Story Review: “Terms and Conditions”

Terms and Conditions: Must be Met

We meet the fictional Shoeb as he faces a life-threatening problem of his own making. We see the world through his eyes and emotions, yet sometimes we’re privy to other characters’ inner thoughts. While the short story could take place anywhere, anytime, it seems to be set in the present, in a city, perhaps in India or Africa. Setting isn’t so important. Character and plot points are.

In “Terms and Conditions” we follow a workaday man as he spirals deeper into a dilemma that has him saying and doing things against his morals. He tries bargaining with a higher power to get him out of this jam that could harm his beloved, pregnant wife and young daughter. O’Henry fans (and readers who haven’t read O’Henry) will appreciate the ironic twists and surprise ending. The opportunity to heighten irony was, I think, missed by not having both the antagonist and the protagonist utter the title words.

Aashish Jindal deftly handles emotions and descriptions where other novices might have been unable to resist overwrought pathos, schmaltz, contrivances and further insults to readers. The fact that Aashish includes the opening scene again later in the short story might indicate that he doesn’t have confidence in his writing skills, or in readers’ ability to retain a crucial scene, or he simply forgot to delete the redundant scene.

If you don’t notice comma omissions in this next sentence, reading the story will be smooth sailing for you. “‘You know that I want to but my boss is really after me to meet this collection deadline’ Shoeb replied apologetically.” If you did see a boo-boo or two, then this is your warning. The mistake is made throughout.

Any author who can craft a short story that depicts the believable transformation of a good guy gone bad, seriously bad, deserves serious consideration when you’re looking for a quick read. According to the description, this is Jindal’s second book. Keep writing, Mr. Jindal. You’ve got a knack.

https://www.amazon.com/Terms-Conditions-Must-Be-Met-ebook/dp/B01NACF2YS/ref=cm_rdp_product

End

By Beth Fowler, author of “Ken’s War.” Visit https://www.facebook.com/kenswar.

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Critique this short story, please!

tanzola-house-with-pretty-shadowsI’m thinking of submitting this short story to a fiction contest. Would appreciate your constructive comments.

A Star on the Farm

 

“I don’t care about silly movie stars,” I said.

My big sister Elma, our nearest neighbor Lucy, and I were lying on our stomachs under the shade of the giant lilac bush next to our chicken coop. Lucy had brought over the movie magazine.

“You’ll care when you’re grow up like me and Elma.” Lucy had turned twelve last week.

“Listen!” My sister Elma read from the magazine: “It says more movies will be shot in color in 1937.”

Lucy grabbed the magazine from my sister. “I get to cut out Claudette Colbert for my scrapbook!”

I taped a four-leaf clover onto the first page in my scrapbook. Lucy and Elma sang “I’ve Got You under My Skin” as they clipped movie star pictures.

When Lucy wasn’t looking, I scratched myself as if something itched under my skin. Elma giggled behind her hand, partly so Lucy wouldn’t notice and partly to hide her crooked teeth.

 

About a week later, Lucy galloped right through our vegetable patch, shouting, “Elma! Elma! A photographer is….” Lucy gasped to catch her breath. “A photographer from the city newspaper is coming tomorrow afternoon!”

“You smashed our seedlings,” my sister said.

“Never mind about that.” Lucy bounced on her toes. “I’m going to braid my hair and wear my satin dress for the photographer.”

 

 

 

“Why would a photographer come here?” Elma asked.

“Daddy said a photojournalist is writing about farmers,” Lucy said. “Put on your Sunday dress and comb your ratty hair if you want your pictures in the newspaper.”

Elma was silent. Two sparrows raised a racket tussling in the dust. My sister was probably searching for the right words to explain to Lucy that the way we looked was the way farmers are supposed to look.

“My picture will be in the paper,” Lucy said over her shoulder as she left. “Just like a movie star!”

Momma stepped of the chicken coop with a bushel basket. “Remember the crazy quilt we sewed last winter?” she asked.

“Yes.” I remembered embroidering chain stitches onto the patches.

