It's been a month since I first experimented with putting a flash fiction story on my blog. I promised to do one a month, so here I go again.
This story stems from when I used to work at a private special education school in West L. A.. We had this tiny campus, and it was down the street from a community park. For P.E. we would often walk the kids down to the park and let them play there. It was generally safe, although it was Los Angeles, so you know, we tried to be extra aware of our surroundings. For several days in a row this older man began showing up every day while we were there, and he made little wire puzzles. A few of the kids managed to sneak over and get a couple. Well, a parent found out, and I'm sure you can imagine how that went. Needless to say, I always wondered if the man and his puzzles actually formed any real threat.
I have several versions of this story, because I never could quite figure out how to end it. I think I like this super short version best. I hope you enjoy this little, creepy story too.
The Puzzle Maker by D. G. Driver
My children told me about this guy who gave away puzzles in the park where their teachers took them to play for recess sometimes. Naturally, I wanted to meet him for myself and see what he was all about, so I headed over there after I dropped my kids off at school.
I spotted the puzzle maker right away. He was sitting where the kids said he would be, at the picnic table in the park. When I approached, he offered me one of his puzzles by holding it out to me but not with words. I took it, saying “Gracias” to him. He smiled. I sat next to him and tried to figure out how to untangle the puzzle, wishing that I could speak Spanish so I could learn more about him.
Watching him bend the wires with his set of pliers, I couldn’t imagine him being anything but this sweet, darling man. He was probably someone’s grandfather. Retired. Had nothing to do all day. So, he came to the park and made puzzles. Gave them to kids. Simple story. Nice guy.
I summed him up so completely in my head as I sat beside him that I honestly felt we had just finished a long conversation together. In some way we had become friends.
Getting up to head back to my car, I accidentally squeezed the puzzle in my hand against the tabletop. A sharp prick to my palm caused me to fling my hand open and drop the puzzle into the grass. I swore under my breath and brought the beading wound up to my mouth. Just before I sucked the drop of blood away, I heard a noise from the puzzle maker.
I glanced over at him to find that he was watching me. Watching me and chuckling. He pointed his finger at me like he’d just played some great joke on me.
No, I thought. He can’t be vindictive. I won’t believe it. I can’t believe it. This was just an accident, and he finds it funny.
At the same time, however, he darted to the ground to retrieve the puzzle that had injured me. He tucked it into his jacket pocket and winked before walking away.
I ran then. To the public restroom, where I rinsed my hand with lots of water. Was it an accident? Did he do it on purpose? If so, why? Was he trying to make me sick or was it just a practical joke? What kind of person was he?
The two famous stranger slogans flashed in my head like conflicting neon advertisements. “Don’t talk to strangers!” “Strangers are just friends we haven’t met yet!”
Which was he? A danger? Or just a nice guy with a weird sense of humor? It was a puzzle I couldn’t solve.
When I came out of the bathroom the man was gone. His spot under the elms taken over by a picnicking family.
All I could think was, “How many of these puzzles are in my children’s backpacks?” I had to get to their school, and confiscate them before they got hurt too.
But I couldn’t get there. I collapsed to the ground. As the world turned black, I heard the puzzle man laughing again.
I hope you enjoyed that. If you did, feel free to poke around my website and see if there's anything else I've written you might enjoy. I have more free stories, including a spooky/campy one about werewolf babies at Wattpad, and I have some fun YA contemporary fantasy books. Feel free to leave a comment.
A week ago, April 26th, Satin Romance Books released a brand new, sweet romance anthology called Second Chance for Love. It features seven stories about single parents finding love again, and I'm proud to be among the authors. I thought I'd introduce the authors of this book to you by having them answer a couple questions. In the order pictured below: JT Adeline, Daisy White, Tara Fox Hall, Nancy Pennick, Katie Stephens (with her husband), Caroline Andrus (who was also our cover designer), and me.
Oh! One more thing. Second Chance for Love is always free for Kindle Unlimited, but it will be free to Kindle users all Mother's Day weekend!!! Yep! It's true! May 7th-9th. So please get a copy, and in return for the favor, leave us a nice review.
Question 1: What inspired you to write your story for Second Chance for Love?
