Tag Archives: authors

A Brief Comment on Book Reviews

While most self-respecting authors refuse to admit how much they enjoy reading customer reviews on Amazon, I don’t mind telling the truth: everyone does it and everyone enjoys it. Let’s be real here, it feels good to see what people say about our writing. I find it thrilling whenever a reader really gets what I’m saying. Earlier today I checked out my Amazon page for But the Angels Never Came, and I found a new review that really got it. In my excitement, I wrote this blog post and then pasted the review below. Check it out:blur-old-antique-book-medium


But the Angels Never Came, by Eric James Olson, is a multi-layered tale that takes the Bible story of Abraham being asked to sacrifice his son, and sets it – with some significant changes, in two time periods in the future.

It’s important to read the introduction, which is part of the story. It explains that this is a 400-year old manuscript from the late 21st century, written between 2070 and 2117. It was also banned. Like many a scholarly presentation of an ancient manuscript, this one is annotated, with notes appearing in brackets at various points in the story. My favorite note explains that all errors of wording, spelling, and punctuation have been retained in the annotated version as part of the editor’s quest for verisimilitude.

It’s also important to be familiar with the Bible story, since the author uses elements of it all the way through the book. According to the story (Genesis 22: 1 – 19), God asks Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Isaac (though many Muslims assume it is Ishmael). Abraham agrees, though he loves his son, preparing the altar and tying his son on top of the wood. When he takes out his knife to kill Isaac, an angel stops him and tells him to sacrifice a ram instead. It’s a puzzling story usually interpreted as a test of Abraham’s faith. The crux of this book, as the title explains, is what would happen if the angel didn’t show up.

The main story features a group of survivors escaping the post-Apocalyptic anarchy of the city and trying to reach the relative safety of Church Peak.

The inner story, told by a man originally identified as the Storyteller, concerns the flight of Abraham, his wife, Sarah, and their son. The more you know about the book of Genesis, the more you’ll enjoy the many references.

The Storyteller uses elevated diction typical of the Bible: “Thou shalt not steal. Would you be as Adam Lot? Would you sacrifice your life for the theft of another’s morsel?”

Sarah, though, uses very casual language and seems to be the only who sees people as they really are.

The Storyteller has a recurring vision, where he is a younger man standing on a field of grass. He sees a ram with the face of a boy. “The dagger found its place,” the boy said in the voice of a ram. But the second. The second can be prevented. Abraham,” the boy-ram said, “Do this and you are absolved of your sin.”

At the center of the story, the two stories overlap. Both groups are headed to Church Peak, and talk of faith and sacrifice abounds.
The ending is powerfully fierce.

This book is a treat – a layered, engaging read that never loses its intensity. Highly recommended.


And that’s it. Thanks for reading. And if you’d like to read it, click the title: But the Angels Never Came


Writing with Style 5: Writing Discomfort

While its easy enough to simply say a character feels uncomfortable, I find that showing the discomfort goes  a long way in making that discomfort feel real. First, it’s important to identify a “symptom” of the characters discomfort. This could be anything as long as its repeated throughout the event you are writing. It could be a look, sweat pouring from the character’s forehead, cottonmouth, or anything else your imagination can contrive. despair-513529__180The trick is repetition. In the excerpt below, you’ll see my approach to showing discomfort in a new coming of age novel I’m working on. Like everyone else who writes bildungsroman, I’m trying to write the next Catcher in the Rye. I’ve bolded the repeated “symptom” so you can easily see what I’m talking about. Check it out:


from Untitled

“Jordan!” she said with a gasp and her hand over her chest. “I double checked my calendar twice. I was so worried. I—I thought you must’ve been in an accident or—I didn’t know what to think—I—”

“It’s fine, Grandma,” I said as I hugged her. She smelled like old-lady perfume and incontinence. “There was a bad traffic jam and I was sitting in it for over an hour. Must’ve been a ten car pile-up. I saw two ambulances coming back the other way before it all cleared up. Looked pretty bad.”

