Monday, November 23, 2020

Guilty pleas

 A lot of authors are facing an even steeper uphill battle with book promotion these days. 

The field was noisy last year, this year it's deafening.

Trying to separate yourself from the pack is HARD.

But there are some things to avoid doing, and the very first one is leading with pathos: Hey, I need my book to sell well so buy a copy, please.

Well, I need Idris Elba to show up with sushi so get on that will you?

In other words, what you need is irrelevant to me unless you are me (or my family, client or friend).

And since most of you will be promoting your book to people who are not in your inner circle, think first about why someone would buy your book if they don't know you.

It's a good story is probably a good start. Except don't tell me the story, tell me the hook.

Snippets from good reviews, also good.

And right now, "it takes you away from reality for an hour" is very good.

Linking to something people know about already: If you loved Season Four of The Crown, here's a novel about how MI-5 killed Princess Diana.  That would catch my eye instantly and I'd probably buy the book.

 Linking to the theme of the book: If you want all the fun of cooking, but no clean up, here's a culinary mystery with murder as a side dish.

Linking to the characters: Need a dashing gallant man in your life, here's Felix Buttonweezer charming Our Heroine in The Great British Baking Show Off Comes to Town.

(there's a food theme here, isn't there?)

Effective book promo is about the reader, not the writer unless you're Nick Petrie and "I have a new book" is all I need to know.

The thing about trying to guilt someone into buying your book is that it's VERY short term. You can pluck my pity strings once, but that's all you'll get.

Promotion should be seen as a long game. Building readers into fans one book at a time. 


Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Feeling housebound? Yea, me .. nope! Not today!

 Yesterday I attended a Zoom presentation by Jonathan Slaght for his book Owls of the Eastern Ice.

Honestly it was as refreshing as a two mile brisk walk!

 The narration on this book trailer is from the book.

I ordered it as soon as I saw the publisher was FSG.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

So, welcome back!


I took a week off from social media of all sorts and it was very instructive.


I got a lot of reading done, much more than I expected.

So I took a close look at where that time to read came from.


Sadly, it's not Twitter.

It's this blog.


It takes about an hour a day, and that's for quick posts.

And my best posts take a lot longer.


Between writing, revising, spell checking (which now has to be done by cutting and pasting

the post into a word doc!) and trying to get the frigging fonts and spacing right, it's more like ten hours a week.


And that's a book.


BUT I love this community, and I do like being able to answer questions. So I'm not pulling the plug.


But what I am going to do is NOT post every day. I'm not going to post on a set schedule. If I have something cogent to say, I'll post. If not, I'll be over here in my corner reading.


I'm probably going to change platforms in the coming weeks. This new Blogger style is maddening. I have a feeling they did this on purpose. A free platform doesn't generate income; I bet they want us all gone.


The great news from last week is that The Power of Adrienne Rich by Hilary Holladay got a rave review in the New York Times.  This is a book that was five years in the writing. A long, wonderful journey and now, it's glorious to see this amazing book get the kudos it so richly deserves.





Sunday, November 08, 2020


 I knew I was going to take a break this coming week even before the election was called on Saturday. My nerves are just jangled. My concentration is down to a few minutes sometimes, not even a half-hour.

I'm going dark here, and staying off Twitter for the week.

Time to read, and just be quiet. I can't get to Montana or Oregon to sit in solitude, but I can turn everything off here in Brooklyn, and pretend.

Usually I've posted pet pictures on a hiatus, and checked the comment column, but this time I'm really going to take a break.

I'll be back at the end of the week.

Big Sky country; very very quiet!

Saturday, November 07, 2020

Hello Saturday!

 I had to get a notary stamp on some papers this week.

I trekked over to the abogado's office on the next block (I live in an old Dominican neighborhood) only to find a "not here till the pandemic is over" note on the door.

Well rats.

Back home I go.

Turns out you can get notary services online.

Okedoky, this sounds easy.

Long story short it took three hours and cost 4x as much.

But at least I got it done.

