Nothing To See Here: Notes on a Current Flash Fiction Project

Nothing To See Here: Notes on a Current Flash Fiction Project

The Call of the Wendig has sounded, and I must follow.

Here we all are, doing what needs to be done. Some of us in the midst of taking care of some business that has been needing to be taken care of for the longest time. Suddenly, and without warning, another school shooting happened on Valentines Day 2018. As of that day, the number of school shootings stands at 17. That’s two away from meeting the record from last year.

Chuck Wendig’s felt it. I’ve felt it. Anyone with a pulse and a conscious has felt it. It’s really hard to concentrate on doing anything creative when another unexplained act of extreme violence takes the lives of 17 children. It’s also rather chilling to think that in 2018 we have to use the modifier another when speaking about an atrocity like a school shooting. Like we regard it as a casual inconvenience along the lines of Five o’clock Traffic. Chuck has posed to us a challenge because there are things to be said. There are more voices that need to be heard. There needs to be a healing.

The theme of this latest challenge, to the surprise of absolutely no one is “A World Without Guns”. I have spent a few days with this going through my head. I don’t think I’m any closer to visualizing it than I was the week before. Maybe this is why he made this challenge. Maybe this is why I need to accept it.

How Did We Get Here?

Okay, let’s clear the deck and start rearranging the furniture. There’s a lot of stuff to unpack, and it would help if I kinda knew where I was going. First of all, what type of world are we talking about? Second, there is a consideration of story length. Third, what is the theme? What is the message I’m trying to convey? Once again, I’m treating the smaller things with great importance. I’m doing it again because it matters. This one effing matters.

1. What Is The Shade of the Sky in Your World?

There is probably no way to get through this without blatantly committing the worst examples of Impostor Syndrome. I’ve researched all the examples I can think of, all the classics, all the new voices. Sooner or later, they all start sounding familiar. Bradbury leaps to mind. Vonnegut could probably do this in his sleep. For this, I think I want to go a little darker, and this means I have to ask myself one thing before I jump in with both feet: What Would Stephen King Do?

First, is this a world where guns have been outlawed? Well, if that’s the case, then it kinda isn’t necessarily a world without guns. If you ban something, anything, make that thing even more desirable because it is forbidden, they just don’t go away. They go underground. You would have the deepest and darkest of black markets where the world’s weapons would still be for sale, but only to the people who will go through great lengths to get there. I think this world would exist without stretching the imagination too much, and so I think I’ll stick in this one.

The other possibility is that they were never invented to begin with. We could live in a world where we never evolved passed the Dark Ages. This could mean literally, where dragons exist along side of WiFi technology. Or it could mean figuratively where our attitudes haven’t changed much since then; we still fear the unknown, witchcraft is very much a thing and surgery is still done with leeches. The former seems like a decent idea for another time, but the latter would be better suited, if only for a spice, an accent, for this scenario. It’s modern day, but people are still completely, willfully, dangerously ignorant. Flat Earthers and Anti-vaxxers come to mind.

2. That’s A Rather Personal Question, Isn’t It Sir?

How long is it? This is a very real issue that needs to be addressed. The challenge is for 1500 words, no one is going to fault for going a smidge over. The point is that it needs to stay short. The basis of writing Flash Fiction is to tell the story, sell the story, get to the point as quickly as possible in the space that you have. 1500 words is pretty much max capacity for Flash Fiction. The answer to this question should be exactly that, and it should be something that I stick to, but is there another way around it?

As of this point, I’m well over my daily session target of 500 words. Not bragging, but I knocked them out within an hour, and I’m not slowing down either. I feel this play needs to be performed in 4 acts. Realistically, I could smoosh everything down to Flash Fiction size, but my compulsion to go big is speaking louder, so how do I curb this?


  • Keep it short: Limit to one scene. Limit to two characters AT THE MOST. Begin close to the end.
  • Use one theme ONLY
  • Use one plot line ONLY
  • Keep it tight: save only the essential items of a back story. Get rid of fluff words, and unnecessary dialog.

Keep in mind that Flash Fiction is essential if for nothing else than practice. It’s something that tightens the spring for a longer story. That’s why this is a challenge, it’s going against everything that I want to do.

3. What Are You Saying?

The premise of this story is a world without guns. But does that necessarily correlate to a world without violence? From an outsider’s perspective, gun culture, particularly an American brand of gun culture, seems to be not too far away from a sort of Feudalism. Maybe the term “living in the dark ages” as a little more apropos these days. Within the framework of what I need to write, there is now a world completely devoid of guns, but evil still remains. Nobody shoots up a school anymore, but people still fear the unknown. People still segregate, diminish, hate. It’s the notion of accepting a Utopian society were it not for the people who still feel the “need for a gun”. They need some magic weapon to make all the things they consider bad to disappear. Take away the guns, but leave the fear and ignorance. What happens then?

I envision a world in the final throes of a democracy. A world where enlightenment has been going on so long that it feels like it’s been tarnished by it’s own brilliance. How would this story be told? How would I write it? What am I trying to say? Throw all the guns away, if it will make you happy. You still won’t erase ignorance and greed. You still won’t save people from themselves. It is 2018, and we have learned, and will learn, nothing.

But, let’s put all that on the back burner and focus on something in particular. I have yet to establish a theme, and instead I’m focusing on a broader picture.

What am I trying to say?

Yes, violence is bad, life and liberty is good and all that is very useful if you’re teaching children. But this is a story, not a homily. Gun violence is out of control and they should all be banned and blahblahblah I’m putting myself to sleep on this.

No one will listen if I went down the Ban All Guns road. At the same time, the point wouldn’t be made if I glorified violence either. I’d be riding that fine line between preaching to the choir or screaming in the wind. Instead of coasting on a broad generalization and starting an argument that goes nowhere, maybe try and disassemble the whole morality of it, lay the whole issue out on a blanket as if I were taking apart a motor, and find one thing about this topic that is important enough to write a story about.

Let’s step away from the guns themselves for a moment. It’s window dressing and only represents a small part of the argument. Not to diminish their existence and the destruction that they bring, I get that part. What specifically about the gun culture that riles me? Is it the deaths? Sure. Is it that we are the only country in the “civilized” world that assassinates children on a regular basis without really doing anything about it? Absolutely. It’s all those things, but the biggest issue I have, the thing that makes my blood boil, has nothing to do with the actual weapons of war. It has to do with the hypocrisy around it.

A tragedy happens, and the normal thing to do, outside of the natural mourning period, would be to take steps to figure out what happened to make sure that it never happens again. Regulations are put in place. Media blitzes swamp the landscape. People talk about it. Seat belts. Drunk driving. Smoking is bad for you. Speed limits. The ineffective “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign. All of these were the result of people taking action after a tragedy, and all of these are all commonplace now. We wear seat belts. Drunk driving is a no no. Smoking is no longer socially acceptable.

Someone shoots up a school, which *winces* happens on a fairly regular basis these days, and the people, the people we count on, the people we elected to hear us and understand us and do something when our lives are in danger, are strangely quiet about it. In the case of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students, they’ve been seeing something and saying something for a while now. In fact, they’ve been quite active on this. The tragedy here is that no one bothered to listen or take them seriously because… pfft… kids… amiryte?

It’s not just the weapons themselves, it’s the ignorance and the arrogance and the hypocrisy and the twisted logic surrounding it that I find the most horrifying.

This is where my story lies. This is where I’ll start.



The Road to eBooking Part 1: Where To Begin?

The Road to eBooking Part 1: Where To Begin?

You know how it goes…

It’s late summer, and you’re holding court at some corporate Tiki Bar in the middle of the banker district. There’s a beautiful sunset overhead, but you ignore it because at the moment, one hand is feverishly flipping through your news feed on your phone, while the other is wrapped around your third Suffering Bastard. Right now, all you can think about is where your next gig is coming from.

Your buddy’s Hawaiian shirt is so loud it could be heard over the soulless banter of the Mid-week Happy Hour crowd and whatever piped in audio sedative treacle they have playing at the time. It must be a Tuesday. His gait is wide as he clears a path back to your table. He removes his cheap, ill-fitting sunglasses from his pock marked face, and he reveals a very serious expression. He orders a Red Stripe, turns to you and says, “That was the main office. They want to know if you can write a novel.”

“A novel?” You ask with heavy indignance, “Can’t those bastards find anything else to do in this god forsaken time? They had plenty of time to unleash this task last month. Novel. Pfft. They must be getting desperate.”

“I dunno. It could be important,” says your buddy as he gives the glass back to the waitress and takes a mighty swig from the tiny bottle. “As your attorney, I advise you to consider this option. Pack up the car, leave town for at least 48 hours. It could be just the thing you need to get out of this rut.”

