked around at the empty amphitheatre, at the rows and rows of seats that would be filled in a few hours, patrons eager to see the newest death match in Cyrus’s games. We’d gotten a lot of advertising for this one. I’d heard the slaves chattering about it when I first woke up in the cell beneath the stadium this morning, the coterie unwilling to share any more with an outsider like me. “I think we should probably figure out what we’re going to do sooner than that.” I gestured at him with the flail. “This will look good, no? Give them something to ooh and aah about? That’s what Cyrus wants anyway.”

I moved the handle from my right to my left hand, weighing it, deciding if I would be able to do anything at all with it when the time came. It definitely had potential to inflict damage. He shook his head, choosing an axe from the weapon stand and taking slow steps toward me. “Tell me you’ve had some training,” he muttered.

I held the flail up, hoping I had the right side pointed at him, the end swaying gently as I breathed. “I’ve had some training?” I replied.

“We’re both going to die,” he said, taking a deep breath.

“We’re in the games,” I told him. “That’s the general idea.”

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ALANNA J. RUBIN

Jax looked around the coterie of warlocks who were now gathered in a circle. In its center lay two candles nearly burned down to nothing, the scalding wax having spread across the pentagram that was etched into the floor. Rising from the center was a shadow that seemed to flail as if in pain, its arms and legs contorting into abnormal and frightening positions. Some members of the group rushed away frightened by what they had summoned. Others stared on, entranced by the macabre dance, but their eyes widened in horror as the translucent figure became solid.

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BRANDON SCOTT:

coming soon

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That One’s Marked – an ISG Writing Exercise

On 18 October 2017, these three words were chosen:

  • Marked 

  • Butterscotch 

  • Grime 

And these blurbs were written within five minutes….Enjoy!

FEATURED AUTHOR

LISA BARRY:

Sully licked the butterscotch from his fingers and sat heavily into the stool. He looked over the small pub and smiled, his missing teeth making Fitch, who was standing nearby, flinch. The room was covered in grime and old beer but the night had been a good one and even the grime couldn’t keep Sully from his joy. He tossed a copper to Fitch who barely caught it.

“Get some’in to clean it, eh?” he said. Fitch nodded and pocketed the coin.

“What about ‘em?” Fitch pointed toward the far corner.

Sully’s lip curled down and he frowned. “That one’s marked, he is. I don’t know if’n we should leave ‘m there or kick him out.” He jingled the coins in his pocket. “Feeling lucky today. Let’s leave him to dry out, yeh?”

Fitch nodded and patted Sully on the shoulder before heading to the stairs toward his room.

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NICOLE DRAGONBECK:

“Who are you?” Tim stammered, clutching the turkey to his breast as if it would protect him.

The second man smiled wider. “My name is Toppam.” The man bowed and touched his hat.

Tim started. No one had ever bowed to him.

“And who do I have the pleasure of addressing?” The man had a pleasant smell reminiscent of butterscotch hanging around him, and his fine clothes seemed to repel the grime of the dirty alley they were standing in.

“My name is Tim. Tim Calloway,” Tim nodded, and raised his hand to his forehead though he had no hat to tip.

“Mr. Calloway, it is an honor to make your acquaintance,” Toppam said. “Would you walk with me this evening?”

Tim didn’t think he had a choice, so he nodded and fell into step beside the tall, sinister man.

“You are probably wondering why I came to seek you out,” Toppam continued in the same dignified voice that hinted at a private joke.

Tim nodded. “Yes, Mr. Toppam, sir, the thought has crossed my mind.”

“No, it’s just Toppam,” the man corrected, flashing pointed teeth again. “And it is a simple enough answer Mr. Calloway. You’re a marked man, sir, a man marked for greatness, if you would only allow me to assist you in that endeavor.”

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ERIKA LANCE:

“I don’t think that is butterscotch” she said as she pointed to the grime on the cookies.  

 

“What do you mean?” He replied. 

 

“Well, for one, it is green.” She said, and when he seemed unconvinced she continued “and then there is the smell.” 

 

She realized then, although first mistaking him for human he had none of the senses.  

