Tag Archives: humor

Bath Salts

Lately, I’ve been submitting flash fiction and short stories to small press literary magazines, “lit mags,” for those in the biz. I’ve dusted off and re-edited some old stuff and I’ve written some new stuff. While I think most of it is pretty good, there are a few pieces that are too short for longer flash-fiction journals and too long for short flash-fiction journals. pexels-photo-113776-medium-jpegThey’re over 150 words but shorter than 300. I’m sure that sounds confusing but the point is this: I have a bunch of little pieces for putting out here on the blog.

I wrote the following short story as a writing exercise during my summer residency in Lisbon, Portugal. Enjoy!


Bath Salts


“Cocaine?” he asks.



“Get outa here,” I say waving my hand brushing past the street dealer, pick pocket, young man in a white t-shirt with a sleeve rolled up and his hair pasted to his head. Not from hair gel. From a week in the street without a shower in the hot Portuguese sun.

He follows me.

“Cocaine?” he asks again and I turn around.

“No,” I say. “Bath salts.”

“Wha? Yeah. It’s good. You want cocaine?”

“No. Bath salts. I have bath salts. You want bath salts. I’ll sell them to you.”

“No, hashish?”

“Or crystal meth. I got meth. You want meth?”

He stares at me, his eyebrows knitted and a half smile. Standing beside him, another dealer stops another man. food-kitchen-cooking-spices-mediumOn both sides of the street, young people stand in front of bars, pubs, convenience stores with plastic cups in hand, talking loudly or standing in circles, sitting at little café tables or walking back in for another drink.

There’s someone else to stop, hundreds and thousands of someone else’s to stop and they, not all of them but some of them, are passing by as I ask him again.

“Come on man, I got bath salts, crystal meth. You want? It’s good.” I pat him on the shoulder. I’m lying, of course. It’s true that I’m from West Virginia, but I don’t have crystal meth, and I certainly don’t have bath salts.

He isn’t smiling anymore as he walks past me and I hear him say, “hashish, cocaine,” but he’s saying it to someone else.


Thanks for reading. And if you haven’t checked out the EJO series, click this here link


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.

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.

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'”



Epic Fail: Bad Writing…well, not quite epic

A week ago I thought it was a good idea to ask authors for excerpts of their earliest writing in its original and unedited form. A week ago I thought I’d be sifting through submissions. Clearly, that didn’t happen. I don’t know what I was thinking at the time, but it seems obvious to me now that no one enjoys exposing their flaws. You see, I thought it would be fun, looking back at old manuscripts and pointing out the mistakes we would never make again. But again, no one wants to do that. th (9)

The reason is obvious and I know I’m not the first person to say this: as writers we’re constantly running away from our earliest attempts at fiction. There’s no point in dwelling on those early attempts because we’ve already learned from them.

I did, however, receive one e-mail. Yes, that’s right. I received one whole submission. It’s  from a writer working on her first novel. Here’s the message she sent me describing her excerpt: “The main issue I see with this excerpt is telling not showing. The narrator also has an inner voice sounding between 12 and 14, when she was supposed to be 16. Since doing revisions from this draft I’ve learnt much about showing emotions through actions and facial expressions, and the novel has developed to be a YA/New Adult (not quite sure yet) with an inner voice between 18 and 21.”

And here’s a paragraph from the excerpt: “I was too busy watching Lei, interpreting his expression that I only just heard Harley’s sigh of relief. Whatever that meant, sometimes it really sucked caring for people. I just couldn’t let him believe I wanted to kiss him. Or that I liked him. It’s best to be true my feelings even if that means Lei’s aren’t spared.” You’ll notice that she hit the nail right on the head. We all made these mistakes in our first books. I’m particularly touched by the phrase “interpreting his expression.”thG54L7ATM I always used to have characters interpreting or analyzing expressions. I also liked “it really sucked caring for people.” Yep, 12 year old girl. But none of this matters because we already know this. Jo Carter, the author that sent me the excerpt, she already knows this and that excerpt we all just read has already been edited. I mean seriously, none of this benefits anyone. There’s nothing to even say about it. She’s already fixed it.thN8WEX1ZP