She gasped again. “That’s horrible.”

I felt a little bad because she didn’t think to question me, but what was I going to say? “Hey grandma, I’m late because I slept off a hangover, got in a fight, popped some painkillers, did a line of coke, had some sex with a girl I’m not dating, and then hung out by myself at the skatepark as I came down from the drugs.” Obviously, I couldn’t say that and if I did, it would break her tiny old lady heart. It’s the same with mom. You have to lie to them for their own good. They don’t want the truth. They just want to hear that you’re doing well and you’re happy and they don’t need to worry about you. That’s all they want.

After that my visit with grandma was uneventful. We watched the TV and drank tea and played cards at her little kitchen table. We didn’t talk at all while we played gin rummy and I couldn’t help but focus on her tiny ashen hands, so white I could see the green and blue of her veins. A fine mist from a humidifier sprayed into the air behind her and the room was so hot I stripped down to my white undershirt.

I still felt the hangover from the night before, and the smell of old person caused sweat to bead-up on my forehead. After the final hand grandma looked up at me and leaned back in her chair.

“You’re mother says you’re doing well in school. All A’s?”

“Yea,” I said and I wasn’t lying. I had straight A’s since freshman year.

“And you’re applying to colleges this summer?”

My palms were sweating now and I was glad we were finished with the cards. “Yea. We made visits last year. And mom wants me to apply to five schools.”

Grandma nodded her head and smiled. She was pleased. “No one from our family ever went to college. I wanted to go but there wasn’t enough money. Your mother is so lucky to have met your father. Without him, you would have grown up like everyone else in the family. You’re a lucky boy.”

I felt like I’d puke right there and my eyes started doing this thing where the bright light made them twitch. Sweat stung my eyes, and I couldn’t look at her anymore. Every time I looked at her the light in the room pulsated around her head.

“We’re all so proud of you,” she said.

I couldn’t take it anymore. “Well,” I said. “I have to get going. I’m meeting up with a friend tonight. We’re studying for a test in physics.”

“Ok,” she said. “Is it with that friend I met last summer? What was her name? Hm. Miranda?”

“Yea,” I said quickly. Grandma must’ve forgot I go to an all-boys school.

“She was such a nice girl. So polite. And pretty. That’s the type of girl you hold on to and never let go.”

“I better not be late then,” I said. And as I stood up and grabbed my shirt from the back of the chair, I started to feel good again. I hugged grandma in spite of the old-lady perfume and incontinence. “I’ll see you next month.”

An Update of Sorts

Hi folks,

It’s been a while since I’ve posted an update, so to please my millions and millions of dedicated, hard-core fans, I’ve decided to sit down for a moment and share what I’ve been working on.

Number 1: I don’t actually have millions of fans. And, just to update everyone, I’ve made no recent attempts at acquiring these millions. Lots of writers do that B.S. but this one doesn’t have time for all that.

Number 2: I just said number 2. So yes, I still find poop jokes funny.thSHW7SCEH

Number 3: I’m still posting Writing as Art and plan on going through the back log of submissions. I’d like to post all of them. But, as per usual, I won’t do this as a weekly sort of thing because I still hate tying myself down with self-imposed deadlines.

Number 4: I’m still looking for representation on a novel I finished a year ago. But I’m not doing this actively. So, in other words, for those of you who know how the biz works, I’m not actually doing it at all.

Number 5: I’m still ghostwriting books for other authors and my email is always open to anyone who’d like help with a book.

Number 6: The last point sounded too serious. And, to stay true to my nature, I still make jokes in serious situations. Poop.

Number 7: I’m editing my self-published series, Whom Cain Slew, with the addition of the final book to be self-published as a compendium style book thing, a Super Book, if you will.

Number 8: As the careful reader may have noticed from the previous bullet point, I still use unnecessarily complex sentence structure whenever the mood strikes me. This includes run-on sentences that aren’t punctuated correctly and seem to go on and on without making sense also without making a point and furthermore blah blah blah blah

Number 10: I still skip the number 9

Number 11: I’m still annoyed by update posts. If you couldn’t tell,  I have a hard time taking this sort of thing seriously.

