Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Art Projects: Gardening 2016

Rose Garden Delivered - Herb Garden Taking a Bit Longer

As mentioned in March, I've been working on my yard.


The Red Roses came in nicely, but my white rose bush (the center one) succumbed to black spot. I had to completely cut it back to the base. It is trying its best to make a comeback, but the challenge may be too great for the poor thing. I am debating just pulling it because of the black spot risk to the red roses.

I mentioned my second goal for the yard for the year is getting the rose garden leveled. A drop of three to six inches happens between the edge of the driveway and the sidewalk, creating a low spot within the garden for spring rains to accumulate, likely contributing to the black spot issues.


So I attacked it, adding several bags of dirt and using the area as a dumping ground while I was digging up a metal rod from the garden. I think everything is level now, but in the past two months I have seen the ground settling. I expect I will need to continue to build up the area over the next couple of years, but the worst of it should be done.

HERB GARDEN (NORTH SIDE)Digging the bed up took a long, long time. The previous owner had laid down a landscaping tarp, let it grow over with grass again, and laid down another landscaping tarp and let it grow over with grass a third time. A shovel wouldn't break the surface. I ended up having to completely herbicide the whole thing, then rip the weeds out, then remove one layer of tarp, then rip the root out then remove the other tarp.

In one area I ran into a pipe. I continue to dig down for a while in the hard clay dirt, but finally succeeded in getting the monster out. Final pit was close to eight inches deep and I have no clue while the pipe was to. You can see it laid out lengthwise in the pit I had to dig for it.
I am finally down to dirt and my present task is digging up the well-compacted clay. I was working on that this weekend with my new tiller-cultivator - my first time using the machine! And my left shoulder "gave". A week later, I am nearly recovered, but this task is going to take the rest of the year. I don't think I will get anything into the ground before winter.
Except for the tomato-mint containers which I planted in June. I had three small tomatoes from the Juliet tomatoes and more are coming. Everything is having problems because of the recent drought. One of my two mint is struggling on the point of death, while the other is going great guns but the tomato it shares a container with is only beginning to think about maybe making one tomato.



The raised bed by the basement door had a very determined holly bush in it. Every time I cut it back, within a month it was blocking the keyhole again. I couldn't get out the stump because of angles. In the end a friend helped me yank it away from the cement block and cut out most of it. Here's hoping it stays dead after a winter. I am thinking of replacing it with Spring Iris and Summer/Autumn Mums.



The Turtle for the herb garden made it out of my van and is now guarding the patch of garden which will eventually be it's home.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Flash: Lost Doorknobs

Image courtesy of Keerati at

Hip slammed the door closed with a satisfying click, while hand tossed the keys into the basket and arm dumped the groceries on the island, and I concentrated on rushing to the bathroom. Reaching for the doorknob to take care of a very important necessity, I grasp … empty air.

The doorknob was gone.

I looked down to where it should be, stunned. The bathroom door was there, in the palest blue I could find while I was purging all white from my life following breaking up with a wizard. I wanted the inner wall to reflect light, but I had enough pure white stuffed down my throat from the moment we met at Christian’s Winter Solstice party to July Fourth firework-level breakup two months ago to last a lifetime.

The door still had the intricate carved inserts which made me pick it up in the first place but the doorknob was gone. Not even the plug for the knob to be inserted was visible. It’s like the door never had a knob.

I one-eightied and headed back to the kitchen portion of my home.

My eyes, knowing the fear I haven’t let myself think about yet, went to the condo front door. No doorknob there either. My stomach dropped and my bladder let loose.

I had been holding since work. I should have gone in the grocery store, but I don’t use public restrooms. I try to stop it, clinch whatever muscle I am suppose to, but nothing stopped the freed bladder. Thick jeans absorb most, but the balance ran inside the legs over the sandals and onto the tile.

I grab the paper towels and pull a half dozen or so from the roll and drop it to the floor. Stepping on the pile I rub it back and forth through the small puddle before picking up the lot and dropping it into the trashcan. Automatically I grab the cold water lever to turn the sink on.

And my hand swished. Empty air again.


Goddess, I hate weird shit.

Well, considering my friendship circle I guess I should be more particular. I hate weird shit I am not expecting.

Not the normal weird shit, but …


The frightening shit.

