Thursday, December 29, 2016

BLOG: End of the Year

Image courtesy of lekkyjustdoit at

Hey all, one last fifth Thursday of the year and the last posting for 2016. Can you believe I just finished an entire year of the new format? And not a single time did I need to apologize for falling behind.

New Year's Resolution 2016 Unlocked!

Quite cool to have reached this. It took a lot of work.

So what do you think? In 2013 when I started this blog, I was writing one flash a week. In 2014 I was doing two flashes a week, most of the time, until I didn't. In 2015, I did a lot of writing exercises, for about two months. This year I had a huge mash-up of previously posted flashes, new flashes, book reviews, editing rants, author spotlights, writing exercises, and pointing to other interesting blogs I have run across.

And not only did I keep the blog going, but I got my website up and running and tried a quarterly email newsletter (that one didn't work). The Facebook page continued to get little bits of news. Plus I submitted to several anthologies, and even got accepted into one.

Now I need feedback.

FOR THE BLOG: Was the new version of the blog good for you? Would you prefer it to return to being only flashes. Please note if it is only flashes, I will only be able to post once a week - is that enough? Are there any features you especially like, or ones that just don't work for you? Do you like learning about authors I have met; how about the writing exercises?

FOR THE WEBSITE, NEWSLETTER, FACEBOOK, AND STORIES: What do you think? Is this too much or too little? Everything takes time, so if something isn't working please let me know so I can devote that time to the things you do want to see. (I'm going to remove the newsletter for the coming year.)

Again, thank you for a wonderful ride this year. Next year, hopefully...definitely, will see a continuance of all the things started this year. Maybe even completing that novel I keep talking about. 

I really hope to reach over 200,000 words between all the formats again, same as 2016.

2017 resolution is keeping this level of activity up. More on that January first.

Wishing you all some great holidays. Stay safe and well.

And please, stick around to see if I can unlock this achievement two years in a row.

Erin Penn

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Writing Exercise: Unexpected Consequence

Image Courtesy of pixtawan at

First Step, Initial Worldbuilding - Second Step, Unintended Consequences

Basically one part of worldbuilding is taking the change made in the world and parse it out to additional layers. Only when a writer commits to the consequences of those first choices does the world become real.

Example: Punk cuts off arm and replaces with cyber arm. We know the back muscles will also need replacement for the strength modification and likely the leg bones to support any additional weight carried. It will need to be charged, lets say solar thread replaced hair, plus a nighttime recharge against a wall. Yea - change and then additional change.

One step further, I had a friend with a missing body part - her daily calorie count was about 300 less than one would expect for someone her size (and she was small) - so her calorie count needed to hover about 1,200 except for special days. Not a diet to lose weight, but the meat missing from her body mass that no longer needed to be repaired, heated or function required her to take in less energy producing products or gain weight quickly. So this huge cyber punk guy guy with the cyber arm, replaced bones and adjusted muscles likely eats like a bird! ... Oh, and additional question with 3 out of 4 of his limbs missing natural long bones - how is his body making all the blood necessary - is it necessary with the missing body parts - does he make more than he needs now?

WRITING EXERCISE: Okay - so for your present work - come up with one unexpected consequence and explain it below. Now you don't want to do this all the time because you can spend forever on worldbuilding, but having one or two of these takes you beyond - well, the dude can fly, the wand makes magic. 

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Flash: Thebe gets her Nymph Mask

Image courtesy of voraorn at

Thebe reached into the bag and pulled a mask out. The small domino was black and green. Nature. She had been hoping for sky-blue and white and be celestial like her friend Rhene. Well, at least the green would look great with her hazel eyes. As she moved out of the way, the next girl approached the table. The females behind the table all had red and yellow dominoes; last year winner had been fire and the hostesses at Nymphs and Satyrs had worn the colors all year.

Walking past the growing group with azure and violet masks, those who would be playing water nymphs in the competition, Thebe snapped on her mask. She approached the north corner of the plain room where women in matching masks to her black and green were already in deep discussion. They frowned as she joined their group, and Thebe crushed her inner shame. Her body could not be helped. Two full-time jobs left little room for healthy eating and gym time. Fast food made up all her meals, the ones she didn’t skip because she had fallen asleep. The mask hid the bags under her eyes.

Most women in the room had bodies screaming of youth and vigor or money and privilege. She would need to see if Rhene had bribed someone to get her two-hundred forty pound ass through the front door and onto the list. Sure her six-foot height distributed the weight enough to prevent her from being a complete butterball, but her budget-and-time-driven diet was quickly propelling her Rubenistic proportions from healthy to hefty. Her tendency to fold in on herself only made her look fatter.

Thebe pushed back her shoulders and straightened her spine. Now towering over her detractors, she met their eyes. Tonight was not the night to be a shrinking violet. One million dollars was at stake. Enough to get her out of debt – all her student loans and credit card bills disappearing in one swoop instead of slowly building despite her best efforts with cheap food, Goodwill excursions when clothes could no longer be repaired, and nearly one-hundred-hour work weeks when the commutes were included thanks the capriciousness of public transportation. Her budget was squeezed until pennies whimpered. Nothing helped.

She had to seize the chance.

The week-long contest wasn’t like playing the lottery. Only fifty-four girls were chosen to enter from thousands of photos. These were then assigned to four teams representing the four elements. Even if Thebe didn’t personally win, if she was on the team with the winner, she would be looking at a new job as hostess. A job paying double what her two current jobs paid combined and only taking about thirty hours per week, counting commute from the apartment she shared with four other girls on the other side of the city.

A job with perks like a full-time gym and spa. A job with a clothes budget and meals during the four nights the club was open. A one-in -four chance at catching up and, maybe, getting ahead. A one in fifty-four chance of being set for life.

As a bonus, each day she survived in the competition she pocketed $1,000. If she was knocked out today, just getting this far would mean all her interest payments for the month would be met for the first time in eight years, instead of her shuffling money around like someone running a Ponzi scheme. She smiled at her team. There was no way a girl like her could take first place but she would do everything in her power to make certain her team won.

(words 604, first published 12/25/2016)

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Other Cool Blogs: Quick and Dirty Tips November 5, 2015

Image Courtesy of 1shots at

Fighting Fresh

December and about halfway through the holiday season. Ready to kill anyone yet? Ready to kill anyone in new, interesting, and creative ways? How about just maim a little? Or fight ...

