Micro Fiction Writing Challenge

Want to give Micro Fiction a whirl?

In 100 words or less, describe someone’s hands and let them tell the story.

Here's my stab at it...

His hands were meticulously manicured – smooth and wrinkle-free.  His razor-like fingernails protruded 3 inches past the tips of his fingers and curled slightly downward.  A gold ring with an enormous square-cut ruby encircled his index finger and when the light hit it just right, the color perfectly matched the blood dripping from his nails.

Feel free to post your story as a comment. I'd love to read with you write from the prompt.

(Copyright © 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Canned Laughter

My Daddy loved to plant a garden and watch it grow.  He didn't like weeding it, or picking the veggies, or helping with the canning or freezing, but he did love the eatin' part of the whole thing.

Mama didn't like the garden - not one bit! When early spring came, she complained about all the seedlings scattered round the house, soaking up sun in the windows, sprouting under lamps and needin' water. Once they were out of the house and in the ground, she didn't mind so much.

The six of us kids hated the garden! It was our chore to do all the weedin'.  All spring and summer we had to keep after the garden, pullin' weeds, dusting the plants for bugs, scatterin' Miracle Grow - such a boring way for a kid to spend their free time!

I remember one year when the garden was more than plentiful. Daddy beamed with pride, us kids stole all the strawberries before they could ever make it to a shortcake and Mama - well, Mama was not a happy woman that year.  You see, a plentiful garden means lots of jars to boil, lots of corn to shuck, peas to de-pod, beans to string, and so forth.

The day she canned tomatoes sticks out in my mind. There must have been twenty bushels to be canned that day. Me being the only girl in the family, it fell to me to help her. We boiled water, blanched the tomatoes, stuck them in ice water, then peeled them.  Next came cutting them up and fitting them in the sterilized jars, pourin' on some liquid and screwing down the lids.

Now, normally Mama canned our tomatoes in a water bath, but this year she had found a pressure canner at the Goodwill and thought it would make the job a might easier.  We got the first batch filled and in the canner and Mama locked the lid down tight. We watched the gauge to make sure it got to 11 lbs of pressure just like the instructions said, then we put the little weight on its prong and went to work on boilin' another batch.

Pretty soon that little weight began to jiggle and hiss.

"Mama, are you sure that thing's safe," I asks.

Mama just shot me one of her looks and went back to icing down the tomatoes.  Did I mention that Mama didn't really enjoy canning?

Well, a little more time goes by and that jiggly thing was a hoppin' like a mad cricket.  It sputtered and hissed and made an awful racket.  I was really getting' worried about it, but didn't want to get Mama all riled up by asking her about it again, although I did see her steal a nervous glance at it a time or two.

We was just filling the next batch of jars when all hell broke loose. Oh, excuse me, I ain't allowed to say that word. I meant when all heck broke loose.  We heard a terrible loud boom and the lid blew right off the canner, jiggly thing and all. Jars began explodin' and tomatoes began splatterin' and I began screamin'. Mama reached over and turned the fire off from under the pot, then we both ran outside to catch our breath.

Daddy came a runnin' from the shed to see what all the commotion was about.  He took one look at the kitchen and commenced to laughin' til I thought he'd never stop.  I don't think that was such a smart move on Daddy's part, though, because  Mama came all unglued and before you could say Jack Sprat, Daddy and all five of my brothers (except the baby, of course) was scrubbin' tomatoes of the kitchen walls.

After that, we went back to using the regular canner, but canning was much easier in all the years that followed because for whatever reason, Daddy began planting much smaller gardens.

That made us all happy.
(Copyright © 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)


Ok, so I know it's best to buy books from fellow authors I love at full price, but when I ran across a whole shelf of brand new Love Inspired books by some of my favorite authors at a thrift store, I just couldn't pass them up!

Waiting Out the Storm - Ruth Logan Herne
Cowboy Daddy - Carolyne Aarsen
Second  Chance Courtship - Glynna Kaye
Anna Meets Her Match - Arlene James
A Family for Faith - Missy Tippens
Made to Order Family, Ruth Logan Herne
Formula for Danger - Camy Tang
Four of these are brand new and in large print (which my eyes will thank me for).  The others used, but in great condition. Looks like I'm gonna be busy for quite some time!  Some day I want to see my name on the front of a Love Inspired book...and I won't even mind if you buy it in a thrift store!

(Copyright © 2010, 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Writers are so Misunderstood!

