Writing prompt contest: Alien Lord – short story

One more short story!
This week’s prompt is:
A bartender and a patron are having a conversation. Unbeknownst to them, someone sitting close by—obscured by shadows—has been eavesdropping. The eavesdropper has trouble sleeping that night based on what he or she heard. What could it have been?

And check out last week’s prompt winner:
https://authorsinspirations.wordpress.com/2017/07/08/writing-prompt-contest-short-story/
which is about: My main character goes back 20 years in time and notices something that makes her not to want to go back, what is it?

ALIEN LORD

Special agent Bradford Bonvera moved into the bar casually, dressed in thready shorts and a sleeveless t-shirt. At twenty eight, he was the best undercover agent uncle Sam had, able to blend into whatever situation was needed.
Today he was a middle class worker, relieved to be free of work early, ready to commemorate the end of the laborious week.
He tapped a hand on the bar, ordered a coke and a burger, paid with the crumpled bills he had used earlier to play airplane with his daughter Julie. Then he took his food and moved to the shadowy cramped table on the back, where the mic he had on the left pocket of his shorts would pick up the conversation from the booth next to it.
As he sat to wait for his suspect and dealer to arrive, Brad dug into the charred burger and soggy fries with the enthusiasm of a man who hadn’t eaten for a few days.
From the corner of his eyes, he watched the man that entered the bar with a swagger and bad attitude, instinctively knowing he wasn’t good news. But he wasn’t his suspect, for this was a tall, skinny man, and according to his informant’s description, the man he wanted was short and bald with a paunchy belly.
He watched as Skinny met the eyes of the bartender, motioned with his chin and the tilt of the head to the far side of the counter, watched as Skinny swaggered toward the end of the bar, as the bartender swiped a stain on the counter and casually moved away from the patrons, where Skinny sat on a stool and waited for him.
Absently, Brad wondered if he’d score two busts tonight, listened as Skinny began talking about aliens, landing points and the gathering of the cult for the welcome.
Chuckling inwardly, Brad dipped his last soggy fry into the watery ketchup and noticed as Anderson, his partner, entered the bar and moved toward the table on the other side of the still empty booth.
Brad watched as Skinny left the bar – after having agreed upon the landing and timing – and a short, bald and paunchy guy swaggered into the bar, scanned it with a thorough sweep, moved into the booth.
Casually Brad ordered a coffee that tasted like horseshit, paid with a few more crumpled bills and sat to enjoy his drink as he listened to the deal taking place right behind him.
———-
The bust was a total success, with the praise of Connor, his superior, for a job well done. The cocaine was impounded, a few pounds worth of drugs lifted from the streets, the dealers apprehended along with a few buyers.
But despite the job well done, Bradford Bonvera couldn’t sleep that night. His mind kept going back to the alien welcoming, the way Skinny had swaggered in and out of the bar, the way his gut had told him he hadn’t been good news.
Brad tossed and turned for an hour, until he finally decided to get up, got dressed, then drove to Belvedere castle, where the alien landing would take place . . . in twenty minutes, he noticed with a glance at his phone’s display.
He would have liked to have called his partner, but at two in the morning, what could he possibly tell him? There’s an alien spaceship landing at two thirty in the morning at central park?
He snorted, got out of his car and moved silently into the shadowy park – bright and peaceful during the day, scary and sketchy during the night, telling himself he was just checking that no alien invasions would be happening tonight so he could go home and enjoy a good night’s sleep. Or whatever was left of it.
But at night, deep in central park, this was a place for thieves, dealers and mafia, not for alien landing.
As he crouched in a darkened spot behind a tall tree near Belvedere castle, Brad had the urge to start kicking himself and his stupidity all the way to Mars and back. He pressed the button that would send an alarm to the bureau and would serve as a tracking device and counted heads. Four men, two of which he recognized as Skinny and the bartender. A suitcase full of money was parked by one of the two remaining men, another two large suitcases were parked beside Skinny, brimming with what Brad had learned to recognize as cocaine tiles. At least fifty pound on each suitcase, he thought with a horror and excitement he only felt in action, when he could almost taste the flavor of success of a well-timed bust. He knew then his informant had given him bad info, or sold the same to the other side – a risk he’d been aware of. The bust earlier had been nothing but bait, he realized now as he reached for the police issue holstered to his hips.
And a shnick sounded by his ear, followed by the muzzle of a gun being pressed to the back of his head.
Heart hammering, Brad stood slowly, hands up in the air.
All four men had turned to watch him as he stepped out of the shadow, his gun confiscated by the man he had yet to see.
He was pushed viciously to his knees once he reached the group, heard the ringing of sirens approaching. But this was New York, and the sound of sirens meant nothing to the drug lords hidden in the darkness and shadow of Belvedere castle, deep in central park.
With the gun still pressed against his head, the four men finished their deal and began closing the suitcases up, concluding their meeting.
An owl nearby hooted a cry and the gun shifted, and Brad ceased the opportunity, throwing himself sideways and kicking behind with both his legs, tripping the fifth man just as the sound of a gun went off. Something burned the side of his head, something warm trickled down.
Brad didn’t pause to check, didn’t give himself time to register the fact that he’d been shot. He dove for the fifth mans gun, took hold of his wrist and twisted even as he rolled around, pulling the man with him. He felt when the bullet hit the man now covering him, heard the sound of the FBI entering the scene. As he pushed the limp body away from him, Brad saw three of the four men being cuffed by his teammates, looked around for the fourth, found Skinny making a run for it. With a shout to let his partner know, Brad pursued, despite feeling his world tilting to the side. He dodged a tree that shot out of the darkness like a ghost, pressed a hand over the wound on the side of his head, knew he’d need stitches, even if the bullet had only skimmed by.
He sited the fifth’s man gun at Skinny, took aim and shot him on the leg. The bullet didn’t take Skinny’s leg from under him as he’d hoped, but Skinny did falter. It was enough for Brad to gain on him, tackle him to the ground and pull his hands to his back.
Later, after Brad gave his report, he went home, the sky already bright with morning, satisfied – despite his aching head – that he had done a good job, that no one out there would be overdosing from this particular batch of drugs.
This time when he closed his eyes, he fell asleep instantly, no longer concerned with alien drug lords.

