Flash Fiction

I wrote a story yesterday.

I have been seeking out invitations to submit short fiction for a number of reasons and this one intrigued me because of limitations of subject matter and word count.

Flash Fiction is a relatively new name, I think, but I like it.  It’s certainly better than “Short Short Stories”.  While the person who is accepting submissions has the final say, most Flash Fiction anthologies I have seen place the word count at between 100 and 1000 words.

That is tough for me.  I tend towards verbosity and a certain wealth of description.  In Worms Of Heaven the first ten chapters cover about twelve hours in my narrator’s life. (Granted, it is a very busy day.)

Yesterday I sat down and wrote out a story which ended up being about 1500 words.  Then I went back and cut it down to under 1000.  The first two hundred or so were easy, I was able to find sentences to snip out entirely.

Then I started working on my syntax, finding more succinct ways to frame sentences and omitting needless words.  That was harder.  I like needless words.

Finally I had to reread the whole story, start to finish, and decide what was really important.  There was some of the setup that I was able to cut, trusting my readers to figure out what was going on from context.

I got it down to 999 words and did a final read-through, found two different places where I had left a word out of a sentence, put the missing word into one of them and cut the other entirely.

I’m happy with the finished product.  I think that it retains the impact of the original story. I deliberately went against the grain with it and took it in a direction that I hope none of the other contributors will consider.

We’ll see.  I have another story I want to get to work on, this one with a more liberal word count window.  I’ll be looking for more Flash Fiction anthologies in the future, I think.  It’s good practice for me.

Posted in Artists That I Admire, On Publishing, On Writing, Poetry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Saint Louis Authors Showcase

“Books Are For People Who Wish They Were Somewhere Else” – Mark Twain

I love my town.  St. Louis is an odd place.  It’s not really a city, not in the way that say, Chicago or Los Angeles is a city. Historically, what happened is that a whole bunch of different people all decided that just west of the Mississippi river was a good place to settle down and start a town, and so a whole bunch of small towns got started in the same general area, and as they grew they kind of grew together, but they never really merged to make a city, they stayed a bunch of small towns.

Part of it is that when Saint Louis County was formed, Saint Louis City elected not to be part of the county.  This put a limit on the growth of the city proper and the little municipalities that make up the county have been loathe to give up their autonomy.  Some years ago when I was getting a county security officer license the teacher of the class mentioned that there were (at the time) eighty-eight separate police departments in Saint Louis County.

For me, it’s the perfect place to live.  It has the feel and the pace of a small town with the access to services of a major metropolitan area.  Plus it’s the home of The Blues (GO BLUES!) a hockey team that is so awesome that we have no need to prove our superiority with the temporary possession of some gaudy piece of tableware.

It’s a great place to be a writer.  We have small town cost of living with access to an outstanding public library system, a world class zoo, theater, opera, some wonderful museums, our own freakin’ circus, pretty much all the culture you could ask for.

I am not the only writer who feels this way, either.  Elle Marie is a local author whom I met at a book fair some time ago.  She put together a contact list of St. Louis authors and invited us all to a do cross promotion that I think is pretty clever.

Each author picked two of the following questions to answer:

1. What is your book’s or your personal connection to St. Louis?
2. Which scene in your book might a fellow St. Louisan recognize?
3. If your book was made into a movie, who would play the part of your hero/heroine?
4. What Missouri activity would your main character enjoy most: a float trip, a Cardinals game, or a winery visit?
5. What’s Missouri’s best season?
6. If your book was on death row, what would it choose for its last meal?

Read the authors’ responses and check out their books!



The Waiting Room
by Piper Punches

What is your book’s or your personal connection to St. Louis?
Although The Waiting Room takes place in the fictional farming community of Marion, Missouri, I wrote my debut novel with the intention of highlighting the various flavors of people that make up the rural communities that surround the St. Louis Metro area, which give it its one-of-a-kind hometown atmosphere. Readers that grew up outside of the city limits, even outside of the major suburbs of St. Louis County, will find that they can relate to the pull of the big city, while still finding equal amounts of comfort and aggravation living in a small town that refuses to accept anonymity.

