Sarah Potter Writes

Pursued by the Muses of prose, poetry, and music.

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Friday Fictioneers — Unholy Epitaph

Genre: Dark humor
Word Count: 100

~~UNHOLY EPITAPH~~

hic iacet sepultus

DOMINIC SEAMUS HEGGARTY
a gardener who loved Nature minus Man.

Born in Islington, June 13th 1836
Died December 27th 1891

Bastard son of Michael de Humpe, VIIIth Earl of Stitchbury
 who cavorted with Molly Frimble, an unfortunate, and contracted the French disease and died most horribly of raging insanity,
thereby bestowing upon his beloved illegitimate son nothing of note other than an unconsecrated burial plot at the far end of his Estate,
for when his own time of passing came, alongside Molly,
dispatched to the afterlife by Lady Stitchbury in a fit of apoplexy.

requiescant in pace

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Friday Fictioneers: 100 word stories
Photo Prompt: copyright © Liz Young

 

Friday Fictioneers — Him with the Dog collar

Genre: Humour
Word count: 100

~~HIM WITH THE DOG COLLAR~~

Susanna thought her husband, the Reverend, the worst public speaker in the universe. Whenever he climbed into the pulpit, he underwent a personality change: those unfunny anecdotes, the sepulchral voice, and the platitudes.

To cure her boredom, Susanna thought not of God but of shoes. Even vicars’ wives like to dream about shoes, especially in Lent when temptation expands in proportion to self-denial. Sometimes her frustration spilled over into an angry confession, and the Reverend told her, “It’s the Devil who distracts you with shoes, my dear.”

True, she couldn’t wear her sandals anymore due to her feet turning cloven.

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Friday Fictioneers: 100 word stories
Photo Prompt: copyright © Magaly Guerrero

Friday Fictioneers — Threat or Intention?

Genre: Realistic Fiction
Word count: 100

~~THREAT OR INTENTION?~~

Dear B,

This time, you’ve cheesed me off to the point of no return. You’ve stolen a chunk of my life, then upped sticks and left me to clear up the mess.

Well, here’s my plan. I’m going to flatten you, squeeze that last drop of life-blood from your veins, like tomato paste from a tube. For years you’ve treated me as a piece of furniture, an unpaid servant and plaything of no consequence. You promised me the world, but deprived me of the yeast to expand my horizons.

See this marble rolling pin.  

You’re dead.

Amen to that,

M

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Friday Fictioneers: 100 word stories
Photo Prompt: copyright © Dale Rogerson

Friday Fictioneers — A Rare Specimen

For this week’s Friday Fictioneers (photo prompt copyright © Jellico’s Stationhouse) I couldn’t resist adapting another excerpt from my latest, as-yet unpublished novel Counting Magpies.

Those of you who read my earlier excerpt “Snow Baby” will already have met Morag. In today’s piece, she arrives in the unfamiliar city of York in the middle of the night after a journey of 300 kilometers on an antiquated bicycle that decides to self-destruct on a cobbled street outside the home of the centenarian cleric and one-time Dean of York Minster.

Genre: Dystopian speculative fiction
Word Count: 100

A RARE SPECIMEN

I sit there stunned with the bicycle lying beside me.

A man thrusts open a window above me and cries out. “Hell fire! What’s the good Lord delivered to my doorstep? Some up-skelled and paggered lass, by the looks of it.”

I haul myself to my feet and stand there, with my hands on my hips, forgetting about the size of my belly. “Up-skelled and paggered? Are you insulting me?”

“No, I’m observing that you’ve fallen off your bicycle and look all done-in. …Oh, I see it now. It’s so many years since I’ve encountered anyone in the family way.”

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To read other Friday Fictioneers’ stories for this week, or to add a 100-word story of your own, please click on the blue frog below.

— April’s Guest Storyteller — Robert C. Day

In 2013, Robert began to write. He produced his first short story since he left school many years ago. In 2014, he read every single book on Creative Writing he could get his hands on. In 2015, he wrote two novels. In 2016, he started his blog (www.memymine.co.uk) and to date has over 26,000 hits and 1,100+ followers. He writes a new story, thought, article, poem or writing tip every day and he lives to chat. In Oct 2016, he started an MA in Creative Writing and he now has a 2-year writing plan and a 20-year writing plan that includes 23 published items — at least. Robert is currently undergoing treatment for narcissistic tendencies and expects to be far, far better in the very near future.