I turn around and scan my open floor setup. Bed under the frosted glass wall with dozens of my jeweled creations transforming the afternoon sun into rainbows throughout the third floor condo. Silk and bamboo wall panels cutting out the right side of the living space from public view. Living room conversation pieces centered under the skylight a short distance from my little eating table.

The skylight!

I rush over and look up fifteen feet. The latch is missing. Not that it mattered much because my closet door with my maintenance equipment, including the ladder, was also missing its doorknob. And the hinges should have been visible, but they weren’t.

At least I don’t have a separate changing room. Going over to the dresser to get out of the wet jeans, I discover the knobs are missing and the drawers may as well be nailed shut. For all I know they were.

I scour the room. All doorknobs, levers, hinges, anything to open or close anything was gone. Even the knobs on the kitchen cabinets to get at my knives and cooking tools had disappeared.

My tools.

Dashing the tears from my eyes and forcing myself to stop chewing my lower lip I go behind the bamboo screen I place around my jewelry workspace to hide the mess from visitors. The very small hammer, a cold iron awl I use when working on potential items for friends to enchant, and a two-pound anvil were still out from this morning, beside the turquoise bracelet I was crafting for a horse enthusiast. After tucking the beading awl out of the way through the jean belt loop, I grab the hammer and return to the front door.

I hate abusing my tools.

Wiping the tears from my face so I can see clearly, leaving the unmistakable smell of urine behind, I pound my four-ounce hammer into the front door with all my might. It bounced without leaving a scratch.

The door wasn’t that good. While I can replace anything I want in the condo, the door belongs to the outside hall and was provided by the original cheapskate owner. My bathroom door was solid wood; the front door was not.

Frustrated I take a swing at the plaster wall. The plaster breaks away to reveal concrete stone underneath.

That’s not right.

Everett was thrown through the inner wall into the hallway during a failed enchantment without breaking anything but the wall and my monthly budget two years ago. My silk wall panels had more substance than the building.

The hammer slips from my grasp and lands with a soft thud. The gibbering terror I had been ignoring rises as I slowly slide down the plywood door; I collapse in a pile, leaning against the plywood door. I barely had the presence of mind to not bury my head in my hands.

A smug voice resonated from a corner of the condo I realize I hadn’t look at since I got here. “I’ve never seen anyone look so lost in their own home.”

The ex.

Note to self, never, ever date a magic user again.

Bending further forward, into near fetal position, I tapped the panic necklace I had Christian bless after the “white wizard’s” last visit, activating both the alarm and the defense. Next I palmed my awl, before slowing standing up, letting obvious defeat drip from every pore. The useless hammer on the floor lying testament to my capitulation.

Bet the bastard believes my body language.

He never did “get” me.

Every two weeks the fucker has come back, each full and new moon. First by phone, then a “chance” meeting at a coffee shop near work, each time escalating until the Saturday he pounded on my door for an hour until the police arrived. He freaked because I had dyed my ash blond hair black.

I could not get a restraining order.

Now he was inside the door.

Inside MY HOUSE, using spells to destroy MY SAFE PLACE, oh, this is so on.

He thought the Fourth of July was over the top.

(Words 1,055 - First published 8/28/2016)

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Other Cool Blogs: Science Daily May 5, 2015

Image Courtesy of Simon Howden at

Words, Those Things, I Used Them

Sometimes the most experienced writer sounds like ... well ... like an idiot, when talking. How come these masters of words stumble and search for words? With many writers either returning to school or sighing relief as their children return to school, let's look at what a John Hopkins University study discovered about how the brain processes words when writing and speaking. You would think the brain is sorted like a filing cabinet or library with a section marked dictionary and another Freshman English Sentence Construction and these sections get activated any time language is used. Well "Say What? How the brain separates our ability to talk and write" from May 5, 2015 in Science Daily indicates something a little different.

Thinking about using Dragon Voice Recognition Software? Maybe it won't work the way exactly the way you think it should.

Go here for more:

WRITING EXERCISE: Write a flash (50 to 500 words) illustrating the disconnect between speaking and writing. Could it be someone can only write "I love you" but not say it aloud? Maybe the person has a brain dysfunction in the language area. How about someone is talking on the phone but writing a message down and something crosses?

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Writing Exercise: Dialogue Tags

Image Courtesy of renjith krishnan at

Dialogue Tags

Should you do it or not?