But when I tell people it takes three times longer to get anything done, I'm underestimating.

What is taking you longer these days?

"what's taking so damn long?"

Friday, November 06, 2020

I have a tenuous grip on my sanity these days

About the only thing I can get done are small things that don't require much thinking.

Here's one:

Rodney Smith is a guy who mows lawns for free for seniors, vets, disabled folks.
And gets kids involved in doing the same.
He's not a US Citizen.
He's applying for a visa to be a resident here.
I think that's a good idea.

If you do too, drop a quick letter of suppoert in the mail.

If you're not following him on Twitter, you're missing out.


His tweets are 100% feel good.
And that's not nothin' these days.

Thursday, November 05, 2020

This blog post has no content

 yesterday wasn't good for thinking let alone writing.

I cleaned.

Sort of.

I refreshed the NYT and the WaPo websites fiendishly,

and then I pottered around getting the book prizes ready to mail,

and then I did the puzzle, 

then I ordered new bakeware for my new oven,

then I realized the Crisco expired in 2018, so no baking,

and then I didn't do much but stare into space.

All of which means I didn't write a damn thing for today.

Other than this.

Wednesday, November 04, 2020

Flash fiction contest results---a little late, just like the election returns



 I'm writing this on Election Night at 10:47pm.

I'm beside myself.

The only thing to do was go read the flash fiction contest entries again.

And no doubt about it: Jennifer Rand is this week's winner

Jennifer Rand

The hole was deep.
Sandstone rocks piled high, ready to be cast by those without sin.
An old tradition resurrected. He was elated. He'd missed the old days.
"Why now?" he inquired of his remaining, honorable daughter.
"The teachings were a crock, my father. The community is woke now."
"What does that mean?" he asked as he selected a handful of rocks. "Are you mocking me?"
She didn't answer.
"Where are your stones, my daughter?"
The growing crowd flocked around them.
She took the stones from his hand and blocked his exit. "I'll just use yours. You won't need them."


Jennifer, email me with your preferred mailing address, and IF I am able to pry myself off the couch on Wednesday, I'll get your prize in the mail.


How are all y'all holding up?

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

So, what are YOU doing today?

Recently I needed to send some dough to a pal of mine.


The bank wanted to charge me $25 for one ACH transfer so I thought

"I will be Frugal! I will be Cost Conscious! I'll use this other electronic payment thing they have."


I text my pal: get yourself set up on this other electronic payment thing  so I can remit wads of filthy lucre to you.


Pal: Done!


Me: Sent!


Bank: oh ho not so fast my precious.


Bank: we're locking your account because it's clear Someone is Fucking About With Your Money!


Bank: Call this number for customer service


Me: Dials.


Bank automated person: What? You thought I meant call NOW? Silly girl. We're closed. Try again. 


(and there was evening and there was morning on the first day)


Next day


Me: Ring


BAP: Enter your account number!


Me: tap tap tap


BAP: please enjoy this lovely soothing klezmer ska music while you're on hold


(and there was evening and there was morning on the second day)


Bank Real Person: Hello! How can I help you?


Me (singing along with klezmer ska): oh, ok hello. You have locked my account, can you help me. 

BRP: delighted to. What's your name?  And your account number?


Me: (struggles to remember name) Digs out check book. Recites number.


BRP: Ok, I'm going to transfer you to an automated voice system that will ask you for three pieces of information to verify your identity.

Me: uh, what?


BRP: Your phone will ring.


Me: this phone I'm on now?


BRP: yes.


Me: I don't know how to answer a call while I'm on hold.


(long pause for BRP to recalibrate in order to deal with True Idiot.)


True Idiot aka me:  But I can try (translation: I'll do anything to get off this call)


BRP: Great please hold


(and there was evening and there was morning on the third day)


BRP:  Sorry about that, we had some mechanical difficulties. I'm going to try again now.


Me: (weakly) sure, anything.


BAP:  Hello! This is your Automated Customer Service Rep! Enter your debit card number!


Me: tap tap tap


BAP: Enter the expiration number on your card!