“I traded that quilt for these eyes.” Momma called pieces of potatoes “eyes.” She plopped the basket down. “Let’s plant these eyes before the sun gets too hot.”

She dug a hole in the dry ground. I dropped an eye in it and Elma pushed dirt over it.

Elma tugged her overalls. “We don’t get the city newspaper anyways, so it doesn’t matter if I won’t gussy up for the photographer.” She said that to an eye before kicking soil on it.

Momma moved along the furrows, digging more holes for the eyes. Gardens don’t wait for newspaper photographers.

 

The next day we were eating fried chicken under the lilac bush when Lucy bounded into the backyard. I think she stayed clear of the garden so she wouldn’t get her black patent shoes and white anklets with the pink lacy trim dirty.

“Aren’t you the looker!” Elma said.

Lucy was wearing a shiny dress with matching ribbons in her braided hair. She smelled soapy.

“Is he here yet?” Lucy pinched her cheeks to make them rosy.

“Who?”

“The photo-germal . . . photojournalist,” Lucy said.

We heard a motor and saw a dust cloud floating over the hill. Soon, a car pulled up to our fence. A man wearing a stiff white shirt and a bow tie and hopped out. He carried a box.

Lucy ran to him. “Are you the photojournalist?”

“Yes. Are you the lady of the house?”

“No. But you can take my picture and put it in the city newspaper,” Lucy told him.

Momma staggered out of the house, lugging rolled up carpets. She hung them over the rope between two trees. She squinted at the man and said, “You can take your pictures if you want, but we have work to do.” She beat the carpets with a paddle, making the dust jump off.

Between grunts as she whacked the carpets, Momma told me to draw enough water from the pump to make dinner. “Elma, you stack that cord wood over there.” Elma’s eyes rolled toward the huge pile of logs.

“Perfect,” the man said. “I prefer to shoot candid photographs. And I’ll deliver a copy of the city newspaper to your doorstep, to boot.” The man loosened his bow tie and peered into his camera box hunting for candid photographs.

Elma stacked wood straight and tight like we’d been taught. I put all my weight into the pump handle to coax the water up. Lucy twirled to make her skirt and braids flare out.

“Where’d she go?” the man asked, looking for Momma.

“In there.” Elma pointed to the chicken coop.

The man with the camera stood by the door to the chicken coop. He waited for Momma to step out so he could to take a candid picture. He aimed carefully.

In a less than a second, Momma flung that bird onto the stump and chop!

The people at the newspaper company weren’t going to get any pictures of Momma killing the old hen for stewing. The man had forgotten to press the button.

He leaned against the coop and wiped his face with his untied bowtie. Large wet spots darkened the armpits of his white shirt. Lucy stood next to him, fluffing her dress.

He took a picture of her. Then he took another one of Lucy on the porch swing. Lucy at the gate. Lucy in the grass. Lucy in the garden. Lucy on the cordwood Elma had stacked.

Elma sat on the fence rail for a breather before feeding the chickens. Dust streaked her face and around her eyes. Damp hair stuck to her forehead.

“Look at you!” Lucy said. “You look like something the dog drug in.”

I couldn’t hear what Elma said to Lucy as the camera clicked one final time. Lucy left, walking on stiff legs like one of our hens.

 

It wasn’t until after we’d dug up potatoes one day that Momma found a brown envelope tucked just inside the front screened door.

“Lookie here, girls,” Momma said.  She pulled a handwritten note, a five-dollar bill and a clipping from the city newspaper out of the envelope.

She read the note to us. “I won an award in a photojournalism contest and thought I should share at least some of my winnings with you.” A fountain-penned squiggle was in the spot where you’d expect to see a signature.

The photo in the clipping showed the back of Lucy’s head, kind of blurry. You knew it was her head ‘cause of those two big ribbons in her hair. In the middle distance my sister stood with thumbs hooked in her overall straps and a slight frown on her face.

Elma and I read the caption aloud together. “ ‘Looking pretty fades. Working hard pays,’ says Elma Green, the face of farming’s future.”

I taped that clipping into my scrapbook next to the four-leaf clover.

