The List – flash fiction

I have been following and voting in WRITE CLUB 2019 and voting on the excellent final 30 entries in the Preliminary rounds. I plan to continue voting in subsequent rounds hoping my favourites win.

I submitted an entry – under a pen-name – but did not reach the standard of other entries. Re-reading my submission, I know why.

But what do you think? Should I have used this for the April WEP/IWSG Challenge, Jewel Box? All critiques and comments welcome.


by Zilarrezko Ezpata

Supercilious servants seldom deserve attention when they thrust a drab packet into my hands. Howsoever, this maid is incessantly thus. Why her mistress accepts her insolence vexes me. I accept the delivery but offer no acknowledgement and send the servant on her way, back to my sister-in-law’s house on Harrison Boulevard. My man can convey my response.

Locking out the oppressive heat behind the front door, I walk across the tiled hallway. The package is lighter than expected. Dreary plays my brother intends for his conjectured theater, or native artifacts I will capitalize? My throat constricts but my mind exalts.

I discard the brown paper as I carry the tawdry ivory-inlaid box contained within to the maple desk in my tranquil sanctuary.

Placed inside the ruby-red interior are ten jewelry cases that flush my body in warmth. A sealed message lies on top. The wax has an imprint, but somehow blurred.

Intentional? Never. Made in haste.

My heart beat rises. Profit beckons. My stomach flutters.

Fingers caress the soft vellum envelope. I falter at the unusual leopard-spotted variety but dismiss an irrational image. The perfume pervading the room banishes the remembrance. I break the seal.

 Only my love, Arantxa dabs Angel’s Trumpet on her missives.

A precious and profitable attachment.

My spirit soars on pounding beats, body burning.


I return the gifts you used to seduce me, without success. Unlike base men such as you, I am neither a heart-cheater nor a soul-thief.

Herewith, the moonstone pendant. You promised a diamond as in the book, but that was beyond you. Why didn’t I take heed then?

The crude cameo locket that will never be me. Not even an old-fashioned eye portrait. My eyes are blue not black.

The Art nouveau enameled barrette affronted me.

One pearl earring shed like a tear, the other dust. You are the dream-crusher.

Did you intend the amethyst bracelet to enslave me?

The faux emerald and sapphire choker? Tighter than a scoundrel’s purse. My breeding detects peridot and topaz so as paltry as you.

The rough-cut ruby brooch that drew more than my blood. Why the deceit with a mere red garnet?

Perchance, the diamond necklace you locked around my neck meant aught. But never was I gulled by your growing falsehoods.

Can a lie-weaver ever repent? No, thus I spurned this silver band stolen from some naïve conquest.

Only overreached by the gold ring that never engaged my soul or eyes.

I am smothered by her two-faced words.

My head whirls, and my mouth burns. Confused, I stagger to my armchair. I read her last lines.

This blood-lined box that holds your cheap baubles, unfit to grace this lady.

Finally, the Palouse colt. Or what remains of him—the vellum produced from his skin.

And his gore spilled in your name.

Hark the Devil’s Trumpet as you perish.


Let me know what you like and dislike about this flawed piece of flash fiction, please.

Time Exchange

English: timeline example

English: timeline example (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Does your favourite book capture a sense of time? Does time play out slowly or race along? How does an experienced writer catch such an intangible element as time in words?

Pacing is a key element to crafting a novel and wiser people have addressed it much better than I can in this beginner’s blog. However, I can address the lessons that I have learnt in my sporadic journey.

When I first started writing my first novel ‘Spiral of Hooves’, I resorted to simply inserting the date at the beginning of each scene or chapter. But although that works if the writer builds more subtle temporal clues onto this, I think for me it became a crutch. Although I had an initial timeline to guide me, I made the mistake of straying too far from it in order to make incidents occur in sequence. So when I was asked recently by my editor to check my timeline, I realised it was hopelessly out of date. Fortunately the juggling needed to bring scenes and chapters into line with the correct timeline was not too complicated, and the novel benefited.

As for the actual time scale of the story, that went from two years in the initial draft to nine months in the final one, which tightened the pace considerably. Faster pacing seems to make sense for a mystery, although I was never aiming for a thriller-type race against time.

Of course pacing is more than just saying: ‘Next morning’ or ‘Two hours later’ and I have tried to vary what happens in scenes and the words I have used. For instance, over the drafts I made better use of the seasonal changes in weather, vegetation and animal life. Keeping dialogue leisurely or snappy depending on the mood has helped I hope, although that will be up to my readers to decide. Have I been too overt by resorting to characters mentioning how many days or hours before a specific event or deadline?  Hopefully not and the readers will be caught up in the story.

Using beta readers, after about the third draft, has helped assess whether the timeline and pacing worked. Adding an editor into the mix has been invaluable – many thanks Yen, you’ve been great to work with. However, I have had to adapt a few things to an American readership, and explain some of the equestrian terminology. As ‘Spiral of Hooves’ enters the final furlong, I feel that the novel has evolved thanks to the input and the lessons learned. What occurs in the time before publication will be another blog tale.

Animated sequence of a horse pacing. Photos ta...

Animated sequence of a horse pacing. Photos taken by Eadweard Muybridge (died 1904), first published in 1887 at Philadelphia (Animal Locomotion). Animation by Waugsberg, 2006-10-8. (The sequence is set to motion using frames of Human and Animal Locomotion, plate 591, “Pronto” pacing) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For other drafted novels, I have tried to keep a closer eye on the timeline as I work on the plot. However, when I get round to editing them I need to take care that I keep the timeline updated. I also need to evolve the date/day references into more subtle and clever ways of showing the passage of time that work with the pace of the plot.

I’ve just outlined the sequel to ‘Spiral of Hooves’, which has the working title of ‘Tortuous Terrain’. Its timeline was complicated to plot due its background against two different equestrian competitions in the USA. Hopefully, as I write the first draft I can find the right words to capture time as well as the setting and characters. There’s an historical mystery in the wings too, set in both 1812 and the present day – ‘Seeking A Knife’. That presents an interesting challenge, but sometime in the future.

As for the blog title ‘Time Exchange’ that was Inspiration Monday – Not the requirement, but the title seemed to fit this piece: an exchange of experiences from me to you.

Now it’s your turn: what do you find gives inspiring writing a sense of time?