Number 12: I still use a computer as my primary method for writing. From time to time, I’ve been known to write on a piece of paper or a block of wood. When I was a child in school, there were many times when I wrote on my arm or hand.

Number 13: I’m working on a new bildungsroman. For those of you who don’t speak German, I’ll translate: coming-of-age novel. I’m enjoying this one and I’ll be sure to post excerpts as I write it.


I think that’s all. Update over.

Writing as Art 2.0: The Rython Kingdom

Writing as Art digs deeply into the literary, structural, and poetic devices that make writing an art form. Well, its supposed to at least. The excerpts and short fiction presented are chosen from a list of submissions sent by authors around the world. But that doesn’t mean the excerpts are artistic or even well-written. You see, when I first started posting these excerpts, I provided running commentary  demonstrating the authors artistic th (12)choices. I don’t do that anymore because my readers thought it was weird and hard to follow. So instead, I just post the excerpts that are sent to me and let my readers decide. Some are good. Some aren’t. Either way, let me know what you think in the comment section below the excerpt. Don’t feel like you need to hold any punches. Bash it or praise it; either way, I’m not bothered and will keep my responses technical.

For this week, we have an excerpt from Mandy Eve-Barnett’s novel The Rython Kingdom. Check it out and let me know if you see it as cleverly composed art or just a bunch of the same old regurgitated crap. Here it is:


from The Rython Kingdom

A wizened old lady shuffled her way towards them aided by a striking looking woman, who took Guillem’s breath away. Her beauty stunned him into silence.

“Is this he?”

“This indeed is the troubadour I told you about, Elviva.”

“The tale you tell, is it of your own making?”

“I…well it is in some manner…the tale came to me in a dream.”

The old woman grasped Guillem’s hand, her flesh thin, akin to paper.

“As I suspected she has bewitched you storyteller. The tale you tell is of her design for some dark purpose. Tell me are you near story’s end?”

“My narrative will conclude this very evening.”

“Are there incantations within?”

“Yes, words I shall not speak as they burn in my mind. I dare not voice them.”

“I shall need parchment and quill, majesty.”

“Take what you require, Elviva, there is plenty at your disposal here.”

The old woman beckoned her granddaughter closer and whispered into her ear. Guillem watched the young woman divide the parchment into six pieces and dip the quill into ink.

“You will recite the first two lines of the incantation to me while Juliana notes them.”

“But… will we not incur the wrath of Malgraf?”

“It is only when the words are spoken in their rightful order do they release their power. Follow my instructions precisely and the evil shall be contained.”

Guillem relayed the words in the order, Elviva directed while Juliana wrote them on separate pieces of parchment.

“Careful not to let the edges touch or to read the words together, my child.”

“As you say, Eldenma.”

At the strange endearment, Guillem looked up at Juliana. Their eyes locked and he experienced a yearning never before felt. Such dark eyes… seemingly fathomless.

“No time, story teller for other matters, let us continue.”

The old woman’s husky voice broke into his trance. How could this maiden entrance him so – had he not had his fill of willing maidens?

“The last lines will be spoken separately and noted the same.”

Juliana moved the last piece of parchment to the opposite end of the table and then stood at her grandmother’s side.

“Your majesty, there is a part of this ritual that requires you play a part.”

“Elviva, I am willing to assist if it means destroying the sorceress. What will you have me do?”

“Blood must be spilt…”

“Blood, come now, is this necessary?”

“Quite necessary, sire, for without it the papers will assemble releasing the words then no amount of fighting will conquer the pure evil contained therein.”

“We must be guided by Elviva, Guillem; I have every reason to trust her.”

“Your majesty, I shall be guided by your example.”