End

By Beth Fowler, author of “Ken’s War.” Visit https://www.facebook.com/kenswar.

A Matter of Choice

In this award-winning story, teenager Monica sets out to push her parents’ button, but was it the one she was aiming for or something unexpected?

A Matter of Choice

teen girl angry“Your parents didn’t tell me why they want you to stay with me for a while,” Aunt Jo said.  “They said it had something to do with what they discovered on your Facebook page.

“Don’t ask me.” Monica replied. “Talking to my parents is like bumper cars at the fair.” It was OK to talk like this. Aunt Jo was cool.

Monica lifted her suitcase onto her aunt’s spare bed and glanced around the guestroom. Aunt Jo’s large, carved Kachina doll, known as Left-Hand in Hopi tradition, stood on the bureau. Monica knew her mom would geek out in here. Her parents’ bedroom was mauve, which Monica pronounced moo-vah to irk her mom. It did. Their room resembled a furniture showroom. Stiff. Formal.

“It’s not like I’m pregnant or anything. I’m not stupid.” Monica shook her head at the ridiculousness of it all.

“Ah, I figured it was a fella.” Aunt Jo said.

Monica laughed. The Kachina doll was called Left-Hand because he did everything in the opposite.

“I knew it would freak them out.” Monica confessed. “I mean, I always left the room when he called me when I was at home. And I’d tell ‘em I was meeting Ashley at the mall or the library.” Monica told herself she’d done her parents a favor by preventing them from knowing about Zeki. “Besides, staying here with you doesn’t mean I can’t see Zeki. They just don’t want to be bothered with me. They don’t know how to handle me.

“He must be some special fella.”

“He’s African-American.” Monica felt her head float like a balloon. “And Muslim.”

Aunt Jo’s eyebrows shot up. “And you think that’s why your parents are upset?”

“They’re old school, you know?”

“They’re of a different generation, but I don’t think…Tell me about your friend.”

“I dunno. He’s cute.” There were lots of cute guys. Some of them were her friends. She pulled her shirts and shorts out of her suitcase and tossed them into a drawer.

“You’re doing what every girl does. Stretching your wings. Finding out, exploring, growing. Better now than when you’re my age.” Aunt Jo hiccupped.

“Did you ever do something sneaky, Aunt Jo?”

“Yes! I dated two fellas at the same time. They tried to outdo each other. Your mother and your grandparents scolded me and lectured me. ‘People are talking!’ they said. ‘It’s time to settle down with one fella.’ I ended up losing both fellas. I was seventeen then.” Her eyes sparkled. “Your mom got married when she was seventeen, you know.”

“I know. Nineteen ninety-eight.”

“Ninety-nine.”

“You got your years mixed up,” Monica said. “Mom and Dad were married in ’98. I was born in ’99.”

“Somebody told you the wrong year. You were born in ’99, the same year they were married.” She smiled ruefully.

Monica’s thoughts knotted. Simple math. “Mom had to get married! I was a surprise. Wait till I tell her!”

Should she make a big scene? Blow her mom’s cover? And be a self-righteous geek like everybody else? Monica squinted at Left-Hand Kachina, whose expression sometimes looked angry and other times surprised. Let Mom and Dad have their little secret. And then the next time they got all flamed about something, she would give them a math lesson.

“Do you love Zeki?” Aunt Jo asked.

“We’re just friends. We hang out together. I’m not gonna fall in love until after I graduate from college, and I’m not gonna get married until I have a career, and I’m not gonna have kids ever! Too much hassle.”

“Why were you sneaky about your new boyfriend?”

“I asked Mom, what if I dated someone of a different background.”

“And?”

“She got twitchy. She was peeling potatoes. Cut her finger. I ran to get a Band-Aid… They’re always around, my parents, but never there. You know?” Monica’s face twisted. She unfolded the skimpy top she had worn when she went with Zeki to the party. “Mom didn’t say I couldn’t date someone different…a Muslim.” Monica knew she was using what her English teacher called “specious reasoning.” What would Left-Hand Kachina do?