But I shouldn’t despair at bad ideas. It’s better to move on and all that. Halfway through the week I received a message from a fellow author that said this: “How about first attempt vs edited attempt – same scene. That would be cool to see,” suggesting that I should’ve taken excerpts that show a before-and-after, a look at the decisions an author made in the editing process. And he’s right, that seems much more productive. So, learning from my mistake last week, allow me a second attempt. Please, if you are reading this and wouldn’t mind sending me a short excerpt of your writing, both before and after the editing process, send it to ejamesolson1@gmail.com. Or, if you would like to send an unedited excerpt and would like a semi-professional critique either public or private, send that along. Yes, I just offered a free critique. And like always, I’m responding to everyone.  And hopefully this second attempt will prove more productive. Thanks, and have a good day.




Writing with Style 3: Another Point of View

About a week ago I read a post about showing vs. telling. Now, I know what you’re thinking: there are thousands of bloggers who’ve written about the values of descriptive writing. If somehow you haven’t read about showing vs. telling, check out this link to the blog post I read: BLOG POST. He does an awesome job both defining the terms and providing original examples.


However, I think most explanations fall a bit short of describing exactly how to make writing more descriptive and less explanatory. Instead, most writers seem to focus on the importance of creating balance.

So, to add something new to the conversation, I’d like to mention a few observations I’ve made about narrative point of view, and the impact that narration has on descriptive writing.

Observation 1: some types of narration are naturally descriptive. Think about third person objective narration. If you don’t know what it means don’t sweat it. Its pretty simple. The objective narrator only reveals what he can sense. The thoughts of characters are off limits meaning that he can only describe the world surrounding the characters. Check out this example by Earnest Hemingway. I just flipped to a random page in The Old Man and the Sea, and this is what I found:

The old man was thin and gaunt with deep wrinkles in the back of his neck. The brown blotches of the benevolent skin cancer the sun brings from its reflection on the tropic sea were on his cheeks. The blotches ran well down the sides of his face and his hands had the deep-creased scars from handling heavy fish on the cords. But none of these scars were fresh. They were as old as erosions in a fishless desert.

thN83JRY4ISo, what’s going on here? Well, in the excerpt there’s an old man who’s been a fisherman his entire life. That’s it. That’s what its about. But instead of explaining this to us, Hemingway gives a physical description. So, why didn’t he just say, “there was an old fisherman”? Well, if he had said that, we wouldn’t have known the harsh physical side-effects this life style has had on him. And the only way to reveal that with the same emotional impact of the physical description, would be through the thoughts of the old man. But third-person objective narration prevents that. So, the physical description, the showing, the imagery, is the only way for the narrator to represent the impact that fishing has had on the old man.

First person narration can also be naturally descriptive, especially when the narrator is a secondary character instead of a protagonist. Check out his example from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Chief Bromden, the narrator, describes the first time he meet Randle Patrick McMurphy.

This guy is red-headed with long red sideburns and a tangle of curls out from under his cap, been needing cut a long time, and he’s broad as Papa was tall, broad across the jaw and shoulders and chest, a broad white devilish grin, and he’s hard in a different kind of way from Papa, kind of the way a baseball is hard under the scuffed leather.

McMurphy is the protagonist here. Because chief Bromden isn’t the central character, well, at least not in the beginning, most of the narration focuses on what Bromden sees and hears and sometimes smells. He’s no mind-reader. He can’t tell us what McMurphy is thinking. Again, this type of narration naturally shows rather than tells.

Observation 2: Some narrative points of view can go either way. First person, when its from the point of view of the protagonist can either focus on what that protagonist senses or thinks. If he’s doing a lot of thinking, he’s probably doing a lot of telling. If he spends his time describing what he sees, then he’s probably doing more showing.thH17KCC3U

Observation 3: Some narrative points of view do a little too much explaining. Because omniscient points of view describe the thoughts of characters, a lot of explaining and  a lot of telling happens naturally.


Now look, I’m not saying that telling is always bad. Its great for creating suspense. Many writers will shift into an omniscient point of view to reveal what a character is thinking for this express purpose. The trick, I think at least, is to do this sparingly.

Well, that’s all I have for now. If you have anything to add, respond in the comment section below.

Letters on Literary Devices 16: The Exclamatory Question?!?