 

“Why were you marked?’ She asked as she dumped the tray of cookies covered in green slime into the trash. 

 

At first she could she he was going to be defensive. Then before he uttered a word his head dropped, no longer meeting her graze and said “Twice. This year and the last.” 

 

She felt some pity for him. When a fay lost their senses, sight, smell, hearing, they became more and more human losing any identifier of their race. 

 

“What did you do?” She asked. 

 

“I fell in love and then wouldn’t give up on her” he replied. 

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ALANNA J. RUBIN

Axton wiped the grime from his brow and then popped another butterscotch morsel into his thin-lipped mouth. He’d been trapped in the tomb for at least a day, he calculated, based on the remaining number of morsels in his bag of candy. Axton had followed the instructions marked on the worn map he’d found on a dig in Giza. It had promised the riches of one of the wealthiest dynasties of Egypt, but so far, he was met with nothing but death. The natives had warned him of the curse, he didn’t listen and now he was in serious trouble.

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BRANDON SCOTT

“Uh, no, well, I would not appreciate it,” Henry replied, and took a step away as it waddled toward him, still disturbingly glistening and now somewhat tainted by the floor’s grime.

“Oh, well, hypocrisy and a butcher then,” the bird said, his voice taking on a grim tone. “We can’t have that. Perhaps I teach you how we serve humans on Bird’s-Giving then.”

“You made that up,” Henry commented, stalling for time. He looked for some sort of weapon—but it was dead already, so he had no idea what would help.

“I did. Yes.” The turkey made the inside of its hollow neck produce a sucking sound. “But, then, since I did, I get to decide the traditions. How about you are drowned in butterscotch, or lit on fire with brandy. How about I stuff you with cactuses?”

Henry did not like the sound of any of that. A deep sense of confusion was also making the whole thing odder. How had he gone from a cook making his soon-to-arrive family a meal to a marked man fighting a demon turkey?

“Gobble, gobble,” the creature said, his voice slow and menacing. With one leap, he flew into the air—not actually flying, his wings were plucked—and slammed into the face of poor Henry.

Henry let out a shout but still managed to grab the demon by its leg, and hang it upside down. The bird suddenly, and comically, had no real way to deal with this.

“Oh,” Henry muttered. “Right.”

Strength or no strength. It was still tiny.

“I guess you’re not done cooking yet,” Henry said. “I guess some more time in the oven might be in order.”
Noooo!!!!” the turkey roared.

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I Warned You – an ISG Writing Exercise

On 18 October 2017, these three words were chosen:

  • Turkey
  • Narrow
  • Messy

And these blurbs were written within five minutes….Enjoy!

FEATURED AUTHOR

ALANNA J. RUBIN

Jordan narrowed his brown eyes as he stared down at the messy wooden table. “Not again,” he muttered as he watched a turkey with green and red tail feathers peck at the food. “Max,” he said in a scolding manner, “how many times have I warned you about using my wand?” The turkey looked up at him with human green eyes. It was a bit disconcerting to see those eyes in a turkey’s body, but Jordan shook off the eerie feeling as he went about looking for his wand. He was walking about the table trying to dodge over-turned dishes and chairs when he heard a crunch. Jordan swallowed hard as he gingerly stepped back to reveal his wand lying on the floor in two pieces. He caught Max’s gaze, who human eyes now held a worried look.

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LISA BARRY:

As I skimmed down the narrow alley trying to be as quiet as possible I thought about the coming events. A duel. I’d never been in a duel before. I was fast, sure, but I’d never needed to really know how fast. I always thought I would eventually be in a duel but not for something like this. I ran into a gentleman. Completely by accident. Messy business that. Not in a million years would I be so foolish as to do something like that on purpose. I gnawed the last bite of my turkey leg and carefully placed it on the ground at the end of the alley. I looked around the corner hoping… but there he was. With an entourage too. I pushed my shoulders back and, head high and walked toward them. As I passed the first man I was taken aback as I was flung to the ground, my knees hitting hard. I bit back tears, pulled in a breath and stood. Then I realized my hat had been dislodged. It toppled to the ground. My heavy long mane spilled out and a hush took over the crowd.

