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Learn how to add and enhance conflict in your stories!

SHOUT it out! Congratulations to Savvy Crew Walker on the arrival of the latest tiny member!

OK have to own up to being a super proud grandma here, but I wanted to give @Walker and his lovely partner Makayla a shout out on the birth last night of the latest family member!
Welcome Irina!! :party:
So if support is bit slower this week it may be because someone needs her diapers changed!

:-D
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Announcement We have a winner! T.E. Bradford for The Show Must Go On!

Congratulations :party: (again) to @T.E. Bradford for her great story, The Show Must Go On! Wonderful story by a talented author!

If you have not read it, definitely do, it's a treat!

Our next Flash Fiction Contest starts Monday! So register now if you are interested in participating!
Fortnight Flash Fiction March 4 - 17

T.E will be providing the prompt!
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Fortnight Flash Fiction Winner The Show Must Go On

prompt.pngI’m trapped in death as I was trapped in life. Stuck spectating someone else’s life. We all make our choices, I suppose. And then we must lie with them. My choice… was Aro.


#


“You’re so beautiful.”

I don’t know what melted me more. Aro’s smooth talk or his velvet hands. They lit fire along my skin.

“I need you.”

And me, the fool. “I need you, too.”

How quickly his eyes hardened, a shade drawn across his warmth. “I can’t take you in my bed, Charice. I have a mistress already.” He waved an arm at the empty floor we stood upon, caught up in his own drama. “She is the stage. First… always… the show must go on.” His eyes burned with a passion that would never be for me.

I wanted to leave. God knows I did. But my heart wanted what it couldn’t have—only him.

Traitorous organ.

I managed, at least, to turn away from him. A small act of defiance.

He grabbed me. Spun me around as if he knew part of me had slipped from his grasp. “Be my partner, Charice.”

My heart skipped a beat—

“Perform with me!”

—and broke in two.

His passion moved him as I never could and he kissed me, lips bruising and tender both at once. So warm. The heat seared me like a brand. Marked me as his. Only when I let myself go, returning his kiss with abandon, did he pull away.

I did what he wanted, of course. Unlike all his other tricks, one magic was absolute—he had total sway over me.

When he wanted me to be his partner, I did.

When he asked me to promise I’d never leave him, I did.

When he told me to get into the box, right there on the stage, without ever having practiced or worked out an escape… I did.

Aro’s crowning achievement was also his downfall. And my demise.

“Actual magic,” they called it. But dark, of course. Evil.

Devil’s work.

How he cried.

I watched his tears fall, my gaze upon him even through the veil of death.

“Why?” he sobbed.

My lips twitched.

“Why must I endure such aversion? Such callous disregard? Such rejection?”

The irony escaped him. His tears were only for himself.


#


He’s older now. Silver threads his dark waves, a circle of pink scalp his only crown.

I lived up to my promise.

I never left him.

I watch, making sure his show never quite goes off as planned. Moving his things from one pocket to another, sabotaging his props, stealing his joy as he stole mine.

I think he sees me sometimes, when he sits to put his makeup on. His eyes find mine in the mirror and he gasps, spinning to find an empty room. His hands tremble as he picks up his top hat and wand and heads for the stage.

My laughter echoes after him.

He can’t escape me.

We’re partners, after all.

First… always… the show must go on.
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Announcement Good Morning Savvy! We have a Monday Morning Event for you!

A few of us are meeting for a Zoom call / chat in a bit. If you are a Premium Member and awake, drop in for some writerly talk with some of the Savvy Crew and members...
https://savvyauthors.com/community/events/monday-morning-motivation.2017/
Today at 10:30 EST!!!
on Zoom!
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Writing conferences

Grace GG submitted a new Recommendation:

Writing conferences - #writing workshop, #writer's conference

These workshops are held all over the U.S. and are a wonderful way to learn and connect with other writers and agents. I'm heading to the one in Austin, Texas March 1!

Event Locations & Dates

Read more about this Recommendation...
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Announcement Congratulations to MSTufail for their winning story Fake Married!

Woo Hoo, we have a winner! :party: Congratulations to @MSTufail for Fake Married! Our Special Valentine's Day Flash Fiction Contest winner!

MS will receive the accolades of their peers and be showcased in this week's Weekly News and best of all, be able to choose our prompt for Monday's new Flash Fiction contest!

Great job to MS and all who entered! It was a special crop of stories this round!
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Fortnight Flash Fiction Winner Fake Married

Valentines-flash.jpegShit shit shit shit.

It was the litany in my head as I fled the hot, too-cramped clerk’s office and flung myself down on the curb outside. I pressed my knees together, lest some passerby get a view straight up the tulle configuration I’d picked up from the secondhand shop yesterday afternoon, last season’s discarded prom dress, no doubt. Staring down at my cleanest pair of combat boots, the laces untied, I willed myself to breathe in through my nose, out though my mouth.
I was unsurprised by the crunch of footsteps behind me. Cooper sat down next to me and crossed his legs, lacing his fingers around his knee, managing to look elegant in his expensive suit, while I imagined I looked like the tooth fairy after a rough night, in this ridiculous frothy skirt.

“Are you okay?”

I scoffed, decidedly not okay.

“Are we really doing this?”

“Mm hmm.”

He reached in his jacket pocket, pulled out a cigarette, lit it, and offered it to me. I took a drag, reminded of when we used to share cigarettes in the parking garage as teenagers, while my grandfather and his dad were in board meetings. My grandfather, who owned the company, and his dad, Grandfather’s favorite toadie.

