Aunty Ida’s Twist of F.A.T.E.

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Earlier this week I embarked on Fiction Can Be Fun’s writing prompt challenge. Here’s the story inspired by this image. Check the comments on the prompt post for more stories!

Aunty Ida’s Twist of F.A.T.E.

“It’s just that I try and I try and I can’t seem to make anything come out right,” she said, her broad, round face earnest.

“I see,” said Aunty Ida, clipboard in hand. “Nothing at all?”

“No, nothing,” she said.

“So everything goes awry?”

“Yes,” she said. “Yes, completely. And now I feel like I’m fated—”

“No such thing as fate,’ said Ida. “You need to get that idea out of your head. Some things are meant to be and others are not, but no such thing as fate.”

Perla squinted at her. “Huh?” she said.

“Fate isn’t a thing. The future isn’t set. Except for what is.”

“I’m sorry, I don’t follow, because it sounds like you’re saying the same thing in different words.”

“It’s a common problem,” said the strawberry-blonde in the corner, her arms crossed, her head even with the mid-wall wainscoting. “A very common problem.”

“Now now, Dot, don’t get snarky,” said Ida. She returned her attention to Perla. “Isn’t it clear? Might be easier if I show you. Look,” Ida said, disappearing into the cabinet under the long stainless steel bench, one of many in what looked like a lab from a movie. A horror movie, Perla thought. One of those really creepy ones.

Ida re-emerged with a long copper cylinder that morphed from convex to concave, from open at one end to open on the other as she shifted it in air. “This is a Mondretti Cylinder.”

“OK.” Perla wished she’d never picked up the flyer at the farmers market, printed on paper with a border of luridly-colored, overly plump flowers. And yet she couldn’t help herself.

“Problems Sloved with SCIENCE!,” it read.

“Reasonable rates.

Contact Aunty Ida

“Problems sloved,” should have been the clue, but then again she did have problems. Many, many problems.

“This cylinder is essential for F.A.T.E.” Ida nodded enthusiastically her own words, the escaped wisps from her bun agreeing.

“You said, three seconds ago, fate didn’t exist,” said Perla, bending for her purse and finding she couldn’t reach it without toppling the stool. She braced herself to dismount. “So I think I’m going to get going—”

“Not fate, F.A.T.E.”

“Not hearing a difference,” she said. She glanced at Dot, still leaning into the corner. “Do you hear a difference?”

“If you value Mark’s pot roast with all of the trimmings, and I mean all of the trimmings, Dot, you will not answer that question.”

“How many trimmings?” Dot swallowed, her arm barrier loosening.

“All of them. And I suspect he could be persuaded to make a crème brulee for dessert.”

Dot squinted at Ida, her head tilted right. “You don’t like crème brulee.”

Ida’s eyebrow shot up, went down, and went up again. “But you do.”

“Sorry, Perla,” Dot said, raising her hands in surrender, “I’m out.”

“Like you’re leaving?” she said, blood draining from her face.

“Oh no, I wouldn’t leave you alone with Ida.”

“Probably a wise choice,” said Ida. “Anywho, on to the treatment.”

“I haven’t agreed to any treatment.” Perla finally managed to wiggle her way off the stool, and she stood firmly on the squeaky lab floor.

“You will,” said Ida. “Back to it. F.A.T.E.”

“But you said fate didn’t exist.”

“Not that one. This one.” Ida waved her hand over the middle lab bench and a black oozy substance followed her movements, ebbing and flowing, cresting and receding. With a buzz and hum, a hulking machine shuddered across the lab, a row of round orange-yellow lights flickering on in the green metal housing.

“And you’re sure about the pot roast?” said Dot as Ida grabbed the cylinder and headed for the machine, which moved on from the hum to an asthmatic wheeze.

“Completely.” Ida flicked a column of dull steel switches, and a large round screen, bright green concentric circle over dull green concentric circle, threw a green cast on the floor.

“Sorry,” said Dot to Perla, her small nose wrinkling in regret.

“You’d sell me out for a pot roast?”

“You should stay for dinner.”

“She may not be here,” said Ida.

“Excuse me?” Perla slung her purse over her shoulder and the strap rebounded, sliding down her arm. “Not be here?”

Ida spun to look at her. “In a good way,” she said unconvincingly. Twisting off a black cap with curved indentations all around, she slowly, with both hands, guided the cylinder into the green metal machine. “F.A.T.E.,” she said, “is powering up.”