I’m talking dialogue tags.

What on earth were you thinking?

Debate rages in the writing realm. Some point out that “he said”, “she said” has no real effect – people are trained just to glance over these cues of who is speaking. So we may as well go back to using them. Whereas for the last couple of decades “said-isms” have ruled - muttered, sputtered, growled – but these start getting annoying after awhile.

I am from a totally different camp entirely. I like to write short, which means every word counts. Why would I use words people just glance over and do not contribute to my story. And for the longer works, again, why add something annoying or invisible when I can use description to enhance the dialogue. A writing weakness is keeping scene description and dialogue separate; once a writer gets in one mode, they tend to stick with it. But using the scene description to provide the dialogue queues instead of dialogue tags, the two required writing tools do double the work in half the time.

So this month's writing challenge is write a scene – likely you will need more than 100 words. Make the scene about the dialogue, but without dialogue tags (both saids and said-isms). The reader should clearly be able to tell who is talking. An example is below.


“Oh God, Clifford, why are you here?”

The man jerked, spinning around to see his wife. “Roz!” He crumpled the racing form and stuffed it into his shirt.

She pushed her way through the lines around the betting booths. “You promised!” Tears formed in her eyes, but the panicked edge to her near-screams were what made the crowd give them room. “You were doing so well with the 12-step.”

“Roz, Rozzie, Rozetta, it is okay hon. Just this one time. I have a sure thing.”

“NO!” Her voice broke. “No more.”

Clifford reached towards his wife but she stepped back. “It's for us sweetie. A way for us to get our house back.”

“The house was lost two years ago.” Roz's mascara ran in streaks. “We just got back on our feet enough to stop living in the cars.”

“Yeah, got really lucky last month.” A proud smile crossed his rugged good looks.

Her voice dropped to a hush, still audible in the crowd because everyone was quietly trying to ignore the couple. “How long have you been betting again?”

“After two trips to the Y, I realized only losers are part of the program.” The man grabbed the shoulders of her tread-bare coat. “We are winners, you and me.”

“You Lied To Me?!?” Her quiet accusation carried to the front of the line while they unconsciously moved forward as the betting lines continued to be processed.

“Honey, you weren't ready yet.”

“No, no more lies.” She shook him off. “No more luck, no more sure thing. We're done. I'm done.”

The last person in front of them cleared. Cliff pulled the betting form out of his pocket. “Give me a second honey.” Smiling, he turned to the window.

Roz screamed. Even the bored cashier paused pulling Clifford's form and cash through the drop slot.

“Don't come home. No, do come home to that shithole apartment. Me and the kids will be gone.” She stalked off, the betting lines parting like the Red Sea before Moses. Crazy beats obsessive.

Clifford shook his head in exasperation. “It is a sure thing.”

The cashier nodded his head.

“She'll be back when I am rolling in the dough.”

(Words 366 - first published 2/19/2015; republished new blot format 8/23/2016)

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Flash: Team Necro (Version 1)

Image Courtesy of hywards at

"That was quick!" Caitlynn cried joyously seeing the box left by parcel post.

Gerald frowned, making the wrinkles carved into his face deepen, hiding some recent scratches and older scars. Beside him, Jenni, the third of the friendship of three and soon-to-be co-owner of the company Caitlynn was starting, asked, "What did you order?"

After unlocking the newly rented one-room business office, Caitlynn opened the door wide, ushering her two friends and business associates if her arm twisting stuck through the next half hour of signing contracts. "Everything. Wait until you see them! But first - ta-da!"

Caitlynn's money had been well-spent on the small room. Recently painted cream-color walls and tiled floor brown-and-cream geometric pattern reflected light from the hallway. Two desks with computers with a small barrier between them created separate work areas plus two dark brown pseudo-leather couches and a low table demarking a waiting area furnished the room. One of the easily cleanable couches stretched more than six foot, long enough for Gerald to lay down, and took up most of the right wall. A lockable four-drawer filing cabinet was tucked in the last bit of the wall and had a printer on top. A flick of the switch lit the windowless room, igniting the small hum of fluorescents and blinking the room blue then yellow as the gases warmed up.

On one desk, a manila folder lay ready for the day. The bouncy redhead picked up the box and brought it over to the left desk. Along the far wall the only decorations were three diplomas framed in heavy brown and gold wood. Jenni glanced at them, "So that is why you borrowed my bachelor's degree."

