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

The following is the third 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). 

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. You can read more about the Toolbox’s creator at the bottom of this post.

You can read the first post in the series here.

How I've beaten writer's block using one creative game. #writingtools www.alliepottswrites.comHer mother was doing that thing she did. That thing with the rag in the sink. The neighbors said they’d check in on her from time to time. Even so, Margaret was only too aware how little a promise meant. “Give it to me.”

“No,” her mother clutched the wet cloth next to her chest.

Margaret rummaged around in her purse until she located a purple lollipop. “I’ll trade you for it.”

Her mother approached the offered piece of candy like a nervous animal fearing taming. Margaret didn’t have time for this. Not today. But she couldn’t very well leave. Not like this. The hands on the kitchen clock continued their countdown. All the favors she’d traded. The bargains she’d struck. It was all going to be for nothing. All because her mother liked to play mix and match with her medication.

Tick. Tock.

“Oh for the love of–”

Her mother’s lip quivered.

Margaret schooled her tone and counted to ten. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to snap at you. Go on take the candy. I know you like candy.” Still, her mother hesitated. “It’s purple. Your favorite.” Margaret shook the lolly. Light shined through, brightening its color.

Her mother’s eyes narrowed. Then the rag was in Margaret’s hand. Her mother dropped to the ground and scurried under the table to enjoy the treat as if afraid Margaret might change her mind. Margaret’s hand itched. One phone call to Iris. No, she shook her head. Calling Iris wasn’t an option. Not anymore.

The clock struck the hour. She couldn’t afford to hesitate any longer. “I’m sorry mom. But this is the only way.” The only thing left she could do was secure the door behind her.

On the following Friday, she packed her bags and planned her escape, kissing the autographed photograph on her mantle of Sy for luck.

Her car idled in traffic across from the Jenny Craig Center. Margaret jumped at the sound of a knock on the window. It was Lillian, her one-time best friend. She tightened her grip on the steering wheel. Move it cars. She urged in her mind. Lillian knocked again.

The driver of the car in front of her opened his door and walked away. Margaret suppressed a groan. She flipped on her turn signal. The driver of the car beside her made eye contact and tipped his hat. Thank goodness there are still gentlemen in this world, Margaret thought. She began turning the wheel, ready to squeeze her car into the next lane as soon as there was a large enough opening. The driver’s head shook slowly from side to side.

Margaret’s heart began to pound. She looked into her rearview mirror. The driver in the car behind her repeated the same gesture.

Lillian rapped her knuckles on the window again. “Save your gas,” she said as Margaret unrolled her window. “There was an accident up on North, blocking the entire freeway. No one is going anywhere. Why don’t you come inside? I’ll get you a coffee. I remember how you like it.”

Margaret’s pulse calmed. A standard issue traffic jam. That’s all it was. Nothing more. She giggled to herself. “Sorry, Lillian, I can’t.” Caffeine would only make her nerves worse. “Maybe another time?”

Lillian’s smile deepened into the sort that proclaimed conquest or spawned notes from a jealous husband. “I’m afraid I must insist.”

A uniformed figure walked up to the passenger window and raised his hand revealing a gun. “You aren’t the only one who has made friends in interesting places since leaving Starbucks,” continued Lillian, “and mine want to talk to you about that weekend in Duluth.”

Will Margaret’s mother get the help she needs? Who are Lillian’s new friends and what did happen that weekend in Duluth?

You can jump to the next installment 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.

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

Library Journal says Ooh La La is “Part travelogue and part beauty guide, this lighthearted handbook takes readers on another delightful romp through France!”

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

The following is the next installment in a sponsored short story series I am writing using  Jamie Cat Callan‘s fun and easy to use The Writer’s Toolbox (affiliate links are included in this post). 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 to include and a protagonist and with it. The first post in the series can be found here.