“Those barking jackasses won’t get a word from me,” you say as you adjust your amber tinted aviators and turn your attention back to your Twitter feed. “Don’t they realize this country is going to hell in handbasket? There’s more important things out there than just casual reading, dammit!”

Next thing you know, you wake up in some horribly painted unfurnished apartment out by the railroad tracks on the edge of town. You are surrounded by stacks of notecards, a mountain of hastily written drafts that seem to be propping up a tower of pizza boxes, a minefield of empty coffee cups underfoot, and huge goddamn WiFi bill that your buddy stuck you with.

You squint at the Dollar Store Adorable Kitten calendar affixed crudely against the kitchen wall with duct tape. You notice it’s November. You notice this not because of the fluffy baby tabby kitteh posed perfectly on a pumpkin in pilgrim attire, you notice this because the name of the month circled and underlined repeatedly in red marker with an equally urgent treatment given to the date of the 28th.


You look over at your laptop and you notice a jibberish laden manuscript flickering on the screen with a bold heading that simply says Chapter 3. You panic. At least, you think about panicking if it weren’t for the dull nausea in your gut that you get from too much coffee and not enough food. It has garnered your full attention, and is quickly amplifying the hell that you found yourself in.

Everywhere you look is chaos. Nothing is making sense. Seriously, where did this cat come from? Do I even own this much paper? These aren’t my pants. Did someone actually use a highlighter on my screen? You’d be more inclined to think that you’d been robbed, but nothing appears stolen. But then again, you don’t even know whose place this is.

You turn around, and come face to face with a wall sized cork board completely choked from corner to corner with more notecards, color coded and frenzied. A few are stitched together in some random network of colored yarn and thumb tacks. Confusion fills your head, because you can’t recall any conspiracy theories that you’re following at the moment. Then, it hits you. It’s NaNoWriMo, and you’re about to go down in flames.

I know, I know. We’ve all been there.

My experience wasn’t any different.

With a little restraint, I’ve managed to control the impulse to do something like this, and it has gone down a few notches since then.

Write Smaller, Not Harder

Before signing up, I honestly don’t think I had a cohesive idea for a novel at all. I had the beginnings of an idea. A spark. I had the willingness to elevate the way I use this craft, and the desire to see it through to the end, only to have the wind knocked out of my sails by the end of week two.

I was ill equipped, and perhaps just a little full of myself. I ramble, in case you haven’t noticed. And as such, I thought I would be able to make it to the finish line. Most of my blog posts average around 2000 words so it should be no problem. True, there are times where it takes me a few days, sometimes longer to finish. I accept this because time and privacy are both luxuries I do not possess. These are the things that I would need in order crank out more, if not better and more consistent posts. These things would facilitate a decent showing at the end of November.

At least I’d get a t-shirt out of it.

These are also the things I will probably never get by being a stay-at-home dad. So, in order to reach a compromise, it made more sense to set my sites a bit lower, and work smaller.

Writing prompts and Flash Fiction contests are great to make sure the imagination keeps moving, but these days, I tend to gravitate more towards static art. Building a story around a painting just makes sense because…well… they are worth a thousand words, after all. So, why not figure out what they are and write them down? You know… for kicks!

At Home Among A Gaggle of Geeks

When you post a work of art on your social medias, you’ll get your usual, obligatory likes, and random one or two word comments. You feel this fleeting moment of satisfaction where you think someone might have the same taste you do.

Post that same work onto a community space that is inhabited entirely by a nerd herd of people with similar likes, interests and experiences, and you’re bound to get something a little more fleshed out.

Examples of this can be found on Tumblr, Medium, Facebook (I’m presuming) and in this case, Charlie Hoover’s Geekscape of the Day.  There is no contest he constructs. He offers no direction. One would think that he would posit a challenge at the very least, but he doesn’t. He simply posts a work of art that he likes, something that can easily fit with the community’s namesake, along with the name of the artist who made it and a link to where they originally posted it. That’s it.

To the average person, this is just another post on just another social site.

To a person who is predisposed to letting their mind wander, it’s like catnip.

Sooner or later, the word nerds from the nerd herd would gather and start clicking away at their keyboards like little nerdy word birds. What ultimately ends up happening isn’t a competition or even a round-robin type thing. It’s more like an unofficial open mic night at some bar that only the locals know about. One person would leave their related micro fiction as a comment. Then another would leave their interpretation, then another, and so on.  This is what happens when you show something interesting to a group of smarter than average people who read a lot in their spare time. This is how I often thought an ideal social media interaction would take place.

This is also how I came to travel down the road to my first official publication. Fingers crossed.

I’m about 1200 words in, and I still haven’t provided anything actionable yet.

For some reason, I’m still thinking that the point of writing this post is to show what my thinking process was in writing a short story, or anything else for that matter. I’ve been fighting with this part for about a week now because there’s a big part of me who is convinced no one will care.

As I’ve stated before, do you really want advice from someone who isn’t a professional? Advice, good advice, should be dispensed by smarter people than me.

But then again, advice isn’t gospel.

The best I can do, is impart a tiny bit of wisdom through experience and hope that it might be beneficial to someone.

Where To Start?

The painting that I based my current story on, is found here. Take a look. Take a good long look at it. Absorb it. Spend a few minutes with it, then get back to me.

Welcome back. Now, answer me this. What did you see? Who talked to you? What was said? What did you smell? This way of doing things accounts for the majority of my present and future drafts. I’m not saying that it will work for you. It may, but it may not. Looking at the source material is the first step. This is what I normally do next.

1.) Remember The Basic Rule.

“Every play has to have a beginning, middle and an end. Jean-Luc Godard said, ‘Not necessarily in that order.’ And that’s why French movies are so effing boring.”
-David Mamet

I will acknowledge that liberties are ours for the taking. We as writers, professional and amatuer, will always have the freedom to do what we want with our own work.

Mix it up ‘Memento’ style?
Go ahead with your bad self!

Sticking with the ‘Once Upon a Time’ to ‘Happily Ever After’ formula?
Well, look at YOU in your Sunday Best!

Whatever route you follow, always remember that every story will have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Absorb the source material. Think about a beginning, you don’t have to get into too much detail. Then a middle; will there be conflict? Then the end; what would be the result?

If you can fill in these blanks, then you’re well on your way.

2.) Keep Asking Questions.

Imagine you aren’t a writer chained to your desk to finish your latest work of fiction. Imagine you’re a journalist who just arrived on scene of a botched robbery. You’re job is to get all the important details out of the way first. The rest will take care of itself.

  • Who was involved? Who was the victim? Was there a perpetrator?
  • What happened? What is the evidence? What are the facts?
  • Where did it happen? Home or business? City or suburbs?
  • Why did it happen? What was the motivation? Who stands to benefit?
  • How did it happen? What was used? Where was it acquired?

The principle is the same regardless if you’re creating worlds for your next novel, or writing a fully detailed article for the Washington Post. Once you get all the important information down, ask yourself, “Is this all to the story, or is there something that I missed?”

3.) Stay Curious.

Right around this time, Imposter Syndrome kicks in, and I go back over everything to see if it’s slightly original, or just another worn out trope.

If it starts ringing familiar, then I try to steer the narrative into a new direction. If it doesn’t, well, it doesn’t make it any less challenging.

Can you work with it? Are you willing to work with it? Is it something you’re willing to put the hours into? If the answer to these is no, then it probably wasn’t meant to be, but that’s okay. There are plenty of other motes of inspiration out there waiting to fly into your nostril cavity at any time. All you have to do is to keep an open mind, and stay curious.

It’s been over a week on this post. I’ve spent long enough away from my draft, and I should return with a fresh set of eyes. Revisions will be the house in which I will be moving into soon, but for now, something else has my full attention. Something awful.

In the course of writing this post, an American radicalized by a White Supremacist Terrorist Group walked into a Florida high school, and murdered 17 children.

He walked in with an assault rifle. Passed metal detectors. Passed armed guards. 17 children, 3 adults, murdered. In school. On Valentine’s Day. It’s now two days later. No motive has been given.

I know it’s our job to stay on task and finish the article and stick to the program, but shit like this makes it hard to talk about anything else. Everything else seems small in comparison. I’m writing about some stupid book that I’m trying to publish, meanwhile 17 kids were slaughtered on Valentine’s Day. That’s 17 kids who will never have the opportunity to make the world a better place. 17 voices silenced. Hundreds in mourning. Thousands enraged. A country fed up.

Right now, there isn’t anything else.

Right now, there are more important things that need discussion.


Road to My First eBook (an introduction)

Road to My First eBook (an introduction)

I am finished.

After years of psyching myself up while at the same time learning to let go of doubt and fear and perfection, I fulfilled a promise made to myself from years ago. I finally finished something.

