Sunday, June 7, 2015


Sadly, due to some issues I've been having—and thanks to some cajoling—I am moving this blog from blogger.

You can find my new work here.

I look forward to seeing each and every one of you there!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Blog Battle: Hordes

So Rachael's been after me for another story for her BlogBattles.  I've bowed to peer pressure and give you this.

Right now, it's untitled and for a reason.  This is the opening page of a novel that I am just starting.  I hope that it turns into something, but for now, this is just a teaser.  And since I don't title my work until much later into the writing process . . . I think you see where this is going.

Either way, I hope that you enjoy.


People bumped and pushed and shoved Taneid Valar as they moved en mass across the bridge into the relative safety of the city of Hrith.  City was a generous term.  It really wasn’t one.  There were no walls, no towers, nothing to protect its inhabitants of from the hordes behind them.  Nothing besides the river which looped around it, protecting three sides while the fourth led out to the plains of Loerien by a barely maintained road.  Any trained eye could see it wasn’t much.  And to have any hope of surviving longer than a day, they’d have to blow the five bridges that lead into the city.  Assuming that enough powder could be found.
Valar looked over his shoulder.  People, refugees all, stretched back as far as he could see toward the darkening horizon.  Behind them, the light from fires reflected off of low lying clouds.  Most of those fires marked funeral pyres for dozens of people.  Burned alive in huts and houses.  Crops too, adding their glow to the chaos, making picking off stragglers even easier.  Damn it, they were farmers, not soldiers.  At least most of them were.  Worse, not everyone would make it.  That would be the hardest lesson yet.  Sacrifice the few in order to save the many.  But that was its own razor’s edge.  A death of a thousand cuts.
He looked at the girl he clutched tight under his right arm.  That wasn’t right.  Senar wasn’t a girl anymore.  She was a young woman in the full bloom of life.  But whenever Valar looked at her, all he could see was the little child who’d come to him with a scraped knee or a bouquet of weed blossoms.  Forever, that’s who he saw, not the young woman who’d lost her mother and brother to the . . . .
Well, Valar didn’t know who’d done this.  That was another hard truth.  If he’d seen something that gave the puppet masters away, he might have been able to reason it out.  As it stood, this seemed like random violence for violence’s sake.  He knew of no one interested in just that.  The Immortal Lords would have removed them long ago. 
Senar stumbled and Valar caught her weight without even thinking.  Should anyone go down on this bridge, their lives would be in fate’s hands.  No one would stop to help another soul, not when their own lives were in danger.  All around, people’s faces looked like frightened sheep, sent off to the slaughter house and scared of what fate held for them within the next few hours.  And that was exactly what Valar feared they were.
The houses on the outskirts of Hrith weren’t exactly hovels, but they weren’t much better.  Most of them were made of clay and plaster with thatched roofs.  Distant firelight glowed off none to clean white walls.  Already crowded streets were further cluttered with abandoned wagons, broken water barrels, and other detritus from everyday life.  Most of the residents seemed to be gone, already fled from the armies almost upon them.   Valar could only see a few people remaining as he wove he way through the hard packed streets—all of them huddled deep within their chosen coffins. 
That might have been a harsh way to look at it, Valar knew, but unless they wised up and fled like everyone else, that’s what they would become.  A few times, he heard the cry of a baby or the whimper of child not yet old enough to clothe himself, and he almost stopped and searched it out.  He resisted, though it tore his heart apart each time.  There was little he could do for them, lest he wanted to be responsible for an army of children.  He had his own problems, but he silently cursed the parents who would lead their children into death.  More than once, Senar looked up at him at the sounds, as if her thoughts mirrored his.  At those times, he added an extra curse for the men who forced him to seem heartless to his own daughter.   
Despite the press of people attempting to find safety across the bridge, the flow of people through the streets was a fitful one, with everyone stopping and going at seemingly random intervals.  As they progressed through the city, Valar started to see why.  With the progressively better built homes, soldiers garbed in the blue uniforms of local militia started appearing, blocking off streets and directing traffic.  More than once, he saw a family try to dodge down a side street to make better time only to be pushed back by an officer here, a patrol there.  Valar wondered if they were trying to help everyone or just protect the houses of those wealthy enough to deserve special treatment.  He suspected the later, as occasionally he’d see a wagon stuffed to the gills escorted by soldiers down the street as the merchant or lordling and his family rode beside, a look of frightened superiority written on their faces.
A sudden boom sounded, echoing through the streets so that it was impossible to tell which direction it had come from.   People screamed and attempted to run in any direction but that in which they’d been heading.  Cries of “Cannon” and “They’re attacking” roared from every throat.  A few people even dropped to their knees, clutching their heads in their hands and crying that they didn’t want to die.  No one wanted to die.  That was a stupid comment if Valar’d ever heard one.
He’d dropped to a crouch at the noise, still clutching onto Senar.  As he returned to his full height, she looked up at him, eyes searching.  “Is that—Are they here already?”
Valar shook his head.  “No.  It’s not possible unless we’ve been stuck in these streets longer than I suspect.  Even then, I doubt that they won’t make it before sometime after daybreak tomorrow.”
“Then what?”

Valar closed his eyes and pinched his nose.  “The bridges,” he sighed.  “They’re blowing the bridges.”

Sunday, May 31, 2015


It's funny how we learn words to spell and remember them.  I have a list as long as my arm about how to spell this word or the other.  Some are really simple, others more difficult.  Then there are those stories which come unbidden along with certain words (look at doughnuts).

Just for kicks, today I thought to share a few.    


  • Together—This one's simple.  To Get Her.  But every damn time.  That gets annoying after a bit.
  • Doughnuts—I was in scouting when I was younger. We were planning a camp out and everyone wanted doughnuts for a meal.  When the boy writing the list asked how to spell it, one kid said "dog nuts" and he wrote it down as such.  Ever since then, I've thought "doughnuts", spelled "dog nuts" and had to correct it.
  • Mortgage—For years, I couldn't spell this word, then it hit.  Mort Gage.  Now that's all I hear.
  • Medieval—There was an old Playstation game called Medi-Evil. That stuck so, I just replace the correct vowels
  • Principal—I misspell this often in order to get it correct.  Misspelled in my head (Prince E Pal) but correct on the page.  Go figure.
  • Receive—I before E, Except after C or sounding like A as in Neighbor and Weigh.  So what the hell receive?  Re Ce Eve
  • Duct Tape—Sorry, growing up where I did, this is and shall forever be Duck Tape. 

