Thursday, December 24, 2009

#fridayflash: The Antigravity Flymabob

The Antigravity Flymabob
by Eric J. Krause

Beezle charged through the workshop, sweat beading on his forehead. What had the elves done with it? The Antigravity Flymabob was the only thing that would get Santa around the world in one night. Sure the reindeer would get him off the ground, and they could weld a rocket onto the sled, but flying and magically flying were two very different things. Why couldn't the elves be as careful as the gnomes?

He heard all the fanfare that accompanied the take-off, punctuated by Santa's jolly ho-ho-ho's. Wouldn't that end quickly if Beezle couldn't find it. The elves, always looking for a way to get on the gnomes' good side, had promised it'd be on the sleigh, but ten minutes to go and where was it? They might be great at making toys, but when it came to magic you couldn't trust an elf as far as you could throw him.

Beezle grumbled under his breath. No Antigravity Flymabob here. He'd have to go out and tell Santa. He'd just ask the elves, but he doubted they even remembered making the promise, let alone where they left it. At least no one outside the North Pole knew gnomes existed. The entire blame for a ruined Christmas could rest on the elves' scrawny shoulders.

Beezle hurried out to the launch pad. Every second counted if they were going to get Santa off with enough time to keep Christmas on schedule. He busted through the door and into the crowd.

"Wait!" Beezle shouted. "Don't go yet!"

With all of the noise, no one heard him. He looked over to the sleigh and saw the Antigravity Flymabob latched snugly in place. He glanced over to the group who'd promised to put it in. They looked over at Beezle, smiled, and saluted. Before turning back to watch Santa depart, they said something. Though Beezle couldn't hear over the din of the crowd, he could read their lips. "Merry Christmas, Beezle!"

Beezle grunted and allowed himself a small smile. Maybe the elves weren't so bad after all.

Friday, December 18, 2009

#fridayflash: Summer Santa

Summer Santa
by Eric J. Krause

"Santa left a present, Uncle Jim."

Jim patted Nat, his four-year-old niece, on the head. "No, Natalie. Remember? Santa Claus only comes at Christmas."

"I saw him, Uncle Jim, I saw him. He was even dressed for summer."

Jim would have to ask his sister, wherever she was, if Nat often had imaginary friends. It'd keep him prepared for next time he came to visit. "What did he look like?"

"He had on shorts and a t-shirt that he painted red. And he took off his beard and his belly. Mommy says summer Santa has a total surfer's bod."

Jim struggled to keep a straight face. "I don't know, Nat. That doesn't sound like the Santa I know."

She glanced around and leaned up to give him a conspiratory whisper. "Santa is Daddy."

"Oh yeah?"

She nodded, grabbed his hand, and lead him to the living room. "See? There it is. He didn't need to wrap it because it's not Christmastime."

Jim peaked into the room. In the middle of the floor stood a wicker basket with something oozing out. Oh crap, was that blood?

"Nattie, honey, why don't you go up to your room? I'll be there in a couple of minutes."

"But I wanna see what Santa brought me." Her bottom lip quivered. Brent had confided in him once that he was helpless when she pulled off that look. If what was in the dripping basket was what Jim thought, would Brent ever again be around for it to work its magic? Not if Jim could help it.

"It's not for you, sweetie. Santa only brings grown-ups gifts in the summer."

She started to protest, but a quick offer of a trip to the toy store and ice cream shop hushed her up. She skipped up the steps, humming a song as she went.

Jim turned his attention back to the wicker basket. That had to be blood. What else could it be? He hesitated for a second, not wanting to see, but powerless to walk away. He'd never really gotten on with Brent, felt there was something off about the guy, but was he capable of this? More important, was this why Sara wasn't here?

He flung the lid open. Relief and horror mixed, becoming one. It wasn't Sara, but the decapitated head of some shaggy-haired blond guy. The stench of death wafted up at him, and though his stomach turned and clenched, he kept himself from losing his lunch on the already stained carpet. Puke after this is solved, he told himself.

A flash of color on the lid tore his attention from the head. He found a piece of paper inside with "You're next, you cheating whore," written in what was probably the blond guy's blood.

He slammed the lid back down. Shit. He needed to warn Sara, needed to get Natalie somewhere safe. When he got here and found Sara gone, he'd guessed she was out running errands. Now he hoped to god that was true. He dug in his pocket for his cell phone, but before he could flip it open, Brent spoke from behind.

"You picked the wrong day to visit, bro."

Jim spun around just in time to see a hatchet screaming for his head.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Holiday Story

With Christmas coming up, don't forget that a great gift writers can give their family and friends is a short holiday story. This doesn't cost much at all (maybe a few pennies when you factor in the printer ink and paper), and it's a unique gift that only those closest to you will receive.

I try to write one that fits on a single page (usually ends up being single-spaced with bigger margins than normal) so it's easy to fit into Christmas cards. My family has expressed that they love opening up their cards and finding a short holiday story to read. Though I usually write speculative fiction (more often than not on the dark side), I stick with nice and happy themes and ideas for this story. There's no wrong way to go, however. If your family and friends prefer that walk on the dark and scary side, by all means write it for them.

While I keep my family holiday stories simple black on plain white printer paper (though I usually type them up with a fancy font), you can dress yours up with colorful paper and ink. The sky really is the limit. So if you're searching for that little something extra for your loved ones, why not take the time to write a short story for them (or a poem if that's more your style)? They'll love the special feeling that such a unique gift can bring! Happy holidays!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

#fridayflash -- Slice of Cake

Slice of Cake
by Eric J. Krause

The slice of wedding cake thawed. She watched it. In the freezer for a year, and now out to find its final moments. She laughed at the irony, the similarity. That way she wouldn't cry.

Through this first year, their newlywed year, she smiled each time she popped open the freezer and saw their cake waiting to help them celebrate year one. Rick admitted he did the same. For the first six months, he couldn't have been a more perfect husband.

Then the late nights started. At first she understood. He brought home good money, better than good money. Enough so she could quit her stupid dead-end job to focus on being a mommy. Too bad he was shooting blanks.

Strike one.

Not to say she couldn't deal with it. Adoption was an option. Or a sperm bank. But it was still a blow to her happiness. A minor one, it turned out, to what she'd soon learn.

As part of her perfect little housewife routine, she did all the laundry. Rick knew it and should have been more careful. She couldn't decide if she was glad or not that he was too stupid to remember. How could he bring home a tiny leopard-print g-string that smelled of sex?

Strike two.

She didn't confront him. He always said he enjoyed that she didn't bring the drama, so she wouldn't start now. Anyway, it was better to wait until he created more rope to hang himself with. And preferably enough to hang whoever the slutty whore was he was banging.

Not long after that she realized he was too dumb to cover anything up effectively. For the first six months of marriage, not to mention the year they'd dated, he couldn't keep his hands off her. Pretty good, she realized now, for a guy who didn't have enough fish swimming in his pond. About the same time she discovered his secret, their loving dropped to once a week, twice if she'd hit the sexual jackpot. Gee, could those damp panties he brought home in his pockets way too often have anything to do with it?

She could live with both of those. Rick still provided her with a nice life. She had options. Adoption, her own affair, plenty of shopping. She could make due. Not just make due, but have a nice life. And since he thought he was hiding it all, he still treated her like a human being when they were together.

But what would she do if that respect dropped out altogether?

Strike three.

He stumbled home at seven AM on the morning of their anniversary at the exact moment she took it from the freezer. Their wedding cake. Their symbol, defrosting on the counter as she'd hoped their love would that night in the bedroom.

But here he was, twelve hours late, hung over with dried blood under his nose, lipstick on his collar, and who knows what kind of fluids in his undershorts. If he even managed to pull them on.

He mumbled something and somehow found his way to the stairs. With no need to have him call in sick to work, a perk to the millions he pulled in for his company each year, she let him go up to grab some sleep. And she turned her attention back to their cake, her cake.

Now, with dinner over, they looked at that slice of cake. Like their marriage, she'd dressed it up with a fancy serving dish and a new heap of frosting. Rick took a bite and wondered what the strange taste was. She could only shrug and suggest that the freezer added some interesting flavors.

She didn't mention that Drano, rat poison, and bug spray probably didn't taste so great, either.

Friday, November 27, 2009

#fridayflash -- The Last Ride

The Last Ride
by Eric J. Krause

The latest text message pushed him over the edge. "Danny cussed out his teacher. Probably suspended." He wondered if Julia had been chuckling when she sent it. No doubt she blamed the teacher. Lord knows Danny never did anything wrong. It seemed the only time the two of them talked anymore was when they argued about their delinquent son.

"Mind if I sit, pal?"

Brad blinked and looked up from his phone. The bus had just picked up a few more passengers and not many seats were left. He slid to the window and smiled at the man in shabby business casual clothes. "Yeah, yeah, sorry. Off in my own little world."

"Thanks." Luckily that appeared to be the end of it. Nothing made a bus trip more intolerable than having to make small talk with a stranger.

Half-a-dozen more stops. Knowing traffic--and a quick glance around at the gridlock proved he did--it'd be another fifteen to twenty minutes. He turned his attention back to the phone and mulled over his reply. Anything he typed would be wrong. He needed to find something that would lead to quiet hostility rather than an out-and-out fight the second he stepped in the door. Inspiration did not strike.

Brad watched the next stop come and go. His palms broke out in sweat at the thought that there was one less buffer between him and home. He gripped his phone tight in anticipation of another text, this one wondering why he hadn't responded.

