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.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Romantic Friday Writers Challenge #43: The Romantic Picnic

Following is my flash submission for Romantic Friday Writers Challenge #43, The Romantic Picnic, 600 words.
* * *
In the beginning, life had seemed idyllic when Manjoula and her family emigrated to Southern California from Pakistan. Her father ran an engineering firm and her mother looked after the family and their large home on Lake Mission Viejo. Her parents and six older brothers treated her as a princess but as she approached her 18th birthday she found their attentions tiresome. She was tutored at home in English and all subjects by a young woman her family had hired in hopes of keeping her away from the bad influence of American culture. She was not allowed to have a phone or watch TV or listen to radio and she was required to wear hijab in public. But a deep and secret friendship developed between Manjoula and her tutor, Angela Norris, and that friendship opened the world to her. Manjoula was a good student and progressed rapidly. She loved biology but she confided in Miss Norris that her parents would never let her go to university like her brothers and that soon their studies and their friendship must end. She was promised in marriage to a man she had never met.

“How old is he? Where does he live?” Angela asked.

“Pakistan,” Manjoula whispered. “He is a prosperous businessman.” She took a photo from her desk and showed it to Angela.

“My God, he looks to be at least 50.”

“Shssh, “ Manjoula cautioned. “They must not hear us discussing such matters.”She quickly tucked the photo back in her desk drawer. “I do not want to marry him.”

Angela hung her head.

“In three days there will be a large reception, a picnic, in our home for the families to meet and negotiate the wedding contract. I have asked my family if you can attend as a farewell for all your services. They have agreed. You will come, yes?”

Angela nodded. “I will be so sad to say goodbye.”

“I always believed that my family loved me until I protested this marriage. They said I would be dead unto them if I disgraced them by refusing the marriage. It’s not a figure of speech—dead unto them. My uncle killed his daughter for defying his will and trying to run away with a boy she loved. They don’t know I know this, but I have insatiable eyes and ears. I know there is a world out there waiting for me if I can only be free.”

Angela wiped a tear from her cheek. 

“Will you help me?”

“Help you what, how?”

Manjoula’s dark eyes pooled with tears. “Do you love me?”

Angela stammered. “Of course.”

“If I give up my family and life to be with you, will you give up yours to be with me?” It was the question that hung in the air between them as the day for the picnic approached.

On the day of the picnic, a lavish meal was laid out on tables in the shade of the grape arbor. Musicians played exotic music. All the women were dressed elaborately and decked out in all their finest gold jewelry. Angela Norris felt out of place in her plain dress and uncovered head. Her eyes fell on Manjoula. They kissed each other on the cheek and embraced. “How beautiful you look, Manjoula.”

“I have a farewell gift for you, my friend,” Manjoula announced rather too loudly. “Will you follow me?”

Angela nodded and followed Manjoula inside. The house was swarming with people and the noise of conversation seemed to fill every room. No one noticed as they slipped out the front door, holding hands, and anxiously making their way to Angela’s car.


  1. Dear Linda,
    Wow! What a story! It's a perfect flash fiction! It's all there and ends at the right moment!
    I take my hat off to you, Linda!
    Best wishes,
    RFW No.43 - 'Romantic Picnic'

  2. I wasn't expecting the ending but it is a great love story and wonderfully told how they have to leave their families and step into a future together. I wish them well. I loved it.

  3. Oh, it was worth every one of the 600 words. What a brave couple. Loved it, Linda. Great piece!

  4. My, I held my breath. It's so hard to believe that in the 21st Century people still behave so much. What an excellent ending for two courageous characters. Well done.

  5. Hi,

    Nice piece of descriptive prose, which sets the scene and presents Manjoula's dilemma perfectly. NICE ONE Linda.

    In real-terms it is the women faced with these kinds of dilemma who will eventually rebel and present a challenge to the status quo of arranged marriages.


  6. Great story! I hope they were able to make a clean getaway without any consequences

  7. Hi Linda
    High drama! I loved the narrative, the setting and the characters. You have some memorable lines such as: "If I give up my family and life to be with you, will you give up yours to be with me?" Very powerful. I wish them well...

    I notice you don't get as many comments as you should, Linda. I know I've said it at least twice, but I fear people read, try to comment, and you have Word Verification on, and it is a very difficult one. I find it hard to read and sometimes have to have more than one try, which is a great time waster. Perhaps if you're worried about spam, you should do the 'comments will be posted after author approval.' You are the only RFW member who uses it.

    Don't forget to come back to RFW if you'd like to vote for your favourite entry this week. Go with your gut. Really should be someone who kept to the word limit and has a romantic element! Poll will go up Monday AEST.

    Thanks for entering! We made our 20 goal!


    1. The new blogger interface does not have an option for turning off CAPTCHA, You have to revert to the old interface so hopefully it's turned off now.

  8. Hi, Linda,

    What a powerful piece. The tension was amazing. Well done.

  9. The worst first, OK?

    1. A reception is not a picnic.
    2. "It was the question that hung in the air between them as the day for the picnic approached." Delete this line. Her question is so much more powerful without it. And you don't need the foreshadowing; it doesn't mix with the pov, and isn't addressed later in the writing from either character. The sentiment is also one of those you want the reader to infer on their own.

    Moving on . .

    So glad you didn't stop at 400 words. I read through this so quickly I couldn't believe it was over word count. This is an intriguing start for a continuing story concept. I hope you develop this into at least a short story (long short story of 5000-7000 words) and submit it somewhere. I want to offer to be a crit partner if you need; but this has so many excellent story/character plots I just want to read and enjoy unfolding story from start to finish. I am rarely this engaged in a reading in just the first few paragraphs.

    Linda, I don't think this meets the criteria for Romantic Picnic, but I am glad you posted it. Was it really inspired by the "picnic" concept. Amazing how a writer's mind (or the character's) interprets a concept.

    This is an excellent vignette; or you could add some details to up the word count to 1000 to 2500 words. Denise is the queen of vignettes, and may have several publication sites for you to consider publication. I subscribe to eFiction magazine, and they publish anything from 250 words to 10k.

    An excellent writing Linda; thanks for sharing it on RFW.


  10. Yup, I'm over the 400 word limit. I know. I wrote this late at night and somehow I had 600 on the brain instead of 400, but doubt I could have squeezed this into 400.

    Thanks for your comments and hopefully I've got CAPTCHA finally turned off.

  11. I'm keen to know what happened when they got to her car LOL! I could certainly envision the scene as you described it.

  12. Dear Linda,
    This was a masterpiece!! No one can stop love...when the ending is that beautiful. Great job my friend!

  13. Dear Linda,
    I'm back for a second read. Your story is still beautiful and breath-taking even though I know how it will end! Good luck with rewriting and submitting this story somewhere. I hope you do it.
    It was interesting reading Donna's comments. I was so caught up in your story that I did not notice the word count. Nor did I reflect upon the fact that a reception is not a picnic.
    No matter. You wrote good story even if it does not fit the challenge.
    Best wishes & hugs,

  14. Thanks for the encouragement, Anna. I'm glad you enjoyed the story.

  15. I find that I am intrigued by stories from other cultures.Not too long ago, I read Indian Maidens Bust Loose and the subject was pretty much about the same subject, that is the father trying to force his two daughters into marriages with people they couldn't care less about.

    Anyhow, I have strayed. This is certainly different and tastefully done.

  16. The tension built in the story hooked me right in!

  17. How in the world did I miss this??? Oh wow!! This was absolutely thrilling!!!! And I didn't quite see that twist at the end, I would have thought that they were just friends but they were so much more.. WOW! That's all I have to say!