What words stick out in your head and why?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

BlogBattle: Lola—A Story

This week's BlogBattle threw me for a curve ball.  Lola.

Didn't see that coming.

Therefore today I sat down and started writing about a girl and a guy, figuring that had something to do with a lola.  They meet, fell in love, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.  It really wasn't some of my best work.  Frankly put, I was getting bored writing it, and we all know if the author's bored, pity the reader.

Then I got thinking, what's a lola?  Google is a great thing, and I soon had my answer.  I'm not one for slang and I found the answer was in an urban dictionary website.  Never would have figured it on my own.

So I sit back down with my story and start editing.  Fix a part here, add some melodramatic stuff there.  All in all, it was coming together nicely.  But I was still bored.  I didn't want to bore all of you either, so I had to do something.

That's when it came to me.  Somebody already wrote a fantastic tale about a lola.  I'll just share that.  Won't win any prizes, but if I cite the original work, there's no copyright infringement either.  No jail time is a win.

So I give to you, without further ado, Lola by The Kinks:


I met her in a club down in old Soho
Where you drink champagne
It tastes just like Coca Cola, C-O-L-A cola

She walked up to me and she asked me to dance
I asked her her name and in a dark brown voice
She said Lola, L-O-L-A, Lola, L-L-Lola

Well, I'm not the world's most physical guy
But when she squeezed me tight she nearly broke my spine
Oh my Lola, L-L-Lola

Well, I'm not dumb but I can't understand
Why she walked like a woman but talked like a man
Oh my Lola, L-L-Lola, L-L-Lola

Well, we drank champagne and danced all night
Under electric candlelight
She picked me up and sat me on her knee
And said, "Dear boy, won't you come home with me?"

Well, I'm not the world's most passionate guy
But when I looked in her eyes well I almost fell for my Lola
L-L-Lola, L-L-Lola

Lola L-L-Lola, L-L-Lola (Repeat)

I pushed her away, I walked to the door
I fell to the floor, I got down on my knees
Then I looked at her and she at me

That's the way that I want it to stay
I always want it to be that way for my Lola, 

Girls will be boys and boys will be girls
It's a mixed up muddled up, shook up world
Except for Lola, L-L-Lola

Well, I left home just a week before
And I'd never ever kissed a woman before
But Lola smiled and took me by the hand
And said, "Dear boy, I'm gonna make you a man"

Well, I'm not the world's most masculine man
But I know what I am and I'm glad I'm a man
And so is Lola, L-L-Lola, L-L-Lola

Lola, L-L-Lola, L-L-Lola
Lola, L-L-Lola, L-L-Lola
Lyrics from MetroLyrics

Did you like that?  I always loved the song.  Perhaps that's why it fits best for this week's BlogBattle.  There's a fondness for me behind the lyrics.  I can't wait to see what everyone else came up with.  Lola isn't an easy—

Wait . . . .


Loop?  Who came up with that stupid idea? Loop . . . .


Hi, Rachael.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Dashiell Hammett's Advice

Even though this week has been a busy one, and I've had a ton on my mind, I don't have a whole lot to say.  I'm still processing a lot of it.  There was a lot of good and a lot of bad.  Thoughts which make we want to give up writing (perminantly) roll though my head even as I write this.  Maybe the darkness will win out, maybe not.  I have no way to read the future.

Instead, I want to give you this.  I've written in a lot of genres since I started putting pen to paper, but my first novel is solidly detective/noir.  What I found one day was a list of rules written by one of detective fiction's great authors, Dashiell Hammett.  I wanted to share that list with you.

If you write mysteries, it should have several nuggets for you to look at and consider.  But if you don't, take a look anyway.  It has tidbits which can help all of us, Most of it is still valid.  Give it a lookie-loo and tell me what you think.

Full credit goes to the website and its writers.

Monday, May 4, 2015

An Open Letter To All The Women In My Dreams

An Open Letter To All The Women In My Dreams

To all the women who inhabit my dreams:

     Thank you, but I'm married.  

     Your attentions have made many an entertaining—and I use that term loosely—night, but please, the time's come to stop.  Waking up to emotions that I haven't felt outside of high school isn't my idea of fun.  I wasn't a fan of them then and that opinion hasn't changed.  Besides, isn't a bonus of being married having only one woman driving me nuts, rather than the scores of you?

      Now I will admit that I know some of you.  Or at least I did once upon a time.  Old flames whose fires were quenched long ago, you have my permission to leave.  What we had was never real and never anything more than some fantasy in the back of my head.  We never went out, we never dated, and we were never anything more than friends.  Please leave.

     Those of you who are real, but we've never met—you celebrities and models—you may leave as well.  Sure, you can tantalize with your ads and popularity, but both of us know that isn't you.  And if you insist it is, then I'll insist on calling you a liar.  The real people you mimic, they may actually be as described, but you're just a shade.  You hold no more substance than smoke from a campfire.  The exit is behind you.

     And you, those of you who are utterly false with no substance in any reality, you are the worst of the lot.  Pretending to be all those things which are blatantly false.  Pretending to be my idea of a perfect woman.  That's nothing more than a blunt insult to the sex that you pretend to be.  No woman—no person—is perfect.  It's a sad and cruel joke upon my mind.  I don't wish you to merely leave.  You I want banished.

    Because—all of you, take note—I will take my wife with all her glorious imperfections over each and every one of you.  Sure, she has things that make her less than perfect and irritate the hell out of me, but when those things cease to exist, my soul feels empty.  I long for them.  So yes, I'll take her horrendous morning breath, her constant concern over her imaginary weight problems, and all those other tidbits that make me want to howl over the make-believe Hell you create.

     Now, there are a handful of you which can stay.  Only a handful mind.  Those of you who are of my dreams, but not in them.  Those women who help fuel my creative fires and inspire me.  The Stephanie Hawthornes, the Jennifer Winters, the Helen Blacks.  Welcome and have a seat.  Can I get you a glass of water?  A drink?  Anything?  You respect my wishes and are nothing more than you already are.   Thank you.