"Have to make people know we are serious and not some fly-by-night shop of blood and gore."

"We are a night shop of blood and gore." Gerald growled in his low bass.

After putting the parcel down, Caitlynn grabbed the large man's muscular arm and smiled up with enthusiasm. "And blood and gore attracts lots of flies, but we are not fly-by-night. We are here to stay."

Jenni's mouth twisted. "At least until Daddy's money runs out." Caitlynn's touch with reality was sometimes questionable when she fell in love with an idea. Great friend, loyal in all things once she was sure you weren't after her because of who her family was. Honest but strangely not naive, she was able to see through lies except the ones she told herself.

"Daddy didn't put a dime into this. He stopped helping me after buying the van for college. This is trust fund all the way and didn't even touch the principal. Grandma wanted me to be able to do this."

"Are you sure?" The dainty brunette leaned against the left undecorated wall while Gerald crossed his arms and let the fabric-covered cubicle barrier support him, resting head and shoulders above the five-foot freestanding wall. Jenni could see it become his favorite spot to listen to them talk if they went through with this craziness.

"Asked her myself last October."

Gerald grunted while Jenni raised an eyebrow. "She wanted you to work?"

"Yes she did." Caitlynn opened the center drawer of the desk, pulling out a couple of pens. "She always wanted to do more, use her smarts and skills and be more than arm candy and a ticket into politics for the General, but the time wasn't right." Twisting the pens between her fingers, Caitlynn slipped out of her big-sell persona she had been operating in since Gerald graduated mid-winter, six months behind the female friends more traditional schooling schedule. "It hurts not to use the magic. She didn't want me to go through the pain of holding it all in and then losing it by inches."

"But that is me." She passed her two friends the pens, opened the manila folder, and handed out copies of the contracts. "This is you. I know I have begged and badgered, but if you don't want to do this I totally understand. It's a big risk and I can't promise you a paycheck. We are going to have to earn them."

Jenni shook her head. "You said this room is covered and got the apartment, plus the spook-mobile. Aside from food and cell phones, we aren't going to need much."

The basement apartment Caitlynn found was within walking distance from five-story office building and had three very small bedrooms surrounding one large kitchen-dining-living space area. Only one bathroom, which could be a problem on days they worked for real, but the office building had been used for chemical experiments in the '50s and had showers located next to the bathrooms on the top floor where they were located. The top floor didn't have an elevator, so the owners hadn't spent as much on renovations leaving an industrial-military cold war feel even thin carpet in the halls could not hide. If they didn't mind taking the freight elevator to the fourth floor and sneaking up the final set of stairs, they could all clean up at the same time.

"My retirement check will cover food." Gerald had served in the military for twenty years before going to college. Big, tattooed, black, and completely unfamiliar with the education process having survived inner city school system more interested in graduating teenagers alive then educated, he stumbled into the biology tutoring center desperate for help after hitting Dr. Smith's Intro of Human Biology and discovered Jenni and Caitlynn. He managed to suffer through Caitlynn's initial combination of hero-worship and debutant-charity thanks to Jenni's sarcasm and pragmatism.

And they gelled in a way no one could explain except others touched by magic. Before Jenni and Caitlynn had gone for each other's throats working the tutoring circle; overachievers, one from money-privilege and one from intellectual-privilege, they raised sparks against each other in their bid to be the class valedictorian. Their only competition was each other in the ivory tower environment and they realized it before freshman year was even over. It all changed junior year. Within a week of adding Gerald to the mix, they were sneaking into the medical rooms after dark to get better views of the cadavers.

They were a coven, forever together. Signing the business contract was a forgone conclusion and they all knew it.

(1,051 words - first published 8/21/2016)

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Geeking Science: Space Archaeology

Image Courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at

Vikings in Spppace

"Space Archaeology" (giggle). I love the juxtaposition of outer space with a science closely involved in mud and dust for the gravity-bound.

In early 2016 Sarah Parcak used her special software imagery to discover a possible second Viking landing site in North America. You can read about it here "Did Alabama space archaeologist just help rewrite history of Vikings in North America" (written by Kelsey Stein on April 2, 2016).

You may have seen the information when it first came out. It was a big deal, especially among those interested in human history.

What really caught my attention was not the Vikings in North America, but the full implications of the software. Folks this is BIG!

