Short Story: A Canadian Man’s Heart

 

by @ AnnieDaylon

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 I love to enter short story contests (see previous post: Why Enter Story Contests?) In my 2014 goals, I listed that I would enter a few. (One done in January… Yay!)
I enter to learn, not to win. I enter for the fun and for the feeling of accomplishment that the marathon of the novel does not provide.

Here is an example of a non-winning entry (See below for learning experience):

 

A Canadian Man’s Heart
 ©AnnieDaylon


According to my boss, Zeta Thompson, there is only one sure-fire way to a Canadian man’s heart, and it has nothing to do with his stomach.

“Believe it or not, Betty,” Zeta announced one morning after she had tolerated my litany of loneliness one too many times, “the main flaw in your dating strategy lies in your complete dismissal of this country’s national pastime. Canadian men live and die for hockey! Don’t you get that? Ever consider just buying a big-screen TV and asking a guy over to watch a game on a Saturday night?

“Forget it,” I huffed. “Gawking at a TV set and trying to keep track of a flying rubber disk is not my idea of entertainment. Hockey! It’s loud, obnoxious and violent, and I absolutely refuse to take part in anything that celebrates the idea of grown men clobbering each other with long sticks.”

Judiciously, Zeta threw her hands up in defeat, but the fates were not so easily dissuaded; they countered immediately with a loud knock at the office door. Kevin Mason, the new architect we had been expecting, flung the door wide and hovered there, filling the frame with his six-foot splendor.

Lust at first sight!

Many scenarios flitted through my mind, all of them reminiscent of the fiery pictures that grace the covers of my Harlequin romance collection. Never in my life have I been one to ignore a golden-haired, blue-eyed opportunity such as this one and I sure wasn’t going to start now.

Out of the corner of my eye, I could see that Zeta was grinning like an idiot, but she was also staying in the background, generously giving me carte blanche. Possibilities abounded as I stepped forward and extended my hand to greet the newcomer. Quick to respond, Kevin strode across the room. Relationship redemption which, just seconds ago, had seemed light years away, was now viable and I felt hope soar.

 Suddenly, time slowed down, becoming a teasing tyrant, extending milliseconds into eons. The only thing I could do was try to maintain my composure as I watched our hands inch toward each other.

Ultimately, time relented and allowed our hands to meet, but then it stood back and laughed as a huge ring jabbed my palm and punctured my dreams. Visions of victory oozed away the instant I glanced at the ring’s proven symbol of relationship demise—the blue-and-white insignia of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

What the heck was I to do now?

X-rated images—all golden-haired and blue-eyed—pummeled my brain, urging me onward.

“You want to come by my place on Saturday, Kevin?” I blurted before I could stop myself. “Zeta and I were just talking about watching the Leafs game on my brand new fifty-inch, high-definition, plasma TV.”

*****

The above story was written a few years ago for an Alphabet Acrostic contest. The opening, “According to my boss,” was given. The criteria? “Complete your story in 26 sentences, each beginning with words in the sequence of the English alphabet.”

The learning? I expanded my vocabulary by reading the dictionary. (Yes, X is limiting, but there are ways around it.) The fun? Enjoyed it so much that I entered again this year! (This particular contest is available annually through The Brucedale Press. It’s a long wait until the next one but the fee is only $5/entry!)

My questions for you: Did you notice as you read the story that I was progressing through the alphabet? If not, did you go back to check? 🙂

 

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My best to you,

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Pick of the Twitter, November 2013

by @AnnieDaylon Pick of the Twitter 005

Looking for writing/marketing tips? Here are my Top Ten Twitter picks for November, 2013:

  1. Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 Rules for Writing a Short Story  by @ChrisRobley @BookBaby

  2.  Breakaway Body Parts: Are Your Characters’ Body Parts Acting on Their Own?   by @Janice_Hardy via @ EricStoffle

  3. Preparing for a Productive Writing Day  by @elizabethcraig

  4.  Five Design Must-Haves for Every Author Website  @HuffPost Books

  5. How to Get in the Zone and Stay in the Zone A PodCast  with Tom Evans  from Joanna Penn @thecreativepenn

  6. George Stroumboulopoulos Interview with Author Sue Grafton from @cbc @strombo

  7. The Book Marketing Maze: 22 Wrong Turns Authors Make and How To Avoid Them by @JonathanGunson 

  8. Your Artist Self and Your Business Self by @RachelleGardner

  9. Announcing the Novel Marketing Podcast  from @AuthorMedia

  10. Infographic: Here’s Why You Should Invest in Social Media Marketing Today  @Marine_Consult

Many thanks to Tweeters and Bloggers alike!

