How To Publish Your Novel In Print

I never realised how lucky I was.

Thanks to 1889 Labs, I’ve avoided the hassle of publishing. No typesetting, no exporting ePubs and mobi files, no cover-making or spine calculations… and absolutely NO dealing with any retailers and distributors.

Until now.

Sadly, 1889 Labs is in a position where it needs to cut back – so it’s down to me to make sure my books get (re)published.

Boy, is it a steep learning curve.

In this post I’m sharing what I’ve learned so far about the print on demand (POD) options available.

Let me know what you think by leaving a comment!

Where to print your book

There are many POD services, but ideally you want to focus on the ones that will offer you the best distribution and price. The ones I know of are:

  • Lulu
  • Createspace (Amazon’s POD arm)
  • Lightning Source (owned by Ingram, a huge book distributor)
  • Ingram Spark (also owned by Ingram, a Createspace rival)

Disclaimer: I can’t vouch for the print quality of any of these companies other than Lightning Source.

Lulu

Pros:

  • The publishing process seems easy; you’re guided step-by-step with templates and manuals.
  • The only cost incurred is for a printed proof copy. (I assume you’d be able to review a digital proof for free.)
  • Lulu offers hard back printing options and some unusual sizes (but IMO you’re best off sticking to trade sizes).

Cons:

  • Lulu seems to have high manufacturing costs. Buying copies of your own book is expensive, plus you’ll have to price them quite highly in order to earn a decent amount of royalty.
  • To me, Lulu has a negative reputation for vanity publishing.

I couldn’t find out whether you can control the wholesale discount.

Verdict: The high manufacturing costs don’t make Lulu worth your while. Plus, it’s Lulu. Eugh.

Createspace (aka Amazon)

Pros:

  • The publishing process is painless; there’s a step-by-step guide or an advanced option for experts.
  • Digital proofs are free, and print proofs only cost a few bucks.
  • You can get a Createspace ISBN for free.
  • Your book will never show up as out of print (or taking 3-4 weeks delivery) as it could do if you use a third party to distribute to Amazon.
  • A lot of people buy books on Amazon.

Cons:

  • If you want ‘extended distribution’ (to libraries, bookstores, etc) you have to use a Createspace ISBN. That means Createspace is listed as your publisher, which marks your book as self-published.
  • Bookstores often do not like ordering from Amazon.
  • You can’t control wholesale discounts. It’s 20% for the Createspace store, 40% to Amazon, and 60% to other retailers. So books that sell outside of Amazon will earn you a lot less royalty.
  • No hard back printing options.

Verdict: Despite all the negatives, Createspace is very easy to use and I would recommend it if Amazon is your main selling point.

Lightning Source

LS is primarily aimed at medium-large publishers so is unlikely to work for individual authors – but I’ve given a run down below.

Pros:

  • Owned by Ingram, the biggest book distributor in the world.
  • I can personally vouch for the great print quality of the books.
  • They have a nifty cover template generator which automatically creates a bar code out of your ISBN.
  • You can set your own wholesale discount for retailers, and allow or refuse returns. Depending on what settings you pick, bookstores will be far more likely to order your books than if they were distributed through Createspace.

Cons:

  • You HAVE to be set up as a company to have an account. It’s not easy either to; faxing legal documents etc, etc.
  • Other than the cover template generator, you have no support. Your files need to be 100% ready to go.
  • Their website was built in the 13th century. Seriously.
  • It’s the most expensive. Setting up a book is $75, proof copies are $35, and revisions cost $40.
  • Amazon hates competitors, so often lists LS books as taking 3-4 weeks delivery despite it being POD.
  • You need to buy/supply your own ISBNs.

Verdict: Lightning Source offers high quality and great distribution to the brick and mortar side of the business. If you want to really invest and set up a company, pick them.

Ingram Spark

This is a fairly new sister company to Lightning Source, focused on authors and small publishers.

Pros:

  • Allows you to distribute ebooks and print books at the same time, so you don’t have to submit all the information twice.
  • Great way to get your ebooks to the non-Kindle market.
  • Owned by the largest book distributor in the world.
  • Lightning Source handles the printing, so the quality should be good.
  • You can choose between a 55% wholesale discount or a shorter 40% discount.
  • Book stores are more likely to order books from Ingram than Amazon (assuming you select 55% discount and allow returns).

Cons:

  • Only launched last summer, so is still playing catch up with Createspace in many respects.
  • You need to buy/supply your own ISBNs.