To the conventions of punctuation:

Although I have a great respect for convention, especially when related to punctuation marks, I’ve recently become aware of a certain informal mark known as the “interrobang,” which has completely opened my eyes to the potential pitfalls of relying blindly on writing customs.  For anyone else, who like me, has been living in ignorance of this communicative gem, allow me a short explanation.

Here it goes: The interrobang is a punctuation mark that most people already use. If you’ve ever closed a text message with WTF?! or WTF?!? or WTF!?! or if you were really excited WTF!?!?!?!?!?! then you’ve used an interrobang. Any combination of question marks and exclamation points is an interrobang… well sort of.

th (7)

You see, about fifty years ago, one of the great innovators of punctuation, Martin K. Speckter, invented a mark that concisely combined the question mark with the exclamation point. Well, at least that’s what I initially read on Wikipedia. And, like always, after some additional research clicking the links on the bottom of the Wikipedia page, I found out that the public contributors got it right, more or less.

Check this article I found on it: The Interrobang is Back, or if you’re a fellow millennial and would prefer a hilarious youtube video about it, click this link: What the Heck is the interrobang

For those of you who didn’t check out the video, here’s the mark he invented:


I know. It looks awesome. An exclamation point superimposed on a question mark. Simple but awesome. The problem is that it never caught on. Just look down at your computer keyboard or keyboard on your phone: Why no interrobang?!? WTF!?!

And that’s the problem. If we don’t have it on our keyboards, how can we use it?!?

But is it really a problem? The sober people in the audience are probably wondering this: do we really need to use it? (Notice that sober people don’t use exclamation points)

My answer to that question is an unreserved YES! (I DO use exclamation points) Currently, there is no set convention for showing an excited question. Everyone does it differently, and THAT goes against the spirit of punctuation.

Look, as authors and writers we employ a huge set of literary and conventional tools to communicate with our audiences. And punctuation, although underrated, is one of the most important. It’s like the body language of writing. You know, like how body language says more than words. Its the same with punctuation. So no, it doesn’t get the same glory as “what’s said,” but it serves the important communicative role of “how its said.” And anyone who’s gotten in a fight with a girlfriend or mother or boyfriend or teenage boy selling movie tickets, knows that it isn’t the “what’s said” that matters. No, its the “how it’s said” that you’re probably fighting over.


I’d go so far as to say that punctuation, when used by an author writing fiction, could be considered a literary device. Yea. I said it. I think that fiction writers can do a lot with punctuation alone. And I think it would be foolish and closed-minded to limit ourselves to the punctuation marks handed down by our great-great-grand parents. Why not use something new, especially if that “something new” saves us a key stroke and adds clarity.

Think about it: Someone invented the period. Someone invented the quotation mark. Someone invented the colon (The punctuation mark, that is. The other one can be attributed to evolution or God or whatever or whoever you’d prefer to thank). So, punctuation isn’t inherent. It evolves over time meaning that as a convention, punctuation can change.

Unfortunately, no one can change convention alone. And for this to work, for us writers to bring the interrobang out of the depths of obscure history and into the collective understanding of English readers the world over, we all need to start using it. We all need to use the interrobang. And I know. It won’t be easy. There is no key for the interrobang, but it does exist as a symbol on Microsoft Word, and I heard that its possible to turn that symbol into a “hot key”. I have no idea what that means, but I do know that there’s hope. And one day. Maybe not tomorrow. Maybe not next week. Maybe not next year or in my lifetime. But maybe, just maybe, my children’s children will have keyboards with an interrobang key. And no, it might not be next to the letter J or F or any of the other keys in the middle of the keyboard. But it will be there. Maybe next to the O so they can reach it with their future pinky’s while holding shift.


I’m talkin’ small steps people. I don’t know about you, but I know the next time I write something and feel a need for an excited question, I won’t simply insert a question mark and exclamation point. No, next time, I’ll use the interrobang. Because–well, why the f@#k not‽



Eric James-Olson


If you liked this, help out the interrobang cause by sharing it with everyone you know. Use the button below to Tweet it, Like it, Reblog it, or use whatever other social media you’re into. And if your interested, here’s the link to my books: BOOKS. As always, thanks for reading and have a nice day.







Writing with Style 2: Could we go back to the future…tense?