I’d had the biggest crush on Cooper back then, until he went off to business school and came back as Favorite Toadie 2.0. Since then, Cooper Ravenal had been my biggest rival. We’d been at odds at every turn as we’d both worked our way up through the company ranks. We rarely spoke, except to argue. Anytime he looked at me, I could see something simmering in his eyes. Hatred, probably.

My grandfather was a hard man. I spent my life trying, in vain, to please him. Despite my corporate success, my grandfather, ever the chauvinist at heart, often groused “When are you going to get married, so I have someone to leave my company to?”

I’d always thought he was joking. Until last month, when he died, and I learned that his will did indeed stipulate that I only inherited the company if I was married.
Cooper, who’d been at the reading of the will, had followed me when I’d stormed outside to ask if I was okay, much like he had today.

“This can’t be legal!” He had been as outraged as I was.

“It doesn’t matter,” I’d told him. “The board is a bunch of old school assholes. They’ll vote me out to ‘honor’ the old man’s wishes.”

He’d grabbed me by my shoulders then, stopping my pacing, and looked me in my eyes for the first time in twenty years.

“We’ll figure this out.”

“Why do you care?” I pulled out of his hold. “With me out, the board is sure to vote you in.”

Something I couldn’t identify flashed in his eyes and he clenched his jaw.

“I won’t let him keep doing this to you, even from beyond the grave.”

I didn’t know if I should trust Cooper, but I didn’t have a lot of options. For weeks, we combed the company bylaws, researched civil cases. Cooper discreetly polled board members to see where they stood. It was almost like old times, sharing cigarettes, laughs, and heated glances while we tried to figure out a way to stick it to my grandfather one last time. Occasionally, I’d catch Cooper looking at me like he wanted to say something, but he’d look away when our eyes met.

Yesterday morning, I called it. We’d found nothing that would help me secure the company, our resources exhausted. The board was going to vote me out.
Outside my office, we were sharing a cigarette, when Cooper broke our defeated silence.

“You could always get married.”

I laughed around an exhale of smoke.

“Right,” I joked. “Let me call one of the fiancés I’ve been hiding for just this occasion.”

“...We could get married.” His voice was so soft I almost missed his amendment.

I stared at him.

“Cooper,” I said, stunned. “That is…genius. We could get married, I get the company, we get divorced! No big deal. Just a piece of paper until the company’s secured! It’s perfect!”

A muscle in his jaw ticked, like he was grinding his teeth, but he said, “Yes, exactly what I was thinking.”

We made the arrangements and right before I’d gone home for the evening, I’d seen this fluffy princess gown in the window of the thrift shop. I paired it with my favorite combat boots and my purple motorcycle jacket. I looked ready to kick ass, take names, and get married.

I’d marched into the clerk’s office ready to do just that. Until Cooper had walked in, in his tailored black suit, adjusting his sleeve cuff and looking like a movie star. All the feelings of my youth came rushing back. This was Cooper. I was about to fake marry Cooper.

I bolted.

Now here we were, sharing a cigarette in silence while Cooper waited for me to get my shit together.

“We can pull this off,” he finally said, softly. “We can do this.”

“What? Fool the board into thinking this is a real marriage?”

That muscle ticked again and he nodded.

After a moment, he stood, and offered me his hand. I took it.

In a matter of minutes, we were married.

When the clerk said “kiss the bride,” Cooper took my face into his hands and gave me the most searing, soul-encompassing kiss of my life. It went on and on, his hand slipping into my hair. My insides went molten. I grabbed his lapels with both hands to keep from melting away into nothing. My knees buckled and my senses were suffused with the feel, smell, taste of Cooper. We finally separated, both breathing heavily. I knew my expression was dazed, but Cooper’s lips spread into a wide, wicked grin.

“Let’s go get you your company, Mrs. Ravenal.”
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Monday Morning Motivation

Leslie added a new event:

Monday Morning Motivation

View attachment 16737Get your butts out of bed and get motivated! Grab your coffee and join the SavvyCrew for a Monday Morning Kick in the A$$.
Your hostesses Leslie and Dawn with drop ins from the rest of the SavvyCrew will help you get your butts in gear and motivate your writing for the week.

Here's the rules, ya'll:
  • Swearing is allowed! We are all adults here so cuss if you want to.
  • NO POLITICS..we are not kidding.
  • NO...

Read more about this event...

Announcement And the winner is (are)...UPDATED

We had some great stories this round! And we have two winners!
Ellender by @ThePencilNeck :party:
and
From the Terrace by @Grace GG :party:
I am so sorry!!! I was OOO last week and things got a bit confused in the handoff.

Woot woot!!!
I will move the stories over tonight and you will learn more about these two wonderful authors in the Savvy Weekly News this Wednesday!

Congrats to the winners and to all the participants as well!!
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Fortnight Flash Fiction Winner FROM THE TERRACE by GRACE PETERSON GLOVER

prompt.jpegThe house phone was ringing as Sofija walked into the flat, frost clinging to her heavy winter coat. Tossing her keys on the foyer table she quickly picked up on the third ring.

"Yes, hello," she answered in a soft Eastern European accent as she pulled her mobile from a pocket. Two missed calls.

"Sofija, it's Henry Morton, I've got a listing I want to show you, a last-minute cancellation. Are you available tomorrow morning?" Sofija sighed; it had been a long day and her train was delayed coming out of the city. She was also growing weary of the property hunt; the affordable ones were gone almost as soon as they were listed and the rest were rubbish.
"Please to send listing first?" she asked in somewhat broken English.