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Sarah says: I’m delighted to welcome a fellow eccentric Brit as my guest storyteller this month.  Like me, Robert C. Day (otherwise known as Levishedated), writes quirky fiction of a speculative kind.

Post Script: With regard to my statement above, I’ve just had a most surreal experience. Never have I had guest storyteller do a disappearing act on me. I’ve just been over to his blog and discovered a post titled THE END and the words “This is the Last post on this blog”. Only yesterday we were exchanging emails and he never said anything about his intention to abandon ship. Either this is a most odd April Fool’s joke, or he’s serious and has gone back to whichever planet he came from. I thought I was eccentric, but… 😉 

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The story hook in Robert’s words…

A charming tale of manners and … no, I lie – it’s a sad story about the ending of a relationship in the most unusual of locations.

MAY BE SOME TIME

“You know, you don’t have to go. Not if you don’t want to.”

She stopped and gave me a long, searching look, as if she were trying to swim into my eyes. To gauge my mind from the inside.

Of course, I said nothing. She knew that I wouldn’t. She knew me that well.

We used to be more talkative. When we first met, we would spend weeks, hours, days together – just talking. We talked whilst we ate and drank, talked whilst we walked and worked. We even talked in the middle of movies. But the time we loved to talk the most was after making love.

Ah, the fun we had whilst in the throes of slippery romps and shivery thrills. Our talking then took the form of squealing, yelping and occasional joyful ululating. Forget about anyone hearing us, we were too far gone for that to bother us and too caught up in our own delicious minglement of love and lust to care.

Those days are long gone. Who knows where they went? A year ago, we began to talk in murmurs. A month ago, I stopped talking altogether. Last night, she asked me if I wanted to leave.

Of course, she had every right to ask. It is her place after all. Sure, we’d decked it out together and decided on colours that matched our moods, but at the end of the day – it was her home.

I don’t blame her. The time we had together was longer than most managed. I read the other day that the average partnership was now only three years, and we’d already managed over four by the time I stopped talking.

It’s funny, but I couldn’t tell you what made me end up that way.

My parents were good to me. She was good for me. Life was good. But so what? When it’s time, it’s time.

I was a long way from … well, from anywhere. When I stepped out of the door, I didn’t take anything with me. There wasn’t much point. More for me would have been less for her, and she’d need it much more than I would.

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I feel the cold immediately. It embraces me like a thousand birds of prey – ravenous and cruel. I turn and look back. She stands at the window, her face a blank. I am able to blink, once, before my tears freeze over, sealing my eyes open.

I exhale and the crystalline fragments of my breath obscure her just before the spin of my body takes her face from me. By the time my body rotates to face her again, the sub-zero of space has blackened my vision, and a bare moment later, I am gone.

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You can find the links to previous guest storyteller posts at 

 

Friday Fictioneers — Adrift Alone

Genre: Haibun (Japanese-style poetic prose)
Word count: 100

~~ADRIFT ALONE~~

She sits at the end of the jetty penning a tanka poem to her lost love. Earlier attempts bob about on the seawater inside screwed up balls of paper; they slowly unravel into sodden single sheets with the words sucked out of them.

He sails away,
the figurehead of his boat,
captain of nothing.
In deeps, beyond redemption,
sink the wrecks of human dreams.

He floats becalmed in a rubber dinghy amidst flotsam. The sun beats down on him and cooks his brain, as he composes his epitaph.

Here lies a shark that ate a fool who died alone.

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Photo Prompt: copyright © Fatima Fakier Deria
Friday Fictioneers: 100 word stories

Friday Fictioneers — This green and pleasant land

PHOTO PROMPT © J Hardy Carroll

Genre: Political Satire
Word Count: 100

~~THIS GREEN AND PLEASANT LAND~~

April 1st, 2019, farmers across England awoke to a most baffling sight. Identical slate-grey houses had sprouted in the middle of their set-aside fields overnight. To add to the mystery, all the weeds and wildflowers had disappeared, along with the fresh spring foliage from the trees.