“This doesn’t make sense to me. Nothing you’re saying makes sense to me. Picking up that dumb flyer at the farmers market and calling the number doesn’t make sense to me.” Though she wanted her feet to walk toward the door, Perla couldn’t tear her eyes from the rainbow of light radiating from the top of machine, reflecting on the tiled ceiling.

“That one’s really on you,” said Dot.

“It’s true, Dot has you there.” Ida shrugged. “I told Amelia to proofread it first, blame her.”

“You still distributed them.” Dot wandered closer to the machine.

“I didn’t want to waste the paper. It was fancy. Let’s move on. Your F.AT.E. awaits, Perla.”

“But you said—”

“Oh my, haven’t I told you? It’s an acronym. No wonder you’re so confused.” Ida threw her head back with an echoey honking laugh, and paused to wipe away a tear. “Factual Alternative Temporal Enactor. That’s what this is. It’s powered by that Mondretti Cylinder.”

“But what does it do?”

“Fixes your mistakes. All of them. Any of them. Why rely on destiny when you can have F.A.T.E?” Ida paused a second. “That’s definitely going on a poster. Don’t you think it should be a poster, Dot?”

“Maybe,” she said. “You’re sure about the pot roast?”

“You can page Janine if you don’t believe me.”

“You people are really oddly obsessed with food,” said Perla. “You seriously think this thing can solve my problems?” The F.A.T.E. had stopped wheezing, instead now giving a sputtering cough, two chugs and a whine. Sputtering cough, two chugs and a whine.

“Probably,” said Ida. “Or it could irrevocably damage everything you’ve ever tried to build in your life. What do you have to lose?”

“Everything?” She flung her hands. “Apparently?”

“Eh.” Ida’s left shoulder rose. “Doesn’t sound like much to lose.”

“Ida, that’s not very nice,” said Dot.

“But true,” she said, her sharp eyes on Perla’s round face. “Clearly true. So are you ready? You only have to put your hand there—” she pointed to a roughly hand-shaped glass opening in the metal casing, “and focus on a regret, and off we go.”

“I don’t know,” said Perla. “What do you think?” she asked Dot.

Dot shifted her head to one side then the other, considering. She ended with a shrug. “There’s always pot roast,” she said. “And the possibility of crème brulee.”

“I don’t think so.” Perla pulled the strap of her purse onto her shoulder again and crossed the lab to the door. “This was clearly a mistake.” She grabbed the door handle.

“You said everything turns out wrong, Perla.” Ida’s joviality had melted and her face went still. “How do you know leaving now isn’t another faulty decision in a long string of them?

Perla froze. She didn’t know. She didn’t know at all.

Not giving herself even an extra second to think about it, she thumped across the room and before she could stop herself, she dropped her hand resolutely into the hand outline.

The F.A.T.E. rumbled and shook, and the rainbows shooting from the top bent until Perla herself was nothing more than a rainbow swirl.

And then she was gone.

“Huh,” said Ida. “Wasn’t quite what I expected.” She stared at the air where Perla had been and then turned to Dot. “Dinner?”

***

The sellers packed up the produce they couldn’t offload cheap, dismantling their tents and tables while negotiating their final deals of the day. Perla’s bag heavy with beets and tomatoes and frilly kale, she made sure she hadn’t missed anything good. Heading toward the market exit and back to the street, a stack of flyers with lurid, overly-plump flowers caught her eye.

She picked one up.

Problems sloved with SCIENCE!”  said the flyer. Spotting the typo, Perla laughed to herself. “Nope,” she said, returning the flyer to its stack, “I don’t think so.”

Check out my recaps of the hit new show “All My Traitors.” Recap of episode 2, “Lock Him Up” is available now!

Check out  my full-length novels: 

Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only)   

Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) 

 Her Cousin Much Removed

 The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management.

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

Peruse Montraps Publishing.

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Aunty Ida got scienced. How’d she hold up?

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So this is probably the coolest thing ever. What’s that hypothetical reader? Sounds like hyperbole? Well, hold on to your hypothetical hat, because it’s really that cool.

If you were around during this year’s A to Z Blogging Challenge, you probably came across A Back of the Envelope Calculation, and David, the scientist behind it. Through the month of April, David delightfully broke down the science of science fiction. Ready for the cool part?

Are you really ready?

What’s that, hypothetical reader? Milking it?

Never.

Well, hardly ever.

