Five Tips to Help Break Writers Block @ Almost an Author

I have new post up at Almost an Author about beating writers block.

I’ve never liked the term writer’s block and prefer to call it writer’s exhaustion, but it means the same thing. Hours or days of staring at a blank screen unable to type a word.

Recently, I’ve found myself at the crossroads between emotional exhaustion and distraction…. click here to continue reading.

Sunflowers on a Windy Day~ Jory Sherman Short Story Contest Honorable Mention

 

Monday morning, early, while he sleeps, I enter the field to cut an armful of sunflowers. The doctors said surround him with familiar things. What could be more familiar? The house with its heavy front door, handmade by my daddy? The cracked linoleum in front of the sink? Me? We were childhood neighbors. He spent more time at our house than his own. For the last five years, since Daddy passed and I came back home, Pierce has been my plus one. Long ago, Daddy nicknamed him P.S. because he hung around so much. A tag along. But his name is Pierson Ansel Stevens the Third. And apparently, last.

I squint into the sky. The misty haze could be predawn, or a harbinger of showers. The forecast is fifty fifty for the morning. He doesn’t do well with storms. The rain would come, but later would be better. My arms ache as I cut the thick stems. I’d forgotten gloves. My fingernails bite the tender stalks’ skin. The sharp green of summer wafts into the new day’s air, mixes with the good dirt smell my clumsy feet stir up. Wind slaps at me. I forgot to tie my hair and it thrashes my cheek, gets stuck in between my squeezed shut eyelids. I bow my head and blink it clear. The hem of the old cotton housecoat I’d thrown on whips around my legs. A gust caught the big sunflower faces, tried to kite them away into the cloud strewn gray expanse. I have to hang on or lose the whole bunch. Contrary, nature stills, pausing in her tirade, and lets me catch my breath.

At least the wind cleaned out any bugs for me.

The kitchen door bangs shut behind me. It settles wonky. The loose hinge needs tightening. I hold the sunflowers close and they scratch the tender skin of my neck. I deposit them on the counter, dig in the cabinet beneath, and fetch out my vases, line them in a row. They’d grown dusty already. Pierce used to bring me flowers, so many they filled the house. He claimed to be making up for lost time. I have a lot of vases.

When he’d first started to forget things, I’d thought he was cheating on me.

 

On laundry day, an orange scrap of paper rested in my hand. I’d fished it out of the pocket of his coveralls.

My ears throbbed with each pulse beat of my heart.

Don’t be stupid. Pierce loves you.

The clink of his tea glass as he set it on the table brought me into the kitchen. “Whose number is this?”

Pierce unlaced his boot, let it drop to the floor. “What number?”

My hands shook the tiniest bit as I handed it to him. Pierce’s face went blank, another indication of guilt, I thought.

He studied the numbers, the small V of an almost scowl marked the space above his eyes. Eyes gone dark-cloudy, he crumpled the paper in his fist. “It’s nothing.”

But it hadn’t been nothing. I was right to be terrified, for he’d been stolen, that was certain.

It shames me now, to think I imagined he’d  go willingly.

 

I focus on the task at hand and rinse the four biggest vases one by one. Water beads on the blue and green and yellow, waiting for my dishtowel to wipe away drops that streak and puddle. The vases don’t match, but that’s all right. Under the tap they go. At the half mark, I stop filling.

My gathering had been messy. The shears neaten raw ends to a forty-five degree angle. The vase sits ready. I divide and arrange the flowers. Perhaps those big cheery faces will push back the gloom settling into the corners of the house like untended dust bunnies left to breed and multiply.

Generous bouquets fill three vases. The fourth waits, empty. There are plenty more blooms in the field, but the sun is coming on soon. It’s always good to leave some for tomorrow. I tip out the forlorn, forsaken receptacle and watch the water swirl down the drain. I dry the outside of the vase and set it back in the cabinet. One arrangement goes on the kitchen table, the second on the top of the old wooden writing desk in the corner and the final in front of the window. After breakfast, I’ll move them to the T.V. room.

A series of thumps from upstairs catches my attention and I hold my breath. No fussing. No calling out. Just him coming down.

Please God, let it be a good day.

I pluck at my collar and dip my face into my cotton blouse, pat my eyes and cheeks.

Pierce comes into the kitchen, his robe tied askew. His hair sticks out like he’d been through a windstorm. I should trim it later if the morning goes well. We would see. After I got him to shave. I bought an electric shaver, but he hates it.

His favorite blue cup hangs on the mug tree and I unhook it, cradle it in my palm. “Would you like coffee?”

He nods and shuffles over to a chair.

Hot, dark liquid from the carafe streams out as I pour, and wisps of fragrant steam fog the air above his cup. I dollop it good with cold milk and a heaping spoonful of sugar. For a second, my hand hesitates near the can of protein powder. Not yet. Wait. Coffee first. If he refuses the drink, he might not take in anything all day.

