Short Story Month: “Sweat”

The end of Short Story Month is upon us and I have a final few tales to share.  (Not that won’t still periodically share them throughout the year. I’m sure I will–I’m such a rogue.)

I’m ending the month with two of Zora Neale Hurston’s stories. While modern books on writing tell aspiring authors to stay away from writing dialect, Hurston is a master of it. The contrast between the dialogue of her characters and her crisp “King’s English” narrative voice is stark, but she balances her stories with the right amount of each.

I've always loved this quote.
I’ve always loved this quote.

Maybe this dialect is easy for me to read as I am from the American South and grew up around similar pronunciations. If you have trouble with this patois–I’m going to sound like an English teacher here–sound out the words and their meaning should become clear.

“Sweat” is a tale of what happens when a woman has had enough. Enough abuse and enough of her abuser.

***Warning*** The “N” word is present in this story. Thought you should know before you read her story here.

Also read her short story “The Gilded Six Bits.”

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Short Story Month: “The Open Window”

My next recommendation is Saki’s “The Open Window”. A short story about a with an unexpected ending.

I hate to say too much about it in case you haven’t read the tale. (Do it now, it won’t take long.) But I’ll say that its subtly handled twist has made it a perfect story to translate to the visual medium. It’s been the subject of several tv adaptations.

I watched this on PBS one Sunday afternoon, then made a point to look for the story.  I was not disappointed.
I watched this on PBS one Sunday afternoon, then made a point to look for the story.
I was not disappointed.

Saki is the pen name of Hector Hugh Munro or H.H. Munro, as he is sometimes called.

saki-cover

 

Reading this, you’ll see why you should not always listen to the stories of little girls. Check out Saki’s story here.

When Your Family Doesn’t Support Your Writing

This is a wonderful article for those writers that don’t have the support of family and friends. It happens more than you’d think. If you enjoyed a writer’s work, tell them. You may be the only one that does.

Tricia Drammeh

Excuse me if this post gets a little rant-ish. Maybe you’ll relate to this, maybe you won’t. Maybe your family and friends are your personal cheerleaders. Or maybe your family told you to stop playing with your imaginary friends and get a job. Or maybe your family is like mine and happily supported you back when everyone thought you’d make it big, land a million-dollar publishing contract, and get a movie deal, but fell out of love with your writing once they realized that wasn’t going to happen.

Lack of support. This is a very painful topic, but it’s one I think it’s important to discuss. Writing is largely a solitary endeavor, often undertaken by introverts. But even though we’re introverts and we’ve decided to travel the often lonely path of the writer, we’re still human beings. We crave love, acceptance, and acknowledgement. We crave community, and who better to…

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Danger Word: A Short Film Review

I’ve never reviewed a movie on my blog, but I’m making an exception today.

Recently I watched “Danger Word”, a short film recently brought to the screen by a successful crowdfunding venture. It’s based on the apocalyptic sci-fi short story of the same name by husband-and-wife team Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due. The short story has also sparked full length YA horror novels Devil’s Wake and Domino Falls and has been garnering a good deal of attention.

You can find the original short story "Danger Word" in the "Dark Dreams" anthology. Available on Amazon.
You can find the original short story “Danger Word” in the “Dark Dreams” anthology. Available on Amazon.

Zombie movies are plentiful as any horror lover knows and can be hard to keep fresh. The opening scene features a grizzled old man and his baby-faced granddaughter at shooting practice in the woods. Quickly, we learn that this is not for fun; it’s a lesson that the granddaughter, Kendra must learn to survive.

One of the most difficult lessons comes when Grandpa Joe, played perfectly by veteran actor Frankie Faison (best known perhaps for his role in “The Silence of the Lambs” movie franchise), drives past a woman in a car with several children all screaming for help. The car has broken down and it is apparent from earlier scenes that the zombies are moving toward them. Kendra is quietly concerned, but is told that there was no alternative if they want to stay alive.

Grandpa is Kendra’s (played by Saoirse Scott) only adult figure now and he’s teaching her to survive. Toughening her up.  I appreciated the girl’s messy ponytail, complete with fuzzy tufts of hair, as it showed there are more important things to be concerned with. So many movies tend to show women and girls somehow retaining their makeup and hairstyle after numerous brushes with death.