     The rest of you, you may leave now.

     The Man Who You'll Never Listen To.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Uncle Nick?

So, last weekend I saw my younger sister for the first time since October of last year.  Things have changed a little since then—the biggest being that she is doing a rather poor job of hiding a beach ball under her shirt. 

Yes.  My sister is pregnant with her first child.

This is important for my family.  My nephew-to-be is the first grandbaby for my parents.  Granted, it feels a little odd having my sister—who has followed behind me in every important step of our lives—suddenly leap ahead.  That’s just a point of view, but not an inaccurate assessment.  And I am happy for her, for her husband, and the entire family.  Hell, I’m excited as all get-out to have a baby to play with. 

But this momentous event has brought other things to the forefront of my mind.  First off, let me give you some background.  My wife and I both want kids.  As to when . . . well, that’s up in the air.  We’re not feeling any giant urge right now, and neither of us is exactly unhappy about being twenty-nine/thirty years old with no responsibilities, save for a very needy puppy.  The biological urge is there, but it’s just not a strong one.  Perhaps that will change with time, perhaps not; either way, there’s no rush.

Perhaps that’s why I am so caught up in my first nephew.  I’m unsure exactly why.  Yet, there’s one thing I do know for sure.  Just as I’m positive I’m excited about the little tyke, I have one thought running circles through my head:

I’m not mature enough to be an uncle.

Please notice I said mature enough, not old enough.  I’m well aware of biology and when I hit that puberty mark.  So I’m old enough to have kids, but mature enough?  That’s a whole different story.  We joked around about it last weekend.  There was a shirt I spotted on Facebook that summed everything up in a nice little package.  It read:
“I’m the crazy uncle your parents warned you about.”
Now, everyone in my family knows exactly how crazy I am—or not.  Fun loving?  Yes.  Prankster?  Yes.  Occasional buffoon?  More than I want to admit.  But crazy, I am not.  Still, it provided a laugh and a smile, and we all moved on.  It was true enough. 

There are some aspects of my psyche that are rebelling at the idea of growing up, of putting another person’s needs ahead of my own.  But then the rational part of my brain cracks its whip and points to my wife and screams, “You already have!”  And it’s true.  So what is the difference?  Maybe it’s that K is an adult and can fend for herself.  Maybe I am just too fond of being immature unless I’m forced to change.  I don’t know.  But it scares me at times.

I work with the public on a regular basis.  In fact, if it wasn’t for John Q. Public, there would be little need for my position.  But one of the questions I’m asked repeatedly during our many conversations is, “Do you and your wife have any children?”  Obviously, I say no.  And the most common response  I get has two parts:
1: How old are you?
2: Good.  Wait as long as you can.  I wish I had. 

Seriously, that phrasing itself almost never changes.  All these people from different walks of life say nearly exactly the same thing with nearly exactly the same wording.  It’s uncanny. 

But maybe my wife and I aren’t mature enough to handle kids.  I don’t know.  But it’s something that we accept as a possibility.  There may be some subconscious reason floating to the surface.  All I know is this joyride will be coming to an end soon enough.  It’s time to grow up.  Just a little bit, but not too much.

But then again, my sister doesn’t seem to be the least bit worried about having me around her son, so this all could be in my head.

A Side Note on a Few Things

So, I feel I am going to have a lot less free time in my life.  Maybe I just mishandle the time I have, but I’m trying to form better habits for the foreseeable future.  How does this affect you?  Primarily in two ways:

Starting next week, I plan on changing a couple things regarding this blog.  Before now, I’ve always tried to post something new every other week.  I’m trashing that schedule, and I am going to try to post a least a little something every week.  It may not be spectacular, but the goal is just to have something there for you to read.  I just hope it’s entertaining.  Also, I’m thinking about tossing in some reviews and opinions about things I’ve seen or read.  Feel free to disagree with me.  I’d love to have some conversations from different points of view.  Love seeing that stuff.

Secondly, this also will allow me to generate a better quality of work than what I am currently putting out.  Practice makes perfect and all that jazz.  More time focusing on my craft.  I know my novel will benefit from it.  Or any current writing project, really.  All I have to do now is just stop playing so many video games.  Put down the TV remote and pick up a book.  But you should see a growth here as well.  I need to push myself more, and it’s time to start. 

Well, that’s all for now.  See you next week.  

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

BlogBattle Silver

Rachael Ritchey just kept on like dog with a bone in its teeth, and has finally succeeded.  Short stories aren't my thing, but this week I actually tossed another story into the mix for her #BlogBattle.  This week's theme is "Silver".

His breath came heavy, his sight grew dim, but the end was in sight. Leg muscles burned with the effort, but he’d trained for this. It wasn’t just about endurance, but about the ability to ignore the pain, to push through it. To push beyond it and strive for greatness.
Now that greatness was within sight. A meer two hundred yards. Each pump of his legs brought him closer and closer. No one was in sight. The track ahead was all his. His mind drifted to all the races which had led him here.
One hundred yards. There was Tommy, the fastest kid at Harrison Elementary. Angie Landford, the girl who had bested everyone during her four years of track at Adams High School, his alma mater’s crosstown rivals. Then he’d beaten her. He’d been the most popular kid at school for weeks.
Fifty yards. Victory would taste so sweet. All the effort, all the sweat, blood, toil, and tears. The years of practice in college, the amature circuits, the professional circuits. Now this.
No one was there.
It was his!
No. No. No! No! That upstart from Canada. There was no way that some kid would take away hismoment of glory. He tried to press harder, but there was nothing left. The ribbon was right there, but he could do nothing about it.

Jonathan Swift, Canada’s poster boy, won Olympic Gold that year in Men’s 500 Meter Sprint.

Monday, April 13, 2015

How I Write a Blog Post

After the serious tone of my last post, I felt it was perhaps best I take a lighter turn this week.  So, today I present to you how I write a blog post.

Step 1:  What day is it?

Monday:  Don’t think about it.
Tuesday:  Don’t think about it.
Wednesday:  Don’t think about it.
Thursday:  “Oh, I need to write a blog post to upload on Monday.”
Friday:  “What should I write about?”
Saturday:   Mad dash to throw down 1000 or so words and send it off to my editor.
Sunday:  Imagine my editor grumbling about my timing and pulling her hair out because of me.
Monday:  Fix and polish edited blog post before uploading it the same day.
Spend the next seven days not thinking about the new blog post due in two weeks.

