A True Halloween Creeper Story

There was a challenge today in one of the writing groups to write 1000 word flash fiction Halloween story. This is a true story. It happened a few years ago. (It was written in an hour – so it’s not perfect)

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A True Halloween Creeper Story

 

Syd and I spent Halloween jogging in the rain. Our neighborhood doesn’t receive many trick-or-treaters, so this gives us a chance to see kids in costumes making their rounds. Sometimes the costumes scare Sydney; while dogs get the whole idea of doing crazy things for treats, they’re a little uncertain of masks and make up.

There are a lot of dogs in our neighborhood, which makes running difficult because of the social factor. The neighbors with friendly dogs stop and chat. So, toward the end, it’s more walk than run for us.

As I slow toward my own block, I run into Dan with his dog. Dan has a newfoundland; if the dog stood on his hindlegs, he’d be over six feet tall. A strong, powerful rescue dog, Dan said. “In case I ever need rescuing,” he joked.

“Where’s your wife?” The rain slowed to a sprinkle.

“Work trip. She’ll be gone til Saturday.”

“I didn’t realize her job required travel.” I’ve never seen one of them without the other. They walk their dog through our neighborhood on a regular basis.

Dan shrugs. “Yeah, once in a while.” His dog pulls him forward, and he yanks back. I smell the alcohol on his breath as he yells, “heel!”

Syd’s half the size of his dog, but the same color. She turns to look at him, even as his dog ignores him.

“What are you doing tonight?” Dan asks.

“Hiding from the kids. I didn’t buy candy.”  I laugh.

“Oh, yeah,” he says as if he forgot it was Halloween. “You can hide at my house if you want. I have beers.”

I laugh again. “No. I wouldn’t want your wife, or anyone else for that matter, to get the wrong impression.”

He shrugs and almost loses his balance. It becomes apparent, he’s had more drinks than I first assumed.

“It doesn’t matter. She’s used to it. I do photography in my spare time.”

I don’t know Dan or his wife that well. I only know them from our run-ins when walking the dogs, a few moments spent here or there chatting.

“You’re a photographer, right?”

I shake my head, “No, just pictures of flowers once in a while.”

“Yeah, I can see that. I see you covered in flowers.” His eyes shine as the last sprinkles of rain hit the ground and he pauses to look at me.

“Uhm, excuse me?”

“I photograph women, models. I’d like to photograph you.” He gets that half smirk that I’ve seen on men in bars when I was younger. A last ditch sales pitch that’s sure to hit. They, like he, doesn’t realize how incredibly silly they look. Dan’s older, he’s heavier. He has the appearance of someone who indulges in too much of everything except self-care. His skin is ruddy, hair unbrushed.

“No.” I say. There’s another block before my house and he’s heading the same direction. I hope another neighbor comes out to say hello.

“It would be strictly professional,” he slurs. “I’ve photographed hundreds of women, thousands. I used to run a website.”

“A website?”  He told me before he worked for the city; he’d retired early. I hadn’t believed that at the time, but didn’t care. Much like I don’t care about this conversation and I’d rather get to my warm, dry house and give Syd a treat.

He leans in, the scent of alcohol billows in front of us. “I don’t tell many people; it’s not something to be talked about in pleasant company.” He half laugh, half grunts.

I fall back a step, lean over to adjust my shoe laces. Maybe he’ll keep walking. When he stops and waits, I ask, “Does your wife know about the website and the photography?”

He shrugs again. The dog yanks at him and he yells louder than before. “Freaking, g’damnit, heel!” The giant, near panda bear, turns his head, seems to snub him, and pushes forward with less force.

Sydney slows down, lowers her ears, then she stays by my side as we start walking again.

“You know, I told my wife, it doesn’t really matter if we’re married or not. I mean, she could take one house, I could take the other. You know? Who stays married anymore, right?”

I see another neighbor, Jenny, coming toward us; I wave madly. She’s jogging with her little terrier, Fritzie. I hope she’ll stop, talk; I think, if she does, I’ll walk in the opposite direction with her.

“Hi, Jen!” I say loudly. She’s wearing her earbuds under her hoodie and I’m not sure she can hear me.