(As a computer geek, anthropology geek, science fiction geek - all types of geek - I am so geeking this geekdom!)

So let's start with with the "special software". Most of us are aware, at least peripherally, archaeologists have been using satellite imagery to comb the planet for digging sites. They have been limited to places with little to no vegetation - desert areas - and sites with large stone structures - pyramids and Roman stone & concrete roads. Basically easy to spot stuff that just happens to be covered in sand. What Dr. Parcak's software imagery processor has done is shift the paradigm.

The software goes over vegetation areas, the more the better, and looks for something "off". Straight lines of color, geometric shapes created by differentiation in growth patterns, and other non-organic patterns in the organic materials. The areas are marked on the map and shunted over to human eyes for further review, and finally to human bodies for digging. What forms these vegetative differences? Not huge stone structures, but a dirt wall fortification, long-rotted timbers creating soil differences, and a couple hundred pound rocks moved around. Basically organic materials long claimed by the forest and jungle, but the history remains hundreds of years later because plants grown a tiny bit different in those locations.

Suddenly we can look for human history anywhere on the planet. South America, except for a few ancient stone cities, is a mystery waiting to be revealed. Africa, home of humanity, can be search for in the desert, savanna, and jungle. Huge Asia, from steppes to shore, can be explored. Egyptian and Mediterranean history move over, we are going to see if you are really the cradle of civilization. You got lucky because of the sand and stone clearly wrote your cities locations, now we may find the second-on-the-mother's side cousin-cities you forgot to write down.

Now the real geeking maximum.

Imagine this software exploring other planets! Before we were limited to industrial markers to find aliens, figuring large roads and cities may be visible from space. But what if the sentient species hasn't gotten beyond mud huts and stone tools. Would we even notice them before taking over their world?

The answer now is YES! We will find them even if they hide under hundred-mile tall trees.

Discovering a possible second Viking site in North America is nice. But the software which made it possible has some real legs to it; I can't wait to see what else it does.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Author Spotlight: Calandra Usher

Book Cover from Amazon

Calandra Usher has fiery intensity, sometimes warm and comforting and sometimes a protective wall of light and heat. An amazing author and artist, I've had the pleasure of getting to know her through a writer's group and seeing her as a panelist at conventions. When I read her books, I can hear her voice reading directly to me.

Her first series, entitled The Gospels of Cal'ela, focused on the Four Horsemen and has supporting short stories. One of the short stories is available on her website: Pestilence. The series had a lot of rough edges, especially the first self-published book, but, as she learned the writer's craft and found her voice, her intensity came through pitch perfect. By the middle of the second book, I really started believing the pseudo autobiographical presentation. I tried to pace myself in the reading, really I did; I ended up reading the urban fantasy series in about a week.

She is working a new series on Selkies and should have that out sometime in early 2017 knowing her. It's in the editing phase, all 200K of it. She may be at it a while. Umm, not that I stalk her on Facebook to find out when the next book is coming out or anything. The nice thing is she wrote it all at once, so the books should be released in quick order as editing is completed.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Flash: Face Off

The face in the mirror was a stranger. Still, only two days had past. It could grow on her as soon as she figured out how to shave. Stacy lowered the silvered surface and nearly jumped out of her new skin. “Trey! What are you doing here?” She whispered.

The handsome warlock closed the door behind him, banishing the sounds of the hospital and preventing mundane eyes and ears from observing what they shouldn’t. He smiled and Stacy shivered. Despite her nearly sixty years practicing, she had never had his professional smile aimed at her. Shit.

“Visiting a friend.” He touched the coma patient in the second bed on the head and hand before pulling curtain closed between the beds.

He touched her forehead, taking a moment to dig fingers into the black curls. His coal eyes softened a moment. Then Trey took her hand in both of his. For the first time his grip didn’t completely swallow hers. She felt what seemed to be a spider tread breaking between her fingers. Stacy arrested her new green eyes from investigating the enchantment.

She licked her lips. The new body didn’t have an overbite so she no longer bit her lips. Strange how some things are body-related. Her twisting stomach and hardening dick indicated that fear and attraction were not so limited.

“Thanks for coming by.”

“Couldn’t help it.” Again the professional smile; the black eyes had no emotions. “When Thanatos drops by and asks me where someone from my ward is, I get worried. When he mentioned he needs the answers for two different demon clients, who are each claiming to be missing a soul promised to them, I get really worried.”