Step 2:  Pick a topic.

I have to admit it.  Rarely do I have any clue about what my blog posts are going to be about until I start working on them.  Perhaps that’s because I’m lazy.  That’s what K would say.  My personal point of view on it relates back to the type of writer I am.

We all know and recognize the two main writing schools: outliners and discovery.  Outliners plot out the book, the characters, the action, whatever, in greater or lesser detail so they know in advance what will happen.  Discovery writers do just the opposite. They take the stories and run with whatever feels right.  Some writers combine the two schools.  Brandon Sanderson is one such person.  He outlines the novel, but writes the characters using the discovery method.  There is no right or wrong way to do this, no matter what Mrs. Harris, your 3rd grade teacher, said.

I am firmly in the camp of discovery writing.  If I plot out a single thing, my mind shuts down.  For example, in my current project, you get to meet Stephanie Hawthorne’s mother.  I only know a few things about her at this point:

1) You shall never hear me refer to her as Mom.  Too familiar.

2) She did a number on Stephanie and James when they were growing up.


3) You thought Stephanie could be a bitch?  Just wait. 

This will be fun.  I only just met the woman, and then only through a four-line letter, and I already dislike her as a person.  But she’ll be a blast to write. 

With that in mind, why should my blog posts be any different?  Most of the posts I’ve tried to plan out in advance have never been published, mainly because I never finished them.  And those that have been published aren’t my best work. 

Have I ever told you about Monty Python and how they did their scripts?  No?  Let me illuminate.  They, like so many shows, performed before test audiences.  The bad stuff?  It was pitched.  The good stuff?  That was where they differed from others.  If the skit performed too well, they threw it away as well.  So think about it like this: all the classic Monty Python we know and love—“Dead Parrot,” “The Spanish Inquisition,” “How Not to be Seen”—was actually mediocre Monty Python.  We’ve been laughing at their mediocre stuff.

Mind Blown.

Step 3: Writing

Self-explanatory.  Get computer.  Sit down.  Put fingers on keys and write.  Let the words flow, and don’t worry about where they’re leading.  The hardest thing you’ll ever do, but you wanna be a writer?  Just do it.

Step 4: Editing

Again, self-explanatory.  When writing, we don’t see the errors, but if we go back?  Like a baseball bat to the face. We’ve all been there.  Someday, I should post for you the first draft of some of the stuff I’ve written.  The final work looks much different from what is originally placed on the paper.  That is, by necessity, a good thing. 

I’ve heard stories about people—Rex Stout, to be precise—who never edited a single thing they wrote.  Somehow, I don’t believe that, but even if it’s not true, I’m not of his caliber.  There are those you look up to for inspiration, for education, as role models.  He’s one of mine. 

So I edit.  Go through.  Reword and rework phrases, sentences, and paragraphs.  You know what I mean.  Make sure it comes through clearly.  As the writer, that’s your responsibility. 

Do your job.

But here’s one of my little tidbits for you when it comes to my editing and writing.  Unless I am trying to prove a particular point, the same word never begins any sentence within the same paragraph more than once.  Look at this one.  No word begins the same sentence twice.  It makes things “work” better.  Also, if you can arrange it in the same pattern for your paragraphs, you’ll be in great shape.  I haven’t perfected that one yet.  

Step 5: Post it

Ok, I skipped a few substeps there.  Send it off to the editor.  Follow her suggestions.  Add pictures.  Tried that a few times.  Not sold on the practice.  Whatever those substeps are, do them as needed.  Me?  I just listen to my editor. 98% to 100% of the time, I agree with what she suggests. Then post.

The big thing is to be aware of what you’re saying.  You are ultimately responsible for your content.  Stand by it or don’t post it.  If I have concerns about something I’ve written, it is removed during the editing process.  I stand by what I’ve written, even if it isn’t pretty.

So that’s about it.  Maybe you’d call this fluff, but, hey, it’s what I got.  Welcome to my little world. Till next time.

Monday, March 23, 2015

About Me: Part Two

As I sit here at my computer, I’m conditionally writing this as a blog post.  I say conditionally, even to myself, since I’m unsure about whether or not it will even make it onto my blog.  Do you really want to hear what I have to say?  It isn’t pretty or kind or all puppies-and-kittens. 

Truth is, my life isn’t like that.  I suspect most lives aren’t, but I refuse to hide that fact.  More than once, I’ve received looks and comments—dealt behind closed doors when they thought I wasn’t listening— about my refusal to bury my feelings behind fake smiles and platitudes.  And more often than not, it brings me into conflict with others.  Those who don’t get “it.” Those who only want the superficial, despite what they say.  I’ve known countless fair-weather friends who don’t really want to know the reason you’ve withdrawn into yourself, no matter what they say. 

I won’t point fingers.  They’re scattered through all points of my life.  The fact still exists, however, no matter how much we’d love our problems to be covered up or ignored.  It’s especially hard on K and me.  We’ve met untold people who are positive, upbeat, and wonderful people who just don’t understand that we’re just not that way.  It worries me when I meet truly great people—kind, caring people who are just a simple joy to know—and we hit it off.  They want to spend time talking and getting to know each other.  Then, we slowly seem to turn them off ’cause we’re not like that.   

It’s lonely.

Recently, my wife asked me why it seems like she has no friends.  I ignored the question and changed the topic.  Why?  Because it was neither the time nor place to discuss it.  Truth is, it isn’t just her.  Both of us have issues keeping people close to us.  They see us having problems and withdrawing into ourselves—for sanity’s sake—and they assume that we’re angry at them.  Of course, they don’t consider asking us what’s wrong.  They only say, “Well, you could always come and talk to us.”  We don’t always want to talk.  We want our problems to go away.  If we’re doing this, then they obviously aren’t normal problems.  They are all–consuming, and we’re holding on by our fingernails. 

