Know When to Run

naked guy cardsAh, irony: I’ve spent like half the morning thinking of a long-winded and eternally sunshiny way of saying that two things I’m trying to work on when it comes to my writing are concision and conflict.  Not everything that ever happens needs to be rambled on about in a novel, and a happy ending at the end of a long, happy story about happy people can lack a certain punch.  My favorite little format, the 100-worder, keeps it simple, but still gives you room to mention his hot body, so everybody wins.  I reckon the term Flash Fiction refers to the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it nature of these quick snippets, but fiction can flash the way floods do, too:  a few words, a handy journal, and watch out!  Next thing you know you got a story comin’ at ya from out of nowhere.  So roll up your jeans: here’s this dude in 100 words.  I hope you’re having a better Sunday than he is.


He always was lucky.  Good grades, never studied; great body, never worked out.  One of those guys, you’d say, “I hate you.”  Meaning, “I want what you got.”  Really meaning, “I want you.”  Always been lucky in Vegas, even, which is of course how he got here: falling off a stool in a shitty casino at the state line, dizzy, drunk, and desperate, knowing he’s gonna win it back.  If not this hand, the next.  Catch up on the rent, Jace would have to come back.  Twenty-one, all is forgiven.  Twenty-two, he’s fucked.  He orders another cocktail. Burps, “Hit me.”

More Meat, More Quickly

Betty Crocker

OK, so, in the interest of biting the bullet and taking the whole “challenge” concept from my last post way too seriously, I have decided to go ahead and post my “Horror Story” for the Short Story Challenge in the competition critique forum.  It seems like a very participatory group, which is different from any contest I’ve entered before, and I was all Big Talker Betty Crocker about having nothing to fear from feedback on this story, which is a lot easier to say when you keep the story secret and don’t give anybody the chance.  So here goes.

  • My Assigned Genre: Horror
  • My Assigned Subject: A Genetically Modified Organism (GMO)
  • My Assigned Character: A Prisoner
  • Max word count: 2,500

They’re looking for “interesting and inventive” stories, and  I’m gunning for big points in creative interpretation of genre and theme.  With that in mind, please enjoy “More Meat, More Quickly.”  And if reading it horrifies you, by all means say so — this is probably the only time I’ll take that as a compliment.  Continue reading

A Challenge? The Horror!

Since The Man from PigPerfect mysteriously turned up on her front porch, Janessa Chang-Showalter has had to shoot her dog, watch someone else shoot her hormone-crazed husband, and now she’s scared to death of the baby she’s being forced to deliver. She’s beginning to wonder if running off with Andrew to his Nebraska hometown was such a hot idea after all.


I love a good writing exercise.  Timed exercises; photo prompts; ones that use structure, like 100 words or haikus — I like the way they get things flowing, and I love to see the way a gang of writers can take the same prompt and take it in a hundred different directions.  So when a friend of mine told me about NYC Midnight’s Short Story Challenge, I was all in. There’s a time element (8 days, in Round One, to write a story from scratch), a word limit (2,500), and prompts relating to genre, subject, and character — a competition seemingly designed just for me!  I figured as long as I didn’t get Horror for my genre, I had this on lock.

The night before the Round One assignments were revealed, I actively fretted: I hope I don’t get Horror as my genre for the Short Story Challenge.  And the Universe, as is occasionally her wont, picked up on two key phrases — namely “Horror” and “the Short Story Challenge” — and lined ’em right up for me in the nick of time.  By fretting about it, I had more or less asked for it, and I sure did get it. Continue reading

Our Writing Group’s Tasty New Anthology

Tasty YearHas it been a tasty year for you?  It certainly has been for the members of my writing group, who, in all of our free time between the novels, Ph.D theses and live theater pieces that we’ve inspired and encouraged each other to produce, have also been stirring together the ingredients of Tasty Year: A Food Anthologywhich we are pleased to announce is now ready to enjoy!  Think of it as a paperback Crockpot, into which we each tossed an ingredient every month or so, simmering a seasoned blend of poems, haikus, essays and micro-fiction into a hearty stew of memories, discoveries, and brownie recipes that you can share with friends or gobble up in one sitting all by yourself.  (No shame in that game, we’ve all done it.  With books, I obviously mean…)

As writers and artists, we, the members of the Open Book Writing Group, have found that writing and art get us through some difficult times. And more than that, the creative expression brings a level of confidence, healing and fun to our lives.  Half of our net proceeds from this anthology will be donated to Art from Ashes, a Denver non-profit that seeks to empower youth through creative expression and personal transformation.

My February contribution is even about the Crockpot (we’re nuts about slow cookers, our group).  It’s 100 words about it being ridiculously freezing cold, like it’s been in Denver the last few days, and about how sharing a simple pleasure (like chili, or your good-lookin’ self in a cute-fitting sweater) is sometimes all it takes to chase away the chill.  I offer it up here as a little amuse-bouche (and, if you live in Colorado, to see if it helps warm you even a little bit on this freezingest night), and invite you to visit our blog, like our Facebook page, or find us on Amazon to dig into the complete anthology, for your Kindle or in paperback.

100 Word: Nothing Fancy

“I just did some chili in the crockpot,” he squeaks, chin down. “It’s nothing fancy.” It’s February, I almost had to cross country ski over here, the kitchen window’s steamed over and the whole place smells of slow-cooking cumin and crackling fire. My veins are packed with snow and my eyelashes are icicles — him in that green sweater’s all the “fancy” I need. Can of beans, hunk of meat, let’s eat. “I figured a ton of garlic was OK,” he’s saying. “Only person I’m planning on kissing is you.” And just like that, I’m warm inside before I’ve eaten a bite.

Do Write On

Write OnIn case the turkey- and pilgrim-themed decorations at Walgreens  haven’t tipped you off, I will tell you: it’s November.  In fact, November is clipping along, and along with it, National Novel Writing Month, which is already a third of the way through.  Which means I have no business working on a blog post, which the other eleven months of the year is something I find excuses pressing reasons to put off, but tonight am using as an inspired tool of procrastination.  (My Official NaNo Word Count Goal of the Day has also already been met, thanks in no small part to the gift my NaNo-ing cousin made me of some Trader Joe’s French Roast coffee, yum yum.)

Week Two of NaNoWriMo is notoriously among the more challenging.  As faith (or, worse, interest) in your story begins to wane, your characters refuse to get off the couch and go do anything, and you begin to realize that “fifty thousand” is a dastardly synonym for “one million trillion.”  Clearly nobody but Superman and maybe Anne Lamott could produce such an absurd ton of words in thirty days, which is suddenly revealed to be the most microscopic measure of time ever.  And since there is no visible means by which to achieve this once-friendly goal that now taunts you from afar, there is little point in typing more than, say, fifteen words a year.

Or so it seemed the other day, as I crept along towards my goal of 5,000 words with honest-to-goodness snails in our fish tank looking out and laughing.   Continue reading