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

The super serious yet totally fictitious performance review -
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 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.

#ShortStory Saturday’s Flash Fiction Fun with The Writer’s Toolbox – Part Eight

I love to use The Writer’s Toolbox (affiliate link) and its creative games, even if they always cause me to end on a cliff-hanger. Unfortunately, all games must come to an end. While I may choose to revisit these characters one day and continue their story, the following is a conclusion to this particular series.

Once again I would like to thank Jamie Cat Callan of the Writer’s Toolbox for sponsoring the original posts, in spite of them going a little dark, and for creating such a fun and easy tool for priming the creative process. 

May you all have a safe and happy new year.

To read from the beginning, visit the first post here.

A Writers Toolbox #ShortStory - conclusion -

An ear-piercing squeal jarred Margaret back from the darkness. As another dose of adrenaline spiked her bloodstream, her vision cleared enough to see the unguarded doorway. Thoughts were difficult to string together. Margaret didn’t need them. Animalistic instinct took over.

She could sense an overwhelming pain as she pulled herself out of the chair, but it was as if the pain belonged to someone else. One foot dragged behind the other as she crossed the room. She barely noticed. A man’s voice complained about a sticky wheel in the background. It was all she needed to fuel the urge to get away.

The knob turned in her hand, opening to a kitchen staffed by many who’d long since learned to turn a blind eye to the goings-on of the back room. All it would take one to raise the alarm. Though it was empty, she dropped to the ground. The brown tile floor bit into her knees as she crawled through the narrow pathways separating the stainless counter-tops.

She glanced over her shoulder. Her captors had not yet noticed her disappearance. A trail of red marked her progress. Margaret risked rising up into a crouch as she looked around the kitchen for anything that might aid in her escape.

Aprons marred with spots of gray from contact with grease hung from a line of hooks on the wall. A pair of rags draped over the edge of an industrial sink within easy reach.

She grabbed the rags scented thick with bleach and tied one around her largest wound. Margaret tried used the other to wipe away the trail leading to her but only managed to create a pink blur. Wrapping the rest of her body with one of the aprons, she made her way toward the swinging door of the kitchen’s exit, hoping the disguise would be enough to keep her from being noticed.

A foursome blocked her final path to freedom.

One of the four spotted her. “Daisy?” His face drained of color. “You were here this whole time?”

“Out of my way Bill,” Margaret growled. Muddled thoughts continued to swirl, forbidding her from letting her guard down. It didn’t matter if he was her brother. If he was here, he could be one of them. She couldn’t afford to lose her edge now. Not when she was so close.

One of the others raced to her side, pulling her into a crushing embrace that made her eyes water. “I thought I lost you.” He relaxed his hold. “I mean, I thought we lost you.”

The warmth of his arms was unbearable. “Not you too, Larry,” Margaret whimpered as tears filled her vision. “Let me go.” She fought against his hold as a new sort of pain entered into the mix.

Her brother’s best friend released her with wide eyes. Larry’s gaze dropped to the apron, now spotted with pink as well as gray. “I didn’t mean to hurt you.” He took another step back. “I’d never–I’m not–”

Light spilled into the dining room as the kitchen door swung open once more. Margaret didn’t have to turn to know that a large man stood on the other side. She screamed as she attempted to push past Larry, only to be caught by her brother as her legs gave out.

“Donald.” The woman standing closest to Bill smiled, stepping between them and the man. “If you are here, does that mean Frank is close by?” The woman’s voice was smoke and honey. “Ah, there’s my favorite artist.”

“Laurie?” A voice that would haunt Margaret’s dreams, spoke up from behind the large man. “And here I thought you still held hard feelings.”

“Tough day at the office?”

The man shrugged. “I’ve had better. Speaking of work,” He nodded in Margaret’s direction. “I’ve got a delivery to make, but if that past business is behind us… Afterward it can be like before.”

“Oh, I’ve learned a lot since then,” the woman practically purred. She reached into her purse and rummaged around until she pulled out a tube of lip gloss. She coated her lips in slow meaningful strokes as she crossed the room before pulling Frank’s head down to meet his lips with hers.

Frank broke the kiss first. “Now that’s my kind of hello.”