It’s the rare person who goes out of their way to ask.  But even then, nine times out of ten, I’ll still lie and say everything is all right.  It isn’t, but what good does it do?  I’m unsure about that point.  I’m pretty sure I suffer from textbook depression. It’s unconfirmed, but also hereditary in my family.  How can I explain to you that while the birds are singing, the sun is shining, and the world looks beautiful, I am miserable?  Most people can’t comprehend that.

But you want a sure way to piss off someone like me?  Just tell us to change our mood.  Tell us it’s all in our head, and, if we really wanted to, we could change the way we feel.  Act like it’s just a switch we have to flip and then—presto!—everything will be wonderful.


There is no switch, no magic button.  You think we haven’t tried?  You think we love being miserable?  Anyone who says they do—guess what? They’re lying.  We’ve just lived with the depression and the sadness and all those issues so long that we forget at times what it feels like to be happy, what having a smile on your face looks and feels like.  Happiness can seem almost mythical at times, like unicorns or dragons or some Disney fairytale character.  And the worst thing about saying that is, it reinforces the idea that we have the ability to fix it ourselves, to believe whatever we want to believe.  If we only tried hard enough, it would go away on its own; we should be able to handle our own problems with ease.  That misnomer has probably killed more people than it saves.  I struggle with that idea daily—that I should always be in control; I should be able to fix it myself . . .  if I only wished and focused hard enough.

Tell that to cancer.

A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh is fantastic in many ways:  beloved children’s book, fan-favorite Disney show.  But it’s also a fantastic character study.  You can label everyone you know by the characters in that book.  Your spouse is an Owl; your mother a Pooh.  That annoying guy at work?  Tigger.  Definitely a Tigger.  I am an Eeyore.  But here is the second part of the lesson.  Read the book, watch the show—whichever you prefer.   Here’s the thing.  Each character is unique, including Eeyore.  But never—NOT ONCE—do the others try to change who he is.  They still invite him along on their adventures, accepting their friend for who he is.  That’s a lesson for all of us.

Depression is an illness.  It isn’t a disease that can be cured with chemo or radiation.  It’ll always return.  We are stuck with this monkey for the rest of our lives.  It’s torture, plain and simple.  But we still try to move forward.  We just want you to be aware, to help us lift that burden on occasion.  Take us out for a beer, invite us over for lunch. 

Just. Say. Hello.

So when you talk to me and I don’t answer or only grunt, I’m not mad at you. Trust me, I’ll tell you when that happens.  Depression is like carrying several tons around with you daily.  You grow tired.  Sometimes we need to put the burden down for a bit.  Care when that happens.  Be worried when we have trouble lifting it again, because each time we have to, it gets harder.  Depression isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of being strong for too long. 

Trust me, I know.

Friday, March 20, 2015


This time as he rode the train home,  the sun still lit the sky.  There was no hiding from the outside world as much as he wished to. Trees, roads, farmhouses flew by a the same emotions filled him as before. In a room full of people, he still felt alone. In a room of friends, he still felt single. He knew where he was going but still felt lost. Had his whole life. That only made the loneliness worse. What he'd give for a whiskey or a cup of tea. To soothe his soul or drown it. The trip was bittersweet. Home was ahead but his future behind. People left behind as he grew waited to greet him, and he them with open arms and a full heart, but he also wanted his home, his bed, and a place to contemplate his problems at unhealthy levels. That's where his mind was. Behind and still ahead. Heart still hopeful and yet hopelessly lost. Worry consumed the rest.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Sorry I've been away.

It feels like forever since I wrote anything substantive here.  There’s plenty of reasons for that, but none worth going into.  Though I will say that a damaged finger doesn’t help matters any.  It’s doing better, though I will have a scar.  Most definitely a scar. 

Unfortunately, I don’t have 1500 words of wit or wisdom to pass on today.  Life’s been too heavy for that lately.  Instead, I give you my second miscellaneous blog post (the first one being my second or third post).  It’s just the odds and ends going through my mind right now.  And to start it all off, I give you—


Yes, the infamous denomination which makes the world turn.  It’s been getting to me lately.  To be more exact, though, it’s the lack thereof which is getting to me.  Not like I can’t deal with my current level of income.  I can.  But it wasn’t until recently that I understood what lenders meant when they called my debt-to-income ratio too high.  Oh God, is it!  Maybe this isn’t the place to be discussing it, but it’s on my mind, so it shows up here.  The good news is that I have a plan.

Many of you have probably heard of Dave Ramsey.  If you haven’t, look him up.  Your life will be better for it.  If you have, you should know where I am going with this.  Mr. Ramsey has a foolproof method for getting out of debt.  Or maybe not.  I’ve screwed it up once before, but that was on me, not him.  It is sound financial advice, which I suggest you consider.  The gist of it is this: work hard, apply your money to your debts smartly, and build financial wealth.  Oh, and don’t accrue more debt.  I fell short in a couple places.

But I’m back on it now.  It’s hard, but I’m more motivated than ever before.  So I’ve started selling my stuff on eBay.  I’ve got lots of it, so it can go.  Things are things, but peace of mind is more important to me right now.  Besides, I can always re-buy all of it later if I truly miss it.  I doubt I will.  

The Red Dress:

Well, despite my finger being injured, I’ve finished it.  My first novel, The Red Dress, is done.  Don’t be jealous.  Okay, you probably aren’t.  But I finished it last week.  Or it’s done until and unless I want to get a copy edit done on it.  I’m not sure I can do that—from both an impatience aspect and a financial one (see above).  Either way, it’s a great relief, to say the least.  I am done (for now) with Stephanie Hawthorne.

But this raises the next question:  what to do with it.  As my wife sees it, there are two options.  I can publish it or get smothered in my sleep for wasting all the time and money involved with the process.  I also see two options, but they are a tad bit different.   I could try to publish the novel through traditional means.  That would mean query letters, publishing companies, agents, more editors, and, I’m sure, more headaches before seeing it in print for the first time years from now.  The other option is to self-publish, which as anyone can tell you, has its own set of difficulties. 

I’m just not sure which one I’d prefer to crack my skull over.  It’s going to be a hard decision with a lot of work behind it, regardless of my choices.  The worst part about all of it is, I just want it done and out there and in your hot little hands.  

I’ll post an excerpt or two soon.

