Sunday, January 31, 2016

Flash: Is the Sky Blue?

Unsplash provided by photograph Greg Rakozy
[Is the Sky Blue? - flash story]

"Is it possible?" Gary asked, standing in the cubicle entrance, laying his hands on either post so he spanned the opening like a door or barricade.

Eugene stared at his computer screen, struggling to find the appropriate words to answer. Internally, he felt shaking from the constant stress start again. "Well, with the deadlines and personnel available--"

"I asked you a yes or no question," his boss and company owner gritted out. "Why do you always make it complicated? I want this done. The client, one of our best, wants this. Your job is to make it done. Understood?"

Gripping his hands under the desk, Eugene froze his face before turning toward Gary Bergerson, "Yes, sir."

"Great, I want to see the budget on my desk by three so I can present the numbers to Naylor Holdings tonight."

"Yes, sir." Eugene responded, mentally canceling his lunch and two other urgent tasks in his head for people other than the owner. As soon as Gary walked away, he called the beta team supervisor and the accounting manager to rearrange meetings.

He had the printout on Gary's desk five minutes before three. It would have been faster to email it, but the owner hated email, insisting on the personal touch. Privately Eugene wondered if the boss had dyslexia since he refused to read anything longer than a few sentences. Eugene had been reprimanded several times with, "I need the bottom line, not explanations."

"What the hell are these numbers?"

Eugene's developing ulcer, which worsened whenever he skipped meals, twisted at the explosion. He squeezed his hands to control the shaking. "The budget you requested for Naylor Holdings, sir."

"Are you kidding me? They just want a small tweak to our basic program. It shouldn't take longer than a couple weeks at best!" Gary roared.

"Sir, the change is hardly small. At least 200 lines of code will need changing. Then program will need to be tested. And they have backward compatibility built into their contract--"

Gary interrupted. "Twelve weeks? They need it in four."

"I understand the time frame sir, which is why I made two budgets. The first was least cost scenario since you were doing this as a favor." Eugene gestured to the report, and Gary started turning pages. "If you look at the second budget, that includes rearranging personnel from other projects--"

"And we lose the early finish bonus on the Birt contract. What the fuck? Getting it done in three weeks basically will cost us a year's profit? You told me this was possible."

"Sir, as I tried to explain earlier, our personnel are stretched at the--"

"You know Scott, I am tired of your bullshit. You are fired."

"Yes, sir."

"Get the fuck out of my office."

"Yes, sir."

Hands still shaking, Eugene walked out thinking, Well that wasn't so bad. He nodded to Gary's secretary, then stopped a second. "Could you ask Mike to meet me my desk immediately?"

"Certainly Mr. Scott, what shall I tell him it is about?" The immaculate secretary pushed a button, turning on her hands-free phone.

"It's a security concern. Tell him it would be good if he got there before me."

Mike was still huffing when Eugene strolled into his cubicle where he had been managing the three programming teams and the quality testing department, forty people in all. Only the owner and his brother-in-law, the head of sales, rated rooms with doors.

"What's up, Gene?"

"I've been fired and thought you would like to see me pack up." Eugene put down the empty box he picked up when he passed the copier on his way back.

"Fuck, and congratulations." Mike shook his head. Programming, accounting, and security were at odds with sales, and they all hated being there since the original owner had retired and passed on the company to his youngest son two years ago but the economy meant the resumees most of the managers have been sending out hadn't received much in the way of response. The Director of Human Resources was the most recent to successfully jump ship, but then Gary treated all of the women on the management team like crap, so she was willing to take a pay cut to switch companies. "He hasn't even called me, and he let you walk around unescorted?"

"Yep. Guess he didn't pay attention during the discussion we had after Angela left?" Angela had been the HR Director. At that time Programming and Security had sat down with all the managers to develop an exit strategy procedure. Requiring escort, locking out passwords and user names, and collecting equipment all had been covered. HR could have done a lot of damage with access to wipe out all payroll and personnel records. And that scenario didn't come close to what Eugene could do since he had overseen the programming of all the security measures. And unlike Angela, he had been actually fired instead of resigned.


"You're home early." Jordan gave Eugene a quick kiss on the cheek when she came into the kitchen where he was washing dishes. The clock only showed six; usually Eugene pulled twelve-hour days plus a commute, leaving home at six am and getting home often after nine.

Eugene nodded, his face still frozen from the morning argument and his voice deadened. "Got fired today, so thought I would make lasagna. Should be ready to come out in another hour."

"Oh, honey."

