Lost Letter

I’m wondering if I could make this a longer story for Memorial Day. Again, thanks to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for her thought-provoking prompts. I always think “no way” and always come away thinking, “Son of a gun!” So here’s the latest 100 word story:

Copyright Sandra Crook

They wandered around the memorial, searching out the bricks that had names. They’d found classmates lost to Viet Nam and unfamiliar names lost to later wars, the grandchildren of classmates.

“Found one,”  called Beverly.  “You knew this guy, right, Maizie?  Did you know he died in Nam? Funny, I always thought he just moved away.”

Maizie couldn’t speak. Or think.

He’d never answered her calls or the letter telling him she was pregnant.  In a rage she had put his baby up for adoption and the man far out of her heart.

Had the letter ever reached him?

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A sobering look at what an author is facing these days.

When Amazon was new, I thought it was a wonderful way to get people reading. I still think it’s even better than those lurid paperbacks and comic books in the mid-twentieth century which caused a lot of sniffing and sneering amongst the literary crowd but enabled folks to read things they couldn’t afford before.  Now Amazon and Kindle make inexpensive (read cheap) books even more available.  After all, we are a fast-food nation; fast-food-books was inevitable. 

But even in the heyday of paperbacks and comics, books with more depth were still easily available too. Now Amazon is training authors to use the best system for them to make money, not for readers to experience good books.  Authors are being pushed into a system of faster and faster candy mints and throw-away thoughts.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nothing against candy mints. They have their place. But as a steady diet they really stink, and that’s where Amazon keeps trying to lead us. There are a lot of good books on Amazon.  And I’ve read a lot of the millions of “bad” books.  Many are no worse than the paperbacks and comic books of the old days, and most are not a bad way to spend an afternoon.  But too often I feel like I’ve wasted the time and money no matter how small the amount.  How do readers find the meat & potatoes if the Amazon table is drowning in candy mints?

When I’m not reading, all I want to do is write, but I don’t want to turn my books over to the agent-reader-editor-publisher-galleys-in a couple of years-‘sorry, you didn’t recoup the advance’ thing either. And then have a big-name publisher drop them into the ‘out of publication’ (i.e. author-untouchable) bin if they don’t make enough money in the first six weeks.

With Amazon, books never go out of publication.  On the other hand, the Amazon system is geared toward authors who can pump books out as fast as they can. And then do all the marketing on their own or pay for it to be done.  And it takes constant research to keep up with what’s the latest best thing — Ads?  Newsletters?  Blog posts?  Blog hopping?  Swapped reviews?  Guest posting?  Goodreads?  Facebook author page? (“Add your business address so customers can reach you!”  What, my bedroom? Not on Facebook!) More and more I’m seeing authors begging their readers to leave a review — “just a few words!” — because this is what the Amazon algorhythm monkey understands.

My last book to be published went up on Amazon a few years ago.  You can still buy the first one.  But I’m not a fast writer, and I’m never going to finish the next book if I’m spending my days trying to game Amazon and their constantly changing “bestseller” algorhythms.

The other day I listened to a young working mother refuse a free bag of fresh veggies from someone’s garden, saying “Thanks, but I like to buy stuff that’s already washed and chopped up.”  One Facebook group that I follow because it discusses new mysteries and suspense novels seems to have devolved into posts listing all the books they read this month, or this week, or today, like it’s a competition.

I’m a full-on capitalist and welcome competition, but I don’t know how to compete in this new world.

With a Sigh

Another 100-word story to a writing prompt from https://rochellewisoff.com/. Thank you, Rochelle, for providing so much fun. Isn’t it strange, though, how many of us tend to write sad stories at what is supposed to be the happiest time of year.

PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson

The snow-covered bench curved ’round the gazebo.  Its posts framed the steel-colored lake and the far shore.  Alice had loved the cold, had loved sitting with her father while he read the poems of Robert Frost to her.  Then the stranger came, and he and her father read the poetry to each other.  Alice’s anger filled her mother’s willing ear.

Her father had left them to take a different road.

Now the gazebo no longer welcomed her.  She was the stranger. She brushed snow off the bench, sat on its chill surface and began to read “The Road Not Taken”.

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My Inheritance

Another 100-word story from a prompt by https://rochellewisoff.com/

PHOTO PROMPT © J Hardy Carroll

I stared at the dank storage cage and demanded,  “Where’s my grandmother’s stuff?”

The building super chewed on a toothpick.  “This is it.”

“Two beat-up boxes and a piano?  Where’s the antiques she collected?”

He avoided my eyes.  “I don’t know from antiques.  Your brother took everything in the apartment right after she croaked.  Management says after six months, I gotta dump what ain’t claimed.”

“I was out of the country.”  I felt the grief again.  “I didn’t know.”

“You want this stuff or not?”

My brother hadn’t known about the storage unit.  My inheritance.  Gone.

“Keep it,”  I said.

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Another poignant pic

Or is it just me? As usual, this 100-word story is from a prompt picture posted at https://rochellewisoff.com/, the blog that gets my juices flowing. Also as usual, it seems to come from somewhere in my past.

PHOTO PROMPT © Jean L. Hays

I REMEMBER, MAMA

I yank out drawers stuffed with outdated patterns, remnants from a prom dress, seed pearls from my wedding dress that Mama barely finished in time, because by then she’d already started weeping.  “I keep losing count!”

Unfinished scarves, half-done cross stitch kits, fabric paint with tee-shirts untouched.  Macramé cords.  Knitted caps missing their topknots.

“I’m making gifts for Christmas.”  Then she discarded each project and spent money on new ones, desperately hoping to find the one craft her diminishing mind could still handle.

I can finish them for her.  I’ve got all the supplies.

And maybe a bit more time.

It Rained Books!

Among other great benefits, the organization Sisters in Crime does a lot of things to help libraries. Here is one that I participated in, from the newsletter of Sisters in Crime National:

That’s my book in the stack in the upper left!

IT’S RAINING BOOKS!

“Here’s a photo from the folks at the Durham Library in New Hampshire of the books arriving after they won our It’s Raining Books giveaway at the American Library Association Conference. Thanks to all the members who participated!”

Why Did We Have To?

I spent most of September on a road trip to visit old friends in my home state and came home through a storm of golden light and falling leaves. A glorious melancholy end to a nostalgic trip. So when I saw this week’s photo prompt on Friday Fictioneers, this is the 100 word story I came up with: (interesting timing, no?)

The wind was cold at the top of the bleachers.  She sat hunched, staring down at the empty playing field.  The long-awaited twenty-year reunion game was over, everyone had said their goodbyes bravely and left, hiding relief.  Fieldlights came on, pushing back at the twilight in their dumb robotic way.

She felt the rumble of his climb through the metal bench.  He stopped in front of her, rubbing his artificial hip, breathing heavily.

“Time to go home?”  he murmured.

She looked up at him and then back at the empty field.  “Jimmy, when did we all get so damn old?”

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