Elviva unsheathed a small dagger that caught the firelight on its blade. With a deft movement, she pierced her palm and let blood drop onto one part of the transcript. Juliana held out her hand and did not flinch when the blade cut, even though Guillem did. Not wanting to be diminished in the maiden’s eyes Guillem held out his palm. The dagger sliced, beads of blood seeped onto another page. Then Elviva faced the king who nodded his ascent. His hand was steady as the soothsayer punctured it with the blade’s tip. Each of the six sections were smeared with blood and cast into the fire. As the parchment burnt, flames of intense purple flared, all the while Elviva chanted under her breath.

“I shall fashion new words for you to speak, tale teller, which will reveal those shielded by magic. His majesty has made provision for extra guards within the great hall, I do believe.”

“Indeed, Elviva, some disguised as servants and others as courtiers concealing our true number to tackle any opposition.”

“More parchment, Juliana.”

Guillem watched as Juliana gently placed more parchment before her elderly companion and then dipped the quill into the ink. The insertion of the quill had his thoughts on delights he could enjoy with this enticing maid. The quill tip scratched across the dry paper. Elviva’s hand shook making the letters spidery in form.

“Read what I have written, Guillem, but do not voice it. If you are unsure of a word please point it out to me.”

Guillem took the offered paper and read the text. The scribble before him took some time to decipher but he did manage to read every line. He nodded his understanding to Elviva.

“My part is done, your highness. If I may take my leave, this work leaves me undone.”

“You have been of great service this night, Elviva; I have made arrangements for you to stay within the castle tonight.”


And that’s it. If you liked Eve-Barnett’s writing, check out this link to her book on Amazon: LINK TO AMAZON


I Know why They’ll Vote for Trump

While the media has sought explanation after explanation for Donald Trump’s success in the polls, I think I finally have it figured out. The following short story is based off an experience I had a few weeks ago. It’s another example of fictionalizing an every day experience. In this story, I take some ordinary men talking about an upcoming election for a home owners association and compare it to the upcoming Republican primary election. th (14)This is written as an allegory, but the only hints are in the title and the final sentence. Here it is:


I Know why They’ll Vote for Trump

So I walked back down the gravel road and saw Ned McCumbee and Skip Wright standing beside the old white Camaro parked at the end of the driveway. Caked in dust, the car faced out towards the road and didn’t seem to mind McCumbee’s weight, all three-hundred pounds of it, sitting heavily on its hood.

I had passed the men on the way out to pay Miss Evelyn Thompson a visit. She was an older lady and a tree threatened to smash the roof of her house. She had called from her house-telephone and I could tell because the number didn’t match the one she had given me the week before. “Could you come take a look at it?” she had asked.

Well, that tree was in need of a professional. “Sorry, miss,” I had said, “But I can’t take it down. You’ll need a professional for that. I got the name of a guy. It won’t cost you much. I’ll call him for—”

But she interrupted me and asked for his phone number. “No, I’ll call. Don’t you worry. I’ll call.”

But she wouldn’t call. I knew right then and there. She wouldn’t call and later that summer the tree would come down on its own.

Anyway, I was on way back from speaking with Miss Evelyn when Skip Wright noticed me from his place standing across from the white Camaro. He waved his big hand with his long noodle of an arm. I had managed to pass by unnoticed on my way up, but they noticed me this time. Maybe they’d been talking about me after I passed them earlier.

“It’s been awhile,” I said nodding my head towards Skip. “Heard you’ve been out of town. Didn’t hear what for.”

Skip sucked his lips into his mouth. th (13)He only had one or two teeth, so whenever he spoke, his lips went in and out of his mouth slackly. It seemed as if he were chewing on them, but he had nothing to chew with. “Yep. Been back down in Georgia. Yep. Went down not a month ago. For my son’s surgery. Yep. Wife’s still down there. Emergency surgery. Had to take out nearly half his colon. But he’s ok now. Tough goin’ for him. But he’s ok.”

“I’m sorry to hear—” I began but he kept saying what he was saying without noticing me.