She waves, picks up Fritz and quickens her pace around us. I imagine she’s afraid of Dan’s dog. But when I see her sideways glance, I wonder if it’s more Dan that freaks out her. Suddenly, more things make sense.

“I could do the pictures very tastefully.” He half chuckles. “It’ll only be me; what are you afraid of?”

I decide to take the clear, hard line with him. “Well, I have children, and I’m a teacher. I’d be afraid to compromise my ethics and lose my job.”

We’re just a house from mine. I cut across my neighbor’s and my own lawn. The misty night has left my skin damp, but it’s him who makes my skin crawl.

“Well, if you know any young girls….” he calls behind me.

“I’ll be sure to warn them away from you!” I call back. Once in the house, I see him pause at the end of the drive, probably trying to make sense of what I said. I lock the door, turn out the lights, and give Syd treats; then we sit in the dark to watch someone a little less creepy, like Michael Meyers.

michael-myersjpg-c73192_1280w

 

 

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4 Ways to Stay Poor

Someone said to me the other day, “the only thing my parents taught me was how to be poor.”

Many of our parents are unaware of life outside of their socioeconomic class; they may have ideas about how to help us, which might not be enough.

My father’s idea was work ethic – he worked from sun-up til sun-down as a roofer.

So – my sarcastic look at how to stay poor:

  1. Stay home and watch television. Because, certainly, that’s what successful people do. They don’t go on to learn more, success came knocking at their door!

Every year, I hear students say, “I don’t need college, Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates didn’t finish college.” And every year, I give a mini lecture, as gently as possible, about how these men were working and learning in their field of study long before college. I sometimes hint (because I believe) these men were geniuses. And they still had to work hard!

     2. Listen to your friends who say you’re a sell out. Because friends always have our best interest at heart and know way more than we do about our life and what we want, we should definitely listen to them if we want more and they put us in our places.

When I applied to college, one woman said to me, “Sounds like someone wants to be rich and famous.” I shrugged, not having the wherewithal to defend my choice, and maybe it wouldn’t have helped anyway. At that time, I would have settled for getting out of the ghetto.

       3. Dreams are meant to be secret, private, and stuffed away. By all means, don’t follow them. You don’t actually want to have a good idea and the confidence to follow through.

I can not tell you how many people made fun of and put down my dreams. One girl used to curl her hand into a decrepit fist, “Don’t have you writer’s cramp yet?” Other people swore I was “wasting time writing stupid poems and stories no one will ever read.”

     4. Don’t ask questions, you might feel stupid. There’s nothing worse in the world than looking or feeling stupid. It’s true, you might get an answer, but that’s beside the point!

The first time I went to a college campus, I went into the advisor’s office and she handed me a form. “Did you fill this out?” I hadn’t. “Well, fill this out and come back.”  I had a lot of questions, including about the form she handed me, but she ushered me out, and I remember turning to her and her shutting the door right in my face. I’d made an appointment months before. I’d taken three buses to get there. I wanted to turn around and walk away. But before I left, I picked up some other forms and talked to the student assistant in the front office who was FAR MORE HELPFUL than that rude, thoughtless woman who hadn’t given me the chance to even ask a single question. I could have walked away, and I wanted to leave as soon as possible, but before I walked out, I’d decided I wouldn’t let one shitty person who didn’t care dictate my success.

 

Now – if you have interest at all in succeeding – Try this link: Habits of Self Made Millionaires.

 

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Existential Crisis or not?

After the farmer’s market, some mornings, I drive around, usually down Ventura Blvd. It’s been conducive to considering life, writing. 21741308_1794773787218606_5919141729243852808_o

I find that I usually stop somewhere for a coffee and write.
Even though I’m widely published in literary journals and other, my own work doesn’t sell much. I’m probably not that great at marketing; however, it may also be due to the fact that I don’t write genre fiction and few people know what to expect when I say literary fiction.

Obviously, it’s up to me if I want to change what I write. But, this afternoon, sifting through donations of people’s old clothes to go to different centers, places, and people who need them, I thought – I’m here to do more than write the next big romance or homelessaction/adventure story. I’m here to tell stories of real people and real lives, hard lived. ($1.00 Stories was inspired by a true story of a homeless man who wrote stories and felt he earned enough to live on)
The novel I spent the spring writing (and is currently making the rounds to publishers) is about a young man who is a recovering drug addict and a woman who spent her life allowing others to make choices for her.

