“The Fox”

foxFlash Fiction By Nancy Stohlman

I first saw him on the dirt bike path behind the Lightrail. He was 50 yards away, scratching in the sun, reddish brown coat, black paws, white belly. I stayed very still, and when he didn’t run I took a soft step, wondering how close I could get. He preened until I was quite close; his nose was long and sweet. And then, when I was just 10 feet away, he excused himself into the bushes with calculated nonchalance, a final flick of his white-tipped tail.

I walked the rest of the way home feeling exquisite.

Later on my porch, in the temptations of dusk, I sensed him before I saw him, emerging from the overgrowth and into the din of the streetlights. He had the curious look of a boy, new and fresh and wild and sensuous, with vulnerable brown eyes.

I thought about leaving food but I was afraid the squirrels would get it. So instead I left my pillow—covered in the smells of me at my most peaceful and innocent. An invitation. That night he entered my dreams and I embraced a coarse lean body, strong, wiry legs wrapped around my waist in an almost human way.

In the morning the pillow had been nested in, a few scattered white hairs left in the circular impression of his body. I held it to my nose and inhaled the musky, wild smell.

Each night I left the pillow on my porch and each night he returned, inching it closer to the front door until the night I left the door open. The moon cast a square beam onto the living room floor, and there I lay, almost sick with nervousness, when I felt bristles of fur tickle the edge of the sheet. His nose brushed my toe, touched my hair. I held my breath. He circled a few times, gently trampling down the bedding, then settled behind me, his face tucked into the crook of my neck.

The wind blew through the open door and smoothed our entwined faces. I surrendered to sleep in the hazy, bird-chirpy morning, and when I woke he was gone.

But I found his gift left lovingly for me on the pillow: my black cat, lifeless. I felt strangely unmoved as I sniffed it, nudged it with my nose.

Originally published in Santa Fe Literary Review. Read original

“The Private Investigator”

Flash fiction by Nancy Stohlman

I walked into his office and closed the door. There were piles of papers everywhere and a deer head hanging on the wall.

What can I do for you? he asked.

Well, I just don’t know what I’m doing half the time anymore, I said. I think it would be great if you could keep an eye on me.

Sure, he said. Is someone threatening you?3.21-PI

No, nothing like that. It’s just me. I can’t trust myself.

Any clues or suspicions?

No … but the whole thing is pretty suspicious.

He pats my hand. You’ve done the right thing, he says. Usually if you suspect something to be true, it is.

I left his office feeling much better. Almost immediately the eyes were upon me—cars that followed a bit too close and too long, people watching me from across the street. At home a red light blinked between the books on my bookshelf.

A week later I returned to his office. Well, we have news to report, he says. Are you ready?

Yes, I nodded, sitting down.

The first picture was my car parked in front of the post office. If you’ll notice, he says, circling areas of the photo, this is a no parking zone and the sign is clearly displayed. The subject arrived at 3:14 and parked for 23 minutes, in blatant violation.

I nodded, didn’t say anything as he handed me the photo.

During the car ride home, subject picked her nose and then, after looking around, consumed it. At 5:17 subject arrived home, drew all the blinds, and proceeded to watch XXX rated videos for 17 minutes, the final one, 80-year-old grandpa does his nurse, commencing in what we presume was an orgasm.

Subject, after watching said video, stared at the computer for one hour and forty-six minutes without pants on. The phone rang on three different occasions and the subject ignored the calls without even checking the caller ID.

Subject smoked marijuana at 9:16 and then took a bath while drinking an airplane-sized bottle of cinnamon flavored whiskey. During the bath, subject appeared to have a conversation with no one that lasted for 11 minutes.

At 11:34, subject got into bed and read a book until 12:13, when she turned off the lamp to presumably sleep. Then the most curious of all: at 12:21, just 8 minutes later, the subject got out of bed and laid directly in the middle of a moonbeam shining through the skylight. Subject cried until 12:31.

After that, our man couldn’t see anything else. He handed the stack of pictures to me.

I sighed. I’m not completely surprised.

If it makes you feel any better, I see this kind of thing all the time.

I guess it’s just better to know for sure.

I’m sorry to be the one to have to tell you, he added, handing me a tissue.

 Originally published in Atticus Review. Read original here.

Finish That Manuscript (And Get it Out Into The World): A Virtual Workshop

Do you have a manuscript you’ve been sitting on forever? Are you stuck in the writing phase or in the revision process? Or have you “finished” but not gotten the response you wanted out in the world?

In this workshop on finishing we will explore:
• What’s keeping you from finishing?
• Are your blocks telling you something about your manuscript?
• How to fall back in love with your work and your vision
• Allowing your manuscript to transform
• Publication—is your manuscript ready to send into the world?
• The different stages of “finishing” a manuscript
• Self-promotion—are you afraid of rejection? (You’re not alone.)
• Finding the support you need to take the next steps

writers-blockIn this 4-week virtual workshop I’ll give you the deadlines you might need, help you structure your writing time into your life, help you transition more easily between creation and revision, and help you become your own best editor. Whether you are planning to submit or self publish, you’ll learn writing tips, editorial and publication advice, how to excerpt and query, and even when to let a manuscript go. And most importantly, you’ll finally rescue your work from the desk drawer and give yourself the satisfaction of completion.

The workshop format will include weekly online instruction, telephone check-ins, and professional line edits (limited). Both fiction and nonfiction manuscripts are welcome.

Begins July 1. For late registration or a free info call contact me ASAP at nancystohlman@gmail.com.

Let’s do it.

Finish That Manuscript: Free Workshop Preview Tuesday, June 25th

Summer Project #1: Finish That Manuscript

Each book we write brings us closer to understanding how to write a book. What phase of the finishing process are you in? And…what’s it costing you to not finish?

Three Types of “Finishing”

1. Crossing the Finish Line. In this phase, you’re creating, allowing, and writing yourself to the finish line of that first draft, where you can write The End and give yourself that well deserved glass of port.

In this phase you need the support, motivation, and commitment to get to the end. A first draft is like a lump of clay—it doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does need to be complete before you can start shaping it into the grand vessel it will become.

2. Alligator Wrestling. In this phase you’ve finished a first draft and now you’re in the revision—re-visioning—process. Re-vision. Seeing again. Sometimes it’s hard to see your manuscript with fresh eyes—like looking for your sunglasses when they’re on your head. Yet the true writing magic usually happens in revisions.

In this phase you need new ways of seeing your manuscript differently, both in pieces and as a whole, as well as identifying your strengths and weaknesses as a writer and inviting the potent potential of unexpected possibilities into your work.

3. Becoming a Player. In this phase you and your manuscript prepare to enter the public arena, and the “finishing” has just as much to do with you as a professional. This is the point where we usually long for an agent to swoop in and do all the uncomfortable work of promoting ourselves, but the catch here is that if we want to be taken seriously, we have to start playing seriously.

In this phase you need help with promotional and professional materials including bios, queries, how and why to excerpt, and learning how to avoid the mistakes of looking like an amateur—regardless of your publishing goals.

*Tuesday, June 25th at 7 pm MST, join me for a 30-min FREE WORKSHOP PREVIEW.

Contact me for registration information at nancystohlman@gmail.com