If your book was on death row, what would it choose for its last meal?
Oh, that’s easy! My book would choose a home-cooked meal of mashed potatoes, smothered steak, and green beans drenched in bacon fat and butter. For dessert? Oh, yes! There would be dessert. My book is not a diet book. It would enjoy every last morsel of a cherry pie topped with whipped cream and a heaping side of vanilla ice cream.

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Buy now or read the book’s description:
Paperback: $11.95 | Kindle: $0.99

Connect with Piper:
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Google+



On The Buckle
by Candace Carrabus

What is your book’s or your personal connection to St. Louis?
On the Buckle, Dreamhorse Mystery #1 is set on a horse farm in Missouri about an hour and half from St. Louis. The main character, Vi, and the hero, Malcolm, go the art museum in an early scene, and later, Vi meets a friend at the symphony. Guess what? We live on a farm outside St. Louis, and we enjoy our beautiful art museum and our fantastic symphony, too!

If your book was made into a movie, who would play the part of your hero/heroine?
Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting, who plays Penny on The Big Bang Theory, would be perfect as Vi Parker. She’s the right age, smart as a whip, funny as heck, and–the icing on the cake–she’s an accomplished equestrienne.

Genre: Humorous romantic mystery

Buy now or read the book’s description:
Paperback: $12.99 | Kindle: $3.99 | B&N $12.99/$3.99Kobo: $3.99 | Smashwords: $3.99

Connect with Candace:
Website | FacebookTwitter | Goodreads



Looks That Deceive
by Braxton DeGarmo

What Missouri activity would your main character enjoy most: a float trip, a Cardinals game, or a winery visit?
Lynch Cully would certainly be the typical St. Louis sports fanatic, supporting the Cardinals, Rams, and Blues. He’s likely to go to as many games as he could fit into the consuming, unbalanced schedule of a police detective working with the Major Case Squad. Amy Gibbs, on the other hand, is definitely the winery aficionado. With a variety of friends, she’s managed to visit every winery in Missouri — no small feat — and she has her favorites. Yet, like Lynch, her schedule as a flight nurse doesn’t allow much time for this pleasure anymore.

What is your book’s or your personal connection to St. Louis?
Looks that Deceive is a thriller based in the St. Louis area. From scenes in Ladue, at Mercy Hospital, in Creve Coeur Park, and involving the region from Troy, MO, in the north, to the Big River, west of Hillsboro, MO, in the south, how much more connected could it get? I frequently get comments from St. Louis area readers about how much they enjoy the local flavor. Yet, readers outside of St. Louis won’t find that flavor off-putting, as the pace keeps them moving and the characters pull them into the story.

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Buy now or read the book’s description:
Paperback: $16.95 | Kindle: $4.99 | Nook: $4.99

Connect with Braxton:
Website | FacebookTwitter | Goodreads


catskinners-book-misha-burnettCatskinner’s Book
by Misha Burnett

What’s Missouri’s best season?
October. The continental United States has five distinct weather patterns, and four of them collide in the air above the central Mississippi flood plain. In practical terms, this means that we usually get the worst weather that this country has to offer. We get Gulf Coast summers and Great Plains winters and springs that are downright schizophrenic – rain and scorching heat and snow, sometimes all in the same week.
However, for one brief shining moment, usually from about the middle of October to Halloween, St. Louis – like Mars – is Heaven. Clear, dry days, nights just cool enough that you can sleep with the windows open if you have a comforter or a lover of a dog to keep you warm. Don’t blink – you’ll miss it.

