Pees-ta

one cheese pizza

“What is this?” asked Papaw. He squinted his glaucoma-weakened eyes, inspecting the food.

“Pizza,” Mama responded. “It’s just bread, cheese, and sauce.”

Mamaw harrumphed then told someone invisible, “This woman’s crazy. I’ll die – it’s poison. Look at how fat she is; I won’t eat her food.”

“Pees-ta,” Papaw said. “Sounds foreign. I was in the war, and I don’t like foreign food-”

“Just eat it,” Daddy commanded. “You’ll get used to it.”

Papaw took a bite, grimaced, and pushed away his plate. “This is for damn Garlic Eaters. I’m not eating this foreign trash.”

Mamaw just cackled. “Poison!”

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I wrote this for the April 2nd Flash Fiction Challenge at the Carrot Ranch: Pizza.

This was based on a real-life event that happened in the late 90’s. My parents were silly and agreed to take my grandparents to Kentucky for a family reunion with my great-great-grand uncle’s branch of the family (they moved to Kentucky from North Carolina in the early 1900’s). At one stop along the way, my parents pulled us all over to a Pizza Hut, and my mom was surprised to find out my dad’s parents had never eaten Italian food before. I might have been, but I was still pretty young.

But think of it this way: IT WAS LIKE 1998 AND THESE TWO RED-BLOODED AMERICANS HAD NEVER TASTED PIZZA.

I still remember that event. “Pees-ta,” they called it. “Pees-ta,” they’d complain again, later in their lives when faced with the villainy of spaghetti with meatballs.

My Mamaw died this past December, but Papaw is still kickin’ around out there, driving despite being 97, nearly blind from glaucoma, and severely disliking Pizza.

Photo by kei photo on Pexels.com

H.R.R. Gorman’s Author Newsletter – March 2020

March has been both good and bad for me – good because I’ve finally gotten my mom into her house (and, subsequently, out of my own), but bad because I still don’t have a job and the fall-apart-economy isn’t going to help me with those prospects.

In terms of writing,  however, I have a couple exciting announcements that I wanted everyone to know about.

History Columnist at the Carrot Ranch

Earlier this month, Charli Mills of the Carrot Ranch offered me the chance to write a history column every other month on her blog. I did a double take, had a heart attack, and thought, “No way, this wonderful thing can’t be happening to me.”

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But I said yes anyway because dang, I love history, I love writing, and this seems exactly like something I wanted to do.

And, wouldn’t you know it, we’re living in a historical time period right now. My first column, “The Not-so-Spanish Spanish Flu“, is already up on the Carrot Ranch! Give it a look see and think about writing a response on your blog!

Thank you, Charli, for this wonderful opportunity.

I Passed Round One of the Open Novella Contest

On Wattpad, there’s this thing called the Open Novella Contest. I learned about it on Sammi Cox’s blog post, so I thought, “What the hell. Her story The Winter Ghost was great last year, and maybe I’ll have fun and learn a new system.”

Our Lady of PerditionSo I’m writing a story called Our Lady of Perdition for the contest. It made it through judging round one which, given the number of people who made it through, probably just means I followed directions and didn’t write something too offensive or extensively bad. However,  I am getting close to finishing the story, and I’ll Wattpad-publish the last part of the book once the second round of judging is done.

Blurb:

Two Navy airmen go on a night mission with the hopes of destroying an island outpost before a typhoon makes the attack infeasible. The gunner and the pilot activate their dive bomber’s life raft, but the storm washes them away from their allies – and their enemies. Once the storm clears and the soldiers awaken, they find themselves beached on an uncharted island.

But it soon becomes apparent they didn’t find the island as much as the island found them…

I’m Querying – But I Need Help!

The Mercury DimensionThis was my New Year’s Resolution in 2018, 2019, and 2020. The previous years I did this, I couldn’t follow through. I had the book pretty finished in 2018 but didn’t try querying. I really, really had it finished in 2019, but couldn’t make myself do it. Part of this was trying to graduate, and part was this utter fear of rejection for a book that I worked so hard on. Now, though?

If this book is to go anywhere, I need to act.