"Yes, I can certainly do that although the photos won't do the flat justice. It's also in a rather, urm, unique location. But the views are lovely and the area quite peaceful. Lots of tranquility. You wrote that on your wish list, remember? "A quiet and tranquil setting to shut the world away." Sofija thought for a moment, instantly intrigued, although characteristically reticent.
"Okay, will let you know," she replied, kicking off her heels and grabbing a bottle of Saint-Émilion from the kitchen. As she settled into the sofa her email pinged and a link appeared: mortonandsonsestateagents.co.uk/geraldsway. Sofija shuddered; Gerald had been her late father's Christian name. Taking a sip of wine, she clicked on the link and instantly found herself immersed in a landscape dotted with familiar structures rising like serpents from a misty sea. There were few property details other than one photo showing a block of unfinished flats and prices. Sofija rang Henry's mobile.

"There are not many photos, Henry and just a bit of, how you say, jargon? I see the view, it is nice. The building is called, "Gerald's Way"? But why so inexpensive?"

"The property is actually still being renovated and it faces an abandoned cemetery, or rather a decommissioned one, if that's the correct term. No more room at the inn, so-to-speak. That's why the developers were able to buy the adjacent property for pennies on the pound. Some people might find that a bit off-putting but the price makes up for any superstition in my opinion; I assume that was the reason for the last-minute cancellation." Sofija sat thinking for a moment and then clicked another link from the menu.

"Okay, Google says is near to Hartford station and motorway, very close to town." She set a time to meet Henry the next morning just as she heard a key threading into the lock and her husband walked in, equally chilled to the bone.

"Hello, darling, filthy weather and the bloody trains were delayed again." The normally sanguine Robert was annoyed at British Rail, the awful English weather and his Majesty's government, not particularly in that order. Dropping his coat and brolly in the entry way, Robert walked into the small kitchen and picked up a wine glass and the bottle.

"Top up?" he asked, tilting the bottle towards her. She nodded, holding out her glass.
"Please to sit, there is news. Henry has flat for us to see." Sofija, wasting no time, turned the laptop to face Robert.

"What am I looking at?" he asked, blinking as if there was something hidden within the screen."

"Peace and tranquility," Sofija answered rather sarcastically, "is actually block of flats near Hartford station." Robert glanced over at the cost of the last available flat.

"What's the catch?"

"Is near to cemetery," she answered, knowing what he would say next.
"I thought you hated cemeteries, that they reminded you of the war." Robert leant closer to the screen and squinted at the property name. "Gerald's Way? This is either a blessing or a curse."

"I know, but think is blessing, is Papa looking after me." Sofija's hand hovered over the keyboard as she thought about her late father. "We must look; is sign." Sofija grasped the gold locket that hung from her neck, the one he had given her that last morning. She looked into Robert's eyes, trying to gage his sentiment; he could be overly protective at times. Sofija silently prayed Gerald's Way was a sign; she had to know.

___________________________________________


"Just look at that killer view, no pun intended," Henry asked as they stood on a second floor terrace overlooking "Gerald's Way Cemetery".

"Does anyone actually know who this Gerald chap was? I mean, who names a cemetery after just one person? If that's the case he should've had the whole place to himself." Sofija shot Robert a look. He possessed a rather macabre sense of humour whose filter often failed him.

"I've no idea about Gerald but what do you both think about the property? There isn't much time; there are people dying to live here," Henry joked but was completely serious.

"Henry, please, stop with dead jokes." Sofija was beginning to think this wasn't such a good idea, buying a flat across from an abandoned cemetery, the price notwithstanding. And what about her memories of the war? They were tugging at her, fighting with her overwhelming urge to move on with her life.

"I'm beginning to wonder the same thing," agreed Robert, "this could be one long trigger for your mental health, darling. We need to think seriously about this." He took her hand in his and squeezed it. She had been through so much and had worked too hard to risk regressing for the sake of a silly flat. Sofija took a deep breath and slowly exhaled before looking down at her locket. She read the inscription aloud in Serbian, "Ako sa žaljenjem gledate unazad, nikada ne možete gledati napred sa nadom."

"If you look backward with sorrow, you will never look forward with hope." She turned to face Robert.

"My darling, is time for me to start living again."
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Fortnight Flash Fiction Winner Ellender by Watson Davis

prompt (1).jpegAn old man in a dark suit hobbled up a gravel path through a rural graveyard. Twisted old oak trees with bark darkened with age lined the meandering path, reaching across like steepled fingers with Spanish moss hanging down. Golden sunlight trickled through the leaves as the sun descended beneath the horizon.

The old man carried three bouquets of flowers cradled in his left arm. He read the names on each of the headstones as he passed by, but he turned from the path and walked through the graves until he came to a group of three, two large and one painfully small: Douglas Ellender, loving father and husband, Caroline Ellender, loving mother and wife, and Marni Ellender, beautiful daughter, ages thirty-five, thirty-one, and six. Caroline and Marni passed on the same day, with Douglas joining them less than a year later.

With a groan, the old man knelt beside each one, clearing away the leaves and removing the older, desiccated flowers, replacing them with his new bouquets.

“Oh, hey, what the hell?” said a young man, unkempt and drunk, holding a bottle in one hand. “You scared me! I didn’t see you there.”

The old man placed his hand on a gravestone, using it to help himself up to his feet. He brushed at the leaves and damp spots on his knees. “I was just paying my respects.”

“Good thing I saw you when I did,” the young man said, smiling, swaying to keep his balance. “I was just looking for a place to take a piss. I was about to whip it out.”