So with the end of The Red Dress, I find myself free—free from that novel but with the desire to write something new.  All of us creative types know the joy that feeling brings.  And I’ve been planning on something for a while now.  Been world-building and planning out every little detail for the setting (I never plan out the plot.) for probably two or more years now.  Think of it as a cross between Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files and the movie Ocean’s Eleven.  Last week, I even started writing it. 

Then there was last night.  Actually, it was two nights ago.  And two nights ago from when I wrote these lines, not when you’re reading this.  What happened?  I’m glad you asked.  Stephanie FUCKING Hawthorne is what happened.  You want to know?  Let me tell you.

FYI, I feel like a late-night infomercial right now.  Heh.

So I go to bed.  It’s late.  I’m tired and asleep almost before my head hits the pillow.  But I did have two thoughts before I drifted off to La-La Land.  The first was a single line which I shall not mention here.  The other, mere milliseconds before I fell asleep, was: “That would make a great opening line for a Stephanie Hawthorne novel.”

Fast-forward to the next morning, when I wake up with the first chapter plotted out in my head. 

As of right now, I am pretty solid on the first paragraph—as in, it’s scripted out in my head without me putting a single line on the page.  I mean, that’s good, right?  It is, but knowing me, by the end of the week, it’ll shove everything else aside.  Honestly, it’ll probably be tomorrow.

My Silence:

This one I can’t be as glib about.  As some of you who keep track know, I’ve kinda disappeared for a bit from the web, from this blog, and from Twitter.  Things have been hard for me professionally, personally, and in all matters of my life for the past month.  There are plenty of reasons for that.  For part of it, look above at the whole get-out-of-debt thing.  That gets to me a lot.  So do . . . other things.

I’ll try to be online more, but those other aspects of my life do take precedence.  My wife, my job—those win over everything else, including the writing I love so much.  Actually, truth be told, I’m getting the writing done at work during my lunch periods.

Yay for hour-long lunches!

But I promise to try.  Hopefully, we’ve turned a corner this week.  I’m looking for the end of the rainbow, that yellow brick road. 

Okay, some nights I’m just looking for a glass of wine.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

BlogWars: Rachael Ritchey's post

I wanted to share with all of you my competition's submission.  Even though the results ended up being in my favor, I thought she did a wonderful job.  So without further ado, I give you Rabbit Abduction.

As always, thank you Rachael for the fun time.  I can't wait to do it again.  BlogWars: Episode Two.


Monday, February 2, 2015

BlogWars: Rabbits

About three (I think) weeks ago, my friend Rachael Ritchey and I agreed to a bet.  A wager.  A blog post war.  Blog Wars.  The topic: Rabbits.  Don't ask me why we came up with rabbits.  I don't know a blasted thing about rabbits.  But we did, so I have to write a blog post about Easter Bunny wannabes.  So Rabbits. . . .Rabbits, rabbits, rabbits. . . .Ra. . . . Bits. . . . Rabbits. . . . Rabbits, rabbits, rabbits, rabbits rabbits rabbits. . . . Rabbits. . . . Bunny. . . .   Bunnies. . . . Hare. . . .Hair?  No, Rabbits.  Rabbits, rabbits rabbits.   Rabbits, why’d it have to be rabbits?  I don’t a blasted thing about rabbits. 

Rachael, you may just win this one.

That is unless. . . . No, it couldn’t. . . . But what could the harm be? Looking like a fool?  I already do that with great success.  Beyond that???  . . . .  It’s audatious. . . .  Still. . . .  Stupid. . . . Yeah, but. . . .   Well, I couldn’t. . . .  Could I?

Noddington Hare stared wide-eyed into the pervasive darkness.  Damp paws gripped his pole-arm—a three-tongged fork tied to a stick with a shoelace he’d found somewhere.  His cardboard armor—it was thick cardboard, thank you—felt too tight about his middle while a cap made from half a tin can kept falling in front of his eyes.  Reaching up, he adjusted the cap for the hundredth time.  It would be so much better if he had not had to wear it, but standing guard duty in the middle of the night?  He wasn’t about to be caught without it.

Silence reigned about him as his eyes flicked from one point to another.  This human’s yard wasn’t too largelarger than most in the city—but it was big enough.  He’d had to keep turning his head to see everything.  Which caused his helmet to slide.  The yard formed an “L” that forced him to occasionally hop around to look past the corner.  Which also caused his helmet to attempt escape.  A wooden wall stood behind him.  Some human had used it to store dirt.  Who needed to store dirt?  Sure, the plants they used above to hold the dirt in place looked pretty and smelled nice, but it was obvious the humans were hording dirt.  Humans were funny creatures.

His ears twitched as a dog barked in the distance.  He took a step back.  Or at least tried to.  If he were any closer to that wall behind him, he’d be part of it.  Nod reached up and readjusted his helmet.  Another dog barked, this one off to his right.  Dangerous creatures dogs, Nod thought as he readjusted his helmet again.  You never knew which way they would jump.  And they were too stupid—most of them, at least—to communicate even rudimentarily.  No wonder humans kept them as pets.  Funny creatures with dumb pets.  There was a truth.

It was humans that caused him to be out here anyway.  Nod had no idea who came up with the idea for the Rabbit Corp to hide eggs every spring, but that didn’t remove the responsibility.  While his senior partner was marking territory with eggy goodness, he, as junior most member,had to stand watch. Protect his bunny-buddy.  He wanted to move about.  If he was being honest with himself, he’d still probably be scared, but he was also pretty sure moving about would help.  Absently, he readjusted his helmet once again.

To his left, a sharp click sounded.  Without thinking, he bolted around the wooden embankment’s corner before slowly poking his head around, nearly losing his helmet.  He silently cursed the thing as  he watched the white door—at least Nod assumed that’s what it was—which protected the rest of the community, his community, from those disruptive humans opened.  A light, nearly enough to blind him, flipped on.  He squinted, rubbed his eyes with a paw, and looked again.

“Maxie,” a voice said.  “Go potty.”  With that, a black bolt of fur rushed into the open. 

Nod nearly jumped out of his skin.  A dog.  Why did it have to be a dog?  The creature rushed forward, sniffing the ground.  Moving as slowly as possible, Nod backed away from the.  His pole-arm, stuck out in front of him, weaved in an unsteady grip.  Where was everyone else?  If they came back now, maybe everyone could scare it away together.  If not that, then maybe they could run.  He could run. 