"I'm okay." He said, scrubbing the saucepan. "Really."

"No, you are not." His girlfriend stated, putting her hands over his in the suds. "Let that soak." She pushed gently on his hands until he let the pan sink to the bottom of the water. "Let's go talk."

Eugene looked over at the timer. On top of the stove was a baking pan lined with sliced bread covered in butter and garlic to put into the oven when the lasagna come out to rest. His eyes darted around the room, taking in everything there and the nearby dining room visible from the kitchen.

"The wine on ice." Jordan opened the fridge. "The salad is ready. You got everything ready. Even the table is set and the candles are ready to go. Come on." She pulled him to the living room.

"I just wanted everything good." He explained as she leaned against him on the sofa. "You do so much. Making the food, cleaning house, everything. I thought I could do something."

"It's okay. You were working sixty and seventy hour weeks."

Eugene looked down at his lap where his hands were gripped together. He still felt like he was shaking. "And now I'm not."

"We have money saved. It's okay."

"I hate job hunting." Eugene whispered.

"I know." Jordan pulled her feet on the couch and leaned closer. Eugene wasn't much for touching in public, but he would hold onto her at night.

Releasing his fists, his arm went around her, pulling her head into his shoulder. "I hate working...for people."

"What happened?"

"Same as always." He told her about trying to explain the juggling of priorities to the owner, the interruption and demands, and the end result of the budget. She responded with all the appropriate sighs and sympathies, asking questions to pull the teeth of the story.

After Eugene had finally wound down, Jordan asked, "Why do you think you have so much trouble?"

"People say they want precision and truth in their analysis, and they really don't."

"Well, do you think you could learn to say 'yes' or 'no'? It would help soothe things." She suggested, having run into the issue with him at home.

"I've tried." He kissed her on the forehead. "But people think they are asking a yes or no question and they really aren't. I'm an analyst; my job is to make certain the management has the tools to make an informed decision. I would not be doing my job if I didn't make sure they understood the question they were really asking."

"That kind of arrogance really puts the management on edge, hon."

"I know." He shrugged, bouncing her head a little. "But I just can't be a 'yes' man. If you were management, shouldn't you know what things really cost? Not just in money, but time and resources?"

"Yes, I guess so." She changed position so she could watch his face better, putting her feet in his lap to keep physical contact he needed even if he wouldn't admit the comfort of touch. "But don't managers know how to ask the questions? After all they are the managers."

"No, they don't."

"How so?"

"Well, they ask bad questions." He started removing her shoes, looking pensively down while she tried to read the emotions on his frozen face.

"Okay, so give me an example."

"They ask questions like, 'Is the sky blue?'" He frowned at her slightly swollen ankles.

She worked museum and spent most of her day on her feet. They had met just over a year ago when he reported a display description was incorrect. He had been right to the annoyance of her management. Two things he excelled at, being right and being annoying. But he had paid for the new plaque, and then asked her out on a first date ... a year ago today. How had he remember when she hadn't? That had to be what the l
asagna was about. She had remembered the day they had met two months ago, and he had gotten her flowers the next day as an apology. Guess he didn't want to be caught out again on another anniversary.

"Yeeesss?" She stated the obvious answer to the question, not sure where he was going.

Eugene looked over at her, and his face finally unfroze enough for a twitch of a smile. "Except when it is not." His hands wrapped her ankles and started massaging. "Is it blue right now?" He nodded at the picture window in the living room.

"Well, yes--no, it's sunset. Wow, the sky is spectacular right now."

"Yeah, in another hour it will be black. And then there are clouds, so the sky can be blue AND white, or just white, or gray if cloudy enough, even black. During tornadoes, it is green." He glanced up at her again as his voice gained its usual cadence. "So, really, the sky is usually a color other than blue. It is black at least half the time for night, and may be any of a number of other of colors during the day. So, is the sky blue - yes or no?"

The alarm buzzed. Gently moving her feet, Eugene got up and went to the oven.

Standing up, she followed him into the kitchen. "I get it." She watched as he pulled out the 
lasagna. "So questions like, 'is the sun shining?' really bug you."

"Actually that one is a yes." he said, putting the garlic bread in for a quick toast.


"Is the sun shining? It is always yes."

She sputtered a moment while he handed her the salad and dressings. "What about night?"

"Just because we can't see it, does not stop the sun from shining." Eugene's brown eyes twinkled as he grinned.

Following him with the food, Jordan shook her head in disbelief as he placed the
lasagna on the table. "Because it is a star. So for rhetorical type questions where people expect a yes-or-no answer, you can't give one and ones where they really are asking a question about status about if it will rain soon, you give them a yes-or-no which really isn't the answer to the question they were asking."