Me: tap tap tap


BAP: Enter your security code! 


Me: tap tap....jesus, WHAT?? ok, TAP.


Bank Real Person: Great! We've now verified you for the next stage.


Me: Next stage? 


BRP:  What state issued your social security card?


Me: (panicked) Oregon?


BRP: how much did you weigh when you got married the first time?


Me: what? 


BRP: What's the address of the third place you lived after college?




BRP: You know if you use this electronic transfer payment system, we can't get the money back even if you send it to the wrong place.


Me: WHAT?????


BRP: We've unlocked your account. Have a nice day. (Translation: pay $25 for the ACH or we'll just lose the money and pretend we don't know you.)


Back to wheelbarrows of cash for me.

Source: @womensart

Monday, November 02, 2020

Flash Fiction contest prelim results

I had a whole extra hour to read your work! It was a very worthwhile use of bonus time!

Words I had to look up

Ocker shanepatrickwrites

uxorial fearless reider

Here are the entries that stood out for me:

Steve Forti

Roc: Do you remember when I was young?
Benny: ‘Course. Me and Suzie had so much fun dressing you up. You hated it.
Roc: You went way over the top. The big sunglasses, fur coats.
Benny (dismissively): I see you’ve toned it down since then. Lame.
Roc: Don’t mock the crocodile frock.
Benny: Seems somebody’s woken up on the wrong side of the piano.
Roc: Bullocks. But whatever happened to Suzie, anyway?
Benny: Oh, her feet just can’t keep still. Ran off with some foreign guy.
Roc: Riiiight. So how do we end this?
Benny: Slow fade out.
Both: Laaaaaaaaaa……..


I LOVE this song!

Amy Johnson

Weekdays crocks.
Weekends woks.
Tuesdays sheets, Thursdays socks.
School and both jobs have a box.
She’s still wearing worn-out frocks.
Boyfriend freeloads, cheats, and mocks.
Her self-esteem hits the rocks.
But she graduates, gets the docs.
New job knocks.
Clock tocks.
Takes his key, still changes the locks.

I love this.

french sojourn
My dad had macular degeneration, so I got tested. Thanks dad! The doctor prescribed a vitamin, as a bonus, every four months I get an injection. It’s medieval. I imagine I hear a tiny, “ssssswok” as the needle is retracted from my eyeball.

Afterwards, I have the “look of rockets red glare”, my wife jokes.

Maybe in another life I mocked nuns, unlocked their diaries, bruised their ego’s? What did I do to deserve this crock of Schmidt?

Please get your eyesight tested, it saved mine… I promise.

“Cross my heart, hope to die, stick a needle in my eye.”



Craig F

The doorbell gonged and the old warrior looked out the peeper. Then he wet his frock as he fumbled to make sure the door was locked.

On the stoop a mock croc had swokked just as the man looked out. It wasn’t the croc’s fault; the yummy morsel he was eating went down the wrong way as he swallowed, he choked.

The man ran for his shotgun; the war hadn’t been that long ago and mock crocs had been the shock troops of the enemy.

When he got back the wife was asking WTF the croc wanted.

“Trick or treat.”

I really appreciate how you used swok and then laid in the meaning later, in context. That's tidy exposition.



“I’m so tired of acronyms. Seriously, SWOK?”

“It means single, without kids.”

“Whatever, spell it out.”

“Fine, want me to be honest Kim? Ocker with unsuppressable memories of men in frocks seeks life partner. I’m five-three but weigh five-nine. I wear crocs and have a pair of dress sweats. I have three children locked in the basement. Long term goals include moving to a country without extradition agreements.”

“Is Ocker even a word?”

“It’s Aussie slang but it doesn’t matter anyway because this isn’t really a story.”

“Why not? It has a beginning, a middle and an end.”

this made me laugh! Deft and witty.

Not a story, but I can't get away with that here now, right?