Laurie shrugged. “If you say so.” She walked to Donald and kissed him on the cheek. “I choose to think of it as goodbye.” She returned to Bill’s side.

Frank grabbed at his throat as bloated hives broke out across purpling skin. Donald scratched his cheek where Laurie kissed him, then clawed at his pockets before similarly turning red followed by blue.

“Looking for this?” Laurie asked brandishing a tube in one hand as both men dropped to the ground. Gone was the warmth from her voice. “I keep a package of peanuts in my purse, to keep my metabolism up while dieting. Good for me, but bad for those with allergies.” She let the injection tool taken from Donald’s pocket fall to the ground and crushed it under a shoe. She looked down at the men gasping for breath on the floor. “The next time either of you see Leslie, be sure to tell him I can too act.”

Returning her attention back to the group she smiled. “It is time we all enjoyed a change of scenery, don’t you think?”

Margaret was reminded of their childhood as her older brother scooped her up and carried her out of the diner. Police cars raced by in the direction of Leslie’s penthouse. She’d traded more than cooking tips at the class in Duluth. Her lips turned up as she allowed the darkness take over once more. And now, the scenery wasn’t the only thing that would be changing.

#ShortStory Saturday’s Flash Fiction Fun with The Writer’s Toolbox – Part Seven

As much as I absolutely love to use The Writer’s Toolbox (affiliate links are included in this post for your convenience), I have found it always makes me end on a cliff-hanger. As I am curious as to the story’s end (and hope you are too), I have decided to continue the series with a few more posts. While these posts are not sponsored and do not conform to the rules of the game, I hope you enjoy them all the same.

If you’d prefer to start from the beginning, you can read the first post here.

A Writers-toolbox inspired short story -

A crimson ribbon swirled in the sink as Frank rinsed off the tools of his trade. He twisted the faucet knob, slowing the flow of water to allow the color to expand and formed intricate shapes before contracting once more and disappearing down the drain. He sighed as the water ran clear. As much as he tried, he could never quite capture the raw beauty created by the drowning art on his canvas with paint.

A grunt behind him reminded him of the task at hand. Frank turned to his partner, Donald, who was still standing guard by the door. “The girl’s tougher than she looks,” he gestured at the crumpled figure in the chair. “Stupid — but tough. Leslie isn’t going to be happy.”

Donald didn’t need a tongue to tell Frank his feelings on the subject. The expression on his face spoke volumes enough.

Frank looked at the girl again. “Guess there’s nothing left to do but clean up.” The girl. Margaret was her name. Emphasis on was, Frank thought as he shook his head. He remembered how she’d looked when she’d arrived with eyes that flashed between hope and fear. And those pouty lips.., he savored the thought as he would a snifter full of high-end brandy later that night. At one point he’d found himself almost ready to believe her. He shrugged, dismissing the image. Such a waste. Thoughts like that served no one and they still had work to do.

Donald’s face was once again a mask of granite as walked over to one of the large plastic drum style containers the restaurant hiding the back room used to transport leftover grease to the biodiesel processing plant. He picked up the drum and positioned it on the hand truck with an ease that came from years of practice.

An aroma of freshly baked bread tickled Frank’s nose and made his mouth water as he dried the last of his instruments. The kitchen’s really stepped up their game today, he thought as he packed his tools back into their leather case. The scent of rosemary was normally not so strong. His stomach rumbled. It would have to remain empty a while longer. In his line of work, it was never a good decision to delay sharing the results of an interview, no matter how enticing a meal was.

Frank winced as an ear-piercing screech came from the direction of the hand truck. “Stop, stop, stop,” he said coming to Donald’s side. He crouched down to examine the base. “Here’s the problem. The wheel’s stuck.” He poked at the wheel, looking for whatever was blocking its axle. The cool metal rim was tacky to the touch with strands of matted hair stuck to its surface. “Is this the same one you used on the last job?” He pushed on the rubber of the tire, but the wheel stubbornly refused to turn.

He frowned. If they didn’t clear whatever it was out now, there would be no way to get the container out of the room once it was filled. Then again, Donald had more muscle in a finger than most did in their entire arms. He might not even need the cart. The girl probably only weighs one hundred sixty or so, he thought as he glanced over his shoulder.