Prompt: One morning you are sitting in front of your computer working on your novel when, suddenly, the computer starts talking to you. What does it say? Does it deliver an important message or just want to chat? (taken from Writer's Digest )

I took another swig from my coffee mug and nearly spit it all over my laptop - cold again. I'd been sitting at Borders for 2 hours trying to force the words onto the page, but it just wasn't happening.

My novel was due at the publisher's in less than a week and I still couldn't get the characters to cooperate and finish up the story.  They kept going off on tangents, ignoring the plot line entirely.

"Ethel, look at this," said the blue-haired lady at the next table, which launched she and her friend into a rather loud debate about whether Jennifer Lopez uses botox or not.

How annoying!

I pulled my earphones out and plugged them into the laptop, logged into Pandora and hit the link for soft jazz, then turned my attention back to the task at hand.

Suddenly the music was interrupted and I heard, "Jan, we have to talk."

I took out my earphones and looked around to see who had spoken, but saw no one I knew. Weird.

Earphones back in place, I heard the voice once more, "Jan, it's me, Dirk Hansen, we need to talk."

Dirk Hansen? The detective from the book I'm writing?

"Yeah, that Dirk Hansen. I think I'm falling for Scarlet and I want you to do something about it. She won't give me the time of day," came the voice again.

Ok, now I know I'm losing it, my computer is talking to me…no, my character is talking to me.

"Hey, Jan - Scarlett here. Tell Dirk not to get his panties in an uproar, even though you've been writing as if this whole thing is leading up to a romance, are you kidding me?"

Wait - I'm the writer, I'll decide how this story goes.

"That's cute, Jan. You think you're in control," Scarlet said, "but what are you going to do when you find out that I am working for his wife and that the two of us are about to expose his embezzlement from the agency? Dirk Hansen will never work in this town again. In fact, he's headed for jail!"
Hey, that's not in the outline! Dirk's not even married - embezzlement from the agency? It's his agency, for crying out loud!

"I heard that, Scarlett - you must be some kind of crazy; and to think, I was falling for you.  Jan, go ahead and write it just like she said. I've got a few tricks up my sleeve that will make her wish she'd never heard of Dirk Hansen!"

I couldn't take anymore. My own characters trying to hi-jack my novel. "Listen you, two, I don't give a flyin' fig what you think. Just shut up and let me write!" I blurted out.

"Well, I never!" said the blue-haired lady, to which her companion added, "This is a free country, girly and a public place. We can sit here and talk if we want to!"  Then she flashed a hand signal that left no question about how she felt.

I packed up my laptop and high-tailed it out of there. Just wait until I get my fingers on that keyboard again, I thought, "Dirk and Scarlet aren't going to know what hit them!” No more writer's block!

(Copyright © 2010, 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Flash Fiction - Thanks, Mom!

Prompt: He was driving her crazy. If he didn't leave, she couldn't be responsible for her actions

Photo courtesy  nazreth,
He was driving her crazy. If he didn't leave, she couldn't be responsible for her actions.

Elaine pulled a $5.00 bill out of her purse. "Go," she said, waving it at him, "just go!"

Josh grabbed the money with just a slight twinge of guilt, kissed his Mom on the cheek and ran out the back door. He had told her that he was meeting Dirk and Len at the Circle Burger, but that wasn't quite true. He didn't have plans to meet anyone, but he was hoping like heck that Jen would be there.

Jen had been his best friend ever since he could remember. She lived three doors down and they had hung out together all through grade school and junior high. She had gone away for the summer after 8th grade graduation and hadn't returned until the night before school started, so he hadn't seen her until the first day of school.  He had hardly recognized her, but the image of her waiting for him at the bus stop had been on his mind every waking minute since.

Her hair fell across her shoulders in soft curls, framing her heart-shaped face. The baby blue cashmere sweater and straight skirt she wore accentuated curves that he never remembered her having and when she saw him, her eyes lit up, all sparkly-like and her smile melted his heart.

Nope, he had not been able to get that picture out of his mind, nor did he want to.

He pulled the chrome and glass door of the Circle Burger open and stepped inside, sweeping the room with his eyes.

"Hey, Josh," said Jen waving from the booth in the back.

"Oh, hey, Jen," he said, feeling his face flush as the three girls sitting in the booth with Jen turned to stare at him.

He ran his fingers through his course red hair, shrugged his shoulders and took a seat at the counter.

Becky Jo, the waitress working the counter. stopped snapping her chewing gum long enough to ask, "Whadda ya have, kid?"

"Uh, I'll have a chocolate shake and can you make a strawberry soda and send it over to the blonde in the back booth?" he said, never taking his eyes from the salt and pepper shakers in front of him.