What is your book’s or your personal connection to St. Louis?
I am from a lot of different places, but I call St. Louis home. It’s where I decided to settle down and raise a family. My books are almost set here. I say “almost” because I never come out and say that St. Louis is where James & Catskinner and all the other characters live. If you know the town, though, you’ll recognize the neighborhoods, South City and West County and the Riverfront.

Genre: New Wave Science Fiction

Buy now or read the book’s description:
Paperback: $8.99 | Kindle: $2.99

Connect with Misha:
Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads



Chronicle of the Mound Builders
by Elle Marie

Which scene in your book might a fellow Missourian recognize?
Most people from Missouri or eastern Illinois will recognize the mysterious Cahokia Mounds. A lot of action and excitement in Chronicle of the Mound Builders takes place there, in both the ancient and the modern timelines.

What Missouri activity would your main character enjoy most: a float trip, a Cardinals game, or a winery visit?
Definitely a float trip! Angela Hunter is a very outdoorsy girl, which is one reason she chose a career in archaeology. She loves hiking and exploring when she’s not solving mysteries.

Genre: Mystery/Action-Adventure

Buy now or read the book’s description:
Paperback: $14.99 | Kindle: $4.99

Connect with Elle:
Blog | Twitter | Goodreads



Confessions of a Paris Party Girl
by Vicki Lesage

What Missouri activity would your main character enjoy most: a float trip, a Cardinals game, or a winery visit?
Well, I’m Confessions of a Paris Party Girl’s main character, so on a trip back to St. Louis from Paris, I would most enjoy an afternoon at a winery. Not just because of the wine (but that’s a definite plus for this party girl!) but because of the beautiful Missouri scenery. A Cardinals game is a close second, though!

If your book was on death row, what would it choose for its last meal?
A huge pot of fondue. The melted cheese deliciousness is a running theme in my book and several scenes take place in my favorite fondue restaurant in Paris. And of course a glass of red wine!

Genre: Memoir

Buy now or read the book’s description:
Paperback: $14.99 | Kindle: $4.99

Connect with Vicki:
Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads



by George Sirois

If your book was made into a movie, who would play the part of your hero/heroine?
Matthew Peters is an ideal spot for either a young television star making the transition to the big screen or someone brand new to the industry. The characters around Matthew, however, are perfect for bigger stars. My editor and I have ideas for his mentor, Katherine Sierra. I think Mariska Hargitay would be a great fit, and my editor wants Marg Helgenberger. (Either one would be terrific if they ever want to do it, of course.) My wife’s “second husband,” Jeffrey Dean Morgan, would be the older Denarian known as Radifen. And I’d love to see Adam “Edge” Copeland play the ambitious Danaak.

What is your book’s or your personal connection to St. Louis?
I always envisioned Excelsior as a coming-of-age story, but it never really kicked into gear until my wife and I made the decision to leave New York City (where I was born, and where I went to college and spent more than 15 years) to move to St. Louis (where my wife was born and raised). Matthew is the next in line to become a god on another planet, but that means he has to leave everything he has ever known, and leave his dreams to become a famous writer & artist behind. And even though I didn’t reach the heights that Matthew does, the move to St. Louis – away from my friends and family – got me a great job, a great house, and opportunities I could never get in New York City.

Genre: YA, Sci-Fi

Buy now or read the book’s description:
Paperback: $12.95 | Kindle: $2.99

Connect with George:
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads



by Robin Tidwell

Which scene in your book might a fellow Missourian recognize?
Reduced takes place mainly in Jefferson County, but also in St. Louis County and the city of St. Louis. The Arch, of course, makes an appearance, as do Grant’s Farm and St. Mary’s Hospital. Several roads and highways are mentioned, and the characters are surviving at “an old, abandoned” Girl Scout camp – which is, at present, still in use.

