Friday Flash: Trapped


From my pilot’s seat, I watch the contents of the aquarium tank strapped to the plane’s inner wall. My cargo’s withstood shipment far better than I anticipated. Mermen bodies are less valuable dead than alive, so I’m glad I took extra precautions to ensure this package is cared for properly. Thank the gods I took him to the vet and had him sedated before shipment. Though the tank is shatter-resistant, I wouldn’t want to test it, because if he becomes violent, he might damage himself.

Usually, men alone track mermen, but their rarity coupled with their ferocity makes capturing them almost impossible. No one expects a woman to bag such a vicious creature. But it pays to know the science. By synthesizing mermaid pheromones, I’m able to use them to my advantage. I’m actually surprised how easy it was to lure the thing into a cage.

Still, he is a handsome beast. The way his emerald hair floats in the tank’s water, the way his sea-green eyes sparkle–

He’s watching me.

He’s watching me, capturing me in the depths of those startling eyes.

I feel myself change course, away from land and back towards the sea. My hands are moving; I feel the plane’s weight shift now that the nose is aimed for those beautiful, calm waters.

The merman lifts himself from his tank. I smell salt air and realize just how wrong I’ve been about everything.



*Image courtesy of

** I used a random word generator to get the three words I used as prompts: trap, weather, runway.

On Writing: Western Reserve Writers’ Conference 2016

As everyone who has read my blog knows (you two know who you are), Ohio has a wealth of support for the literary community, both for authors and readers and those of us who are both. After all, you can’t write if you don’t read. To illustrate this point, the South Euclid-Lyndhurst branch of the Cuyahoga library recently hosted the Western Reserve Writers’ Conference, yet another free conference for the wordsmiths of Northeastern Ohio. Though I cannot possibly capture all the energy and inspiration of the entire conference, I will do my best to give you the highlights of what I learned there.

Another writer that I met at a previous conference, John Ettorre, gave the keynote speech. He spoke about the importance of mentors, with a special focus on his own mentor, William Zinsser. Zinsser’s well-known book, On Writing Well, is a must have for any writer. His tips hold true whether you are writing fiction or nonfiction, novels or newspaper articles.

One of the key points I took away from his speech was Don’t be afraid to contact your heroes. After all, what do you have to lose? Though Zinsser was very well known and respected, he always made time to help other writers with the craft and viewed it as a sacred duty. I think this also touches upon one of the main reasons that writers’ conferences are so important: you meet other writers. And while he also pointed out that your writing is your own, meaning you should use your own voice and not simply emulate others, it is important to have that sense of community in what is often a lonely occupation. I know that when I’ve collaborated in the past, I’ve always felt I got more out of the experience than if I had written by myself. Bouncing ideas off others, getting inspired, and boosting your own abilities is why writers congregate on- and off-line, at conferences and workshops, libraries and bookstores and their own homes. We seek out our heroes as well as our peers.

Some of his other points were more practical and applicable. Change is a tonic, so don’t be afraid to do something different and break out of your comfort zone. Write about something you care about, so the audience cares about it too–you learn from the act of instructing others. Becoming successful takes time, but don’t use that as an excuse to not learn your craft. And lastly, writing is a voyage of discovery. This last one struck me as especially true; I often find out things about myself and the world around me through the stories I write.

The first workshop I attended, Organizing Your Novel, was conducted by the prolific author, Julie Anne Lindsey. She gave a lot of tried and true writing advice: be an avid reader, research the content of your book, know your craft, and show rather than tell. She also reiterated the importance of writers’ groups and gave several examples of how they had helped her personally.

While it’s always helpful to be reminded of these truisms, I found her more specific advice to be more interesting. She outlined specific formulas to create tension and keep the reader’s’ interest. Near the end of the session, she answered questions. Someone asked her about writing through emotional conflict, and she said that it might actually make for a better story. Writing can be therapeutic, and you can improve your story by harnessing those emotions and putting them onto the page. We finished up with a writing prompt to outline a story, which resulted in my premise for this year’s National Novel Writing Month.