It’s taken me 5 months, and the length of it should reflect the time invested into it. But, no. Although, I’m not entirely sure that taking a long time on a project is a bad thing. Five months to write something should mean, according to most bloggers, that I have spawned a full length, 180,000 word, child booster seat usable, make War & Peace look like a diner menu type novel. Instead, it’s pocket-sized, and I’m okay with that.

“So, whatchoo been doin’, brah?”
Oh, I just completed a draft for a short story.
“Ah, that’s pretty righteous, Mr. Edgar Allen Bro. How long it take? A week or two?”
It took me five months.
“Oh…okay. Well, hey gotta go do my pecs. Catch ya later, Brotato Chip.”

For those of you who were wondering, yes. I did just equate people who win at NaNoWriMo every year to gym bros. And before you start crying foul about it, it’s a totally fair analogy, because in both scenarios, I think I’m making great progress at what I’m doing, until I see how far along other people are, then I just want to go home and bury myself in a pint of Ben & Jerry’s.

I’ve finished. And yes it has taken me an especially long time to do so, but I don’t care. One of these days, I’ll learn to set personal benchmarks and deadlines, but for now, I’m enjoying this achievement. This is big for me, realistically and spiritually. The race ended a long time ago, and everyone went home, but I’m crossing that finish line covered in sweat and puke stains come hell or high water.

The magic number was 10,000 words. That’s all. Just get to that level.

Hit 10,000 words so it could be trimmed back to 7,000 so it could be easily be digested in one sitting, and if I’m lucky, sold into anthologies and stuff. That was the intent.

September, 2017. The Beginning.


I have this terrible habit of not finishing things. Call it Fear of Failure. Call it the pitfalls of being a Perfectionist. Say that I’m a chronic procrastinator. Throw all those things into a word salad, serve it with a steak, and I’d give my compliments to the chef. There is always that other thing. That story I need to at least get an opening scene happening for so I don’t forget why I wanted to pursue it to begin with. For me, this has meant a folder full of barely started manuscripts that are still miles away from their resolution.

This has been my go-to destructive habit for a bit too long, and so in September of last year, I decided to put my foot down, draw a line in the sand, find a hill to die on and… um… I dunno… choke a…yak with a… uh… banana-nut muffin? Anyway, I decided to make it a priority to find one last project and stick with it until completion.

Okay, yeah. Sure. I slipped a little Flash Fiction somewhere in there, so what? It wasn’t a complete distraction. If anything, it helped.


So, five months later, I have finished my short story. Well, technically my first draft, but I still finished it. My goal was for 10,000 words. It ended up being  just south of 12,000. I added a little wiggle room on purpose to see what could be saved and what couldn’t.

What I have just completed is a first step into uncharted territory. I have read several blogs on what I should be doing as far as prepping for publication, and I will be taking them all into consideration. But, as with most advice I seek out, I’ll have to keep in mind that it’s all subjective and what works for one person may not work for me. My experience won’t exactly reflect their experience because YMMV.

My original intent for this post was to make a Top 5 list for Things You Need to do After Completing Your First Draft…ugh… Seriously, would you follow the advice of some unpublished noob? Of course not. I wouldn’t.

I’m just feeling my way around at the moment. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’ll admit it. I am going to make mistakes, and more importantly, I am going to own my mistakes. I’m not at that point where I can properly dispense wisdom, and something tells me that when I do, I probably won’t be as forthcoming then either. So, no advice from me. I promise. However, the SEO gods have to be appeased, and so I must document something on this here bloggeroonski in regards to my current endeavor.

I could do research on what would be the next steps to publish, and give you some worn out list that has been offered over and over again by a dozen different authors. But from me it would just sound ridiculous. I mean, more than it does now. It wouldn’t make much sense. What would make sense, I think, would be to blog about the current state of the project as I’m going through it. That way, it will keep me honest and motivated into seeing this through. Plus, it’s always satisfying to read an origin story. Maybe I’ll offer sneak previews and such here and there. You know, like what a real blogger does.

Consider this an introduction. The next few steps should be coming relatively quickly because I’m practically there.

I am going to publish my first work. This is new for me, and it’s very exciting. I could fall flat on my face, I could turn out okay. Who knows?

Stay tuned…




41LEkwL-FnL._SX355_At the beginning of the year, I think I may have caught the Hipster Flu. You know that type? The kind that enables the almost unreasonable want for skinny jeans, locally sourced floppy hats, ironic tattoos and analog technology. Case in point, I got it in my head that I needed to get a camera. Not wanted, needed. Not a digital, film. It had to be a discontinued film camera from the 80s or earlier, because the high definition digital camera on my Android phone wasn’t cutting it anymore (he says in a tone more closely resembling a question than a statement).

For about a week straight, I gave myself a crash course on exposure, aperture settings, lighting, film speed. I basically crammed a semester’s worth of Art School into a few days because it wasn’t the camera that I really needed. Oh nonono, see the camera wasn’t the end result. It was a means to which I will get to an end result.

This wasn’t a spur of the moment thing either. This wasn’t some random impulse buy. This wasn’t an urge to satisfy some irrational yearning for some random material object that I will most assuredly purchase but never use because reasons. I attribute this particular need to discovering Lomography back in 1999. Since then, I have desired to someday purchase a Holga or a Diana of my very own for the soul purpose of capturing a moment from the hip, and framing it.

But why stop there? Why just decorate my own walls? Makes no sense to be completely selfish. Why not sell my photos? I could start a little cottage industry on Etsy. I could build a website. I could I could I could…

Last week, it was something new that caught my attention. A video appeared on my YouTube channel’s “Recommended” list which featured how to carve an intricate design into a garden stone using a grinding tool.

Immediately, my mind jumped to Volusia County Rocks.  It’s like a community Easter Egg hunt that lasts all year long, but instead of eggs, you’re hiding and looking for…well…you know. The family is quite into this activity, and so we have a bunch of rocks laying around the house just waiting to be prettied up. I thought I could offer a little something unique into the mix, and maybe get a following happening in the process. And then, I could probably extend that craft into opening an Etsy shop. I could build a website. I could I could I could…

A few days ago, I started getting into woodworking videos…

…I could I could I could…

It’s not compulsion. It’s not ADD. It’s something that looks an awful lot like it, but isn’t as clinical or severe. As far as I can see, there is nothing that can come close to what I have. Every attention deficit test I take marks me up as below average. If I had to be quantified into a category, I guess I might be considered a textbook Compulsive. But, I have lived long enough to know when to say when. I was close to a thirty year, pack-a-day smoker who quit cold turkey, I think I can keep myself in check.

I guess what I have is desire in a vacuum. And I know that sounds like I might be a latent appliance fetishist or something, but it’s not, and shame on you for going there, ya perv. You could call it Compulsion with Intent; I don’t desire to acquire whatever I’m fixated on at that moment just to have it, I intend to invest in whatever that thing is now so that it may become useful later. The intent is harmless, but it’s deeply flawed. It doesn’t get me into trouble as it would want to do if left unchecked, but it does occupy my time when I should be concentrating on other things.

This is what happens when it’s January, I’m still unemployed, and I have copious amounts of time to devise a plan like Wile E. Coyote stocking up from the Acme catalog. Tragically hopeful that this will be the year that I’ll finally get that scrawny-ass Roadrunner. Completely oblivious that these new plans that I come up with have nothing to do with writing books. At least, not on the surface.

Compulsion with Intent. “Why yes,” I would say to myself. “I do need to nurture a very expensive hobby that I have no experience with because this is how I will bring in an income, and this is how I will fund my future writing projects.”

Need. Not want. And I know what you’re thinking, but honestly it wouldn’t be the first time I walked into a job not knowing what I’m doing.

Forget that I’m kind of late in the game for pretty much everything. If I were to do something like this, I should have started about twenty years ago.

Forget that I don’t know what I’m doing and I’m learning as I go. The first few months spent on a new project will mostly be taken up with nothing but filling the Giant Failure Bowl of Shame daily. This is time that could be better spent on something that I’ve already started.

Forget the up-front investment needed in order to start generating said income.

Forget that there is no guarantee that I will achieve immediate ROI.

Forget all of it, because I’m on that path already. Throwing words into the void is really no different than snapping ironically out-of-focus pictures or grinding stones for children to find. Switching paths is equal to starting over, and I don’t have time for that now. I have a singular goal to get to first. My goal is to not be a useless lump writing occasionally. My goal is to become a financially well off lump who contributes to society and tries to make the world a better place… who also writes occasionally.

This always happens in the month of January. I’m energized at the possibility of achieving something more, something better. Do something. Make something. Sell something. Work at what you love and the money will follow is the credo I will follow, but the work that I would love doing seems to involve crafting something … anything, other than stories.