I’ve allowed my heart and my life to be touched by a great many different people. Hearing and interpreting other’s stories, trying to understand and learning to empathize with individuals makes life worth living. Writing stories that people can connect with because they have a sister, brother, aunt who has experienced something similar is important to me.

My purpose is to tell the stories that are hard to write, hard to hear, and give real life meaning. This might mean I don’t make the homelessbest seller’s list, but it also might mean my work touched someone, taught someone, helped another human being experience empathy for a friend or stranger’s life.

My last few stories “Deception” is about how we lie to ourselves and each other,“The Gold Tooth” deals with a sibling who will never be what we hoped for them.  My poems, “H” and “Hunger”, both of

which will appear in Wild Woman Medicine Circle next month, explore hardships people must endure because of others’ expectations.

This is what I choose to write, I was born to write. It has meaning to me. I hope others finding it meaningful to them.

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October

Is one of my favorite months!

We have Halloween. Libras. And, this year, the 168th anniversary of Poe’s death. This is not necessarily a good reason to like October, but it is part of what makes October so memorable.

Edgar_Allan_Poe_daguerreotype_cropSo… 168 years ago, Edgar Allan Poe visited some friends at a pub, saw a doctor who suggested he not travel, then boarded a train, forgetting his trunk, mistakenly with the Doctor’s cane, to pick up his “dear Mother,” Maria Clemm. She was to come and live with him and his new fiance, Elmira Royster Shelton.

The rest, we know, is surrounded in mystery. I was interviewed in June regarding my thoughts of what happened. Thank you to the members of Super News Live.

 

 

Another reason to be excited about October – REaDLips has released a short story of mine. $1.00 Stories. They called it a “chilling” story. Well, you’ll have to be the judge of that.1story

Available on e-book:    

Or soft cover:

Cris is an author who’s lost his magic touch. He meets a homeless man who might have the inspiration he needs.

But what happens is anything but magic or inspirational.

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What Do Published Authors Know?

Recently, I read a mini article posted on a blog of sorts, wherein the writer called out Stephen King’s book On Writing, concluding that “famous writers don’t know Jack.”

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WOW! Really?

 

I was shocked and offended. And I assume that is the reaction she wanted to elicit in order to bring traffic to her article or her own website.

Let me clarify that I am not an avid Stephen King reader. I’m not much into science fiction, but I have been reintroduced to his work upon reading Doctor Sleep, the continuation, in some sense, of The Shining. I have read On Writing some years ago. I’m pretty certain it’s still on my bookshelf as it’s required reading for anyone who wants to write – whether you like it or not. And my favorite essay of his, which I sometimes share with students is “Why We Crave Horror Movies.”

Therefore, I’m not defending a writer I love with a passion but an author I admire with sincerity. And I am taking issue with the blogger’s lack of professionalism in her disrespectful and disingenuous response to a successful and prolific author.

Stephen King

In Academia, occasionally members of the community in praising literary fiction take issue with popular literature. In one such class, when someone asked about King, the instructor responded – “In 100 years, no one will remember him.”

Yeah, I’m guessing someone who has written over 50 novels as well as over 200 short stories, among others projects will be remembered.

Again, my issues with her article is that she comes across as disingenuous. I don’t believe she really believes King is wrong, I think she wants to make a name for herself and create a controversial reaction and bring traffic to her website, so she can look at the numbers and get a little thrill when it pops up instead of actually presenting sound and original ideas. I say this because she didn’t actually say much of value.

This blogger’s premise is that writing is a gift and it is done intuitively, so authors don’t necessarily know how to explain writing. Understood. As well, she takes issues with some basic rules that I’ve learned since third grade. She says, “we’d all end up sounding like Stephen King.” Not necessarily so.

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Her final claim: “You can do anything, provided that you can pull it off.”

 

Well, duh! You can break every damn rule of writing if you’ve got a story so great that Hollywood will buy it and the publishers are going to make bank from it.  Dare I talk about The Hunger Games?  As an English teacher, it hurt my eyes to read the numerous punctuation errors. But, as one of my editors said, Story is King. It’s the story that matters, not the comma splices that most non academics won’t even notice.