I was really looking forward to the next workshop, About Contracts & Copyright Issues, conducted by attorney Steve Grant. While he covered a wealth of legal information, the two things I found most helpful were also the simplest: one, a writer’s biggest mistake regarding copyright is not actually writing anything; two, while most of the time people can be sued for just about anything, usually only successful authors are sued over their work.

Unfortunately, there is a third thing I learned unintentionally during this workshop. I use technology heavily during events such as this, as they are handy for taking notes. And while I also use low-tech solutions like pen and paper, most of the time it’s just easier to use the electronic tools available through my phone and tablet. However, this time he was giving so much information so quickly, I decided to download a recording app so I could type my notes out more efficiently later. I did it on the fly, without doing research ahead of time, and I’m embarrassed to say that I lost all the recordings that I took of Mr. Grant’s talk. So, benefit from my mistake, and make sure that when using technology you haven’t used before, that you research and test it first.


There was about an hour for lunch, which was great for meeting and greeting other writers. Afterwards, there was a Question & Answer panel on The Writing Life. Three of the conferences authors gave talks and advice about being a writer.

Steve FitzGerald, writing coach and ghost writer, spoke about writing retreats and named specific ones for those of us lucky enough to live in Ohio. And while I agree with everything he said in theory, I am unable to verify it personally since I have neither the time nor money to attend them. However, if you are able to participate in a writing retreat, I would love to hear about your experience.

Diane Taylor, a longtime writing coach and editor, discussed the importance of writers’ groups. She spoke about the value of connecting with other writers, as I’ve mentioned earlier in this same post. She gave several examples of groups to join, such as Romance Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Literary Cleveland (which hosts INKubator and the monthly poetry workshops I attend), and Skyline Writers.

Deanna Adams, the conference organizer and a well-known local author, gave tips for perfecting the first pages of a manuscript, and she was also kind enough to give me permission to share those tips with you.

Top 10 tips for Perfecting a Manuscript

  1. First sentence should be a grabber.
  1. Introduce a protagonist and the conflict.
  1. Let the readers feel emotion.
  1. No rambling. No long narratives that lead to boredom and lose a reader’s  interest.
  1. Be descriptive.
  1. Use plenty of dialogue in scenes.
  1. Voice.
  1. Surprise your reader. Study mysteries to learn the art of surprising your reader.
  1. Characters should be individuals with their own idiosyncrasies and approaches to solving problems.
  1. The ending must be satisfying.



The last workshop I attended was, How NOT to Write for Free, given by Sandra Gurvis, a freelance writer and author of  Confessions of a Crazy Cat Lady and Other Possibly Demented Meanderings. I have been interested in freelancing for awhile, though I have yet to publish my first novel. The class focused mostly on ensuring payment from your clients once you’ve established yourself as a freelancer, but she addressed other points.

She emphasized taking whatever writing jobs are available, as well as doing anything possible to build a better resume’ and client list. As an example, she explained she became certified by the American Medical Writers Association to expand her job qualifications. Other examples of paid work are content provision such as articles for magazines and associations, editing and evaluating books, and writing newsletters and website posts. While she conceded some writers work for exposure instead of money, the session focused on paid work.

During the question and answer session, I asked her about starting out as a freelancer, especially concerning taxes and acquiring work. She spoke about having an accountant to do taxes every three months and using a W9 form for an independent contractor. As far as finding work, she recommended websites, especially ones that verified whether or not clients paid their bills: Upwork, Guru, Linked In, Association of Ghost Writers (associate membership), and Skyword.

There was, of course, much more to the conference than just the highlights I’ve outlined above, much more than could possibly fit into a single post. If you have a writers’ conference or group in your area, I highly suggest you attend. If not, there’s always NaNoWriMo next month, which is a massive online writing experience; there’s tons of camaraderie and support to be had both online and off. Thanks once again to Deanna Adams, John Ettorre, and everyone else who contributed to making the conference such a wonderful experience.