Anyway, today he’s taken the microscope (get it? It’s science humor!) to the science of Aunty Ida, and it’s all I’ve ever dreamed and more.

Aunty Ida, if you’re not familiar, is the owner, operator and mad-adjacent scientist of Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only).Though light science-fiction, it is still sci-fi, and meticulously researched to give the sense of Colbert’s truthiness.

So how does it hold up to scrutiny from a real, completely unfictional scientist?

Hop on over and check out Deep Frozen SQuID to find out!

Check out  my full-length novels: 

Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only)   

Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) 

 Her Cousin Much Removed

 The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management.

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

Peruse Montraps Publishing.

#MAYKingItWork: Decision Day

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Commitment is a strong word.

If you’re with me for #MAYking it work, a challenge to pick something unfinished and get to it, you probably know that, when Friday seemed like a good chunk of time away, we all agreed that we would choose our manuscripts and/or projects by today.

OK, fine, maybe you didn’t say it out loud, but you were definitely thinking it. Well, today is Friday.

And I’m still waffling. I want to pick one particular project, but inspiration for another without far to go came last night. In the contrary way my brain tends to work.

Contrary brain.

Anyway, I will not be diverted! I am going with my first choice: another Aunty Ida book.

There. Said it. No backsies. I’m on it.

How about you? Did you choose? Was it harder than you thought?

Have a dusty, unfinished manuscript you need to work on? Join us in May for #MAYkingItWork! Commit to a project and commiserate with us!

Check out  my full-length novels: 

Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only)   

Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) 

 Her Cousin Much Removed

 The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management.

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

 Sign up for my spamless newsletter!

#AtoZChallenge: The Name is Ida. Aunty Ida.

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As Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only) counts down its final hours of the the $0.99 price, it seemed like a good time to talk about characters. Specifically one character. Because today is I and her name starts with an I and–

Ahem.

Anyway, when it comes to writing, characters simply come to me. Sometimes I get a line; sometimes it’s a name; sometimes it’s a situation. I rarely know anything about my characters when I first meet them, so readers and I are in the same boat.

Aunty Ida sprung, wholesale, from the title of the book, which I had long, long before there was a book. I didn’t know what to make of her the first time Margaret meets her; she simply appeared, this odd, brilliant scientist, sweeping the upright Judge Margaret Hamerton-Simpary into her brightly-colored and very off-kilter world.

Though Margaret drove the story — how I fought that character for control every inch of the way! And in the end, she was right — Aunty Ida shaped it, every watchful.

Sometimes, as much as this will make me sound like I’m in need of Ida’s services myself, it feels as though I’m tapping into people who exist somewhere else in the universe. And I think, when it comes to writing, that’s the key.

If your characters feel real, feel weighty, feel like they could exist somewhere to you, your readers will believe in them too.

The Aunty Has Landed!

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Well, it’s here! Aunty Ida finally has a second adventure, and you can read it, right now, if you want. Go ahead, stop what you’re doing. Unless you’re driving. Although if you’re driving, why are you reading this blog? Eyes on the road!

Anyway, you can now get Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) on Amazon, if you are so inclined. You might want to read Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only) first, though. Or not if you’re a rebel.

Aunty Ida loves rebels.

Aunty Ida 2 correctly filled in3

 

So I hope it’s another fun visit to the world of Aunty Ida, and I hope you leave it with your brain intact. Or mostly intact. You can’t have everything.

One More Day Until Aunty Ida is Back!

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So excitement is in the air. At least it’s in the air over here. I could be mistaking it for the frigid temperatures, but I don’t think so.

The Aunty Ida sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) comes out tomorrow! In case you have forgotten what it looks like:

Aunty Ida 2 correctly filled in3

 

It’s available for pre-order until it is released on January 7, and I really can’t seem to think about everything else. I hope the people who enjoyed the weird and funny world of Aunty Ida the first time will have just as much fun — or more — this time around. Brian’s not going to have as good a time, but that’s pretty much standard for one of Ida’s guinea pigs. I mean experiments. I mean patients.

Hmm.

Anyway, tomorrow should be pretty exciting. For everyone but Brian.

Last Chance to Get Aunty Ida for FREE!

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What funny and weird and totally free? Aunty Ida! And today, December 27, is your last chance to pick up a copy of Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only) for FREE! Get one now, you know you want to. Or, to be more accurate, Aunty Ida knows you want to.

Ida1What do you mean, “How does she know?” She knows. She knows everything. Well, almost everything.