"This is stupid," he said, drawing a look from the big lout next to him. He readied an explanation, but the guy turned back to his sports page without a word. He looked around, saw no one paid him any mind, and shut off his phone, an action Julia deemed sacrilege.

As they made the next three stops, he fingered the power button, but willed himself not to push it. As they neared the stop before his, he almost cheered when someone pulled the cord.

"Why am I doing this to myself?" he said to the guy next to him.

"Don't know, pal." He didn't look up.

Brad laughed. It was so clear now. When the bus pulled away from the curb, he didn't reach up and mark the next stop. He used to have a life that didn't involve Julia and Danny, so why couldn't he have that again?

About a block from his stop, Brad sighed and pulled the cord. He couldn't start a new existence out of the blue. He didn't have the connections to disappear. When the bus stopped, he got off and headed for home.

There were other ways to vanish from life.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

My Novel Revision Pt. 1

As I've said in previous posts, I know how authors are often interested in seeing how others work on their writing projects. I know I like knowing these little secrets. Because of this, I decided to share how I'm working on my revisions. I'm still early in the process (hence the Pt. 1 in the title of the post), but I'll share more in future posts as I get further along in the process. If this helps some people figure out a different way to revise, great. If not, at least you get a peak into my writing life.

The first thing I did was let the project sit unseen for a month. I've heard this is a great amount of time to give the project some distance, and it seems to work. Of course I remember writing it all, but it's not nearly as fresh as it would have been if I'd started revising right after finishing the first draft. The little bit of breathing room really does make it easier to tackle it with my trusty red pen.

After the waiting period, I printed out the manuscript and read it through. In this first read through, I changed very little. The only time my red pen touched the page was when I found a glaring spelling or punctuation error, most likely the result of a typo. The plan for the first read through was just to immerse myself into the story. I wanted to make sure it flowed, if there were any glaring holes, and if the beginning and ending worked. As I read, while I didn't touch much of the manuscript, I did take plenty of notes on how to make the story stronger.

Once I finished reading, I checked all of my revision notes, both the ones I took during that first read, as well as the ones I took while I wrote the first draft. With a fresh mind on my story, I was able to see which notes made sense and which were already taken care of (or didn't need to exist). I rewrote these notes on two separate pages. The first was notes on the overall story--things that didn't have a specific spot, but could be in any number of places in the manuscript. I'll keep this list handy at all times while I rewrite. The second list was ideas that go in certain parts of the story. I wrote these chronologically, and as I go through the manuscript I will add them.

This is actually where I am in the process. I'm starting my second read-through. As I read, I have a red pen, a blue pen, and a black pen, as well as both sets of notes and blank paper. In this read-through I'm not concentrating very hard on grammar or spelling or even word choice, but simply ideas. As I get to points in my notes that I want to add to my manuscript, I'll change it right on the page with my red pen if it's a small item. If it takes more, I'll write a number in blue ink where I want the change to go and complete the change on another piece of paper (labeling it with the page number and the number I put in blue). I'll go through the work until I'm happy I addressed all my notes.

That's where I am right now. When I finish this step, I'll still need to make sure the writing is tight and error free, so I still have a few read-throughs to complete. As I do get further in the process, I'll make another post to show how it's going. I hope you enjoyed a brief look into my revision process. Until next time, keep reading and/or writing!

Friday, November 20, 2009

#fridayflash: The Refrigerator Door

The Refrigerator Door
by Eric J. Krause

"Can I see you in the kitchen?"

Bryan jerked awake. He hadn't even realized he'd been asleep. Nadine, his girlfriend, glared at him from the kitchen doorway.

"What?" he said.

She gave an exaggerated sigh. "I said I wanted to see you in the kitchen."

"Why? We're the only ones here."

Nadine rolled her eyes. "Would you just get in here? Please?"

Bryan grunted as he stood up. There would be no arguing with her, but he couldn't think of what he'd done.

"What's the meaning of this?" She pointed at the refrigerator. Both its and the freezer's door were standing wide open.

He shrugged. "I don't know. I didn't do it."

"Well, when I left, they were both closed. Now look. The ice cream is melted, the frozen pizza isn't frozen, and I'm sure the sour cream and milk have spoiled."

He shrugged again.

Nadine threw her hands up. "Do you think they opened themselves?"

As soon as she said that, Bryan saw a little man on the counter behind her. It stood about six inches tall and wore a tiny green suit which made him think of a leprechaun. He wanted to point it out to Nadine, but it jumped out of sight behind the cookie jar.

Nadine slammed both doors shut. "You were in such a rush to grab a soda and put some ice in it so you could get back to the couch that you didn't even check to see if you'd closed the doors. Am I right? Don't even answer. I know I'm right."

She stormed out of the kitchen and he heard the bedroom door slam shut. He just stood there. He hadn't been in here since breakfast, before she'd left. He was about to go back to the couch when the leprechaun-thing came back onto the counter. It covered its mouth with one hand and pointed at him with the other. It's belly jiggled with laughter.

He took a step towards the little man, expecting it to bolt, but instead it motioned to the freezer. Bryan turned and watched the door pop open. Two more leprechaun-things, which looked identical to the first, jumped out. Once they hit the floor, they scurried towards the sink, opened the cabinet underneath, and scampered inside. The refrigerator door opened next, and four more followed. Bryan looked back at the one on the counter. It stuck its tongue out at him, then pointed and laughed. He stepped forward with every intention of smacking it across the room.

"You have neither the guts nor the strength, human," it said in a soft, squeaky voice. The six other leprechaun-things climbed up the drain and walked over to the first.

"While we distracted you in here," one said, "our pets captured your lady-friend."

Nadine. Bryan ran from the kitchen and burst into the bedroom. She lay on the bed wrapped in what he thought was a coil of rope. After a second look, though, he saw it wasn't rope, but a thick strand of spider web. Her lips were also glued shut with webs. Three spiders, each as big as German Shepherds, stood next to the bed. He took a step towards her, but the huge beasts cut him off. He gave her an apologetic look and hurried back to the kitchen. The seven leprechaun-things still stood on the counter.

"What's going on?" Bryan asked.

"Don't take it personally. Look outside. Don't be shy; we'll still be here."

Bryan took a deep breath and went to the window. He opened the curtains, but just as quickly closed them. Flames engulfed the whole neighborhood.

"You humans have ruled this world with an iron fist, leaving nothing for us. But we've been patient. We devised a plan, stored up our resources, and when we deemed ourselves ready, we struck. As you can see, it's going quite well."

The three spiders came into the kitchen carrying Nadine on a web stretcher. They set her down and turned their attention to Bryan. Before he could react, he found himself covered in webs and unable to move. His lips, like Nadine's, were stuck shut.

"They will make fine slaves. Nemby, the stove. The rest of you, the portal."

All of the little creatures except one ran to the refrigerator and jumped inside. Bryan almost choked on his own saliva. A huge tunnel had replaced the inside of his refrigerator. The spiders placed him on a web stretcher like Nadine's and followed the leprechaun-things into the refrigerator. He watched the straggler cast some sort of spell on the stove, causing it to spit fire around the kitchen. The little man emitted a gleeful laugh and followed the rest down the long tunnel.

Bryan looked back at his now-burning house, and all he could think was that Nadine was going to be pissed. The leprechaun-things hadn't shut the refrigerator door.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

3 Short Stories

This week I want to bring you another few short stories that I've found online and enjoyed.

The first comes from the November issue of the Absent Willow Review. It's a story entitled The Call, written by Daniel W. Davis. This chilling little tale makes you wonder if it might not be better for some phone calls to actually turn out to be prank calls.

The next comes from Volume 10/37 of Allegory Magazine. It's called Simple Pleasures, written by Molly Campbell. This one asks if dolls can replace loved ones, which the main character believes to be the case.

The last one for this installment is an audio story from the podcast, Podcastle. It is called Scar Stories by Vylar Kaftan. Everything has scars, and these are the stories behind them. You can also find this one on iTunes. It's listed as Podcastle Miniature 18 if you'd rather find it there.

Give these stories a shot. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did. Until next time, keep reading and/or writing.

Friday, November 13, 2009

#fridayflash: Just After Dusk

Just After Dusk
by Eric J. Krause

Jean Luc stretched his limbs, willing what little blood he had left to course through his veins. Even after all these years, he still couldn't get used to the rigor mortis that set in each day as he slept. A meal would improve everything.

A knock. "Master? May I?"

He nodded, but said nothing. Renaldo, his latest minion, read the intention and pushed the door open.

"I have someone for you to, eh, meet, Master."

Perfect. Their code for food. He enjoyed the hunt, but having it delivered was so much easier.

Renaldo led a young girl, she couldn't be more than 18 years old, into his room. She wore a skimpy black dress with fishnet stockings, displayed a dozen or more silver trinkets around her wrists and neck, had black lipstick smeared on her lips, and sported a jet-black bob haircut. He could smell the dye from across the room. Wouldn't do to be a blonde-haired goth girl.

He suppressed a grin. "Good evening. I am Jean Luc. Pleased to make your acquaintance."

She stared back at him, her eyes intense. Shock waves pulsed through his withered insides. Could she be the one, the bride he'd been searching for? Though he couldn't fathom sex with a mortal, he could see lusting after the undead version of her.

The girl rolled her eyes and turned to Renaldo. "I thought you were going to bring me to a real vampire. He looks so ordinary and . . . dull."

Ah well, at least he could still feed. He stepped forward and covered the length of the room in a heartbeat. His fangs sunk into her throat before she could scream, and he lapped up her bloody life force. When she gasped her final breath, he let her fall.