*photos were taken with my phone at the conference

**permission for summations and photo use kindly given by Deanna Adams, John Ettorre, and Sandra Gurvis.

Friday Flash: A Match Made in the Heavens


She can’t get over the look in his eyes. Well, are they technically his eyes when they belong to the humanoids looking through his rounded glass portholes, eyes enormous with unmitigated terror? It doesn’t matter. She is used to that reaction from most lifeforms, whether they have one set of eyes or many.

What do you want me to do, my love? She thinks to the ship in dragonsong.

The ship roars his response, but the dragon hears nothing through the void of space from which she comes. She only knows that she loves this gleaming metal creature sailing across the starry heavens, loves looking at the faces of the humanoid creatures he apparently swallowed, loves the electric fire shining off his exterior.

They have so much in common!

Then she sees where the vessel, the lovely silver knight of her nights, is heading and her thoughts fairly explode in her head for joy. The frosty silence of the void is replaced by the roaring heat of entry into the planet’s atmosphere; they are the match that ignites the heavens. Approaching the planet’s darkside, she spots his love offering to her: a city that sparkles and glints like a nest of jewels across the ground’s surface.

Telepathy or not, it is as if her beloved can read her thoughts. They sail together towards the world, a world where they can finally and truly speak. The planet’s oxygen-rich atmosphere fills her lungs, her wings whoosh through the air as she rapidly descends to inspect the brightly lit buildings that litter the ground like fallen stars.

Upon closer inspection, small circular windows in each metallic dome reveal more tiny humanoids. This must be his home, the place he’s taken her to feast…Oh, what bliss!  The creatures flee from their dwellings, feet pounding furiously as they run for their lives, and she picks them off one by one, savoring each morsel as the love offering it is obviously meant to be–like tiny bipedal chocolates that scream sweet harmonies as she gulps them down.

Running her long, forked tongue along scaled lips, she sways provocatively toward the ship that now sits parked like a gleaming silver tooth. Her back undulates, her eyes sparkle, and her nostrils flare as she inhales deeply the sweet stench of burning meat. She folds each set of iridescent wings slowly, dancing a ballet of death in this beautiful and burning world. She is surprised to find the ground still cool to her touch, as she crunches concrete beneath clawed, blue-white digits.

They had sailed the heavens together, her and her lover. He had brought her to dinner. Now, it is time for her to show how deeply she feels their connection. Her heart swells with happiness. With the high-pitched wails of dying humanoids to accompany her song, she fills her lungs with fire, her throat with blazing verse, and prepares to show her lover how hotly her passion truly burns.


*Image courtesy of

**This flash was inspired by prompt numbers 2, 3, 6, 11, and 33 from the thinkwritten blog.

On Writing: Tech Tools for Writing on the Go


Banned Books Week is wrapping up, and NaNoWriMo will soon be upon us. For the uninitiated, NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month; participants challenge themselves to write a 50,000 word rough draft novel in thirty days. Since I’ve recently attended a writing conference (which I will post about later) and am also planning to participate in the November writing challenge, I thought a short post about writing resources would be appropriate. Some of them are, no doubt, already familiar to you–though others may not be. I’m focusing on smart phone tools available for use on the go and with (or possibly without) internet access. — Signing up for the November challenge gives you access to all this site has to offer. There are word count bars, writing buddies to “compete” against, and forums full of advice and encouragement. The biggest resource of Nanowrimo is the wave of creative energy of an entire online (and off) writing community doing the same crazy thing at the same time!  — The Young Writers’ Program is the site for Nanowrimo participants under the age of eighteen. The challenge is basically the same, but participants set their own word goals. The site is also geared to be friendlier and safer for younger participants. — This convenient online dictionary contains articles about grammar and word origins, as well as definitions. — This online thesaurus does exactly what you would expect: gives the synonyms and antonyms of words you type into the search field. Easy.