However, every good writer should know the “rules.” And I’m using that term loosely here. A writer should be familiar with what has come before, what others are doing, as well and what others believe the rules should be.  How many people have commented on Picasso’s blue period, ignorant of his background, and said “I could do that!” Picasso learned and practiced the rules. Then he chose to break them. When I break a rule of writing, I ask myself: “Is it for effect, and is it resulting in the desired effect?

I say: “Break that damn rule if you want. Just know why you’re doing it and if it’s working.” If Stephen King breaks a rule, even his “own” rule, I imagine he knows it and knows why he’s doing it. I don’t think On Writing is prescriptive; I believe it’s meant to be descriptive.

So, I suppose I don’t even have that much issue with what she said, but it’s how she said it. Stephen King is an award winning, multi-best-selling author, show some respect. That’s called Professionalism. You can disagree with someone, you just want to do it respectfully.  She says she leaves the “writing instruction” to the “less qualified people -“.

king3.gifREALLY?  The author of over 200 short stories is less qualified than who – YOU?  How many books have you published?  I looked her up. A few “middle grade readers,” a nonfiction book, a few short stories. She says she prefers to tell people how to get published.

I go back to her line, “famous writers don’t know Jack.” How unprofessional can you be?

I teach a business writing class (among others); I run the class like a course in professionalism. And this is something I would say is an absolute NO! We can disagree with anyone – I tell my students – but we should know how to respectfully disagree.

As a writer, I see a lot of unprofessional behavior. (I in no way claim to be perfect myself).  I belong to writers’ groups and read (more than I post) in these online writers’ groups. And it can be things like this – open to the public – that can get a person in trouble. You never know who you are dealing with on the other end of that computer. Random arguments, stupid comments, and radical, unqualified statements can hinder one’s success.

I was asked recently by a publishing company for my CV. This is not a problem; I sent it right over. Why would I not?  I posted asking for advice about the CV, for future reference. Some people seemed beside themselves, as if a publishing company asking for my CV was out of line. The publishing company is my potential employer. They are entitled to my CV and, as a professional writer, I want to show it to them!

Now, what if I had written a blog such as that – disrespectfully and disingenuously criticizing one of their best authors? It might cause the publishing company to think twice about even looking at my work, let alone looking at my CV. The cold, hard fact in this world is most companies are not going to hire or work with people who are unprofessional. While they may want people to speak their minds, they don’t want people publicly running off at the mouth. Charlie Sheen and any number of actors learned this the hard way.

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I am not at all saying that we shouldn’t voice our opinions! If you disagree with anyone, you should be able to, and have the absolute right to speak your opinion. I’m suggesting it be done with polite professionalism.

Who is this author of a few middle-grade books to be criticizing King? She is never going to convince ME or many writers that King is wrong. However, had she respectfully disagreed with his views on the certain aspects of writing, clearly stated her reasoning – it would have been far more professional and more believable! I would have read it, taken her opinion into consideration, and possibly even agreed with her. However, by her announcing that he is “less qualified” and doesn’t “know Jack,” not only do I question her intelligence and her integrity, she’s possibly offended people she’d rather have as friends or colleagues. (You’ll notice I didn’t link her article here. I’d prefer not to give attention-seekers more attention).

I, personally, would rather respectfully disagree with people than announcing contrary opinions for the sake of readership. I guess being boisterous will get you noticed. But, it will also get you noticed, if you know what I mean.

I’ll take her words, “You can do anything, provided that you can pull it off.” – Yes, yes, you can. You’ve seen numerous examples of people running off at the mouth about others and nothing happened to them or their career. However, are you sure you can do it and not experience consequences? Have yking5ou built up enough credit, have enough backing, or whatever else you need, to make certain you will not face consequences. OR – have you done this, seen it done, heard it done, and the person hasn’t gone very far in their career. Hmmmm.  Might be a reason.

Say what you will. I suggest you say it with respect.

 

 

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Death Watch

Do you know how everyone loses their minds when a parent passes away?

My father experienced a slow decline; soon after Memorial Day two years ago, he passed.

memorial day

My father was a big man, over six foot tall, strong and thick. He was a marine in his younger years, worked as a roofer for much of his life. He used to brag about how many packs of shingles he carried up the ladder. He was good at cards and had a smile on his face much of the time.