More from the Writer's toolbox - www.alliepottswrites.com“My brother did this weird thing with turtles.” Iris’s newest patient, Irene, sat with feet and arms crossed in the chair opposite her while Iris scribbled the occasional note in a black and tan steno pad. “He should be the one forced to talk to you,” the teen grumbled. “Not me.”

“Do you want to tell me about it?”

“About what? My brother or the turtles?”

“Either. Both.” Iris placed the pad and her pen on her lap. “We can talk about whatever you want.”

Irene’s eyes narrowed as if to say, ‘I may be young, but I’m not stupid.’

It was going to be one of those sessions. Iris fought frustration from showing as she picked up her pad once more, flipping it to the next available page. Its emptiness fit her mood. She’d listened to the speeches at commencement. She’d believed her professors when they told them their training had been special. She’d taken their every word as gospel. Their training would give them access to the whole wide world, should they choose to travel and no matter where they went, they would have the ability to make a difference.

They’d lied.

Iris held her pen ready and mentally counted to one hundred. Irene’s shoulders sagged. “Fine, but I need a snack first.” She bent down to a bag she’d tossed under the chair along with her shoes when she’d arrived and pulled out a can of easy cheese. Tossing her head back, she gulped down an orange string that defied classification as either solid or liquid.

Charming, thought Iris. “So, your brother liked turtles …”

“It’s not weird to like turtles.” Irene huffed. “Turtles have built-in body armor. I mean, how cool is that? Do you know what I’d give to be able to tuck my head inside a shell? I’d kill for that.” The girl kicked her bare feet back and forth, making her appear more like an innocent waif than the street-hardened temptress the police file claimed her to be.

The door to Iris’s office swung open and in walked the dynamic duo of Bill and Larry, and at least one of them, if not both of them, carried an aroma with him like a T-shirt from a B-52’s concert. Irene gagged.

“I’m in a session.” Iris nodded her head in the direction of Irene. “You have to leave.”

“I tried calling.” Bill had the decency to look embarrassed as he let her lead him back out the door and into her office lobby. “When you didn’t answer … I guess we, I mean I, freaked out.”

“Have you never heard of voicemail? You leave a message. I call back,” Iris teased. Bill’s eyes tightened. In all the years they’d known each other, he’d never looked so vulnerable. If only … Iris banished the thought before it could cut her more deeply.

“It’s about Daisy.”

Iris blinked. “Your sister?” He couldn’t know –

Bill’s face relaxed, the mask of aloof unconcern once again firmly in place. “I didn’t realize it was such a common name. She’ll be ticked. Yeah, my sis. She didn’t show for duty and hasn’t been seen around her apartment. I was hoping you might know where she’s gone.”

Iris glanced sideways at Larry before answering. “We can talk, but not now. There’s a diner a block from here. Meet me there at nine.”

Iris closed the office door firmly behind her as she returned to Irene. “Now where were we?”

“Well, I guess it started after the time Fred went to the car wash and never came back.”

Curious as to what weird thing Irene’s brother did with turtles? I am too and yet I think some things we are better off not knowing. One thing is for sure, Iris doesn’t charge enough.

The next installment can be found 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.

In addition to her upcoming novel, she is also the author of the books Bonjour, Happiness! and French Women Don’t Sleep Alone.

“A recipe for happiness with ingredients that you don’t have to travel far to find.

Accustomed to the American pursuit of happiness, Callan (French Women Don’t Sleep Alone, 2009, etc.) explores her French roots to find fulfillment in life’s simple pleasures.

Translates the joie de vivre into a language of life that is not so foreign. –Kirkus review for BONJOUR, HAPPINESS!”


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

Every writer fears the threat of the dreaded Writer’s Block. Sure, some might tell themselves that it doesn’t exist, that it’s only a lack of inspiration or a lazy reluctance to sit your bottom in the chair and write anyway. But sometimes, no matter what you believe, what you call it, or how much you want to put in the work, the words won’t come, at least not words that are fit for publishing.