A bright light shined on the young man’s face, and he squinted. He raised his arm to shield his eyes and spilled liquor on his chest.

“Damn it!” he cursed, wiping at the stain on his jacket. He glared at the parking lot. “Hey! Shut your damned lights off!”

“Have some respect,” the old man said.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” the young man sneered. “Have you lost somebody?”

“No,” the old man said. “I’ve lost everybody.”

“Yeah?” the young man scoffed. “You think that makes you special? Everybody has. I’ve lost people too. You don’t see me whining about it.”

The old man nodded. “It’s time to go.”

“Go then,” the young man said. “I’m not stopping you.” He looked toward the parking lot once more. “And shut your damned lights off already! Are you listening to me?”

The old man reached beneath his jacket and pulled out an old handgun, a revolver, and he stared at it.

“Hey, now.” The young man backed away, raising his free hand. “I’ve just had a little too much to drink. I didn’t mean any offense.”

“I’m not threatening you,” the old man said. He held the gun up, pointing it away from the man so he could take a better look at it. “Don’t you recognize this?”

“An antique Colt Peacemaker?” the young man asked. “Yeah, of course. I’ve got a collection of handguns, myself. I’ve got one just like that.”

“Just like this?”

The young man stepped closer, frowning. “That’s not my gun, is it?”

“It’s time for you to leave,” the old man said.

“Not until you give me my goddamned gun.”

“It’s time for you to leave.”

“Stop saying that,” the young man said. “I’m looking for my wife and kid. They’re around here somewhere. And can y’all shut off those damned lights?”

“Douglas Ellender, beloved husband and father. They died in a car wreck a long time ago. And so did you. By this gun.”

“That’s a lie.” Douglas staggered back, shaking his head, dropping the bottle. “What is this? Is this a scam? A trick? Who the hell are you?”

The old man dropped the gun on the grave. “It’s time for you to go. You just have to walk toward the light.”

“Wait?” Douglas looked at the gravestones, reading the names. He fell to his knees before them, pressing his palms against the sides of his head. “Wait.”

The old man put his hand on Douglas’ shoulder and squeezed. “Go on.”

Tears streamed down Douglas’ cheeks. “I just miss them so much.”

“I know,” the old man said, his voice soft and gentle. “They’ve been waiting for you. It’s time to go. Just walk toward the light.”

Douglas staggered to his feet, squinting as he stared into the light. He whispered, “Is that them?”

“Yes.”

Douglas turned to the old man. “What about you?”

“It’s not my time,” the old man said. He turned away with stooped shoulders and shuffled toward the darkness. “I still can’t see the light.”
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SHOUT it out! Research and Savvy Authors

Hello there! I have actually a very interesting question for you! I am doing my PhD about erotic literature and one of the things i want to do is to research forum environment cause we all know where the cool writers are hanging out :D I would be happy if you would help me to identify which are the trends today at Savvy, about what people write (i got lost in numerous forums and threads) and also is there any official statistics about readers. Would be happy by any insight!
I found some stats and data about the website but maybe constant forum-people could help me with the direction at least
Hugs!
Love !
Let's help the science, i need you!

P.S. if there are any opinions also about AI and how it helps or doesn't help !
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Intros & Newbies Virtual Newbie

Hey, gang.

I'm a newbie, I guess, but not a newbie. I was a regular here... 10-15 years ago maybe. (I can't find my old class work and community posts here anymore, though.)

I'm a fantasy/science fiction author. I've got a few books on Amazon and I've sold a few of them. I haven't released a new book since 2019, The Lich's Heart. I had a science fiction book almost ready to go out in 2020... but it was 2020. Since then, my day job has totally taken over my life and I've been having problems getting everything together and finishing my projects.

It's not that I haven't written since then. I've written multiple first drafts of books, including 4 books that are part of the fantasy series I was working on, and two books starting new fantasy series. I've also done several rewrites on one of those books, The Butcher's Bill.

But I've also kinda lost focus. I used to be a semi-professional musician and I've gotten more and more into composing. When working in one of the year-long group classes (with Devon Ellington back in the day), I got deeply into 3D Art while trying to design book covers. I've realized that I'm spending more time and more money on those two interests instead of my writing.

When I was here back in Ye Olden Days, I took lots of classes and learned lots of things. I'm hoping I can get refocused and that spending my money HERE instead of on music classes will help with that. :)
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Announcement And the winner is....

Our winner for our first Flash Fiction contest of 2024 is.....
@T.E. Bradford for Celestial Beach!

Congratulations :party::party: @T.E. Bradford :party: :party:

I'll be in contact for your prompt for our next contest. We are skipping a week to get back in our sync with alternating weeks between Flash and Crit Partner match.

:)
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Celestial Beach

Jan1 prompt-small.pngCelestial Beach
The sound of the trunk closing, enveloping my single suitcase, rang with an odd finality. I stared at my warped reflection in the rear window. “I shouldn’t go.”

Sandra, my best friend since high school, put an arm around my shoulders. “You need this, Dee.” Her smile managed to look both hopeful and concerned. “You deserve a vacation.”

I couldn’t shake the strange sense of wrongness looking at my car gave me. I’d always loved driving… before. “Something isn’t right.”

Sandra’s smile faded. The concern in her eyes deepened. “David’s been gone two years, Dee. You can’t hide in this house forever.”

Was that what I’d been doing? Hiding? It felt more like waiting. Waiting for my life to make sense again. Waiting for the world to stop spinning along without me.

Waiting for David to come home.