“But I figured I’d come up here and check out the place,” he said rocking back on his heels. His noodles for arms were behind his back and his lips sucked all the way in his mouth. “Make sure it ain’t been robbed. Figured I’d come back for the meeting too. Heard there’s a meeting this weekend. Ned told me so.”

From the corner of my eye, I could see Ned McCumbee who sat with his arms crossed on the hood of the white Camaro nodding his head.

“I’m glad you’ll make it out,” I said. “We’re having a vote on officers and—”

“Yea, I heard all about it,” Skip interrupted sucking in his lips. “What officer are you?” he asked. “I know George was president, but he’s out now for stealin’. And I was thinkin’ that we don’t have no president.”

He stared expectantly. I must’ve bit my lip and I know I looked away. “Yea,” I said. “Well I’m the acting president. Last meeting they voted for me as vice-president. But—”

“Well, if there ain’t no president, I think I should be president. I figure—why not? I can do it.”

“Well,” I began and couldn’t help but smile. I looked down at Ned McCumbee and he was still sitting on the white Camaro. “There’s a lot that goes into the position. It’s a lot of work and a lot of know-how.”

“I can do it,” he repeated. “I’m gonna turn this place around. I’m gonna do it for the people. That’s what I’m good for. I’m good for the people.”

“Well,” I said. “We’ve done a lot already—since George resigned. We’ve…” and then I listed all the things I fixed as the acting president for the association. “Now there’s three spots open for officers. And I need people who’ll do the work. The big thing is communication. We made a website and we’d like to start handling things through email and—”

“Oh I don’t have email,” Skip said. “Nope. Don’t have a cell phone neither. That’s how they get you. Learned that from when I was with Hell’s Angels. Nope. Don’t do nothing with a phone and nothing with a computer. I don’t even like talking on the phone…”

Then for several minutes Skip spoke about his distrust of the government and his trust in conspiracy theories and his favorite conspiracy shows. While he spoke, I half listened and waited for a moment to interrupt. For a brief moment he stopped and sucked in his lips. He rocked back on his heels.

“Yea,” I said. “Well, most of what we do for the HOA is on the internet. The papers we file are all electronic. We talk through email, so—”

“Yep,” he interrupted. “And I think I’d be good for president. Ned here thinks I’d be good and everyone else thinks so too. It’s ‘cause I’m here for the people and we need something different. With George trying to steal our money, we need a change. George couldn’t do a damn thing right. But I’ll know what to do to get this place back in shape. I’ll know what to do.”

I didn’t try a response. “Alright,” I said. “I’ve got to get going. See you two at the meeting.” But this is what I wanted to say: “It’s a job for a professional. It’s a job for someone who understands how the association works. Sure, confidence is great. Sure, it’s fun to make gossip and baseless accusations. Sure, it sounds good to say that you’ll ‘do it for the people.’ But the real world takes special knowledge and special expertise.” I didn’t say this, of course. Neither would have understood. When the vote comes up in the meeting, a few folks might cast their ballots for Skip Wright. It’ll be the same few folks who’ll vote for Trump.

It Leans

Hi folks,

It’s been awhile since I’ve last posted. I’ve been flooded with writing jobs lately, I’m revising one of my own books, and I’ve been sending out short fiction to journals, magazines, contests etc. etc. etc. So what I’m trying to say is this: sorry I’ve been silent here on the old blog.

Tonight I break my silence. The inspiration for the following fictional piece comes from a scrap of particle board I saw leaning against a road sign in my neighborhood. I picked the board up and snuck it into my trash a few weeks ago. For some reason, I’m not sure  what, I started thinking about that board as I was driving home yesterday. So as an exercise in creating symbolism, I wrote this:


It Leans

The board sits there leaning on the sign at the corner of Turkey Trot Lane and Red Fox Drive. A month or two ago it had appeared in that spot. The top of the board is jagged. There’s a screw sticking out of the bottom corner. thQ738M5EN

A month ago it looked old. “From a dresser?” a friend asked as I took the corner driving up Turkey Trot Lane. “Or a table,” I said.

