What’s in a Word? Announcing a Collection of Flash Fiction

We’re big on “no spoliers!” in the Potts household. At least as far as our entertainment goes. Holidays and birthdays are a different story. We can keep an ending or a surprise twist to ourselves, but it is all my kids (and sometimes, their dad) to do not to share hints about the presents they are giving well before the day of the event.

I’ve gotten into a habit of not taking them shopping until a week before a big day, if only to limit the time for temptation. They will no doubt continue this habit well into adulthood, reinforcing the stereotype of a guy waiting until the night (or hour before) to buy gifts. For that, I would like to apologize to their future spouses, but believe me when I say, as annoying as this behavior is, it is with the best of intention. It’s difficult to wait to share something you are proud of or is exciting news. This is even more true when the thing to share it is both of those things.

This is my long-winded way of saying, I’ve been keeping something from you.

The Big Reveal!

I was invited to add a number of stories to a collection of short fiction, and when I say short, I mean short. The maximum length of an allowed story in one section was 600 words. In another section, the collection’s editor, Sarah Brentyn, dubbed micro-bursts, the goal was to write a story in as little as 10. I’d thought, writing a full-length novel was tough… I am happy to say that I believe I rose to the challenge.

The Shadows We Breathe, Vol 1 is on sale as of August 9th, 2021, and I’m honored to be one of the eight authors featured in it.

The Shadows We Breathe - Sarah Brentyn

“In this anthology, we explore relationships—how they sculpt us, hurt us, help us, and reveal our deepest desires. Eight artists, whose words paint worlds, bring you stories of heartache, loss, hope, and forgiveness. They unveil the intimacy and complexity of relationships.”

Examples of Micro-Bursts

Right now, you may be asking: how does one write a story in only ten words? In some ways, it is like writing poetry. You have to be very specific about your word choice. What you say matters, but what you don’t say is just as, if not more, important. In order for a string of ten words to tell a story, they have to give a reader enough context for to form a starting point, while also giving the reader’s mind enough room to fill in the blanks all by itself.

The most famous example of this sort of short fiction is Hemingway’s six word story: “For sale: baby shoes. Never worn.” Two sentences tell you much. They prompt the mind to come up with all the reasons someone might be selling a pair of unused baby shoes.

Sure, the baby in this story could easily have been like mine—due mid-October, but not born until November, which made dressing him in Halloween-themed attire like a candy-corn shaped onesie somewhat silly. (I still did it, mind you, it was perfectly good clothing—I just didn’t dress him that way when we were out in public).

This means the story might boil down to nothing more than a tale detailing the reason behind a yard sale offering, but as it was created by Hemingway, the safer bet is that the background story is much more tragic. That said, like other forms of art, it comes down to a matter of personal interpretation.

This form of writing also happens to be, in my case, a fun way to procrastinate fuel my writing skills when I am stuck at a particularly tangled plot point in a draft novel—it’s like the literary equivalent of Trail Mix. Whenever I feel the need to escape from my manuscript (why oh why do these things refuse to write themselves) recharge, I go on Twitter and look up the hashtags #FP and #FridayPhrases. Then I simply tweet a story around the weekly prompt.

I like these prompts because they give me the full length of a tweet to tell my story. However, there are plenty of other hashtags and users that start with ‘6Word’ or ‘sixword’ for you to choose from if you want to do the same and are looking for even more challenge.

I guess my little stories on Twitter were enough to get me noticed by other flash fiction fans, like Sarah. When I found out that this collection was in the works, I jumped at the offer. I was then thrilled to make the cut. This was especially true when I learned who else’s stories would be included within the pages.

If you are like me—pressed for time—but still enjoy indulging in the occasional bite-sized reading snack, I encourage you to check this, and Sarah’s other collections out.

An Average Day in the Life of Matt Summers – Flash Fiction

An Average Day - Flash Fiction
Matt Summers lived in an average house on an average street where nothing ever happened.

His mother would wake him by opening his curtains, allowing the light to stream in. Only today, his mother snapped them shut shortly after opening them.

“Wha’s going on?” asked a bleary-eyed Matt.

“Oh nothing,” said his mother. “I just realized that it’s Saturday and thought you could use a little extra rest this morning. I couldn’t help but notice how much you’re still growing.”

Matt smiled. He had every intention of burrowing back under his covers, but then remembered how close he’d come to beating level twelve on his favorite video game the day before. Unable to go back to sleep, he slid off the bed and padded into the den where he found his mother pulling a decorative sword off the wall. “What’cha doing?” he asked.