He is a girl,” someone declared. I cringed.

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NICOLE DRAGONBECK:

He walked down the narrow alley, the dead turkey swinging at his side. They would eat well tonight, better than they had all winter. The dead bird was scrawny, and had not been plucked, so it would be a messy preparation, but still his mouth watered at the thought of hot, roast meat. His stomach gave an answering grumble. Shadows moving behind him pulled him from his lovely fantasy, and he groped for the rusty knife in his belt. He turned to look, but the alley was empty. After a moment spent searching the darkness, he convinced himself that he had been imagining things. He shrugged and turned to continue home. He ran into the tall man standing in front of him, swinging the silver topped cane with a smile that bared pointed teeth.

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ERIKA LANCE:

This was going to be a complete disaster. 

 

Monica looked out at the motion that was her living-room; parents, grandparents, children, and grandchildren all crammed into a tiny space. All were waiting to gorge themselves on more food than they ever needed to eat in one meal. 

 

She looked back in the kitchen to the messy island that the now thoroughly burnt turkey was sitting on. Monica weighed her options. 

 

On the one hand she may be able to come up with an excuse and a horrific story that involved a narrow escape of some life-threatening incident that caused the further demise of the afore mentioned turkey. Or possibly she should use option B. 

 
As she watched grandma Ethel pull out her dentures to show Mikey, Monica’s seven-year-old nephew who immediately went screaming towards his mother who was engaged in a conversation with her sister’s husband that looked way to flirty for a family event she made her choice. 

 

She turned, removed her apron, grabbed her coat and left through the back. 

 

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BRANDON SCOTT

The table could be called several adjectives, each more extreme than the last. But, for the sake of avoiding rude language, Kevin went with the simple go-to of “messy.” Smeared in gravy, doused in tiny pieces of bread, and containing a long trail of yams and cranberry sauce like some massive snail had gone through the area.

All of this paled though, from the thing standing on the table, on its’ hind legs, wielding a carving knife with supreme hostility.

“You…you butcher!” the thing cried, and Henry flinched. Not because he was insulted—he was a literal butcher, after all, that was kind of the whole reason the creature was here actually—but because he could not fathom how or why a headless turkey would be able to talk to him.

It glistened underneath the lights, the golden-brown skin of a perfect roast only increasing the surrealist nature of the proceedings.

“Um…I’m sorry?”

“Sorry!?” shrieked the bird, and Henry flinched again as a knife missed by a narrow margin his ear. He glanced back as the implement stuck out of the wall, still vibrating.

So, the bird was super strong, too. Great.

“I am very sorry?” Henry ventured. “I did not…well, it’s Thanksgiving and all. It’s the custom?”

“And you expect me to care?” the fowl said and jumped down off the table. “I suppose, then, if it were the right holiday, it would be okay to cook and eat you?”

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It’s a Bug! – an ISG Writing Exercise

On October 4th, these three words were chosen:

  • Busy
  • Crisis
  • Bug

And these blurbs were written within five minutes….Enjoy!

FEATURED AUTHOR

ERIKA LANCE:

“Stop it” he said as he watched his little sister flail around the room. 

“It’s a bug… It’s a bug…. AAAAHHHHH” she was screaming. 

He stifled a laugh, she would not be happy in her moment of crisis if he was chuckling at her expense. 

There had to be a tactic to getting her to stop running, so if she was in fact being plagued by an insect he should be able to remove this creature and rid himself of the noise she was making. 

He had been busy reading up on Poe for his literature class final, which was sure to be loved by every emo girl in his class when the ruckus had started. 

“Hold still” he said grabbing her arm as gently as he could.  

She mostly stopped and looked up at him and that is when he saw it. A huge centipede looking creature that was presently burrowing into his sister’s neck.  

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LISA BARRY:

I calmly watched the huge bug make its way from the tree branch to the window. It was pretty cool to see it’s underside and the stinger from this angle. My sister flew past me from the bathroom to the closet. I continued to watch the bug. It stung a good-sized ant and proceeded to bite its head off.