High voltage electrified spiked fences surrounded the properties, thwarting any attempts to gain access. On the padlocked main gates to each of the properties hung an upside down Union Jack with a V-sign above it and the words LET THE FUN BEGIN.

Midday passed. The houses stayed put. It was no April fool’s joke.

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Photo Prompt: copyright © J Hardy Carroll
Friday Fictioneers: 100 word stories

Interview: Meet Author, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

I’m thrilled to welcome author, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields to my blog for a second time, on this happy occasion to interview her about her writing.  For those of you who missed her guest storyteller post back in November of last year, here’s a recap of her biography.

Kansas City native Rochelle Wisoff-Fields is a woman of Jewish descent and the granddaughter of Eastern European immigrants. She has a close personal connection to Jewish history, which has been a recurring theme throughout much of her writing. Growing up, she was heavily influenced by the Sholom Aleichem stories, the basis for Fiddler on the Roof. Her novels Please Say Kaddish for Me, From Silt and Ashes and As One Must, One Can were born of her desire to share the darker side of these beloved tales—the history that can be difficult to view, much less embrace.

She is also the author and illustrator of This, That and Sometimes the Other, an eclectic anthology of short stories.

Before becoming an author, Rochelle attended the Kansas City Art Institute, where she studied painting and lithography. Her preferred media are pen and ink, pencil, and watercolor. Her artwork is featured on the covers of her books and within them as well. Her coffee table companion book to her trilogy which will feature character portraits, A Stone for the Journey, is due out in the spring 2017.

Rochelle maintains a blog called Addicted to Purple where she facilitates the internationally popular flash fiction challenge known as Friday Fictioneers. She and her husband, Jan, raised three sons and live in Belton, Missouri. When she takes a break from writing and illustrating, Rochelle enjoys swimming, reading and dancing.

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All three of your novels in “The Havah Gitterman Saga” are wonderfully rich in historical detail. How did you approach your research? And how much information did you already have to hand, due to your Jewish background?

Wonderful questions to which there are no simple answers. One would think that growing up Jewish, I would have come into these novels with more ammunition. However this is not the case. We were secular Jews so I really didn’t know a lot about liturgy and traditions.  

When I was born in 1953, memories of the Holocaust were fresh in everyone’s minds. The massacres called pogroms in Eastern Europe that occurred forty years prior to Hitler took a backseat.

I credit my mother with what little knowledge I had of my Eastern European heritage. Her father came from Poland in the early 1900’s as she put it “at the age of 19 with nothing but the shirt on his back and became a self-taught tailor.” She said he didn’t know his own birthdate because the pogromists customarily destroyed the synagogues first, which is where birth and death records were kept.

I’m grateful for the internet, which holds a wealth of information and Google is my friend. Wikipedia is a good place to start. Such sites as Jewish Gen and Jewish Virtual Library are also great resources as well.

Jewish Gen has a holiday calendar that was invaluable for keeping dates straight and true to life. It was how I knew that Bayla’s birth on December 1st, 1899 was first night of Hanukkah. When she celebrated her 8th birthday in 1907 it also fell on the first night of Hanukkah.

Old newspapers are wonderful resources. One website I used, especially for the third in the Saga, AS ONE MUST, ONE CAN, is www.vintagekansascity.com. It’s full of treasures from a newspaper called “The Kansas City Journal.” The character of Judge William H. Wallace came from those pages. I couldn’t have invented a better nemesis for Havah.

What inspired you to write the first novel, Please Say Kaddish For Me, and did you plan from the beginning for it to be a standalone novel or part of a trilogy?

In the beginning, I planned to write my grandfather’s story, but no one in the family seemed to know much about him aside from what I already knew about him. Yet, I wanted to tell the dark side of Fiddler on the Roof. That part of history that few, including some of my Jewish relatives, know nothing about.

There is a version of the mourner’s Kaddish, the prayer said in honor of the dead that we recite in my synagogue on Yom Kippur. After each line, the name of a site of persecution is said such as Treblinka, Auschwitz, etc. One of those places that I knew little about, until the beginning of my research, was Kishinev.