He held out her seat, and she sat down.

"People don't know how to ask questions." He went back into the kitchen just as the garlic bread smell entered the dining room.

"You are a crazy analyst; you know that right?" Jordan yelled after him.

Bringing back the bread on a serving plate, he placed it on the table before grabbing her ponytail and pulling back her head then kissing her thoroughly. "Yes, and you love me."

After she remembered how to breathe, she responded while he poured the wine, "Yes. Lord grant me patience, I do."

"And I love you." Eugene sat down across from her at the table. "Will you marry me?"

"Is that a yes-or-no question?" She smirked at him.

He burst out in true laughter for the first time in months. The job had been killing him inside-out. "Yes, it is a yes-or-no question."



(words 2,103 - 1st publication 1/31/2016)

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Other Cool Blogs: Liana Brooks October 21, 2014

Attribution: the Internet hive mind

At the beginning of January I reviewed a book by Liana Brooks. She is one of my favorite authors, and I follow her blog. Back in 2014 she wrote an amazing piece about villains; more precisely how to layer the villains in a story. If you are a writer of mysteries, superhero prose, or other genre where the character has people-type conflict, this blog is an absolute must-read. Her breakdown of the immediate villain, the intermediate villain, and the big bad really helped clarify writing for me.

For Harry Potter the immediate villain was his family (uncle, cousin, etc), the intermediate villain was Professor Snape, and the Big Bad was He-who-should-not-be-named. I never really thought about this formula before so I found this advice really good. ... Sometimes formulas are bad because authors follow them mechanically; other times they are a reveal how the masterpiece was created. 

You can find the blog post here:

WRITING EXERCISE: Think about your Work-In-Progress or other story you have read and watched. Is there a the progression of villains within the story? I broke down Harry Potter - what other stories can you think of? Comment below.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Writing Exercise: Props

Image courtesy of Suat Eman at
[Props - Writing Exercise]

WRITING EXERCISE - When writing, one of the challenges is keeping track of all the stuff in a scene and then throughout the manuscript. Some things are just window dressings, like a pillow on a couch, and other things carry as much weight as a character from the beginning of a story to the end, for example the One Ring in “The Lord of the Rings”.

Good writing keeps track of all the “stuff” unlike a fight scene where you may end up with more (or less) opponents than you had at the start of the fight. Most “stuff” is quick and little more than set dressings. In “Used Tissues”, the flash from 1/17/2016, I have a couple-few inanimate objects: the used tissues, a pillow from the couch, the TV, and some schoolbooks. These were just pieces floating around giving a little more depth to the story. The tissues, even though they are an impetus to ignite the change, have no actual permanence. The schoolbooks appear more than once but are purely scene dressing.

The permanent object in the flash is the remote control. When I originally wrote the story, I just had the mother flick off the television. Then as the story developed, I realized I needed to show her teasing nature, not just tell you about it (show, don’t tell rule), so I decided she would take the remote control with her. But then I had a problem. I had her start with the remote control and had her leave with the remote control, but why wouldn’t the children notice her take it with her. What happened to the remote control inbetween? I needed to create a permanence. The remote control had risen from scene dressing to a full prop which needed to be tracked through the story.

So I added the sentence of the mother putting the remote control in her back pocket. Now the reader can track the remote control from the beginning of its existence in the scene to the scene’s end. How important is the sentence? Look over the flash again, but think about it without that middle sentence on the remote control. Are you more satisfied with the finish of the mother taking the remote control with her because of the sentence or does it not make a difference to you?

YOUR TURN – Comment below
WRITER - Attempt a flash, 500 words or less, which has a prop you need to keep track of. An easy one is a gun or knife in a fight. If you have a present WIP, look over your scenes and see if you need to create of permanence of object in one.

READER - Think of a story where the location of the prop and tracking of the object was important.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Flash: Monsoon Inspection
[Monsoon Inspection - flash story]

"I'm okay mother." The young woman opened the phone conversation after the other line picked up and waited while the electronic stream bounced up to a satellite and returned from orbit to station to feed into her mother's archaic landline on the other side of the planet.

"Why on Earth wouldn' t you be?"

"The monsoon. geez, don't tell me American news didn't cover it." She raised her galoshes-covered feet to rest on the red plastic chair and laid an arm over her knee, then answered herself. "Of course not, it wasn't like it was a big--"

Her mother interrupted, or more accurately, the stun of her child being in danger and the time delay caught up. "Monsoon! Dolores, I told you that foreign job was no good. If you stayed here you could have married that nice boy from college..."