He wiped his chin with a burgundy handkerchief and looked at Renaldo, who shrugged.

"At least they're easy to catch, Master. They all want to meet a real vampire."

"Too bad they expect a teen-age fashion model. Maybe I should wear glitter."

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Self-Publishing for Yourself

Today is Veterans Day, and that made me think of the memoir my grandpa published a few years back based on his time in the Marine Corps during World War 2. He had no wish to try to get it placed with a traditional publisher and make money off of it. His goal was to get that story in book form so he could share it with family and friends. Because of this, he chose one of the vanity presses (a service that he paid for to print and bind a number of copies of his book). It worked beautifully. The book turned out great, and he passed out copies to the family and his friends. He would even keep extra copies with him where ever he went so he could give them out as gifts of sorts to people he met. For my grandpa, paying to become a self-published author was the best way to go.

Those of us who are tying to make it in the publishing industry as authors usually have it drilled into our heads: it is rarely a good idea to pay money to get your work published--you should be paid instead. This is good advice. Something we need to remember, however, is that not everyone comes into the writing game with the same goals. If someone's goal is to simply be published, paying a self-publishing house to get this done is a fine option. There are people out there like my grandpa. We, as writers, shouldn't discourage people with such goals.

Writers need to know their options about their work. They need to look at both their long and short-term goals. Personally, I hope to find an agent and publisher for my work, but not everyone is the same. I've seen and heard of authors saying vanity presses are the worst thing out there, but that simply isn't true. While it is important to study up on which publisher to trust (as in all industries, some companies are better than others), if you simply want to have your work in print, self-publishing can be your best option. My grandpa discovered the joy of handing his book to people, and others can have that feeling, too. Until next time, keep reading and/or writing.

Friday, November 6, 2009

#fridayflash--The King and the Spider

The King and the Spider
by Eric J. Krause

He eased himself into the room, mindful of the space above him. It wouldn't do for it to pounce down on his head before the game truly started.

It. The humongous spider terrorizing this room. Striking fear into the hearts of his beautiful queen and their precious princess.

No doubt its plump black form flowed full of deadly poison. Its fangs, the size of small daggers, itched to puncture him so it could feed itself and its unseen clan. As visions of his painful and messy death flashed through his mind, he knew he had to strike first and strike hard.

He spotted the beast as it scurried up the wall, just out of range. It scuttled across the ceiling, and he crouched down, weapon at the ready. Did these leap at their prey? He didn't know, but he wasn't going to court defeat because of carelessness.

Out in the open he found it much bigger than he first guessed. Maybe the size of a large cat or a small dog. Maybe bigger. The thought of sealing off the room and leaving it for the monster crossed his mind.

Instead, it took that option away. It reached the other side of the room and crawled down towards the door. A room was one thing, but he couldn't sacrifice his queen or princess. Without thought to his own safety, he lunged forward, weapon poised . . .

. . . and scrunched it in his paper towel.

"Did you get it, Jerry?"

"Yeah." He examined the squished form. "Tell Sara she can come back in and finish watching her Happitty-Hoppitty cartoon."

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Newest Published Stories

Posting this week about two new published stories out on the World Wide Web, along with two stories that I thought were lost, but are still floating around cyberspace.

First, my flash fiction story, Scream Time is on the webzine The New Flesh. Check out my story, and then stick around and check out other stories. It's full of great little horror stories.

I also placed 5th in a Halloween writing contest on a Twitter horror-zine called Tweet the Meat. I don't believe there is a link to the story, but I'll just print it here, since it is only 13 words: "She grinned and hummed along with her favorite tune: bonesaw with no anesthesia."

In addition to those two stories, I found two more stories that I thought had floated away to the nether-parts of the web. They're still alive and kicking, though. The first is a horror story called Dagger of the Dread King. The second is a fantasy adventure story entitled Graves of Chance.

I've added all four of these stories to my list of published stories you can read. The link, in case you want to check these and more of my stories out, is on the right side of the screen in the "About Me" section (or just click here). I've recently sent out a bunch more stories to see if I can find homes for them, so hopefully I'll be able to update this more later. Until next time, keep reading and/or writing.

Friday, October 30, 2009

#fridayflash -- Pumpkin Patch of the Damned

Pumpkin Patch of the Damned
by Eric J. Krause

Why the hell wasn't this ever an easy process? And every year Daisy had to come during the game. Just because there were games morning, noon, and night on Saturdays didn't make it any better. Think of all the great plays he was missing.

"Daddy, can I go in the bouncy house?"

He looked over at the purple balloon structure shaped like a haunted house, complete with a blow-up Frankenstein and a few sheets with eye holes cut in them glued to the side. Those things used to be a huge treat when he was a kid, but nowadays you couldn't go a city block without bouncing into one.

"No, we're going to grab a pumpkin and get out of here."

"Don't listen to your father. Go have fun, baby."

"Yo, Dad, a corn maze. I'm gonna go check it out."

A corn maze? In the suburbs? He'd been in a corn maze once when he was a kid. His parents drove he and his brothers an hour and a half out of town to get to a farm in the country. Now here was one in this empty lot that'd probably be a Denny's or a Walgreens by this time next year.

"No, we're just here for a pumpkin. Go grab your sister and pick one out so we can get on home."

"Pish-posh. Go have fun, sweetie. Don't get lost!"

He turned to Daisy, ready to tell her off. She'd promised him fifteen minutes, half-an-hour tops. Now here she was sending the kids off to pointless activities instead of what they were here for: to find a carving pumpkin.

Before he could lay into her, her eyes sparkled. "Ooh, a craft fair. You don't mind, do you honey?"

Holy hell, a craft fair? How could this lot hold so much crap? Were there even any damn pumpkins in this pumpkin patch? None that he'd seen. Next year they'd just get one at the megamart down the street. If they'd done that this time, he'd be on his way home by now to watch State versus U.

"No, Daisy. Come on. You promised. Get the kids, let's pick out a pumpkin, and we'll get out of here."

Of course she paid him no mind and wandered over to the half-dozen or so booths, her hand already in her purse to snatch out her wallet.

He found a random bale of hay and took a seat. His eyes scanned all three attractions, but he couldn't spot the kids or his wife. Would he ever see them again, or was he stuck forever here in this pumpkin patch of the damned?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

#fridayflash--Shadow in the Mirror

Brianna ran her brush through her long blond hair, counting each stroke, a ritual she'd kept up since high school. She sometimes felt silly, but it really did make her hair that much silkier. Since she and Tim had found this old-fashioned vanity, complete with its fancy mirror, at a garage sale, brushing her hair at it felt right. She didn't know if it was real or faux antique, but she could picture an old-timey, high society lady from years past doing the same.

She set down her brush and did a double-take. Her reflection brushed its hair an extra time. They stared at each other, neither moving. Brianna let out her breath and giggled at her overactive imagination. She stood up to head for the kitchen when a shadow flashed in the mirror.

"What the hell?" She whirled around but didn't see anything. Tim was working late, so it couldn't have been him. Besides, she'd have heard the bedroom door open. It creaked even if moved an inch.

She turned back to the mirror and gasped. Not only was her reflection gone, but there were bright crimson splotches all over the surface. She hesitated for a second before runner her finger over one of the spots. It came back dry and didn't distort the crimson. It was on the other side of the mirror. Impossible. She ran her hand along the braided wood pattern of the frame and felt the back. Just wood-paneled backing, as she expected.

Before she turned her attention to the puzzle of the crimson splotches (blood?) and no reflection, the shadow again crawled across the mirror. It moved slow and seemed to focus on her. It glowed black, as if it not only blocked the light, but ate it as well.

In the mirror, the shadow lightened. Behind Brianna, in her room, in her world, the lights dimmed. The proportion of light lost from the lamps matched the loss of dark in the shadow's mirror world. Whatever it was that murdered her reflection (that's what it did, right?) was coming for her.

Brianna did the only thing she could think of: she picked up her hairbrush and smashed it into the glass. The vanity and mirror, being bolted together, rocked back, but the glass didn't have a mark. The light continued to seep out of her room.

She smacked the brush into the mirror again, this time leaving a dimple in the glass. The light flickered back to full brightness behind her. The shadow in the mirror world remained, but it looked halfway between solid and gone.

She swung again, this time breaking the impact zone into a spider-webbed crack. The shadow disappeared. Another smack brought a second large crack and got rid of the crimson goop. Her reflection flickered back--her true reflection from an ordinary mirror.

Brianna took a deep breath and stared at herself through the ruined glass. Whatever magic that had lived in the mirror was gone. Would it come back? She didn't know, but had no interest in keeping the vanity set to find out. She wasn't sure what she'd tell Tim. A lie would have a much clearer ring of truth than this mess.

She stood up and walked out of the room. All of that could wait. Right now she needed a stiff drink.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

3 Short Stories

Here are 3 short stories that I've enjoyed. I hope you enjoy them, too.

The first is called When the First Petal Falls by Sylvia Hiven. This is from the August 15th edition of The Absent Willow Review. It's a story of how a young man's true love sees him only as a friend, but he uses the magic of flowers to change that.

The second story also comes from The Absent Willow Review, this time from the September 15th edition. It is called Precious Blood by Greg Chapman. This one is an interesting take on a vampire story.

The third story is called Sweet Breath by Lenora Farrington-Sarrouf. It comes from the Fall 2009 issue of Allegory Magazine. When you read this one, you won't believe how great that breath mint is!