Verdict: In terms of extended (non-Amazon) distribution, Ingram Spark has a better offer than Createspace. The print quality of books is likely to be higher. However the experience isn’t as slick – yet.

Other companies

There are doubtless other countless print on demand companies – but I don’t think any could match the flexibility and distribution offered by the ‘big’ boys Amazon and Ingram.

Best of both worlds?

If you want the easy, fast route and think most of your sales will come through Amazon, publish on Createspace and be done with it.

My plan is to take a little more time and not put all my eggs in one basket.

Amazon prefers to buy from Createspace. So I’ll publish through Createspace, using my own ISBN. That means I won’t get their extended distribution – but I don’t want it.

Using the same ISBN, I will publish the book through Ingram Spark for extended distribution. (Ingram Spark does not allow Createspace ISBNs so you must have your own.)

Why the same ISBN? Because sales are tracked by ISBN. If you have two different ISBNs for the same book, it will mess up the sales stats. Don’t do it!

That’s my plan, anyhow.

I’m still struggling to get Ingram Spark up and running – but I am confident that they will be a good choice once they iron out some kinks.

Hopefully.

Thoughts?

MONKEY CLAP

“I swear to you, I’ve discovered the origin of clapping.”

Mike delivered this sentence with his usual awkward solemnity. His every word was vetted before he spoke, each syllable careful, precise. “After months of research, I’ve found it,” he continued. “History in the making.”

Jen glanced at her car, its red bonnet gleaming in the sunlight, then back to Mike. His tall, skinny frame filled the doorway. Sunglasses shrouded his eyes, and the black trilby perched on the back of his head added an element of geeky rakishness.

Maybe she should call off this social visit. She felt guilty, sure, but she’d expected to find Mike heartbroken and despondent, not completely off the rails.

For old time’s sake, she thought. Then, before she lost her courage: “Are you going to invite me in?”

“Of course!” He stepped back, beckoned her through. As Jen crossed the threshold, her nose wrinkled. The house smelled stale and earthy. The floor was littered with crumbs, and a trail of cashews led down the hallway towards the lounge.

Mike shut the door, shrugged self-consciously. “That’s Cal’s doing.” From his voice to his movements, every mannerism was fastidious — which made the state of his home all the more incongruous.

“Your new house mate?”

“Come meet him.”

Jen picked her way down the hallway towards the lounge, sidestepping food wrappers and a pile of unidentifiable brown pellets. She accidentally kicked a paper bag on the floor and almost gagged when a cloud of fruit flies drifted into the air. The smell was growing stronger with every step.

“Are you… okay, Mike?”

“I am MORE than okay.” He ushered her into the lounge, and pointed at a monkey curled up on the sofa the size of her forearm. The monkey was dark grey, and had a wrinkled, pink face surrounded by cotton white tufts of fur. His dark tail curved down the side of the sofa in a question mark.

“Meet Cal,” Mike said. “Short for Caligula.” He was grinning, shifting his weight side to side. In his excitment he’d forgotten that he wasn’t wearing his sunglasses. Jen had never seen his eyes before – not this closely, anyway. They were the pale, murky eyes of someone who spent far too much time in tiny science labs researching inane issues.

“He clapped,” Mike said. “Or does clap. Can clap. Not on command, but it’s a start. After months of research I’ve figured it out.”

Jen looked between Cal and Mike, didn’t know which was worse. How the animal spent so much time with Mike, she never knew. Clapping Cal the monkey. It had a ring to it, anyway.

“All my life,” Mike continued, “I’ve wondered why people clapped. When it started. It’s such a long-standing cross-cultural phenomenon and we know SO little about it! This could be important, Jen! History, made in this room!”

“Clapping. Important.” She nodded slowly. “Right.” A quick glance over at the monkey, whose mouth was hanging open. Sound asleep. Not in the least noteworthy.

She’d come here because she felt bad. Mike was a friend; or had been a friend until research had consumed his life. He’d been a socially well-adjusted (albeit geeky) guy, dating a beautiful woman who happened to be her other best friend. Until said girl best friend dumped guy friend, and she was left caught in the middle like melted cheese in a sandwich.

Her tummy grumbled. Well, not exactly like melted cheese. But she was hungry so the simile would have to do.

Mike had found his sunglasses and put them back on. He had the thin, contented smile of one who has found a secret treasure. He sat on the sofa beside Cal and beamed at Jen, waiting for her verdict.