My best to you,

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Pick of the Twitter, October, 2013

Pick of the Twitter 005

 

 

 

Looking for writing tips? Here are my top ten Twitter picks for October, 2013:

  1. 50+ Things to Blog About When You Have Writer’s Block by Caitlin Muir  @AuthorMedia

  2. “The Truth about Overnight Success” by Ali Luke @aliventures @copybloggerRSS

  3. Why You’re Not Selling Your E-Books by Judy Cullins @CoachJudy

  4. Wordplay: Helping Writers Become Authors: Professional Resources for Writers by @KMWeiland via @EricStoffle

  5. How to Get in the Zone and Stay in the Zone with Tom Evans   @thecreativepenn

  6. 5 Tips for Writing Historical Fiction    by @ChuckSambuchino @WritersDigest

  7. 5 Reasons You Should Embrace Rejection by Linda Formichelli @LFormichelli

  8. Cut Thousands of Words Without Shedding a Tear (How to Tighten Your Manuscript) by @RachelleGardner

  9. What makes a good short story? by Heidi Pitlor @BAShortStories @HuffPostBooks

  10. Atypical Protagonists: Six Anti-Heroes From Great Works of Fiction   by @ChrisCiolli  @readlearnwrite via @elizabethscraig

Many thanks to Tweeters and Bloggers alike!

My best to you,

Annie Signature Light Blue

“Word Vancouver” is Coming!

by @Annie Daylon

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Word Vancouver (formerly known as The Word on the Street Vancouver) is Western Canada’s largest celebration of literacy and reading. It has free events taking place over five days (September 25- 29) in Vancouver at: Carnegie Community Centre, Banyen Books & Sound, Historic Joy Kogawa House, and Library Square.
Last year I participated as a volunteer at the Federation of BC Writers table and took in all the sights and sounds of the main festival day on Sunday.  This year? I’m attending on Saturday and presenting a workshop: Honing the Craft of Writing through Story Contests.

Power Point cover page 001 (640x478)WORKSHOP DETAILS:
Where: Vancouver Public Library
350 W. Georgia Street, Vancouver
Alma Van Dusen Room
When:
Saturday, September 28, 2013
3:30 – 5:00 p.m.
Synopsis: What is it like to compete in a story contest?  In her Power Point presentation, Honing the Craft of Writing through Story Contests, award-winning author, Annie Daylon, talks about the story contest experience and how it can help to sharpen writing skills. Topics include: reasons for entering, availability of contests, types of contests (24-hour, themed, no theme), meeting deadlines, and giving the editors, publishers and judges what they are looking for.  Information on contests in Canada and the U.S. is provided.

My workshop is one of six Word Vancouver  workshops taking place at the Vancouver library on Saturday, September 28th. The others are:

  • An Introduction to Story with Nancy Lee
  • Poetry and Relevance with Heather Duff
  • Creating Content for Social Sharing with Lisa Manfield
  • Finding Work: First Steps-Next Steps A Workshop for Freelance Writers with Colin Moorhouse
  • A Literary Agent’s Take on Book Publishing Today from an Author’s Perspective with Robert Mackwood.

 

Learn more about this five-day literary festival at Word Vancouver.

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My best to you,

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What’s in a Pen Name?

 

by @AnnieDaylon

shutterstock_163039295My legal name is Angela Day. A perfectly good name but, as I discovered in my quest for a domain name, a ubiquitous one. Chefs, writers, real-estate agents, doctoral candidates… so many Angela Days. I even located and angel-a-day website: all angels, all the time.
My choice then? A nom de plume.
I opted for the surname Daylon (a combination of my maiden name and married name) and chose Annie in lieu of Angela/Angie. Why Annie? My middle name is Ann, the middle of my surname contains the name Ann, and, years ago, I was influenced by three extraordinary women named Annie:

  • Annie Sullivan,  Helen Keller’s lifelong teacher, a.k.a. The Miracle Worker. I admired her dedication and perseverance.