When I first started writing, I read all sorts of advice regarding verb tense and which ones are suitable for novels. I’ve written about this once before but focused only on the present and past tenses. Basically, most of the advice I read said to either use one or the other, preferably past tense because it’s easier.

th6M51YUOI (2)

Now, for most new writers this is probably sound advice, but for me it didn’t work. I wrote my first novel, Farmers and Cannibals, primarily in present tense to make it feel more like a movie. That fit the book because the characters were unknowingly participating in the recording of a propaganda film. It was nice using present tense because I could switch over to past tense to create seamless flashbacks, and I was able to draw a distinction between the filmed actions of the characters and the filming of those actions using verb tense alone. And for me at least, despite the advice I’d read, it worked.

(For more on how to use both the present and past tense together in fiction with examples from famous novelists, check out this blog post: Letters on Literary Devices: Back to the Present )

So, what’s my point here? It’s this: the type of advice that says to ALWAYS do this, or NEVER do that in writing is inherently flawed. Writing evolves not because someone didn’t do something; it evolves because writers DO challenge conventions and AREN’T afraid to experiment with new forms of expression. Think about it, if writers didn’t challenge convention, we’d still be writing in olde English. And that stuff is awful.


Speaking of challenging convention, I’d like to talk about another verb tense that gets a bad rap in story telling. I’d like to talk about the future tense, and the ways in which it can be purposefully used to foreshadow events and create suspense.

Now, first of all, when I first read about tenses, most writers said to avoid the future tense entirely. While I agree that I wouldn’t want to read an entire novel written in the future tense, I don’t agree with the idea that it can’t be used at all. And actually, many writers probably use it without even thinking about it. The easiest way to use future tense is through character dialogue. Check out this example I just made up:

Elton sat alone at the breakfast table with a bowl of cheerios and a sour smirk. His mouth was still cut open, and his right eye was swollen. It was just black, no blue.  He looked up from the cereal and pictured his mother standing there with her arms folded across her chest. She wasn’t actually there. He just pictured her there telling him that he didn’t have a choice. He could see her mouth forming the words, “You will be going to school today. I don’t care how scared you are. You will be going to school.”

He heard her footsteps coming down the stairs. Her arms weren’t folded across her chest but her eyes were hard. “Don’t you say a word,” she said. She was really saying it now. This was real. “You will be going to school today.”

In this I used past tense for the narration and a combination of present tense and future continuous tense for the dialogue. The future continuous is in BOLD. Primarily, the future tense verbs are used to foreshadow events to come by highlighting an inescapable future conflict for the protagonist. This type of paragraph could work anywhere within a chapter or story. Because the tense changes are in the dialogue, it’s unlikely that a reader would get confused. Well, unless he or she suffers from severe stupidity or some other intellectual handicap.


Ok, so that was easy. Now, lets take the same story but get rid of the dialogue. Some writers might think this impossible but here it is:

Elton sat alone at the breakfast table with a bowl of cheerios and a sour smirk. His mouth was still cut open, and his right eye was swollen. It was just black, no blue.  He looked up from the cereal and pictured his mother standing there with her arms folded across her chest. She wasn’t actually there. He just pictured her there telling him that he didn’t have a choice, that he would still have to go to school. I won’t go, he thought. She can’t make me go.

He heard her footsteps coming down the stairs. Her arms weren’t folded across her chest but her eyes were hard. She didn’t say a word. She didn’t need to.

He will be going to school.

As you probably noticed, this example isn’t nearly as seamless as the first. It would be a challenge to transition back to the past tense. But it still works to foreshadow the same inescapable conflict as the first. This would work at the end of a chapter as a cliffhanger leading into the next. It could also be used to open a chapter, especially if an additional space is given before the next paragraph. The point is that it’s more suspenseful. Compare the line “He will be going to school,” to the past tense equivalent, “He went to school.” In past tense, the line doesn’t stand out like it does in future. It doesn’t cause the reader to pause and think in the same way.

So, that’s it for today. If you know of any other ways that authors can use the future tense, feel free to post those in the comments section. If you liked this, share the love by hitting that like button, sharing on twitter or facebook or whatever social media you’re into.

If you’d like to check out my fiction just click this link: BOOKS. Each book has an Amazon Link and Farmers and Cannibals, my first novel, is on sale this week. Click the picture of the book below for the Amazon link with the special promotional price.