“You’re not photophobic, are you?” Jen asked, all of a sudden. She nodded at the glasses. “You know…”

The lower half of Mike’s face looked confused. “I tell you about my ground breaking discovery and you ask that?”

She shrugged. “I’ve always wondered. You didn’t use to wear them all the time, before…”

Mike turned away, grabbing a small blanket from the sofa and lovingly tucking it around Cal. “They protect me,” he said. “It’s an extra layer between me and the world.” He turned his head to her but she couldn’t see anything past the dark glass. “Besides, it means I can spy on people. When I wear these no one knows where I’m looking.”

Jen looked at the v-neck of her top. “You’re not… perving on me, are you?”

“There’s more to life than THAT, Jen. Like, at least ten percent more.”

“And that ten percent includes monkeys clapping?”

Mike nodded. “This could be proof that we not only evolved genetically from monkeys – but also kept or developed their cultural traditions. Cal here could be recreating those first few moments in the history of clapping. He’s never met another monkey to learn that behaviour from, and has never seen a human clap. This is a brand new development… but what’s most important is that he does it with PURPOSE. A single, strong clap.”

He sensed her disinterest, his fingers flittering against his jeans. “I’ll show you, then you’ll know what I mean.” The monkey was stirring, his big dark eyes boring into Jen. He crawled into Mike’s lap, staring at Jen with the blatant curiosity of a child.

“Go on then,” Jen said. “Make him clap.”

“Do you just clap for no reason?” Mike shook his head. I can’t MAKE him clap. He has to be impressed by something.” He picked Cal up, swinging him onto his shoulder. “Come on,” he said. “So far Cal has done 100% of his clapping in the kitchen.”

“100%?”

Mike didn’t answer.

Jen followed Mike through the lounge and into the kitchen. Mike set Cal down on the counter, accidentally kicking the recycling bin as he did so. A few fruit flies danced into the air, swirling like dark dust motes.

“Well?” Jen said. “I haven’t got all day you know.”

“It won’t take long. I think.”

Jen put her hands on her hips. “How many times has he clapped?”

Mike looked sheepish now. “Once. Two days ago. I haven’t been able to get him to repeat it since. I’ve tried recreating the exact circumstances, creating new circumstances… anything. But I can’t seem to impress Cal anymore. See, the first time he clapped I had successfully flipped an omelette for the first time. But when I did it a second time, Cal didn’t think it was interesting anymore.”

The silence stretched between them. Everything Jen had wanted to say was burning within her: the condolences, the sympathy, even the reassurances that his ex-girlfriend was either heartbroken or doing just fine (she wasn’t quite sure which he wanted to hear). But when she looked at the monkey sitting on the counter, all the words dried up.

Mike kicked the recycling bin. “I’m an idiot, aren’t I?”

Cal clapped.

A single, purposeful clap.

He looked at Jen and Mike for a single moment of silence, then studied his hands.

“Did you SEE that?” Mike exclaimed with a woop. “I’m on to something, I told you! I’m on to something!”

Or maybe, Jen thought as she forced a smile and agreed, your monkey’s just killing fruit flies.

Cal lifted his head, looked straight at her, and clapped again.

SENTENCE TRAINS

“I love you,” he whispered.

She crossed her arms, staring in the opposite direction as if she could wish herself away. “You don’t know what you’re saying.”

Every seat in the train was taken, every available space filled. She stared out the door window, felt his warm breath against her neck. If only she’d gotten on a different carriage.

“Saying is one thing; feeling another.” Although he kept his voice low, every ear in the vicinity was tilted towards them.

She looked at him, then. His eyes were the same blue gray she remembered but they no longer made her breath catch. “Another man wouldn’t have let me walk away if he loved me so much.”

That brought out the side of him she knew best. His expression darkened, his lips hardening into a thin line. “Much has changed since you left me.”

Her voice rose. “Me, left you?”

“You were the one that walked away.” His voice was tinged with anger. She caught the eye of an eavesdropper but didn’t care who could hear them now. The train was slowing; soon she’d make her escape.

“Away from a man who cares only for the things he can’t have.”

His love had burned for her like a candle in a cross wind. As soon as she’d fallen for him the flame had gone out, and she had had to content herself with the ephemeral traces of his love, dissipating into the air like so much smoke.