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Writing prompt contest: short story

 

            Second chance mushroom

 

Danny Lee Bonvera dug into the soil, weeded out the stubborn roots. The sun beat down on her head relentlessly, but she wouldn’t – couldn’t go back into the silent house to pick up her gardening hat. She’d been out here for the better part of the day, weeding, snipping, fluffing the soil for the roses and azaleas and wild lilies she’d been planting for over two decades. She’d already tended to her butterfly garden, checked her inbox, and sent Brad, her friend and ex-husband an e-mail. He’d replied right away, which told her he’d either had been waiting for it or had been about to send her one.

They had been doing this back and forth every year on the fourth of July for exactly two decades, to remind each other what they had lost . . . and that they couldn’t forget.

Julie, her baby…

Danny Lee yanked off a stubborn weed, spotted another one, this one strange looking. Like a mushroom, but yet … she yanked it too, her beautiful baby in mind, her need to hold her, even after 20 years just as strong. It had never faded, her love, her grief. There were moments she’d get distracted, think about something else, and even smile.

The sun flashed once, white hot in front of her eyes, and Danny lee leaned back on her haunches, frowning. The sun, that relentless ball of fire, beat down like a hot wave in an inferno, incessant. Danny lee stood abruptly, convinced now to go back inside for her hat, because she didn’t want a heat stroke any more than she wanted company in a hospital room, today of all days.

There was a dizzying sensation, another flash of white hot light . . . and suddenly there were shouts, laughter and a commotion that made her stomach plummet to the pit of her stomach with fear. Had she blacked out? The garden was gone, the sun no longer beating down at her like a hot hammer. She turned slowly, her heart galloping. She was inside a simple living room; scarred wood flooring, brown leather sofas she recognized were sticky in the summer, cold in the winter. A gauzy white drape hung over the medium sized window. Toys littered the floor, a doll she hadn’t seen for 20 years but remembered so well lay by the box-sized TV, where a young Larry Matt followed the progress of the July 4th celebrations with enthusiasm.

