Wednesday 9 September 2015

(vol 2) Chapter 35: “A successful week of flashing!”

2015 TOTAL WORD COUNT =           66521

Those that know me can attest to the fact that I’ve always found it difficult to talk about myself positively. I used to struggle in my employment performance reviews, and nowadays it’s constantly thinking that my writing sucks.

But every now and then I get a boost, a perfect storm if you will. This week has been that for me and, even as the World’s Greatest PessimistTM, I can’t deny that I must be doing something right.

Let’s start at the beginning (don’t worry; it’s not that beginning, just last week).

I’ve made the massive step of finally cracking on with a 2nd draft, something I’ve never done outside of Flash Fiction. Last week I sat down with a pretty stable opening chapter and I felt ready for another pair of eyes to take a look.

My wonderful wife stepped up and proceeded to read. Now, I’ve told Mrs Creek before that I need her to be honest. Being only positive will damage me more than letting me know what’s broken. By now I think I can trust her to point out the issues that occur in my writing.

When she finished she sat back and nodded. She liked it. She wanted to know more (which means that the seeds I’ve planted are working). She said it wasn’t what she would normally read (she likes your books more, Mr J Patterson!), but she could enjoy what I was working on.

So far so good. While it’s not the best idea to have an outside reader pace you as you work, something that could cause you friend / spouse / colleague to become a co-author at a pivotal stage, it’s nice to know that the all-important opening is doing its job.

And for someone pushing on in a projects stage that he’s never done before, it’s a little bit of a boost when I needed it.

It made me happy.

The next awesome thing that boosted my confidence was a rather unexpected imagination splurge.

I’ve written before about sometimes having to really struggle with the various Flash Fiction prompts I participate in. Some weeks I’m beating my head against the keyboard in the hope that something just resembling a story will jump onto the page.
This weekend was the opposite. After posting my first Micro Bookends entry before I’d even started work, I suddenly found more ideas waving their little arms and asking to be produced.

Some contests have entry limits (normally two) but, after checking the MB rules I discovered that that wasn’t the case. I knew I still had to get one done, because my first one wasn’t the obligatory CHRIS AND MIKE vs story that fans the world over demand from me J.

So, I did that. I had two stories up. That should have been it. But another idea started forming at an accelerated pace, an idea that was fully formed in my mind before I’d typed the first word. To have three ideas, three stories that I was happy with, and proud of, was weird. And then another one formed.

Four! WTF?!?!

I managed to put the brakes on after that. Somehow. I focused on my current WIP and pushed Flash Fiction to the back of my mind.

Then Friday rolled around. Two more stories formed. Again, I really liked both (I’ll even admit that sometimes I’m aware that one of my stories is weaker than the other when posting multiples). If I’d been asked to choose just one, I would have found it difficult. Thankfully Flash! Friday does have an entry limit, so I had no choice but to stop.

Then Sunday rolled around. After a fantastic family day out to celebrate my Nan’s 80th, I fired up the laptop once home, and found myself trying to write two stories at the same time. They both wanted my full attention and were both fighting for the finish line. A hefty bit of editing later and they were both up.

And, as if that wasn’t enough, Voima Oy and FE Clark started bigging up Paragraph Planet yesterday and I thought to myself “I haven’t done one for that site in a couple of months”, so proceeded to write another piece of Flash Fiction.

Thursday, Friday, Sunday, Monday.

4 days.

9 stories.

1515 words.

I walked away from that weekend extremely proud. I’d really enjoyed writing all nine of those stories; none of them felt like dead weight. After finishing CampNaNo in July, August had me all kinds of burnt out, and I don’t think I wrote much in the way of ‘good stuff’. I felt like I’d returned.

And then the contest results started coming in.

This was the last one on my list. I’d won my first Angry Hourglass back in January, and finally got the coveted Flash! Friday win in July.

But Bookends was one that, in all honesty, I never thought I’d get. I got a 2nd place on my second attempt late last year, and have had a few Mentions, but once I switched to CHRIS AND MIKE vs, the lack of anonymity meant that I was probably excluded from ‘blind judging’. And rightly so. I had no problem with this and stated several times that those stories weren’t in it for the win, just for the fun (and the awesome cult following).

But, recently I started throwing the odd non C&M story in there. And it paid off in the most spectacular way.

The judge for the week had awarded me not only second place for A WORLD DIVIDED BY X, but first as well, for WHEN THE STUDENT BECOMES THE MASTER. I was over the moon. It turns out that my over-writing on the Thursday had improved throughout the day until, clearly, I’d ‘got it right’.

The contest’s judge @dazmb should be congratulated, not for giving me the last of my trophy trilogy, but for the immense effort he put into the comments. Each mention, each podium place, got the works. It wasn’t just word count (most comments exceeding that of the stories being judged), but the pure quality of it. The observations reminded me of Rebekah Postupak’s Flash Point articles (please bring those back). Some people would pay for the level of feedback that @dazmb went into, and for that reason, he is always welcome at my house for Christmas (note: Brian S Creek does not endorse or affiliate himself with Christmas in any way).

As I mentioned, I was proud of all my stories this weekend. But, if I was honest, the two for Flash! Friday were probably my weakest. In spite of that, I managed a Special Mention for A BEAUTIFUL FACE OFF, a dark tale of beauty and media.