“I c-c-can explain.” Stacy stuttered in fear, still not comfortable with forming words in her new mouth. “I was young and stupid, and I meant to pay them back before I died.”

“And how did that work for you?”

She tried a smile that never failed to turn the nurses into mush. “It doesn’t matter. I have a long time now, another whole lifetime, to get things the way they should be.”

“Actually you don’t.”

“I didn’t steal this body! It was empty when I found it. “

“And it will be empty again within the year. Sorry Anastasia, you got at least a month and no more than a year.”

Stacy gasped. “You knew! You knew I could body hop!” She hit him hard, pleasantly surprised at the thunk her male body could land. Then weakness took her. The body had been in a coma for over a week before she found it; she had claimed total amnesia with the doctors since she had woke it up. She needed time to regain its strength.

Trey easily grabbed her wrists. “And you are to tell no one how you did it. Anyone you tell, I will have to kill. Anything written down, I will have to destroy.”


“Because this path always leads to the dark.” The Warden sighed. “Stacy, I’m sorry. I will give you until Samhain and then we will close things. If you feel yourself slipping away before then, come to me sooner. I can make the passage easier.”

He dropped the wrists and started towards the door.

“Damn you Trey!” Her tenor voice carried. “I don’t want it easy. I want this new life! I damn well earned this new life!”

The door opened and Trey’s professional demeanor was complete again. “See you in October. Don’t make me come and get you.”

(words 588 - originally appearing at Sunday Fun on Breathless Press 12/16/2012 based on a photo there. Could not find permission so did not copy it - first published 12/16/2012; republished new blog format 8/14/2016)

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Other Cool Blogs: Pictures

Created by James C. Hines. Copyright 4/20/2011. Used with permission. Website:
Jim C. Hines is author of Libriomancer and the Magic Ex Libris series. He has this image available available as a mug in his Zazzle store. Direct link to the comic on his website is here:

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Editing Rant: Be a Dear

Image Courtesy of Stuart Miles at

Characters need to sound different.

After everything is written down in the initial spew of words - go back over the dialogue and decide how the characters sound. Are they from different parts of the county? Different education levels? Different jobs? How do they communicate? Is one a leader? Get a feel for who they are, write down a few quirks, then go back over the dialogue.

Also applies to nicknames - not everyone uses them, and they definitely should not be the same for everyone. On book I edited had males and females, whether 70, 40 or 20, use the endearment "Dear". Everyone. Every.single.character. Not "sweetie", "hon", "lovey", "buddy", but every affectionate diminutive between lovers, parent-child, or pals was "dear".

People are different - do more than just hair color, eye color and height!

Patterns of speech are driven by many different aspects of a character. You can give insight to a character or situation just through dialogue.

What assumptions would a reader make about the following?

"Hey hon, what's ya order?"

"Sir. Are you ready to order?"

In both cases, someone is taking a food order at an eating establishment. Both start with an attention getting mannerism, followed by a request. Yet I bet you have totally different visions on how the food server is dressed, what they are holding to take the order, what the restaurant looks like, maybe even how their hair looks and what type of napkins are on the table. All from 5 or 6 words of dialogue.

In Honestly, after I was finished the initial pass I went back and decided to create some differences so people could know who was speaking without any dialogue tags. Troy does not use contractions, being bi (tri or quad) lingual adds a precision to his communication. He is naturally very formal. The only time you will see him use contraction is speaking one-on-one with a child. On the other hand Terrell's speaking is explosive and highly related to either understanding something or sharing information. I changed some of the more complicated words he used to simpler concepts, plus adjusted the languages of those people talking directly to the young child. Kassandra uses different terms of endearments when speaking with her son and her lover. I adjusted language for age of the characters, cultural backgrounds, and education levels. While doing that some of the actions of the characters changed as I discovered education levels and different upbringings.

WRITING EXERCISE: For you present work-in-progress (WIP )choose a chapter and review the dialogue. Or write about 200 words with two characters talking. Do their word choices match their profession? How about their age? Whether they grew up in a rural or urban environment?