Danny Lee looked down at her hands, her young, manicured hands and whirled around when there was a creak by the front door. The doggy flap closed, and with her heart lodged in her throat, Danny Lee ran for the door, yanked it open in time to see her little daughter crawling toward the street. The busy, main street where she knew a drunk teenager would be coming …

With a cry Danny Lee ran, picked her daughter up as she continued going to the other side of the busy city street.

Her daughter, Julie, cried in fear when horns started blasting and people started shouting, but Danny lee just held her daughter tight, eyes closed, hoping to god she wouldn’t wake up in a hospital, struck by heat. This wasn’t a dream, this wasn’t a dream.

The smell of exhaust was too real, the shouts of children too loud, the fireworks too realistic.

She crossed back to her home, walked into her living room in a daze.

When Brad arrived an hour later with the groceries, Danny Lee’s eyes were puffy from crying, and Julie was still in her arms, now asleep.

Danny Lee claimed a headache, begged out of the celebrations, and mother, father and daughter stayed home, ate pasta and watched the celebration on the old TV.

When Danny Lee’s eyes finally closed that night, her daughter tucked safely between her and her husband, she dreamt of a strange mushroom shaped weed and knew to yank it again would return her to the future. She moved to it, stared down at it. Then she picked up the watering can she knew would be there and watered the weed.

Tomorrow she’d tell brad she wanted a new home in the suburbs, away from the city traffic, to watch her daughter grow and play with the neighboring kids. She already knew the house she wanted, the neighbor she had yet to meet, the kids her daughter would grow up with.

With a sigh of contentment, Danny lee turned in her sleep, grasped her daughter to her breasts and dreamt about the happiness and fulfillment of the next two decades.

 

motivating creativity: baking for the imagination (cookies – brazilian)

Motivating creativity: Baking for the imagination (condensed milk cookies – Brazilian)

Again another Brazilian sweet (I’m very fond of my childhood snacks) one I went about ten years without, until my brother’s wife passed on the recipe a few years back. I went nuts with it, irritated my family with the repetition. Now that the fever is over, I still make them every now and then.
But for those of you who are wondering what does creativity and writing have to do with cookies, let me tell you why:
Sometimes when I’m writing a particularly good scene, I lose myself in the story so completely; the world around me fades away. It’s a wondrous thing, to lose oneself in the make-believe.
Sometimes, those scenes come naturally to me, a slideshow of ideas that keep pouring in while I try to keep up.
Sometimes, those ideas contrast with each other, and I have to choose one.
Here, I stall.
What should I do when both ideas are good enough but completely different?
I follow the thread down the line. I think about the next scene, and how the follow up will eventually meet the ending of the book. I imagine both alternatives and play it in my head – dialogues and all – and choose the best one. Sometimes it’s a long process, and sitting on the couch distantly watching space while I figure it out scares the kids away.
So I bake.
Today I’m going to share that recipe with you.
Enjoy!
Condensed milk cookies
Ingredients:
– 1 can of condensed milk
– 1 cup of softened butter
– 18 ounces of corn flour (500g)

Method:
Mix ingredients together well (I like to add 1 tablespoon of coconut essence). Form small balls – about ½ an inch thick, 2 across and place on a cookie sheet, slightly apart from each other. Bake at 375 f or 180 c for about eight to ten minutes or until bottom starts to golden. Wait for it to cool before you move it or serve.

Jina S. Bazzar

a study in futility: the dough that never ends (poem)

Before you read the poem, here’s why I wrote it:
A few days ago I decided to bake some meat pastries for the last day of Ramadan (fasting month for Muslims) and because my brother’s family would be joining us, I decided to make a bigger dough, added a few extra cups of flour, a few extra spoons of yeast. When I returned to check on the dough after I let it rise, I realized the meat wouldn’t be enough, so I took out the chicken breasts, diced them into little, smallish squares, cooked them with onion, garlic and some seasoning.
I began taking small portions from the dough, making little balls and placing them on a floured platter that I’d later roll and fill with meat/chicken. But evry time I was done with the 20 some balls I had made, I’d return to the bowl and find that the dough had risen anew and filled up the bowl yet again. At the end, I had to shred cheese to fill the remaining dough.
The poem below is dedicated to that stubborn dough that refused to end.