The chair was empty. Frank jumped up and spun on his heel. His gaze followed a trail of red spatter from the chair to the unguarded door.

Donald grunted.

“Yeah, yeah, I know.” Frank whistled. Donald wasn’t the only one getting sloppy. “Maybe she’s not so stupid after all.”

His partner snorted.

“Well, don’t just stand there.” He gestured at the open door. “Go get her. She can’t have gone far.”

Read the conclusion here

#ShortStory Saturday’s Flash Fiction Fun with The Writer’s Toolbox – Part Six

As much as I absolutely love to use The Writer’s Toolbox (affiliate links are included in this post for your convenience), I have found it always makes me end on a cliff-hanger. As I am curious as to the story’s end (and hope you are too), I have decided to continue the series with a few more posts. While these posts are not sponsored and do not conform to the rules of the game, I hope you enjoy them all the same.

If you’d prefer to start from the beginning, you can read the first post here.

A Writer's Toolbox Inspired Short Story -“What exactly are you saying?” Bill asked looking anywhere except into Iris’s eyes.
She reached out and covered his hand with her own. “I think you already know.”
Their waitress chose that moment to approach their table. “Can I get you guys anything else?”

“Not unless the kitchen stocks whiskey as well as handguns,” said Larry.

The waitress frowned as she placed their copy of the bill on the table’s edge and walked away.

“What the hell Larry,” said Iris pulling her hand away from Bill’s. “Are you insane?”

“What? It’s not like she knows I was being serious.” Larry leaned forward as a pimpled teenager wiped down the table behind them.

Bill wrinkled his nose. From where he sat, the rag the kid used smelled like his grandmother’s laundry room. “So what do we do now?”

“Do?” Iris blinked. “Weren’t you listening to anything I was saying? There is nothing we can do.” She frowned at Larry. “Besides if the kitchen did sell guns, what would we do with them? None of us have the first clue how to use them?”

“You don’t need guns.” A woman motioned for Bill to make room on the bench. “Though the whiskey might be nice.” The woman slid next to him, pushing his water glass to the slide to make room for a red leather journal. “I know I should probably mind my own business, but it sounds to me like you could use all the help you can get.”

Larry cocked his head to the side. “Do we know you?”
The woman beamed. “My name is Laurie.” She tapped the bottom of her hair. “But you might know me as Candice Wentworth from The Bus Shelter in the Rain.

Larry’s brows knit. “I’m not sure I—”

The smile left Laurie’s face as her shoulders sagged. She made her voice take on the high-pitched tone of a child’s. “Should’a done it my way.”

His eyes widened. “Bill. Do you realize you are sitting next to Bethany Hallows. As in the Bethany Hallows from Beth Knows Best? I loved that show growing up.” He turned to Iris. “Tell me you watched it.”

Iris looked from Bill to Laurie with twisted lips. “If you heard that much, you know who is involved.” She reached for the scrap of paper that was their bill. “It’s nice to meet a celebrity and all, but I think we should go.”

Laurie’s smile returned. “Oh, I know exactly who is involved. And more importantly, I know where your friend is.” She pulled out a credit card and took the paper from Iris. “Consider this, my treat.”

Jump to the next installment here.


#ShortStory Saturday’s Flash Fiction Fun with The Writer’s Toolbox – Part Five

The following is the fifth post in a series of sponsored short stories written using Jamie Cat Callan’s fun and easy to use The Writer’s Toolbox (affiliate links are included in this post for your convenience). You can read more about Jamie’s other creations at the bottom of this post.

For those not as familiar with The Writer’s Toolbox, it prompts you with a first, middle, and last sentence as well as a series of descriptions, some more random than others, which help your writing pop as well as a protagonist complete with overarching goals and an obstacle to overcome. I absolutely love it.

If you’d prefer to start from the beginning, you can read the first post here.

How I beat writer's block with one creative game -“There she was, Amy Gerstein, over by the pool, kissing my father.” Laurie looked up from the script. “I’m not sure about this line. Do you think my character more upset because her father has a thing for Amy, or because she does?”

The waitress shrugged as she poured Laurie another cup of coffee.