Whom you never bothered to learn the name of because he was totally forgettable, and a drunk ... but I didn't bring up that part of his sparkling personality with you. You did not need to know everything I got into while in college. His frat did throw the best parties.

"...and have you met any rescue workers. They do have rescue workers there? And food drops like you used to help with. Oh, do I need to send anything to you?" Her mother asked finally winding down.

"No mom. We are set up for this weather. My house is on stilts and everything." Dolores closed her eyes and crossed her fingers for a small white lie. "I'm totally dry."

"So no cute rescue workers?"

"No, mom, no cute rescue workers."

Someone laughed. Dolores eyes popped open. Florescent orange waders rose out of the floodwaters, followed by a dark blue t-shirt with a logo related to some construction sites she had seen around, and topped by a very cute face of the male persuasion. "Got to go mom, the inspector is here."

Doing the small hand twist which locally translated to the American equivalent of holding up a finger for 'wait a second,' Dolores waited for her mother's response. "Inspector? I knew something was wrong."

"No, nothing is wrong. Just got to officially get the house looked at. Happens after every monsoon. And no, before you ask, this is my first inspection; my work just told me to expect it. I love you."

The man face arranged in a pleasant waiting expression. Nothing like the rush-rush the Western world, but also lacking the ever-present fake smiles she would have seen back home too.

"I love you, too. Send me an email when you can."

"Will do. Good-bye." Dolores clicked off her phone. Taking a second to change her thinking patterns to Burmese, she stood, putting her phone back into its waterproof sling. "Thank you."

"To support mother and father, this is the good luck." The man responded in Burmese, before switching to her native tongue more quickly than she was capable of. "Would you be more comfortable in English?"

"If it is not too much trouble." She smiled, then bit her lip. Smiling wasn't always good here. She didn't make that mistake in Burmese mode. "The last couple of days have been a strain."

"Mynmarr sends me the foreign housing since I speak languages. My name is Salim."

"My name is Dolores." She dragged the plastic chair over to a stilt and bungeed it to the house. "I speak several myself, but the weather took a lot out of me. I'm surprised to see you so soon."

"High ground this is, houses well built. First inspections always here."

Ah, Salim has some constant phrases well memorized, like she could ask "Where is the bathroom?" in a dozen languages, but new sentence construction was based on his primary tongue's structure of subject, object, and verb. When her brain was translating instead of straight hearing, everyone sounded like Yoda. Well, he talked faster even with that then she could translate or hear Burmese right now. She felt mostly okay, but her inner self was curled in a ball shaking from living through a natural disaster. In her life, she had always been part of the rescuing, not one of the rescuee. "Yes, the company told me they put these houses in well. Drilled down into the bedrock to drop the stilts."

"Good company. They bring lots of jobs. You agriculture instructor?" From one of his many pockets of his mid-chest waders, Salim pulled out a telescoping metal prod and started pushing the foundations around each of the stilts.

"No, I am system admin." She switched languages. "Computers I work and fix."

"Smart girl." He moved to another stilt. "You speak Burmese well. Where did you learn?"

"I picked it up while in India on summer work-studies. Along with Hindi and a few other languages." She double-checked the sling; she didn't want to loose the satellite phone. "Where did you learn English?"

"We are taught English in school, then I went to Memphis University on an exchange program for a year. Okay to climb?" He motioned to the ladder leading up to her house. "Need to check floor..." The inspector mimed sliding sideways, his sun-darkened face animating surprise while his black eyes sparkled.

"Pitch of the floor." Dolores translated. "Slant."

"Yes, yes, slant." He motioned at the ladder again. "Climb okay?"

"Please do. Do you want me to come up with you?"

"Yes, good would be."

Dolores waited until he got to the top before following to avoid the drips from his waders then climbed quickly up the wooden planks. "The front door is unlocked." The twenty-something inspector did not move until she opened the door for him. She could see everything in her one-room house from the door, so she did not follow him in as he poked around and hopped up and down along the various walls.

"Roof good, no leaks. You no lie to mother about dry."

A light blush rose in Dolores' cheeks. "She worries." In his world, this dry would count since half the people around regularly have their houses flood. Her mom would have problems with water being as far as the eyes could see.

"Mothers worry." Salim walked over pulling a green card out with numbers in a big block font. "I will put this outside to indicate the house has been inspected."

