|Angus and Sam at the beach two summers ago,
Inverhuron Provincial Park, Lake Huron.
It was all there, a glorious week of it but, when I think of that time, it is only one moment that I recall. One small but shining moment, when time stood so irrevocably still that memory etched a potent tenderness in my heart.
It was late in the day, after supper, and we were down at the beach for one last swim. Our good friends Tammy and Richard were there with their daughters, playing in the waves that were pounding against shore. Lake Huron is a fickle playground – one minute her water is serene; the next it can be dangerously rough. It didn't seem too bad that evening, enough big waves to give everyone a thrill, but not enough to scare anyone.
Not until the plastic rafts Tammy and daughter Megan were on began pulling away from shore in the grip of a needy undertow. Tammy screamed for help and it only took a few minutes for Richard, a former lifeguard, to bring them to safety.
I have to say, Richard is one of my favourite people on earth. He's kind and gentle, and he'd give you the shirt off his back, he would, but he's got a few rough edges and is particularly good at scowling and cussing and teasing his wife.
Tammy, mind you, gives it right back. When I first met them I thought for sure they were headed to divorce court but that's just the way they carry on. Besides, I know they love each other. I saw it that evening on the beach. I saw it as clear as I've ever seen anything.
The way they stood, her hip snugged against him, her smile full of gratitude, and of love. They stood there while the sun set and the beauty of this long-married couple suffused me with pure and unbridled joy.
I'm smiling as I write this, just remembering.
For some reason I associated what had happened with Gordon Lightfoot's classic song If You Could Read My Mind. I played the song over and over, thinking about Tammy and Richard, about heroes, and feeling such overwhelming emotion that I would cry every single time the song played.
A few days later I sat down at my computer and wrote But Heroes Often Fail, a short story for Friday Flash. When I finished, I looked up from the computer and tears filled my eyes. I felt pretty good about what I had written, and I still feel good about it. I've written more than 50 Friday Flash stories but it's one of my favourites and I am thrilled it was included in The Best of Friday Flash Volume 2.
Friday Flash and how it changed my life but just because I say it all the time doesn't make it less true.
It's simple, really. You write a "flash," which is a story 1,000 words or less. You post it on your blog on a Friday (or a Thursday night if you're a keener, like me) and then add your blog url to the Collector at FridayFlash.org. You then "advertise" your story on Twitter and on the Friday Flash Facebook page.
The first time I ever did this I was AMAZED at the instantaneous results. Within minutes there were people visiting my blog from all around the world. I remember shrieking, "THERE'S SOMEBODY FROM FLORIDA!" Within a couple of days I had visitors from England and even Australia, all writing heartfelt, insightful and helpful comments about my story. In the meantime, I used the Collector and Twitter to read other people's stories.
What I had discovered – what all people who write Friday Flash had discovered – was an incredible community of writers. They might have been based in Rhode Island or Newfoundland or England, but they became as important to me as my "real" family and friends.
Even better, Friday Flash was a teacher for me. It taught me to be a better writer, both by writing and by reading. It was also a confidence builder. If it wasn't for Friday Flash I never would have written a novel. I wouldn't have joined a writers group. In fact, I'd probably still be mired in a soul-sucking miasma of depression. Not now, though. Now I wake up with purpose, with a smile on my face and a bounce in my step.
And this is all due to Jon Strother, the writer who dreamed up Friday Flash and made it a reality. Thank you Jon, from the bottom of my heart.
Now, enough maudlin! Today is a day for celebration! Today is LAUNCH DAY for The Best of Friday Flash Volume 2, a collection of 58 of the finest short stories I've ever had the pleasure of reading.
And if I can brag a little bit, I have not one but two stories in this collection. As well as the story I submitted, But Heroes Sometimes Fail, a story called Running Away was nominated for – and won – the Reader's Choice Award. I actually have to laugh about this. It's a horror story and I almost never write horror. Basically it's totally different than my usual drivel, so it's funny to me to see it included. Regardless, I owe my nominator, Virginia Moffatt of Oxford, a great deal of thanks. Virginia also has a story in BOFF2; called Breakfast News, it is laugh out loud funny.
There are some tremendous stories in this book – I swear you'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll be scared and you'll think. There are stories for all tastes, for all moods, and they're all in these sweet little bite-sized lengths that are perfect for when you don't have time for anything else.
As writer Dan Powell so eloquently said in the Foreword, "Flash fiction is all about the moment. A snapshot of an event, an emotion, a conflict. A glimpse of something important that flickers in front of the reader. It hints at a whole world beyond the borders of its modest word count and when gone the characters, ideas and images sit in the head of the reader for far longer than the story took to read."
Only five of the stories in BOFF2 are written by Canadians, which makes me even prouder, I have to admit. Canada may be a big country but it hasn't got anywhere near the population of some other countries so we Canadians always think of ourselves as underdogs to some degree. When we succeed at something, we're like Sally Field at the Academy Awards: YOU LIKE ME, YOU REALLY LIKE ME. Silly, I know – that's just part of our identity.
To celebrate Launch Day, I've joined up with my four fellow Canucks on a wee blog hop. I do hope you drop by their blogs and say hello. They are all really wonderful writers and wonderful people, as I have come to know. They are:
Alan W. Davidson
Jen Brubacher (who lives in England but is definitely Canadian - in fact, Jen is a little jet-lagged and may not be able to post today but she's hoping)
One more thing: I hope you consider buying The Best of Friday Flash Volume 2. It's available in paperback for $9.99 plus shipping and as an e-book. You can buy it from the publisher, eMergent Publishing (thanks to Jodi Cleghorn for all her efforts) and from Amazon. When you buy a paperback from the eMergent, an e-book is bundled in at no extra cost.
To all my family members I have this to say – guess what you guys are getting for Christmas!