Google Docs (or Google Drive) — You need to sign up for a Google account for this, but then you have a wealth of information at your fingertips. Google Docs allows you to create remote text documents using their wordprocessing software, which can then be downloaded by you from any internet connection. If you have a smart phone, you can also use the app to write. Google Drive allows you to organize your docs into folders. — Since I’m currently writing this post as a note on the website, I would be remiss to not mention how wonderfully convenient the site, the widgets, and the accompanying apps are to my writing routine. If you put your phone in airplane mode, you can also use the app offline. Like Google Docs, Evernote allows you to write and organize your text. While the wordprocessing is not as easy as Google Docs, the widgets and the ability to easily put photos into my notes makes Evernote my primary writing tool. For example, I went to a conference; when given a business card, I would photograph it with my phone, then attach the photo into a note via the Evernote widget. In classes, I would do the same thing with the handout sheets–that way I could always have the information on hand without having to sift through a bunch of papers. The Evernote widget also allows you to record audio notes. I also frequently work on poems and short stories this way, and I also write in a daily journal via Evernote.

Email — If you don’t want to take advantage of the other sites and apps, you can always send yourself an email with whatever literary inspiration occurs to you. I actually wrote a chapter of my last NaNoWriMo novel as an email while on a class field trip with my son.  — This site allows you to freely download photos for use in blogs, etc.–provided you adhere to copyright and give the appropriate credit. — This music-sharing site is “an interactive library of high-quality, legal audio downloads” designed for the digital age. Again, you should always read the rules and give appropriate credit, but this is a great way to listen to some music while you write. When I podcasted years ago, I downloaded my theme music from this site. — While many people seem to think of this social media site as a frivolous waste of time, I have found it to be an excellent resource. Twitter allows you to follow other people who post things you are interested in, using lists and hashtags as organizational tools. I’ve used Twitter as my online writing group for nine years; I have been offered writing opportunities, gotten free books, and kept in touch with friends and acquaintances all through the site. I find the phone app easy to use, and when I have a quick writing question– someone on twitter usually can answer it for me pretty quickly. I can honestly say that Twitter and NaNoWriMo both helped me achieve my first publishing credit. So far my credits are primarily for short stories and poems, and I’m sure my eventual novel publication will also be directly connected to those online sites.

There are way too many resources for me to name in a single post, but those are the ones that I use most frequently and find most helpful. I hope this post helps you also. Have a lovely week!


*I also hope to see you again next Friday for another flash fiction story, written for the #FridayFlash meme on Twitter. In two weeks, I will post writing advice I took away from the recent conference I attended.

Friday Flash: Capital Crimes


What is the meaning of this?

You are here, Mister E, due to the nature of certain letters that have come into our possession.

I’ve told you thugs before, my friend B is innocent! Since when is it a crime to say you don’t like war? Who does?! Only madmen and–

I do not refer to your friend’s anti-war sentiments, though that shall surely be investigated…

Stop shuffling those goddamn papers, and look at me! I don’t understand. Why are you even reading the mail when–

Now, you are the madman, Mister E! An enemy may send coded messages, and even newspaper columns may be employed to–

No, no, no! I mean, why read our mail? We’re just ambulance drivers, and B’s only crime is hating all the blood and death we’re exposed to in the service of “peace.”

Aha! This “peace” you refer to is an example of exactly the sort of thing we are concerned about.

What? I don’t…what?

The scare quotes you used when you referred to peace, which is the end goal of this military operation.

It’s no secret that saying war in the service of peace is an oxymoron!

No, Mister E, I am not referring to your attitude but rather your punctuation.

My punctuation! What on earth does that have to do with anything?

Have you noticed, Mister E, how you have used punctuation and capitalization throughout our conversation? Even the questionable use of scare quotes? I have.


That is something notably absent in your published works of poetry, even to the extent of not capitalizing your own name.