Dolores watched as he tucked it into a small plastic square outside her door. She had never figured out what it was for since her house wasn't numbered and all mail went to her work. "Do I owe you anything?"

"No, no payment needed. Your company pays for the inspections."

That answer was firm and clearly rote. So the normal additional gifts she had come to expect with all government dealings would actually get him into trouble. Maybe she should offer some simple hospitality. "Would you like anything to drink?"

The man tilted his head considering. "I houses inspect. Three. Can I come back in an hour?"

"Yes you can." Dolores let a full American smile light her face. "Would you like something to eat as well?"

Salim smiled back. "Yes, I would."

(words 1,192 - first publication 1/24/2016)

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Other Cool Blogs: Magical Words November 25, 2015

Copied from the Magical Words blog on November 25, 2015

Tamsin Silver is part of the Magical Words crew. Living in New York City she rarely slows down, regularly publishing books, writing the web series Skye of the Damned, and being an awesome panelist and blogger, willingly sharing her hard-won knowledge of writing, directing, and producing. She is an amazing person in writing and in person.

In November, she wrote an informative blog (Some People Just Want to Watch the World Burn) on character building using age-old D&D alignments. The grids she found (see above for an example), really help define things. I loved the Harry Potter one with the additional "between" alignments which increased the full range of alignments to 25. That one is an absolute must see to get the full impact of the discussion.

Central to the blog is characters do not need to remain one alignment. In fact, amazing writing happens when characters change during the story. For example, for me one of the most powerful plots within Babylon 5 is when Londo Mollari character flaws drag him from the seemingly chaotic good into evil because he really was lawful - totally loyal to his failed empire. And other characters move in reaction to his descent into darkness, G'Kar goes from slime to saint and Vir Cotto goes from bumbling to iron. J. Michael Straczynski was a virtuoso as he played with our expectations. His characters slid around the alignment chart like it was an ice rink.

WRITING EXERCISE: After reviewing the Some People Just Want to Watch the World Burn, look at your present work-in-progress. What alignment are your main characters? Do they change during the story?

In Honestly, my self-published novel, Kassandra, the heroine, would be Neutral Good. She is just trying to raise her child right and get ahead within society. In the expanded alignment chart she would fall under Social Good. As she faces different situations, she may slide around the chart. At the end of the day her first loyalty is to family, not any particular moral code.Troy, the hero, is lawful good. Very little could change him from this position. But like Kassandra, he is loyal to family before all. I don't see the lawful ever budging, but what will he do to protect Kassandra and Terrell?

Dewayne, Kassandra's ex, would be Chaotic Neutral, himself before anyone, and on the expanded version he would be Rebel Neutral. He is never mean or cruel deliberately, but his selfishness, if he doesn't get a handle on it, could slide him into Impure or even Evil. Kassandra's son, Terrell, at the moment is the Chaotic Neutral of a child. The world should revolve around him, and he cannot even understand how it does not. The question will be as he grows, which of the adults around him will impact his moral code: Kassandra, Dewayne, or Troy? ... I have some ideas and you may see these characters again, as they live in my Queen City Coven world.

YOUR TURN - Comment below on your WIP characters alignments, and speculate if their alignments are fixed or malleable.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Author Spotlight: Sarah David

Book Cover from Amazon

Author Sarah David’s debut novel “Decaf & Drones” was released by Three World Press in November 2015. A teacher, graduate student, and mother of an active toddler, Ms. David still found time to start a new cozy mystery series “Northwood Barista” themed around coffee, something of an obsession for Ms. David and her main character.

The protagonist, Jordan Nimsby returns home after failing the big city life because of personality conflict with the owner of private investigation firm where she worked, but her love of excitement remains. When a bomb goes off in a stripmall in her small Wisconsin town, she starts investigating even before the police show up.

The inspiration for the “Northwood Barista” series came from an article about Millennials returning home. The first story percolated from the constant news coverage of drones. Eventually the brew boiled, and Ms. Davis put fingers to keyboard between cups of java and chasing a toddler around the house. She continued all three tasks until “Decaf & Drones” poured forth.

Ms. Davis’ blog can be found at and has lots of cool gifs, something I haven’t even attempted. Interested readers can also connect through her twitter feed wordsandcoffee1. For her blog, she created an interview with her MC. The interview can be found at: (I need to steal that idea for the future.)


Full disclosure: One of the small presses I edit for is Three World Productions, of which Three World Press is an imprint. I do not review books I have edited, but I may spotlight authors I have worked with.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Flash: Used Tissues

Image courtesy of tigger11th at
[Used Tissues - Flash Story]

Melissa looked at the pile of tissues. Another headcold, maybe. She bit her lip. Then turned and trod determinably to the living room where her sons were studying.

