A Holiday Flash Fiction Story

I recently offered to post this story on my website for the holidays. I wrote the first version for a contest in 2013 and changed it over the next six years. Here is my new and improved 2019 version. Please enjoy, and have a wonderful Christmas, however you spend it!

Look What the Wind Blew In
by Renee’ La Viness

Steam rose from Opal’s cup of hot chocolate as she carried it to the living room.

The early December snow was beautiful, but to an elderly woman living alone, it was cruel. It made the bones ache and the body shiver. She set the warm drink on the side table then wrapped the small blue afghan around her legs and settled into her easy chair.

A soft thump sounded on the front porch. It was probably a wandering dog, but she decided to check it out. Slowly, she rose from the chair and shuffled across the room.

When she opened her front door, the bitter wind barged in without permission, and tiny ice crystals danced in with it. On the porch floor, a mess of shoe prints led to a pot of poinsettias trimmed with a wide gold ribbon. They were her favorite holiday flowers. In the middle, a small note attached to a plastic stick fluttered in the icy air.

Careful not to slip on the porch, Opal leaned over and snatched the flower pot. She quickly carried it inside and shut the door, locking out the wind and snow.

In the warmth of her living room, she read the note.

“WILL YOU…” The rest had been torn off.

“Will you what?” she asked out loud, as if expecting an answer. “I need the rest of the note. I wonder who left it.” She set the pot on a small table between her matching chairs. The bright red flowers seemed to make the room smile.

“I bet this is from Betty.” She picked up the phone to call her friend. It rang twice before anyone answered.

“Hello?”

“Betty? It’s Opal. Thank you for the poinsettias. They really brightened my day. But, part of the note was missing.”

“What are you talking about, Opal? I’ve not left this house. I’m not stepping outside until the ice and snow melt.” Betty chuckled, then gasped. “Flowers, you say? A note? Did somebody leave you flowers, Opal? Do you have a boyfriend I don’t know about?”

“I’m not sure,” Opal replied, absently running a finger around the rim of the flower pot. “I’ll let you know.”

After hanging up, she leaned back in her easy chair. Trying to occupy her mind with something else, she opened the newspaper. She had read all the stories yesterday, but there wouldn’t be another issue until tomorrow, so she would read ads and clip coupons today.

A dentist was running a special on dentures and cleanings, a furniture store was having a price blowout, a book club was searching for new members, and the senior center wanted grandparents for needy children, especially for the holidays. She had signed up for one of those surrogate grandchildren last week, when the medical folks gave free blood pressure checks. She always took advantage of the health checkups. A person should be watchful of their health.

When she finished reading the ads, she reached for her scissors.

THUMP.

Another sound on the front porch. She headed to the door with great curiosity. Nobody was there, but another poinsettia had been delivered. She brought it in and set it beside the first plant. Taped to the side of the pot, she found the other half of the note.

“PLEASE…”

Opal raised one eyebrow and lowered the other. “Great. Will you please what?”

Her mind struggled to put the clues together. It wasn’t her birthday, but it was almost Christmas. Could it be a romantic gesture from a secret admirer?

“No,” she surmised. “Just like Betty said, nobody my age in his right mind would be out racing to disappear after leaving me a secret admirer gift, no matter how important the question. Not in this weather.”

Her face melted. It had to be some heartless kids playing a practical joke. There was no other explanation. She wondered if they knew her husband had recently died. Having no family left, she was all alone in the world.

With shaking fingers, she called Betty and asked her to help watch for the pranksters. She would not let those brats taunt her. She would catch them and call their parents or the law. If parents don’t know what their kids are doing, they can’t fix the problem.

Opal sat back in her chair and picked up her newspaper and scissors. Maybe clipping coupons would help her sort things out.

She considered calling the police. Even if she did catch the kids, what would she say to them? She’d heard today’s teens could be dangerous to deal with.

The phone rang, startling her out of her daydreams. She quickly answered.

“Opal, someone’s walking to your porch. They’re—”

“Thanks, Betty.”

Opal hurried to the door. When she opened it, a woman and a young boy stood before her on the front porch. The boy raised a handmade sign that said, “BE MY GRANDMA?”

Opal’s heart melted and a smile stretched across her face. “Oh, my surrogate grandchild is here! Please, please, come in.” She held her door open as they entered the warm, loving atmosphere of her living room and her heart.

Summer Progress

Each summer turns out a little different than I expect. Sometimes, I feel like I can conquer the world, but I’m lucky to survive a two-week visit with one grandchild before I get to rest a few days and have another one over for a visit. Other times, I surprise myself with how much we accomplish. We always try to spend time on some of their projects and do some of mine, if we are able. This year has been moving along rather nicely, so far. We’ve made lots of progress.

I hope your summer (or winter?) is being good to you, also.