Fearless Reider

Each century, they tryst –

the gentleman, immortal
the lady, incorporeal
the setting, très arboreal
at his castle, ancestorial,

they meet from time immemorial,
every hundredth Hallows’ Eve.

She dons her ghostly frock
and combs her cobweb locks,
then glides, phantasmagorial,
to greet him, all

Inside his castle dark, she harks
his footfalls coming near, so dear!
‘Til she hears, with wretched moan,
the swok of foamy soles on stone.

Shrieks resound, censorial!
She’ll pardon acts immoral,
and mortal sins pictorial,
even failings escritorial,
but travesties, sartorial?

“You mock me with your Crocs!” she wails.

And now they meet

This just cracked me up.


Timothy Lowe

High-pitched, mocking laughter fills the kitchen. Two tweens and an iPhone.

“If she only knew what we did on here!”

“Stupid phone block doesn’t cover WiFi!”

Voices warble, mimicking. “Turn it off! I can’t stand Juice Wrld!”

“All that bad language! Wait until your father gets home!”

“I’m calling Verizon!”

“What a crock! Juice Wrld’s woke.”

Heads huddling. Snickers.

Footsteps. The boys pull away. Angelic smiles.

“Hi Mom!”

She unfrocks them with a look. “Did I just hear something?”

“No, Mom. How’s Facebook?”

“Don’t.” She swipes right on a software designer. “You haven’t learned enough responsibility to handle these things.”

oohhh!!! So very dark and subtle!



The boy wore a multi-colored afro, CK jeans in the latest styles, and TikTok kept him informed on the prevailing trends of the minute. Masks with political messages were the latest.

In lockstep he marched with his woke comrades, yelling anti-something mantras, not realizing that being against something isn’t being for something; a microculture with allusions of grandeur; something to do on a Saturday night.

“We got one!” a black-clad figure yelled, mocking the old man shivering on the ground.

Blind hate for the other pulled the trigger.

The old man stopped breathing.

Yet, it was the boy who died.

So that grabbed me by the lapels, and hasn't let go yet.

Jennifer Rand

The hole was deep.
Sandstone rocks piled high, ready to be cast by those without sin.
An old tradition resurrected. He was elated. He'd missed the old days.
"Why now?" he inquired of his remaining, honorable daughter.
"The teachings were a crock, my father. The community is woke now."
"What does that mean?" he asked as he selected a handful of rocks. "Are you mocking me?"
She didn't answer.
"Where are your stones, my daughter?"
The growing crowd flocked around them.
She took the stones from his hand and blocked his exit. "I'll just use yours. You won't need them."

I only read The Lottery once. It's haunted me ever since.
Now, you're on that list.

I suggested two edits to increase the tension by removing information.


C. Dan Castro


"Velcro couch. Next big thing!"

"Velcro locks its cushions in place?"

"Nope. Let's put this microhook frock on your girl."

"That tickles, dingus!"

"Laurie, don't say that."

"We put Laurie on Velcrouch..."

"I'm stuck, dingus!"


"See, she's stuck. No worrying about her while you make food and babies."

"I teach at Harvard."


"Business and management. Do you mock--?"

"Look, Professor Homemaker. Strong Women of Kentucky is investing big. So it'd be good business--"

"I'm SWOK president. C'mon Laurie." RIPPPPPP.

"Bye, dingus!"

"Fine. Go. Don't worry, Velcrouch. We'll wow the next--Oh, she took the frock!"

 that last line makes his really hilarious.


Just Jan

All that’s left is a locket and a pair of pink Crocs.

“Spontaneous combustion,” the detective proclaims, plucking a singed envelope from the ashes. “S.W.O.K.?”

“Sealed With A Kiss.” I chuckle mirthlessly. “She never could spell.”

Inside is a ticket stub from our favorite movie, School of Rock, and the words: Your Tern.

“A pact?”

“Yes.” Not the kind he’s thinking of, though.

“Dangerous game. What’ll you do?”

Mocktails on the lanai. Insurance money to last a lifetime. “I’ll think of something.”