Grabbing the remote control, she flicked off the Japanese cartoons before announcing, "Family meeting!"

The boys groaned and rolled over, setting aside the books they had been nearly reading. Attentively, well, as attentive as a 12- and 14-year old can be, they looked towards her.

"I'm no longer picking up the tissues beside your bed."

"Mom!" LeVarr protested.

Alijah, her younger son, grabbed a couch pillow and buried his face.

"Just letting you know how it is. From now on you want things washed, they go into the hamper. You know that green thing in the bathroom you put your muddy cleats on. If they are not in there, they don't get washed." Melissa tucked the remote in her back pocket. "You want the trash emptied, you empty it. You want your bedsheets cleaned, you strip the bed. I will teach you how to wash your linens. Your bedrooms are now your own chore."

LeVarr's blush had subsided. "Cool!"

Knowing exactly what LeVarr was thinking, Melissa continued. "That does not mean I rescind my right to enter your room whenever I want. You are still my kids, and I will inspect the room. If we have guests over, the room will be clean."

"Geez, it's not like they go into there." Alijah complained.

"Don't care." Melissa smiled grimly, while inside she both laughed and shuddered at what she was about to say. The adult in her loved teasing the boys; LeVarr developing understanding of adult humor made his sarcasm as sharp as hers, and he finally was getting to the point of being funny instead of just needing to be smacked. The mother in her wanted to run for the hills at the next bit of truth. "Someday you may have a girl in your bedroom,--"

"Mom!" LeVarr blushed deep enough to show through his dark skin.

"-- not under my roof, but someday you may actually move out and get your own place. Before you are forty if I'm lucky. And when you do, you will be grateful for the habit of cleaning up everything before guests come over. Clear?"

"Yes, mom" Alijah's reply overlapped with the teenage LeVarr's affirmative, "As mud, my mudder."

"Right. Finish your homework, and, Alijah, I want to look over that math assignment. LeVarr let me know when you are ready for your research paper so I can boot up the laptop. I'll be cleaning the dinner dishes." She paused a moment before adding. "And thanks boys, I love you."

"Love you too mom." They responded in unison before reaching for their schoolbooks.

She took the remote into the kitchen and wondered how long it would take them to realize it.

(words 476 - first publication 1/17/2016)

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Editing Rant: Choose a Color

Image from, used with permission

Introduction to Editing Rants and Choosing a Color

I mentioned I do line editing for small presses. I took up this occupation to become a better writer. By reviewing other people's works, I get a better understanding of what can go wrong where. 

I've come to have a whole 'nother level of respect for editors of all sorts. As a line editor I concentrate on the middle ground. Content editors, macro editors, are the ones who make the book better - get the right number of characters, tell the writer if they need additional plot lines, and help figure out where the story actually starts. Proofreaders, micro editors, get the grammar, punctuation, and spelling. In between is the undefined world of line editing. I fact check and find POV switches within a paragraph. I point out word and phrase choices that may need clarification and find objects appearing in the end of the book but not the beginning. All things that annoy or make the story smoother.

And when going over a manuscript for the second or third time, I sometimes break down and have rants. My online writer's group has informed me that the information I share (they are so polite - more accurate would be half-insane sleep-deprived gibberish appearing at midnight) has helped them. So I thought I would clean up some of those rants, to protect the guilty, and share them here for your amusement and edification about once a month.

Rant from November 30, 2015

"choose a colour" (editing for British this week) - Bold & underline for emphasis - oh and gray/grey - "a" is American and "e" is England

Its skin had dulled to an unhealthy greyish shade, and a nasty chunk was missing from its arm. The skin hung horribly and held an odd, green tint.

And yes, these two sentences were back to back in the manuscript. I recommended combining into one and choosing a color. During initial phases of writing and later in revision, it is easy to add repetitive phrasing as the author tests things to find the correct one. I've had everyone in a romance book have "brilliant blue eyes", and other times the hero and heroine eye colors switch.

Eye color changing falls under a "continuity error". If you are a writer, I recommend doing an edit just on person and clothing description. Choose a color and make certain you stick with it - be it eye color or skin color.

So have you ever as a reader or a writer found issues related to color switching? Spill in the comments below!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Flash: Special Night
[Special Night - flash story]

“You are going through with this, aren’t you?” Rober accused Drew.