Nod continued to back away further into the shadows, watching for the dog.  By the time it made an appearance, he was hidden in the lea of the wall.  If Nod had dared to turn his back, he probably could have the top of the wall.  It was low enough here.  But he didn’t dare turn his back.  Dogs scared him too much. 

The dog’s nose was firmly glued to the ground, sniffing and unmoving.  It was dark, probably brown or black in full light.  Eyes glittered golden in the light by the door.  A red collar encircled its neck with tags jingling at the bottom with every sniff. 

Right were Nod had stood. 

The dog looked up, turning its head to look into the darkness .  Golden eyes met Nod’s and its jaws opened.  Nod wanted to scream, but no breath came.  His lungs froze.  His whole body froze.  He could feel his helmet slipping and almost welcomed the darkness.  That way he wouldn’t see his end coming.  This wasn’t what he wanted.  No where near.  Why couldn’t the creature have just ignored the smell?  Why couldn’t his fellow corpsmen have returned by now?  Why didn’t he move?  Why?  Why?  Why?

With a soft snort, the dog bounded forward.  It ran in a tight circle then headed straight for the shadows Nod hid in.  Jerkily, Nod raised his fork on its stick.  Why couldn’t he have found something a bit more substantial than a fork?  What good would a fork do?  The tines weaved in a figure eight as the dog came on like an unstoppable force.

It stopped a foot in front of Nod and crouched with its head on its forepaws while its butt flew high, moving almost as much as its tail.  It yipped.  The sound was soft and light.  Nod took a deep breath and moved one foot back, bracing himself for the attack to come.  Again the dog yipped, but this time it hopped as well.  Back and forth, two then three times, before returning to its previous stance. 

“Maxie, where are you?”  The human’s voice startled Nod.  His attention waivered as he glanced away looked toward where the human stood beyond his dirt.  You should keep better track of your animal, Human.  That’s when the dog struck.

Something wet and rough ran up the side of Nod’s head, dislodging his helmet.  He looked back in time to see the dog’s tongue lick up his face again.  It smelled awful.  Nod dropped his pole-arm and bounded backwards a short distance.  Enough to get him out of attack range.  A paw gripped his helmet, preventing it from falling off completely as he moved. 

“Maxie,” the human shouted.  “Inside.”

The dog hadn’t moved after the second attack.  It still didn’t move now.  It just stood there, head on paws and tail wagging, watching Nod.  A moment later it hopped a few more times before coming to rest in its original position.


The jaws opened and its tongue, a long red thing, lolled out the side of its mouth.  Nod had no idea what came over him as he took two steps forward.  He must have a batch of the crazies.  Why was he doing this?  It made no sense.  But logic didn’t hold him back as he reached out a paw and rubbed the tip of the dog’s nose.  Soft.  And warm.

“Maxie,” the human shouted, voice harsher than before.  “Inside!  Now!”

And with that the dog was gone.  Nod felt his shoulders relax as the human’s protective door closed and the accompanying light went out.  That was a bit too close.  Never—not in his wildest dreams—had he ever expected to be that close to such a creature.  Still, he felt a loss at its absence.  It made little sense. 

Nod picked up his pole-arm as he mulled it over.  Yeah.  The loss was real.  His heart hurt as he resumed his post.  Maybe next year he’d ask for this post again.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Something Else From My Past

Okay, I will admit I'm a bit embarrassed to post this. My original idea "The Right to Arm Bears" was too uncomfortable—too racy—so I dug through my personal archives.

And found this.

I originally wrote this in 2006 in a very different time in my life.  It was a very different time in all of our lives to tell the truth.  But there's still something about it that resonates to me.

I hope that all of you enjoy.

But if you don't, remember this was written by an idealistic college student who didn't know the real world.  It took me two more years to graduate with my bachelor's and move on to graduate school.  Two more years from there before I actually entered the workforce and saw what the real world was like.

Damn, I was a different person—a kid—back then. :)


For years, I’ve wanted to say something profound.  I’ve been wanting to say something that would make everyone go “shit” or “wow” or something exclamatory, and thing that that kid, that guy, hit the nail right on the head.  That day has been a long time in coming, and to tell the truth, it probably will never arrive.  It would be too much if I were to peak now.  That just isn’t life.  But then again maybe it is. 

Last time I checked, life was a pretty fucked up gig.  I mean I have heard of some messed up stuff before, but life is just one of those things.  The joke between men and women is that just when a man comes close to figuring out how the game is played, the women go and change the game.  But life not only changes the game but the rules also.  What was once a foul, now will send you directly to go where you will get $200.  It doesn’t make any sense.

But that is the beauty of it.  It never will, as long as we let it.  And yes, it is up to us to make it change. 

We are a culture who is obsessed with the latest gossip about Bradalina, or what happened last week on Impetuous Homemakers, or the latest CD coming out.  We look for solutions amidst ads of women’s perfume and dromedary cigarettes.  Our kids debate which is better, the big, purple dog or the red dinosaur.  The media tells us what to wear, what to do, what to think?

Where does that leave us?  In years before, generations had things to rally around.  Our parents had Vietnam, our grandparents the Nazis, our forefathers the Stamp Act; but we are a generation in a void.  What rally cry do we have?  Iraq?  Sure.  Which side do you want?  Global warming?  What global warming? It is colder now than it has been before.  Animal rights?  I like my meat.

We are a generation that is lost in nothingness.  We want hope in our breakfast cereal, love in our job, and absolution in our sex.  We are obsessed with being happy and not upsetting anyone.  We are offended by people profiling, but yet we buy music that openly uses such phrases as “niggers” and “bitches and hos”.  Our lives are contradictions upon contradictions.  We look to sports stars to teach us wrong from right, and are shocked when they use “performance enhancers”.  The family has been degraded to such a place that if a mother has the AUDACITY to reprimand her child for throwing a fit in a store, that she will have child services called on her.  It is suddenly Un-American to question President Shrub when the freedom to question is one of the key points of our country. 

This is the world that our children are growing up in.  A world where common sense is outlawed and intelligence banned.  Where we are scorned for following the rules and rewarded for cheating. 