    Keep on beginning and failing… you will grow stronger until you have accomplished a purpose.” ~Annie Sullivan

  • Annie Oakley, sharpshooter, star of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show, egalitarian. I admired her confidence, her belief in the equality of women, and above all, her persistence.

    Aim at a high mark and you will hit it. No, not the first time, not the second, and maybe not the third. But keep on aiming and keep on shooting for only practice will make you perfect. Finally, you’ll hit the bull’s-eye of success.” ~ Annie Oakley

  • Annie Murphy, my eighth-grade teacher, lover of poetry and prose. I admired her dogged determination and over-the-top optimism.

    Today we are starting ‘The Rime of the ancient Mariner’ by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and… you will memorize it. ~ Annie Murphy (paraphrased)

All of the above quotes relate to setting high goals and hammering away at them. I’m working on mine. Did I ever memorize Coleridge’s classic? Not a chance. My teen-rebellion years kicked in as soon as I realized that The Rime of the Ancient Mariner contained more than one hundred verses. However, I did memorize a lot of poetry in grade eight; to this day, I can recite Magee’s High Flight and McCrae’s Flanders Fields. And I will be forever grateful to Annie Murphy because it is she who taught me to love literature.

So, there it is. The Annie Daylon story. I have had no second thoughts about the choice of surname but I have, on occasion, questioned the choice of the first name simply because there are instances when people are at odds over whether to call me Angie or Annie. (Annie will do just fine, by the way.) Other than that, no regrets: the use of a pen name works well for me. With regard to submissions, I sign Annie Daylon (ndp) and beneath that Angela Day (legal name). As for copyright? Legal name only.

Do you have a pen name? If so, what’s your story?

I invite you to join my author journey: subscribe to blog or newsletter or both! The newsletter contains news about books, links to some blogs, and occasional fun facts about my beloved island of Newfoundland. To sign up, simply place the required information in the spaces provided on the right. Rest assured your email address will not be shared for any reason. 

My best to you, eNovel-Round-Logo

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Dads: Tell Your Stories

by @AnnieDaylon

My father never sat still for a second. When he wasn’t at work, he was working around the house: building, painting, repairing. Now, although remarkably healthy for a man of ninety-two, he is physically incapable of creating the things he once could, such as the chaise longue in the picture below.

Dad built this when he was in his seventies. A beautiful piece, which I, as custodian, have given an honored place in my home.

 

A while back, I was trying to come up with an idea for a flash fiction contest. The premise? Write a complete, untitled story in fifty words or fewer without using the letter ‘e’.  I pondered it for a day or two. Then, as I was driving along a country road, I spotted a man on a ladder, re-painting the tired green trim on his two-story house.  That triggered a memory: something my brother had told me, something that my dad had told him. Dad’s words? “Last night I built a whole house in my head. Getting old is tough. Body can’t do the work.”

There it was, my story idea! But I couldn’t use the words house or head (no e’s allowed.) I also did not want to use the phrase last night because of word count limitations. I came up with a story and submitted it to an On the Premises mini contest; I edited the result slightly before including it in my short story collection, Passages. Here’s the final cut:

Today, I built a mansion, foundation to rooftop.
Laid floors, hung doors, put in windows.
Alas, no triumph.
Today, I built a mansion, but only in my mind.
My body is old, sagging. My hands? Arthritic claws.
I’m stuck, longing for past skills, biding my days…
waiting for God.

I treasure this short piece, not because it won any contest (not even short-listed) but because it is a candid portrayal of the inevitability of the life cycle. And, of course, because it was inspired by my father. Thanks, Dad.

To all the Dads out there: Keep talking, sharing, telling, building legacies…

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My best to you,

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Short Story: “A Button in Time”

 

shutterstock_89518414A Button in Time

Heads turned as Gerald stepped out of the midnight-black limousine. One woman even stopped and lowered her sunglasses to stare at this tall, silver-haired man in the dark, pin-striped suit. Oblivious, focused on the task ahead of him, Gerald climbed the stone steps of the cathedral. At the top, he paused.

From his suit pocket, he pulled a tiny, pink-and-white button. He gazed at it, fingered it and returned it to its place. Then he pushed open the mahogany doors and stepped inside. The doors slammed behind him, creating a rumbling echo.