Monica rolled her eyes at Aunt Jo. “OK, yeah. I knew Mom and Dad would geek out big time. Zeki didn’t pick what color or religion he is!” Monica slammed her empty suitcase shut.

“I guess I did,” Monica said.

“And you chose to lie. Numerous times.”

Left-Hand Kachina waited patiently, his inscrutable expression seemingly on the verge of shifting to something altogether new.

This story by Beth Fowler won 3rd Place Creative Nonfiction in the York PA literary contest. Fowler is the author of “Ken’s War.”

Visit https://www.facebook.com/kenswar.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQjZBjqFNzs&feature=youtu.be

 ken's war coverWhen teen rebellion & culture shock collide. Shop here: Ken’s War

Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award- winning author of YA books.

 

 

THAT INSTANT CONNECTION

     CREATE THAT INSTANT CONNECTION BETWEEN READERS AND CHARACTERS

     By Guest Blogger Tara Fox Hall

 

Making a reader care about a character is the most important job of a writer. If a reader cares about a character and sees him or her as a believable personality, then the reader begins to identify with that character, and lose himself or herself in the story. As writers, that instant connection is essential to establish early on, so you hook readers and get them to stay for the whole story. They need to want to know what is going to happen. You need to set the hook deep on your first try, and not lose them in the second chapter, or worse, the second paragraph.

How do you do that? Presumably, you are telling a story either because you just plain love that story, or because the plot and/or the characters in it are important to you personally in some way. Your characters need to be as vibrant to your readers as they are to you, and someone your readers can identify with. That doesn’t imply that readers have to be just like your characters, or have the same background. But there does have to be something either in the makeup of the character or the plot of the book to make the reader care about the character.

Yes, I acknowledge that if you write series, it’s a bit easier to hold a reader’s attention once it’s gained. In my short story “Partners” from the Promise Me Anthology, I wanted to tell the story of how Danial and Theo, the two main characters from my novel Promise Me, met and eventually became friends. Anyone who has read that book would naturally be interested in this story, but what about new readers who hadn’t yet sampled my vampire series? How to make them connect with my characters, so that they not only enjoyed the story, but also wanted more?

My tale begins with the vampire detective Danial on one of his jobs, trying to find a thief at a construction site. Instead he discovers the werecougar Theo, scavenging off garbage. Right after, the real thieves show up in force. While Theo does help Danial capture the real culprits, he then melts away in the night, leaving Danial to face the police.

Hopefully, this first scene intrigues the reader. Why is Theo scavenging for scraps when he’s a powerful supernatural being? Why does Theo help Danial, when he could easily run instead? And why does Danial let him help, when he obviously chooses to work alone? Last but not least, why is Danial the vampire solving crimes and not out seducing young women in nightclubs, like so many of his paperback fellows are wont to?

Promise Me connects readers with its characters.

Promise Me connects readers with its characters.

Another story in my Promise Me Anthology is a vampire romantic suspense called “Night Music”, newly published its own novella. The young heroine Krys has come to a park she knew in her youth, fresh from the double whammy of her brother’s death from cancer and her new divorce. She hears music that night that brings her to tears with its aching melody, yet her handsome neighbor David denies he created it.

Again, hopefully the reader wonders who David is, and why he is making the music, even if they suspect he’s a vampire. How will Krys discover his vampiric nature? Will he bite her or will they have sex, or both? After that happens (‘cause one of the two ALWAYS HAPPENS in vampire romance, if not both), what will be the consequence?

Make readers want to know what happens next, and your reader base will grow, guaranteed!

Book Title: Tempest of Vengeance (Promise Me Series #11) – paranormal dramatic romance

Date released: April 2015

Melange Link: http://www.melange-books.com/authors/tarafoxhall/tempest.html

Blurb: A chain of tragic events culminating in the shattering of the magical “dream bond” between Theo and Sar turns the lovers against one another, as Ulysses attacks from all fronts, hoping to destroy Devlin for good. The return of Lash reignites the fire between he and Sar, even as he saves her daughter Elle from certain death. Finally joined under Oath, Lash, Devlin, and Sar face the storm of Ulysses’s wrath, knowing it will take their combined strength and courage to save all they love from his tempest of vengeance.