Once I decided to bake
Pastries to break the fast
Never would I have guessed
This dough would never end
The meat I seasoned into fragrance
The chicken I diced into squares
But never did I guess
This dough would never end
The yeast I used of plenty
The olive as virgin as Mary
But never did I guess
This dough would never end
Roll I did, once and twice
Filled in the meat, the chicken thrice
Added cheese and some spice
But never would I have guessed
This dough would never end
I took from the dough again
Rolled and leveled until it evened
Still cheerful I filled and filled
But never would I have guessed
This dough would never end
And on and on the platter grew
Until a mountain peaked through
And roll and level did I do
But stubborn dough grew anew
Never would have I guessed
This dough would never end
Murderous I took the entire dough
And in one piece I decided to roll
Meat and chicken together I dumped
And formed one single massive ball
Never would I have guessed it could
Grow and grow but grow it would
This evil ball of dough
That built and grew anew
Because the yeast had been too plentiful
And in the oven it couldn’t go

Jina S. Bazzar

motivating creativity: baking for the imagination (brigadeiro – brazilian chewy bonbons)

Motivating creativity: Baking for the imagination (brigadeiro – Brazilian chewy bonbons)

This week we have a treat – also from my childhood. Easy to make, costs little, looks incredible in birthday parties and yum yum, tastes magalicious.
It’s a Brazilian sweet, common enough anywhere you go in the country, cheap enough that no one feels any sting over it.
And did I say yum yum?
The name is brigadeiro. Since I can’t think about a translation for it, I’ll call it chewy bonbons, because, that’s what they are.
But for those of you who are wondering what does creativity and writing have to do with chewy bonbons, let me tell you why:
Sometimes when I’m writing a particularly good scene, I lose myself in the story so completely; the world around me fades away. It’s a wondrous thing, to lose oneself in the make-believe.
Sometimes, those scenes come naturally to me, a slideshow of ideas that keep pouring in while I try to keep up.
Sometimes, those ideas contrast with each other, and I have to choose one.
Here, I stall.
What should I do when both ideas are good enough but completely different?
I follow the thread down the line. I think about the next scene, and how the follow up will eventually meet the ending of the book. I imagine both alternatives and play it in my head – dialogues and all – and choose the best one. Sometimes it’s a long process, and sitting on the couch distantly watching space while I figure it out scares the kids away.
So I bake – get myself busy in the kitchen.
Today I’m going to share that sweet recipe with you.
Enjoy!
Brigadeiro:
Ingredients:
– 1 can of condensed milk
– 3 tblsp – full – of bitter cocoa powder
– 1 tblsp butter
– About 7.5 ounces of granulated chocolate 200g)
Method: (that’s right, that’s all you’ll need)
Pour the contents of the can into a pan – large enough for you to tilt to check the bottom later on – add cocoa powder and butter. Mix in low heat until the cocoa and butter have dissolved. For beginners, leave the heat medium to high until it begins to boil, all the while mixing. Once it begins to boil, lower the temp, returning it to medium high every now and then. Don’t stop mixing. It will be ready once you tilt the pan and the entire content slide as one piece (without leaving boiling bubbles behind).
Pour the contents into a Pyrex to cool for a couple hours. Spoon into balls and coat them with granulated chocolate.
Yum yum
Ps: I’m having trouble uploading an image. If anyone tries it before I’m successful there, please leave a photo.