No one here, he thought. Do I have the wrong day? He adjusted his tie and headed into the nave of the church. Once there, he sighed with relief.

Pink flowers adorned the main altar, pink carpet covered the aisle floor and pink bunting draped the empty pews. Definitely the right day. He smiled. After looking around, he walked to a side aisle, plopped into a back pew, closed his eyes and folded his hands—not to pray, but to remember.

Gerald was only thirty-two when his wife died. He plummeted into a black hole then and would have stayed there had it not been for their baby daughter. She was all he had left and he adored her: reveled in holding her chubby hand, experiencing her toothless smile and hearing her first words.

He wanted to be with her all the time, but that was not possible. Even though he found an excellent daycare facility, Gerald cringed every morning when he left his little girl in the care of strangers. He wanted better. He wanted relatives. When his mother-in-law offered to leave her home and husband in South America and come to Florida to help, Gerald accepted.

The arrangement worked well. But, after some time, Gerald noticed that, although his mother-in-law’s face brightened when she looked at her grandchild, it darkened when she looked at him. Soon, she started leaving the room whenever he entered. She’s avoiding me, he thought, puzzled. Maybe she’s lonely. Maybe she misses her husband. And maybe I can help.

“Would you like to go home to South America for a while?” he asked.

She kept her eyes down and did not respond.

“I will pay for a return ticket.”

Her head popped up. She grinned and nodded. “The little one, she come with me?”

Gerald’s eyes widened. “I’ll think about it,” he said, furrowing his brow. After a while, he decided it would be okay; it was only for two weeks and he would be joining them for the second week anyway. So he made the arrangements, took them to the airport and bid them good-bye. Everything seemed fine.

However, after twenty-four hours of trying, and failing, to contact his in-laws, Gerald knew that everything wasn’t fine. He looked up the emergency phone number. His heart pounded as he remembered how reluctant his mother-in-law had been to give him that number. Hands sweating, he picked up the phone and punched in the digits. He listened. He counted the rings… One, two… eight, nine…

Finally, “Hola.”

“Hello, hello,” panted Gerald. He stumbled out a question. He waited.

“They move. Leave no address, mister.”

He dropped the telephone and slid from his chair.

Gerald tried everything to find his daughter: phone calls, e-mails, police, letters and private detectives. Over and over, the powers-that-be reminded him that his daughter had left the country with his permission and in the care of the guardian he had selected. “It’s out of our jurisdiction, sir.”

No one could help. Even his many trips to South America were fruitless. His in-laws never stayed in one place for long. Every time he got close to them, they moved. Again and again.

Eventually, he gave up.

Devastated, he burrowed into darkness. Sat for days in his basement, curtains drawn, no hope. In his hand, he clutched his last connection to his only child: a white button with a pink tulip engraving. She had given it to him at the airport.

“A button fell off my sweater, Daddy.” Her eyes were filled with tears. “Can you fix it?” She held it up for him to see. Gerald gently removed it from her hand.

“How about if I hold onto it for you? I promise I’ll keep it safe in my pocket until I see you again. It will be my good luck charm.” The little girl smiled and her misty eyes twinkled.

Gerald kept that button with him, always.

As time went on, Gerald began living life, or at least going through the expected motions. Every day, he got up, placed one foot in front of the other and just kept going. Hour by hour, minute by minute. Just killing time, he told himself. Yet he knew that the truth lay in a quote he read somewhere once: Men talk of killing time while time quietly kills them. It didn’t matter. He felt dead anyway. No hope. No light. On and on. Days. Weeks. Months. Years. Decades.

Then, just last month, a letter arrived. And with it an invitation.

He read the letter four times to comprehend it. He read it four more to believe it.

Dear Gerald,
You barely know me but I am your father-in-law. We, my wife and I, have caused you much pain and I need to set it right. Please try to understand—the loss of our daughter was too great for my wife to handle and she had to have her grandchild with her, here, in her homeland. She desperately needed that and I could refuse her nothing.
My wife is dead now, and our grandchild—your daughter—is getting married in a few weeks. It is you, not I, who should be giving her away, Gerald. She wants that and so do I.
You do not need to respond to the attached invitation but I hope you can attend. Nothing would make me happier than to see you when I walk into that church. Can you find it in your heart to forgive the unforgivable?
Yours in regret,
Antonio

The sound of the church door snapped Gerald back to the present. He looked up to see an elderly, well-dressed man shuffling down the centre aisle. The man appeared nervous, glancing this way and that, searching. Gerald continued to watch as the man stopped, sighed, and shriveled into a stooped position.