As is the case when I spotlight these short stories, I don't know these authors or anything about them. I'm not getting anything from the magazines. I simply enjoyed these stories and wanted to share. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did. Until next time, keep reading and/or writing!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Revision Tip

Since I finished my first draft of my novel not too long ago, I thought I'd give a quick tip about revision during the draft process. Namely, don't. If you polish your first draft while you're writing, it's just keeping you from getting all of your initial words on the page. One of the best tips I've ever heard about the first draft process (and I have this taped to my bookshelf next to my writing desk) is: All first drafts stink. Just keep writing.

What this means is that you're not going to get a polished, publishable piece on the first go-through. You'll need to revise. Give yourself permission to write bad in the first draft process. Why? Because you'll be able to fix it up, make it wonderful, in the revision process. Let yourself get to the 2nd draft by finishing the first.

How many times have you heard of writers having unfinished novels filed away somewhere. Why are they unfinished? Because they didn't give themselves permission to simply write the story. Their inner critic told them it was stinky, that this idea would never fly, so the writer just gave up on the project. I know because I've done it. If we ignore the inner critic and realize we don't have to put our best prose out in the first draft, we'll finish a lot more of our work.

First drafts should be about experimenting with the story. Even if you're a heavy outliner, you still need to play around with the words to make everything authentic in your story. While you get these words down on the page, don't go back and fix things you've already written. Finish what you started, and fix it later.

What happens if you come up with a stroke of brilliance that will help the beginning of your story? Make a note to yourself to fix it in the 2nd draft. If you know the change will be made, write the rest of the story as if you already wrote it. That'll save some of your revision time.

Finish your first draft, and fix it in the second draft. In this early part of your novel, the most important thing is to get that initial draft done. If you don't, there's going to be nothing to revise later. What good is a polished first chapter with nothing following it? I hope this tip helps. Until next time, keep reading and/or writing.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

#fridayflash -- Different Perceptions

I stared at the baby. "Why am I looking at it?"

The doctor frowned. "I apologize. I thought you'd want to. I should have asked."

I shook my head. "No, no. What I mean is, why am I looking at it instead of me being inside of it looking back at me?"

The doctor frowned again. It seemed to be one of the few expressions he was capable of. "I'm not sure I understand."

"I'm supposed to be in there. In its head. I paid a fortune to live forever, but I'm still me. In this cancer-ridden deathtrap."

He frowned, and oh god I wanted to slap it off his face. I might have done it, too, if I could move my arm that high.

"Mr. Riggs, I assure you all of your memories, your personality, everything is locked within that child. You. It's all in the brochure you read a hundred times, in the video you watched a dozen times. None of this should be a surprise."

"But I'm still stuck in this." I tried to thump my chest, but my arm only lifted off the side of the wheelchair and plopped into my lap.

"Did you believe your mind would cease to exist in that body? That we'd make you nothing but a vegetable, a shell? I don't know what sort of idea you have about us, Mr. Riggs, but we're in the business of saving and prolonging lives, not taking them."

A tear rolled down my cheek. "But you promised I'd never die. I'm going to die."

The doctor shook his head. "When you die, you, this new you, will be aged to 21 years old. You chose that, I believe?"

I slumped down. "It won't be me. This me. This me is going to be hollowed out by this damn disease, and I'll be in it the whole way."

The doctor put a hand on my shoulder. I didn't look up, but I wondered if he'd managed to put on a different facial expression.

"I apologize if you didn't understand." He gestured to the baby. "He'll, you'll, have all of the memories up until this morning. When the new body is worn out, we'll make another. All of the new and old memories will be transferred. It'll go on and on. Forever. I don't understand why you don't get it."

I sighed and wondered the same thing about him.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Freewriting is an important tool every writer should use. There are many benefits to this simple exercise, which involves simply sitting down and letting the words flow onto paper or your computer screen. You can use it in a number of different ways.

--Start your day with a freewrite. This will knock the rust off that part of your brain that gets the ideas flowing. If you are the type of writer who agonizes over the first few minutes of writing because the words struggle to emerge, a freewrite could take you past that step. Whether you're writing the first draft of a novel, a short story, poetry, or whatever, this could help you get out of the daily gate smoother.

--Kick start a project with a freewrite. If you're ready to move onto your next project, but you're not sure what it is, sit down and freewrite. Set an amount of time to write, and let the words flow. Don't think about what you're writing, and don't actively search for ideas. Once you've finished your allotted writing time, read over what you wrote. Most often, some sort of idea will be staring right back at you. Many times you'll get more than one, and you'll have plenty of ideas for future projects, as well.

--Use freewriting to flesh out your ideas. You may have a killer idea you know that'll make a great story, but you don't yet have all the details. Think about that idea, sit down, and freewrite. As always, don't let your conscious mind get in the way. Just let your pen or keyboard fingers do the talking. When you're done, read over what you wrote. You might not get everything you want out of a single session, but you should be well on your way.

--Writer's Block be gone! Freewriting is an excellent way to push past difficult parts of your work in progress. You may know what you want to do in your story, but the exact process might be a bit fuzzy. Does your protagonist fight or give in to flight? Freewrite out the possibilities and see what you like best. Or, if you haven't started something yet, and that dreaded blank page is staring at you, freewrite. Don't worry about coming up with ideas, just let your subconscious work through the fear that you'll never write again. A good freewriting session could be all you need!

These are some ideas of how to use freewriting to your benefit. I'm sure you have other ways in which freewriting has helped you. If so, feel free to leave these ideas as a comment. Until next time, keep reading and/or writing!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

#fridayflash--The Chosen One

No one believed him. No matter what he said, no matter how much he swore he wasn't lying, they just wouldn't listen. And, really, who could blame them? His stories were a bit outlandish for most folks. But if someone had just paid him some mind, he might still be here.

Greg Jordan was your average, middle-class male, with a pretty wife and two point five kids. (Janice, his wife, was four months pregnant at the time.) The Jordans had left their dingy two-bedroom apartment and moved into their own home. Greg and Janice had fallen in love with the ranch-style home in its nice neighborhood. They tried to mask their interest so the sellers wouldn't peg them as easy marks, a tip provided by Janice's dad, but the owners were eager to sell. They agreed to the Jordan's first low-ball offer without negotiating. The Jordans, including little Timmy and Britney, couldn't have been happier.

Their first month was terrific, even if it did include a ton of hard work. Being pregnant, Janice mostly sat down and gave orders. She could have done more, but she was the boss and everyone knew it. The kids, bless their hearts, tried their best, but being five and three, Timmy and Britney often did more damage than good.

About that time, Greg felt a presence in the house. He claimed he heard footsteps, voices, and other weird sounds. He swore a strange man occasionally walked through their living room, and at times a young man, maybe a teenager, sat in the breakfast nook. Neither the kids nor Janice heard or saw any of these things. Everyone, including friends and relatives who heard the tales, began to wonder about him.

Greg wouldn't be dissuaded. He knew what he heard, saw, and felt. He'd lay awake at night, listening and watching. Whatever was going on, this was his house, and he wanted to know what he shared it with.

That's when the voices started. At first it was just small talk. "How are you, Greg?" "Wife thinks you're nuts, eh?" "Can you buy us some beer?" (Actually, that last one was those teenagers who loitered outside the liquor store. It all blended in.) Then the voices grew more persistent and, Greg wasn't afraid to say, scary. "Join us." "We need you." "Kill the non-believers."

He learned to ignore the voices, but that just pissed them off. They turned from simple murder whispers to full-blown poltergeists. At first Janice blamed the kids when she found her grandmother's knick-knacks shattered on the floor. Then Greg got the brunt of her fury. It was a dark week in the Jordan household. Mercifully, the poltergeist activity didn't last long. Janice must have scared the hell out of those ghosts because they never touched her stuff again.

The final showdown came one day after work. With Janice and the kids out running errands, Greg had to face the spirits on his own. They materialized on the staircase, and he finally got a good look at all four of them. He still had no idea who they were, but they weren't in a talking mood. Greg tried to run out the front door, but it was stuck. He even tried jumping through the plate glass window, but no matter how hard he threw his body at it, the glass wouldn't shatter. He had only one option; he turned and faced his destiny.

Janice and the kids came home an hour later. Timmy and Britney ran into the house as soon as their mom opened the front door, and when Janice walked in, two little kids rolling on the floor laughing hysterically greeted her. It seemed Daddy had taken off all his clothes right there in the front hall. "Even his nunderwear," little Britney said between howls. Janice didn't find it nearly as amusing. The three of them wandered through the house looking for the "necked daddy." When he didn't turn up, Janice drove around the neighborhood. The search proved futile. Greg had vanished.

Not long after, Greg Junior arrived. Janice had to get a second job, but she managed to keep the house and a relatively good lifestyle. She hated Greg for abandoning the family, but something changed her mind. Actually that something was Greg Junior. Not only were his first words "Daddy," but he had the oddest habit of looking at nothing, holding his arms out for a hug, and giggling wildly.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

1st Draft Done

I'm quite pleased with myself this week. I finished the first draft of my novel last night. As I've mentioned before, I've finished a couple of other works that I thought would be novels when I started, but they didn't work out--didn't have a high enough word count and just didn't feel like novels. This one actually feels like a novel to me. It still needs a ton of work--I have quite a few notes about revisions I'd like to make--but I'm off to a good start.

After I get it all typed up into Word (the whole thing is written in longhand), I plan to put it away for a month to let me look at it with a fresh eye. In the meantime, I'll get back to short stories. Other than the #fridayflash stories I've worked on for the past month or so, I've neglected them since I started on the novel. I need to market those I have ready, polish up some I've written, and get started on some new ones. I also need to get my already published stories in a ebook format to sell in the Kindle Store (or where ever is best).