I don’t think I’ve ever written two polarising stories before, especially at the same time. APPETITE was a dark tale involving a gypsy curse that comes back to haunt our main character, Victor, in a far more horrifying way than he imagined. My second piece TUMMY FULL OF MONSTERS, the one that got me a bronze on the podium, was a family friendly tale of a little boy with an upset stomach.

I don’t want this post to sound like bragging. As I said at the start, I’m not a positive person and have always found it difficult to ‘promote’ myself.

But I think the last year and a half of blogging has helped. Not having to look a person in the eye, not having to see their reaction to my achievements, makes it a little easier. I find it difficult to open gifts in front of the person that has given it to me, so having someone say they liked my writing to my face makes me blush, and causes my stomach to knot.

But in written form, it’s a little easier to deal with. I still blush, it still feels undeserved, but I’m embarrassed in private, so it’s not so uncomfortable. I don’t know how I would have taken the kind words of @dazmb, Steph Ellis, Josh Bertetta, and Karl A Russell if they’d been stood in front of me. I probably would have run away.

Kind words can lift an author, and for that I’m grateful. Not just to the judges who made last weekend so bloody fantastic, but to all the judges, and all the fellow writers who have taken the time, once their own stories are up, to read other entries and make kind comments.

I’m grateful for my Special Mentions, my Honourable Mentions, my Thirds, my Seconds, and (of course) my Wins. But I wouldn’t have had any of them if the community surrounding it all wasn’t such a pleasure to be part of.

And on that note I’ll leave you. Below are the Flash Fiction stories that did me proudest this weekend just gone. Hope you enjoy them too.

And here’s my Winners interview from Micro Bookends. Find out what makes me tick.

See you in seven.

(Micro Bookends – 2nd)

X-linked recessive inheritance. It’s why men turn and women don’t.
I spent seven years in an abusive relationship, unable to escape a man I feared. He controlled me, belittled me, beat me.
Then one day he dropped dead. I thought I was free, that God had answered my prayers and struck him down. Instead, things got worse.
Men don’t stay dead anymore. They come back as something else.
My home is a dark corner beneath the freeway. I eat when I can, sleep when I can. The rest of the time I hunt the bastards down.
It’s all about survival now and I’ve got to stay on my game.

(Micro Bookends – 1st)

How about W, for ‘who gives a crap’. Pythagoras, fractions, algebra; it’s all gibberish. Graffiti on the page.
My son looks up with patient eyes. I’m supposed to be helping him with his homework but he’s the one teaching me.
I struggled with it back in the day and it ain’t no easier now. I used to blame the dyslexia but Frank down the road doesn’t let it beat him down.
My three year walks over to me holding his new favourite toy, a second hand Mr Spell. Damned thing is probably smarter than me too. It mocks me.
“Would you like to play a game?”

(Flash! Friday – Special Mention)

There used to be a time when you couldn’t look anywhere without seeing my face. Posters, billboards, magazines, television. I was the face of my generation. You want eye liner? Let me show you which brand. You want a new dress? Let me show you how good it can look.
But then she came along. Big blue eyes, perfect lips, and a tight little butt. She was me turned up to eleven. And she was younger.
It didn’t take long before I lost the deals and the adoration. Eventually I lost my mind. I’d spent every waking hour being beautiful for the world and then suddenly, everybody stopped looking.
I fell into an abyss; drink, drugs, sex.
When I eventually came out the other side, it wasn’t because of loved ones or some magical epiphany. I came back for one thing; revenge.
I’m going to take that bitch’s face away.

(Angry Hourglass – 3rd)

There were monsters in Charlie’s tummy.
He had woken up this morning and his tummy had hurt something rotten. His mummy had asked him what was wrong and all he could think of was that some monsters were messing around with his insides and he didn’t know which end he was going to be sick out of.
Straight away mummy said that Charlie would have to stay at home.
This upset Charlie because Mrs Garret was teaching Volcanoes today and Charlie had spent all weekend reading about them in his encyclopedia, the one his Grandma and Grandpa had bought him for Christmas.
He was also upset because his best friend William had promised to bring in a rare Pokemon card today to do swaps. Charlie asked his mummy if William could come round after school but she thought it was best not to; “we wouldn’t want William to get monsters in his tummy too, would we?” she’d said.
Charlie guessed she was probably right. William was his bestest friend and he didn’t want him to go through this horrible feeling too, even for an ultra-rare Pokemon.
So Charlie stayed at home, snuggled up on the sofa, watching cartoons. Mummy had let him have a little lemonade (because the monsters don’t like bubbles), and some dry toast (because monsters might think the food’s boring and leave to find something better).
When it didn’t get better, Charlies mum gave him some tasty tasty pink medicine and much to Charlie’s relief it seemed to do the trick.
And while he didn’t feel up to having a proper dinner (just in case the monsters were hoping for something better than dry toast), he did feel a lot better by bed time, and was sure he wasn’t going to be sick any more, out of either end.
Before mummy turned the light off, Charlie asked her one last favour. She laughed a little but did it anyway.
So Charlie slept his best night ever. And the little cup of pink medicine did a good job at keeping away the monster under his bed too.

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