“Where is my yellow top?” Blair half yelled, half cried from the closet.

I thought about becoming a scientist. This shit was pretty interesting.

Blaire stuck her head out of the door, face red. “Since you’re so busy, how about helping me!”

“What is your crisis?” I asked, back to watching the bug devour the ants middle section.

“This is important! I have a business meeting and then lunch with Dave!”

I looked at her. Really looked at her as she tore up the closet. Dave was mine. I rose from the window bench and walked in. She stopped still and looked at me, backing up a step or two.

“Not the Dave you’re thinking of…” she whispered and dropped her eyes.

I backed up.

“Good, next time use a last name.”

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NICOLE DRAGONBECK:

Just when she thought things couldn’t get any worse, the bug showed up. It was a hideous things with too many legs, mandibles that clicked with a hungry sort of questioning repetition, and glossy wings that rustled against its back. It was also the size of a cat. Kella had been busy trying to avert the crisis brewing in her cauldron, but now she was on the table, her heart hammering in her chest as she watched the monstrosity crawl through her kitchen, praying to the gods that it couldn’t climb the furniture.
Out of the corner of her eye, the witch noticed the purple froth begin to flow more energetically over the rim of her cauldron, pooling on the the kitchen floor like luminescent fog in the wee hours of the morning. The flames spluttered, but clung stubbornly to life, which made the purple mist pour out faster and faster, and soon the floor disappeared under it. Kella could still tell where the giant insect was, by the way the mist moved, and the pair of antennae that hovered above the blanket of mist, but then even those were hidden.

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DESIREE MATLOCK:

I was wrapping up the quarterly report when Jenny walked up, and I didn’t look up from my screen, instead opening the next set of spreadsheets and starting my review.

“Hey, Jenna.”

“Hey, Jenny. What’s up?” I was too busy for this. But, in typical Jenny style, she thought having nearly matching names meant we were destined to be besties. And she couldn’t see me busy without walking over to air whatever minor melodrama was occurring in her life at that moment. And since she was my boss’ personal assistant and most-favored plaything, I had to humor her, no matter how much she bugged me.

“So, my friend’s cat’s funeral is tomorrow, and I need to know if I can borrow your car in the morning to get there, since mine is being used by a friend of Mr. Jenkins. He asked me especially last night.” She beamed, as though a boss requesting inappropriate personal favors in off hours was a good thing.

“You got a morning off for a cat funeral?”

“Um, no I got the whole day off, silly. It’s in Topeka, and I’ll have to drive four hours there and four hours back, and then maybe I’ll need to sleep in the day after because that’s exhausting, right? You’d really be doing me a solid.”

“This isn’t really a crisis, Jenny. Can you borrow someone else’s? I need my car. You know, to go to work and stuff.”

She pouted. “Mr Jenkins said you’d be a sport.”

Damn. My boss assuming inappropriate things again. I finished working the spreadsheets and opened the next project.

“Okay, sure, but make sure he knows I won’t be here tomorrow or the day after, since you have my transport. You can get that approved, right?” She frowned, but sighed and flounced away.

Jenny, the walking drama. My fingers flew as I wrapped up the project notes. I knew just what I was going to do with my two days home.

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ALANNA J. RUBIN

Jared simultaneously wiped the sweat from his brow and shooed a bug away. He always felt tense when planting explosives due to the thought that one wrong move, and “boom”! He pushed the thought from his mind as he busily added the fuses. He wished he could be as calm at Thomas, who was standing guard at the doorway to the vault, not a hint of worry on his face. Nothing seemed to bother him. He was the perfect person to be on a mission with. No crisis seemed to ruffle his feathers.

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BRANDON SCOTT

“Son, I am having a crisis,” came over the phone, and Charley hopped into action without a thought. His phone dropped on the ground and his feet flew along the hardwood floor. Out he went from his house, stopping briefly to see the busy street in front of him.

“Crap,” he muttered, before taking out his keys like one might pull out a switchblade, and stabbing the lock, then the ignition. The car seemed to be in on the excitement because it roared with him as they both screamed down the road.