This has been exciting for me. I have no idea if this novel will ever end up selling, but I think the experience is making me a better author. That's all I have for you this week. I'll be back on Friday, of course, with another #fridayflash story. Until next time, keep reading and/or writing.

Friday, September 25, 2009

#fridayflash: Open the Box


Snerdlin snickered. He'd won. He hadn't done much, but he'd won. He picked up the jewel-encrusted metal box and shook it. No sound. That couldn't be right. Shouldn't a box this beautiful be filled with pretty things? It should be clanking with gold sounds.

"Put down the box! Snerdlin, do you hear me?"

Snerdlin clutched his prize to his chest and spun to face James, evil James. "No! Mine! I win fair and square."

"There's nothing in that box for you." James reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a bag. A clankity-clank bag. A gold-sounding bag.

"Gold?" Snerdlin asked.

James nodded. "Give me the box and the bag's yours."

Snerdlin almost threw the box down and ran for the gold, but his little brain churned. If James would give him gold for the box now, maybe if he made James wait, he'd get even more gold.

"What are you thinking about? Snerdlin, your brain isn't built for thinking."

Snerdlin clutched the box to his chest. "No! Me want more gold. Another pouch or I keep box."

James closed his eyes and said something Snerdlin couldn't hear. He readied himself to bolt even though he knew James could catch him. But his tiny brain reasoned that James might not because he would risk hurting the box. No, Snerdlin's brain said, right now you are in charge.

"More gold."

"I'll take it from you."

Snerdlin sneered and lifted the box above his head. "You no take. I break before you take."

James raised his eyebrows. "You want to break it? Fine, go ahead." He put the pouch of gold back in his jacket. "I don't care. In fact, why don't you open it up? I'll even let you have what's inside."

Snerdlin gently placed the box onto the ground. "Me open?"

"Yes, you can open it. But hurry. We don't have all day."

Snerdlin moved his hand to rip off the latch when he stopped. Why did James want him to have the box if he'd been willing to give him gold? James used trickery. Snerdlin hated trickery.

"You open."

James smiled. "Okay. If you insist."

Wait. More trickery.

"No! Snerdlin open."

"Would you make up your mind? You found it first, Snerdlin, so it's your box. But you need to do something before Trilix gets here. I'll either give you the pouch of gold, or I'll get a safe distance away while you open it."

Safe distance? "Safe distance?"

"Yeah. You don't expect me to be an innocent bystander if that thing is the deathtrap I think it might be?"

Deathtrap? "Why it be deathtrap?"

"It may or may not be. Legends are sketchy. So what are you going to do, Snerdlin?"

"No deathtrap. You open. Me want gold." Snerdlin waited for James to pull out the pouch of gold, and then he snuck over to make the exchange. Once the pouch was in his hands, he scampered away until he felt he'd gone far enough. He turned and watched.

James placed the box on the ground and unlatched it. He pulled the lid up and stared inside. At first nothing happened, but soon the box came to life. Smoke rose from its depths, then a roar erupted from its midst. James's mouth moved, but no words came out. A bright light shot up. It hurt Snerdlin's eyes, so he turned away until he was sure it had dimmed. When he turned back, the light was off, the lid closed, and James gone.

Snerdlin thought for a moment. James couldn't have gone. He'd have had to run past Snerdlin, and he didn't do that. James got sucked into the box, it had to be true. Good thing Snerdlin didn't open the box himself. And he sure wasn't going to open it now. The box could stay right there forever. He clutched his bag of gold and ran out before Trilix arrived.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Some Writing Tips

I've decided to occasionally post some tips that have helped me out in my writing. I hope by presenting these, they might help others. I don't profess to have come up with these tips, but I feel they're important enough to pass along. Without further ado, here are my first few writing tips.

--Sit down and write. In theory, this is the simplest rule of all. Otherwise, how would you ever get any words down? How would you ever finish your story? This can be, though, one of the hardest things for some writers to do. It's daunting to realize you need to pour your soul out on the page. A writer needs to get over that, however, and get the words on the page. Sit down, pick up your pen (or open your word processor), and start writing. Whether you have an outline or not is irrelevant for this tip. Get the words down!

--Don't forget to freewrite liberally. Freewriting can be used in a number of different ways. If you need to get into a rhythm and flow before you start on your day's work, freewrite until you're ready. If you're stuck in a tricky scene, freewrite possible solutions. If you don't know what sort of story you want to start on next, freewrite ideas. In all of these exercises, and more, freewriting will help focus your writing.

--My last tip for today is a bit quirky. I've recently discovered this one works for me. If I'm writing a story or scene in my novel, I sometimes get stuck even though I know what comes next. How do I say it? Why doesn't it come out the way I want? If I pick up a pen with different color ink (I'm one of those strange people who still writes longhand), for some reason it jars my brain and the words flow again. You can try this in your word processor, too. Try writing the next few paragraphs in a different font or color. I'm guessing the change of appearance on the otherwise bland page (esthetically, of course, not your word choice) brings a feeling of fun to your brain. (Don't forget to go back and change the font and color to your story's default!) Whatever the reason, it works for me, and it just might work for you.

There you go, three tips on helping you write. I wouldn't share these with you if they didn't work for me, so I hope they help. I'll bring some more tips up in future posts. Until next time, keep reading and/or writing.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Latest Published Story--Three Seconds

My latest short story was published tonight. This one is a podcast, a first for me, so that was neat. It's also a young adult story, another first. The podcast is called "YA Literature Review." You can find it in two places: first on their website here: Three Seconds or on iTunes. Search "YA Literature Review" and download "Story Corner: Three Seconds."

I hope you enjoy the story, and please let me know what you think. I'd love to hear any comments you might have!

Friday, September 18, 2009

#fridayflash--One Rainy Day


Larry walked through the dark streets of Dillington with a briefcase in his left hand and an umbrella in his right. The rain hadn't started yet, but by the looks of the sky, it wouldn't be long. Besides, ol' Chuck Golightly of the Channel 10 News predicted a doosy of a storm. If Larry could make the bus stop before the downpour, he'd count himself lucky for the first time in a long, long time.

"Hey, buddy, spare a couple of bucks?"

A bum stood in a nearby alleyway. He was the stereotypical homeless guy, complete with a bottle of booze in a paper sack. Larry could smell him from ten feet away.

"A couple of bucks, buddy?" the guy asked again.

"Sorry, that's all I have, and I need it for the bus. I'm . . . never mind. Sorry."

"You're what? You were going to say you weren't doing so well, but then you saw me. Am I right?"

Larry gave a sheepish nod. "Yeah, something like that."

The bum smiled. "What would you say if I told you I could fix all your problems?"

"I'd say I don't believe you. No offense."

The bum chuckled. "None taken. I like you. You seem like a decent guy." His face grew serious. "But what if I insisted I have that power?"

Where this was going? He'd seen movies and read books where bums turned out to be billionaires and were just testing people, but this couldn't be that. Could it?

"Follow me. What did you say your name was?"

"Larry. Larry Brantz. What's yours?"

"Call me Mac. Everyone does."

Mac led Larry into the alleyway. This wasn't like him, but there was something about this bum, this Mac. Hell, as bad as things were going, he might as well see this through. Light at the end of the tunnel and all that.

Mac stopped at the chain-link fence that ended the alley. He dropped the paper sack to the ground but held on to the bottle. It looked like an ordinary vodka bottle.

"You're going to think this is crazy," Mac said, "but this is a magic bottle. When I break it, all your problems will drain away."

"Yeah, that does sound crazy."

Mac smiled. "Watch." He held the bottle by its neck and smashed it against a nearby dumpster. It cracked like a gunshot, but neither man jumped. When Mac held up the now broken bottle, nothing happened.

"Well?" Larry said.

Mac brought a finger to his lips. "Patience, Larry. The magic takes a few seconds."

A raindrop hit Larry on the top of his head, and he rolled his eyes. Why had he been so gullible? Instead of having his problems solved, he was going to get soaked. And he'd probably miss the bus to boot. Mary would be pissed when he walked in an hour late. Just what his marriage needed.

"Here it comes," Mac said. "Watch."

Larry did. Mac jammed the jagged bottle into Larry's stomach. Larry gasped and fell to his knees. Pain shot through his entire body. Mac let out a maniacal laugh and jabbed him a second time. So much blood leaked from the wounds that he could hear it dripping on the ground along with the scattered raindrops. Mac walked behind him and shoved him face-first onto the pavement.

As the bum ran off with his briefcase, umbrella, and wallet, Larry smiled. He couldn't call Mac a liar. It might not be a million dollars, but in a minute or two, Larry Brantz would never have another worry.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

My Writing Process Pt. 2

Last week I gave insight into how I am working on my newest work as a whole, but I thought this week some of you might be interested in seeing how I write on a daily basis.

I make it a priority to write six times a week, and usually I do seven. Sometimes that seventh day is maybe a hundred words, but as long as something is on paper, I view it as a good day. The other six days, I require a few pages, not just paragraphs. And I say pages, not 500 or 1000 words, because I write longhand. I often get sneered at when I say this (or sometimes people will tell me in a hushed voice like I might not know that I can write directly into the computer), but I enjoy the process of writing with a pen and paper. I also like the quick editing I can do when I get around to entering my pages into the computer. It's not an official revision step, but it's a helpful part of the process for me. Will I continue to do this? Probably not for my next novel attempt, but maybe I'll go into the reasons for that in a future post. I'll never give up on the pen and paper approach fully, though.