Curiosity piqued, I began my research trail. One of the first things I learned was that the bloodbath on Easter weekend 1903 took the lives of at least 50 Jews, including children. Not only that, but it was the first internationally recognized pogrom. Since it was in what’s now known as Moldova and not Poland, it became clear that this story had nothing directly to do with my grandfather. (I did name a character in the third book Sam Weiner after him.)

Mind you, when I started PLEASE SAY KADDISH FOR ME I was greener than grass in May. I had no clue how to write, I only knew I had a story to tell. As good fortune would have it, I’d met a fellow Hebrew student Annie Withers who was also a professional writer. Thanks to her, I ended up in three different critique groups.

I can’t tell you how many revisions I did as I learned the craft. I mean I really can’t, because I lost count a long time ago.

I didn’t see myself writing a second novel. I thought that once I completed PSKFM my work would be finished—until I read about the pogrom in Odessa, Ukraine in 1905 and the response of the Kansas City Jewish community. So began my work on FROM SILT AND ASHES. As I learned more about writing and about my characters I found myself bouncing between the two novels and, practically, writing them simultaneously.

At one point, I thought I’d completed both of them and began work on AS ONE MUST, ONE CAN. About 60,000 words into it, I landed a contract for PSKFM and FSAA with agent Jeanie Loiacono.

When I picked the third novel back up to complete it, my characters had changed so much over the course of the stories that I whacked a good 40,000 and, for all intents and purposes, started over. 

Who are your favourite three characters in the saga, and why?

This is a tough question because the answer can vary from day to day and I have so many characters it’s tough to choose only three. Of course I adore Ulrich, Havah’s dear friend and benefactor, however I’ll have to go with the three who have grown and changed the most over the course of the three novels that cover a ten year period.

Havah Cohen Gitterman, the main character and lynchpin of the trilogy, has her childhood ripped from her in one night. She’s often selfish and headstrong. I really like her because she’s also forgiving and willing to learn. No matter what curveballs life—or a cruel author—throws her way, she’s determined to rise above them. For example, when she loses the manual dexterity in her right hand she becomes proficient with her left. She has a mother’s heart, big enough to accept her daughter’s blindness and adopt three traumatized orphans as well.

Lev Gitterman is one of those three orphans and Havah’s nephew by marriage. In PLEASE SAY KADDISH FOR ME he started out as a nine-year-old boy who was only meant to be mentioned once or twice. However through FROM SILT AND ASHES and AS ONE MUST, ONE CAN he took it upon himself to become one of the most important people in the books. There is a tenderness about him that I love. He’s able to work through the trauma and abuse that have beset him his entire life and rise above it.

The third character I have to include is Nikolai Derevenko, a Russian doctor. I only meant for him to be Ulrich Dietrich’s sidekick. Ironically, I’d have to say that, of all of the many characters, Nikolai is the most complex. That alone makes him one of my three favorites. Over the course of the three novels, he goes from being a confident surgeon to a haunted man who has seen too much. His past and present collide in the third book. Writing his redemption was a great experience.

It’s unusual for a publisher to allow an author to illustrate her own book cover. What is your artistic background? And do you consider yourself primarily an artist or a writer, or both in equal measure?

As long as I can remember, I wanted to be an artist. According to my mother, no piece of paper in the house was safe. Everything had to be drawn on. As far as training is concerned, I attended two years at the Kansas City Art Institute before deciding I had different ideas about art than my instructors. In retrospect, I was a bit hasty and quite immature. I do consider myself both illustrator and author in equal measure.

While working on a book, how do you organise your writing time?

Organise? Organisation has always been a challenge for me. I’m pretty spontaneous and tend to flit from one activity to another. However, before I retired from full time employment, I did have to be quite disciplined. Since my hours as a cake decorator were mostly early morning to late afternoon, I would rise between three and four in the morning to write.

Since I wrote the major bulk of AS ONE MUST, ONE CAN post retirement, my time was more flexible. However, as a creature of habit, I found that my best writing time is before sunrise.

With the first draft, do you edit as you go, or save it until the end?

When I wrote PLEASE SAY KADDISH FOR ME the first time, I wrote it from beginning to end. Being a novice I considered it finished. In retrospect, I had a lot to learn. With AS ONE MUST, ONE CAN I edited as I went. In fact, when it comes to editing, I’m guilty of editing my emails and even text messages.