The train rolled into the station. His ling fingers wrapped around her wrist, clammy skin against hers. He was desperate, she realised. Truly desperate, and so very alone.

“Have you forgotten everything we shared,” he whispered, “and all the fun we had?”

The train doors opened. She stepped off the train, jerked her wrist free. The gap where her body had been was a yawning emptiness beside him.

All she said was: “Had.” And then again, to ensure he’d understood: “Had.”

Sentence trains: where the last word of every line of dialogue is the first word in the following line.

The idea spawns from this amazing short story by MCM… and it’s a lot harder than it looks!

You’re hereby challenged to write your own sentence train story – please post a link in the comments!

GONE

It hit her, then.

When she was drunk she was happy in a way she never was when sober.

Even the smell of his embraces didn’t bother her anymore, and she would think: yes, I can make this marriage work.

But come morning the sound of his snores would drill into her skull like a woodpecker. Even his face would bother her; his slack jaw and the collection of shining spittle in the corner of his mouth instantly repulsive.

The pockmarks on his skin which had seemed so inconsequential at first were now gaping reminders of everything missing in their relationship. His receding hairline a reminder of her own age, of how little time she had to find another man and make things right.

She was lucky her husband was still handsome, her friends said, bemoaning the beer bellies and baldness and wrinkles. But they couldn’t see what she could.

The love was gone and it would never come back.

LONE WOLF

I make sure I don’t love them.

It’s hard to love prostitutes as it is; when you’re one in a long line of men paying for sex it hardly inspires devotion. But for the lonely soul, the temptation to fall in love is there. When you’ve lived as long as I have, it’s easy to see the beauty in people.

Take Antonia.

Petite, blonde. Skin so smooth you could roll a coin on it. She’s lounging on my hotel bed, legs crossed at the ankles, unlit cigarette dangling between her fingers.

I picked her not because she’s vain, stupid, or an intrinsic liar. (I’ve learnt that with enough exposure even these qualities can become loveable). I picked her because she chews loudly. After sex she always has chewing gum, and each loud, wet open-mouth chew is an offence to the senses.

It’s the small things that grate the most. Any multitude of sins can be forgiven, but the little bad habits stick.

Another loud chew. She blows a bubble and its pop shatters the silence of the hotel room. For a moment I hate her, and that’s safe.

“Another round?” she says, lazily. “Got an hour to kill.”

My body is tired but the wolf inside is eager. Three days to go until the next full moon.

She takes my silence as consent, spits out her chewing gum, and sits up next to me. Her hands run down my body but there are other things on her mind: her young daughter, the overdue bills, and her fear that she is getting too old and soon no one will book her anymore.

That last thought inspires a dangerous flash of sympathy. I push it – and her – away. For a moment instead of Antonia I see my wife, her skin rippling and transforming as the disease infects her.

“Not interested,” I say. It’s clear to both of us that my body disagrees.

I can sense Antonia’s dismay, her delicious vulnerabilities. We lock eyes and I realise a part of me has begun to care for her, open-mouthed chewing and all.

I get dressed. “You stay here. Have what you want from the bar.”

She lies back on the bed, shrugs. “See you next week.”

I’m already at the door, hand on the handle. I bow my head and want to tell her that she’ll never see me again, that I don’t hate her enough anymore, and that my love could turn her into a monster.

Instead I nod, and lie: “I’ll call you.”

I shut the door behind me before she can reply.

HEARTBEATS

The hard bed beneath me. The warmth of my clothes. The soft heaviness of the blanket. The sharp pain stretching from my hairline to my jaw.

This is all I am aware of.

I sleep. The next time I wake, my fingers flutter over the bandages covering my eyes. I feel the material whisper against my skin but cannot hear it.

I tap out the seconds against the blanket. After one hundred and eighty I lose interest. Time doesn’t matter when you’re not living.

Hours – days? – later, he comes.

It’s the first time I recognise the hands touching me. His hands are gentle, warm, but most of all, loving. He helps me sit up with none of that impersonal, brisk professionalism the other hands have had.

I reach out.

He captures my hand with his fingers, rests it against his soft, freshly shaven cheek. His smile curves against my palm.

For me? I want to ask, then I want to laugh because it’s a waste, I can’t see, and I’ll never again be able to.

Water fills my eyes. Wetness trickles down my cheeks, into my nose. A drop curves into the corner of my mouth. It tastes of nothing.

His knuckles smear away the tears. His warm breaths tickle my skin. His lips are dry against mine.