Or, rather, moved up to fifty, then back to ten at the nearest light. The traffic atrocious. His eyes bulged out of his head from the sudden stress of it, and then he decided.

This decision managed to upheave a large amount of the day for several thousand people and made him a more hated man than some political figures, but he did it anyway.

He got out of the car. Just leaving it sitting there. Several horns blared at this, but track team had been good to him in his youth and he was already about thirty feet from his vehicle.

Several people, close to a hundred, stopped what they were doing and looked at him as he sailed across the ground. His mouth hanging open and air spilling forth from his urgent lungs.

A final shuddering turn got him in front of the house. The final dash sent the flowers in their pots swaying.

Charley did not bother to knock. Instead, finding the hidden key under the doormat and opening the door with a bang.

His mother opened her eyes wide as he stood there. She stood, frozen, with a fly swatter in her hand.

“What’s the crisis?” Charley demanded, practically shouting.

“A… bug,” his mother replied, her eyes still wide.

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We Needed a Distraction – an ISG Writing Exercise

On 20 September 2017, these three words were chosen:

  • Popcorn
  • Fox
  • Hustle

And these blurbs were written within five minutes….Enjoy!

FEATURED AUTHOR

NICOLE DRAGONBECK:

The queen sat on the makeshift throne, the silver cape lined in fox fur thrown over the stump. Her face was rigid, and her eyes were cool as she gazed out at the motley assortment of woodland folk in front of her.

“What is the meaning of this?” she demanded, her voice as regal as her expression.

The gathered creatures shuffled and looked at the others on either side of them, hoping someone would step up and take charge. No one did. “I do not have all day,” the queen said, her voice hardening further.

“Tell me what is the meaning of this?” She threw her arm out and pointed at the mounds of fluffy white material that covered the fields for as far as the eye could see.

A small fairy with blue wings stepped forward, bowed hastily, and then again as if this would buy him time.

“Well, your majesty, you see, it went like this,” he began, and then coughed nervously.

“They stole it from us first!” an angry voice shouted from the back, and a chorus of agreement sounded out.

It disappeared immediately when the queen raised her hand. “You’ll have to start at the beginning.”

“Those humans stole our magic jewels,” the blue fairy said in a bolder tone, now empowered by his fellows. “We just wanted to get them back. So we came up with this idea, for a hustle, you might call it.”

“That doesn’t explain why the farmer’s crop is now popcorn,” the queen said.

“We needed a distraction,” the little fairy told her, and glanced at the red dragon at the other end of the group. “Ember flew overhead and set the field on fire. We thought it was just going to burn, we didn’t think it would do that.”

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LISA BARRY:

“You’d better hustle, doll, the show starts soon.”

I glanced at my watch and panicked. Why is he always right? My roommate lounged carelessly on the oversized couch skipping through channels while I tore around the apartment to find the ticket. The stupid ticket that made my blood absolutely boil. Whose parents have a Harry Potter wedding and require you bring your invitation? Seriously. I love my mom but this is just weird. I glanced at the image of a fox on a chest and stopped. I opened the small box and sure enough, my ticket, invite whatever, was nestled inside.

“Can you stop for popcorn on the way home,” my roommate asked. Before I could tell him there was some in the pantry, he coughed out, “I ate the other bag already.”

That had been mine. Typical. “Hustle, doll.” He commented and I grabbed my bag. After today, I was finding a new roommate. As I drove a little too fast, I prayed that my Hermione outfit didn’t look too ridiculous and that whoever my parents had gotten to be Ron would be hot so I could at least have something tasty to hang on to as I walked down the aisle.

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ERIKA LANCE:

“God you’re a fox!” The guy said and then whistled. What year are we in? She thought as she continued to move through the crowd. Trying to add a little more hustle in her step lest that fine specimen of a man think she was interested. 

 

She began covering the movie premiers because of the free popcorn combined with her delight in watching celebrities watch themselves on the screen. 

 
Regardless of what they said in interviews, watching their reactions to their own acting or their co-stars on screen spoke volumes. 

