Friday Fictioneers: An Unfortunate Date

Copyright - Marie Gail Stratford

PHOTO PROMPT Copyright – Marie Gail Stratford



An Unfortunate Date

“Think there’s anything behind these things?”

“What? No. Really?” Lila snatches the chopsticks, wrapper and all, from between my fingers. “What’s it say? Oooh, ‘It is happiness to know one is superior to the fork people.’ Please. Monkeys probably typed this.”

It’s not nice of her to laugh so loudly.

She pokes the chopsticks through their prophetic paper wrapping and plunges them into her rice. It’s disgusting how food falls from those sticks as she raises them to her gaping mouth.

“Neither forks nor chopsticks are where it’s at, you know.” Smiling, I slide my spork from my coat pocket.


In a strange twist of events, after I’d come up with this idea, I found a handful of sporks on my dining room table, left over from the take-out to which my husband treated the kids in my absence last night. It’s a sporkspiracy…



Friday Fictioneers (n): A world-wide community of writers addicted to writing 100 word stories based on a photo prompt provided by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.


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Five Pretty Pictures

There’s this thing going around Facebook lately, (as things tend to go around Facebook). Women, mostly mothers, have been posting “Five Pictures that Make Me Feel Beautiful” and tagging their friends to do the same. I truly enjoy seeing these gorgeous photos of my mama friends, especially those who so often hang back a little in everyday life, and I love that they are standing up and saying, “Yes, I’m beautiful! Truly, they are beautiful women, every one of them. And so I write this post with some hesitation, hoping none of them will take this as personal criticism.

But I’m tired of our culture’s endless quest for physical beauty.

And I want to hide a little each time I see a Five Pretty Pictures post.

First of all, I’m borderline terrified someone will tag me, and then I’ll have to scrape the bottom of the barrel to find five decent photos of myself, and then…

What if I’m really not that pretty in any of them?

(True story: My Facebook author profile photo horrifies my mother, who mistakenly thinks I’m more photogenic than that. It’s funny, yes, but I’d rather not go there again so soon. And I jest not, good photos of me are scarce, as I’m usually behind the lens.)

I can’t help but feel that on some level, trends like Five Pretty Pictures feed into women’s too commonly held fears of not being enough. (My train of thought described above is a prime example). And here’s where it gets tricky, because I think what bothers me about these Five Pretty Pictures is that, gorgeous and life-affirming as they are, they fail us. By virtue of being mere two-dimensional images, they will never fully capture the essence of women whose beauty runs so much deeper than pixels on a screen. We need to let ourselves judge our beauty by something more than physical appearance.

In contrast, and as a preemptive strike should any of you smart alecs decide to tag me to post Five Pretty Pictures, here are five things that make me feel beautiful…

1. When my husband decides its time for a family movie night, when he doesn’t mind that the laundry isn’t folded, when he says how glad he is that we don’t live in white-picket-fence suburbia… because in all these things he shows me that he is content with me and with the family and home we have created together.

2. When my children work together, whether they are playing Jeopardy at the breakfast table or building forts in the backyard, these moments of creative cooperation show me that I’m doing something right in the sometimes craziness that is their upbringing.

3. On a related note, when my children make right choices – from speaking honestly to holding doors open to befriending neighbors – again, I don’t care about stretch marks, extra pounds, fashion, makeup, hair… Beauty overwhelms me.

4. “They looks just like you…” Sometimes I see it myself, sometimes I don’t, but whenever anyone tells me my children look like me, I’m speechless because I can’t believe my appearance is being likened to the most beautiful people I know.

5. When I write something that resonates with another human being, when the words come out just right so that my reader says, “Ah, that…” and proceeds to tell me just what I had hoped they would find in my words… and sometimes even more than I had intended.

In the end, our beauty isn’t found in how our hair falls or how wide our smiles are, but in how we live among our families, friends, and neighbors near and far. It’s also found, just maybe, in the beauty we allow to touch our hearts, allowing us to forget about our own physical bodies and revel in the pure, spiritual beauty of life and love. When I reflect on all the Five Pretty Picture posts I’ve seen this week, I note a commonality among the pictures, as well as between the pictures and what I am fumbling to say. Mamas, so many of your photos include husbands, children, friends, and I hope you’re smiling so confidently because you know the source of your beauty isn’t the face you made for the camera, but the vibrant love you share with the people beside you. And I guess that’s my point – that genuine, lasting beauty doesn’t happen in front of a mirror to be captured by a camera, but in moments of fellowship with one another. That kind of beauty is harder to capture in the bustle of daily life, but it’s the kind of beauty that matters. Mamas, your pretty pixelated faces are glorious, but don’t be fooled… What really shines is your love, and it’s as beautiful today as it was on your wedding day, on your baby’s birthday, on your vacation to Destination Awesome…

Friday Fictioneers: No One is to Blame

PHOTO PROMPT - Copyright - Adam Ickes

No One is to Blame

“Not your fault.”

“I know it’s not my fault.” I glare at Ramsey, so cozy in his corner. His stomach won’t go empty for lack of income.

“Maa. You don’t mean to pin this on me?” He chews that strand of hay like he might actually make progress on it after all these years.

“They fired me, Ramsey. F-I-R-E-D.” I drop a notepad into my box of personal effects. “Because I talk to a disembodied goat.”

“Whoa,” he says as I turn to go. “You’re leaving me?”

I want to. Lord, I want to.

“No… Not your fault, either.”


Friday Fictioneers (n): A world-wide community of writers addicted to writing 100 word stories based on a photo prompt provided by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.

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I Waited

Two years ago, I opened the first post of this blog with the statement, 

I am waiting.

I had finished the first draft of GRIT OF BERTH AND STONE and was waiting for “an agent, a publisher, and an audience who know my name.”