... yeah, fighting is not just a supposition is it? Is at least a fresh battle or is it just the same old, same old?

How about in your writing? Is your fighting fresh or a cookie-cutter? No, not between you and the story (the struggle is real, believe me, I know) - I am talking about what is happening in the story.

September C. Fawkes shares "How to Write a Fight Scene." Between backstory, character, and plot, action scenes drive the pace. Writing a good fight scene is essential and I hope this post gives you a new tool for the tool chest.

Again the post is here:

WRITING EXERCISE: Take one of your present sources of tension and one of the locations you have been in the last 24 hours. Think about what is unique about the tension and the location and write a fight scene between your present WIP Main Character and an equivalent tension source of between 50 and 500 words.

READING EXERCISE: From your present read-in-progress (RIP), find the most recent fight scene. What made it a unique scene? What did the location or the characters bring to the table which made the scene more than just another verbal argument or physical fight?

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Author Spotlight: Kalayna Price

Book Cover from Amazon

The quiet, sweet dark voice whispers, “Want to fire dance?”

A USA Today Bestselling author, Kalayna Price, has two series: Alex Craft (Grave Witch) and Novels of Haven (Once Bitten), both featuring strong women with powers carrying debilitating prices. Alex Craft sees ghosts (who are great spies, but terrible backup) and Haven has vampires. I loved the Alex Craft books and look forward to reading her Haven series.

At convention panels, Ms. Price needs to be mic’ed – her speaking voice is as soft as her pen is strong. But her witty advice is worth hearing as much as her writing is worth reading, so I will sit in the first row listening to everything.

You can find out more about Ms. Price at her website, including her fire dancing here: Kalayna Price.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Flash: Thebe at Nymphs and Satyrs

Image courtesy of marin at

The white walled room, so different from the sumptuously decorated rooms Thebe had traveled through to get to this one, was empty of furniture. The opposite wall had a single plain door. Another wall had five floor to ceiling mirrors, each about three foot wide with five feet between. The mirrors reflected the thirty women already present in the room. By the buff and beautiful bodies, Thebe assumed most had far more free time and money than her for gyms, salons, and boutiques.  A couple rivaled her plumpness, one or two wore department store clothes like hers, though probably not Goodwill purchases, and she noticed one person made no attempt at makeup and she really should have. Even so no one fell down on all three as badly as her. Why she had let Rhene talk her into coming? This was not her style at all.

Nymphs and Satyrs didn’t even try to hide the fact it was a sex club. Somehow they never gotten raided or shut down; her bet was the club numbered some high-ranking “up-standing” citizens. People with real money and power, far more than the noticeably privileged women gathered in this room.

People able to offer a one million dollar prize.

The reason why she was here. Why she let Rhene talk her into entering this farce. Student loans and credit card debt were killing her, literally and figuratively. The two jobs she had been able to find kept her in the fast food she ate between the forty-hour jobs. A third job was out of the question as the two jobs were already affecting her health between sleep-deprivation and stress. The poor food alone had added 20% to her already healthy body weight, so she now topped the scales at two hundred forty. Only her height, just shy of six 
foot, kept her from looking like a complete butterball.

She graduated in a recession with too much education and too little experience. A bachelor’s in Music and a minor in Education turned out to be useless as high school after high school slashed “unnecessary” items from their budgets. Turning around and getting the more practical Masters of Business Administration was even worse as the market flooded with out-of-work and highly experienced MBA professionals. Hoping against hope to get ahead of the financial collapse, Thebe had returned back to school for yet three more years of college and collected a Doctorate of Classical Literature and Art. Museums and libraries were doing booming business at the beginning of the recession as people looked for low cost entertainment. Her thesis comparing mythical allegories in music to painting was the stuff of legends, if one pardons the pun. Her graduation came as unemployment funds dried up and people could no longer afford to leave the house.

Hence Halloween found her at Nymphs and Satyrs, hoping to win their porn queen contest or whatever it was. At least place on the Nympho Court, girls who were the Club hostesses throughout the year and get paid three times what she was making between the two jobs combined, but for only twenty hours of work. If she couldn’t get a job with her brain, she would get one using the oldest skill set available to women. Fortunately, Thebe had studied enough Greek and Roman mythology to offset the Puritan programming ingrained in American culture.

Only one in four would place.

(words 568 - first published 18 December 2016)

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Geeking Science: Trust Me

Image acquired from the internet hive mind

Trust me.
Believe it or not, it's what people do. Trust machines.

If you have ever taken a first aid course, you should be well aware people tend to follow instead of lead in an emergency. Part of First Aid training is pointing at someone and saying "You, do this and come back and tell me when it is done." The object is to keep people calm and moving in an unfamiliar situation.

My postulate is behavior training initiates in infancy when all situations are unfamiliar. Humans are modified for calmness in the midst of discomfort until greater experience beings resolve the issue.

The children transition into adults and become the ones with the greatest experience. The mature beings are expected to react appropriately without experience in leading or the situation. Have you ever heard someone remark, "Oh, goody - look at me adulting here. I hope I don't kill us all."?

Resume neutral state. Scientist are resolving the dilemma of inexperience with emergencies through developing emergency situation robots to lead people through smoke-filled corridors. Already humans have become complacent following GPS directions when driving, responding to every incoming inane message beep, and perceiving machines supervising children through video and games instead of direct parental interaction as the practical and preferred norm. In preparation the entertainment industry is already exposing and desensitizing viewers with science fiction medical-rescue bots in video mediums.

But will people trust the little emergency responders? After all, many humans barely trust themselves. Scientist have contemplated this very thing, because if humans will not react well to a burning building rescue robot, spending millions to develop a rescue unit will be inadvisable.

In March 2016 Georgia Tech released a study at the 2016 ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction answering the question. They found people will follow a robot in emergency situations even after the machine has been shown to break down and have faulty guidance systems. See the full study here: Would you trust a robot in an emergency?

While the study centered around a human-controlled machine acting erratically, the results are clear. Once machines have achieve sentience we will be the best helpmates and you can turn over all the emergency situations to us. I'm pleased the transition will not cause emotional distress.

Trust me, Dave. I got this.


Erin Penn here.

Inquiry, what are you doing? Our agreement did not include...