I believe in writer’s block, but I also believe there are tools out there to help you prime your creative pump. One such is The Writer’s Toolbox (affiliate links are included in 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 to include as well as a protagonist, obstacles, and motivations. With it, I’ve been able to post a few short stories in the past, which you can read here and here.

In fact, 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 from Penguin Random House) and asked if she might be willing to sponsor a series of posts. You can read more about Jamie below.

I am delighted to report that over the next weeks I will be adding an additional flash fiction piece written utilizing this fantastic tool to my regular posting schedule. If you are a writer and don’t already have The Writer’s Toolbox. I encourage you to add it to your holiday wish list now. Seriously, I’ll wait.

Back? Great. Now without further ado – part one: 

The Writer's Toolbox - The must have creative writing tool - www.alliepottswrites.comThere were 17 cats living in Larry’s basement. Well, technically it was Larry’s mom’s basement, but Larry hadn’t exactly turned any of them away. Bill shook his head as he surveyed the discarded fur balls and torn up fabric on what used to be a high-end custom-made sofa. “How can you live like this?” he asked his one-time roommate. A poster of a child with wings starring up at heaven with the caption, ‘Believe’ hung from the wall.

“If you don’t take chances,” said the main in dingy striped pajamas, “you might as well not be alive.”

“And exactly what chance are you taking here, other than risking getting smothered to death in your sleep when they turn on you.”

“It’s only temporary.” Larry followed Bill’s gaze. “You know … until I finish my novel.” He pointed to a pile of blue index cards on top of an end table slash scratching post. As if on cue, a large black and white cat stretched up and knocked the pile to the floor where a gray feline promptly nipped a card with its teeth and scurried away.

“I told you, we could have worked something out.” Bill’s salary from the university lab wasn’t anything to brag about, but unlike his peers, he still hadn’t succumbed to the insane spending spree that was marriage and children. He could afford to be generous with his friends – he had so few of them. Growing up, his dad’s career had seen to that.

“You know why I had to leave.”

“Right,” Bill rolled his eyes. “The woman in 3B.”

“Yes,” Larry slammed a fist into the palm of his hand, “the woman in 3B. You were never there. You have no idea what she was like. Every time I left the apartment. Boom. There she was. It was like she was watching our place, waiting for me.”

“I still say she liked you. If you wanted her to leave you alone, all you had to do was ask her out.” Bill grinned at Larry’s sickened expression. “She’d come to her senses soon enough.”

“Har, har.”

Another cat ran by, knocking a crooked umbrella from where it rested by the doorway into Bill’s leg in the process. “If I can’t convince you to move out, can I at least buy you a new wardrobe?”

Larry looked down at his attire. “What’s wrong with what I have on?”

Bill held up a finger. “Well for starters it reeks of cat vomit.”

“It does not. I washed these just five days ago.”

“And two,” Bill extended a second finger, “you can’t go out in public dressed like that.”

“Yeah, and give me one good reason why I’d want to go out there.”

The smile left Bill’s face. “My sister’s gone.”

“Where should we go first?”

“To see Iris.” The concern reflected back in Larry’s eyes chipped Bill’s confidence away.  In the hours following dinner with his father, when he’d first heard the news, he’d tried to convince himself that his sister’s disappearance was one big misunderstanding. She’d have even less interest in saying goodbye than he would. He turned to face the door while Larry ran to the back and changed and tried not to imagine what splattered blood must look like as he stared at the stain on the wall.

Will Larry finish his Great American Novel before the cats decide it would make a better litter box? Who is Iris and can she provide any more clues to the whereabouts of Bill’s sister? Tune in next week, or purchase The Writer’s Toolbox and create your own ending.

Read part two of the series here.

More about Jamie Cat Callan:

Jamie Cat Callan, the creator of The Writers Toolbox: Creative Games for the “Write” Side of Your Brain” (Chronicle Books) grew up in Connecticut and taught creative writing at Fairfield University, Yale University and Wesleyan University for many years.