It still looks old. But now it’s weathered and grey too. Maybe it’s been longer than a month or two. But I can’t remember when I first saw it.

Other cars pass the board. I watched a car pass it a day ago when I was walking up the hill. And cars driving in front of me—they pass it too.

Maybe the driver was thinking, the one driving in front of me yesterday, hey, someone should pick that up. Why doesn’t anyone pick that up? That never would’ve happened years ago. People leaving trash out on the road. No respect.

But he didn’t slow down. He didn’t stop.

Or maybe he didn’t see it at all. That’s more likely. He didn’t see it. Maybe he saw it a month or two ago when the board first showed up. But he doesn’t see it now. And, if I’m being honest, I don’t see it most days either. Today it caught my eye, but most days—

Anyway, I know I should pick it up. Some days, when I see it, I think to myself, just stop and pick it up. Put it in the dumpster. It’ll take a second—that’s it. It’ll only take a second. But then I take the turn up Turkey Trot and the board is gone. It’ll be there tomorrow, I think. Someone’ll get it.

So here I am today about to take the turn on Turkey Trot Lane. The board is there leaning against the sign. It leans there and I can’t help but make comparisons. It leans there like the dentist appointment I need to make. It leans there like some sad kid whose dad won’t come to see his baseball game. th10V2VGTBIt leans there like global warming or carbon emissions. Maybe it leans it there like that extra ten or twenty pounds we all wear on our gut. Or maybe—I could go on and on but I think that’s enough.

As I approach the turn I slow down. I notice the board leaning against the sign. I take the turn. It’ll be there tomorrow. Someone’ll get it.


Fictionalize it!: Part 2

Welcome back to my three-part series on fictionalizing every day experiences. Last week I wrote a short memoir-like story from an event that actually happened to me (more or less). If you haven’t read it, click this link: LINK. This week, I’ve taken that story and transformed it into a completely different genre with characters, a slightly different conflict, but the same basic theme. I also maintained a few of the objects and images. I chose to write this as a contemporary romance–the type where a thirty-something lady finds a new man but is still troubled by the death of her late husband. I always get a kick out of writing romance because its so easy, andth0H9BO0OV so painfully overwritten.  Check out the transformation:


The Keychain

“What the—”

Bella’s lips quivered as she stepped out into the moonlight to find his gaunt figure casting shadows—moon-shadows across the marble terrace.

“William…” She mumbled the words, and the words tumbled and tumbled across the terrace falling flat without ever reaching his deaf ears.

Emanations of pulsing pain reverberated out into the moonlight and she traced the origin of each pulsation to the core of his damaged being. “Will…” She began again as she looked down at her weathered white dress, but couldn’t say the rest of his name.

She took another step towards him. “I loved him too much,” she repeated. That was what she had said inside. That’s why he came out here.

“Just go inside,” he said. And after he spoke, after she heard his voice she couldn’t stay away. Not now. She ran to him and her hand found the pocket of his suit.

“That hand is not a hand,” he said as he routed it out of his suit pocket. “It’s rot. A growth. And if I let it stay, the disease of your hand will infect my thigh, and then—”

She reached in the pocket again and found his keys. That was what she had searched for the first time.

“Remember this?” she asked hysterical with tears forming in both eyes. “Remember?”

She held the keychain-picture of his partner in her hand. “Remember?”

The partner died, shot in chest years ago.

“I loved him too much,” she repeated. “That’s why.”

And there were tears in his eyes too. She wanted to touch his eyes. She wanted to know that the tears were real.

“Let’s put it back to how it was,” she said. “He’s gone. But we can put it back to how it was.”

She felt his heart beat against her hand, his hands still limp at his sides. “He’s a memory now. A memory.” And memories can’t be cared for—not with hands.