At some point I should have realized none of those things were ever going to happen.

“Okay.” I gave Sandra the best smile I could muster. “Okay, I’m going.”

Her squeeze tightened. “Good. Call me when you get there.” She smiled at our joint reflections. “I’ll see you in a couple weeks.”

If loading my suitcase had felt strange, driving away was ten times worse. The road spooled away from home like a funhouse floor, propelling me while tipping out of kilter with the world, leaving me on a precarious, moving ledge.

It’s only a couple weeks, I told myself. You can do this.

When had I become such a recluse?

The sun was warm through the car windows. It’d be nice to see the ocean. To hear the whoosh of the waves, and smell the brine and sea air. David and I had always loved going to the coast. Booking a dinner cruise, or a whale-watching excursion. Shopping in lazy little towns for things we didn’t need and would never use.

God, I miss you, Darling.

The tears came as they always did—unbidden, but familiar. Like the pain, I thought they’d let up eventually. They never did.

WELCOME TO CELESTIAL BEACH.

The sign surprised me. Had I driven three hours already? I grabbed a tissue to wipe my face, checking myself in the rearview, as though it mattered to anyone.

I rolled down the window, taking a deep breath. Not visible yet, I still sensed the closeness of the ocean, drawing me in like the tide. Something white on the road caught my attention.

2024.

Someone had painted the numbers on the pavement.

“Okay…?”

It might have made sense, if 2024 wasn’t already three years in the past.

Maybe the number meant something else to someone. An address, or the year they’d graduated. A mile later the road curved west, away from the distant mountains. Sand crept into the grass and in spots along the shoulder, telltale signs. Screeching gulls provided beach music as weathered houses came closer together, leading into the small New England town.

I smiled at the familiar sights. Dell Dairy and Ice Cream stand was crowded with people like always.

Farmer’s in the Dell! How many times had we quipped the same joke?

I slowed as I passed the 7-11 where we always stopped for slurpies.

Maybe I should have gone somewhere else. Somewhere not so filled with memories of David. Of us. But the small town had always felt like a second home.

I found the side-street, amazed as always at the sight of the ocean only a few hundred feet from the small wood fence at the end of the road, skirted with sawgrass and nearly swallowed by sand. I pulled into one of the Skylark’s eight parking spots.

I frowned at the sky blue car beside mine.

Looks just like David’s.

The intense feeling of strangeness crashed down, pinning me to my seat. For a moment it was difficult to breathe. Then a woman walked by, headed for the beach with a towel and a small cooler, and the oddness lifted like a cloud. I grabbed my purse before I could chicken out.

“There you are!”

My breath caught, and I nearly tripped.

“Whoa! Whoa. You okay?” A hand caught my arm.

I knew the touch as well as the voice, but looking up, seeing his face, his blue-gray eyes, was like peeking past forever and into the beyond.

“David?” How could this be happening?

His smile, the single dimple on the left side of his mouth… I could even smell his cologne. Maybe I’d had a stroke and was dead, my body left behind somewhere.

“I thought you’d never get here.” He popped the trunk, pulling out my suitcase. “Driving good?” He stopped beside me, his brows twitching downward. “Everything okay?”

I reached out a hand, unable to help but touch his face. His lips.

He kissed my fingers. “You’re scaring me, sweetheart.” He dropped my things and took my hand in both of his, pulling me into an embrace.

I melted against him.

How had I survived without him for even one day?

“Honey? What is it?” He pulled me away to wipe tears from my cheeks, worry etched into his face.

“N-Nothing. I’m okay. I just… I missed you.”

His face cleared and he grinned. “I missed you, too!” He buried his face in my neck, breath and whiskers tickling the spot behind my ear he knew so well.

If I was dead, my body had no idea.

Tingling, I followed him across the ground-floor balcony of the room we always asked for, unsure how any of this could be happening, but too overwhelmingly happy to question. A flash of white paint flitted through my mind’s eye.

2024.

Could the road have somehow taken me to the past?

As the husband I thought I’d lost forever set my suitcase down and turned to face me, I knew it didn’t matter. Wherever… whenever I was, I’d never leave.

My cell rang.

Sandra.

With trembling fingers I turned the phone off. This was a vacation, after all.
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Intros & Newbies New here . . .

. . . and looking forward to learning from the community and what SavvyAuthors has to offer. I am not new to writing. However, I am new to taking myself seriously as a writer and learning as much as I can about the craft by immersing myself in drafting, editing, and publishing my work as an author. It's intimidating but I am at a point in my life where I'm ready to commit.
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Announcement Four Winners! What a cool way to end a year of Flash stories...

Or maybe 1/2 of a year since we started Fortnight Flash Fiction in July! I want to take a moment to congratulate all our winners from our last flash of the year. @Dawn_McClure and I thought this fun contest would be a way to help us all keep writing and I think, at least for me, it has! Now, in our last flash of the year we have the following great stories for you to read:

The Old Oak by @AliceO
Welcome Christmas by @Tammie Williams
Defying the Dark by @T.E. Bradford
The Gift by @Virginia Suckling

Congratulations to all the winners this year! And to our special final contest of the year winners!!

Please enjoy these short and fun reads!
And definitely consider participating next year! Our first contest starts on New Year's Day! What a great way to kick off 2024

2110.jpg Welcome 2024! First Fortnight Flash Fiction Jan 1-14, 2024.
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Fortnight Flash Fiction Winner Defying the Dark

Screenshot 2023-12-12 at 3.01.10 PM.pngTwo words changed our lives forever.