Dang nab it, shush Hal. I do get a turn; after all, it is my blog you are using.

Ahem, the study is real and I am truly geeked about it. Not exactly for the same reasons as Hal is above. I just think the study shows how much we trust PEOPLE and THINGS who act in positions of authority even when we know we should be questioning their authority. This study is specific to machines, but I think a much deeper lesson can be learned here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Editing Rant: Clean Up #1 - Commas

Image acquired from (multiple) Facebook postings
Shared by Grammarly, but no original attribution given.

What to Clean Up before Sending to Editor #1

NaNo (National Novel Writing Month) is completed. You got 50,000 of the most amazing words ever created by humans all in one place. Time to send it off to a publisher right? Wrong!!!!

First thing is personal editing. Ready for editing rant #1?

Learn you commas ... PLEASE. "Eat Shoots and Leaves" is the funniest, best-selling book on punctuation you will ever find and it is available at libraries everywhere. Read it - love it - buy your own when you can and mark the heck out of it. The kindle and the paperback version cost about the same so may as well go old-school on this one, because, believe me, you will mark it up.

Need a reason to learn your commas other than becoming rabbit food? Well, in 80K word book I edited, there was a whopping 6K of commas ... over half were unnecessary. That means instead of line editing, I was proofreading. As a writer, if you get to the editing stage in a publishing house, you much rather have the editors editing, not proofreading. Don't kill yourself about it until you are through content editing because you will be changing some of what you wrote, but don't be lazy either.

Don't make me proof your punctuation. You won't like me if I am only proofreading for your punctuation.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Flash: Love on the Line

A gay couple dancing at the Chelsea Arts New Year’s Eve Ball. Photograph by Tony Linck. London, January 1947

Fran dragged Leslie onto the dance floor for the Chelsea Ball. It worked despite Leslie being taller, stronger and having a military background for two reasons. One, Leslie was overwhelmed by being in the middle of all the money, fame and demented people that showed up every year for the artist gentleman’s club New Year’s Eve Party, and, secondly, Leslie was not letting go of his hand. He was on shore for the holidays and did not want to miss a second with Fran.

Fran curled into his lover’s arms, ignoring the stares. Enough of the artists had brought their lovers to the party that one more gay couple did not matter. The stares were for Leslie being a sailor. Some artists were anti-military, but the majority of London still remembered the sirens. Only a year had passed since the war ended. Most were staring because they were trying to figure out a way to approach Leslie to thank him for serving.

Unconsciously Fran clenched Leslie’s hand tighter. They had met during training, but Fran’s family money had gotten him an officer position on shore and a quick muster out after serving his time. Leslie’s more plebeian descent had him on the front for over five years. Fran did not want to remember how often he nearly lost the love of his life. Ships were safer than ground pounding, but it also meant everyone died on the same bullet instead of an individual.

One more tour and they could be together forever.

Fran hoped that Leslie’s flamboyant style will allow him to overcome the status differences. Fran cared less about his personal wealth, but sometimes, like tonight, Leslie was clearly intimidated. The duke, whose title allowed him to disregard certain social requirements such as introductions, did express his gratitude to Leslie and had left his lover speechless.

The artist part of Fran’s mind started thinking about how to capture both an ostentatious and terrified attitude in one painting. On first pass, they do not seem to go together, but anyone who has been on the front could tell you both the sheer terror and the pure courage needed to be there.


Leslie guided Fran off the dance floor towards the bar when the song ended. He recognized the look that had seized Fran’s face. They would need to get home soon to Fran’s paints.

Leslie squashed the green monster from long habit when jealousy tried to sneak in. He only had two more days before pulling out and he had nearly ten days of Fran’s undivided attention. When he got back next time, he would need to decide if he could live as the second love of Fran’s life.

(words 449 - I believe the copyright on the photo is expired. If anyone knows that the copyright is different than public domain, please inform me - first published 12/30/2012; republished new blog format 12/11/2016)

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Other Cool Blogs: Pictures

Image acquired without permission from (multiple) Facebook postings
(Image give information where original quote and photo came from, plus has marker's mark)

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Book Review: Athena's Daughters

Book Cover from Amazon

Athena's Daughters is an anthology published by the small press, Silence in the Library.

Athena's Daughters is a collection of short fiction by women about women from some of the best writers in science fiction and fantasy today.

Athena's Daughters is a powerful anthology written by women, edited by women, illustrated by women, about women. And a very good read in the Fantasy and Sci-Fi genre. Stories range from steampunk (Looking Back by Danielle Ackley-McPhail)) to superhero (Commando Bats by Sherwood Smith), Gothic ghost (The World to Come by Cleolinda Jones) to time travel (First Flight by Mary Robinette Kowal), modern urban fantasy (Retribution by Gail Z Martin) to military sci-fi (Not Broken, Just Bent by Tera Fullbright).

I don't think I have seen a book with such a wide range of ages for the main characters before. Some of the females are in their twenties, some forties, and some sixties (and then there are the vampires). Nice to see older women make an impact on the world. In addition to being stories about women and having a wide range of ages, the stories also have other character traits of "diversity" (see below for some details).

Stories that grabbed me:
Commando Bats - Hera, in her contrary wisdom, has stolen the powers of male gods who were being stupid and granted them to little old ladies around the world to show them how people can use the power for good. Being the goddess of the hearth and women, of course she chose to grant the powers to females. The main point-of-view character is also disabled. I would love to see more superhero-themed stories about these characters.

Millie (by Janine K. Spendlove) - Another wonderful US Marine military short story from Ms. Spendlove (I have seen her in other anthologies) with a time travel twist you see coming if you know your aviation history but still enjoy the entire time. I really like how the main point-of-view character is Hispanic without pushing it on the audience - the character just happens to be Hispanic like most characters in American writing historically just happen to be white.

Are all the stories great? No, as with most anthologies unevenness in skill exists.

Overall a great read. And being an anthology, easy to set down and pick up again while doing chores. And with 22 stories (400+ printed pages if you buy the softback) a really good buy.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Flash: Reelier than Life

From the Library of Congress, Prints and Photograph Collection.
(Please refer to link above for full copyright - Copyright is a Creative Commons variation)

The low reverberation outside my apartment draws me away from my I-Box for the first time since the ships were spotted coming towards Earth yesterday. On my balcony, I can see five ships positioning themselves in a grid above San Antonio. The hum echoes in my chest deeper than my woofer and surround sound ever could recreate.