What is your book’s or your personal connection to St. Louis?
My family has been in the St. Louis area since 1847, when Friederich Kuhlmann arrived from Germany and bought a lot in what would become the city of Clayton – the Sevens Building is there now. A few years later, he purchased farm land in St. Louis County – several scenes take place there. I was born and raised here (Parkway Central), moved away for a while after college (the first attempt), and returned seven years ago. St. Louisans almost always come home…

Abby did the same – moved out West for a few years, then returned; she and her group go way back, decades even, and stick together through the collapse of their civilization. So many dystopian stories are set in LA or NYC, but STL is right in the heart of the country, and that makes all the difference.

Genre: Dystopic

Buy now or read the book’s description:
Paperback: $13.95 | Kindle: $3.99

Connect with Robin:
Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter


Posted in Artists That I Admire, On Promotion, On Publishing, On Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Let’s Go To The Lobby!

It’s time once again for a movie themed post, and while I don’t really have anything to say, here are some random observations.  Notice how I manage to use bullet points and avoid doing any of the writing that I should be doing at the same time.  Don’t try this at home, kids, I’m a trained professional.

  • There needs to be a live action Magnus, Robot Fighter movie.  Someone should pay me a lot of money to write it, and Magnus should be played by Kris Holden-Ried from Lost Girl.  Andy Serkis should play all the robots.
  • Also, Crime And Punishment And Zombies. It should be a TV series, though, not a movie. Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov should get eaten by zombies in every single episode, and then come back in the next episode to get eaten again.  We can explain it with radio waves.  Nobody knows how radio waves work.
  • Where’s The Silver Chair, huh?  Voyage Of The Dawn Treader came out in 2010.  I want more Eustace Scrubb, damnit!
  • Who’s going to play Ernst Stavro Blofeld in the new Bond movie?  Who? He’s been played by as many actors as Bond, you know: Anthony Dawson, Donald Pleasence, Telly Savalas, Charles Gray, John Hollis, and Max Von Sydow. (For purposes of this comparison Woody Allen’s original Casino Royale [1967] will be considered a bad dream in an alternate timeline, or something.)  If the rumors are to be believed, Blofeld’s coming back in Bond 24, but so far no scuttlebutt on the actor who will be given the honor.  My personal choice: Nick Frost.  No, I’m serious.  He could totally do it.
  •  Why does the Netflix app on my Kindle keep updating itself?  What is it doing? Should I be worried? Are Cybermen involved?
  • Before anyone is allowed to remake any John Carpenter film he or she should first complete the Seven Tests Of Death, the first of which is swimming from Myrtle Beach, SC to Newmarket, UK.  The others are harder.  Much harder.
  • Movies based on video games need to stop.  Seriously.  We’re going to end up with Free Cell: The Motion Picture, staring Will Smith as the Jack of Clubs.
  • Michael Bay. I don’t have anything to say about him, I just like dropping his name to watch all the cinephiles start frothing at the mouth.
  • Why is The Hobbit three movies? And if you’re going to make a short book into three movies, why leave out the best part–the routine that Gandolf does where he tells the bear-guy about their escape from the orcs and keeps adding more dwarves into the story?  That bit is classic!  Peter Jackson, I expect an explanation. The hot elf chick was cool, though, even if she wasn’t in the book.
  • There needs to be a Wolverine/Torchwood crossover film.  Hugh Jackman and John Barrowman fighting.  In the rain.  With no shirts.  Who needs a plot?
  • Michael Bay! (Man, that never gets old.)
  • Toys that need their own movie: E-Z Bake Oven. Slip’n’Slide. Rubic’s Cube. Rock’em Sock’em Robots (wait, I think they did that one…) Hitachi Magic Wand (why should the kid’s toys have all the fun?)
  • They should release a special edition of Lost In Space that is only the parts with Gary Oldman in them.

Okay, enough goofiness.  Back to work.  See you at the movies!

Posted in Artists That I Admire, On Promotion, On Publishing, On Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

I Don’t Write Babies, I Write Books

There are some figures of speech that are so prevalent that one tends to read them without thinking about the metomyny.  Recently however, in three different articles by different writers about their novels, I encountered the conceit of a book as a “baby” and the repetition has driven me to consider that particular analogy.