So, why not make storycrafting the thing?

Imagine drowning.

The first thing you do when attempting to keep your head above water is flail because your arms are instinctively trying to grab a hold of something to float. It’s survival.

Photography, t-shirt design, woodworking, random eclectic art are all examples of me flailing. Writing is the thing I’m drowning in.

Up until recently, I haven’t yet mastered being in control of my own time so that I can devote at least a few hours to a manuscript. Distractions have placed me in front of the computer screen late at night when the rest of the house is asleep. Up until recently, I was okay with thinking that the best way to deal with crippling doubt, Imposter Syndrome, and writer’s block is to jump into a new task altogether. Projects, particularly first drafts, especially when I’m not established, feel like they take an unnecessarily long time to refine and publish. A long time, with no income. Things have got to happen much quicker at this point, and if writing’s not done, then it’s time for a plan B.

Just like it was last year.

And the year before that…

…and the year before that…

Always forgetting that this brand new shiny red ball of opportunity that I found has nothing to do with writing.

This is what drowning feels like.

“So, you seem to want to flee when things aren’t happening fast enough, is that what you’re saying?”
Yes, Voice In My Head. You would be correct in saying that.
“You also seem to gravitate towards making things with your hands or utilizing tools.”
Yeah, I suppose that’s true too.
Well, because I see people more at peace when they make things with their hands. They seem genuine and whole when they do something they love, and I so desperately want that. Because the end product they produce is more immediate than sitting around waiting for your characters to talk to you so you can finish a chapter, let alone the story. Because people make it look so easy. Because they are practicing in a more sought after skill. Because I’m a guy and guys like power tools, dammit!
“Well, if that’s the case, you have tools available to you too, ya know?”
…I do?
“Of course. Listen, if you believe that tools are your key to your salvation, then you’re in luck. You don’t have to seek out a new skill, you don’t have to go into debt purchasing tools you can’t afford for projects you’ll never finish, you don’t have to go chasing that shiny red ball. You can help yourself move forward by doing what you’re doing right now. It’s normal to want to try something else, and that you want to turn it into a marketable skill is admirable. But there is a way to improve and keep you focused without busting your bank or your knuckles. Turning away from something you started just because it’s taking a long time to finish isn’t how the song is supposed to go. You need to see it through. If it’s a tool you desire, then I know of a perfect one for you.”
Ooh! Is it the laptop that I’ve had my eye on for a while?
“Nope. Something much, much cooler.”
…cooler than a laptop? What is it?
“Have you ever written with a fountain pen?”
…I hate you sometimes, Voice In My Head.

It has been noted, and by more than a few people in this World Of Wordcraft, that a journal, an actual bound journal with paper and covers and stuff, an ancient arena where you are forced to slay the dreaded Demon Blankpage with the stroke of a pen, is kinda necessary to improve your craft. Writing something down in a journal, so I’m told, is good exercise. While not necessarily a cure for writer’s block, it could make those inevitable bouts seem less troublesome. Somewhere in the research process, it was suggested that if one were able, writing in a journal with a fountain pen would heighten the experience.

This was information I gathered during gift giving season. I hate gift giving season. It’s not that I don’t like getting things, I do. I really, really do. I find that these occasions where you’re expected to give and receive a little annoying. Because I have to guess what some people want and people have to guess what I want, and in the end, it’s… how should I put this?… It’s the thought that counts. Let’s put it that way.

In any case, I forged ahead in my research of writerly gifts on Amazon and found a moleskine, a fountain pen, and a jar of ink. Humble, inexpensive, and unexciting. In the end, I still wanted the power tools and the vintage camera. But, necessity won out. A Dremel tool isn’t going to help me finish my book. Bottom line.

First day taking her out for a spin.

Happy birthday to me, my package arrived a few days later. The Pilot Metropolitan pen felt heavy in my hand as I removed it from the case. The replacement ink cartridge that came with it, I quickly found out, wasn’t that necessary (which is to say that the directions were a little unspecific on how to install it… which is to say, I had no idea what I was doing… I’m seeing a pattern here, how about you?), and so the obligatory splattering of ink got out of the way right off the bat. Noob status achieved, I filled the pen’s bladder by dipping the nib into the well, squeezing the bladder until filled, and reconstructed the pen.


I had no idea what to expect.

After filling a page in the barely cracked moleskin with fresh ink chicken scratch, words are lacking on how to describe the experience.

It was like sipping fine whiskey.

It flowed. So easily. So deftly. The nib was gentle and the inkflow graceful. It was as if the poetry wasn’t in the words, but in the wrist.

The world slowed down. That was the most important part. The world. Slowed. Down.

The last time I wrote anything in cursive was my senior year of high school. I was trained to write like this, as with the rest of my classmates, because good penmanship was the key to adulthood or something. I resorted to writing out everything in Roman letters by my Senior year because it was easier to read, and I found it better suited to writing notes faster. The ability to write elegantly was almost completely lost.

Even though I wasn’t looking for it, I found the ability again at the bottom of an inkwell. The way the pen moved over the page forced me to remember how to write a certain way, which I did. I was compelled to do so, or else I wasn’t pleasing the Cursive Gods, and so they would demand a sacrifice. Slowly, the lessons came back. The words were barely legible and adorably sloppy…

…but it felt good.

The world slowed down. And for someone who insists they might have some sort of Asperger’s, this is a really big deal. If the world spins really fast, then I must as well. Anything that roots me to the soil and draws my attention away from bright and shiny objects is to be respected. You can’t feel the spinning when your feet are on the ground.

Things came into focus. I was able to actually focus. Nothing else mattered. Not desires, not needs, not fear, nothing. I was in “The Zone”, but instead of intense music and explosions, it was that quiet room in a cabin in the middle of the woods I secretly desire. I was looking for catharsis in all the wrong places, and now, with a few strokes of a pen, everything is how it should be.

I have finally found the tool that I needed. This is the year that I’ll finally catch that Roadrunner. This ritual might not be for everyone. Some people might find it a bit boring. But if you had an opportunity, I would highly recommend giving it a try. Who knows? Maybe the world might slow down for you too.

Will this make me a better writer? Probably not, but hey, it doesn’t feel like I’m drowning anymore. To be sure, I have plenty of notebooks, and most of them are filled with notes related to other things. But none of them are a place where I can just talk to myself, and therein, I think, is the base of most of my problems.

The simple act of slowing down, taking the time to form the word, concentrating on making it legible, then making it beautiful, it is there where secrets are revealed. We live in a world that has become too convenient and quantified. Film photography, crafting your own items, these are all not just trends. There is a greater purpose. There is a greater need to create than there is to purchase. I recognize the craft, and by extension, I have allowed myself to be open. To listen. To feel. I am perfectly satisfied, and somewhat healed. I have found my own craft.

Also, this could lead to exploring different pens… or even building my own! Can you imagine?! I could learn calligraphy so I could make and sell my own typeset, you know the ones that are all swirly and hand drawn that seems to be everywhere you look these days. I could build a cottage industry on Creative Market. I could build a website…

…I could…

More to come.
Thanks for reading.

Author’s Note:

Helllllllo everyone. Thanks again for reading, it’s much appreciated. As you can tell from a couple of the links posted above, I am an Amazon Affiliate (aka Associate). I’m not really in the habit of folding products into blog posts, but if you click on the links it would help me out a little bit. You don’t have to purchase a fountain pen. Although if you did, you’d be pretty swanky and so much cooler than all of your friends. You could get laundry detergent, a new pair of shoes, the Exploding Kittens game. Everything that you get by shopping through these posted links helps me, helps this site, helps all future projects. This will probably change once I have my own items to sell, but until that time, every little bit helps. Thank you so much. Hugs and kisses.

2 Hidden Traps That Will Sabotage Your Story, and How to Fix Them: Irma Edition

2 Hidden Traps That Will Sabotage Your Story, and How to Fix Them: Irma Edition

Tuesday September 5, 2017

So, as of this moment, I have at least a dozen first drafts up in the air. One of which has been tinkered with for a couple of weeks. It’s the latest, and the last project I’m taking on this year. Once this one is out of the way, then I’ll be working backwards through the projects started and never finished.

This last one, the one I’m working on now, this line in the sand, this is the hill that I will die upon before I stick my flag into the soil that reads, “I WILL FINISH A GODDAMNED PROJECT THIS YEAR IF IT KILLS ME”. This one started as they always do; Flash Fiction.

I’m beginning to think that Flash Fiction is like yeast. It’s small, inert and harmless at first, but given time and the right ingredients, and you can watch that sucker consume the container you put it in. Which is always fun. RAAWRR! FEAR MY SOURDOUGHNESS! I WILL EAT YOUR KITCHEN!