“Active shooter.”

We all knew what it meant. We’d had drills. When Principal Deen’s tense, hushed voice spoke those words over the PA, we understood.

Sandra Collins hurried to the door. I was glad she was class leader today. I wasn’t sure I’d have thought to move so quick. Even as she pressed the lock, loud pops rang out from somewhere nearby. Screams echoed through the walls. Eyes wide, Sandra slapped the light switch, plunging us into semi-darkness, the only light from the two windows.

“One, two, three—come to me.” Mrs. Brady, our sixth-grade math teacher, gave our ‘remember phrase’ in a low, clear voice.

I slipped quietly from my seat, following my classmates. We gathered near Mrs. Brady’s desk, in the corner farthest from the door, but along the same wall. If a stranger looked in, he’d see only a dark room with empty seats.

Mrs. Brady laid her finger over her lips. We nodded. Of course, we’d be silent.

I couldn’t have spoken if I wanted to.

Mom would’ve been surprised, I think. She calls me her chatter-happy squirrel. It’s part of my sensory stuff, she says, but I just like to hear noise. To know I’m not alone. If I had a brother or sister, I probably wouldn’t mind the quiet so much. Or the dark corners, where shadows gather along with the dust.

Pop!

I jumped. That one was definitely closer.

A couple of kids whimpered. Mrs. Brady hugged us all closer to her. She motioned downward with her hand, and we sat on the floor. Huddled over. Even laid flat.

Small, smaller, smallest.

CRASH!

Footsteps pounded past our door. I could hear people breathing. I waited for screams, but none came. Just running, breathing, and the squeaks of sneakers. Should we run, too? What if the gunman had a bomb?

A hand touched my arm.

I lifted my cheek from the floor. Tight in the corner, Mrs. Brady held as many kids as her arms could reach. Her hands held theirs. She lifted one clasped hand and nodded, encouraging us. All around, we each found a hand to grasp.

A hand nudged mine. Majula—we called him Major. I knew him from grade school. His dark eyes met mine.

I took his hand. His skin was warm and dry. It felt better, somehow, having us all connected. None of us alone.

Loud footsteps.

Heavy, and slow. Not running, like the others.

My heart pounded so hard my whole body moved with each beat. I tried to breathe slower, but couldn’t. Air from my nose stirred up dust on the floor in little puffs. I watched it swirl around the feet of Mrs. Brady’s desk.

Major’s hand squeezed mine.

I squeezed back.

The knob on the door rattled.

Thank you, God, for Sandra and her quick thinking.

Count your blessings, Mom always said. Sandra was a blessing. And Mrs. Brady. And Major. My Mom and Dad were blessings. Funny, I’d never thought of them that way before. I wonder if they knew? If we made it through this, I’d have to tell them.

There were only three weeks left until Christmas break. Yesterday, all I’d wanted was an iPhone. Now, all I wanted was to see Mom and Dad again. I’d squeeze their hands, like Major was squeezing mine, and make sure they didn’t feel alone.

Pow! Pow!

The explosions were so close they were deafening. Not pops, like before, but sounds like cracks of thunder. A smoky, metallic smell filtered into our room. Had the shooter loosed some kind of chemical? Was he smoking us out of the rooms so he could gun us all down?

Tap. Tap. Tap.

What was that? It sounded like a bird.

Tap. Tap. Tap.

Major’s fingers twitched. I turned my head, ear scraping on the floor. There, at the window.

A face.

My heart skipped a beat. Maybe two. I could see tactical gear. Was it the shooter? Had he gone outside to come around to the windows and shoot us where we hid?

A badge flashed in the light. Not the shooter, I realized.

A cop.

Tap. Tap. Tap.

He pointed in, then at the window.

“Go.” I heard Mrs. Brady whisper.

Sandra crawled on hands and knees, staying low. She glanced at the door, eyes searching carefully before turning back to the window and twisting the latch. She pulled the window up.

The police officer put his finger over his lips the same way Mrs. Brady had earlier. He pointed at us, then at the window.

I looked back at Mrs. Brady.

Her eyes met ours. She nodded, and held up her clasped hand again.

We understood.

We moved as a group, quiet as mice. It was hard, getting up off that floor. I didn’t want to. I wanted to stay there, flattened down. But I fought it. I learned something else that day.

You can be afraid, and still keep moving. Defy the darkness.

One by one we slid out the window. More cops waited outside. They herded us toward the parking lot, where an army of emergency vehicles crowded.

In the end, we left the same way we’d sheltered—together, our hands clasped.

Someone cried a name.

Parents’ faces began to appear, and one by one we released into the arms of our families. We’d survived.

I saw Dad first.

I’ve never been so glad to see him. His face said the same. He held me tight. Then Mom was there, hugging us both.

I took their hands in mine, and squeezed.

They squeezed back.

#

The day before Christmas we all went back to the school parking lot. There were a lot of tears. Two teachers had died protecting children. But we clasped hands and sang carols, defying the shooter's attempt to kill our hope. Defying the dark.

We may be afraid, but we’ll keep moving forward.

Together.
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Fortnight Flash Fiction Winner Welcome Christmas

Screenshot 2023-12-12 at 3.01.10 PM.pngWelcome Christmas while we stand, heart to heart, and hand in hand.”

This was one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite childhood Christmas movies. I remembered fondly sitting on the floor of my living room, excitedly waiting for it to start. It didn’t matter how many times I saw the movie, year after year, it signaled the start of the Christmas season for me and my family.