This is where you might come in: I wrote a query, got a few of my beta readers (thank you Marnie and Sam!) to help improve it, and am now looking for a couple additional readers. If you haven’t read The Mercury DimensionI would be extremely appreciative of your help reading the query letter. My goal is to see if someone who doesn’t know the book would understand and be attracted by the blurb.

If you want to read the 1-page document and make suggestions, let me know in the comments or in an e-mail.

*Small update: I’ve gotten some volunteers, so the pressure’s off – but feel free to contact me if you’re super interested anyway!

What Are You Doing?

What kinds of things have you been up to during the quarantine? Got a bunch of writing done? Huzzah!

Caravan Security

desert caravan dune ride

“Now, which of you men have been filching from our caravan?” He put the tip of his scimitar beneath my chin. “I’m not having it.”

I grimaced. Someone had to take charge, fight this maniac if we wanted to live. Al-Rashid approached quietly with a heavy stick, so I distracted with, “Can you prove it wasn’t you?”

“Yes. I’ve got the sword.”

Al-Rashid knocked the man on the back of the head, knocking him unconscious. I picked up his sword and finished the job.

I revealed a bag of coins. “I’ll share what I stole, since he’s dead now.”

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This was written for the March 26 Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge, take charge. This prompt wasn’t hard for me to come up with an idea for, but boy was it hard to come up with something that would fit in the word count! Hope you’ve enjoyed the flash.

Also – stay tuned to the Carrot Ranch on Tuesdays. You may be (pleasantly, I hope) surprised by what’s coming up this next Tuesday.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The Roofing Rabbit

close up of rabbit on field

Velour wiped her brow and sat back, hammer in paw. The roof of the cabin had been difficult so far, as they only had honey locust thorns as nails and bark for shingles.

“How goes it?” Velour’s mate, Timber, asked. His ears drooped from exhaustion, as he’d built the catted chimney.

She smiled. “We’ll have this finished by winter.” She pointed to a clay bottle sitting on a stump. “Take a break and have some ginger beer.”

“Only if you come down from the roof and drink with me.”

Velour clambered down, and the pioneer rabbits rested a minute.

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This was written for the March 19th Carrot Ranch prompt, Rabbit on the Roof. My mom just started reading Redwall again, and I couldn’t think of anything that didn’t involve anthropomorphic rabbits. These pioneer rabbits are building a cabin much like the one recently built on one of my favorite YouTube channels, Townsends.

Nevermore

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Suddenly there came a tapping at my chamber door. I shivered, knowing it’s Lenore knocking in the hall, wanting inside my door. She’s come in form of raven and ghost before, but her footsteps patting are heavy, plodding on the hallway floor.

Dare I open it? No – I can hear her moaning, pleading for entry, but as I sit profusely sweating, I fear the integrity of my door.

Now her arms are heavily banging, splint’ring down my chamber door. “BRAINS!” she cries, consumption eating at her zombie form. I scream, but no use waiting – she’s in, and I’m nevermore.

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The prompt for the March 12th Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge was tapping, and like a good, “well-read*” American, I instantly thought of Poe’s “The Raven”.

*I’m really not well-read, not at all well-read considering that I’m trying to be a writer, so this is in quotes because I’m being sarcastic.

Sharecroppers

sugarcane

The amount of sugar I got was pitiful. “What’s this shit?” I asked the sharecropper who rented my land.

He looked to his feet, embarrassed. “Didn’t rain much, so nothin’ grew. This all we got to give ‘less we starve.”

“Then why aren’t you starving?” I ripped the sales report from his hands. “What did you do with this money you got?”

“Spent it on food for the winter.”

I shook the report at him. “That was my money. You’ll give double the percentage next year.”

“Ain’t gonna be no next year. We’re moving west, and you’ll get nothin’.”

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This was written for the February 13th Flash Fiction Challenge at the Carrot Ranch: sugar report. While the definition of sugar report is something entirely different from what I wrote about, I’ve been thinking about this story for a while this month.

February is Black History Month, and sharecropping is a part of black history that’s often been glanced over. Sharecropping is where tenants pay rent to work the land, wherein payment is usually in the form of a portion of the crops. Landlords (usually the people who used to own the plantations) would be harsh in their demands, and sharecroppers would often be trapped since they had to work harder to pay their rent. It doesn’t sound like slavery really ended after the Civil War, does it?