When I sit down, the first thing I do is pick up a "how to write" book. It doesn't matter which one I'm reading at the time, and I have plenty to choose from (as I'm sure most writers do). I'll read a couple of pages of that and set it aside. I might also read an article in Writer's Digest if I still haven't finished the latest issue. This ritual gets me thinking about writing, which is an important step in getting started.

To be honest, the first 15 to 20 minutes don't usually go very smooth. Even though I'm in the writing mode, it's still not usually easy to kick-start the process. I don't usually get many words on the page at this point, but as long as I'm staring at the page, writing thoughts are going through my head. After this initial struggle, however, the words usually start to flow. As you all know, some days are better than others, but as long as I stick to it at my desk, I'll get my page count without too much trouble.

What do I do when I hit my goal? Depends on the day, and how the session went. Sometimes I can breeze through in an hour, and I may stick with it and keep working. Other days can be a struggle, so once the goal is hit, I stop at a good spot and leave it for the next day.

There you have it. My method isn't glamorous or ground-breaking, but works for me. As I said last week, I know many writers like to see how others go about their business, so that's your peak into my typical writing sessions. I'd love to hear any comments you might have about it, or how you structure your own time. Until next time, keep reading and/or writing!

Friday, September 11, 2009

#fridayflash -- Uncle Ron


We arrived in New York Harbor on Mars in 2382 (Western Earth Years). We saw the faux Statue of Liberty in front of the spaceport and joked that we were like the immigrants to America back on Earth hundreds of years ago. After landing, we scoured our map and determined how to get to our housing district.

All except Uncle Ron, who seemed a bit distracted.

Next, we headed over to the transport center. We chatted about whether to take the aero-taxi or the land-roving bus. Both would be fun and give us a neat perspective of our new homeworld. Grandma Dakota, only half-joking, suggested we do one, then come back right away to try the other. If we hadn't been so eager to get settled, we might have done just that. We decided to choose one now. We could come back another day.

I think I was the only one that noticed Uncle Ron, who normally dominated conversations like this, stayed quiet.

The moving hallway took us from the terminal to the Intra-Planetary Transportation Center. I marveled at the vision screens. Instead of windows, the walls were lined with monitors that made it seem as if we were on uncovered walkways on the surface of the planet. With oxygen, of course. There were plans to add atmospheric effects to create illusions of scents, breezes, and other goodies. I looked at Uncle Ron, figuring he'd be thrilled, but he looked lost in thought.

Once at the Intra-Planetary Transportation Center, we decided on the aero-taxi. What better way to get acquainted with our new neighborhood and home than with a birds-eye view? The porter on duty informed us that we'd need to take two cabs. Each taxi had seats enough for only five, and we had six. Uncle Ron spoke up for the first time since landing and told the porter to hail just one. He wanted to look around a bit longer, and he'd catch up with us later. Everyone said that sounded great. No one thought it strange since it was just Ron being Ron.

Except me. Something was up. He hadn't been himself since we landed. No, that wasn't true. He hadn't been himself since the bottom of the space elevator in New Vegas. I loved and trusted my Uncle Ron, though, so I didn't say anything.

The aero-taxi would have been a neat ride if I hadn't been so preoccupied. Mom, Dad, Grandma Dakota, and Grandpa Drake all marveled at the sights, but I couldn't. The ride took forever, and I could only hope there was a message from Uncle Ron waiting for us.

Turns out I was right. I listened to his message twice, not bothering to check out my new living space, my new home. Uncle Ron had caught a flight to one of the moons of Saturn, where a new colony had just started up. After that, he'd heard of an experimental hyperspace jump that he'd like to be a part of. He promised to be in touch no matter what, but I knew we'd never hear from him again. I think the rest of the family knew it, too, but no one else seemed upset. They went on unpacking and making this new dwelling home. After all, it was just Ron being Ron.


This one is a bit more "slice of life" than story, but I enjoyed writing it, and I hope you enjoyed reading it. Uncle Ron seems like quite a character, and while I didn't explore him too much in this story, I may need to do so in the future. Sounds like he's in for some real adventures. Anyway, thank you for reading, and please leave a comment. I'd love to know what you think!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

My Writing Process

I've stated before here in my blog that I've noticed many writers obsessed with how others work. They want to compare their practices with others to see if they are on the right track. While writers need to just sit down and get their own work done, I believe it is helpful at times, especially when you feel you're in a rut, to peek into the writing lives of others. For this reason, I will give a quick look at my own writing process on my newest work in progress. Maybe it'll give some of you ideas of how you can get your own work done, or it might just fuel your voyeuristic pleasure. Either way, I'm happy with however it helps.

I start by taking some time to write out random ideas about the story to get it solidified in my mind. I think briefly about who the characters should be and write that down. After that, I write down ten or so brief scenes that will be used throughout the book. This gives me a rough outline, which grows bigger as I connect the dots, so to speak. I keep the descriptions of these scenes brief, on one 3x5 card for each. Of course some of the scenes may take multiple chapters to complete, but they're still brief on the card. I don't do much to flesh out the characters at this point--no bio, no card. I jot down notes when I think about things I need to know about them. Instead, I think it's more important to get to know the characters during the draft. The revision and rewriting stage is where I will flesh them out and make it look like the story started with just the characters instead of plot.

When I have my scenes on my cards, I put them in the order that I believe they go in and start writing. I feel this is a good balance between free-writing the first draft (sometimes referred to as "pantsing" as in writing from the seat of your pants), and working from an outline. It gives me freedom to explore my story and world while having a solid foundation to be anchored in. Plus, if I choose a different route than I'd originally envisioned in the outline, it's easy to make up new cards and set aside the old ones that no longer fit.

As I write, I keep plenty of notes for various reasons. Since I've just created a small outline, I need to make things up as I go. When I do create new rules, characters, or whatever, I jot those down so I don't have to search through many pages later to remember what I'd done--place names, character names, character traits, etc. I also make notes about revision ideas I have. I feel it's counterproductive to go back and fix already written work when I know I'll be changing things in my revision/rewriting stage anyway. It's more important to get that first draft done, so a quick note about what I want to change works much better for me.

That's really all there is to it for me. The main part of getting the first draft done is simply sitting down and putting words on the page. My simple outline gives me the freedom to enjoy the writing and creating process. Let me know what you think about my writing process, and feel free to share your own. Until next time, keep reading and/or writing!

Friday, September 4, 2009

#fridayflash--When He Comes Calling


Another Day almost done. Reggie sat in front of the TV with his dinner--a microwave burrito and a handful of cheese twists. How had he survived without Margaret? She'd been gone for almost a year now, and though people said he'd adjust, he hadn't. In their forty-six years together, Margaret had been his everything, his entire life. Without her he was just going through the motions, and he wasn't sure he wanted to do that anymore.

As he took a bite of his bean and cheese burrito, the doorbell rang. "Who's that?" he muttered. No one had come to visit since Margaret's funeral. Reggie pushed himself up and shuffled towards the front door.

The bell rang again. "I'm moving as fast as I'm gonna." When he opened the door, a man, probably in his mid-thirties, stood on the porch. He wore a three-piece suit, carried an attache case, and had salesman written all over him.

"Hello, Reginald," the man said. "How are you feeling today?"

Reggie scrutinized the man a bit more. Nope, didn't recognize him. "Who are you?"

"This visit isn't about me, Reginald. How are you today?"

"I'm tired, I hurt, and I miss the hell out of my wife."

"Which is why I'm here." The man walked past Reggie into the house. Reggie wasn't much for strangers, but for some reason he didn't protest.

"Been hard without Margaret, hasn't it?" The man looked over at Reggie's TV tray. "Dinner certainly was better."

"It was, but I like microwave burritos. You still haven't stated your name or your business."

The man sat down on the couch next to Reggie's dinner and helped himself to a cheese twist. As he ate it, he looked like he would choke, but managed to swallow. "Honestly, I don't know how you people survive on this . . . this junk you consider food. Just the thought of eating here makes me glad I can head home for meals."

"You don't need to bad-mouth my supper," Reggie said. "I never did offer you any."

"I apologize, Reginald. I meant no offense."

"It's okay. You ain't told me your name or your business, so I won't bother askin' where you're from."

"You'll find out in due time, Reginald. Just be patient. Why don't you finish your dinner?"

The stranger stood up to give Reggie room to sit. Reggie hadn't realized how famished he was. He hadn't been this hungry since before Margaret got sick. He took a big bite from his burrito and chewed slowly.

"It may not be Margaret's special meatloaf, but it does have its charm." He placed a cheese twist in his mouth and grimaced. "You're right about these, though. Teach me to save a few cents on a cheap brand."

The stranger chuckled. "Where you're going, they're all name brands."

Reggie sat back in the couch and folded his hands behind his head. "I don't know why you think I'm going with you. I don't understand why I even let you in."

The stranger took a seat in the easy chair next to the couch. "You're lonely."

"And where exactly do you think you're taking me?"

"I can promise you this, Reginald: you'll have so many friends, you'll never be lonely again. And the food." The man licked his lips. "As I've said, it's far better than anything you can get here."

"So it's your hometown, eh? And when did you think you'd get me to leave?"

The stranger stood up. "Why, Reginald, we've already left."

"What?" Reggie leapt to his feet--far faster than he had in the past fifteen years--and knocked his TV tray over. He didn't watch his dinner splat on the carpet; he'd already turned his attention to the stranger.