Everyone knew that the Grinch was an old sourpuss, but deep down he had kindness in his heart. Isn’t that the way humanity is supposed to be? That is what I was taught growing up. Volunteering in soup kitchens with my parents, Girl Scouts for me, Boy Scouts for my brother, gathering toys at Christmas for local foster kid organizations, and many other charitable organizations. Yes, this was my upbringing and the way I genuinely believed everyone thought.

But then I joined the Army. I wanted to serve my country and help others. I worked hard and gained rank and found myself in the Army Delta Force. We were the ones sent in to rescuethe hostages. It was during these times that my views on humanity changed. I saw and heard things that no human should ever hear or see. My team was sent in to rescue women and children who had been taken out of sheer hate. Men fighting for their lives, begging us to make room for them. My heart would break every time we had to leave someone behind.

Where was the humanity now?

Nothing I witnessed made sense to me. Yet, I knew from my upbringing that I was doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing.
When we arrived at basecamp with our newly rescued group in tow, tears would flow. Not only by those rescued, but from their families as well. There was never any shortage of thank-you's and hugs. Grown men hit their knees as they saw their wives walk off the planes. Mothers hugged their children so tight it was as if they were trying to pull them back into their bodies. Many times, I shed my own tears. Tears of relief that we found the hostages, tears of pride that we got them out, tears of joy that we were able to reunite families. But most of all I cried tears of sadness. Sadness that I had to be here at all. My heart hurt for these families and the loss and suffering they had to endure.

Today however, I tried not to think of the sadness. It was Christmas Eve, I wished I were home with my family, but here I was at my base camp with people who had come to be a second family to me. We were being briefed about a hostage situation that had taken place in the Middle East. We were going to be sent in the day after Christmas. We had two days to enjoy a military holiday.

We all waited excitedly for the packages from home delivering home baked goods, candies, cookies, even an occasional brownie. But the best part of the packages were the letters and pictures. Even though we received letters throughout the year, there was something about those cards and letters that come at Christmas that made them extra special.
Christmas day arrived and the chow hall created a special dinner for us. There was ham and macaroni and cheese, turkey and dressing, mashed potatoes, and green bean casserole. The one time of the year you never heard anyone complain about a mess in the mess hall. We all come together regardless of our rank for some camaraderie and laughter.

“Jingle bells, Jingle bells, jingle all the way,” Someone started singing Christmas Carols and we all joined in. For today we would forget the wars that were happening around us. For today we would not think about the lives that would be placed in our hands tomorrow.

Today the room was full of joy as we gathered and bowed our heads to pray before the meal we were being blessed with.

I looked around at all my fellow soldiers, some had grabbed the hand of the person next to them, some put an arm around the shoulder of their neighbor, all were thankful for the moment, and I remembered my childhood once more and whispered “Welcome Christmas while we stand, heart to heart and hand in hand.
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Fortnight Flash Fiction Winner The Old Oak

IMG_0351 copy 2.jpegToni stared at the invitation in her hand. Adams High School Class of 1973 50th Reunion.

She’d been seventeen in 1973. The year the U.S. left Vietnam. Roe v. Wade. Watergate. She hadn’t had a clue about any of it back then. High school had been her whole world. Dancing to Elton John’s “Crocodile Rock” and watching Sonny and Cher on TV. With long brown hair, long legs, and a miniskirt, she had looked a little like Cher.

This was her first trip back to Adams in years, and it was bittersweet. Her father was gone now, and her mom was in assisted living. Toni, their only child, was putting the family home up for sale. That the timing coincided with her high school reunion felt providential.

She drove out to the now vacant home in the country. Sitting in the driveway, she soaked in the scene around her. The white three-bedroom house was nothing special, and time had taken its toll. But, oh, the land.

A low stone wall separated their field from the next property. A huge old oak tree, devoid of leaves in late November, stood sentry at the border. She could hear the birds. She remembered wildflowers in the summer. Deer passing through. But at seventeen, she hadn’t been looking for serenity. Her ambitions were too big for a small New England town. She left for college and never looked back.

After college, she worked in Boston and New York. She made enough money to travel. She became a gourmet cook. In her mid-thirties, she married an architect. They talked about kids, but it never happened. The last twenty years had been harder. She turned fifty. Then sixty. Friends had children and now, grandchildren. She and the architect divorced. Then, the pandemic.

Still, Toni considered herself lucky; she was healthy and financially secure enough to retire. She could do anything, go anywhere, anytime. She just needed a purpose, a direction.

The reunion was held at a nice nearby hotel. She’d faced scarier bosses and clients in the corporate world, but she was surprised by her nerves as she approached the venue. She smiled at the greeter, picked up her name tag, and took the one open seat at the bar. She was sipping on her gin and tonic, scoping out the crowd with as nonchalant an eye as she could muster, when a tap on her shoulder made her jump.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you. I wanted to say hello.”

Toni’s eyes met the face of the woman on the next bar stool. Marianne Farrell. Her hair was lighter and she was decades older than the Marianne of 1973. They hadn’t been close, but Toni would have recognized her anywhere. The man with her must be her husband. “Hello, it’s Marianne, right? Long time, no see, as they say. How have you been?”

Marianne leaned over and hugged her like they were old friends. Marianne’s enthusiasm overflowed. “I’m great! Still here in Adams. I never left, except for college. I’m a realtor. How about you?”

“I just retired. I haven’t decided what comes next, but I’m actually looking for a realtor.”

“If you want an endorsement, Marianne’s my realtor, and she’s great!” The man reached his arm across Marianne and shook Toni’s hand. He, too, exuded positive energy as he pumped her hand.