Now, Mister E–or should I say mister e? what do you have to say for yourself?

I’m a writer! We expand the use of language; poetry often breaks the rules of prose–with the exception of prose poetry, and–

To the extent that you even lowercase your own name?

Hey! You used lowercase as a verb, and that’s-

That is not the point, mister e.  Do not dare change the subject! Who are you working for?

No one! My poetry isn’t code for the enemy, I swear! I’m not working for the enemy!

And your idiosyncratic style? Besides the occasional odd usage of brackets and parentheses, your methodology makes no sense.

Hey, watch it! Art is in the eye of the beholder!

Eye and ear, apparently. Your excessive use of exclamation marks during our little talk is giving me almost as much of a headache as your printed works.

It’s a stressful situation! I resent that.

You are meant to.

How can you accuse me of anything when you just ended a sentence with a preposition?

It was correct usage, and you are in no position to do anything other than answer my questions.

Listen, can you at least untie these ropes? I’m beginning to chafe.



No. Not until you explain.

That wasn’t a proper sentence! There was no–ouch!!!

I see you are beginning to slip and reveal your true nature, mister e. Three exclamation points?

Dialogue is different.

How do you expect us to believe you are an author with so little vanity that you eschew capitalizing your own name? You must be getting paid a great deal, mister e, to go that far.

I swear to you, I am not a spy!

Spy? Who said anything, anything, about spying? Admit it. You are a saboteur.

If you don’t think I’m a spy, then what am I sabotaging?

I ask the questions, mister e!

Ow! I swear to you, I’m not working for anyone! All I did was experiment with punctuation and grammar! Since when is that a crime?

Crime? You are not under arrest.

But the ropes, the cuffs…?

They are merely details to ensure your cooperation.

Who do you work for?

Wait, you don’t work for the military?

Military, mister e? You wish. I work for a much more important organization.

Who? Dear gods, who could that be?

Let’s just say certain union officials are unhappy with the turn the language has taken recently. The editorial costs alone are enough to put a significant dent in their annual budget–a fact which does not please them. So, once again, who do you work for? The CIA?

You just said it wasn’t a spy thing!

Don’t play dumber than you already are. The CIA in this context is obviously the Committee for Interrobang Adaptation! Is it them?  A rival editorial group? The Typographers’ Guild? Who? Confess.

if you could loosen these ropes and get me some water for my throat I would appreciate it all those exclamation marks really did a number on me


i will tell you everything for the right price

Stop smiling like that, mister e. It is giving me the creeps.

thanks for the water friend

You are evil.



*Image courtesy of

**written in honor of National Punctuation Day for #FridayFlash and inspired by e e cummings. I mean all due respect to Mr. Cummings.

***For those of you lucky enough to live in Northeast Ohio, Saturday the 24th of September is the Western Reserve Writers’ Conference. I hope to see you there!

Current Events: Update for September 16th, 2016


Greetings, and welcome to my writing blog! I usually schedule a short flash fiction story once every two weeks for the #FridayFlash meme via Twitter and Facebook, and a nonfiction post every other week. I did plan a different post for today other than a simple update, but I’m having technical difficulties. So, instead, I am sitting at my wonderful local library and posting from the public computer.

For any fellow writers out there in the Northeast Ohio, I would like to make you aware of an upcoming free writers’ conference taking place later this month. Ohioans are lucky enough to live in a state that supports many great libraries and is home to a number of literary groups. At the end of July, Literary Cleveland hosted the free INKubator writers’ conference at the Cleveland Main Library. Now, we can look forward to one more!

The 33rd Annual Western Reserve Writers’ Conference will be held at a new location this year, and the only cost involved is the time it takes to preregister on their website. The South Euclid-Lynhurst branch of the Cuyahoga Library is graciously hosting the conference on Saturday, September 24th. I have attended this conference before when it was a paid event at a different location, and it was well worth the investment of time and money. I am very excited to reconnect with some of the other local writers! The impressive John Ettorre is the keynote speaker, and the classes will be taught by other talented writers. The novelist and nonfiction author, Deanna Adams, is both the conference coordinator and a class instructor.