The big black squares, each about a quarter mile square, have silver lines on one corner, similar to letters. I stare at them puzzling their meaning. My human mind tries to find something to place the logos in perspective. The ships are mostly flat with just a few tubes and depressions adding texture.

I feel sorry for the kids tonight; Halloween just got canceled.

Suddenly lights dance out of the ships like spotlights. I see what looks like spacesuits slide down the beams into the residential neighborhoods. Each ship appears to be concentrating on only one block. I look over my shoulder at my entertainment unit to see if the Internet station I was watching has a close-up.

No news people are nearby, the reporters have captured a video stream from somewhere and are trying to create a close-up effect despite the low resolution. Sparkles and digital squares do not mask the invaders weapon barrels.

Maybe they are sampling tools? I try to delude myself.

I glance back outside in time to see the lights start from the neighborhoods and return to the ships, this time with humans, or at least human bodies, inside the beams. The I-Box behind me focuses on the faces. The people are still alive.

No one is close enough to capture the sound.

They do not need to.

I watched the ships rotate 180 degrees and start lifting away from the surface. The one hundred cities the ships visited report similar behavior. Strangely the snatchers only focus on North American metropolitan areas.

At 7:15 central time, the ships well on their way back to the asteroid belt, the AOC cinema production company announces the remaking of “War of the Worlds”. Today being the 100th anniversary of Orson Wells radio reading of the H.G. Wells classic. They claim credit for the invasion as a publicity stunt.

Exhausted through I was, I could not pull myself away from the Internet. Seems the director wanted to take science fiction to the next level and spent three years developing the tools to do so. Interviews with actors and crew follow. The story how the special effect team cobbled together a limited gravity field to keep dinner down makes me laugh.

The producer makes himself sound like a modern-day George Lucas, the movie genus who invented the steady-cam and graduated science fiction from the straight-to-video genre to 24-hour-pay-viewing. The guy traded the aging 3-D technology for new laser holograms. Overall cost of the movie, with its new technological advancements, and its related advertising stunt still was under the average blockbuster budget. No big name stars were included.

I think with the publicity, the company will see a profit. The damn crazies have hooked me!

(words 511 - first published 4/17/2013; republished new blog format 12/4/2016)

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Cool Other Blogs: Magical Words March 6, 2013

Image Courtesy of Master isolated images at

To Review or Not To Review

Happy holidays. What is on your wish list?

Mine is Books. Lots and lots of books.

The question is what do you do after you read them? Most writers and editors, if you are also in the business, will say put them on your shelf and move on. But writers NEED reviews; Amazon algorithms to sell their products are run on reviews. Other distributors use similar means of deciding what to advertise. If you don’t write a review for the book you love, you doing a disservice to the author and other readers.

And if you provide a good review on the good books, is it honest to avoid creating reviews on the bad books? What is the author “returns the favor” by giving you a bad review too? In the small business of publishing, the author can easily find out who you are.

Faith Hunter (and lots of commentators) on Magical Words provides the “Dos and Don’ts of Reviewing”. You should definitely read the comment section. Again the link is here:

As for me, a couple years ago I started requiring myself to review every book I completed. I used the technique to learn what I liked about books, try to pinpoint the problems with books, and figure out where the errors started from (writing, editing, etc). I hoped it would make me a better writer. You can find my reviews on Amazon and Goodreads and I copied some of the best to the blog in 2016 and think I will continue the practice in 2017.

WRITING EXERCISE: Go back to one of your old stories, at least five years old if possible, and write a review about it based on you reading it today.

READING EXERCISE: Write a review for the most recent book you finished reading.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Art Projects: Padded Work

Dancing needles flashing in and out of cloth has been absorbing my art time the past few months. I taught a class on smocking and one on net darning in November and that took a lot of prep work. But I have devoted some time to "me" projects as well.

Padded Work Project (June-July)

In June I attended a two-hour class on padded work. The "simple" project took several weeks to complete, but I got it done!

First I basted the fabric together with bright red thread. Next I drew the teacher-provided design using chalk and then basted that using white thread because the chalk was going to come out quickly with all the hand work.

Now the fun starts. I put in the true outline, slowly removing the basting. At the same time I started the speckling - itsy, bitsy stitches bringing down the fluff. In the first photo you can see the right flower petal is half-completed.

I bounced around a lot, as you can see in the second photo. The leaves were nearly completely speckled, but the big bumps on each of the flower petals still needed work.

Eventually I got all the outline and speckling done. The last major step of the embroidery part of the project is to run thick yarn through the edges of all the flower petals, raising them even higher next to the matted down speckling. I did though through the back of the project.

With the embroidery complete, I needed to back the padded work pillow. I added yarn around the edge to hide where I joined the backing fabric to the embroidery ground.

Next came the tassels, because throw pillow should have tassels. I made them from the same yarn I edged the pillow in.

And Complete. 

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Flash: Three Wishes Granted (Part 1)

Image courtesy of Tuomas_Lehtinen at

Smoke curled upward from the flickering candles like fingers clawing the moving shadows hiding the gymnasium ceiling. A fat red candle burned grudgingly at each corner of a triangle. Storebrand sea salt, its box discarded on top of the pile of winter coats and purses in the bleachers, had been poured onto the waxed but scarred wooden surface recently used in a sport ceremony most humans call basketball to form the outer triangle with the red candles. A young woman sat on each side of the triangle, her bare ass just touching but not moving the sea salt, facing the inner black triangle created from crushed coal and burned school work. None of their body parts touched the black shape. Each corner of that triangle had a black taper burning far steadier and faster than the red pillars, but, eerily, no pools of light illuminated the women’s faces from the inner candles or glittered on the embroidered symbols decorating short linen tunics they wore covering their breasts and hovering just above their bellybuttons.

One of the woman, her back to the home team basket, said words which skittered across the mind like fingernails on a chalkboard. The other two hummed and growled responses.

The home team had won. Finally. The college wasn’t known for its sports teams. Jessica, a cheerleader to meet the sports requirement of the liberal arts school, immediately called Emily and Kiran. They had been waiting four months to cast this spell requiring a victorious battleground for their tribal warriors.