I start out with my sites set to finish a project within 1000 words. It never works. Never. I’m sure with time and…what’s that word?…discipline! Yeah, that’s it. I’m sure with enough discipline I could cut my stories down with laser precision to the point that they could almost be mistaken for Haiku.

I’m also sure that with the right application, I could raise an entire SOURDOUGH ARMY TO TAKE OVER THE TRI-STATE AREA!!!

Sorry…hungry…almost lunchtime.

I just want to point out, just in case I haven’t made it clear before, that I sort of fell into writing. It wasn’t my first choice, but it was in my top five and I might have made a grave mistake in not acting upon it sooner in life. I didn’t go to school for it. I didn’t grow up sitting for endless hours in a starkly furnished and dimly lit room in front of an ancient typewriter thinking, “Someday, man… someday…”. Which isn’t to say that I find the act of writing dull or cumbersome, nor do I think my fondness for the craft will make me an overnight sensation. I like writing. I’m comfortable with it. It’s something that I actually like doing. It allows me to be useful and functional member of society while trying to cope with an undiagnosed personality disorder. You know the one? The one that sticks its ugly head out every time I have to deal with engaging people? The one that cost me relationships and employment? Yeah, that one. Writing has allowed me to cope, to make sense of things, to be the person I thought I never could be. I just wanted to point this out, because I know there might be a few of you who feel the same way about writing or whatever craft or occupation you found yourself in.

I also wanted to point this out because I’m trying to keep my mind off a Category 5 Hurricane that has just developed near the east coast of Puerto Rico and heading for Florida.

Hurricane Irma.

She’s big and mean and I’m sick of being hurricane bait. I grew up in the Northeast. Childhood was filled with shoveling a lot of driveways, something I hated. Now with Irma tracked to take a big old dump on my front lawn in a few days, I’m beginning to get downright nostalgic for a good old fashioned snow storm and the feel of a sturdy shovel in mittened hands. It’s a lot easier to shovel snow than replace windows.


A Category 5.

A goddamned FIVE!

Any higher, and they’d have to add tornadoes made stuffed with sharks and barbed wire stuffed inside of a larger tornado stuffed inside a hurricane.

Hurricane Turducken.


Yes, I know that she’s still in the ocean and she’ll lose steam once she hits the Caribbean. It still doesn’t make me thankful that she’ll be downgraded to a Category 4. Harvey was a 4. Matthew was a 4. Katrina was only a 3, and look at the mess she made there. Irma will be a solid 5 for the foreseeable future. I don’t think there’s any room for a ‘count your blessings’ homily here. She is coming and she will mess your shit up, and she will laugh in your face while doing it. She is the honey badger of storms. She does not give a shit. If she does make landfall as a 4, when she blows your house down, I don’t think the first words out of your mouth will be, “Hey, look at the bright side, at least it wasn’t a Category 5.”

Anyway, it’s times like these that I try to put myself into the mindset of an Syrian war correspondent. Or closer to the topic, meteorologists who risk their necks walking outside in the middle of a hurricane. I try to think of all these western journalists who have to wear a special color helmet and a vest that says “PRESS” on both sides or blue slickers that are basically and afterthought as everyone that wears it is still soaked to the bone. I try to think of the story they’re presenting while dealing with pressure they’re under from the bullets or funnel clouds in front of them, and the deadlines behind them.

Of course, these guys were made to thrive under pressure. These are the ones who are telling you things as they happen because they are important at that moment. What isn’t important at that moment while the world falls apart around them, is a well researched and well written thinkpiece a la Rachel Maddow. The viewer doesn’t need to know the intricate and labyrinthine details of what lead up to the point you’re talking about right now. It’s nice and it’s appreciated, but it can wait. What is important is that building that just exploded in front of you from mortar fire. That’s the story, in all its gory details. I don’t think there needs to be too much research for that.

Then again, they are reporting the news. Current events. Dangerous current events. It’s not as if they’re pulling out random thoughts and characters from thin air in some quiet and cozy nook with their Chamomile tea and a Macbook where they weave a 200 page narrative to be published at a later date. I’m not a pro or anything like that so don’t quote me, but I don’t think fiction story writing is the same thing as non-fiction story writing. I think I might have read that somewhere. Hemingway was a journalist at one time, and I’m sure he’s documented his fair share of horrors as they happened. I’m just not convinced he wrote The Sun Also Rises while staring down the barrel of a hurricane that was poised to uproot his house and chuck it into the Caribbean. Something, I think, he probably wouldn’t have been too displeased with.

And it’s not like I don’t have any regard for deadlines at all. I make them for myself on a regular basis. It’s just that other priorities always pile themselves in front of them. As a result, the house gets clean, the page is still blank. I miss my own deadlines.

There aren’t enough hours in the day. And spare me your wagging finger and your snooty tone. Some of us only have a few minutes a day to sit down and focus on something else that doesn’t involve changing a diaper or washing a dish. Some of us don’t have the luxury of unplugging completely. Some of us don’t have a tiny writing shack that we can hermit ourselves into somewhere in the mountains. Some of us are housewives looking for a better life. Some of us didn’t go to college to learn how to write professionally, it’s just something that happened along the way. Some of us simply fell into it.

This time, I’m closer than I have been to actually finishing something. I’m still at a snail’s pace, but at least I have recognized how I’m sabotaging myself. Not in ways that are completely obvious that haven’t been blogged about in a listicle several thousand times before. Blahblahblah too much internet. Blahblahblah turn off your devices. Yeah, I get that. I have plenty of other things that pry my attention away from the keyboard that aren’t digital. One of them runs around on chubby toddler legs screaming, “DADDY! PAW PATROL! DADDY! CHAWQUIK MIKK!”

Outside interferences aside, I have become hip to certain things I do to myself that hold me back long before I sit down to write. I don’t know if blogging about them would help me in any way, but dammit, something needs to go up like now-ish. Irma is coming. Look busy.

Step 1 in getting more disciplined is to recognize the pitfalls. Step 2 is working on fixing them. Here are a couple of big ones.

1. Too Much Focus On Word Counts

How long should your short story be? It depends on who you ask.

If you’re looking to have your short story published in a magazine, then it would be wise to tighten it up to less than 2000 words. If you’re looking to publish it in your own anthology at a later date, then go crazy, you crazy pumpkin-headed word monkey! Type like the wind! Just, try to keep them south of 7000 words (I know of someone who recently self published her own short story in digital format on Amazon that was around 6000 words).

I have literally spent hours studying this. Upon starting a new project, the thing that always comes first is the initial idea, natch. The second thing, for me, isn’t the genre, the subplots, the theme, how many characters I need. It’s not if and when the Fearsome Sourdough Army will rise up and take over. It’s not the plot synopsis or the elevator pitch, it’s the length. How long should it be? It’s a genuine concern for me because I feel it’s important to know where my limitations are before I start, and because well…it’s a length thing. Because some guys worry that…theirs…aren’t long enough… and it won’t measure up… and they’ll get laughed at, and won’t be invited back to any pool parties.


My goal this year is to write at least one short story, but how short does it have to be to still be considered short? Some will say 2000 words will suffice. But to me, that’s still the outskirts of Flash Fiction territory, and I get concerned that it’ll be too short for a good (or at least readable) story. Ten thousand, and I’m reaching the sun drenched shores of Novella. It’s usually around this time that I start going down the rabbit hole of “Well, is it a novella? Sure you don’t want to make it just a little longer? You could try shooting for a smaller word count…I guess. It could be a short story if you destroy half of your plot. Maybe if you put a few more subplots in there, you could stretch it out to a novel.” I’ll keep talking to myself like this until I realize 3 hours of my life had gone by and my Scrivener document is still a glaring white landscape of blankness and failure.

I want to write a short story. How short is just right? How long is too long?

The honest answer, the answer no one else will tell you is…

…no one gives a shit.

I grew up the son of a carpenter. The need to measure twice and cut once bleeds into everything I do, and I need to learn to stop doing that. Learning how the pros do it helped put my mind at ease. I was too locked into the mindset that every completed project needs to be x amount of words long because if it were longer, I wouldn’t get published, and if I wouldn’t get published then my life will be over, and then Hurricane Irma will have my bones. Then the flooding…then the Sourdough Army…

If I were planning on getting published…I mean like, realistically planning. Like, I’d have a go-to editor in my contacts, I got an in with a publishing house and all the perks attached with it, then yes. Concerning myself with something as arbitrary as length shall be taken into consideration.