Jina S. Bazzar

motivating creativity: baking for the imagination (chewy brazilian bonbons)

Motivating creativity: Baking for the imagination (brigadeiro – Brazilian chewy bonbons)

This week we have a treat – also from my childhood. Easy to make, costs little, looks incredible in birthday parties and yum yum, tastes magalicious.
It’s a Brazilian sweet, common enough anywhere you go in the country, cheap enough that no one feels any sting over it.
And did I say yum yum?
The name is brigadeiro. Since I can’t think about a translation for it, I’ll call it chewy bonbons, because, that’s what they are.
But for those of you who are wondering what does creativity and writing have to do with chewy bonbons, let me tell you why:
Sometimes when I’m writing a particularly good scene, I lose myself in the story so completely; the world around me fades away. It’s a wondrous thing, to lose oneself in the make-believe.
Sometimes, those scenes come naturally to me, a slideshow of ideas that keep pouring in while I try to keep up.
Sometimes, those ideas contrast with each other, and I have to choose one.
Here, I stall.
What should I do when both ideas are good enough but completely different?
I follow the thread down the line. I think about the next scene, and how the follow up will eventually meet the ending of the book. I imagine both alternatives and play it in my head – dialogues and all – and choose the best one. Sometimes it’s a long process, and sitting on the couch distantly watching space while I figure it out scares the kids away.
So I bake – get myself busy in the kitchen.
Today I’m going to share that sweet recipe with you.
Enjoy!
Brigadeiro:
Ingredients:
– 1 can of condensed milk
– 3 tblsp – full – of bitter cocoa powder
– 1 tblsp butter
– About 7.5 ounces of granulated chocolate 200g)
Method: (that’s right, that’s all you’ll need)
Pour the contents of the can into a pan – large enough for you to tilt to check the bottom later on – add cocoa powder and butter. Mix in low heat until the cocoa and butter have dissolved. For beginners, leave the heat medium to high until it begins to boil, all the while mixing. Once it begins to boil, lower the temp, returning it to medium high every now and then. Don’t stop mixing. It will be ready once you tilt the pan and the entire content slide as one piece (without leaving boiling bubbles behind).
Pour the contents into a Pyrex to cool for a couple hours. Spoon into balls and coat them with granulated chocolate.
Yum yum
Ps: I’m having trouble uploading an image. If anyone tries it before I’m successful there, please leave a photo.

Jina S. Bazzar

motivating creativity: baking for the imagination(chocolate cake)

Motivating creativity: baking for the imagination

This week I’ll share a chocolate cake recipe my mother used to do for us when we were little. It tastes of childhood, of innocence, of little mischiefs.
For those who missed the previous post, let me explain what baking has to do with the imagination. Sometimes when I’m writing a particularly good scene, I lose myself in the story so completely; the world around me fades away. It’s a wondrous thing, to lose oneself in the make-believe.
Sometimes, those scenes come naturally to me, a slideshow of ideas that keep pouring in while I try to keep up.
Sometimes, those ideas contrast with each other, and I have to choose one.
Here, I stall.
What should I do when both ideas are good enough but completely different?
I follow the thread down the line. I think about the next scene, and how the follow up will eventually meet the ending of the book. I imagine both alternatives and play it in my head – dialogues and all – and choose the best one. Sometimes it’s a long process, and sitting on the couch distantly watching space while I figure it out scares the kids away.
So I bake.
Today I’m going to share that recipe with you.
Chocolate cake
Ingredients:
– 2 cups flour
– 2 cups sugar
– 1 cup cocoa powder
– 1 tblsp baking powder – full
– 1 cup oil
– 3 eggs
– 1 cup boiling water
Method:
In a large bowl mix dry ingredients together (flour, sugar, baking powder, cocoa powder) make sure there are no lumps. Add oil and eggs and beat well, then start adding the boiling water while it’s mixing.
Pour batter into floured cake pan and bake in preheated oven – 375 f until toothpick comes out clean.

This cake is excellent with a cup of coffee.
Enjoy!

the poison and antidote of an agent’s rejection

The poison and antidote of an agent’s rejection

 

Every writer out there is familiar with the “unfortunately I’m not interested at the moment” line. Every writer, including famous ones. If you check the bio of your favorite author out there, you might even read an article where he/she confesses how hard it had been for them to get their first novel published. No matter how fascinating you believe a book is, not everyone will share that opinion. Same goes with the agents.

It isn’t the book within fault, or you, or the agent, but whether if the three together can be combined and mixed. Like a puzzle, each of the three pieces has to meet and fit to produce a cohesive whole.

The trick is to keep trying.

