Technical writers or non fiction writers scribble to pay the bills and for the love of the analytical or the exercise of truth or deception.

Fiction authors write to illuminate their world or escape it.

Whichever kind of writer, it's all about staying alive and helping or entertaining others.

The Writing Life

Like most writers, I have a love of reading and the power of words. When I was younger, I read everything I could get my hands on, but I don’t consider myself well read. I consumed books like a starved person, so quickly I hardly knew what I had read. By some strange process of osmosis, I learned from everything I read, but I cannot give you an erudite discussion of characters, plots, or authors. I can only tell you it’s lodged some where in the core of my being and informs my writing.

In addition to reading, I’ve spent a life time writing---from that first elementary school composition to my college days when I studied French literature and wrote explications de texte. Along the way, I fell into technical writing--to put food on the table and pay bills. In the 90s, I had the good fortune to take a dialog class with Sol Stein, former owner of Stein & Day publishers in New York and a prolific author. That led to his California-based writers’ group, Chapter One. It was a rigorous, ego-bruising experience, but I was intent on learning everything I could about fiction writing. A few years ago, I also had the good fortune to study with another writer, Louella Nelson, an experienced romance writer and teacher of fiction writing. She provided a different perspective and balance to my writing.

My novel, DREAMING OF LAUGHING HAWK, a mainstream, Sixties era novel, is available on Amazon in print and ebook (also available in Canada, Europe, Japan, and Brazil). Download a free sample. If you like it, I hope you'll download the book and post a review on Amazon.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Romantic Friday Writers Challenge #42: I Need a Change

This is my submission for this week's 400-word challenge over at Romantic Friday Writers. Please feel free to critique.
* * *
Marta Braun survived an impoverished childhood in Berlin, the Russian invasion of Germany during World War II, the betrayal of her husband, and the back-breaking drudgery of two hourly jobs to give her only son the American dream. As I looked across the table at her, I could see the cost and the weariness in her face. She looked toward the window, her eyes bleary with a hard history I could barely imagine. “My son only lives ten miles from here, but he never comes to visit. He can’t even pick up the phone. I gave my life for him.” She waves off my dishonest protest. “He is ashamed of me because I am old and worn out. His wife thinks I’m a peasant. His children think I’m a troll. So many times in my life I should have died but didn’t and now I wish I had.”

“Marta, for godsakes. Snap out of it and make some changes in your life.”

 She folded her hands in her lap. “I need you to sell my house for me.”

“Well, of course, that’s what I do for a living, but I thought you said this was your dream house.”

“Not any more. Bad dream. Don’t put any For Sale signs out front. I don’t want anyone to know.”

I did as Marta asked. The house sold quickly and she told me she was going to take a vacation after she finished packing. Where, she wouldn’t say. She would send me a postcard from this mysterious getaway if I kept her secret. I hoped it would revive her spirits.

A month after her departure, her son showed up in my office. He was elegantly dressed in a dark blue suit and silk tie. He said he remembered I was a friend of his mother as he whipped his ringing cell phone out of his pocket. He was concerned that she didn’t answer her door and that her phone had been disconnected. I could only tell him that she sold her house and I hadn’t heard from her since. She wanted a change, I explained.

We stared at each other in stunned silence. 

Days later, I received a cheery postcard from Belize. Marta had bought a house in an expat community. She would not be coming back home, but I was invited to visit whenever I liked, provided I kept her secret. 

Mum’s the word.


  1. Hello there. Once again you take us to an unexpected change. I would like to know the secret though. Did I miss it?
    Well written.

  2. That's very interesting.. I wonder how the son feels knowing that his mother just disappeared.. I wonder if he regrets some of the decisions that he's made.. I often wonder if my own brother regrets any of the terrible decisions he's made.. He hasn't spoken to us in over 9 years. All because of his greediness and selfishness. Very interesting indeed.

  3. Yes, it's interesting how some people are so selfish and clueless when it comes to other people's feelings. Children raised by the same parents under the same circumstances often turn out completely different. One child can be caring and attentive and the other is just the opposite.

  4. Great story and unfortunately I do know what it feels like when your children (for whatever reason, real or imagined) decide they can't be bothered with you anymore. Good on her for making the change to her life.

  5. Great story. It evokes sadness and yet shows her indefeasible spirit. So true, especially with kids who move abroad and forget the hardships of their parents in providing the tools needed for that very life. The abandoned, old parents are spared a visit only to keep the facade during family gathering or to forcibly dispose off the assets lest they it away to another sibling.

  6. Sadly, a story that's more reality than fiction these days. Well told, Linda. One part of me hopes they never find her where she is. She can live a totally new chapter. And I'm guessing at that time of life, a new chapter is a boost to the soul. Great detox!

  7. WOW, that would be quite a break moving to Belize and leaving her son! I feel bad for him even though he showed his concern a little late

  8. My dear friend,
    First of all, the son should be ashamed of himself!! After the Almighty, mother is the most precious name on our lips. He should have been there all the time...after all, it was only 10 miles apart. Good story my dear.

  9. If only I could just pick up and leave like this. I've often thought about it ya know :) I like the sense Life you've woven into this excerpt Linda. That's badly worded; but I like how it feels like there is a lot more to Marta's story that will remain one of life's mystery's; and that as a real estate agent, the woman sees this a lot. He job allows her to touch on people's lives without always knowing how it all turns out.

    There is something comforting about filling in your own details and making it a part of your own life journey. Hmm, that too is poorly expressed.

    How about; I like this story. It was intriguing for the snippet of a life in flux.


  10. Linda, as always, an intriguing story. Now you've left us with so many questions which is the purpose of flash fiction. I like this woman taking control of her life, moving on, swallowing the disappointment of her son's thoughtlessness and selfishness. There is sadness, yet it also has an optimistic, hopeful spirit.
    Your usual twist in the tale at the end...


  11. You all honed in on that too common situation of disappointment at not being loved by the ones we most expect to love us--the ones we gave life to

  12. Intriguing and sad...unfortunately not a fiction in these days. Great work.

  13. August 15th, 2012
    Dear Linda,
    Thank you for you pithy comment about Paul (in my story). I so agree! I modeled Paul after the character that Cary Grant plays in this screwball comedy, My favorite Wife. Think of Paul as the absent-minded paleontologist, David Huxley, in Bringing up Baby!

    You have written such a good story, that is based on real life. I've just spent ten days of my summer witnessing a similar, but different scenario in my own family. I spent a good deal of time packing my childhood mementos because my mother's house is going to be sold. With this in mind, I am wondering what your careworn protagonist did with the contents of her home? Did she have an auction? Did she have packers come and send it all off to her new homeland? Did she just give it all to 'Goodwill'?

    I know, this is literature. We can dismiss with all of those details!

    I was telling this very nice 14-year-old boy (who is helping me fix things at home) about my story about Paul-Jenny and Priscilla. His comment was that I must give the photographer, Tom Norton, a flying certificate, because there is a rule about small planes always needing two pilots. Then he came with helpful suggestions as to how to crash the plane and only let Jenny survive! He himself is writing a short story about ninjas in ancient China!
    There is always someone out there who asks picky technical questions!

    I still think your story is wonderful. It has a soul. It restores to this woman, her dignity. I love your description: 'As I looked across the table at her, I could see the cost and the weariness in her face. She looked toward the window, her eyes bleary with a hard history I could barely imagine.'

    It really hits home.

    Best wishes & hugs,
    RFW No.42 - 'I need a change'

  14. Are you planning a move to Belize?