JT Adeline: Have you ever seen the commercial for Wounded Warrior with the veteran whose body shakes uncontrollably? He was the inspiration for my story, "Unexpected Match Maker". He chose to fight for our country and certainly didn’t choose to be forever injured. I wanted to have a veteran, whose face was disfigured while being in the war against Afghanistan, to have a second chance at love. And who better to bring love back but a twelve-year-old girl, who is not afraid of him, and shows him a new outlook on life.
Daisy White: I lived in Plymouth, Devon for a couple of years and always wanted to write a story set around the Moors and the people who live there. Horses were a big part of my life for a long time too, so a storyline suggested itself pretty easily.
"For the Love of a Horse"
Tara Fox Hall: I wrote in a few real-life things, like the garnet earrings, the running someone over with a sled, and the sadness of getting a pileup of bad news in a single day. I wanted a sweet love story with a HEA, and the perfect guy, who would forgive the woman he loved her mistakes.
"A Love for Michelle"
Nancy Pennick: I had thought about writing a story from a mother/daughter perspective that never came to be. As authors, we know how that can happen! So when the call came for Second Chance for Love, I used that idea as a springboard to my short story, "The Perfect Beginning". And as always, I borrowed a little something from real life and tweaked the situation to fit the story.
Katie Stephens: Two years ago, I used 31 prompts for Story A Day in May. One of those prompts, Every Other Weekend (a duet sung by Reba McEntire and Kenny Chesney) really struck home, because I remember those days. Luckily, I found the right man the second time around who loved my children like his own, but I always wondered what happened to the two people in the song. And so the story was born.
"The Price of Silence"
Caroline Andrus: To be honest, I almost didn't write a story for this anthology. I didn't have a clear idea of what I wanted to write, I didn't have any ideas of what would make a good story. Once I'd given up on the idea of writing a story to submit, I was in the shower and the idea just POPPED into my head. A woman catches her husband with the nanny (ripped from the tabloid headlines, right?) and is in a bind. She can't bring herself to trust another nanny, so... enter the Manny. From there the details started to form. The dirty-lying-cheating-soon-to-be-ex husband is a male model (named Derek in honor of the Ben Stiller character Derek Zoolander) and the woman scorned is a celebrity photographer.
Me: I wrote the first 2,000 words of this story as a "try-out" for a ghostwriting gig I did a few years ago. I was hired, but I wrote an entirely different series of romance novellas. I had this story-start sitting on my computer, and when I saw the listing for Second Chance for Love, I decided to finish it and find out what happened to Dalton after he gives the ticket to poor Emily. (BTW, go here to read a snippet of "The Ticket to Her Heart").
Question 2: If you had a second chance to do something, what would it be?
JT: This question was harder to answer than I thought it would be. I thought to pick something basic, but if it were something so simple would I really want to change it?
The one thing I would like a second chance at is to be with my grandma until the day she left this world. I chose this because she suffered from dementia at the end of her life. It was difficult for me to continue to see her when she no longer knew who I was, but when she stopped eating and became nothing but a shell, I couldn’t go anymore. I didn’t like seeing her this way, my grandma who was always a little plump, who always smiled and loved to laugh.
Daisy: Two lives!
Tara: I wouldn't do anything differently in my life. I just hope I can say that at the very end, too. :)
Nancy: I lost my dad when I was in college. So if I had a second chance to do something, it would be to spend a day with him.
On the lighter side, I make it all the way to majorette semi-finals in high school. Groups of four girls tried out together and my baton was knocked from my hand by the girl next to me. I had to chase it as the others continued on. Devastated by what happened I didn’t do anything and wasn’t surprised I didn’t make the next callback. I wish I had been strong enough and not so shy to ask for another chance. Or maybe that was my chance, I’ll never know.
Katie: There are way too many things I think about doing differently in my life after the fact, but then I remember I wouldn’t be where I am right now if I accepted a re-do. It’s easy to think: “If I knew then what I know now and could do it all again ....” In that case, I’d want prior knowledge on the perfect way to raise two incredibly wonderful and totally opposite children. They keep telling me they’re fine, but Mom will always worry.