But the last time I checked, I’m nowhere near that benchmark. I can barely keep up with regular blog posts, so why am I worrying about a situation that hasn’t happened? Publishing is the end goal, but as of right now, as I’m still fighting like hell for every word and every minute of solitude for an opportunity to write them, it’s a lofty goal at best. Right now, it’s all about tinkering and experimentation. Right now, it’s all about learning the moves and getting them right. Right now, it’s all about making mistakes. Right now, it’s about having fun. Writing and storytelling was never meant to be a chore, Jeebus knows I have too many of those.

If your word count lands in the neighborhood of 5k, excellent. Double that? Even better. Wherever you end up, it doesn’t matter, just write the damn thing. Fix it later. Who cares what others think? You do you.

2. Have You Talked To Your Characters Lately?

How are you?
Have you been alright
Through all those lonely, lonely, lonely
Lonely nights?
That’s what I’d say.
But no one’s answering.

*(apologies to Jeff Lynne)

This latest project is set in the future. It’s a riff on Ghost in the Shell.

The next one has to do with persecution in your homeland and seeking freedom in another.

The one after that, a good old fashioned good vs. evil yarn.

They all deal with different themes, but they all have one thing in common: Once a dialogue gets going between my main characters, it tends to die almost immediately.

…The story, not the characters.

I’m like George RR Martin, but instead of killing off beloved characters, I choke my plots in their sleep.

Narration is strong. Description is strong.

Dialogue? Well… for lack of a better term, it’s painful.

They tell you to pay attention to how people talk. Which is fine, I guess. Agonizing for introverts, but effective for others.

I spend my time focusing on what people are saying rather than how they’re saying it. Paying attention to the musicality of language could tend to be problematic. If you’re deciphering an accent, then you’re already stereotyping the person. My problem is that if I format dialogue this way, it sounds like I’m transcribing an eavesdropped conversation; lots of sound, little substance.

It’s awkward. I’m eavesdropping in on a conversation between two people in my head, and I still only get half of it. Awkward.

You’re writing your dialogue, but your not feeling it. It’s because you haven’t spent time with that character. You can describe the scene, you know where it is, what it smells like, what the temperature is. You have your backstory all worked out; Who met and fell in love, who betrayed whom and how long revenge has been planned. You can bulldoze your way through a few dozen pages of this, but when it comes down to talking, it sounds like two despondent and listless teeanagers circa 1985 discussing the itinerary for that day:

Wanna go to the mall?
Yeah, okay.

Which is fine, if this is what you’re going for. All I’m saying, is that it looks a little weird if this is where you arrived while writing a period romance.

You need to spend time with that character. There is no other way around it. Believe me, I’ve tried. There are dozens of sites out there offering help with your manuscript specifically when it comes to helping in the development of your characters. My mistake is that I figure that my project isn’t that long, so therefore the time spent on character development shouldn’t be that important.

… flash forward a few dozen, half done, half baked, barely touched manuscripts later, and I’m scratching my head as to why.

Take the time. Talk to them. Get to know their likes, their dislikes, the little things. Yes, it’s time consuming. Yes, it feels like you have to break out your 20d dice and your number 2 pencils to level up your dexterity (go ask a Nerd). Sure, I guess it kinda sorta counts as talking with someone and so introverts might be a little more hesitant to do this (here’s a tip for all the hardcore hermits out there. It doesn’t count as talking to strangers if the stranger you’re talking to is you. Let that sink in).

Sure, you can work on emulating the real way that people talk with all the ambivalence, foibles and ums and uhs that come along with it. But, we can’t all the be the next Pinter. How boring would that be? Dialogue isn’t supposed to sound natural. Not completely, anyway. If you’re stuck with your story and it’s because of your dialogue, pull your character aside and take her out for coffee. Take the time to get to know them. I promise you a better result.


I started this on Tuesday. It is now Saturday afternoon. In this time, the Southern part of Florida has been mostly evacuated, Hurricane Irma has been downgraded slightly and is starting to list in a westerly direction (stay strong, Tampa). Our windows have been boarded up and we are ready to see this storm go away. The storm is leaning towards the Gulf of Mexico, so that means it’s becoming very unlikely that the eye of the storm will be over us…fingers crossed.

I don’t know if I was helpful with this post. I’m just talking to hear myself talk at this point.

I need to keep my mind occupied.

I will be posting soon.

If I survive this.

-Hogs and quiches

Ode to the Lonely Flip-Flop

Ode to the Lonely Flip-Flop

20170113_123932We drive under a telephone line that is completely booked by a row of fat pigeons all squinting in unison in the direction of the orange sherbert glow of morning sun.  “Look,” I say out loud in spite of what the rest of the passengers in the vehicle think. “Dawn Patrol.” From what I gather, these greasy little sky-rats  are here every morning, holding a meeting on the same wire.They remind me of their slacker seagull cousins who squat together on the beach, and all face the same direction waiting for that perfect wind, like surfers who wait for that perfect wave. These guys remind me of a story that I started a few years ago. It’s nowhere near finished, but I need to get back to it soon.

My son in the back seat watches the world float by his window while quietly grazing on dry breakfast cereal. We are on our way to pick up his cousin and drop him off at daycare. En route, we notice a child’s flip-flop in the middle of the road. Actually, it would be more accurate to say we noticed the child’s flip-flop because it’s been there for two days. It doesn’t look abused or broken in any way, just abandoned. Forgotten.

I could smell the slightest whiff of a poem about an abandoned shoe as an allegory about society in general gently rolling in like that perfect breeze meant for seagulls. The beginning of a random metaphor started to form in my head that I planned to use at a later date, when I hear, “I wonder why you only ever see one shoe in the road,” my son’s mother said. “It’s never a pair of shoes, it’s only one. I wonder why that is?”

I can feel the Train of Thought pull away from the station. I had to seriously contemplate when was the last time I saw a pair of shoes abandoned and discarded in a place they weren’t supposed to be. I have never seen a pair of Keds on the ground as if they were some victim of some heinous violation cast aside and left to rot in the gutter. I thought about it longer than I would have liked to. It kind of bothered me, truth be told. Because, not only was it another unknown that might be worth at least a few minutes of research for… I dunno… in case I get swept up in bar trivia at the local Chili’s, but counting this scenario, along with the birds taking in a sunrise, and the cereal munching munchkin in the back seat (whom I’ll come back to in a minute), it now looks like I have a few more ideas to build stories around. The last thing I need right now is to add to my growing list of works in progress.

I mean, is there an epidemic of singular shoes dotting the landscape? Do other people notice this? Does the lost shoe feel a sense of detachment and ennui because its favorite sock got eaten by a dryer and now feels lost without it? Is feral footwear common? What about other articles of clothing? How do they feel about it? How often do they get cast aside?

These things are the sugar in my coffee. These are the things that give me a warm fuzziness in my belly because it feels like my obsessive nature has finally been directed into a more positive, and less destructive path. Over the past few years, I have turned into a storytelling savant. I’m constantly asking “what would happen if..?” and among other things, I try very hard to not use zombies as a McGuffin because I ran out of ideas. “At long last, Frank and Carol could now share that kiss in the happy home of their dreams. But they couldn’t because zombies. The end.

Every week, I eagerly await another Chuck Wendig Flash Fiction challenge. Sometimes I play, sometimes I feel a little too out of shape. Other times I collect story prompts like seashells, and of course, there are those moments when something that can’t be easily explained comes charging into my personal space, like say, figuring out why one shoe ends up in the road and not the pair. Instead of defaulting to logic and reason to explain it (which is really boring and smells an awful lot like bullshit), I prefer instead to faceplant directly into the blueberry pie of “Just Make Shit Up” (which might be tedious to the listener, but dagnabbit, it’s not my fault that you ask the most random crap and expect something extremely insightful and intellegent to roll off my tongue.You ask a rhetorical question, you get a left field answer. Deal with it.). I mean, I’m a storyteller. Storytellers…tell stories. How else do you think this works?

I can’t take on other projects. Not right now. My current first draft is nearly complete, and I’ll jump into revising the beast over the course of the next few days. I have several other half started projects right behind this one that need to be finished. These projects are moving slower than I’d like because writing is only taking up a little of my day. When I’m not writing, I’m taking my son to therapy (details, and perhaps the whole point of this post below), and when I’m not doing that, I’m taking care of the family. Which is why it may be dangerous to draw my attention to something that will cater to my obsessiveness like a lonely shoe.

As a Crime Action Drama

Mr. Deveraux could not stop his limbs and extremities from twitching, while Mrs. Deveraux remained the stronger of the two, and opted instead to chew off the skin around her cuticles. Their home has always been a peaceful sanctuary, they’ve fussed over it for years to get it to that point. But this morning was almost too much to process. Melinda had been missing for a little over twelve hours. Since that time, almost an entire squadron of police officers had taken up residence in their once pristine stainless steel kitchen with laptops and various pieces of tracking equipment that they’ve never heard of, and they weren’t entirely sure, but it looked like there were a couple of FBI agents huddled closely in the hallway talking about something, looking grim.