 

I mean when your leading man makes a cringing discussed face during a kissing scene, he most likely didn’t enjoy his co-stars abilities. 

 

She grabbed her popcorn from the stand and made her way into the theater finding the perfect vantage point for this little thriller. 

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DESIREE MATLOCK:

I’d had to hustle to make it to the audition on time, and yet here I’d been, waiting for two hours with a dozen other women who could fit the bill for a “foxy older woman” that the casting call needed, while the casting agent took his time. He was probably not even working. He was probably doing lines of coke off one of the girls from yesterday’s casting call for “fresh-faced nouveau”, the one my agent had bluntly told me there was no way I could still pull off.

I rearranged myself in the pleather seat, uncomfortably stuck at the thighs to this hideous hollywood chair. Like most things in this damn town, the chair was all about how it looked, damn the comfort.

A beautiful young thing that I could have played ten years ago sat behind the reception desk and tapped a pen against her manicured nails in a rhythm waiting to be told which of us to send in next.

The fresh-faced idiot behind the desk picked up a phone and then called out, “Joyce Weathers?” At least this meant they were actually doing the auditions now.

The leggy woman sitting next to me stood, pulled her mini skirt down, and went into the room. Was she prettier than me? I sighed deeply and tried to give myself a pep talk while I stared up at the popcorn ceiling. But all I could think about was that all of these casting companies must use the same construction crews. If it isn’t fiberboard tile ceilings, it’s slightly sparkly popcorn ceilings, as though sparkles change how drab a low ceiling makes an office building. I tilted my head side to side to watch the sparkled on the ceiling, and to kill time.

Fuck this, I thought, ready to stand and leave. Just then, a greek god sat next to me. “Are you Denise?” the god said.

“Why, yes.” I jolted upright but was too stunned to say more. Or to pull out my headshot, as I’d trained myself to do.

He smiled, “Ah. I’m Stephano Morphopolous, the director. Let’s skip all this. You know, I saw you in “Vesper Court”. Dear god, no one had seen that historical drama, my best work. A total dud at the box office, though. No one except this guy, apparently. “I’ve got the perfect part for you.”

I must have looked startled because he laughed. “Come.” I peeled myself from the pleather and followed him, curious.

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JM PAQUETTE:

Seth put the popcorn in his mouth slowly, face uncertain as he considered the new flavor. She watched the curiosity morph into delight as he began to chew. “This is marvelous!” he exclaimed, a wide grin crossing his face as he grabbed another handful.

“I’m glad you like it,” she told him, glad as always that he was so accepting of this world, so excited about every new thing he saw or heard. Last week, he had grabbed her hand when she got home and showed her the new dance he learned from the television. “I think it’s called The Hustle,” he had said, swinging her this way and that as he moved his feet. Seth could adapt anywhere. It was why she loved him. That and the certain way he had of looking at her when he thought she wasn’t watching, that sly fox gaze that still made her stomach tighten and her legs giddy.

“Where does it come from?” he asked before shoveling another handful of glistening pieces into his mouth.

“It’s corn heated up,” she explained. “It bursts with the heat. Then we add butter and salt.”

He finished chewing and reached for another handful. “And the peddlers sell it in these special bags for the micker wave?”

She nodded, loving the way her words came out of his mouth. He had spent the first two days heating things up in the microwave, delighted at the ease with which food was made ready. “If you’d spent your life waiting for water to boil or a fire to kindle,” he had told her grinning face, “you’d do the same thing.” When she had laughed at him, he reminded her of her reaction to the first magic spell she’d seen. “You nearly fell right over,” he told her.

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ALANNA J. RUBIN

Maryn wandered the lush green grass letting her sense of smell lead the way. Her master had ordered her to hustle, but what did humans know. They didn’t understand what is was like to be a fox and the sense of freedom the outdoors held. It had been years since the human had placed Maryn into servitude and she cursed every day for breaking into the human’s house lured in by the smell of popcorn. The human had caught her in the middle of her snack and promptly cast a spell that bound her to him. Foxes were considered good luck in the Village of Castille, but Maryn was going to do her best to change that starting today.

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