Our lips lock together like puzzle pieces that don’t quite fit. The feel is right but without his taste I could be kissing a stranger.

He kisses my cheek, murmurs words against my skin that make my follicles vibrate.

The sound isn’t there but the meaning remains. I love you.

I take his hand and place it against my chest.

I’m still here, I want to say.

I can only let my heart do the speaking.

* * *

To celebrate National Short Story Month, I’m running the Senseless Challenge throughout May. Each Friday is dedicated to a different sense – the challenge is to write a piece of flash fiction inspired by that sense. The final week is dedicated to touch.

BEST SERVED COLD

Beneath the decay, he tasted of guilt.

He tasted of stolen cigarettes and late night wine, of chocolate and indulgence. I kissed his mouth again and tasted the love we used to have, gone bitter in death.

The hollow of his chest – where I’d once laid my head – was salty with sweat. I savoured the flavour, couldn’t quite bring myself to recognise that this time would be the last.

Then I kissed his neck and tasted her. The sharp floral tang of another woman’s perfume. The sticky cherry of her lip gloss. I licked his skin again and knew that this sickly, sugary flavour was the taste of infidelity.

I stepped away from the bed and let my eyes do the tasting. His eyes were closed, his naked limbs relaxed, the bed sheets artfully scrunched beneath him. A spatter of blood circled his body like the most delicate of sauces.

She was tied up on the other side of the bed, curled like a shrimp, her sweet young flesh begging to be tasted. I’d gagged her with lemons and left her to marinate for hours.

I picked up my knife, started towards her. When she flinched, my mouth flooded with saliva.

Time for dessert.

* * *

To celebrate National Short Story Month, I’m running the Senseless Challenge throughout May. Each Friday is dedicated to a different sense – the challenge is to write a piece of flash fiction inspired by that sense. May 24th is dedicated to taste.

THE HUNTER

It smelled dark.

The air was sweet and cold, moonlight-sharp. The flowers had closed their blooms, their scent gone pale without sunlight.

The hunter slid through the shadows, head tilted, her tongue flickering in and out of her mouth. Great battles had robbed her of both eyes and riddled her fur with scars, but she – the last of her kind – remained the greatest killer of man.

The leaves beneath her paws were damp with decay, their cloying scent all-but masking the sweet earthiness of the insects wriggling in their midst.

She had bigger prey to catch.

There! A gust of stale breath on the air, the sour stench of sweat.

She stopped, lifted her head into the breeze to triangulate her quarry. The trail was faint but as she crept forwards it grew stronger.

Soon she was close. All but masked beneath the richness of deer excrement was the scent of man.

“How much longer do we have to wait?” a boy whispered in the darkness.

She couldn’t hear him, but his stale breath was enough.

“Patience,” a woman replied. Her breath was fainter, laced with mint.

The hunter breathed slowly, mapping the clearing.

“I’m scared, momma,” the boy whispered. “I want to go home.”

“The beast has found our home before. Do you want that to happen again?”

A pause. “No.” The boy barely exhaled as he spoke, and the hunter didn’t smell it.

“We’ll get it, son. We’ll make it pay for what it did.”

“It wouldn’t have done it if we hadn’t–”

The woman raised an arm, sending a wave of deer scent through the air, tinged with fear. The hunter froze.

“It’s coming,” the woman breathed.

The hunter padded through the trees, circling her prey, using the earthiness of tree moss to guide her.

Then, when the scents were right, she stopped. She gathered her legs beneath her, took one last deep sniff, and leaped.

Her jaws collided with a bundle of straw and cloth that smelled human but had none of the salty richness of blood beneath.

The sweet pile of damp leaves that should have softened her fall crumbled beneath her. She fell deep into the earth, past the sweet worms and the musty soil. Upon impact, the scent of blood and fear overtook everything else.

Far above, tainting the fresh air, was the woman. She stood at the edge of the pit, reeking with satisfaction.

“I told you she’d come back for her eyes.”

* * *

To celebrate National Short Story Month, I’m running the Senseless Challenge throughout May. Each Friday is dedicated to a different sense – the challenge is to write a piece of flash fiction inspired by that sense. The third week was dedicated to smell.

WAR ON NOISE

The crackle of gunfire has long since lost its meaning.