The Lead Investigator’s voice was soothing, almost hypnotic. “We are all going to get through this,” he said. “We are going to get your daughter back. I have called in our finest to track these guys down. Also, once word got out that it might be the Oaxaca cartel, the FBI became very interested. Whoever did this is going to have a very bad day, understand?” Melinda’s parents do their best to acknowledge. “Good, now when that phone rings, I’m gonna need you to remain calm, and act normal.” Mrs. Deveraux laughs an empty laugh, because her normal felt like it has been trodden under by so many police issued boots in her garden full of mums.

When the phone finally did ring, it was as if everyone started breathing again in unison. As if they were allowed. A technician punched in a code into his laptop, and gave a signal to the Lead Investigator. The Lead Investigator donned his headphones, and gave the cue for Mr. Deveraux to lift up the receiver.

“Hello?” The tremble in his voice choked back hard.
“Do you have the money?” The voice at the other end was computer generated. The expressions on the cops faces let the Deveraux’s know that they were dealing with professionals.
“Do you have my daughter?” Mr. Deveraux sneered, “Is she still alive, you son of a bitch?”

The next voice wasn’t computer generated. It was the sound of Melinda, scared, hopeless, weeping, but very much still alive. Mrs. Deveraux clasped her hands over her mouth to stifle whatever might be pushed out of it.

“You have such a pretty child, Mr. Deveraux,” the emotionless voice continued. “Her eyes are quite captivating. It would be such a shame if she were missing one.”
“You bastard!” Mr. Deveraux bellowed. “If one hair is out of place on her head, I swear to God I will…”
“Do you have my money or not, Mr. Deveraux?”

The Lead Investigator nodded silently to Mr. Deveraux. “Yes,” he said. “Yes, I have your money.”
“Excellent,” the voice replied. “Now, listen very carefully, this is what I need you to do next. I need you to grab an article of clothing that belongs to Melinda.” The Lead Investigator snapped his fingers at a cadet to whisper something in his ear. When he was finished, the cadet ran upstairs to her room. “I need you to take that piece of clothing and drop it on the corner of 5th and Elm. Walk across the street and when a brown Oldsmobile parks in front of you, get in the back seat.”

The cadet reappears holding a tiny, pink flip-flop. The Lead Investigator holds it up for Mr. Deveraux to see. “I’ll be using one of her flip-flops, will that do?”
“That will suffice,” the voice said.
“Will my daughter be in the car? Where are you taking me?”
“Be ready at 10:30. Bring the money.” The line went dead.

As A Middle-Grade Fantasy Novel

It rained the night before, and when the kids were waiting for the bus the next morning, none of them seemed too worried that the sun  was hidden by the clouds. The lack of sunshine made everything look dull, except for Rebecca’s very pink backpack and Mark’s very yellow rain slicker.

On the other side of the street, in the old lot where the old drug store used to be, there sat a very white sneaker. Shoelaces untied, and sitting upright collecting rain. Rebecca noticed it briefly before her friends started talking about lip gloss. Mark didn’t notice it at all because he doesn’t like talking to too many people. Charlie noticed it right away, and he knew exactly what it meant.

It means the Fog Giants have returned. There was going to be plenty of long nights ahead.


See, things like this are a bone for me to chew on. It’s things like this that make me remember why I should carry a notebook everywhere I go. It’s things like this that yank my attention away from whatever I’m working on at the moment. So please, for the sake of progress, don’t allow me to occupy my mind with such things. It’s bad enough that I’m reminded about that part of my WIP where a flock of blackbirds sitting on a telephone wire.

It also doesn’t help that I have tied that project to the other thing that we are leaving the house for. Let me get back to that.

Recently, I have posted about my son, and how he wants to talk at length about anything, but he hasn’t developed the skill to form words yet. I have always been of the opinion that he will come around to it, but still, there were other characteristics that were telling us that he might need a little help.

The problem was recognizing that he had a problem to begin with. He’s still two, and he’s still trying to get used to things like eating a proper meal, or sleeping in his own bed, or learning words, or not being so focused on certain things. It was hard to tell if he was being difficult, or if there was something more sinister afoot.

To put our minds at ease, we tested him for hearing and vision, and determined that the best course of action would be to see a speech therapist. After a few months of regular sessions, we have made small breakthroughs and tiny miracles. But, for all the progress we have made in regards to getting him to say the simplest words, it didn’t solve the mystery as to why he still flaps his arms when he gets really excited, or why he prefers to walk on his toes.

To REALLY put our minds at ease, we went back to his pediatrician to finally ask the question we’ve been putting off for too long. Is our son autistic? It only took a few minutes of an unofficial yet very effective method of determining he wasn’t to give us some relief. But with that burden taken away from us, and most importantly, from him, we were still in the dark as to what seems to be affecting him.

It took a less than fruitful session with his speech therapist to have her bring our attention to something called Sensory Processing Disorder. It’s a very real condition that affects mostly children. It often mimics autism, but it isn’t autism. It is a very real condition, and the cruelest aspect of this condition is, it’s not recognized officially as a real condition.

To put it simply, SPD is where the person has a difficult time responding or reacting to whatever stimuli they’re exposed to. Think of trying to process something as simple as walking along a beach. Everything you experience, the feel of the sand between your toes, the smell of the salt air, the sound of surf, all collide at the same time like traffic weaving through a poorly attended intersection at rush hour. Everything is snarled and not going anywhere too soon. Reaction times in the individual with this disorder are slowed, or often times, not present at all. Or in the case of my son, happening all at once to trigger this extremely excitable reaction where he flaps his arms, open his mouth wide like a lead singer of a metal band, and have a vein or two swell up in his neck.

It is a very real condition. Unfortunately, no one in the healthcare community can come to a consensus on how to define it. Look, is it on spectrum, or is it another version of OCD? Figure it out and get back to us.

It is quite cruel.

Fortunately, my son isn’t at that level. He’s quite happy, and he’ll respond to things and look you in the eye and talk to you…the best he can. But he’ll still do it on his own terms.

Because SPD isn’t uniform and has a broad definition, and has the traits of something else without being that something else, and it does different things to different people, there has been no formal diagnosis of this condition. That means doctors can’t officially prescribe anything, let alone talk about it. The only thing they can do is suggest Occupational Therapy.

Which is where we were going to this morning, my son and I. This is where we’ve gone for the past few months.20170114_104609

His speech therapy is touch and go. He’ll either be in the mood to say something or nah. Occupational Therapy, on the other hand, is so… much… COOLER! There’s a ball pit! And big bouncy balls! And a tunnel and more toys! It’s a process of learning through playing…or what we used to call it in my day…playing. Occupational therapy is a welcome supplement to his boring ol’ speech therapy. And I think the biggest takeaway from attending these sessions, is my child has to take the lead as to what he wants to do. It’s up to the adults to go along and work with it. So, it’s a learning process for me too.

So, I suppose I could be one of these concerned parents and talk at length about getting your child screened and look for the warning signs and blahblahblah. “I need you to feel empathy for my baby because reasons!” But, I don’t feel like it, and I’m sure he wouldn’t appreciate it either. He’s not sick. He’s normal, he just needs a little boost. And while I could be the loudest crusader to get this condition the recognition it deserves, I really don’t think that’s necessary. It is what it is. It’ll probably stick with him for the rest of his life, but we caught it early enough so he’ll know how to deal with it when he gets older, and that’s all we can do right now. Still though, it would be nice to see him walk normally, talk normally. I love my boy, and I’m happy with my boy. I am proud of every one of his accomplishments every day.

I could complain, but I’d rather deal with it in my own way.

He has several quirks. That’s all they are. Just quirks. Things he does. Most of them are indicative of the condition he has, the rest are all his. And instead of Googling what they all are and fret until I mis-diagnose the hell out of it, I have decided to make him the hero of his own story.

Because, I’m a Storyteller. It’s what we do.

He chuckles in his sleep. It’s the most adorable thing in the world. He also likes to look up at the sky while he’s walking. It’s his preferred activity over anything else to do outside. Recently, I was stringing Christmas lights around the house. I switched them on, and as he was passing by with eyes cast skyward he said, “Bye!” It wasn’t directed to anyone. It was directed to the lights. At first, rationality took over. “Well,” I thought to myself. “Maybe it has something to do with the red bulbs, and somehow relating them to watching taillights move down the driveway every morning as his mom goes to work.” Red light means someone’s leaving, which means “Byyyye! See you laytor!