You never show. But a bird now follows me everywhere, and comes when I call your name. #WhenMagicGoesWrong


I can't choose of course.

There are several here that just knocked my sox off but for different reasons.

Help me out here.

Do you have a fave?

Did I overlook something I shouldn't have?

Weigh in in the comments column and I'll come back later in the day to post the winner.








Friday, October 30, 2020

Flash Fiction Contest

The only improvement on the week before this one is that I wasn't laid low by some horrible cold weather malady.

Early voting has started and everyone I know is just around the bend.
Time for an infusion of flash fiction to get my mind off next Tuesday.

The usual rules apply:

1. Write a story using 100 words or fewer.
2. Use these words in the story:


(NO Steve Forti extra prompt word this week. I have retired from the field of battle. Forti Thwarts the Shark!)

3. You must use the whole word, but that whole word can be part of a larger word. The letters for the prompt must appear in consecutive order. They cannot be backwards.

4. Post the entry in the comment column of THIS blog post.

5. One entry per person. If you need a mulligan (a do-over) erase your entry and post again. It helps to work out your entry first, then post.

6. International entries are allowed, but prizes may vary for international addresses.

7. Titles count as part of the word count (you don't need a title)

8. Under no circumstances should you tweet anything about your particular entry to me. Example: "Hope you like my entry about Felix Buttonweezer!" This is grounds for disqualification.

9. There are no circumstances in which it is ok to ask for feedback from ME on your contest entry. NONE.

10. It's ok to tweet about the contest generally.

Example: "I just entered the flash fiction contest on Janet's blog and I didn't even get a lousy t-shirt"

11. Please do not post anything but contest entries. (Not for example "I love Felix Buttonweezer's entry!"). Save that for the contest results post.

12. You agree that your contest entry can remain posted on the blog for the life of the blog. In other words, you can't later ask me to delete the entry and any comments about the entry at a later date.

13. The stories must be self-contained. That is: do not include links or footnotes to explain any part of the story. Those extras will not be considered part of the story.

Contest opens: Saturday, October 31, 2020, at 7:41am
Contest closes: Sunday, November 1, 2020, at 9am

If you're wondering how what time it is in NYC right now, here's the clock

If you'd like to see the entries that have won previous contests, there's an .xls spread sheet here

(Thanks to Colin Smith for organizing and maintaining this!)

Questions? Tweet to me @Janet_Reid

Ready? SET?

Not yet! 


Sorry, contest is closed.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

citing science

October 10's blog post made me wonder: to what extent can you use and quote (scientific) information found in other books? 

I'm thinking about a situation where you use another book as a source of information for a different narrative and rephrase said information in your own style. That you properly attribute the other book as the source, goes beyond saying. 

The standard in science is to quote (not rephrase) and cite.

That is if you're using an explanation of a scientific concept, you quote the explanation and then cite the person who published it.

This falls under fair use for scholarly purposes.

But if you're discussing how gravity works, you don't have to quote and cite Isaac Newton.

Some things are in the general body knowledge: gravity, history dates, that the Sexiest Man Alive should be given in perpetuity to Idris Elba.


How do you know which is which? There's the fun part.

Have citations at the ready in case you're asked. Facts are not proprietary.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

oh right, I need a blog post today!

 I forgot to write a post for today.

so how about this instead:

Danuta Danielsson, Jewish woman whose mother survived Auschwitz, hitting a neo-Nazi with her handbag, Vaxjo, Sweden, 1985.

Statue designed by Susanna Arwin was never erected due to fears re promoting violence. Resulting protests saw handbags added to statues.



 Source: @WomensArt


Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Online portal format-bio

Query manager has become almost the norm for agents to use. I have my dislikes about it, but my biggest question that has been daunting on me is this: Query manager asks for your query letter and your bio in two different boxes. Should the bio be kept in the query and than expanded further in the bio box? Or should it be removed completely from the query?

If there's a separate box for your bio, put all your bio info there.

Don't duplicate information in your submission.

This goes for any other boxes too: comps, pub credits, etc. for example.