Are you easy to live with when absorbed in a project?

If you asked my husband Jan, I think you’d probably get a resounding, “No!” He’s put up with many late suppers and the absentee wife.

Who is your favourite author, and why?

Without question, my favorite author is Geraldine Brooks. She is the maven of historical fiction. Her books PEOPLE OF THE BOOK and CALEB’S CROSSING are brilliant examples. Her extensive research and use of the language of the times give authenticity to her work. Her characters tend to be three dimensional and practically walk off the page. I want to be her when I grow up.

What are you working on at the moment, and do you have any ideas for future projects?

The next work in progress is A STONE FOR THE JOURNEY, which will be a coffee table companion book for Havah’s trilogy or as my publisher has dubbed it, “The Havah Gitterman Saga.” The plan is for the book to be hard-back containing at least 180 8”x 10” full color pictures of scenes from the novels as well as character studies.

When my publisher, after seeing a few of those character portraits I’ve posted on my blog, asked if I would be interested in producing a coffee table book, I didn’t have to think twice. This is really the fulfilment of a childhood dream.

Prior to obtaining your first deal with a traditional publisher, did you ever consider self-publishing?

No, not really. However with seeing the success of such novels as THE MARTIAN by Andy Weir, that was ultimately picked up by a traditional publisher and made into a movie, I might reconsider on a future project.

Do you have any writing tips for aspiring authors?  

Before you can break the rules, you have to know the rules. Be willing to listen and learn. Nobody’s first draft is perfect. (I’m not sure the 20th draft is perfect.)

To be a writer, one should first be a reader.

Be aware that these days, the author must be willing to be his or her own publicist. Social media is important. Set up a blog and interact with your commenters. Build your brand. Join blog writing challenges. Not only are they wonderful for honing your craft, but for networking as well.

Know your audience. Today’s readers have short attention spans. Most won’t read such classics as GONE WITH THE WIND or EAST OF EDEN (more’s the pity) where there’s a slow build to the action. The action must begin in the first chapter.

If you truly believe in your writing, don’t give up! To quote agent Terry Burns, who, incidentally turned my novel down in 2008:

“Publishing is a process of trying to have the right product in the right hands at exactly the right time, hitting that window of opportunity while it’s still open. … 85% of all authors give up or just put it out themselves with little success. The publishing world belongs to those who are persistent, grow their craft, and who do the extraordinarily hard work of getting established in business.”

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Available in print and on Kindle

psk-amazon-jpg

 amazon.com & amazon.co.uk

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amazon.com & amazon.co.uk

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amazon.com & amazon.co.uk

Review: Please Say Kaddish For Me

Review: From Silt and Ashes

As One Must, One Can

November’s Guest Storyteller, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Friday Fictioneers — Measuring Up

Genre: Saucy fiction
Word count: 100

~~MEASURING UP~~

“Gosh, you’re tall!” people keep saying to me. How the hell would they like it, if I came up to them and said, “You’re short”?

At my first school, I was the shortest in the class. Then I swear that Mum put a cake in my lunchbox with similar magical ingredients to the one Alice ate in Wonderland, but without the shrinking antidote.

There’s this cute fellow at university, who calls me “his Amazonian beauty”. His mates tease him about conversing with my breasts.

Oh, they of limited imagination. He’s a mathematician and knows all about how to handle figures.

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Photo Prompt: Jennifer Pendergast
Friday Fictioneers: 100 word stories

  

Friday Fictioneers — A Matter Of Perspective

Genre: General Fiction
Word count: 100

~~A MATTER OF PERSPECTIVE~~

Whenever Seamus espied his ex-wife with that swanky billionaire, his legs gave out at the knees and he suffered an attack of vertigo.

In another life Seamus had been a violinist who played a Stradivarius, but now he dwelt under a railway arch, his home a cardboard box. Daily, he busked on a distressed fiddle. A few people tossed coins in his cap, but most passed him by, treating him as less than a bug.

Today, it dawned on him that bugs had been around a lot longer than humans had, and would probably outlive them all, including his ex-wife.

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Photo Prompt: copyright © Shaktiki Sharma
Friday Fictioneers: 100 word stories

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