The problem, however, is that many writers who have been stung with the rejection poison once too many let the venom spread through his/her brain, often convincing themselves that the problem lay within the manuscript.

Often, the writer is wrong.

Many writers, after experiencing that wonderful journey of putting together those paragraphs, those scenes, those chapters that form the beginning and the end of the book and build up the courage to query an agent, only to receive a polite rejection, often feels dejected enough to consider his writing nothing more than a fool’s errand. Those many rarely write again.

Who hasn’t ever seen that line in their inbox “unfortunately, I’m not interested at the moment” before? Which one of you, after reading those rejections decided the manuscript wasn’t good enough? Which one of you tried writing something else? And which one of you thumbed your nose and went ahead and self-published?

In my opinion, there are three types of writers who branch from that line of rejection:

  • The dejected, depressed, the one who believes his/her book was so bad he/she didn’t even get a partial request.
  • The indifferent, the one who shrugs then puts his manuscript aside and resume his life, forgetting about the manuscript altogether.
  • The persistent, ambitious, the one who would raise their chins and continue trying.

Often, from the third type, there comes two:

  • The one who decides that maybe the book wasn’t good enough and starts writing a completely different book, genre, or revise the entire manuscript all over again. Sometimes, a second rejection for a second projects stings and the third type falls back to either of the first two
  • Sometimes though, the third type decides his book was good enough and either that agent was telling the truth and the book really didn’t fit his interest at that time, or that agent was just plain mean, and the author decides he can take care of his own book and goes indie.

So why won’t the first two types do the same?

Simple.

Traditional publishing (acquiring an agent to represent your book) takes some of the weight off the writer’s shoulders and helps the writer in such a way that many writers believe that they can’t do it without the help of an agent. It’s true that now-a-days an agent requires that the author comes ready to market his own book – even demanding it before the writer can submit a query letter, making it clear in their bio/submission page that if the writer doesn’t have any interest in helping market his/her own book then that agent isn’t the right fit. Still, traditional publishing – though much slower, helps boost a writer’s career – helps with the editing, refining the manuscript down to a t, helps with the cover and more importantly, the marketing. A lot of writers out there believe that the rejection of an agent means that the public won’t be interested and that going indie would only embarrass themselves.

That is not true.

Self-publishing has become more popular with the age of technology, giving the writer who doesn’t mind pushing up his sleeve the opportunity to do it himself. It’s laborious work, yes, but often very satisfying.

Here, aside from writing and editing a book, there’s more editing, then doing the cover – or paying someone to do it – formatting, and marketing.

Unlike with traditional publishing, independent writers sign no contracts, aside from the one they commit with themselves. There’s another plus for the indie writers, and that is the fact that the book starts selling after 4 to 72 hours after you publish it. With traditional publishing, however, it takes time. There are all the months – weeks if you’re lucky – of querying for an agent, then all the time it takes for the agent querying the houses, then possibly a year before your book starts selling. Plus you lose a lot of the say in what happens to the book and the format and so on.

And yes, you may acquire that agent after months of querying left and right, only to get rejected by the publishing houses.

Lately, I’ve been reading more and more about authors who do both, signing with an agent for a series and self-publishing a different one, or selling the rights of a book in a particular language in some particular countries, then self-publishing that same book in other languages and other countries.

Independent writers go through all that on their own. So if you’re the type who wants to write only (though you still have to edit your book and present it as polished as you can to an agent if you want to be taken seriously), then traditional publishing is your best fit, but I advice you not to feel down when the rejections start piling. It’s natural, it’s inevitable. Query as many agents as you can. Someone out there has to like your writing. Keep in mind you just need to find that someone.

For those who like the indie concept but still feels like the work is beyond you, you can always pay someone to do the cover and edit the book, format and proof read, and help market it later on. But beware of sharks, because the internet is full of them and you don’t want to find yourself getting skimmed for a service you never receive or worse, getting your book published under someone else’s name – though I haven’t heard about this one yet.

It’s a lot to take in, I know, but if you do it right, the satisfaction of seeing your book out there selling and getting read by others . . . won’t that be awesome?

 

Jina S. Bazzar