I set the mug down in front of him. My own cupful had grown tepid, but I pick it up and sit down, scooting over to get closer. In case. Pierce’s coffee was cooled considerably by the milk, but still.

He leans back a little, not so slumped as some days.

Ignoring the cup before him, he reaches out and with one finger traces the bright petals on the smallest flower in the arrangement centered on the table.

His gaze lingers on the yellow bloom. “I went to China for you.”

“You did.”

He did. I’d run away from him and he’d chased me. To China.

“I’d go to China a thousand times for you.”

The dry, empty places in my body and soul rush with blood and water. He takes my hand, turns it palm up, kisses the sweet, tender center. The morning sun slants in. A beam strides boldy across the table, dips into our coffee.

“P.S.” My voice is so calm and regular, part of me marvels. “I love you.” My hand, palm open, waiting to snatch whatever gifts the day gave, stays in his grip.

He smiles at me. “P.S. loves you, too.”

I curl my fingers around his. We drink our cold coffee and watch the sun kiss the faces of the flowers.

 

 

 

LSUS Exhibit Art and Writing Collaboration

 

My flash fiction piece, One of the Team, was paired with art in a collaboration with The Shreveport Art Club for an exhibition. The display will be open to the public for viewing in the LSUS University Center Gallery in Shreveport until February 28th.

The painting is by Joan Cole.

 

One of the Team

by Donna Jo Stone

 

His sweaty hands grasp the bat. The band of his cap itches. He ignores it and concentrates on the ball.

He swings.

Whack.

It’s a hit!

His eyes widen as he tracks the ball’s arc. The bat slides from his grip, the gentle landing thump lost in the rush filling his ears with each beat of his red-blooded heart.

Run to first base.

He hears nothing, sees nothing but the white triangle. No one tags him. Should he stop? His feet keep running and the rest of him follows.

Pound, pound, pound.

A cloud of fine red dirt rises up to baptize his virgin white cross-trainers. Dust flies. So does he.

Safe!

At home plate he leans over, hands on knees, panting.

All at once, the volume comes back on. The yelling is not happy.

“Wrong way!” a boy shouts. “You went the wrong way!”

It’s hard to tell which teammate he is. They all wear red shirts. The boy’s mouth and eyebrows are mad.

Coach comes near, saying something.

“Look at me.”

He tries to make eye contact, but the angry face pushes him away. He looks hard at Coach’s middle.

“Look,” Coach says.

Look?

“First base is that way.” Coach points. “You should know that by now.”

The team clusters on the sideline, distancing themselves from the loser.

Game over.

In his room, he sits on the floor. There is a file box in his mind where he keeps all the facts. These are today’s facts.

Fact #1 He went the wrong way.

Fact #2 First base is to the right.

Fact #3 He should know this.

When the mother finds him, he is rhythmically banging his head against the wall, repeating a mantra.

Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

Beside him, on the floor, lays a dirty red baseball cap.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Post @ Almost an Author: Goals

How did you do with your goals this year?

I think I will call 2019 my  “experience” year. I made many mistakes, but I learned form them! In fact, I am considering blogging a series titled “What I learned”.

I plan to begin querying again in January with a much revised manuscript, and also with a couple of new manuscripts. Wish me luck.

I posted about goal setting over at Almost an Author today. Click here to read.

I’m leaving my free Christmas story up for a bit longer. If you’d like to read or listen to an audio of me reading it, hop on over to my main site @ donnajostone.com.

#PITMAD is coming up!

The next PITMAD is on Dec 5th. It’s almost time to tweet your pitch. Are you ready?

I wrote a blog post about what I’ve learned  about twitter parties over at Almost an Author. I talk about getting hearts from an agent on my short list and from an established publisher, how to craft a tweet, and links to other twitter parties.

Click to read How to Succeed with PITMAD.

For the PITMAD and Pitchwars schedule, visit the Pitchwars site here. 

Have any PITMAD tips to share? Comment below or at Almost an Author.

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For early access to a reading of Beauty Shop Christmas by yours truly, sign up for my newsletter here. It’s a humorous story I hope leaves you with a smile.

Fifty Word Fiction Challenge

This month is, as you probably know, Inktober. When I saw an inktober writing challenge, I was in!

I am using the prompts by @hannahrobinson  and sticking with a fifty word limit, although there are many ways to respond to the prompts.

Here are a few of my attempts. At first, I simply responded to the prompt and didn’t try to make it fiction. IT took me a couple of tries, but I liked what I ended up with.

The prompt “swing” made me think of my main character who has a twin on the autism spectrum, because when they were young they would spin in their backyard swing.

“Snow” made me think of a Christmas scene in my Asperger romance/coming of age story.

And “dragon” made Aunt Linda, a character who always has your back.

 

Have you tried your hand at fifty word fiction (or nonfiction)?