I have a feeling that agents do this (have boxes for bio etc) because a lot of query writers either forget or just leave them out. 

Any questions?

Monday, October 26, 2020

Get Back on Track Flash Fiction Contest results

We had a low turnout this week; Might it be exasperation about how slow I was on last week's result?

 What we lacked in quantity, we made up in quality.

This was a terrific bunch of entries.

Words I had to look up

acouchi-Steve Forti



chinoiserie-Mallory Love

 These look like good prompt words, no?


Herewith the entries that really caught my eye.

Steve Forti

    “Steve’s acting super weird since that acouchi bit him.”

    “You think it had rabies?”

    “No. I sense something’s wrong, though.”

    “Give him one of those tests. You know, repeating ‘person, woman, man, camera, tv.’”

    “That’s a dementia test. What if we give him some flash prompts?”

    “What, make him repeat “track, rant, couch, super, noise”? That seems like cheating.”

    “Granted, but he wouldn’t just repeat them.”

    “Why not? The thwarting’s over.”

    “Fair point. Hey, what’s all that racket?”

    “Huh? Oh, that’s just the boarding call for the next Carkoon flight.”

    “You got your ticket?”

    “Yeah, but I’m in ninth class.”

I'm laughing so hard as I read this!


    Silence shook her awake like an unheard earthquake of the mind; her frantic heartbeat the only noise in the dark. The couch soaked in sweat; her anticipation was nauseating. She had smiled when the super said they’d come. He’d have to let them in; otherwise it’d be his life on the line.

    How do they do it? How can they know her thoughts, her dreams, needs, and wishes? Why was it wrong for her to think, to feel the way she did? It didn’t matter; they were here. She just racked the slide and waited for a shadow to move.




Timothy Lowe

    Greedier stabbed the bank schematic with a sticky finger. “This is incomprehensible! Why did we put Messier on it?”

    “I warned you,” said Bossier.

    “And you! Get away from that drill!”

    “Oops,” said Clumsier.

    “Look sharp, people! Where the hell is Lazier, anyway?”

    “He’s home on the couch.”


    “Quit ranting. That’s Angrier’s job.”

    “We’re gonna get pinched,” said Gloomier.

    Jumpier spat. Racked his Glock.

    “Put that away! Hand me the stethoscope!”

    Slow breaths as tumblers clicked. Inside, a faint noise.

    “Got it!”

    Grunts. The safe squealed open to reveal nothing but a note.

    “Who the hell are The Superlatives?”

Who the hell are The Superlatives?

Well one of them is named Lowe.


Ash Complin

    "Hit next. This track sucks," Adam scoffed from the couch.

    "Vinyl doesn't work like that," Brian said.

    Adam listened anyway. "Your speaker's dying. Hear that super annoying hiss?"

    "That's warm noise... It's vinyl."

    Adam laughed. "Dude, just get a CD--"

    "I'm working on it," Brian interrupted, having heard this rant too many times. He put a finger on the record and guided it backwards.

    A demon appeared. "WHAT IS YOUR OFFERING?"

    Brian pointed at Adam, completing the deal.

    "DONE." The demon vanished as hellfire immolated Adam.

    Brian beamed at the new CD player that had finally taken the turntable's place.


It's worrisome how much this appeals to me.

C. Dan Castro

    "Napping on the couch...a noise. A rapping! Or...tapping?"

    Virginia pounds her ceiling, my flooring. "You okay?"

    "I'M WRITING!"


    Ignore her. "Stepped a stately...parrot? Yes, and Polly wants a cracker." I almost quit writing forever.

    Never to write again. Never---

    Virginia's rapping knocks my chamber door open. And knocks my brain off its tracks.

    "You're okay?"

    "Yes, super. It's just..." I could excoriate Virginia. It would crush her, but she'd cease interrupting my writing forevermore. Or...interrupt it--

    I gasp. Focus on her. Not the pallid skin--growing paler daily--but Virginia's hair.


    My magnum opus comes together.

Very poe-etic.