Unfortunately, the conference is taking place on the same day as another awesome library event, the Wonder Woman Symposium at the Cleveland Main Library. The Symposium is actually several days long, from September the 22nd to the 24th, and the Saturday portion of the Symposium encourages participants to dress up as Wonder Woman to set a local record! Also on that same Saturday, the Cleveland library is hosting several Shakespeare events to honor the First Folio’s recent stay at the Main Library.

On a personal note, I attended a poetry workshop last week and am reading Goblin Market, The Princes’s Progress, and Other Poems by Christini Rossetti as well as Blink by Larry Kollar. (which will hopefully be available for purchase very soon). I’m currently listening to a nonfiction audio collection via Librivox.

And since my allotted time on the library’s public computer is growing short, I’ll wrap things up. Besides, you probably have some flash fiction to read or write today, so enjoy! Have a lovely week.



Friday Flash: Reclamation


“Hello, Ma’am! What can I get for you today?”

The woman looks at the shiny new leg models on display in the store window and purses her lips in concentration.

“What’s the matter, can’t decide?” asks the salesman, his eye gleaming with visions of dollar signs dancing before him. He knows this customer well. He’s seen her here before.

“I’m not sure I really need an entire leg…,” hedges the middle-aged wallet before him. “My arthritis is only in my knees right now, and it really just acts up when it’s cold or it rains or snows. Do you have any models of just knee joints?”

“Well, I suppose I could get you just the knees, but then what happens when your arthritis starts in your feet? If you replace the leg now, you get the foot already attached. And with today’s biomechanical advances, you want to get the latest; plus you’ll know that the leg and foot are compatible, because they were literally–I know how pedantic some people can get about that word, but trust me I’m using it right, literally made for each other.”

“I don’t know,” continues his next sale. “I just came for a simple knee replacement. The arthritis isn’t that bad. I could just suffer through and save the money.”

The salesman can’t allow this fish to get away, no matter how much she struggles. As she turns toward the door, he calls out, “Sure, you could! I can show you some knees right now. I think they might even be on sale.” He makes sure she turns around before he puts his back to her and goes behind the register, fiddling with some boxes for the sake of appearances. Sometimes you need to let the fish think it’s getting away before reeling her back in.

He holds up a new box of biomechanical knee replacements. “Knees are a hot item right now, what with the weather and all. We guarantee these will feel just like your natural knees–naturally healthy and pain free ones, of course. Plus these can be customized to match your skin tone–virtually indistinguishable from your natural knees.”

The catch, err…woman is examining the flesh-toned items with interest. She suddenly looks up, worry creasing her puffed and tired face. “Virtually?”

“Well, of course, if we do the entire leg and foot, the single unit will naturally go together both aesthetically and functionally. But you said you don’t want to spend that kind of money-”

“Well, I don’t suppose it would hurt to just look at leg models. Would I need to buy a set? Or could I just get one to match my other leg?”

He’s got her.

He’s been doing this long enough to know when someone desperately needs an upgrade. She might protest about money, but really she just wanted to have no pain and plenty of energy to live her life. Like most people. She just wanted to reclaim her old life, a life free from the physical pain that set limits on her ability to live it.

He would save the best for last, quelling her financial worries with talk about insurance and payment plans and money-back guarantees, and within the hour he’d have her agreeing to an entire body upgrade with brain transplant. When the body is guaranteed for the next two centuries minimum, payment plans can be stretched to become affordable for even the most miserly of customers.

He decides not to tell her about the fine print; the reclamation program that kicks in if she fails to make her payments. With any luck, his own reclamation contract would be up soon. With just fifty more years or 14,000 sales, he would be free of his debt to the Company and own his own body free and clear.

**Image courtesy of