Toni’s face must have registered her confusion. Marianne was a realtor. This friendly man was her client, not her husband?

Marianne interceded. “You remember Don, don’t you? Don Crawford. He’s a veterinarian, part time now.”

A faint memory crept into Toni’s mind. Donald Crawford. A husky outdoorsy guy who moved to Adams midway through high school.

“So are you moving back to Adams?” Marianne asked. She was bouncing around on her barstool like a kid.

Toni was about to respond when the reunion chairperson announced it was time to be seated for dinner. Marianne asked Toni to join them. Toni sat to her right, Don to her left. Over their meal, Toni explained she was selling her parents’ home. Don leaned in, listening intently to the conversation. The discussion shifted to Toni’s career in business and her uncertainty about life after retirement. Don spoke of his veterinary work. He was one of the few vets in the area who treated farm animals, but he was scaling back his practice.

As they finished dessert, Marianne pulled Toni and Don aside. “Toni, I think something magical is happening here.”

Don burst in. “I do too!” He grinned at Toni. “You won’t believe what she’s going to tell you!”

“Toni, Don has been looking for a place to open an animal sanctuary,” Marianne said. “I know your place. I drove by just the other day. I think it could be the perfect property. The acreage, the zoning. I can see it already.”

Speechless, Toni looked at Don and back at Marianne. An animal sanctuary at her old home.

“I’ve been thinking about this for a long time,” Don said. “It will be a safe place and a forever home for abused or elderly animals. And, not to complicate things, but if you are looking for something meaningful to do with your business background, I could use your help. I know animals, but there’s a lot of paperwork and financial and managerial stuff at the outset. This could provide the answer we’ve both been looking for.”

“For me, too!” Marianne laughed. She leaned over and whispered in Toni’s ear, “He’s single, by the way.”

The evening’s entertainment, a 70’s cover band, was about to perform. The lead singer stepped to the microphone. “Good evening, Class of 1973. Our first number tonight was the number one song for the year 1973. You’ll all remember ‘Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree’ by Tony Orlando and Dawn.”

“That’s it!” Don said.

Toni nodded. “The Old Oak Sanctuary.”
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Fortnight Flash Fiction Winner The Gift

IMG_0351 copy 2.jpegThe eucalyptus burnt down in the hot summer of 2022. One minute the huge tree was there against the skyline and then ‘whoosh’ it was alight in a sparkling red inferno.

The conclusion—it was because of the hottest summer we’d had in the outback for some years.

We could have told anyone that. Even when we dragged our beds out of the house to sleep under the stars at night, the temperature remained humid. Sleep was difficult. Everyone did a lot of stargazing. With no lights, the Milky Way was awesome.

That tree stood on flat land at the end of the houses and at the beginning of the bush. It stood alone and was a gathering place where the women sat and discussed community affairs, children chased each other around it and lovers carved their names in the trunk.

I didn’t know its age, but it had been there since before I was born and before the cattle station, too large to be classified as a farm, had given the land to the community.

I was seventeen when my Mum became crook with cancer. She didn’t complain and often we’d sit under the eucalyptus while she could get about. “When I’m gone, remember love, I’m still watching over you and never more so than around this tree.”

A few weeks later, she died. From that day on, my life spiralled downhill without her stabilising influence. I lost my way and sought oblivion with drugs and alcohol.

I stayed in the town camp with other members of our community. Gran rang a few times a week. “When are you coming back?”

“Soon.” I’d return when my money ran out.

As always, Gran welcomed me home. It was a dry community so drugs and alcohol were banned. I respected that. Each time I appeared, we’d celebrate eating a couple of kangaroo tails, roasted over an open fire.

That particular day, I was meandering towards the tree when it ignited. I wasn’t close enough to be injured. Gran told me I was lucky. If I’d been any closer, I’d be dead.

Somehow, I felt I’d cheated death and I should make good my second chance at life. Six weeks later, I went to Rehab. It was a struggle, but I was determined. After a few months, I came home, completely cured. They aren’t the right words—once a drug addict and alcoholic always one. However, I vowed to stay clean and sober.

It was as though I hadn’t been away when I got back to the community. Gran and other elders were sitting cross-legged on her verandah dot painting on canvas. The paintings sold well in the local town’s cultural centre and boosted their incomes. “Come and join us,” she said.

“I will sometime. But now, I want to visit the old tree.”

“There’s nothing there, love.”

I still went. I saw where the tree had been, though it had been a few months since the fire. Fallen, half-charred branches lay scattered on a wide area of dusty red soil interspersed with tufts of grass. Suddenly, in the middle of everything, I saw long dull green leaves—a sapling was growing.

Thrilled, I ran to tell Gran and her friends. After them, I rushed over to the school to tell everyone. Mrs Brand, the teacher and only white person in the community, gave the children permission to take a look. Of course, we had to have another celebration that evening. Goanna this time.

Over the months, I grew stronger. So did the tree. As it struggled to grow in the harsh climate, it inspired me. I’d make something of my life.

Was Mum sending me a message?

I liked to think so.
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Announcement And the winners are...T.E Bradford and AliceO

Hello all and hope everyone had a great Turkey Day (for those here in the US!).
We have two winners this round and they are both previouis winners! It's wonderful to see everyone using the contest to keep writing and keep winning!!
This week we have @T.E. Bradford for her wonderful story: Convergence
And @AliceO for her touching Elizabeth’s Story!

Congratulations to you both! The new contest starts today and I cannot wait to see the prompts!!!
:)
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