    Dear Couch,

    This year has been one for the books! We’ve spent more time together than I could’ve imagined and you’ve been as dependable as you are comfortable. You’ve been there for me and listened to the noise in my head like an album track on repeat. We laughed at political rants on Super Tuesday. We’ve watched old movie favorites and expanded our horizons with some new ones. So, it’s been real. It’s been fun, but when the vaccine is available…let’s break up.

The snot-green couch did NOT like this entry at all.


The snot-green couch

Mallory Love

    Bright orange chinoiserie wallpaper covers the wall behind the red-splattered leather couch. A guarantee nothing good happened here, including taste.

    I scour the scene for clues….marks, tracks, prints… and come up empty. Nothing but a stain and the stench of death. The clock in the hall chimes. Less than an hour before my boss arrives, along with trouble. Super.

    My head whips around at the sound of a crash. I turn in time to see the curtains move. I creep toward them.

    “Alright, you little stinkers, clean this mess up and take a bath before your mom get here.”

 A guarantee nothing good happened here, including taste.

is one of my favorite lines EVER.


Just Jan

    Where was the food?

    I’d been invited for supper, presumably to discuss the position. The offer was superior, I thought, lazily licking a paw. Room and board in a noise-free neighborhood, with a plethora of juicy benefits (if the holes behind the couch were any indication.) The only drawback was a vaguely unpleasant odor that spoke of errant spells or musty cauldrons. Or…wet dog?

    No backtracking now. My stomach rumbled uneasily.

    The moon rose, dispersing beams across the room. My employer uttered a cry and changed into something snarling and hairy.

    Too late, I understood what was on the menu.



Colin Smith

    Sunday afternoon.

    Comfy couch.

    Noise-cancelling earbuds.


    Breakfast in America.

    Track one.


    Pure music.

    No ranty neighbors

    With their politics and problems.

    No screaming teens

    With their juvenile shenanigans.

    No screeching cars

    With their drunken drivers.

    No roaring motorbikes

    With their leather-clad hooligans.

    Just me and Supertramp.

    And my shotgun.

    And my noise-cancelling earbuds.


    And the smell of gunpowder.

This is deeply disturbing from our friend Colin, given we know he has six lovely children!


Jennifer Rand

    2632 C.E.---

    Their love began with stolen glances under the watchful eyes of Supervisors. Forced to wait each morning on opposing couches in the transfer station, the two nurtured a quiet romance, unstoppable even by their imprisonment.

    Awaiting transport to work camps, they'd mouthed their devotion. A noiseless communication no one could track.

    But work assignments were changing. Their mornings together would end.

    He slipped into the seat behind her. "I can get us out," he whispered frantically. "Meet me in lavatory C." He squeezed her shoulder.

    She placed her hand upon his.

    If only he'd known she was deaf.

Nice twist there!!!


Fearless Reider

    It’s subtle at first, faint whiff of sulfur wafting from the couch. I air the cushions in the April breeze and reduce my cruciferous veggies.

    By July, infernal noises join the mephitic stink. “Fireworks again?” I rant and burrow beneath throw pillows. 

    By October, it’s bad enough to call the super.

    “There’s your problem.” He pulls goopy fistfuls of snot-green fluff from the cushions, shushing demonic howls.

    “The sofa’s possessed?”

    “Worse,” he grunts. “See?”

    There are words in the fluff. Revise WIP. Dust off NordicTrack. Master macarons. Kondo closet. Learn Italian.

    He shakes his head mournfully. “Upholstered with good intentions.”

The Snot Green Couch LOVES this one!

french sojourn

    Their prison was a bleak uncharted island. The only noises were the waves, the relentless waves, like some mind-numbing slow-motion Disco beat. Weathered pine trees fought to pierce the fogbank that blanketed the shore. At low tide, itinerant crabs skulked about the seaweed capped rocks.

    Their sanctuary, a dark dank cave, granted them little warmth. The crates and parachutes were fashioned into two uncomfortable couches for sleep.