So, instead of freaking out, I just think of the lonely flip-flop…

Untitled Story Idea…

A family moves to a haunted house, and it’s a house that hasn’t been lived in for a very long time. The ghosts that reside there, mainly an old married couple, have been there for a very long time, and haven’t found a way to leave. The only person in the family that knows it’s haunted is the toddler, and he isn’t saying much. The ghosts aren’t very good at scaring people out of the house, because no one has lived there for such a long time, and they couldn’t find it within them to scare them because they were grandparents at one time. So, they spend most of their time looking after the children to make sure they don’t get into trouble. Somewhere along the line, the ghosts figure out that if they can get the baby to laugh, then the hold that this house has on them begins to loosen. Good deeds remembered, they are allowed to pass on once Christmas lights are hung and illuminated.


Another one of his quirks, and this is something his mother and I need to focus on, is that he has this obsession with doors. The way they open and close, if they latch or not, if they have a lever or knob, do they squeak, how much effort is needed to go through it. We REALLY lose him at the grocery store where the doors open on their own. *GASP! What sorcery is THIS?* He will literally spend the better part of an hour opening and closing doors. It’s something that we learn to live with.

I’m not sure how to break his fascination with them. Once he gets on a door binge, it’s hard to stop, and that’s something that we are slowly learning at Occupational Therapy. It appears that both of my children have their father’s obsessive nature.

There are good days, and there are bad days. But mostly, they’re good. His OT is quite adept at getting him away from his door habit and directing him to playing with blocks and puzzles, and as a result, his obsession has diminished. What hasn’t diminished is my own curiosity. “Why doors?” I ask to myself…in the same tone as “Why one shoe?”

Revision to ‘Kids of St. Anthony’

Story so far:

A social worker who has lost her child to cancer, and as a result, going through a divorce, is now set to task for finding homes for three young siblings. They reside at St. Anthony’s Home for Wayward children; an orphanage. For the most part, all the children that reside there are normal children, but there is a wing of the church that not a lot of people know about. It’s the wing where they put the “special” children.

The oldest of the three (based on my youngest daughter) has a habit of drawing what appears to be circles on paper with crayon. The middle child has hushed conversations with people who aren’t there, and the youngest cannot cope will unless there is an animal present.

To the system, to the nuns that run this place and to the social worker, these children are perceived to have special needs.

It turns out, they’re partially right. The youngest needs to be in close proximity to animals, because they can talk to him, and that’s how he has been in touch with the outside world. The middle child as actually holding conversations with ghosts. They warn her of danger and teach her history. The oldest, who looks as though she draws in anger and frustration with every circle getting deeper as each crayon gets ground down, is actually drawing very intricate talismans that are crafted to protect all of them. All three children team up with the social worker to solve mysteries and stuff. She ends up adopting them…until zombies…the end.


First of all, enough of the frickin’ zombies.

Second of all, it might be wise to turn this into a series and expand the universe. Because all the cool kids are doing it!

Why not have this orphanage be home to other children with secret abilities? Maybe it’s been a home for children like this for a long time. Like this one child who shows no attention to the world around him, except when it comes to doors. He might come in handy in a pinch.

The bad guys are closing in on our heroes, and the youngest child is feverishly opening and closing a door to a closet; essentially, opening a door to nowhere. At the right time, he opens this door to nowhere, and it turns out that it’s a door to somewhere. They all escape danger because a toddler opened a closet door to reveal a field of wheat somewhere on the other side of the world…next chapter.


This is me blogging because I need a kick in the ass. This post has taken a week in re-writes and has ended up being approximately half the length of my current first draft. It feels like I’m stalling, but I need free up the log jam in my head.

It’s important to let you know that I haven’t gone anywhere.

I would love to write a short story a week, as I’ve pointed out previously. Respectfully, I’m not sure when Mr. Bradbury laid down the gauntlet about doing this, but I’m fairly certain he didn’t have to take care of kids and household at the same time. Right now, I’d be satisfied if I could finish a chapter a week.

This year will be the year I wrangle all of these ideas that land in front of me and turn them into something interesting maybe. I’m hoping that I will be able to find more time to get to them, but the chances of that are quite small. As much as I’d like to lock myself away in a shack in the middle of the woods, my kids need me right now.

And they are most important.

More to come.
Watch this space.

©2017 AA Payson

In Regards To My Absence…

In Regards To My Absence…

drinkandwritefordisplayThe first thing that I want to do when it comes to filling in my readers on where I’ve been for the past couple of months, is to rattle off this laundry list of things that people normally do, only to catch myself and think, “Who cares? Everyone is in the same boat.” Personal issues and familial obligations override everything at the end of the year. It’s nothing unusual. It’s necessary.

At least, that’s what I want to think as dozens of authors and editors crank out post after post of evergreen content to boost their SEOs and stuff. They know what to do. They know how to make themselves known. How to be present, how to sustain themselves online.

Me? I cleaned out my coffee maker the other day, and I felt like a god for 10 minutes.

I could fake my way through this. I could boldly go where everyone has gone before, and break no new ground. I could do the old Listicle thing and get all the clicks. Chicks dig clicks. Big clicks.

But that’s not me. I’ve gone over this before, and I’m not in the mood to kick that horse again.

I started this post with a head full of snark. I had every intention on laying on the dad jokes, and assume an air of jocularity whilst bullshitting my way through the aforementioned excuses…

But this year has found a way to make my heart heavy.

Not just with heroes from my childhood dropping one by one, not just because of a newly elected dictator of the United States becoming a reality.

It’s everything.

The end of the year can be overwhelming. It usually is. Whatever time I’ve allotted for myself, thin though it may be throughout the rest of the year, has become extinct on the First day of November. It’s hard to think straight. It’s hard not to slip from just the normal winter blues to full blown depression. The result being, nothing gets done. Nothing other than taking care of the kids, and the house, and many other things. Come November first, I check out. I don’t resume any writing activity until long after the ball has dropped in New York City, and cause celebre has silenced.

Spending a lot of time on Twitter doesn’t help kill the blues either. The madness of the world. The shortsightedness of people. Every word is a punch, or a random shoulder check from stranger on a subway; cold, apathetic and willing to accept its own destruction. It is a cold place filled with angry people, and it’s so easy to become part of the chorus. Finding another stranger to verbally throw my shoulder into became more important than writing something meaningful.

It has warped my soul. Although on the bright side, framing an idea in 140 characters or less is good practice for succinctness. Still, there is writing to be done. And brawling on social media doesn’t change that fact.

Plus, as anyone, especially the authors and writing gurus who dispense advice on their blogs will tell you, writing is friggin’ hard.

Dispensing advice is always good to get people to return to your blog. So are motivational quotes. One of which was in my feed the other day. It was from Ray Bradbury.

“Write a short story every week. It’s impossible to write 52 bad stories in a row.”

I was on G+, which is the equivalent of finding a spot in an open field and kicking your shoes off and staring at clouds. I just left a marathon Twitter slapfight, so my mood might have been a little dark at the time. My reply was…



Mr. Bradbury is, and always will be, one of my greatest literary heroes. Most of my teen years was spent with a copy of The Illustrated Man in my backpack. Still though… going by recent experience, there might be a possibility that his stated theory could be proven false.

Just get me in front of a keyboard. I’ll show you what’s possible.

A little harmless snark was just enough to elevate the mood a little, and it was good.

Still, there was writing to be done.

Ideas for projects have lined themselves up like taxis outside of an airport terminal in my Scrivener. All of them are idyl, none of them have a place to go.

The story I’m working on now, I might have given a little too much room to grow, and might need to reign it in. (Given that the definition of “short story” depends on who you ask, I set my word count to 20,000 words. I honestly don’t think it might see a third of that).Turning it into a shorter, short story might be good insurance that it gets done.

And then, I can move on to the next one, then the next. Then, the next. And then hopefully by mid-August, I would have sharpened my writing skills beyond 140 characters. I guess, the longer I thought about it, the more…I want to say plausible it became (I hesitate on plausible. I’m a little tired of making promises I can’t keep).

I have given this a lot of thought. And by that, I mean briefly mulled it over while sipping a beer. I might…MIGHT be able to do this. Maybe I can write a story a week for a year. I don’t want to make promises, but I already have a head start. I’d still want to publish on my own so I can finally PROVE that I’m a legitimate word monkey, so maybe post a highlight of the text. Whet people’s appetites. Generate interest. Evergreen. SEO. Yippee!

It is now well passed midnight on Monday, January 2nd. In a matter of hours, I will be another year older. Tomorrow, I will start on a year long journey to see how far and how often I can meet this challenge.

Happy New Year, everyone. The crapfest that was 2016 couldn’t end soon enough. The slate is now clean. No more picking fights with strangers. No more hiding away. Time to get shit done.