But we also forget that America’s history is shaped by the frontier (aaaand different atrocities associated with that, but that’s for another day). African American settlers helped define the west as part of a way to find new adventures and burst out of the sharecropping/oppression/abuse cycle. That’s why I chose to give that glimmer of hope at the end of the story: the west, the frontier, the ever-shifting upward momentum was a chance many grasped at. Black settlers are getting a well-deserved historical re-examination nowadays, and I’m excited to see what things historians find next.

Sharecropping was also a thing poor whites participated in; I had a white middle-school teacher who grew up as a sharecropper in Georgia, and man did she have it rough as a kid. When I think about her, about the continued wage-slavery imparted by sharecropping and other worker-abusive practices, I think about how people of all races and colors can be helped by the same policies, laws, regulations, and, most of all,

Kindness. 

Image by JamesDeMers from Pixabay

I Must Protest!

beans and sliced lemon near glass bottle

The man in the top hat knocked the soapbox with his gold-tipped cane. “I must protest this… this sin! How dare you peddle this Godless brew?”

The squirmy man with thin mustache bent down from atop his box. “Godless brew? No, it’s a true cure for everything from apoplexy to zinc deficiency, from premature birth to heart failure! Care to take a sip and put some pep in your step?”

The man with the top hat smashed the bottles at the foot of the soap box. “Even worse! If you cure mother, how else will I get her money?”

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This was written for the January 16th Carrot Ranch prompt, protest.

Photo by Lucie Liz on Pexels.com

You Carried Me

purple crocus in bloom during daytime

You carried me.
I didn’t ask,
But then again,
I couldn’t speak.

You settled me
On soft, silken,
Pinkest pillow,
Kissed me tender.

My eyes were shut,
But I still knew
You adored me.
I cherished you.

I wanted to
Clean the sad pile
Of tissues at
Your well shod feet.

Did my urges
Disrespect your
Sadness and grief?
I allowed tears.

Upon your exit
Through sanctum’s door,
Someone shut my
Coffin’s wood lid.

When you returned,
You carried me
In my casket
To earthen home.

But my spirit
Carries you now
Until you come
To rest by me.

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This was written for the January 9th Carrot Ranch prompt. Sure, I took a long time getting to it, but it also took a long time to figure out what to write. Also it didn’t turn out to be a flash, but you know, I tried…

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The Repairman

microphone

The microphone still sat, open and in pieces, on my workbench. I dreaded having to stay awake all night to get this antique fixed, but the owner needed it repaired by tomorrow.

That was easier said than done. The diaphragm on the capacitor was shot, but I didn’t have a replacement part handy.

“Oh!” I mumbled. “What I wouldn’t give to have that part!”

A man in a pinstripe suit and thin mustache appeared at my side. He held a new diaphragm with his fingertips. “Your soul sound a fair price?” he asked.

“Sure.”

“Then let’s make a deal…”

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This was written for the December 19th Flash Fiction Challenge at the Carrot Ranch. With a prompt like “open mic night,” I decided to attempt going way, way out there and made a literal opened microphone at night. This was partway inspired by the BBC series The Repair Shop (which my mom forced on me recently) and also by Hazbin Hotel‘s Radio Demon character.

Image by Thanks for your Like • donations welcome from Pixabay

The King

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Aunt Shoo put the final dollop of meringue atop the key lime pie. She placed it back in the oven to bake the meringue top.

I watched through the glass window – small back in those days – at the caramelizing sugar. “Aunt Shoo,” I asked, “What’s a key lime?”

“Well,” Aunt Shoo replied, bending closer to my tender height, “It’s the kind of lime Elvis liked, and it makes the kind of pie Elvis liked, so it has to be the best.”

“Who’s this ‘Elvis’?”

Her face blanched. “Come with me,” she said before leading me upstairs to her shrine.

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This was written for the December 5th Flash Fiction Challenge on the Carrot Ranch, key lime pie. This is based on my real-life introduction to key lime pie, wherein my Aunt (who I called “Shoo” at the time because I couldn’t pronounce her real name) claimed it was Elvis’s favorite and thus should be enjoyed. Was it really his favorite? I don’t know. But she was convinced of it, and therefore I will believe it until told otherwise.

Also I don’t actually know if she has a shrine, I just thought that was a nice touch.