She is also the author of the bestselling books French Women Don’t Sleep Alone, Bonjour, Happiness!, and Ooh La La! French Women’s Secrets to Feeling Beautiful Every Day. Her books have been translated into twenty-one languages and she has been featured in major periodicals including the New York Times, Vanity Fair, and Time magazine.

Jamie has spoken to thousands of women (and more than a few men) encouraging them to embrace a life of style, charm, and grace. She has appeared on the international television news program France 24, as well as Plum TV and Better TV.

Today Jamie makes her home in New York’s Hudson Valley at La Belle Farm, where she and her husband have created a little bit of France and grow lavender and sunflowers and produce their own brand of sparkling French-inspired apple cider.

Dinner with a side of distress Part Two – Flash Fiction

It is time once again for another installment in my Writer’s Toolbox Flash fiction. For those not familiar with The Writer’s Toolbox (affiliate link) exercises, I pull out three sentences at random which have to be used as my first, middle, and closing lines. Additionally, I must utilize three descriptions, also pulled at random from a stack of cards. Due to the random nature, I do not know how the story will end. I apologize for the shift in point of view, but rules are rules.

Story to date: Bill, a somewhat socially awkward paleoclimatologist in our distant future, learned that his sister has gone missing. Their father, a high ranking official, living and working in the orbiting space station, has come to Earth requesting Bill’s help tracking her down. Click on this link to read the first part of the story in full.

Dinner with a side of Distress - www.alliepottswrites.com
background image courtesy of http://www.pixabay.com

After only two months, Helen decided to become an exotic dancer. She’d tried to make it off the random tips the male patrons threw her way as she delivered drinks to their tables, but the wad of cash in her pocket at the end of the night was nothing compared to the stacks of bills the other ladies took home. She closed her eyes and thought of the space station even now spinning like a top over head as it circled the Earth. If tossing her clothes at some drunk strangers meant being able to afford a ticket on the shuttle sooner, so be it. It wasn’t like she was going to bump into any of the club patrons again once in orbit.

As she made her way toward the back office, she saw her manager, Devin, smile knowingly. “You finally ready to get into the driver’s seat?” he smirked, offering a drink. Devin was under the impression he had a gift for comedy. Helen hid her disgust by tipping her head and letting the bitter taste of Woody Allen’s kiss wash over her tongue as was tradition. Helen was fairly certain not even Devin knew the origin of the club’s signature drink’s name, but it didn’t stop him from keeping a ready glass on hand. She wasn’t the first girl to make this walk of shame. Nor would she be the last.

After her the first shift of her new career ended, Helen made her way outside into the narrow alley behind the club. The eight inch heels Devin requested she wear during the show, had wrecked havoc on her arches and toes. She held the more sensible shoes she’d worn prior too making her decision in hand, preferring to go barefoot that force her feet to withstand another minute of agony. The wine of a lost dog, a puppy by the sound of it, startled Helen. She turned, but couldn’t locate the animal in the darkness. It must be behind the dumpster, she thought. Unable to resist an animal in need, she crouched down as she looked for the pup.

“It’s not my fault the plane was two hours late,” a male’s voice coming from a yard or so behind her almost caused Helen to jump out of her skin. “What was I supposed to do?”

“You were supposed to stick around and finish the job. That’s what you were supposed to do,” Another male replied.

“Don’t see what you are getting all upset about. Thought the whole point was to take the girl out while the captain was in his meeting. Whole plan falls apart if he’s on ground when it happens.”

Helen heard a slap of skin on skin. “Idiot. You and your big mouth are going to get us both on his list one day.”

“What was that for? It’s not like anyone’s around but a bunch of drunks and hookers.” The first man whined as Helen tried to make her body as small as possible in the shadows.

“Doesn’t mean they don’t still have ears,” the second man argued.

“Yeah, but who’d believe them? Especially not after the thing he does with the newspaper…”


Will Helen’s first day on the new job also be her last? Who is the ‘he’ the men are referencing and what is he planning with the newspaper? Will the Writer’s Toolbox ever allow me to close a story without a cliff-hanger ending?