As always, thanks for reading and have a nice day.




Letters on Literary Devices 14: Writing Sarcasm

To my Number One Groupie:

I’m writing this one for you. But before I start, lets give a little context to anyone else who might be reading this.

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Last week I received an e-mail from my biggest fan. One thing led to another, a few e-mails went back and forth which concluded in her sending me this:

Let me be clear. I beg you to never high five yourself again. I was so pleased to see that you kicked that hAbbit. I was going to high five you about it but that would just send you spiraling back into your addiction. You can make it. Just slap youself on the ass and put it on youtube whenever you want to high five yourself, but make sure nobody can trace it to you and cut off your head (she meant conceal my head, not cut it off. That was explained later) in the video. You will do a kick ass job. Adios.

If you couldn’t tell, she was joking about my tendency to “LIKE” my own blog posts. That’s what she meant when she said “I beg you to never high five yourself again.” She was just joking.  Well, that’s not completely true. She meant what she said, but she wasn’t being mean or cruel or hateful.


This was how I responded:

Now THAT was funny. You certainly have hyperbole down. I haven’t tried the youtube video yet, but next time I get the urge to high-five, I’ll just get the camera rolling, put on a mask, and go for it.

And this sparked an idea which took the form of two questions: How did I know she was pulling my leg? How was I able to interpret her e-mail as clever sarcasm not vindictive malice?

Well, the answer to that one’s simple: I’m an English Teacher who’s written a few books and I know all about verbal irony. But most people don’t; most people don’t need to know how to write verbal irony or to recognize it in other people’s writing. For most people, it’s enough to recognize sarcasm in speech. And that’s usually easy because in speech we’re exposed to more than just a person’s words; we’re exposed to their tone as well.

So, you’re probably wondering: how can verbal irony or sarcasm be written? How can a writer sound sarcastic using words alone?


Well, it’s easier than you’d think.

Here are two easy ways to do it:

HYPERBOLE: That’s what my number one groupie used in her e-mail. This is the use of exaggeration or overstatement. So how did she do it? Simple. She did it through her choice of verbs and adverbs. Check out this sentence that she wrote: ” I beg you to never high five yourself again.” This sounds sarcastic because of the verb she chose: “beg”, and the adverb, “again.”  If she had written it like this: “I don’t think you should high five yourself,” she wouldn’t have sounded sarcastic. And that was just one sentence. Look at the other verbs and adverbs, “send … spiraling … slap … on the ass … cut off.” Each exaggerates the type of action I should take if I ever feel the urge to “LIKE” my own blog posts.

UNDERSTATEMENT: This is the opposite of Hyperbole but has a similar effect. Instead of using verbs and adverbs to exaggerate, it uses these to sarcastically minimize whatever is being said. Think about my response back to her. I said “You certainly have hyperbole down.” That doesn’t sound very sarcastic. But if I changed it to this: “You seem to have hyperbole down,” it would. All I did was change the adverb. “Certainly,” was changed to “seem to” which understates her ability to use hyperbole. I mean shit, she more than just “seems to” have hyperbole down.


Well, that’s two ways to do it. To my number one groupie who sparked the idea, I hope I was clear and I hope I did a kick ass job.




P.S. If you liked this PLEASE hit the “like” button. I’d do it myself but I’m no longer giving myself high-fives. Make sure to check out the youtube video: VIDEO … just kidding that was just a link to my books page. Fooled ya!

Writing with Style 1: How to Write an Ending

Tonight I take a break from my mock-epistolary style with a different type of blog post. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I get a lot of questions from fellow writers who’ve read my books and have asked something like, “How’d you keep the pace moving so fast,” or “Where’d you come up with the idea to use … as a symbol for …” or “how do you keep the writing so clean or so tight?” Originally, I thought it was enough to address these types of questions with my bi-weekly, Letters on Literary Devices. But it appears that most folks prefer serious answers over sarcasm, and I figure, eh, what the hell, I’ll give sincerity a shot.