More than that, I was waiting on one whose name is above all names, in the light of whose story all other stories pale. I was waiting not only for His light to guide the refining of the stories I strive to tell and to open to readers the possibility of more than they’d hoped to find between the pages of my story, but for Him to lead my story to an agent or editor who would fall in love with GRIT OF BERTH AND STONE.

I felt a quiet grace in waiting, and so I waited. I revised. I waited. I revised. I waited.

Earlier this year, I noticed that the manuscript wishlists of a couple editors from a small Christian press described my story well, but still I waited. (Because, as I have come to accept about myself, I can be… slow… to… warm… up… to new ideas, and it hadn’t really occurred to me to pursue the small press route). Then, in April, I participated in a Twitter Pitch Party, and lo and behold, three editors from the above-mentioned press requested my query and sample pages. This time, I didn’t wait long, but sent the requested materials that evening. A request for my full manuscript came soon after, and at the end of June, an offer of publication.

I waited again… to notify other agents and publishers who had my manuscript, to read the contract, to have a published author and a lawyer read the contract, to ask questions… though by the time I got around to asking questions, it was all I could do not to sign the contract. Everything was in order, and when everything is in order, waiting seems more tedious than grace-filled.

On July 1, 2014, the very day Anaiah Press launched, I signed on with their YA Surge Imprint. In one of the many emails that passed between myself and the Anaiah team in the following week, an editor mentioned that several of them had fallen in love with GRIT. Because names are so much a party of my story, I looked up the meaning of Anaiah.

God answered.

I don’t want to get all sappy-Susie on you all, but there is satisfaction in that name which says so much, and it seems fitting to end one phase of the journey to publication and begin another with a publisher that makes this simple statement: God answered. At the risk of overdramatizing the path to publication, the words of Psalm 40:1 have been on my mind since signing with Anaiah: I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. I can’t claim to have always waited patiently, nor do I mean to suggest that I just sat around waiting for a publisher to find me. It was work, folks. Blood, sweat, and tears work. (Tears, anyway). But I can say, “God answered,” and he answered with a wonderfully supportive team of editors and fellow authors.

I thank God for this time of waiting and refining my manuscript and self, and I thank Laura, Eden, Kara, and the entire Anaiah Press family for believing in the story and committing to helping GRIT fly on her own.

Now, if we can just wait for March 2015…

Cover Reveal: OPERATION TREE ROPER by Robert A. Polk




Operation Tree Roper: An Eye Above by Robert Polk
Adventures, Anaiah Press


Twelve-year-old Declan Parker was born with only one eye, but all he seems to have trouble seeing in proper perspective is himself.  All he wants is for kids to see him as normal before he starts a new school in the fall. To that end, he sets out to make money helping with his dad’s tree care business.
Unfortunately, when his dad lands in the hospital after a climbing accident, Declan’s surgery hopes are wrecked. His only hope remains in a neighbor girl and her uncle, a wounded army veteran. Can they help him save his dad’s business, or will Declan’s once-courageous drive turn into total despair?
Operation Tree Roper: An Eye Above is a well-crafted story about a strong, dauntless young man who redefines the value of self-reflection. Declan is a character you won’t be able to forget.


Welcome to your new favorite book…
Release Date:
October 7, 2014
Anaiah Press:


Author Bio:


 Robert Polk lives in western Nebraska where he shares his love of books and the great outdoors with his wife and seven children. He is a former school counselor, business owner, and tree climbing arborist. Robert participates in his church and local community, currently serving on several non-profit boards.
Author Links:



Friday Fictioneers: The Green Wars


PHOTO PROMPT - Copyright - Kelly Sands

PHOTO PROMPT – Copyright – Kelly Sands


The Green Wars

It started with one sapling, an ugly, awkward thing sprouting at the very corner of the rubber-matted playground. Why Henry never mowed it down, we’ll never know. Maybe his mower couldn’t snag that corner. Why none of us thought to pluck it up, why we let Violet water it and weed around it…

Violet, with her pretty eyes and shy smile. She seems to have grown as quickly as that sapling. She rides in its branches now, leading the lot of them right down the middle of our quiet little street.

Dad, ax in hand, curses the developers who overlooked the seeds.


Friday Fictioneers (n): A world-wide community of writers addicted to writing 100 word stories based on a photo prompt provided by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.

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Friday Fictioneers – The Kissing King

When I started this blog, I told you all I was waiting. Among the things for which I waited was a publisher for my YA Fantasy, GRIT OF BERTH AND STONE. I’m elated to tell you that just yesterday, I signed with Anaiah Press. I hope to write more on that in the days to come, but for now I’ll just say it’s been a marvelous week and I look forward to working with the wonderful team at Anaiah to make my book the very best that it can be!

In the meantime, I’ll be keeping up with Friday Fictioneers the best I can because, let’s face it, you’re all awesome. This week’s photo prompted two stories, but due to some restrictions related to WriteClub, I can’t post one of those stories yet as it would give away my identity should I win a spot in that competition. I guess there’s always something new for which to wait…


PHOTO PROMPT, Copyright - Claire Fuller

PHOTO PROMPT, Copyright – Claire Fuller



The Kissing King

When Tara Chase moved to town, we tossed a coin to decide who’d show her to the Kissing King. I won, and she followed with fire in her eyes. When I put my lips to hers, as I’d done with a dozen girls before, earth shook, and the Kissing King claimed her as his own.

I don’t know what schoolboys do these days, but those of us who flipped for Tara Chase, we shun the Kissing King and show our daughters the Captured Queen. We don’t tell them how Tara laughed with joy as her king turned her to stone.


Friday Fictioneers (n): A world-wide community of writers addicted to writing 100 word stories based on a photo prompt provided by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.

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