Dangerous Storms Cross the Nation

Tornado-Purple-1000x288Tornadoes are sweeping across the nation. When the number of tornadoes that dropped out of the clouds on Wednesday are finally determined, I wonder what those numbers will be. It’s not going to be just 5 or 10, and, unfortunately, there’s going to be a lot of damage displayed on every news show and then some. They may make special TV shows about it, maybe even a movie. Some of the tornadoes have been huge and violent.

And there are the floods. Northern Oklahoma has been inundated with heavy rainstorms overfilling lakes, ponds, rivers, and reservoirs. So many of our lakes are nearly at their peak containment levels. That water has to be released and will flow southward. Hundreds, probably thousands of residents have been evacuated; told to grab what they can and get out. Their homes will be damaged or completely destroyed by floods. No way to save them. Just get out. Some homes are washing into the rivers and lakes as the rushing water claws and etches new boundaries along its southward path.

And the runaway barges… When and where will they settle? If they crash into the dam, they could cause massive destruction and more flooding downstream. But, where are they? Why haven’t they already reached the dam? Did some cowboys lasso them and prevent them from making their way there? Could we be so lucky that such superheroes might possibly exist? We need such a dream to come true, right now.

A lot of people will either sleep lightly or not at all, tonight. My heart goes out to those who have damage they are trying to deal with and nobody knows about it, yet. Nobody knows to come to the rescue, because the storms have refused to let up long enough to allow us to share such news.

When the sun rises in the morning, we will see thousands of photos of damage and destruction. We will hear unbelievable stories of people who stood in doorways or lawns and watched rotating storms pass them by, or others who barely escaped floods. We may even learn of lives lost. I sure hope not.

God bless those who are able to help others put their lives back together in even the smallest ways.

Young Writers

Kids will be kids. Kids love to read good stories. Kids love to hear good stories. Some of them love to write good stories, too.

Over the past two or three years, we have taken a couple of our grandchildren (ages 10 to 13) to area writing conferences. They enjoy learning more about the writing industry.

Conferences create opportunities. They offer a chance to meet publishers, editors, illustrators, formatters, and many other writers.

At conferences, our writing youth can learn what publishers want and how other writers overcome their problem areas. They learn that support is a huge, important part of the writing industry, which is largely a solo career.

By meeting publishers and others while they are young, they will feel more comfortable approaching them in the future. This is very important.

This is a rapidly changing industry. Getting the younger generation involved is a wonderful way to encourage future success. If they are brought up seeing what conferences have to offer, they will be more likely to continue such educational experiences as they grow older and more independent. They will be less intimidated by the process and more willing to be involved.

I was so pleased to see a twelve-year-old win an award at the White Country Creative Writers Conference, recently. For such a young one to do so well, he is going to be a great challenge at a very young age. I hope to see him win many more awards in the future.

NaNoWriMo is right around the corner. It is a great challenge for adults and youth. It is the opportunity to write a novel in a month. Learn to write without editing, then go back and edit after it’s finished. What if you don’t want to write a novel? Then write a bunch of short stories you can enter into contests. Or, write a whole lot of children’s books. Maybe you can write down all the stories you’ve heard from your loved ones as you great up. Just write.

Tonight, I met a fourteen-year-old writer at a monthly writers’ meeting. I look forward to watching her grow as a new writer, too.

It’s all so exciting!

Autumn Events

It’s almost here! Autumn is days away and we are looking forward to a serious reprieve from this summer’s heat wave. I’m sure it will return in another eight or nine months, if we just hang in there.

A lot of things have been in the works, lately. Wonderful changes are taking place. We have managed to get one of our most important domain names back after years of watching it be trashed by someone who was trying to get us to pay a large sum of money to get it back. We decided to wait it out. We are glad to have it back and will hopefully have it up and running around the end of the year, although it’s going to be a little longer before we start making pool cues, again. We have felt like life was pressing us down for a long time and this seemingly small change has given us a huge emotional boost.

I have two new books coming soon. They are part of the Diary series. It is hard to contain my excitement.

I’ve also been working hard on some old and some new short stories for conference contests. I have some new stories that have surprised even me.

My computer finally decided it was tired of the flack Windows 10 was giving it. When it finally refused to start Windows, I took it to the shop. I was so scared I’d lose all my stories and other stuff I’ve collected in here for the past five years. Yes, I back everything up, but it had been a good month since the last big save. When it choked, I was in the middle of writing one of my best stories, yet. There was only one serious problem. I had to send that story with the next day’s postmark (contest deadline), so I was a bit frantic. The guys were awesome. They saved practically everything on my computer AND got that story file to me, so I could finish writing it and get it submitted on time, too. After all that, I sure hope it wins something!

Anyway, here’s a SHOUT OUT to the guys down at Same Day Computer Repair of Tulsa. Thanks so very much for saving the day and not breaking the bank! You guys are my heroes!