I have come to the conclusion that it’s nonsense.

I know babies, I fathered three of them.  I was present when each of them were born–in fact I midwifed the third because the midwife we were paying ended up not returning my page until after the birth.

I have fed babies, changed them, carried them around, held them when they slept and held them when they wouldn’t sleep. I love my children, and now that they are grown I don’t see enough of them.

I love my books, too, but they are not my babies.

My books are things that I have built.  They are collections of words, either as electronic files or ink on a page.  They are not alive, they don’t have feelings, and I don’t have to protect or nurture or watch over them.  Some folks like them, some folks don’t.

Once I am done with a project I don’t really care what happens to it.  It would be nice if I could make more money than I do from sales of my books, certainly, but I’ve realized that I am a terrible salesman and spending time trying to promote my books has very little impact on sales and just makes me grumpier than usual.

I can’t remember the last time I logged into Amazon to check my sales numbers.  I just checked to see if I have any reviews (I don’t) but only because writing this made me think of it.  Before that… it’s not something I do.

I write because I like to write, and it’s fun to play with ideas.  I really enjoy it when people like my books and say nice things about them, but trying to compare that feeling with how I felt at my daughter’s wedding, for example, is absurd.

I am almost finished with my third novel.  I have enjoyed making it, and I think it’s pretty good.  I will be interested in how people react to it–I certainly hope that people who enjoyed the first two will like this one as well.

It’s not a baby, though.  It’s a book.  I think that figures of speech are important, and I think the ones that we use unconsciously are perhaps the most important, because they reveal attitudes that are unconscious.   My books are not children, they are products that I produce. That’s all.

Posted in On Promotion, On Publishing, On Writing, Who I am | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

And This Bird You Cannot Change

I have a paid day off today.

My roommate has gone out for a road trip–she made a lunch date with a friend who lives across the state.  She does things like that, drives a couple of hours, has lunch, drives back.  The highway soothes her soul.

Me, I think I’ll clean house and write–the cleaning house is my reward for the writing, BTW, not the reverse.  Cleaning soothes my soul.

This morning I went out to get some birdseed out of my roommate’s trunk to fill the birdfeeder–yes, it’s July and there is plenty of forage for the birds and squirrels, but’s not for the local wildlife.  It’s for the cats.  The birdfeeder is just outside the living room window, and filling it with seed provides hours of entertainment for Butch and Flynt.

My car was parked on the driveway in front of my roommate’s car.  It’s fairly new, and I own the title, it’s properly insured, it has current Missouri license plates.  The name and address on the title, the insurance card, my driver’s license, and the check I wrote to the DMV are all the same, and is the same one on the front of my house.

My rent for July is paid, and my bills are current.  The yard has been freshly mowed.  I have white plastic lawn furniture in my back yard.

There is a police station/firehouse/town hall (I live in a small town) across the street from me, and I don’t flinch when I drive past it.  I hardly notice that it’s there any more.

My money is in a credit union, under my own name, my own address.  I have direct deposit, so I hardly ever go there in person, but when I do I show them my ID and they call me “sir”.

I have keys for the office where I work.  Heck, I make the keys for the office where I work.  I have a shop with personal pictures and training certificates with my real name on them on the wall.  As I said above, they are paying me for a full day today, even though I’m not there.  In fact, I have 29 hours of vacation time that I need to use up before the end of September, and after that three weeks of vacation to use up next year.

Somehow, when I wasn’t looking, I became a solid citizen.

Now, maybe you take all these things for granted.  Maybe you’re reading this and wondering why I’m making a big deal about having a home and a job.

Trust me, it is a big deal. It’s a big deal because I live in a country where a person can fall off the edge of the world and come back. 