Drew ran around the kitchen doing last minute preparations; he couldn’t believe Rober had cut his business trip short to revisit the argument he thought settled two months ago. He wouldn’t have started the down this path if he didn’t believe he had Rober’s full support. “It’s the only way with the new laws.”

“Damn politicians need to get out of the bedroom.”

“It’s not the bedroom that is the issue, it’s the nursery.” Drew pulled out the chicken breasts to lay a couple slices of Swiss cheese on them and pour a splash of wine before returning the entrĂ©e to the oven. “And society has the responsibility to regulate the care and training of its future members.”

“The only reason to restrict artificial insemination to married couples it to keep gays from making babies.” Rober growled. He bit back several curses about republicans and conservative values, knowing Drew’s adamant support of tradition, even after a decade under the military’s don’t ask-don’t tell. Or was that especially after serving an institution that specialized in hating homosexual and brainwashing its members?

“True. And in a couple years it will tumble because of the discrimination. Already single women everywhere are fighting the law.”

“Then wait … or go to Canada. Or Europe.” Rober begged.

Drew shook his head as he carried the salad to the formally set table. “No, I want our child to be an American.”

“It’s not our child!” Rober grabbed the smaller, but stronger man by the shoulders. “We can’t have children. It will be you and this slut.”

Drew broke away. “Brie is not a slut.”

“Prostitute, then. She will be having sex for money.”

“Because it is the only way!”

“No, it’s not.” Rober countered. “We could adopt.”

“I want at least one my own child, not someone else’s.” Drew said firmly, adding some bread to the oven for final warming. “We can adopt a couple more later, but I want one of mine now.”

“Hypocrite. You talk about overpopulation but are just adding to the problem when thousands of children are looking for dads.”

“And you know how hard it is for a single person to adopt. I’ve been trying ever since I left the Navy. Somehow I never qualify.” Drew’s sarcastic tone admitted he knew why he didn’t qualify even after serving two tours in the Mid-East.

“So you are just going to pay a woman to have sex and carry your kid.” Rober threw up his hands. “That is just sick and obsessive.”

The doorbell rang as they stared daggers at each other.

“Guess that is your whore. Have fun tonight.”

Rober popped the collar of his sweater and stalked out the glass doors leading to their deck and down to the bench. He didn’t look back.

(474 words - originally appearing at Breathless Press 10/21/13 for the 8/5/12 Sunday Fun and published on Erin Penn's First Base blog on 11/3/2013. Republished under the new format for 1/10/2016.)

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Other Cool Blogs: Magical Words December 9, 2015

I love Magical Words as a reader, writer, and editor. Member bloggers include self-published, small house published, and big house published individuals. And they know their craft.

For example, Gail Z. Martin's December 9, 2015 post on world-building. (see 

Adding the layer of Holidays to your world can help define the values of your world, what they spend money on, and how they celebrate.

WRITING EXERCISE - After reviewing the above blog, create a fictional holiday for your world and/or work-in-progress.

My present work-in-progress, Cons of Romance, is set in contemporary America and actually has some world-building based on holidays. A lot of conventions cluster about holidays, because the long weekends allow people to take time off. I tried to tie my fictional conventions to real American holidays, which made added an interesting twist for my world-building.

The first convention is located in Maryland during March. I will come back to it.

The second convention, "GearFest," is set in North Carolina during June and is only a two-day convention because it doesn't fall on a holiday weekend. I specifically wanted this to be a short convention.

The third convention, "Tea Party," is set over the July 4th weekend and is located in Boston.

The fourth convention, "WyvernCon", is located in September over the Labor Day weekend and runs nearly five days. 

Again all conventions are fictional and created specifically for this romance novel.

Back to the first convention. I had decided the convention started life on the main character's, Tara Miller, college campus and was tied to a holiday in Maryland. I wanted the convention to happen before June but after the weather started to get warm. Something that wouldn't interfere with finals but warm enough people wouldn't get snowed in. Low and behold Maryland Day is March 25th. Thus my fictional "ConButtony" (a Cross Buttony appears on the distinctive flag of Maryland) was born.

YOUR TURN - Comment below about your use of holidays in a work-in-progress or, if you are a reader, a book you enjoyed specific for the holidays such as Hogfather by Terry Pratchett.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Book Review: Even Villains Fall In Love

Book Cover from Amazon

A super villain at the top of his game must choose between the world he wants and the woman he loves. 

If you believe the rumors you know that Doctor Charm, the wickedly sexy super villain, retired in shame seven years ago after his last fight with the super hero Zephyr Girl. The fact that the charming Evan Smith-father of four and husband of the too-beautiful-to-be-real Tabitha-bears a resemblance to the defeated Doctor is pure coincidence. And, please, ignore the minions. 