My short piece, “Memorial Day Death Watch,” is inspired in part by the last week or so of my father’s decline. I learned what every family learns regardless of how close or far away the members are when someone dies – people lose their minds.

“Memorial Day Death Watch” was a finalist in Writer’s Advice Flash Contest in April. It’s been published in FishFood Magazine quite recently.

 

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My father prior to his illness.

 

In celebration of this publication, I‘m giving away copies of “Dad Shining” on GoodReads. The giveaway begins August 21st and goes until August 28th. Watch FB and Twitter for those reminders.

Dad Shining is available on Kindle and in Paperback on Amazon. One Reviewer writes: “The author has a unique writing style, beautiful detail, but with space throughout for the reader to fit in. I look forward to reading other books and stories by this author.”

 

 

 

 

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The Myth of Writer’s Block

Writer’s block is a myth perpetuated by people who don’t really want to write.

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And I really don’t like when people ask me if I ever “get it,” as if it’s contagious. In some ways, I think it is. People talk about it too much and infect others with their ideas of this mysterious and loathsome “writer’s block.”

Maybe I’m thinking of the block all wrong. I’m not sure at all what it means. Does it mean the person can’t sit in a chair and write? Are their hands broken? Is their brain injured? Or does it mean they can’t write as well as they want? Does it mean that writing’s not easy?

Hey – wait – let’s hold on to that one: Writing is not easy?!

Of course, at times, it’s not easy! Sometimes the scene isn’t quite right or the dialogue is inauthentic or the words aren’t laying out as smooth and beautiful as we’d like. Does that mean we lay down the ivory pipe, get up from our Italian baroque seventeenth century carved desk, retire our gray wool writing jacket with the patches on the elbows, and lounge for the rest of the day waiting for this “block” to pass?

None of it’s real!Writers-Block-is-a-Lie

The desk, the jacket, or the block – these are images people use to perpetuate the myth that writing is some magical gift that is laid down upon us and is taken away just as easily.

I’m not saying the ability to ribbon words rhythmically and meaningfully isn’t a gift – but it is work.

Now there’s the word we need to use. The only thing, perhaps, people are being blocked from is WORK.

A writer needs time. The lack of time can inhibit starting or finishing – but we make time. Many writers (Vonnegut, Angelou) woke up early.  I used to be one of those people who said – oh, no, I need my sleep. But then I decided I wanted to write more than I needed extra sleep. Writers, for centuries, have had no choice but to get up early or stay up late in order to produce.

And there’s that word again. Work. Let’s get to it, ladies and gentlemen, no matter how gifted you are, writing is work, writing is commitment. And there’s the other word so many people are afraid of: commitment.

If you want to be a writer it takes work and it takes commitment. The real work of writing is to commit yourself to it, to sit your ass in that chair, at that desk, or dining table, or in the corner closet, and write. Sometimes nothing is going to come out right. And that’s when you keep working, or you take a break, go grab a cuppa and get back to it. Writer’s commit themselves to time and action, whether it’s one hour a day or eight hours a day. And sometimes things come out well and sometimes they’re a struggle.

plumbers block

 

Imagine writing as a job. If you want to be successful, can you give up the moment it gets challenging?  Can you imagine your plumber calling you and saying, “I just can’t come today, I have plumber’s block”?

 

 

 

If something you’ve started has stunted, write something else, take it in a different direction, write an angry letter to one of the characters insisting they do what you want them to, then let them write one to you.

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Let’s be honest about what writer’s block really is –

  • it’s procrastination;
  • it’s distraction; 
  • it’s fear of rejection.

 

I do believe people go through periods where they’re not as productive, or they have some psychological issues blocking them from releasing their ideas. These problems can be solved – therapy.

beautiful journalist looks typewriterIf you want to take part in the myth – “oh I can’t write today!”

If you want to perpetuate the myth – “What do you do when you get blocked?”

That’s fine. However, Do not bring your kind of negativity to me – “Do you ever get blocked?” Because I don’t want to hear it; I don’t want to be a part of it; and I certainly don’t want you attempting to infect me with your dis-ease.

 

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Now – sit that ass in that chair and WRITE something. 😉 Good luck. 

 

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