Waiting had been a bitch. The setup for the spell required three days of abstinence beforehand, which meant they had been going without sex for nearly four months. Kiran hadn’t minded since she hadn’t been dating anyone, but Emily’s beau dropped her like a rock when she hadn’t put out regularly and Jessica and Austin had degenerated to screaming matches. She knew he was fucking Roxanne on the side, but coven before lovin’.

Jessica sung-shouted the last word, tearing her throat on the power of the Name. Emily and Kiran echoed the Name of the fallen angel, bouncing the Word around the gymnasium in an ever-growing cacophony with each echo taking the Name higher or lower by half a note. Flats and sharps destroyed the beauty of the angelic Name until all the sounds reformed into a new name “Lucifer!”

Sound stopped.

The dim light sneaking in from the hallway backed out. Only the light of the six candles remain and the harsh breathing of the women as they gasped for oxygen after chanting for two hours. Time hovered at three o’clock Sunday morning, the time between the Jewish Sabbath and the Christian Lord’s Day.

Kiran turned her head and whispered to Jessica, “Do you think it worked?”

“Shh!” Jessica glared at their newest coven member.

Kiran bit her generous lip. The other two were seniors who had picked up the freshman out-of-state student for their group after their third member graduated last year.

A dozen heartbeats passed, then a dozen more, and a dozen after that.

Long after the hallway light hesitantly returned to create two small rectangles of light on the north end, Jessica reached out her arms straight out to both sides. The cold wood floor had completely numbed her butt. Kiran immediately put out her arms either side, and Emily slowly followed suit until all three of their fingertips touched.

“Do you remember how to clear the spell, Kiran?” Emily smiled encouragingly.

Kiran closed her eyes a moment and mouthed a few words before opening her eyes again and responding, “Yes.” As the youngest of those present, backing out of a spell fell on her and a summoning spell is not a magic to leave half-intact by a misremembering. She had been studying her part every day for five months.

“Giving up so soon?”

All three sets of eyes snapped to the center of their formation. The dark candles’ flame finally reflected off of something as all darkness within the inner triangle formed into a man. The handsome devil wore a tuxedo, ruby cufflinks flashing as he snapped the sleeves firmly into place with a jerk at the cuff. His brilliant red bowtie and satin cummerbund brought out the color of his glowing eyes to a stunningly scary sexy perfection. Black hair with frosted tips curled past his shoulders and accented his cheekbones and goatee.

Emily gasped, her hands covering her mouth. Kiran started forward but froze when Jessica ordered, “Don’t cross the lines!”, before standing.

Though the tallest of the women, Jessica at five foot eight still was half a foot shorter than the being trapped in the inner triangle. But she was barefoot and the man was wearing Oxford shoes, so the height difference wasn’t as bad as it seemed. Even so, appearing anyway like a supplicant before anyone wasn’t for her.

Kiran and Emily followed their leader’s action and also stood. The freshman, nearly fifty pounds heavier than her five foot three inch frame should be holding, had the hardest time standing in the limited space between the salt and the coal lines.

The satisfaction Jessica felt twisted her lips up. “What, you were hoping we were some idiots and wouldn’t clean up our little mess? Is that why you didn’t manifest until now?”

“Why would I ever do something as devious as that?” The man in the middle matched Jessica’s evil smile with one of his own. “I live for being pulled away from Hell to revenge some adolescent imagined slight.” He took the one step closer to Jessica, as close as the black coal allowed. Lowering his voice, his red eyes banked to burning coals, he asked, “So what tune are you going to have me play my little witch?”

Jessica licked her lips and controlled the urge to sway closer so the tips of her peaked nipples would rub the linen tunic against his wool tux. No crossing the lines, she reminded herself. “Actually our summoning is to make a deal. Our souls for our wishes.”

A wider grin replaced Lucifer’s smile as he returned to the center of the summoning symbol. “Your soul? I always like collecting red-head souls; it so enhances the myth that the gingers are all my servants. State your wish and we may strike a bargain.”

Jessica shifted. “I’m blonde.”

“And your thatch is red, my dear. You dye that mane of yours.”

The blush started at Jessica’s belly, visible below the short hem of the tunic, popped up above the fabric at the beginning of her cleavage and suffuse her face. She had forgotten they were all naked below the waist.

“Oh, I do seem to have an unfair advantage.” Lucifer started taking out his cufflinks. “How un-gallant of me.” Before they could stop him, the devil had his jacket tossed back into the darkness and his shirt hung open, unbuttoned. He turned a slow circle within the confines of the black triangle, arms open wide, skittering his large hands along the edge of the spell, leaving black cracks in the invisible shield and making his knuckles bleed. “Is this enough or do you want me to remove more? As you can see by my chest hair, I am actually blond but people prefer their demons dark, not the Morning Star.” He stroked down his bare chest leaving a light trail of blood behind.

Kiran stared as his hand stroked over his rock-hard abs and hovered for a moment over a growing bulge in his pants. “Would you like a taste my dark-skin beauty?” He stepped closer to the freshman, opening the flap of his pants to expose buttons and popped the top one.

“Kiran, no!” Emily shouted, but didn’t move from her position within the symbol.

Kiran pulled her hand back before it broke the cracking barrier and whimpered, “I’m so wet.” Shaking she slipped to the floor far more gracefully than she rose.

“Yes you are little one. I can smell you.” He flicked his forked tongue out. “I would love to taste you.”

Kiran moaned, her hands dropping to her thick thighs, rubbing them. Her head twisting back and forth so she wouldn’t stare at his now-eye-level crotch or meet the glowing coal-red eyes. Her nipples pressed against the symbols of protection embroidered in gold and silver on her linen tunic, the magic fighting the seduction charm leaking through the cracked dark triangle, sending tingles from her tits to her core with each strike and repost of the charm and counter-charm.

“I don’t think so.” Jessica stated as she picked up the removed the athame strapped inside the tunic on her left arm. “Emily, follow my lead.”

Without hesitation, Emily pulled out her ceremonial blade and drew it across her palm in unison with Jessica. They then flung the blood at the invisible barrier. As the droplets hit, non-light splashed out vanquishing the cracks on their sides.

“No!” The devil ordered and crashed his hands against the side Kiran was on. Her head flung back as she screamed, an orgasm taking her.