"See for yourself." The man made a motion with his arm towards the couch, and when Reggie's eyes followed, he saw himself lying rigid. The TV tray indeed lay toppled over, and his burrito and chips scattered across the rug. Boy, Margaret would've reamed him good for that. He glanced over to the hallway, but in its place was a wall of bright light.

"Step in, Reginald. They're all waiting for you. Especially Margaret. You're all she can talk about."

"Margaret." Reggie didn't look back as he passed through the light. In seconds, the stranger heard terrified scrams, and he chuckled. "They always think I'm offering heaven." With a puff of smoke, he vanished.


I hope you enjoyed my second foray into #fridayflash. I'd be thrilled if you took the time to leave comments on this story. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

2 Short Stories

Since my blog post this week was sort of self-serving (sometimes it needs to be done, right?), I figured I'd make a second post this week highlighting a couple of short stories not written by me.

The first is called Nemo and Kafka Balance the Books, and it is from the August 15, 2009 issue of The Absent Willow Review. It is a strange tale of bureaucracy where people are scheduled to die. If they don't meet their appointed time, someone else is chosen to die for them. Nemo must save a young child when an old man can't figure out a way to meet his end.

The next comes from the podcast Pseudopod. It is called Front Row Seats by Scott William Carter. It is about a recently widowed man who finds movies to be a great escape from his pain. That is until he notices a strange old man who visits many of the same movies as him. You can also download this one on iTunes. It's listed as Pseudopod #107.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

My List of Published Stories

I decided, in honor of my short story which was published earlier this week, I'd create a blog post this week to showcase my writing. More specifically, a post that lists all of my published work that can be found online. I hope you enjoy looking through these stories, and I would love to read your comments on one or more of them. Enjoy!
(I have plenty of others which have been published online, but the places they were published - be it the page to the story itself or the online 'zine - no longer exist.)

The Girl on the Wall: This is from the webzine, The Were-Traveler. This issue's title was The Realms of Death, so you can probably guess death was the theme of the issue, and my story, obviously.

Reese Copy Company :  This is from the website It's a ghostly horror story about a man who has a strange run-in with a copy machine in an abandoned warehouse.

Special Order : This one is available in the Fantasy section of the e-zine It's a modern fantasy/horror tale that takes place in a restaurant that offers unique menu items.

Weeds and Dead Flowers : This one appeared on the website, Escape into Life in April 2011. It's a horror story about a woman finding three young girls in a local graveyard.

The Highest Stakes (Find the Audio Version here) : This one won a writing challenge posted to me by Neil Colquhoun. He challenged me to write a story about all of the numbers on a roulette wheel adding up to 666. He wrote one, too, and put up a poll for people to vote. My story won, and Neil rewarded me by podcasting it. Give it a listen. Neil did a great job with the read!

Twelve Drummers Drumming : This appeared on Christmas Day in the online anthology, 12 Days 2010. This story shows how Santa recruits his elves.

The Clown Killer : This one appeared as the Halloween Day post of the 13 Days of Horror, the 13th story. An amateur ghost hunter eggs on a dangerous ghost...with disastrous consequences.

The Eye : This one appeared in the Special Halloween edition of Dark Movements. Something weird is going on in the house across the street. The problem is no one believes it but him.

Trapped Under Ice : This one is on the Tuesday, July 20th blog post of At the Bijou. It at first appears to be just a horrible bit of bad luck, but you'll have to read through to the end to see if it stays that way.

Fast Food Zombies : This one appears in the March 2010 issue of Aphelion Magazine. Just as the title suggests, it's about humongous zombies who terrorize fast food joints, and one college students adventure in escaping an attack.

The Pit : This St. Patrick's Day horror story is available in the UnLuck of the Irish Anthology on page 18. It's a short story about a man who's trapped after chasing something--something he doesn't even know about.

Between the Strobes : This flash fiction story is in Deadly Love, Be Mine Valentine's Day Anthology on page 20. It's different from my other stories in that I wrote it in 2nd person POV. I normally don't like to write in this style because I don't usually like to read 2nd person stories. It worked for this one, though, and I hope you agree with me.

The Bird : This flash fiction story was published in the January 5th edition of The New Flesh. It's a horror story about a very strange bird who terrorizes a mother and her daughter. Or does it?

Scream Time : This flash fiction horror story was published in the ezine, The New Flesh. It's a horror story about how a newly-reinstated tradition at a college goes terribly wrong for one girl.

Find the Flag : This comes from Dark Fire Fiction. It's a horror story about a group of teen age boys who play a capture the flag type game in an abandoned mansion.

Three Seconds : This one is a young adult story about the last few seconds of a high school football game. It's special because it's a podcast story, so you'll need speakers to "read" it. If you'd prefer to listen to it on iTunes, search "YA Literature Review" and download "Story Corner: Three Seconds." One funny thing about this piece is that the name I give the main character's school was a made up high school when I wrote it, but it became an actual one this year. Funny coincidence!

Village of the Dragons : This one is pure fantasy. It has a bard, a wizard, a dragon, and a young boy who learns he has magical powers, all set in a fantasy setting. I'm proud of all my stories, but I really like this one.

Red Rose on White : This is probably the only story I've had published that you could classify as "mainstream" or "contemporary" or whatever non-genre label you want to put on it. It's a simple story about a quilt square. And imagination.

Children of the Mall : This one is a ghost story. I wrote it to just be a goofy little story, more comedy than horrific events, but I suppose if you really look at the characters it is a pretty depressing story. I had fun writing this one. I guess that speaks volumes about me, huh?

The Door to Nothing : This one never says what genre it belongs to, just that it is a work of speculative fiction. You can decide for yourself whether it is fantasy, science fiction, or something else. I enjoy writing stories that, while they have a beginning, middle, and end (at least I hope), are very ambiguous and let the reader decide for themselves what is going on. I make sure when I write such stories they are very short, like this one, because it's not fair to make a reader comb through thousands of words to end up with ambiguity. With a quick story (usually referred to as flash fiction), though, I think it's fun.

1-800-FUN-TALK : This comes from the February 2008 issue of Down in the Dirt. This one is a horror story about a woman who tries a party line for the first time.

Battle Scars : This comes from the November 2007 issue of Down in the Dirt. It is a science fiction tale about a clone with a soul all his own.

Soul Traveler : This comes from the January 2007 issue of Down in the Dirt. It's about a man who is given a chance to explore the universe, but he must give up his life on Earth.

I also placed 5th in a Halloween writing contest on a Twitter horror-zine called Tweet the Meat. I don't believe there is a link to the story, but I'll just print it here, since it is only 13 words: "She grinned and hummed along with her favorite tune: bonesaw with no anesthesia."

There you go. I do have a number of others that have been published, but one is in a print magazine, and the others no longer exists online. I hope you enjoy reading through these stories that are still available, and please leave me some comments. I'd love to hear what you think. Until next time, keep reading and/or writing.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Newest Short Story: The Breath of Life

I had a new short story come out today in Allegory Magazine. You can view it here: The Breath of Life. Leave me a comment about what you think. Thanks!

Friday, August 28, 2009

#fridayflash story: Jaime's Home

Earlier this week I heard about a great event each Friday. It's called #fridayflash, and the idea is to post a flash fiction story on your blog each week. I don't know if I'll participate every week, but I will try to as often as I can. So, without further ado, here is my first post for #fridayflash:


I swore I heard her voice yell to me, "I'm home," as I was in the shower. When I got out, she was nowhere to be seen. Then, ten minutes later, the hospital called and informed me she'd been in an accident. The paramedics had done their best, but she was gone before she reached the emergency room. I didn't bother to tell them that it was impossible; I'd heard her come in a few minutes before, and no, I didn't imagine it. Instead, I hung up the phone and folded into a ball. Jaime, my beautiful Jaime, was gone.

Only a few things caught my attention in those hours I lay there. One, our dog, Bickers, sat shaking, his tail between his legs, as he growled at nothing. Two, the kitchen light turned on and off a few times. Later I found the peanut butter jar on the counter, the lid unscrewed. I hadn't put it there, but Jaime loved peanut butter. Three, I heard the toilet flush two different times. Jaime never could go very long without having to use the bathroom.

I finally got up and did all the stuff I had to do regarding her death. I don't know how I made it through the next few weeks. I probably missed a bunch of signs. When my mind stopped spinning a few weeks later, I noticed Jaime all through the apartment. She had continued her life as if nothing had happened. That's the only way I could think to describe it. Her favorite chair always felt warm and used, though neither I nor anyone else sat there. The TV, whenever I wasn't watching, powered on and tuned to the Travel Channel, her favorite station. Plus a hundred other things I couldn't explain except that she was still there, living in death, just out of my reach.

What did she think? Could she think? Did I abandon her? Was I there in her unlife? I couldn't bear to think about it, and though neither of us was very religious, I called a priest. She needed to move on to wherever the dead went.

I don't really remember talking to anyone at the church. Like so many things after Jaime left, I ran on autopilot. When the priest showed up, I gave him a tour--a Jaime ghost tour, you might say. We watched as she made herself a sandwich, which was just the top twisting loose on the peanut butter jar and the knives vibrating in the silverware drawer. We witnessed the television turning itself on and the channels flipping through until it reached The Travel Channel. We noticed the indentation form in her chair.

I witnessed these things, anyway. The priest, for whatever reason, said none of that happened and refused to free Jaime. I got mad. It had all just happened as he stood there by my side. The only way he could calm me down was with an offer of some other kind of help. I tried to explain that the exorcism would do just that, but he said he had a better idea. He was a man of the cloth, so I believed him.