The sound now makes the soldier think of other things. Of popcorn and late night cinemas. Of the bubble wrap in Amazon packages. Fire crackers popping on New Year’s Eve. How his girlfriend cracks her knuckles. (Ex-girlfriend? Her last letter hadn’t started with Dear John but the message had been the same.)

But he is far from home and the memories of his childhood sounds are fading. Soon the sounds of war will be all he has left.

The soldier stretches his neck, rolls his shoulders. Every joint pops. His heartbeat throbs in his eardrums, a personal timepiece.

Da-dum. Da-dum. Da-dum.

The ditch he’s lying in amplifies his fellow soldiers. The new guy sniffling at seven second intervals. The fidgeter who toys with the safety on his gun. Their collective shallow breaths. It’s hide-and-seek all over again, that loud waiting silence he remembers from lazy summer days.

He cannot hear their heartbeats but he knows they’re all the same.

Da-dum. Da-dum. Da-dum.

Today marks his ninth month at war.

(Nine months: a gestation of trauma. If this is what it’s like being in the womb no one should have children.)

Nine months of screams, explosions, the snip-snip of the doctor’s scissors. Nine months of his friends’ heavy, shuddering last breaths. He hasn’t been able to make that sound lose its meaning; nothing in his memories compares.

He’s the last one left.

Da-dum. Da-dum. Da-dum.

In all this war has come to have its own symphony for him.

The percussion of footsteps. The xylophone of zips. The tinkle of loose buckles. The deep bass of rolling tanks. If he closes his eyes, he can almost remember the quiet creak of his dad’s rocking chair as classical music rumbles from the record player.

But he cannot remember the sound of a woman’s voice. Of her voice. No matter how many times he rereads that last letter, the only voice he hears is his own.

“GO GO GO!”

He obeys without thinking, leaping out of the ditch and towards the enemy line.

The roar of adrenaline consumes him. For a blissful moment he finally hears her calling his name.

Then the thunder of an ear-bleeding explosion, rippling through the air. A high-pitched hum dizzies him. The ground rushes upwards.

Then silence.

* * *

To celebrate National Short Story Month, I’m running the Senseless Challenge throughout May. Each Friday is dedicated to a different sense – the challenge is to write a story inspired by that sense. The second week is dedicated to sound.

CITY OF GHOSTS

From a distance it looks like he’s yawning.

The road where the man is kneeling is blocked with abandoned cars. From my vantage point on the second floor of a Cafe Nero’s all I can see is his profile, his open mouth and dark hair, the lurid green of his coat.

The yawn has lasted too long. I squint and realise it’s a scream.

I break off a nail-sized bite of bread from the last sandwich I have left and squeeze it paper-thin. I place it in my mouth, then take a glass of water and tilt it against my lips until it is empty. I rub my throat, hoping the bread goes down the right way.

I glance outside. The man is still kneeling in the road.

It’s been weeks since I’ve seen another person. Curiosity gets the better of me.

Going down stairs isn’t easy. I crane my neck to watch my feet, place my hand on the handrail. The sight of it reassures me. My hand still looks young, strong. Still looks like my hand, although it’s long since stopped feeling.

I walk across the ground floor of the coffee shop and lean against the front door until it opens. The man is still kneeling in the middle of the road, his head bowed, defeated. It’s a grey summer’s day and the sky is heavy with rain clouds, but the air in London has never been clearer. There’s no one left to pollute anymore.

The wind pushes my hair into my eyes as I zigzag through the abandoned cars. Most of them still have keys in their ignition, doors left ajar. London has become a city of forgotten things. We are all ghosts, fading slowly away.

The man has already lost his hearing. He doesn’t notice when my hand knocks against a car door even though my knuckles are now bleeding – it must have made a sound.

I walk closer, until he notices me and freezes, his shoulders tensed, nostrils quivering.

For a moment we stand there, staring at each other.

When he mouths words at me but they’re impossible to read. Another language.

There’s a pair of car keys by his feet but he cannot curl his fingers around them. He straightens, slowly. His hands hang uselessly by his sides, forgotten, like plants left out in the sun. Tears trail down his cheeks as he lifts an arm towards me.

It’s just your hands, I want to say. Wait until your feet go. You’ll have to learn to walk all over again.

* * *

To celebrate National Short Story Month, I’m running the Senseless Challenge throughout May. Each Friday is dedicated to a different sense – the challenge is to write a piece of flash fiction inspired by that sense.
This first week is dedicated to sight. I had a hard time resisting the temptation to describe temperature (hot, cold, etc).