“Hmmm, I think it’ll try it both ways in rehearsal and see which one gets the better reaction.” She slapped the pages down on the table next to a dog-eared copy of an old Danielle Steel novel. “Would it kill the writers to give us an entire script to work with all at once?”

“If you are going to order anything other than coffee, I’ll need to put it in now,” said the waitress. “The kitchen is going to be closing soon.”

Laurie sighed. “I have to lose fifteen pounds by the end of next week. I know. You don’t have to say it. My personal trainer tells me he’s never seen me so fit too, but that’s the biz for you. If you ask me it’s completely unnecessary. There is nothing in the script that says the character has to be skeletal thin and my costume designer is having a fit, but what can you do? I was told in no uncertain terms I either I lose the weight or I lose my job. It’s almost as if they are looking for an excuse to renege my contract.”

Laurie raised the mug to her lips and muttered, “I bet the first thing they’ll do is give the role to that woman from the Stop & Shop too. If she wasn’t Leslie’s current favorite …,” Laurie words trailed off. Losing her job was the least of her concerns if anyone heard her badmouthing someone connected to Leslie in public.

“So that’s a no.”

“That’s a no.” The liquid burnt her tongue. If she didn’t need this job to pay her mom’s rent, she’d have walked off the show long ago.

The waitress turned away to serve the table on the other side of the aisle where a pair of men and a woman sat. None of the trio acknowledged the waitress refilling their drinks, too absorbed in a conversation that was growing more animated by the second.

The fresh floor wax caused the waitress to slip on her way back to the kitchen sending her tumbling to the floor. Laurie jumped out of her booth to assist the woman, but the waitress was already upright and heading back into the kitchen before Laurie could reach her.

On her way back to her table she overheard a piece of the trio’s conversation. “He was skating on thin ice – that’s all I can say.”

Laurie slid into her chair and strained her ears while trying to make it look like she wasn’t listening. Whatever the conversation was about, it sounded far more engrossing than re-reading lines from a two-bit script any day.

The sound of the dishwasher in the back shouting something about clean plates and Laurie stifled a curse. The drama going on in the kitchen prevented her from hearing what the woman at the table said next.

“But Daisy would never agree to do that,” said the man seated closest to the aisle. “Not for him. Not for anyone. She would have to know she’d be the first one they’d sell out and risked even more if our father caught up with her first.”

“I’m sure she thought it was the only way to help your mom. Daisy told me her condition was getting worse,” replied the woman.

“And how does getting involved with those people help my mom.”

“Bill, you may want to lower your voice,” said the second man, meeting Laurie’s eyes.

Laurie took another sip of her coffee and shuffled the pages of her script in an effort to look pre-occupied.

Bill ignored his friend’s advice. “If what you say is true, why tell us about it? Aren’t you afraid your own life will be in jeopardy?”

The woman picked at her food. The plate was as full as it had been when the waitress first sat it down. The second man looked at their female companion and then at Bill. “You still don’t get it, man, do you?”

The woman shot a pointed glance his way. “Larry, don’t. Please.”

“What?” Bill asked. “Why?”

The woman continued to look at Larry. “Let’s just say it has to do with the time Leslie called me a leech.”

Will Laurie find a role worthy of her talents? Will the waitress place a worker’s compensation claim? Who is Leslie and why is everyone so afraid? The series is coming to a conclusion.

Jump to part six here.

I believe in this product so much I reached out to its creator, the lovely Jamie Cat Callan, author of the upcoming Parisian Charm School: French Secrets for Cultivating Love, Joy, and That Certain je ne sais quoi (available January 2nd, 2018) to tell her how much I loved her creation and was beyond thrilled when she allowed me to use her prompts for these posts.

Those who pick up Parisian Charm School will enjoy reading about secrets such as

  • The Charming Benefits of Travel
  • The Art of the French Flirt (And Why Conversation Matters)
  • Food Is Love: The French Dinner Party

You can find a sneak peek here

In addition to her upcoming novel, she is also the author of the books Bonjour, Happiness! , French Women Don’t Sleep Alone, and Ooh La La!: French Women’s Secrets to Feeling Beautiful Every Day.