Tara Fox Hall’s writing credits include nonfiction, erotica, horror, suspense, action-adventure, children’s stories, and contemporary and historical paranormal romance. She is the author of the paranormal fantasy Lash series and the paranormal romantic drama Promise Me series. Tara divides her free time unequally between writing novels and short stories, chainsawing firewood, caring for stray animals, sewing cat and dog beds for donation to animal shelters, and target practice. All of her published children’s stories to date are free reads on www.childrens-stories.net.

 

***

Beth Fowler is the author of the beloved coming-of-age novel “Ken’s War.”

Visit https://www.facebook.com/kenswar.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQjZBjqFNzs&feature=youtu.be

 ken's war coverWhen teen rebellion & culture shock collide. Shop here: Ken’s War

Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award- winning author of YA books.

 

 

 

$harpen Your $ales Tools: Part 2

Beth Fowler headshotDo you want to earn more writing dollars? Do want to rise from hobby to business status IRS-wise? If you answered “Yes!” then it’s time to sharpen your sales tools.

Here’s Part 2

Tool 6: Persist.

Sometimes editors reject articles for reasons having nothing to do with quality or suitability. Let’s say you’ve submitted an article about the therapeutic value of animal companions to a magazine for nursing home administrators. The editor shoots back a form letter: “While we’ve given your article consideration, it doesn’t meet our editorial needs at this time.” At this time!

Perhaps animals starred in a centerfold spread less than two years ago, or headquarters overhauled the magazine to cover administrative topics exclusively, or budget shrinkage precludes compensating freelancers, or the editor’s dog crunched its final biscuit, making a story about comfort creatures discomfiting. Persistent writers try another time.

Tool 7: Become multitalented.

Anne Lamott’s first novel was published in 1980. More novels and memoirs followed. She wrote columns for magazines and then, “Someone offered me a gig teaching a writing workshop, and I’ve been teaching writing classes ever since.” And writing.

Tool 8: Create a business plan.

Dynamic plans lead to dynamic results. Writers’ plans include income goals, milestone goals, and quantity goals. Overall goals are supported with specific actions to maintain loyal customers and cultivate new customers.

Tool 9: Produce systematically.

Novelist Wilbur Smith says, “If you just let it happen, then it’s not going to happen.” To make it happen, Smith gives himself a date on which to start producing a new bestseller.

A production schedule is a “to do” list with due dates. Coordinate the production schedule to avoid bottlenecks, missed deadlines and downtime. Track queries and manuscripts sent, accepted and rejected; dollars spent, owed, and earned.

Tool 10: State your USP.

Marketing wizards bandy around the term USP. Writers, too, can announce their Unique Selling Points by proposing articles with unconventional angles, having access to meaty quotes and new research data, highlighting unique qualifications and experience promising an insider’s view, taking a contrarian’s stance and busting popularly held myths.

Tool 11: Negotiate.

Don’t freeze out non-paying publications. Ask for a free advert to be published in the issue with your article. The addendum “Email the author to find out about writers’ workshops” is fair consideration in lieu of dollars, as is “This short story is excerpted from the novel of the same title.”

When a prospect asks, “How much do you charge for an article?” reply, “I recently received X dollars for an article of the same length” or cite fees from Writer’s Market or tell the editor you’ll get back to her. Find out what that and similar publications pay freelancers. Ask for additional pay for photos. Retain as many rights as possible. Have copyright revert to you after publication so you may sell reprint rights.

Editors and readers are customers. You’re a salesperson. Sharpen your sales tools and watch your writing dollars grow.

 

 

Article by Beth Fowler, author of the beloved coming-of-age novel “Ken’s War.”

Visit https://www.facebook.com/kenswar.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQjZBjqFNzs&feature=youtu.be

 ken's war coverWhen teen rebellion & culture shock collide. Shop here: Ken’s War

Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award- winning author of YA books.