“Just pulling this down to give it a cleaning,” said his mother after a slight pause. “I noticed a bit of tarnish.” She tittered, though whatever the joke was, it went over Matt’s head. “Er. Why don’t you go and get yourself a bit of breakfast?”

Matt nodded and went into the kitchen where he poured himself a bowl of cereal. His father entered the room. “Have you seen your mother?” he asked.

“She’s in the den,” Matt said, spilling a bit of milk on the counter. “Acting weird. Taking the sword off the wall so she can polish it.”

“Ah,” said his father, his face taking on a severe expression.

Matt looked at the spot of milk on the counter. “Don’t worry, I’ll clean that up.”

His father blinked. “Right. I’ll go see if I can help your mother.” He turned and exited the room, leaving Matt to finish his breakfast in peace.

After shoveling the cereal into his mouth, Matt went into the den and fired up his video game console. His dad re-appeared, briefly holding a large dusty leather-bound book. Matt guessed his mother must have found another cleaning project for his father to do. “You’re blocking the screen,” said Matt.

His father started. “Sorry,” he said “I must have been distracted. Didn’t see you there.” before exiting the room in the direction of the front door.

The game’s intro music blasted over the speakers. “Alright,” said Matt to himself. “Let’s do this thing.”

Several hours, Matt jumped around the room. He’d done it. Not only had he beaten level twelve, he’d defeated the baddie on level thirteen and fourteen too. He couldn’t wait to tell his friend, Oscar, on Monday all about it. The game’s sound designers had really pulled out all the stops on level thirteen. At times, it had seemed as if the sound of explosions were coming from outside of his house rather than on the small screen in front of him. However, the game designers must have spent their entire budget on level thirteen as fourteen had sounded dull and dead by comparison outside of a single, solitary crash.

His stomach rumbled realizing he’d played his game well past lunch. On his way to the pantry, he noticed the trashcan was full. His mouth twisted and his nose wrinkled, but he grabbed the sack. Taking the garbage out was his responsibility and his mom was obviously in one of her whole house cleaning moods. If he didn’t take the initiative to take it out to the curb on his own, he knew from experience more chores would follow.

Outside, the air smelled of smoke. One of the neighbors must be smoking a pork shoulder. There was something else, though Matt couldn’t quite place it. It was like eggs and milk gone bad. He glanced at the bag of garbage he held in one hand. The stench was probably from that, he just hadn’t noticed it inside.

Rounding the corner, he found his father leaning against the home’s brick wall. “Taking a break?” Matt asked.

“I guess you can say that,” said his dad, picking up the book from where it lay on the ground, still as dusty as it had earlier that day.

“You got something on your shirt,” said Matt pointing at a large oily-looking stain.

His father looked down. “So I do,” he said. “I should probably go and get this cleaned up before it sets.” His father then turned and went inside taking the book with him.

Matt spotted the little old woman who lived at the end of the street standing in the middle of the road. She was staring at their house. He waved. The woman scowled and scurried away. Matt shrugged and returned inside where he found his mother re-attaching the freshly cleaned blade to its place on the wall.

“Sorry, sweetie,” she said noticing him there. “That took longer than I thought it would.”

“That’s okay, mom,” he said, picking up his controller and returning to his game, which he played through dinner. Later that night, Matt lay on his average-sized bed, in his average-sized room feeling he’d accomplished a lot, and yet at the same time, it was as if he had missed something more. He turned over on his side. Giving into dreams, he let the feeling go. After all, it had been just another day on a street where nothing ever happened.

If you give your husband a truck…

If you give your husband a truck - www.alliepottswrites.com
Inspired by Laura Numeroff’s If you give a ___ a ___ books

If you give your husband a truck (or SUV with 4 wheel drive), he’s going to want to take it off-roading.

When he looks for places to go off-roading, he’s going to locate an accessible beach.

He’ll want to spend the whole weekend there, so he’ll want to invite his friends.

He’ll call them all and start to plan.

When he’s making his plan, he’ll realize they’ll need food to eat. Thinking about the food will make him think about how they will store and prepare it.

He’ll want to bring a grill.

You’ll have to get some charcoal

and a cooler (or two).

Moving Day
Not our car, but not far off. Courtesy of http://www.flickr.com

Of course, he’ll also want to try everything out before his trip.

He’ll ask you to taste test his recipes.

He’ll hit a home run.

Then we’ll all do a happy dance to celebrate.

Dancing after eating so much food will be uncomfortable, so he’ll want to lie down to digest.

He’ll probably start thinking of how much space his and his buddies’ supplies will take up and how uncomfortable the ride will be.

He’ll have to get a trailer hitch.

He’ll see how much room he now has to play with and he’ll think of ways to fill it.