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For those of you who follow along with each post, you probably remember last’s week’s Letter on Literary Devices where I discussed a bizarre new way to conceptualize the development of a book ending. If you didn’t read it, check it out: The Predictability Spectrum. In that, I shamelessly compared foreshadowing the ending of a book to different variations of fecal excretions (Shit, that sounded like hyperbole). In this, I’d like to expand on the ideas expressed in that post with a slightly more serious approach and hopefully some decent tips for all you folks working on an ending for a book.

Here it goes:

One of the greatest challenges a writer faces in closing a book deals with the following questions: How explicit should I be? How much should I explain? How much should I leave open for interpretation?

Unfortunately, I don’t have a single answer here. Fortunately, I do have some important considerations that could help lead you to a decision.

Consideration 1: Are you writing Genre fiction? Readers expect certain types of endings for certain types of genres. So if you’re writing a mystery, a thriller, or a romance; you’re going to want some twists and turns in your ending. You won’t want to give to much away by means of foreshadowing, but you will want an ending that wraps up neatly. No room for interpretation needed.

Other genres bring other expectations. It’s important to know the expectation, so that you can either choose to follow it or choose to cleverly break the rules.

Consideration 2: Is your book literary? If it is, good. You have a lot of freedom. Although you can’t ignore convention entirely, you have a lot of options. The one thing to avoid is laziness. Whatever you do, don’t just end it because you don’t know how to end it. Don’t just make everything work out fine or kill everyone off for no reason (Unless you’re writing a farce). There should be reason behind an ending. (Unless you’re trying to make some homage to modernism. In that case, good luck to you).


Consideration 3: Should the ending be suspenseful? That’s easy. The answer is yes. However, there’s more than one way to create suspense. You don’t have to end the book with a shootout to keep the readers attention. If you’ve done a good job developing your protagonist, your readers will want to know what’s going to happen to him or her. By simply building suspense up to the moment where the conflict resolves, you set yourself up for a decent ending. This can be done in a number of ways. Personally, I try to make the main conflict multi-dimensional. I like it to affect more than one character; I like it to involve some type of decision; I like to foreshadow its resolution symbolically; I like to use a lot of repetition of images or actions; I like there to be a moment of recognition (Aristotle called it anagnorisis) where the protagonist or antagonist realizes and even verbalizes his inescapable fate.  And these are just the things I can think of as I’m sitting here. There’s tons of ways to build suspense towards an ending. Get creative and don’t be afraid to ask readers whether or not the ending held their attention.

Consideration 4: Did you develop any major symbols or recurring motifs throughout your novel? If you didn’t, it might not be a bad idea to go back and add a few. That’s one of the things I always do during the first round of revision. Often, an ending can be hinted at through a symbolic event or passage earlier in the novel. In the book I just finished writing, the major symbol was the image of a hawk struck by a speeding truck. There was also a set of dancing eyeballs and a puddle of stagnant river water and this song that kept playing on the radio: Always the same, / Don’t you never change…”. There was more but I don’t want to give away the potential title. The point is this: to end the novel I allowed these symbols and images and motifs to converge towards an inevitable, believable conclusion. There weren’t twists and turns per se, but that’s ok. The symbols contradicted each other suggesting more than one possible ending. And that’s what creates suspense. It’s not about foreshadowing a single ending. Its about foreshadowing several possible endings. That’s why adding symbolism can be so powerful. Inherently, symbols allow for interpretation.


Consideration 5: Should the ending be explained, hinted at, or left totally open? Personally, I like ambiguity in endings. But that doesn’t work for every book. I have four published novels now. The first ended in a tell-all. Here’s what readers said about it: “the ending is fitting” , “Throughout the story there are twists and turns, which keep you guessing right up to the very plausible and fitting end.” And that’s the type of feedback this type of ending is likely to receive. My third book was left open-ended. Check out what folks said about that one: … Yep, that’s right. No one commented on the ending. After that I decided to do a tell all with my fourth book. Check out what one reader had to say: Probably the most brilliant way to tie up loose ends in a series ever” The point here should be clear: readers remember the tell all ending. But that doesn’t necessarily make it better. It just makes it more memorable.


Well, that’s it for now. Hope this was helpful. If it was, and you liked this post, help me out by hitting that like button below. If you’d like to read more posts by me, feel free to click the follow button on the side of this screen. Want to check out my books. Just click this link: BOOKS. As always, thanks for reading and have a good day.





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