Fictionalize It!: Part 1

Howdy folks and folkettes,

This week I’m starting a three part series on fictionalizing every day experiences. Why? Well, because that’s what writers do and I think ya’ll might benefit from seeing how I take a real event or story and transform it into fiction. Let’s face it: fiction writers take their own experiences or experiences from others and turn them into stories. These things don’t come out of thin air.

So, to start it off, I’ve written a literary version of one of my own experiences, sticking to the actual event and experience as truthfully as possible. Next week, I’ll look back at the “real” version of the story and rewrite it by changing the setting, characters, narrator, plot structure, and genre. And then finally, I’ll invite you folks to submit your own fictionalized version of the story. So, here it is, the “real” version of the story.



“What the—”

I looked past the railing of the back deck to the little rock oak in the woods. On the ground beside the tree, I saw the weathered white of the birdfeeder. Dropping my kindle on the table next to the chair I got up, passed through the gate at the top of the stairs, walked through burned-up grass past the ugly hill of dirt and weeds and rock still there from when the yard was graded.20150809_190542_resized

“Too much damn seed,” I said out loud. Yea that’s right. I talk to myself when I’m alone. Who doesn’t?

I picked up the birdfeeder and thought of that time a year ago when the face board of the front porch rotted out because the bird seed fell in the crack between—well, the crack between the face board and the board behind it. I don’t know what that one’s called. Who cares.

“We’ll need to find a new place for it,” I had said to my wife. I swore and talked to myself as I routed out the rotten wood and filled it with epoxy.

“It’ll be better out there in the woods,” I had said when I came in from patching the hole. “I’ll attach one of those—what do you call ‘em, little arm things right to that tree.” I pointed through bathroom window.

“We won’t be able to see it then,” she had said.

I shook my head. “You’ll see it fine from the back deck. Unobstructed view. I’ll screw it right to the tree.”

And that’s what I did.

A year later I squatted beside the feeder next to the tree. I took off the top and dumped some seed on the ground. I hung it back up on the arm-thingy attached to the tree and walked back up to the back deck to my chair and my book.

An hour or so passed. My wife walked out and my daughter was napping. “Hey,” she said. “Hey. Look at him!”

She pointed towards the feeder. It was some yellow and black bird. I don’t know the name. But I wasn’t thinking of the name either. I thought of the screw in the tree and how some folks say it’s harmful. I thought of the wood rotting out on the front porch. I thought of all the destruction we cause in caring for things that don’t notice us. I looked up towards my smiling wife noticing the bird on the feeder. I looked back over at the bird.

It isn’t the bird, after all, that I’m caring for.


And that’s my story. Check me out next week for the rewrite.

Bad Writing Advice

We’ve all received bad writing advice at some point or another. Usually, the advice starts with one of the following: “always do this” or “never do that.” I actually work with someone who tells her students that they should “never use the word ‘that'”. Anyone who has followed this blog for a while knows THAT I don’t believe in limiting our choices when it comes to expression. I think it’s best to know how and why certain words, literary techniques, literary devices, etc. are used so that we CAN use them when it’s appropriate or when it serves our artistic purposes. untitled (5)So, to help battle against all the bad advice out there, I’ve made a list of literary “TRUTHS” that aren’t actually–well, true. Here’s the list of bad advice:

  • Never use personal pronouns when you can use a characters name
  • Don’t end a sentence with the word “it”
  • Never use digression
  • Never use flashback
  • Every character should be well-developed
  • Never place a comma after a prepositional phrase when it begins a sentence and is under 5 words
  • Never use an oxford comma
  • Always use an oxford comma
  • Always use the word “and” before the last item in a list
  • Never use sentence fragments
  • Never use dialect
  • Spell everything “correctly”
  • Don’t use a “hard” period
  • Don’t write in short sentences
  • Don’t write in long sentences
  • Don’t ever use flowery language
  • Avoid using plain or simple language
  • Don’t be repetitive
  • Always describe your settings in detail, so the reader can see what it looks like
  • Don’t ever bore your reader by describing the setting. Let them picture it for themselves
  • Always attribute your dialogue so the reader knows who is speaking
  • And most importantly, don’t ever use the word “that”

Well, I hope this list is helpful, and the next time you hear someone sharing one of these literary truisims, don’t be afraid to question them: “Why can’t I do ‘THAT'”



Flash Fiction Contests

Recently I was invited to submit something for a flash fiction contest. No, it wasn’t a personal invitation, I doubt that I’m that important. It was one of those spam type invitations that get sent out to thousands. Normally I wouldn’t submit anything, but with little to do this morning as my daughter played a game on her mother’s ipad, I decided to write something.