“Antonio.” Gerald’s voice was a mere whisper. Yet Antonio heard, straightened and turned. He began walking fast now. The anxiety in his face had transformed into a smile by the time he reached Gerald. There he hesitated, tentatively extending his gnarled hand.

Gerald stood to accept Antonio’s hand, and fearful of placing undue pressure on the crippled fingers, shook it gently. At first, he sensed tension in the older man’s body but, within seconds, that tension seemed to just melt away. When that happened, Gerald noticed, with great surprise, that his own body was calm as well. For a long time, he had fantasized about this moment and, in his mind’s eye, this time was always one of revenge. Where had the rage gone? When had it left?

“You’re here. Thank you, God and all the saints. You’re here!” exclaimed Antonio.

“Yes, Antonio. How could I stay away?”

“I am sorry, Gerald. So sorry. Can you ever forgive me?”

With truth and tranquility, Gerald replied. “I didn’t think I would ever be able to. Forgiveness was a foreign word to me for a long time. But I am here. I am grateful to you for contacting me. And yes, Antonio, I forgive you.”

“Gracias, Gerald, gracias.” Antonio placed his other hand over Gerald’s. “You will give her away, then? You will do that?” His gaze was direct, pleading. Gerald’s eyes flooded with tears.

“I gave her into someone’s care before, Antonio, and I lost her. And now,” he sighed, “she won’t even know me. It has been too long. She was just a little girl. Time has surely dissolved her memories.” He slowly shook his head. “She won’t even know me.”

Antonio just smiled and looked over Gerald’s shoulder toward the door. From behind him, Gerald heard a rustling noise. Releasing himself from Antonio’s clasp, he turned. A beautiful, dark-haired bride stood before him.

“Time could never dissolve my love for you. My only fear was that you may have forgotten me,” she whispered.

With tears streaming down his face, Gerald reached into his pocket and withdrew a tiny button with a pink tulip engraved on it. He held it up for her to see.

She, in turn, held up her bouquet. Woven among its flowers were replicas of the same tiny button.shutterstock_89518414 “There’s just one missing, Daddy,” she said, “but I always hoped you’d return it, just like you promised.” She held out her free hand.

Relinquishing two decades of darkness, Gerald stepped toward his daughter and placed the treasured button into her waiting fingers.
******
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Why Enter Story Contests?

by @AnnieDaylon

shutterstock_163750679My primary aim when I started writing was to pen novels. One day, I veered from that path into the world of the short story. The result? An immediate burst of accomplishment and, surprisingly, a joy in the genre itself. I still participate in the marathon of the novel, but am always up for a short story sprint.

In order to get my work out there, I entered story contests. Rejection? Yes, lots of it. But considerable success, too. Knowledge crept in: the contests, especially the twenty-four hour dashes, were helping to hone my craft. I kept entering…

Reasons for Entering Short Story Contests

  1. Fun. You have opportunity to play with styles and voice.
  2. Readers.  Your work is seen by objective readers.
  3. Inspiration. Topic is often given. You get to brainstorm around it.
  4. Blind judging. You can dip your toe into the water anonymously: no query letter; no dreaded synopsis. You are selling your work, not selling yourself.
  5. Motivation. You have a deadline, so you have to put BIC (butt in chair) and just write.
  6. Feedback. Sometimes you get feedback.  Disagree? Reject. Agree? Apply.
  7. Word Count Limits. You have no choice but to tighten writing by dropping modifiers and using stronger verbs.
  8. Credibility. Published? Short-listed? Either gives you credibility… something to put under “Recent Awards and Publications” when submitting queries.
  9. Immunity to Rejection. Rejection gradually loses its sting. You simply edit your stories and submit them elsewhere.
  10. Collection. Stories accumulate. Before long, you have a collection.

 

Along with the above benefits comes the awareness that a lot of small publications are staffed by volunteers, many of whom are writers. They give their time to support you. You give a small fee to support them. The result? A writing community. A complete circle. Bonus!

My Best to You,

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