The hunting lesson
The hunting lesson

Now for the zombies.

Yes, there the typical lumbering, groaning corpse-like creatures. There are even “runners” in this world that make escape more of a challenge. But “Danger Word” ups the ante. The zombies can speak. That was new for me in a movie of this type. One more reason you can’t let your guard down—evolving zombies.

This short film has also has a comedic moment or two along with its horror and tragedy. Pretty impressive for a running time of less than 20 minutes. And the two main characters are well cast for their roles.

My understanding is that this short film came to be because of successful crowdfunding because Due and Barnes had challenges with Hollywood picking up the movie. The reaction was: “Great pitch! But do the characters have to be black?”

Things that make you go, "Hmm..."
Things that make you go, “Hmm…”

Now that the short film has been released, it has been picked up by Spike Lee’s wife Tonya Lewis Lee for a full-length feature. That may take a while to come to fruition, but you can watch the short film “Danger Word” here.

One of my favorite lines from the movie was when Grandpa Joe tells Kendra to “stop being small.” Most of us—especially indie artists—can take this advice to heart as well.  The success of “Danger Word” and its crowd funding shows that we have the strength and the power to bring our visions to fruition.

It’s time that we as independent writers, filmmakers, artists stop being and thinking small and get our work in the public eye. Talk about it. Ask people about it. Start a campaign. You never know what may happen.

Short Story Month: “Samsa in Love”

Next on my list of short stories I want to share is Haruki Murakami’s “Samsa in Love”. It’s opening turns the first line of Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis on its head and gives the reader a less bleak ending than Kafka’s classic.

I love a love story, but it has to be the right kind. For me, it must be between characters that feel like real people with relatable flaws and pains. And for some reason, they decide to set aside those hurts in hopes that this may be the right one.

Any love story that I add to my list of treasured tales will also have people who aren’t ideals of physical perfection.

I want to read about a broken nose that wasn’t set straight, or a chipped tooth, or a prosthetic leg. Love stories must make me feel that anyone, no– everyone, can find someone to love.

A picture of the author, from a Vogue photo shoot, I believe.
A picture of the author, from a Vogue photo shoot, I believe.

 

A book of collected works by Murakami and an orchid.  I want it. Not the orchid; I have one of those.
A book of collected works by Murakami and an orchid.
I want it.
Not the orchid; I have one of those.

That’s what I love about this story. Murakami takes two flawed characters and brings them together in this quirky and unusual tale. Samsa’s appreciation of the woman is touching as he is attracted to her because she is what the Japanese call omoshiroi— interesting– as opposed to beautiful.

I could go on, but I’d like you to read the story for yourself here.

Short Story Month: Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?

My next selection of short stories I admire is “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates.

I find that this tale contains one of the most subtly creepy and disturbing descriptions of a character – Arthur Friend – that I’ve ever read. It underscores the truth in Alfred Hitchcock’s quote: “There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.”

The girl’s reactions to Mr. Friend’s attention are worrying. (You’ll see that name is not appropriate.) For any writer who has received critique that their manuscript lacks tension this is a must read.

 

The author at the 2013 LA Times Festival of Books at the USC campus on April 21, 2013 I love that she's using finger quotes.  I do that...
The author at the LA Times Festival of Books at the University of Southern California campus on April 21, 2013
I love that she’s using finger quotes.
I do that…

 

If you’ve never read this tale, do it. Do it now.  It’s here.

Short Story Month: “The Cactus”

In honor of Short Story Month, I’m sharing some of the short stories I love to read. View my selection from last week.

Today, I’m sharing another short story I admire – O. Henry’s “The Cactus”.

 

A picture of the author.  I dig the handlebar mustache...
A picture of the author.
I dig the handlebar mustache…

You’re probably familiar with O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi”, but I enjoy this story just as much. Communication is so important in a relationship, as is being honest about your abilities. When these fall by the wayside, so does the potential of a budding romance.

I can't think of what would make this story better.  Except maybe a hand stitched book cover...
I can’t think of what would make this story better.
Except maybe a hand stitched book cover…

Read the entire story here.