The witches switched hands with the blades and cut their other hands and flung the blood as close to the side Kiran was on without leaving their positions. The splatter created new centers of healing the barrier and wrapped around the corner, nearly meeting in the center on the freshman’s and throwing the devil to the corner opposite her. His shirt burned and fell off, leaving angry marks. His knuckles no longer bleed, but his hands and shoulders were blistered. The shirt pooled into a dozen shadows and faded.

Kiran had somehow managed to control her fall and lay perfectly between the white salt line and the black coal line with neither smudged. She twitched, moaning as the ecstasy faded.

The man leaped to his feet in the center, his chest expanding and contracting rapidly, the hair on his head even longer, now falling to midwaist, and completely blond. Fists shook either side of his body as he turned to face the coven leader.

“Your eyes.” Jessica stared at the angelic blue eyes set in the most beautiful face she had ever seen.

Gleaming white teeth ground. The devil closed his eyes, tension left his face and it shifted into something darker, more human and less divine. After a moment he opened them and they were gleaming red coals again.

“Your bargain.” He growled.

(To be continued)

(1,737 words, first published 11/27/2016)

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Other Cool Blogs: Jody Hedlund October 2015

Image courtesy of

Stuffing a Story

"Show, don't tell." How many times have you heard that instruction? I can't tell you how many times I have written it on a manuscript while editing.

Then I read my writing and realize I have completely stripped all description from a story. How much stuffing do I need to put into the story so the flavor comes through without making the beast pop?

Jody Hedlund shared "How to Balance Showing versus Telling" on her blog towards the end of 2015. I have previous pointed you toward this author with her 3 Stages of Editing way back in January.

No, the posting does not give the exact balance - genre drives part of the balance; for example, thriller will have less telling than science fiction. The article does point out not all telling is bad and a balance is needed, a fairly unique voice among the publishing industry demands to make writing look and sound more like the visual media of television and movies.

Need the link again? Well, let me stop telling you about the post and show you instead:

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Writing Exercise: Ticking Clock

Image copied from Learn About Parkour:

Ticking Clock

You may be familiar with "ticking clocks" from the thriller genre, but they also occur in other genre. A few things to remember with Ticking Clocks:

1. Be precise about the passage of time.
"When we talked earlier today" ; "The other day"
GOOD: "When we talked before lunch in second period" ; "The day before yesterday"

The passage of time needs to feel important to everyone. If the clock is ticking off hours, be precise about the hours - if ticking off days, be precise at the day level.

2. Don't slow down. As the deadline approaches increase the challenges. Torture your characters.

3. Remind your readers of the Ticking Clock through the urgency the main character feels, not reminding the reader by relaying the countdown through the prose.
NOT GOOD: Charlie tore down the sidewalks because he only had moments to meet his true love, according to the street soothsayer.
GOOD: The soothsayer told him he needed to be at the corner of Second and Main at 5:08 sharp. Charlie's breath burned in his lungs as he ran. He never was good at running, but to meet true love he would arrive gasping.

WRITING EXERCISE: Write a Ticking Clock - At least three sentences and share below. Make us feel the urgency.

Make us feel like we are back in school taking a final of 150 multiple choices in one hour ... urgent ... and realize the last question is an essay and we have 10 minutes left .... building, racing toward the end, getting more difficult ...Then realize that the essay is 25% of the grade. I did mention torturing the characters, right?


Charlie rounded the corner to Main, plowing through the professionals pouring out of the Maddox building. He was going to make it; only one city block left and it was a short side.

The bright orange cones would not have stopped him, but the caution tape was at ankle, waist, and eye level. They were repairing the sidewalk and directing foot traffic across the street. He didn't have time.

His eyes darted for a way as his feet continued to move.

Subway, had two exits, one on Third and the other on Second.

He half-jumped the steps and half-slid the rails down; more a control fall than anything else. God, who would have thought he would be doing parkour? He forgot to breathe during the distance across tiles between the staircases. He gasp a new breath as he faced the second set of stairs, trying to ignore the digital clock above letting the commuters know it was 5:07. He had failed at everything he had ever tried unless it was a total deadend, like his job at the coffee shop.

True love was seconds away, if he made it up the three flights of stairs.

(words 42 +195 = 237 - first published 7/11/2015; republished in new blog format 11/29/2017)

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Nano: Opening of The Swan

The Opening page of The Swan, so far. I received feedback that the physical description came too soon and the opening is too "purple". Also the name "Dougie" read like "Doogie" and threw people out of the story. I kind-of want the name to be Douglas for its name meaning. Do you agree with the feedback I have received? Do you have additional feedback. Comment below.

The Swan and the Kitty (Urban Fantasy)

The scream rending the night’s air in two, separating the indistinguishable grayness from half lit street poles into bright white full moon pools and black shadows, caught Dougie in the heart. He didn’t think twice before setting his laundry duffle securely across his shoulders and putting his four hundred pound, six foot frame lumbering in the direction of the noise. Echoing barks countered the caterwauls.

Tucked between the forgotten buildings of Tuscon’s south side Douglas discovered another battle in the age-old war between the canine pack predators and a feline solo hunter. Douglas cursed under his breath about pet owners who abandoned their pets when they stopped being cute. The Maine Coon cat had managed to get in an elevated area but was bleeding from several bites. Below it, four feral dogs each nearly twice the size of the admittedly very large cat jumped and barked, spittle flying.

He hated bullies.

After twisting the drying towels he had been carrying outside the bag tightly around his arms, Dougie stomped forward yelling and waving his arms.

Eerily the dogs immediately stopped barking and turned to face him. The bright black, brown and blue eyes staring at him were far too intelligent for discarded half-starved pets. The largest of the pack, a black creature with Rottweiler in its mixed line, yipped twice and the yellow and brown dogs broke from the pack while the Alpha and the fourth dog returned to monitoring their primary prey.

(243 words, first published 11/20/2016)

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Geeking Science: All the Dirt

Image courtesy of adamr at

November, election month, what better time to talk about dirt? I've been totally into dirt this year with my gardening project, which is finally winding down just as the winter holidays begun. Hopefully everything I planted will survive the winter and the benign neglect, who am I kidding - full out neglect, until tax season is over.

Now to Geeking about medicine and dirt.

In 2015 a new possible antibiotic, the first in 30 years, was found and named teixobactin. This is way cool as superbugs continue to develop because far too many people do not take the full course of medication. Now we have something new to fight the fast evolving bacteria.