Then he’ll discover a thing called a chuck box.

He’ll find some wood and want to make one himself.

You’ll watch him get hooks, hinges, and a tiny working sink.

When the chuck box is finished,

… when the chuck box is finished…

… when two months of weekends spent in the garage have passed and the chuck box is still not finished,

you both will want to get out of the house.

Wanting to get out of the house will cause him to spend more time thinking places his truck can take you.

And chances are,

if he thinks about his truck (or SUV),

he’ll want to take it off-roading.

Our Chuck Box - www.alliepottswrites.com
The work in progress. Seriously, it has a kitchen sink.

Batman’s greatest challenge yet – a tru-ish story

Batman's greatest challenge yet
background image courtesy of http://www.pixabay.com

Gotham city lay quiet. It had been weeks since the Joker had shown his bright green hair or pale white face. The flu virus going around must have taken him out too.

Alfred pulled the curtains open.

“Good day Master Bruce.”

I grimaced as my eyes adjusted to the daylight cutting through my room. The ornate clock on the mantle said it was already past noon.

“Feeling any better today?” he asked bringing over a tray consisting of hot tea and a package of saltine crackers.

My stomach growled at the sight – a distinct difference from twenty-four hours before. It had been some time since I’d last kept down solid food. I scratched at days of growth now covering my chin. “Much,” I replied. The sound of my voice was strange to my ears. My recent illness must have damaged my vocal cords. I wouldn’t be able to maintain the deep, cold distinct tone I used to render fear into the hearts of my enemies for another day or two.

He pulled out a small scanner and held it up to my forehead. “Indeed. You no longer appear to be contagious. Shall I go over your schedule then?”

“That’s alright, Alfred.” I had only one appointment to keep that afternoon.

“Very good sir.” Leaving the tray behind, Alfred exited the room.

I stepped over to the mantle and pulled on a lever next to the clock. The fireplace spun revealing the entrance to my secret command center. I pulled on my suit. It was looser around the waist and chest than I’d remembered. I wondered how much weight I’d lost over the last few days. I made a mental note to double my efforts in the gym for the next few weeks. I reached for my belt, only to notice it was missing from its usual resting place.

“Computer. Where is my utility belt?”

A woman’s voice programmed to sound like my mother answered. “In the field. Shall I activate the retrieval protocol?”

It began to come back to me. My trusty companion had borrowed the belt along with my spare suit when it became clear that I was in no shape to be out fighting crime so that criminals wouldn’t think the city lay unprotected. He must not have returned home yet. “That’s okay computer. I won’t need it for this mission.”

I pulled on my mask and cowl. The rubber tore open in the back. “Computer – damage assessment.”

“There is a large split in the back. The material must have taken too many hits and exceeded its tensile strength during your last battle with Bane.”

Bane! I cursed to myself. “Is a replacement available?”

“Negative, sir. Your spare is out with the other suit. I will instruct the 3D printer to begin work on another, but it will take several hours for the material to cure.”

I frowned. I didn’t have six hours. I didn’t even have three. I tucked the open rubber ends under my cape. It would have to do.

I looked into the cave’s parking bays. “I assume the Batmobile is in the field too.”

“Affirmative,” replied my ever helpful computer.

I couldn’t drive one of Bruce’s cars. They were too recognizable around town. That left only one option. “Computer, inform Alfred I’ve borrowed his car.”

“One moment.”

I verified the address of my destination. Without the Batmobile’s speed, I had even less time to spare.

“Alfred has acknowledged.”

“Thank you computer.”

I turned the key in the ignition, shaking my head at what Alfred considered music as I drove out of the cave and into the city. Beads of sweat formed under my mask and down my back. I realized I must not be as recovered as I thought, but it was too late to turn back now. This appointment was too important to miss.

I pulled up to my destination and walked through the door marked with a single yellow balloon.

batman birthday - www.alliepottswrites.comA small boy sat inside. Seeing me, his face immediately broke into a smile. My biggest fan.

“Happy Birthday, LT,” I said coming to his side.

The smile slipped from his face. His eyes narrowed. “You’re not the real Batman. That’s just a costume.” He nodded to himself. “I can tell.”

I’d thought my greatest opponents were safely behind bars at Arkham Asylum, but it would turn out even the clown prince of crime had nothing on the keen eyes or unfiltered opinions of this particular six-year-old birthday boy.


For the record, LT didn’t buy any part of this story for a second, but to his credit, the Bat-hero attending his party never once gave up trying.

That being said, some tips for other caped crusaders considering taking on the extremely risky children’s party circuit.