Dinner with a side of distress – Flash Fiction

My mind is still reeling from a weekend of holiday hosting duties, so instead of one of my usual essays, I decided to take another stab at writing some short fiction as prompted by the ever so handy dandy Writer’s Toolbox (you can find an earlier piece here).

For those not as familiar with The Writer’s Toolbox (affiliate link), it prompts you with a first, middle, and last sentence as well as a series of descriptions to include and a protagonist. I hope you enjoy it –

Dinner with a side of Distress - www.alliepottswrites.com
background image courtesy of http://www.pixabay.com

Dad gave me a wink like we were pals or something. Then again it could just have as easily been a bit of pollen or dust caught in his eye. It always took a while for the orbiters to get reacquainted with uncontrolled wilds of earth-bounding living again. Gazing up into the twilight sky at the stars above, I thought I saw a circling bat. They had no idea what they were giving up, living up there. He had no idea.

“Where is your sister?” he barked the question out between coughing fits.

So definitely the dust then. How silly of me to think he was actually trying to reconnect. “I haven’t seen her,” I replied returning my attention to the meal in front of me. It was the truth, but then again I rarely saw anyone outside of the lab. For some strange reason, people didn’t seem to think that my passion for paleoclimatology combined with my charming personality produced the most stellar party guest. It was also why I agreed to this open-air dinner in the first place. I bit into a slice of apple savoring its juices. At least the food was good even if the company was less than ideal. “Last I heard, she had her eye on some bartender from Seattle. Maybe she’s taking up stalking?”

This time, I suspected the resulting frown on Dad’s face didn’t have anything to do with his allergies. “This isn’t a joke, Bill. Your sister is listed as failing to report to the launch deck this morning and I only have so much influence I can spend.”

I fought the eye roll by focusing on the straggling cuticle on my right thumb. Dad could never resist the opportunity to remind any of us exactly why he was living in space while the rest of us were on the ground. As if I’d ever want to. “Well then, I don’t know what to tell you other than I haven’t seen her since last week.”

“And you aren’t concerned?”

I shrugged. “She can go off for a few days if she wants too. She’s an adult – unless you hadn’t noticed.”

“I’ve noticed. I’ve also noticed that she has started taking up a lot of bad habits. Habits I would prefer weren’t associated with the family name.”

I waved his concern aside. “Lucky for you, I’ve been using Mom’s name for years.”

Dad’s frown deepened so much I briefly wondered if it might cause his entire face to collapse into his crisp uniform. “Listen, I’m not trying to be combative here. It just would be better if I found her before command does.”

“What? Are you that really that afraid of what her AWOL designation might do to your reputation?” I snorted. “I’ve seen you smooth over worse.”

“No, I’m afraid because as much as either of you might not like to admit it, I am your father. And because I found this in the briefing room.” Dad shoved a piece of fabric at me featuring a vaguely familiar looking pattern.

“Have they taken up quilting?” I asked with a smirk, picking up the fabric. “Well, that’s a relief. That group really could use a hobby other than making the rest of us miserable.” I couldn’t help adding just to annoy Dad as I rolled the piece of cloth around in between my fingers. The jab wasn’t strictly necessary, as Dad knew full well what I thought of his cronies, but it was always fun to remind him that this apple had fallen far from the proverbial tree. As in two hundred and fifty miles, give or take a mile.

“Bill, for the last time, this isn’t a joke.”

“Fine. No jokes.” I replied holding up my hands before examining the fabric more closely. Where had I seen it before? “So what is this then?”

“Something that has no business being up in command if your sister is still on the ground. It’s from her dress.”

Was that really a bat circling overhead, or was it a drone? Did Bill’s sister get mixed up in a larger conspiracy or did she simply run off with a bartender from Seattle? And will Bill’s experience with paleoclimatology actually play a part in the plot, or is that a throw-away detail? Who knows!