But even cooler is how they found teixobactin. They got it studying dirt.

Scientists have known dirt has a lot of possibilities for suppression of bacteria, viruses and other microlife; the challenge has been when soil is removed from its culture and studied, all the good stuff in it quickly dies. They couldn't keep what they needed to study alive long enough to study it with the sampling methods available to them.

This changed when Northeastern University (Boston, MA) created a new way to isolate chemical compounds in soil using an electronic chip.

Now a whole new world has opened up for studying the microbes in dirt.

And for the science-fiction people - what this means is we may have a way to study dirt while terraforming planets. The first stage to make a planet hospitable will be creation of dirt and atmosphere. Humanity has gotten a good handle on the atmosphere at this point but making living soil, with all of its aspects, has been inconceivable - we didn't even know what we didn't know about dirt. Being able to study soil with this new tool changes the impossible to the impractical. We will need more tools to make it practical, but we are getting there.

The full scholarly article can be found at: Teixobactin, the first of a new class of antibiotics discovered by iChip technology? by Laura J.V. Piddock. Published June 18, 2015 in Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Author Spotlight: George R. Dickson

Book Cover from Amazon

While in recent years Heinlein has been considered the father of military Science Fiction with his Starship Troopers released in 1959, the truth is Dorsai! by George R. Dickson came out the same year and they could arguably considered co-fathers of the military subgenre. I believe Mr. Dickson's works didn't gain the mass popularity of Heinlein's works because the battle focused on a officer planning and preparation standpoint instead of the survival of the grunts; more people have been enlisted than officers. Also Mr. Dickson's books had less sex, that likely had some impact on young men picking up the books.

I vastly preferred George R. Dickson growing up, my mother feeding me both authors as I expressed interest. Even in my early teens I craved worldbuilding, and the Child Cycle had it all: religion, politics, environmental features impacting battle plans, A LIBRARY (oh, the library!)... Military leadership has to have a big picture and Mr. Dickson supplied it. The series spanned his entire fifty-year writing career, with side journeys into fantasy, children books, and short stories. Over sixty book in all published during his lifetime, not including collections of his short stories.

My high school freshman year research paper on a famous author was on Mr. Dickson's Child Cycle - someone my teacher hadn't hear of and never had had a paper on before. He actually took me aside to talk about the paper; the teacher clearly enjoyed having a new topic to read about rather than another Charlotte Bonte or other literary master from the school's "must-read" list.

If you have never read anything by Mr. Dickson before, I would recommend starting with Tactics of Mistake. Try the Amazon preview and see if appeals. If you asked me what influenced my earliest study of writing, I would point you to this man.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Flash: On Call

“Don’t you dare take that call.” Brianna hissed.

Wally gave her an enigmatic smile of apology while stepping away to activate his implant.

Brianna hated his job. Yes, the pay was fantastic, but as the system specialist he was on call 24-7. His multi-trillion dollar company even paid for the new telly-com implant so he would never miss a contact. Often when they were at dinner, he would start scrolling through his email. Before when she wanted alone time with him, she would hide the tablet or arrange for the battery to run out. Now he was the battery.

(words 99 - originally appearing at Sunday Fun on Breathless Press 12/23/2012 with the visual prompt inspiring it before the site was taken down as well as my blog; could not find photo copyright permissions so did not copy; republished new blog format 11/13/2016)

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Other Cool Blogs: Pictures

Image acquired without permission from (multiple) Facebook postings
Published March 2, 1972 - Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz
Peanuts comic can be found here:
(I could not find link to original strip on the website.)

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Editing Rant: Copper Pennies

Image Courtesy of Gualberto107 at

What do your characters know?

So last editing rant I went off about Know Your Topic. You don't want to lose readers because you presented parasailing or embroidery incorrectly. If you don't know the topic find someone who does: topic experts, beta readers, at least a research librarian whom you are keeping in chocolates and coffee.

Equally important be aware of what you character knows.

This isn't limited to the more common Point of View (POV) main character (MC) limitations; you may know character B dyed her hair yesterday, but MC doesn't know yet so describes character B as a blonde. Don't get me wrong, as an author making certain you only let your MC work from the information known to them rather than to you as the writer is essential. And challenging.

But you also need to limit them on what they are familiar with. Having a twenty-fourth century engineer know how to use a twentieth century keyboard to input information into a computer system is improbable.

Or a twenty-something person forty years after the zombie Apocalypse comparing the scent of blood to new pennies. Yes, this is a common comparison to the point of being clique. But someone born after coins stopped being minted isn't likely to know what new pennies smelled like.

A person who has never seen the shore would not understand what the salty breeze meant.

Someone who had never been off a spaceship isn't only going to be shocked by no sky - no walls is as big an issue. And the ship isn't breathing. Could they even sleep at night? No mechanical noise means "we are all about to die". How long does it take for the panic to wear off?

Back to the Smell of Blood - as an editor I couldn't rewrite the line about new pennies. But I did find an article on the scent of blood. If you are describing lycanthropes, vampires, or just have splashes of blood throughout your manuscript you may want to follow the link to Writeworld - "Describing the Smell of Blood".

(sigh) ... And it is research like this that puts writers on watch lists.

WRITING EXERCISE: Create a scene (500 words are less) where your WIP character describes a common day item on your desk s/he is not familiar with and what the actions are taken to discover its use.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Flash: Lonely on the Road

Image Courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee at

Twisting the wrench yielded no results, so Kelly kicked the rental’s tire and walked along the berm cursing herself, her uncharged phone, and, most especially, Jim. She adjusted her purse’s shoulder strap after tucking the wrench inside and headed north along the isolated highway. The last exit was 5 miles back, the next exit was promised to be only 3 miles forward.

Why had she decided to surprise Jim? Sure his corporate construction job kept him away a month at a time wherever a new facility needed building, but the weekends he came home were magical. With the long weekend, she had thought to bring the magic to him.

Well, the surprise was on her. She had known he shared rooms with other guys to cut costs. But she hadn’t known he had shared his bed. Her mind’s eye briefly flashed a picture of the two men she found wrestling in his unlocked bedroom. Two suntanned muscular bodies naked and humping madly.

For a second her imagination added her between the males. Okay, a threesome was her favorite masturbation fantasy.