Caroline: This is a tricky question. There are a lot of things I could change if I had a do-over to make my life easier or different, but I don't think I ever would because then I wouldn't have the life I have now. Every experience has made me the person I am today. Sure my life would have been easier if I'd waited a few year to have kids instead of giving birth at the ripe age of 22, but then I wouldn't have my oldest daughter. So ultimately, I wouldn't change a thing.
Me: There are a vast number of things I wish I could do again: people I wish I'd spoken to, auditions I wish I'd gone to, calls I should have made. But I think the "wish I hads" are a bit different than "second chances", so maybe I'll elaborate more about that in another blog post. Like Katie, I did get my lucky second chance for love, finding a wonderful man to be my second husband. I still have time, I think, to have a second chance to have a better relationship with my brothers and my step-daughters, and that is something I'd really like to improve.
Question 3: What is something else you've had published? (click on the pictures to learn more about each book at Amazon)
As for me, D. G. Driver, well, you can poke around my website (since you're here) and learn about my YA fantasy novels Cry of the Sea, Whisper of the Woods, and my romance/ghost story novella Passing Notes.
Last question: What are you working on now?
JT: I am a multitasker, so currently I am working on seven different stories, one of them being the final book of the Dark as Night Trilogy. I’m working on so many because my mind doesn’t stop working, ever, and different storylines like to pop into my head whenever they feel like it. When I get stuck on one book, I move to another to keep my storylines moving forward. When I am really on a roll, it is wonderful to finish a story, and making it into a book for many to enjoy.
Daisy: More short stories, and adult novel, and editing the sequel to Taming Tigers. Oh, and launching my new company My Perfect Pop-Up Shop!
Tara: I've been working on a new series with Melange Books. The first book, A Good Year, will be out soon. I'm also putting together a book I plan to self-pub as a memorial to my father, who passed away the end of April.
Nancy: I have a few projects going on at once. Second Chances, a New Adult book and follow-up to the YA Waiting for Dusk series, came out the same day as Second Chance at Love! And similar titles! This is a stand alone read, taking place three years later when Kate is almost twenty-one and living in New York City. Ever After will follow up next year, ending the series completely.
I’ve stepped away from YA and NA to write a historical fiction novel about an Englishwoman sent to Scotland to marry a powerful laird’s son. That’s still in the works.
Katie: My current project is a time travel romance novel for a box set with several other authors (including my heroine and editor, Aubrey Wynne, author extraordinaire and founder of The Editing Hall), releasing January 2017. I’ve always wondered how people would react out of their normal time period, so this is a fascinating research opportunity for me to pick the perfect point in history—or the future. Now to get the story line whittled down!
Caroline: That's a loaded question! I've been working on a YA paranormal tentatively called 'Blood & Magic' since November 2013. It's with a few beta readers now before I delve into another round of edits. I love this story, it's about a vampire slayer named Kate who is plagued by strange dreams. Suddenly, she realizes everything she thought she knew about the world is wrong. I'm also working on the prequel to 'Blood & Magic', it's a New Adult novella called 'Catalyst.' This takes place in the same world and is about a witch named Vera and a vampire named Pierce who fall in love, despite it being completely taboo and a prophesy that could be about them. It's got a Romeo & Juliet feel to it, very strong on the romance whereas 'Blood & Magic' is pretty light.
I've also got some ideas stewing around for a sequel to my my short story 'Running Late' mentioned in #3. This would be Paige and Will on their way to the alter. I foresee a lot of family drama in the wedding planning.
And I'm hoping to start a YA mermaid novel soon because who doesn't love mermaids?
Me: (Well, I love mermaids, obviously) And speaking of mermaids, I'm almost half-way through the 3rd book in the Juniper Sawfeather series. Yes, the mermaids are back in the story! I hope to finish that up early summer and still have enough time to get a story done for another Satin Books anthology before their deadline in August. I've got an idea, but it isn't firm yet. I also am pretty sure what novel I'll be starting after that. Stay tuned...
I hope you enjoyed meeting all these ladies. Remember to pick up a copy of the book this weekend while it's free for Kindle! Or if you prefer print, you can get it here at Lulu. As always, I welcome your comments.
D. G. Driver
Author D. G. Driver's
Write and Rewrite Blog
“There are no bad stories, just ones that haven’t found their right words yet.”
A blog mostly about the process of revision with occasional guest posts, book reviews, and posts related to my books.