Everything is perfect in the Smith household, until Tabitha announces her return to work as a super hero. Evan was hoping to keep her distracted until after he rigged the 2012 presidential election, but-genius that he is-Evan has a backup plan. 

In his basement lab, Evan has a machine whose sole purpose is keeping Tabitha hungry for him. But children and labs don't mix. The machine is broken, and Tabitha storms out, claiming she no longer knows him. 

World domination takes a back seat to meeting his daughters' demands to get Mommy back right now. This time his genius isn't going to be enough-he's going to need both his evil alter-ego, and the blooming super abilities of his children to save his wife. But even his most charming self might not be enough to save their marriage.

Evan Smith was a super-villain with an ethical code (morals are different from ethics) who fell in love with a super-hero. He was *mostly* willing to give up world domination if he could feel like king of the world with his wife Tabitha; he still dabbled a bit to keep food on the table and for the intellectual exercise. But in general he tried to live by the moral code of his woman in order to keep her happy and in his bed.

Then something happens to his wife, leaving him with four active daughters. And both her black-and-white moral code and his grey-scale ethical code get jettisoned by the biological (mate and offspring) imperatives. What will this nearly-reformed super villain do to save his wife?

The book is short as appropriate for the novelette romance genre. The minions could have used more fleshing out; we find out more about his gizmos than his minions.

Linda Brooks never forgets the story is both (1) a romance and (2) a superhero adventure. She mixes the two genres well.

I reread the book with the release of the third book of the series. Still a very good yarn; enjoyed it as much with the second read (2 years later) as I did the first time.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Flash: Their Bench
[Their Bench - flash story]

The November sunset reflected shades of reds from the treetops below. Julia sat down on Their Bench and waited. The bite in the air made her draw the jacket closer.  The leaves rustled in the trees and tumbled across the ground in the slight breeze. Darkness snuck into the park through lengthening shadows.

Eventually, a brief touch on her hand gave away the second arrival. “Has it been a year already?” asked the masculine voice she loved for so long.

Carefully keeping her eyes forward Julia responded. “Yes.” She paused, enjoying the quiet moment. “Your son took a couple classes over the summer. He will be graduating come Christmas.”

“I wish I could see it.”

“So do I,” Julia said with a misty smile. She turned her hand over and felt the finger clasp hers. The warmth made her glad she hadn’t given into the urge to put on gloves earlier. His other hand reached up to tuck some stray hairs behind her ears. Julia made her eyes bore into the cement pad in front of the bench.

“He brought home a friend he met at college.”

“A girlfriend?” Came the prideful response.

A laugh escaped Julia. “Oh, he has had several of those. No one special yet.” The soccer field lights started to wink out as the park closed. “No, this friend was older. A graduate student who had been tutoring him. … We hit it off.”

 “Oh.” The whisper escaped the other.

Julia waited for more. Eventually the question she knew he would ask followed. “Does he make you happy?”

“Very much.”

“Does Leroy approve?”

She nearly turned her head to watch his reaction, but caught herself. “He gave me the same speech I gave him when he was 16, complete with the condoms. Be careful, be safe, and be kind.”

Together they sat as the night aged.

“You won’t be coming year,” he stated sometime after midnight.

“It’s been fourteen years.”

“So long, it’s been so long” he sighed. “I will miss you.”

A gentle brush of lips and wetness touched her cheek.

“I will always miss you.” she returned.

Dawn found the park bench empty of all except a touch of frost.

(368 words - originally published on 11/14/2012)

Friday, January 1, 2016

Blog: New Year 2016

Image stolen randomly from the web

A new year, 2016!

Time to write again. Life grabbed me and beat me soundly about the head the past couple of years, but I am coming back.

This year's goals:
1. Restart the blog
2. Start a newsletter
3. Start a website
4. Get a new self-published novel (or two) out.

Basically kick my writing back into gear.

To that end, the blog is going to undergo a severe facelift. Some things, such as the cross-reference of stories and characters, will be moved to the website. Everything else is going to be burned to the ground and restarted.

The new production schedule shall be:
1. Sunday - A flash story  (initially about half will be repeats)
2. Tuesday - Book Reviews, Author Spotlights, Writing Exercises, maybe an editing rant or two, and every so often a little look at my calligraphy and embroidery ... because it is pretty
3. Thursday - Links to other people blogging about writing..

Hope you like the new Erin Penn's First Base.