READING EXERCISE: For the book you are reading find a section of mostly dialogue. Based on the two or three pages what information do you learn about the characters based on their word choices alone.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Flash: Worth the Risk

Image Courtesy of Carlos Porto at

The bell attached to the doorsill rang as yet another stranger entered the busy coffee shop. Shirley eyes were drawn irresistibly to evaluate the new entrant. She really hoped this was worth the risk she had taken. The most recent arrival was a teenager who had no business being in a coffee shop except as an employee.

Frank had come across her on Facebook a year ago today. On the anniversary of the contact, they were going to meet again for the first time. His wife had died of cancer a while ago, so his long-distance electronic support when her husband died a few months back was exactly perfect.

The bell chimed again and this time it was Frank. Less hair than before, but the trim frame built for track and soccer matched the pictures on his Timeline. People can lie so easily on the web, she sighed into her coffee to see he was as handsome as she remembered.

His brown eyes scanned the room. They settled on each single occupant table for a moment before coming to rest on her. He mouthed “Hello” like they used to do in high school when they dated. After placing his order, Frank came over to join her.

An hour of laughter and earnest talk followed. Then he walked her to her car and kissed her hand, saying goodbye for now. Starting her Cadillac, Shirley made her way back to the Interstate. Definitely worth, the risk, she thought to herself.

Her husband had been a fat, lazy coach potato so no autopsy was done after his apparent heart attack. With his body cremated and ashes scatted, no one would ever know better. Frank might end up being a disappointment, but it was worth the risk to try to find love again.

(299 words - first published 11/21/2012; republished new blog format 8/7/2016)

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Other Cool Posts: Magical Words January 31, 2011

Image Courtesy of pakorn at

I've been going through the Magical Words archives, making certain I have made a copy of everything before it hits the seven-year disappear mark. And I found it! Vernor's Law. No, not the one of "If the technological singularity can happen, it will." but the one useful for writers.

(please note this is paraphrased) At any given time while writing, at least two of the three should be happening in a scene, preferably all three. Otherwise your writing has stalled.
Develop character
Advance plot
Fill in necessary background information.

The most commonly known version of breaking this law is an information dump. On the other hand, the most common weakness of a new writer is the character description which just describes the character like they are in a police lineup.

David B. Coe goes into a series on descriptive passages helping writers to sharpen their descriptive skills so nothing is just an information dump. The series includes the following (with the comments being nearly as useful as the blog postings):

Part I: Settings

Part II: Character

Part III: Action

Part IV: Dialogue

WRITING EXERCISE: After reviewing the above, write 200 words or more description from your present WIP using one of the following prompts: a setting building toward action, a secondary character as described by the main character, an action scene from someone other than your typical POV character limited by that characters experience and language, or a dialogue which is particularly about character building and background information.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Book Review: The Tentacle Affaire

Book Cover from Amazon

The Tentacle Affaire by Jeanne Adams

She doesn't believe in magic.

When human Slip Traveler Cait Brennan’s routine mission to retrieve a lost interstellar pet goes FUBAR, she ends up hip-deep in a plot to kill five US Senators that puts Earth’s entire population at risk. If she can’t uncover who’s behind the conspiracy and keep her alien employers a secret, she’ll be terminated—permanently.

He doesn't believe in aliens.

Haunted by a devastating failure in another city, magical Enforcer Aiden Bayliss is relentless in protecting the DC area from dark entities. He’ll destroy the powerful force that’s taking out key politicians, whoever—or whatever—it is. And, in spite of the white-hot attraction sizzling between them, his main suspect is one curvy mystery named Cait.

With everything Aiden believes in question, and Cait squared off against a deadly assassin, both must choose. Uphold their oaths and lose each other forever, or stand together and die.

A sci-fi urban-fantasy romance police procedural. Yep, a mashup of genres. She works for aliens, he works for wizards, separately they keep the peace and secrets, together they need to solve a string of murders and fight their attraction.

While not really sold as a romance, the book has more the feel of that genre than the billed "Urban Fantasy." But it is, unquestionably, both in strong measure. Initially the magic and aliens don't mix, the characters had already accepted one huge change in their reality, accepting a second is not easy. But far too soon (I personally would have loved to have more friction before romantic fire), assassins, political intrigue, nosy neighbors, and abandoned pets (capable of destroying the entire Chesapeake water system) prove that it doesn't matter what you believe, reality is real whether you are dodging a magic death bolt or alien ray run.

Clearly the start of a series, I look forward to the next one.