Where has the happiness gone?  When did it become fashionable to brag about being lonely or to drink yourself into a stupor each night?  Day in and day out we drug ourselves through the pain of another day, just to have the life sucked slowly out of us. 

We must cut ourselves free.

I listen to people complain that they cannot fly.  I hear people bitch that they are constrained by rules and politics. That they are unhappy with what they have and nothing seems to make it better.  We all know them.  They stand there, day after day, slowly dying and doing nothing.

Life is an interesting thing.  We hear the turn of phrase “Get a life” and think of it meaning for us to get more into the grove of the culture.  The ironic thing is that instead of freeing us, it binds us tighter. 

When things get tough, we talk about just putting one foot in front of the other and just trying to make our way to the next day.  We put our heads down and force our way forward, despite everything else.  But the thing is, that it will slowly kill us, just as the daily grind will. 

Life begs to be lived.  We need to look up.  We wish to dull the pain, but the pain is what tells us we live.  What would evil be if there was no good?  What would black be without white?  How can we truly know happiness without knowing the depths that the spirit can fall?  What is height without depth?

By crushing one, we crush all.

Without a rallying cry, each person in our generation must find their own.  Sometimes they will scream it loud and long and never be joined.  But sometimes others will join in.  And then we won’t be alone.  We fear to be alone, but we fear rejection more.  No one understands me. 


We are never alone.  Our supports are always there, we just need to know where to look.  To explore.  We feel that the popular people must be happy—look at their groupies.  But a man with too many friends has none. 

We must cut the ties that bind.  We must free our minds until they are alone and then we can bind them to friends, to family, to lovers, and even to haters.  Instead of looking for happiness in the bottom of a box of Cracker Jill’s, we need to find it within ourselves and what we already have.

"But it isn’t that easy," the masses say.

The thing is….. it is.  We really don’t know what we have until we lose it, or think we have.  We really don’t know what we can do until we do it.  We really don’t know anything about ourselves until we push ourselves to the limit and beyond.  What I am talking about is not a physical thing, but rather a mental or spiritual thing.  Only we can judge our self worth, and if you have to drink yourself to sleep each night, or over the letter “M”, what does that say? 

As we go through life and hear the commercial jingles and see the sex on TV, we must stop—completely—and think.  How much of this is real? Will it really help us through the crucible and save us?  Can we trust those pushing their ideas?  Or can we trust ourselves and those around us? 

Who am I to judge for you?  All I know is that there is hope for everyone.  Redemption is not just an idea from whatever god you believe in, but nor is it something given away by them.  Redemption can only come from within.  When we have a clear conscience, we are truly free.

And then we can live. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

Characterization: Part Deux

Last post, I talked about characterization in a single, specific case and applied the generalization as a rule. Obviously, it's a generalization, and won't work for everyone or in every case. That's the nature of generalizations.  It's a lot like profiling and valid only as long as its guiding tenants hold true.

Which, as I figure it, is a 50/50 chance.

But there's one aspect of characterization that holds true most of the time. And I say most of the time, because I think there's only one rule in writing that's true 100% of the time: no verb, no sentence. Don't ask me to explain that one, though. I couldn't diagram a sentence if my dinner or my life depended on it. You'll just have to trust me.

No, the rule I'm referring to is that we, as writers, have to make our characters "real." I'm sure you’ve heard that one before. It seems to be a core tenet of creative writing. Think on it and consider how many times you've heard that one preached. Personally, more times than I can count.

Yet, I can't stand this rule. It just doesn't work for me. Hear me out, now. I can see you scoffing and questioning my credibility. Not that I haven't made some bold claims before now. Well, I don't think of them as bold, but rather as questioning what I see as the blindly accepted rules of basic writing. Or something like that. Take it for what you will.

I'll let my finished writing stand for itself.

Anyway, what I have issue with is the absoluteness of the rule, that we must follow this rule at all times when designing characters. It's unconditional. But I have a single question for you:

 What is the definition of real?

By that, I mean what is real and what is false? Is Clifford real? You know Clifford, The Big Red Dog. What about Elrond Half-Elven? Harry Potter? Marty McFly? Shawn Spencer? Bruce Wayne? The list goes on. Is Garfield any less real than the Corleone family or Jake Blues?

Hopefully, I've set up a rhetorical question. Perhaps not. But are any of these characters real or even realistic? The Corleones are realistic enough, in a literal sense, with Marty McFly and Jake Blues trailing just behind. But what about the others? Magical characters don’t exist; elves don't live among us. And a rich man pretending to be a bat? At least dogs are real, though not so large. And definitely not so red.

But each character is real enough. Important difference, that. I feel it's necessary to mention the difference between real, real enough, and, as I think of it, real within a form.

Real should be easy enough for us to understand. These characters are real in a very physical sense and fit the finite, specific definition of the rule. Their actions, responses, and options apply within the physics of this universe. There's no cure for death. A thrown ball has certain demands on it that must be met. Reactions are finite. It all has to make sense. This is what we all strive for. This is the world that Hemingway, Cather, and Woolf introduced to us. We understand it and grasp it inherently.

Real enough is what I consider all those people trying to sell us stuff on TV. The walk-off role. Do we care about their motivations or how they'll react to an alien invasion of lower Manhattan? No. What we want from them is the momentary interaction, and then they can disappear back into the mold that created them. And that's about all we care for them, too. As long as they react believably, we're good. They really don't even apply to the rule, but I mention them only for the sake of being thorough.

Then there's the final type: real within a form. Okay, I could use another term for them, too: stereotypes. This ran rampant in early cinema, but it predates that. Look back at Shakespeare. It's ALL stereotypical. Every play. Doesn't make it less fun, though.

The thing is, we still use stereotypes in our writing. Sherlock Holmes. John McClain. Every sitcom father ever. We're okay with that, too. Otherwise, explain the success of The Big Bang Theory. The characters are all stereotypes.

I recently asked my wife if my characters in The Red Dress were realistic. She said no and I felt horrible. Then she went on to say that they're not meant to be. Extremely realistic characters wouldn't work in that book. It's too stylized. Insert the characters from The Walking Dead into The Big Bang Theory.

Not working for you either?

Then I’ve made my point. As writers, we need to be aware of how well our characterization fits within both the world we create and the style we write. Real is relative.