I’m excited about this Saturday, September 1st. A few years ago, Gene and I took a trip to Searcy, Arkansas for the White County Writers Conference. We had a wonderful time and wished we could go back. Well, this year, I’m not just getting to go back, but I’m also one of the speakers scheduled for the event. There will be three of us: Best selling author Robin Caroll, who will share some insight on writing suspense and mystery; President & Creative Director of Oghma Creative Media, Casey W. Cowan, will help authors have a better idea what publishers want; and I will be giving away secrets on writing dialogue and emotions, first thing in the morning. So, be there early, if you want to know what I know!

In October, we’ll be at the Ozark Creative Writers Conference, again. We always look forward to seeing our friends out there. I won’t be representing 4RV Publishing, this year (since I resigned in January), but I’ve been told they are planning to be on Publisher’s Row, again. I will be glad to meet up with my fellow authors from Oghma Creative Media.

Another school year is upon us and I will soon be having lunch with my grandchildren and reading for their classes, again. I am looking forward to it.

I will be back with another update as soon as I can. Things are moving along and life is good.

May your lives be as blessed as mine.

The Whirlwind of 2017

I apologize for being absent for half the year. I have been working on a lot of stories, including some of my own. I’ve also been to some exciting events, this year.

In May, I spent a weekend with a couple of friends at the OWFI Conference, in Oklahoma City. We had so much fun! I hope we are able to share a room again, next year.

The next week, I was honored to be a presenter for the second annual Read. Write. Share! Writers’ Weekend in Morrilton, Arkansas. I critiqued short works which had been submitted and shared some of the finer points with those in attendance. What a powerful weekend! I’m looking forward to next year’s event.

In June, I presented a session about the Secrets of Writing for Children to a room full of interested writers at the 73rd Annual Arkansas Writers’ Conference in Little Rock, Arkansas. I hope to speak at this event again. I also represented 4RV Publishing at a vendor table and took a few pitches.

October will find me at the 51st annual Ozark Creative Writers Conference in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. I’m hoping to submit a good number of contest entries, and for the third year, I am sponsoring the Middle Grade Fiction for Boys contest. I’ll also be representing 4RV Publishing in Publisher’s Row for the second year.

As always, Gene and I have dedicated much of the summer to our grandchildren. They are growing like weeds and have become great helpers with bigger projects.

I bought a Kool Kart four-wheel surrey (pic below) from International Surrey Co., this summer. When the weather permits, Gene and/or I (and sometimes a grandchild) take off riding for our health. When I spend time on the surrey, my blood pressure stays much lower. I slept for most of a month while it went down. As much as I enjoy my time on the surrey, I look forward to having a small engine installed to help me climb the steeper hills when I need to go to town. If you check out the website and decide to purchase a vehicle from the company, please tell them I sent you. That motor is not going to be cheap to build, and I get a check for every sale I help happen.

Due to numerous requests to put a class or two online, I’ve promised to work on that project. I’ve also set up a traveling workshop for groups within a 200 mile range. Check out the website for more information. I’m also taking an occasional short story or children’s story to edit on the freelance side. No novels at this time. Sorry.

I’ll do my best to write sooner, next time.

SurreyPic

The Summer Scoop

So, here’s the scoop. It’s summer. It’s HOT. We’ve had our grandchildren over, one by one, for two weeks, each. Well, the last one has been more in piece-meal visits. He’s a homesick boy, so he has to go home for a day or two in the middle. He’s at home, today. I miss him, but I have a moment to myself, too.

I hope you’re writing. If not, I hope you’re putting together some fabulous event for writers, or marketing your latest books. Do something writerly, today.

I’m working on last minute preparation for the Writing for Children workshop I’m holding this weekend. I’ve had some folks write in about it, which is always encouraging. At least two may be driving in from a little distance. I plan to offer some information not always shared by other speakers. I have some great door prizes for this week. If you’re interested, there’s more info at this website.

I found another conference I’d like to check out this September. I added it to my list of area events on my LINKS page. Are you going to any conferences, this year? Did I miss any area writers’ conferences in my links?

The new school year is about to start in most places. Some of my grandchildren will be going to new schools. I’m excited, but nervous for them. It’s almost like I’m the one going to the new schools.

I better get back to my planning. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone on Saturday.

 

New Things

In recent weeks/months:

I’ve been promoted to Children’s Corner Imprint Editor at 4RV Publishing. It has been a wonderful move for me, although I’m still adapting. I love my job!

I’ve got my own car to get around town, now. I love having my freedom, again.

Our son and his family have temporarily joined our household. I love having them here, but it does put a little crimp in my work time. I’m still learning to work around everyone and all the activities.

I have acquired a new “writing room.” When the weather permits, this is my private space to work. It is small, but warm and offers windows and a door to let the sun or breeze in, so the claustrophobia monster doesn’t disturb my progress.

Moments ago, I added a new page with links to books I’ve edited, or helped edit, etc. Click on the Edits link, above, to learn more.

See you again, soon!

Tent-WritingRoom-17Nov2015-3372