The genre is fantasy. So I decided to parody it all subtle-like, incorporating the lyrics of a Grateful Dead song. The prompt starts it off and I put the prompt in italics. The rest of the words are my own. Enjoy.


Deer People

She noticed a hint of movement beneath the starlit trees. But, that was nothing compared to the trail of blood that led out of them. And there were seven bodies left behind. He was afraid to move. The knife might come out of his stomach. Fortunately, the song he was humming provided the power to keep him alive. Then moonlight glinted on antlers in the trees.

Henry staggered, knife in hand, blood dripping through cracks between fingers.

“…Look out of any window,

Any morning, any evening, any day…”

Still singing. “Stop singing that damn song!” She screamed. “Stop it! I said stop it!”

“…You’ll find the sun is shining,

Birds are winging,

No rain is falling through a heavy sky…”

She took another step back. “You made me do it! You did! You made me do it!”

Henry fell, his face smashing into a sapling, bending the tree, denting his cheek. From the ground he sang:

“…What do you want me to do.

To do for you. To see you through?…”

And behind him she saw Elroy, of the deer people. And the antlers danced in the moonlight, the bodies obscured in shadow. Bloodthirsty eyes burned red.

Henry stood up, still holding his stomach in. “I’m fuckin…,” he said. That wasn’t part of the song. He staggered. “You…” He couldn’t say “killed us.” He spat blood.

But behind him the deer people danced on—she saw them dance on. She could see them. They were real. She knew they were real. “They’re real,” she repeated. She had been saying it but didn’t hear herself. “They’re real. They’re real.”

Henry fell again. On the ground he sang:

“…For this is all a dream we dreamed

one afternoon, long ago…”

“It’s not a dream! Not a dream. Don’t say that. Don’t say that!” But Henry wasn’t saying anything. He was only singing the song to stay alive, to keep thinking, to keep moving.

The deer people, they stopped dancing—she saw that they stopped dancing. And the red fires of eyes turned inward, towards the clearing, menacing, hungry.

“Why didn’t you drink the punch!” she screeched. “It happens quietly when you drink the punch! Like the others. You made me do it! You made it hurt!”

Henry didn’t get up. He stayed on his back and tilted his head towards the woods behind him, the last thing he would ever see. But there was only darkness behind him. Shadows of trees and nothing else.

She took a step towards him and could see the deer people closing in—she could see them, Elroy in front with his Great Claw Hammer.

“No, I’ll do it!” But she wasn’t screaming at Henry anymore. “I’ll do it. I’ll finish it.”

Henry didn’t hear her anymore. He heard the singing of his voice.

“…Just a box of rain, Wind and water, Believe it if you need it, If you don’t just pass it on Sun and shower, Wind and rain, In and out the window Like a moth before a flame…”

Henry felt something. Her. The knife slid out. He groaned.

“A sacrifice to Elroy and the deer people.”

When she looked up, knife in hand, raised above Henry’s throat, she saw them, and knew they were there, eyes blazing, antlers nodding up and down, white teeth shining in the moonlight.

Henry saw nothing behind him. Deer people aren’t real.


It would be hilarious if I actually won. The story makes no sense at all. It’s also funny that I’ll probably get an unusual amount of hits for this post because I titled it “Flash Fiction Contests”. Sorry, I’m not offering a flash fiction contest. I have nothing to offer. But I doubt very many people looking for a flash fiction contest actually read this far anyway. Thanks for reading!

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