He went outside for a moment to talk on his cell phone, and when he got back, he was all smiles. In a few minutes, all my problems would be solved. I was so happy that I cried out to Jaime and asked if she had heard. She was going to be okay. Her chair creaked, and I knew she understood. She'd been alive the last time I'd felt this good.

Hours later I sat in a padded cell with a strait jacket wrapped tight around me. I had to admit it was rather comfortable. The help the padre had promised came in the form of an ambulance. He told the paramedics that I'd unscrewed a peanut butter cap, rattled the knives in the silverware drawer, turned on the television, flipped through the channels, and sat in a chair, all the while blaming it on her ghost. Ridiculous, of course. I'd been standing next to him the entire time. At least Jaime had come with me, though. Someone had stinky peanut butter breath.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

3 short stories

I thought I'd highlight 3 more short stories that I've enjoyed. You can get all 3 online for free.

The first comes from July 15, 2009 issue of The Absent Willow Review. It's a story entitled Within a Fictional Truth by Philip Roberts. It's a chilling tale about an entity born inside a slain teen. The entity seeks the answers to what it is and why it exists.

The next is a podcast story from Pseudopod, and is called Pattern Masters by Jeff Carlson. You can hear it from that link, or go to your iTunes store and search for Pseudopod. It is story #105. This is a story of an eccentric artist who must finish a strange piece while navigating his way through a relationship with an equally strange woman.

The last story for this week is also a podcast story, though this one is quite short. It comes from Escape Pod and is entitled Taco by Greg Van Eekhout. Like the last story, listen from that link, or go to the iTunes store and search for Escape Pod. You'll find it as Escape Pod Flash: Taco. This is a very short story about the face of Jesus in a tortilla chip.

I hope you enjoy those stories as much as I did. If you have some favorites of your own, feel free to leave them in the comments. Until next week, keep reading and/or writing.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Writing Practice

I know you've heard it before: the comparison of the need to practice with athletes or musicians and writers. If you want to remain competitive, or even competent, you, as a writer, need to practice. That's not the issue here. We know it's true.

The thoughts I want to give about writing practice are more practical. What constitutes writing practice? Do you need to run though rote exercises like musicians practicing their scales? Not at all! Writing practice can be whatever you make of it.

If your idea of writing is fictional prose, why not use your writing practice time on poetry? You might never let anyone see what you create, but it may spark story ideas, character traits, interesting settings, or any number of things to help your fiction. Or why not take ten minutes and whip up a flash fiction story? It may not be salable after that one pass, but that doesn't mean that you can't take time later to revise it into shape. Or not. Maybe you'll simply be happy with having created it, and no one needs to see it. That's the beauty of writing practice; it only exists to help you grow as a writer.

If you're not sure what you want to do in your practice session, why not choose a writing prompt? Bookstores, both brick and mortar and the online versions, sell plenty of books that have a number of writing prompts in them. Magazines like Writer's Digest also usually have at least one prompt per issue, and their on-line content usually contains a number more. Or hit your favorite search engine and type in "writing prompts," and you'll have plenty of options to keep your practice schedule fresh for years to come.

One thing to remember about writing practice is that it should be fun. Everyday you write isn't going to be a picnic. Some days the words fight you and refuse to get down on your page. It doesn't matter whether you're a novelist, a poet, a journalist, a screenwriter, or whatever; if you write, you'll have tough days. So why not rekindle your love affair with the written word by taking ten or fifteen minutes a day to enjoy yourself? If you do this, your writing will do nothing but prosper. And to me, that's what writing practice is all about.

Until next time, keep reading and/or writing!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Short Story Podcasts

Today I thought I'd let everyone know about some great podcasts on iTunes for free short stories. This is the perfect format for the short story in this age of on the go. I believe all of these podcasts have websites where you can download these stories, but since I subscribe to them in iTunes, that's the format I'm going to talk about today. Remember, if you don't have iTunes, it's free to download. Get it straight from Apple's website. You don't even need an iPod. You can listen to these or any podcasts on iTunes right from your computer.

It's easy to find these podcasts. Simply go to the iTunes store and put the title in the search bar, which is in the upper right corner. Click "subscribe," and you'll get plenty of great short stories for free! I'll list these in alphabetical order.

The first I listen to is called Clonepod. This highlights great fantasy and science fiction stories. Most of the stories run about 25-35 minutes, but there are a number of flash fiction stories that hover around 10 minutes.

The next one is The Drabblecast. This is a speculative fiction podcast that likes stories on the weird side. Most stories run about 15-25 minutes.

The next one is Escape Pod. This one focuses on science fiction short stories. Most run about 30 minutes, but there are quite a few flash fiction stories under 10 minutes.

The next one is The Mad Writer Fictioncast. This is a group of speculative flash fiction stories all written by author Warren Stallworth. Each story runs under 10 minutes.

The next one is PodCastle. This is a podcast that focuses on fantasy stories. As with most collections of fantasy stories, some are light and airy, while others dark and grimey. Most run about 30 minutes, but there are plenty under 10 minutes.

The next one is Psuedopod. This podcast focuses on horror fiction. Some are subtle tales, while others make no bones about the horror and violence of life. Most run from 20 to 35 minutes.

The final short fiction podcast I subscribe to is Well Told Tales. This one focuses on Pulp Fiction stories, and most run about 25 minutes or so. There are occasional flash fiction stories here, as well.

If you enjoy reading short stories, but rarely have the time to browse print and online magazines, these podcasts might just be for you. Just type the name in the search bar in your iTunes store, and enjoy hours of fun. If you have some short story podcasts that you subscribe to that I didn't mention, feel free to mention them in the comments. Until next time, keep reading and/or writing!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Novel writing process

I recently started working on a novel, and I'm happy with how I went about all of the pre-writing exercises to allow for an easier first draft experience. I got a book called Book in a Month by Victoria Lynn Schmidt, not because I wanted to pound out a book in thirty days, but because it looked to have a good structure. I honestly feel that I've had trouble in the past getting a novel written because I lack structure in my writing process. I've tried other methods, but nothing has ever really sung to me. This one looks like it has promise.

I'm using many of the exercises and worksheets provided (though I'm doing so in a separate notebook, not right in the book, because I'm cheap that way), and I'm tweaking others to fit me. The book is set up to use each of the 30 days, with reminders of things to be looking for and exercises on how to throw a creative curveball into the mix. I've decided, since I don't want to dash it out so quick, that I'd move on to the next page with every 7 or so that I write--that'll get me to a good word count for a middle-grade novel. I made scene cards on 3x5 cards, and those have become my outline for the story. I sketched out my main character with enough information--using the book's character guide--and I'll fill it out more as I write. This seems to be an excellent way to get going on a novel for me.

The tough part, of course, will be actually writing the thing. I've set myself a goal of two pages a day/6 days a week. I like to set my writing goals low so I have a hard time missing them. Often I write more than that, so it's a nice little confidence boost for myself when I do write more. I started in the middle of last week, and so far I've met my goal every day. I'm confident this system will serve me well not just through the first draft, but through the revision process as well. That's all I have for you this week. Until next time, keep reading and/or writing.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

2 Short Story Reviews

I want to highlight two short stories I read this week that I enjoyed. Both are from The Absent Willow Review, an online speculative fiction magazine that I check out every new issue, which I believe is about every two or three weeks. One of my short stories, Planetary Fear, is in the December 16, 2008 issue. Both of these stories are from the July 15, 2009 issue, which, as of this post, is the newest.

The first story is called Claims, by Timothy P. Remp and Peggy McFarland. It's a story about an insurance investigator who must travel to Mars to discover the truth about some missing robots that a farmer has a claim in for. I found this a neat story to read simply because of the descriptions of the vast wastelands of Mars. The mysteries of the story tied into the insurance investigator's past, and made for an excellent read.

The second story is called The Binder, by Derek Ivan Webster. This one is about a monster in the form of a binder. I thought this one was a fun little read with a nice climax to the tale being told. It also gave an open ending, which I always find entertaining, not because I expect a sequel, but simply because the tale begs the reader to use his or her imagination to decipher what happens next.

I'm not really interested in giving detailed reviews, but just in making short stories that I enjoy visible and available for others to read. I enjoy reading and writing speculitive fiction short stories, so I decided that I'll occasionally give the links to some. I hope you enjoy them. Until next time, keep reading and/or writing.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Harry Potter and Short Story Reviews

My wife and I are going to see the new Harry Potter on Friday, and I can't wait. In the past few weeks, I've re-read all of the books and watched all of the movies. One thing that jumped out at me was how the movies really are just loosely based on the books. It really started to bother me, and I hated movie 4 (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) because of it. By the time we watched 5 (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix), though, I made peace with it. I'm just telling myself that it's an alternate universe. The characters are the same, but the actions are different. I'm glad I've (mostly) come to terms with this because I've heard that the sixth movie (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince) is again only loosely based on J.K. Rowling's text. That should be fine because I've also heard that it's an excellent movie. I've enjoyed the many previews I've watched on the Internet (how did we anticipate movies before it, eh?), so I don't think I'll let the departure from the book bother me. I guess I'll know on Friday. Let me know in the comments what you think. (I figure I need to re-watch 4 sometime soon with my new mindset. I'm sure I'll enjoy it the next time around.)

I've decided I want to start writing occasional short story reviews, and I may occasionally do so more than once a week. I want to point out some of the great online magazines that give excellent short stories for free. My plan at the moment is to give a short blurb about a story (no more than a teaser sentence or two) and a link so you can check them out for yourself. Since I have a few stories floating around cyberspace, I figure I should help publicize the market. Until next time, keep reading and/or writing.