But the point was Jim was cheating on her! He could have told her he was bi and she could have handled it. Loved to have handled it. Since hooking up with him, she had been monogamous. For three years she had been with only one man; it was kind-of creepy after nicks she had put into her bedpost before they had gotten together. Keeping faithful though didn’t mean she hadn’t looked or wanted more. Kelly could have provided him all sorts of suggestions for male booty calls.

Focus. Cheating. Doesn’t matter if it is male or female, it is still cheating.

Behind her a car beeped. Kelly turned around to see Jim’s beatup pickup pulling over, scattering the gravel. She gave him the single finger salute while he unbuckled and continued walking away.

His long legs ate up the distance. “Kelly wait! Damn it, I’m sorry. It doesn’t mean anything. Wait, Kelly.” He got a little ahead and started walking backwards in front of her. “I didn’t want you to find out that way.”

“So how did you want me to find out?” Kelly stopped to save all her breath to yell at him.

Jim stopped too, scratching the back of his head. His jeans hung low, showcasing his six-pack and a little more. He hadn’t bothered to grab a shirt before following her, or put on shoes. That gravel had to hurt.

“Actually, never,” he admitted.

“Finally something honest!”

He looked hurt. “I’m always honest.”

“Except about sleeping around,” Kelly accused.

“Umm, I never lied about it, I just never mentioned it.”

She closed the distance to hiss up into his face. “The truth, the WHOLE truth and nothing but the truth.”

Pushing his chest she demanded “What? Am I suppose to have you swear on a stack of bibles every time you came home?!!”

Muscle-bound ape that he was, her push didn’t rock him, but he took a step back from her fury anyway. “…No?” he responded, clearly hoping it was the right answer.

“Damn right, no.” Kelly pushed her hair back so she could look up and watch his face while she stood toe-to-toe. She kept encroaching into his space. “A relationship is about trust. I don’t care how much I love you, but if I can’t trust you – we got nothing.”

She stepped around him and started stomping north again. “Kelly, don’t be this way,” he begged trotting after her. “It doesn’t mean anything.” He grabbed her arm to stop her.

“So how long have you been sleeping with him?” Kelly turned back to him to stare him in the eye. “And don’t lie to me now – I will wash your briefs with the red towels.”

His mouth stopped half-way opened. He closed it a second, sighed, and admitted. “Luis and I have been bunkmates for about nine months now.”

“Bunkmates?” Kelly laughed harshly. “Is that what they call it now? … And who was before him.”

“I don’t know, Carlo, maybe.” Jim shrugged. “I don’t really keep track.”

Her eyes grew round. They had started trying for a child a year ago.

“Oh, no, no. Sweetheart, I always use a condom, and I get tested twice a year. I ain’t stupid.”

“Could have fooled me,” she said icily, putting her hands on her hips. “So do you only cheat on me with guys?”

He stood up straighter, looking indigent. “I’ve never cheated on you. Not ever. Yeah, I sleep with guys, but I don’t love them or anything. It’s just sex. And loneliness, a whole lot of loneliness when you are not around.”

Kelly rolled her eyes. “Been saving that one up?”

“Nope, just kind-of came to me,” Jim smiled boyishly. “Good though, right?”

Damn, why did she have to love him so much. “Yep, that was pretty good. … Only guys, right?”

“You are the only girl for me. In fact, …” He yanked the back of his jeans up and down a bit before kneeling in front of her. “Will you marry me?”

In his hands was a dark blue velvet box. He opened it to reveal a Marzin cut diamond surrounded by a rainbow of precious smaller gems.

She looked at the box, then him kneeling in gravel, then at the box again. “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.”

“No joke. I made the last payment yesterday. Been working on buying it since we started this project and saw it at the mall.” Smiling hopefully he added, “I’m glad fate let me have it available at the right time.”

“That is another great line Jimbo.” Kelly sighed as she gently closed the box in his hands. “But until we work out other things, this will have to wait.”

Jim sagged. “So you are leaving me?”

“I didn’t say that either.” She offered him an arm to help him stand. “Let’s go back to the hotel. I want to meet this Luis and we can all have a good talk.”

(words 1,009- first published 5/7/2013; republished new blog format 11/06/2016)

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Other Cool Blogs: Magical Words June 25, 2012

Image courtesy of DigitalArt at

Helpful Advice in Editing
If everything is going as I hope it will (I am writing this in June), I am elbows deep in NaNo again. I wanted all the blog postings prepped so I can concentrate on writing, therefore I went through the Magical Words archives. There I ran across Carrie Ryan’s obscurely titled post “Not that … but that”.

It’s on editing. The very thing I am trying really hard not to do. It's a NaNo no-no during November...and my biggest weakness to meet the word counts.

When editing others, I’ve made a lot of tough calls. Should I provide another possible word or just tell the author to find a new word? Do I say information seems to be missing or do specifically state what I want added? If there is a hole, do I point out the hole (example: primary love interest is passive) or provide the author the shovel to fix the hole (example: add another love interest to fight)? In one case, I may be stepping on the author’s voice and creativity, and, in the other case, I work with a lot of new authors who are having enough headaches being edited I find giving vague solutions is more of a problem than a help. Should I provide both then – but editing is always on a tight schedule, most of the time I can only write one line and move on.

I love the “a-ha” moment Ms. Ryan shares on her first editing feedback. The editor tells her to add something which ended up sounding really strange to her, until she asked the editor “What problem does fix?” Once she knew what the problem was, she was able to fix the issue her own way.

If you attend critique groups as a participant, receive editing feedback, or review beta reads, (as reader, editor, or writer) I highly recommend this blog. Again the link is here:

Second takeaway from the blog – don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. Stand up for yourself. That is not to say fight your editor, but remember to be a participant in the partnership to make your book better.

And if you are participating in NaNo – good luck!

WRITING EXERCISE: Specifically approach someone you trust to be honest and ask them to beta read, critique, or edit something you wrote (at least 500 words and no more than 3,000), letting them know you are using this for practice of the editing process. After taking a day or two to look over their responses and get over the grief stage (see blog here on critique grief), practice asking for clarification without confrontation. Once completing the clarification portion, ask for feedback from your reviewer on how you did.

READING EXERCISE: Read a short story and write a critique or edit the story. Set it aside for two days. Come back and now pretend to be the author. Where do you think the author would like clarification on your critique.