I don’t know if I can explain adequately what it’s like to live on the outside of the social contract.  It’s a different world, a shadow world, unnoticed by most people except for the sanitized human interest stories in the news and the occasional unpleasant intersection of crimes against property; theft, vandalism, fraud, and separated from the world of solid citizens by a great chasm of custom, habit, and state of mind.

It’s one of those things that is so big that you don’t see it, like standing in the cyclopean footprint of some mad god and not recognizing it for what it is.

You can fix your mind on details–being unable to call the police when a neighbor starts shooting out his window because you have outstanding warrants.  Doing construction work at night to avoid inspectors and getting paid in chain store gift cards.

Needing secure places to hide cash from the people you live with. Knowing where all the payphones are and which ones work. Using, “Where are you staying now?” as a common greeting.  Having people drift into and out of your life, never knowing when a meeting will be a last one.

Learning how long you can stay at store before security comes to move you along. Wolfing every meal because your next one is pure conjecture.  Knowing who has a clean identity to use to buy things that require an address and knowing how much using it will cost you.  Keeping track of a dense web of obligations, favors owed, relationships, who is lying for whom, what this person told that person, the need for keeping the story straight so prominent in your mind that the idea of telling the truth simply never occurs to you as an option.

I don’t live in that world any more.

I have sat in front of my computer for the time it takes to smoke three cigarettes trying to find some way to give that sentence the emphasis that it deserves.  I give up.  All of the analogies that come to mind–coming back from the dead, having an amputated limb reattached, being reprieved from a life sentence–are so hyperbolic as to rob them of emotional impact.  If you haven’t ever looked at life from the wrong side of the bulletproof glass you just won’t understand.

That’s a pity.  It’s a pity because people don’t understand the value of what they don’t know can be lost and regained.   What they wake up to every day is taken as normal and they don’t–they can’t–grasp how artificial and how precious it is and how much work it takes so many people to maintain.

America is important.  It is important because it is the Land Of Second Chances.

Posted in Artists That I Admire, On Writing, Who I am | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Ebook Fraud Alert: Spread the Word


Didn’t have any of mine, but it’s a huge collection–check for yours.

Originally posted on Kait Nolan:

So we can all agree that book piracy sucks.  Know what sucks even more?  People trying to illegally SELL our work.  Courtesy of Google Alerts, I found out about 45 minutes ago that Red and Forsaken By Shadow are both illegally listed at Bkspc.com.  So are my friend Susan Bischoff’s books and a whole lot of others.  It’s not limited to just self published books either.  I’ve seen books by Carina Press, Penguin and other publishers on this site.

The site is hosted through GoDaddy, so it is important that you, as author, check to see if your books are listed, and then follow the directions below to file a complaint in order to see that the domain is suspended and have GoDaddy cancel this asswipe’s hosting.


B. Copyright Claims (from GoDaddy’s Legal Dept.)

1. If the Complaining Party would like to submit a copyright claim…

View original 543 more words

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Writer’s Group

Last night I went to a writer’s group for the first time since… well, the last one I went to was before Thanksgiving, I think.  We had a harsh winter this past year, and I was exhausted from putting in extra hours shoveling snow, and then I just kind of got out of the habit by the time the weather cleared.

Also, I had no car of my own.  My roommate has been very generous about giving me rides, but I hate to ask her.

However, I now have my own wheels again (thanks to my sister) and I was able to go last night.  I realized how much I had missed it.  It was a very small group (there were three of us) at a coffee shop named after a character in Moby Dick (Ishmeal’s?  No, that doesn’t sound quite right.)

It was too loud to read samples, but we had a really good time talking.  Two of us have stories in a collection that is going to be released soon called Sins Of The Past, and that’s looking really good.  I like writing short stories, and one of the other writers had some good suggestions for finding more anthologies that accepted submissions.

I realized that I do get lonely, as misanthropic as I am.  Getting out and being able to talk face to face with other writers is important to me, and I’m going to make sure I maek it priority for next month.


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