  • Drink lots of fluids – that suit gets hot
  • Don’t forget your utility belt – you never know when you’ll wish you had a smoke bomb or a grappling hook to get away
  • Practice your angry voice – it comes in handy answering questions as well as directing activities
  • Don’t forget to shave – the mask will fit much better
  • Have fun – Even if you forget all the rest, you’ve still made one kid’s day

And for that last one, we average citizens, thank you.

One super serious, yet totally fictitious performance review – featuring Uncertain Faith’s Charlotte Row

The super serious yet totally fictitious performance review - www.alliepottswrites.com
The cleanliness of the desk alone in this picture should tell you the following is completely made up.

May include spoilers.

My office door opens and a woman with curly brown hair peeks in. “Um, are you ready for me?” she asks with a smile. Not waiting for a reply, she crosses the threshold, with the familiarity of an old friend.

“Hi Charlotte, come right in.” I gesture for her to close the door behind her. Charlotte flops down in a chair with a mug in hand while I rummage around to find the collection of papers stapled together with her name on them. “I can’t believe it is already time to do performance reviews again,” I say, handing her the pages. “How long have we been doing this?”

Charlotte leans back in her seat, scanning my written comments on the first page with a quick glance. “Hmm,” she begins, tapping her lip, “technically it will be five years this October, but I think this is only my second or third one of these.”

I blink.

She shrugs. “You kind of forgot a few times.”

“Oh, that’s right.” The heat from my cheeks is a better gauge of the severity of my blush than any mirror. “Sorry. All I can say is I was distracted.”

Charlotte leans forward, returning the papers to my desk face down. “It’s fine. I understood. The Project’s success was, is, a huge priority for everyone.”

“It is, but I don’t want you to think I don’t value you too,” I say, nodding at the papers. “You’ve done good work, and I want you to feel like you are contributing.”

Or is it coffee? Either way, it wouldn’t surprise me if in the least if this was Charlotte’s mug (affiliate link)

Charlotte laughs. “I’m not exactly saving the world over here.” She takes a sip of her beverage.

“I’m serious, Charlotte,” I say, thinking I could go for a coffee too after this is done. “You might not be expected to go on epic quests, but what you do still matters to a whole bunch of people.”

She shakes her head, though the smile remains. “That’s nice of you to say, but really, I’m okay. It’s not like I would want Juliane’s job anyway.” Charlotte shudders. “That woman is a freak.”

“Charlotte,” I chide, imagining the conversation I would have to have with the human resource department later if I had one.

Charlotte’s eyes grow wide as she slaps her hand over her mouth. “That didn’t come out right at all. I meant she’s a workaholic. I didn’t mean to imply I thought her … her … you know … the project made her a freak, which it totally didn’t.” Charlotte’s hand dropped to rest over her heart. She gulps. “I just like having time to spend with my family. That’s all.”

I purse my lips and take a deep breath before speaking again. “Let’s stop talking about Juliane and keep this focused on you. What can I do to help you become more successful this year?”

She looks up at the ceiling in thought. “Well, maybe I could attend a workshop.”

I raise an eyebrow.

“Or two,” says Charlotte, meeting my gaze once more. She chews her lip when I don’t respond. “Three?” she squeaks.

“Think bigger, though I’m making a mental note to revisit your thoughts on a workshop later.”

“Bigger?” Her brows knit. She eyeballs the papers on my desk. Her hand twitches. I can tell she’s itching to give my review a more in-depth read. “But … but … look, I appreciate the vote of confidence and don’t take this the wrong way,” she takes another sip, “but I’m not certain … Kids are only young once. You know?”

“Oh, believe me, I know.” I grin. “Which is exactly why I am so excited.” I pick up the papers. “What if I’ve come up with a way for you to grow within the company while also giving you the opportunity to spend even more time with your family?”

Charlotte cocks her head to the side and looks at me out of the corner of her eye. “How would that work?”

This time it is my turn to lean forward. Opening the papers to the back, I point to the last paragraph. “Because, Charlotte,” I say, my grin threatening to split my face, “before this year is out, I’m giving you … a sequel.”


That’s right, early revisions are all but done and I will be looking for beta readers for my latest contemporary / cozy mystery novel entitled An Uncertain Confidence in the coming weeks.

Charlotte is back in a new story proving happily ever after is a constant work in progress following one disastrous night out. Those interested should send me an email at Allie at alliepottswrites dot com for additional details. You don’t have to have read the first book, but it certainly helps.

Speaking of beta readers, Lucy over at http://www.blondewritemore.com was kind enough to feature a guest post of mine entitled Writers: What to expect when your beta reader is an elven prince. Click on the link to check it out.