"Sure thing, sweetie," she said, as she resumed snapping her gum .

Ten minutes later he saw her head to the back booth with a tall strawberry soda, topped with whipped cream and a maraschino cherry. Then he heard Jen's friends giggling and felt himself go all flush again. Girls!

He didn't see Jen slip up behind him, so he jumped when he heard her say, "Thank you, Josh." She set her soda on the counter and sidled onto the stool beside him.

She chatted away as they finished their drinks, hardly giving Josh a chance to get a word in edgewise, but that was okay with him. Sitting this close to her made him even more aware of how beautiful she had become; a fact that made formulating words rather difficult.

"You want to go for a walk?" she asked.

He nodded, grinning at his good fortune.  His felt his heart speed up when Jen slipped her hand into his as they walked down the sidewalk.

That was the best $5.00 my mom ever spent! he thought.

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Flash Fiction - Redemption

Prompt: A gnarly tree stood guard at the entrance of the cemetery.

Photo courtesy howardignatius,
Carly smoothed the crumpled piece of paper out on the hood of her car and aimed the beam from her flashlight at it.

From what she could tell, she was at the west entrance of the cemetery, which is where the map said the grave was located. A gnarly tree stood guard at the entrance nearly blocking the tall iron gate, which looked as if it had rusted in place years ago. Fortunately, it had rusted slightly ajar, allowing just enough room for Carly to slip her slim body through the opening.

A shiver ran down her spine.

"Just the cold, Carly" she said out loud. "Nothing out here to be afraid of."

It had been a long three years tracking down the grave of her great-grandmother, but hopefully it was almost over. She would find the grave and recover the stolen money and clear the family name for good.

Her feet and pant legs were soaked already from the overgrown, damp grass that grasped at her with every step and more than once she stumbled over a tree root.

Just what you need, Carly, she thought, Trip over a root, hit the ground and knock yourself out. No one would find you for weeks. God, she prayed, please let me find it and get out of here alive.

Wilson, O'Leary, Johnston…

She turned the flashlight in the other direction.

Simms, Greenly, Hickson - Hickson! There it was - Elizabeth Jane Hickson, her grandmother.

The stone was large and ornate compared to the others she'd seen. Stepping in behind it, she ran her fingers over the rough stone. The hidden compartment was supposed to be on the left bottom corner.

A twig snapped behind her. She clicked off the flashlight and froze in place. Voices wafted on the night air. Low and muffled, but growing closer. She moved quickly behind the giant oak that stood over her grandmother's grave.

Shadowy figures of two men emerged from the mist and made their way directly toward her.

"I tell you, it's right over here by this big oak tree," said one.

His partner snarled, "This better be the right one this time, Frank. I'm tired of rootin' around in this graveyard."

"I tell it's the right one, Elizabeth Jane Hickson, Leland. That's what the old guy said and I found the gravestone just this morning." said Frank, "Don't look like no body's messed with it, either."

"Well, let's git to diggin', then," said Leland.

Carly stood shivering and praying in the cold as she watched the two men dig all around the base of the gravestone. Her legs were aching and her heart was pounding, but she didn't dare move an inch.

"Dang it!" said one of the men, "my darn boot's stuck in the mud."

"Well, pull it out, stupid!"

Carly heard a sucking sound, then a streak of cuss words that would make a sailor blush.

"My #$%^*&^%# foot came out of my boot and now I'm up to my @$$ in mud, yelled Leland, "That's it, I'm done. There's no bag of loot buried here, you idiot. I'm going home."

With that he limped off, leaving his left boot stuck in the mud.

Frank followed after him, dragging both shovels and swearing up and down that this was the right spot.

Once they moved far enough away that they couldn't hear her, Carly took a deep breath and gingerly moved her legs. Her feet were numb with cold and she was shivering from head to foot.

She moved quickly to the gravestone, carefully avoiding the muddy hole with a boot protruding out of it. Then knelt low to the ground and ran her fingers under the ledge of the ornamental beading until they found a smooth spot. She pushed hard on it and a section of the stone moved slightly. Pulling it out of place, she reached inside the opening and closed her freezing fingers around a cloth bag, jumped to her feet and ran for the car as quickly as her stiff legs would carry her.

Safe inside, she started the car and sped off back toward the motel. She had found it - the money that had haunted her family for ages and now she would be able to return it to its rightful owner - or his descendants and her family's name would be cleared.

She didn't notice the headlights behind her. She didn't see Frank and Leland pull into the parking lot of the seedy little motel and she didn't hear them pick the lock of her door a couple of hours later.

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)