    Luckily (?) a shipwrecked barge offered them tons of some canned meat substitute, marked “Soylent” in green cans, on rusted bent racks.

    “Steve, what’s up… er… still mad about that "respectable Yankees" quip?”





    She couched it in terms even a child could understand, her rejection.

    I'd always been her defender, her knight errant. Hadn't I? The one who protected, slayed monsters, kept her safe. Her superhero. 

    Now she's saying she doesn't want that. She wants the vibrant heat and light and noise of the real world. She wants the risk, the danger. The wild possibilities. 

    My eyes track her expressions, recognizing the confidence and intelligence and courage I'd always suspected were in her. My girl has grown into the person I feared she might become.

    There's no choice but to try again.

double yeesh!

Michael Seese


    "Ouch. Could you try to be a little more careful with those nails!"

    "Oh, all crucifixees complains about that," he said apologetically.

    "How about that rack over there?"

    "Actually, it's a Catherine Wheel."

    "Learn something new every day."

    "What do you think?"

    I never was good with snap decisions.

    "I don't know…"

    "They do comes with a 100% money back guarantee."

    "Super. I'll take them all.

    Granted, it might be overkill. But with the family coming over for Thanksgiving, and the "rigged election" all they'll want to talk about, these little beauties should help keep the noise down.


Turkey Day at the Seese residence promises to be quite the day!


 This was a VERY hard choice but I don't want to put it off till later today, or you'll all be forgiven for gathering with hot tar and a bag full of feathers.


After reading these over several times, I had to go with KDJames. 

KD, drop me a line with what you like to read these days and I'll get your prize in the mail.

Thanks to all of you who took the time to write and post entries.

Reading them was the hightlight of my Sunday!




Sunday, October 25, 2020

Results from No One Moves to NY for the Weather flash fiction contest.

Results for No One Moves to NY for the weather contest.

You'll be forgiven for thinking I'd been kidnapped by aliens this past week.

I wasn't feeling 100%, one of those weird things where you're suddenly exhausted and have to go back to bed for 10 hours. I've had this before, I have no idea what it is, and it's a real pain in the planner.


Here are the notables again to refresh your memory.

Steve Forti

“Don’t be so xenophobic. Turn off Fox. Not everyone has to be like you.” 
“I get that, but there are some things you just cannot accept. Things that are morally wrong. We need a good cultural abluent to cleanse these people from our country.”

“Calm down, Earl. They’re not committing some official protocol deviation.”

“They are! And they’re spreading, like some mindless hive response. It’s sickening. This isn’t the toilet paper direction debate, or pronouncing bah-gle, or leaving one second on the microwave. No, I will not accept it. This goes too far. Nobody should bite string cheese like that!”

 We just don't use the word abluent often enough!

french sojourn

A cold wind blew through the galley as Jake closed the roof hatch. He shivered and checked the weather radar again, “Goodbye blue skies.”

Pounding on the bulkhead, he yelled, “Sammy, I’m gonna need help reefin’ the main.” He heard movement below and drew a filleting knife from a drawer.

The Pacific crossing had taken its toll aboard the Carbon Foxhole, tempers flared daily.

Sammy appeared, wearing his blue Yankee’s hat, and said, “C'mon Masshole!” as he headed out to the cockpit.

Jake followed and drew up behind him, sliced his throat, then pushed him overboard. “Now…How bout’ them Sox?”

Why a respectable Yankees fan would get on a boat with a Sox fan is of course asking me to suspend too much disbelief.

Timothy Lowe
So much depends upon the
Shivering shadows

So much depends upon
Oxazepam in the morning
Clozapine at night
Beds unmade
In the evening shade
My mother’s
Shivering smile

So much depends upon
That fucking word
The not-heard
Memory lost,
Years spent
By gutless words

(You never heard) like


So much depends upon
My father
His oxygen taken
Stolen like breath
From a


This is extraordianary, and all the more so for evoking William Carlos Williams.

Ash Complin
She entered the party, and the room went dysoxic. Her cold, somber expression froze each guest as she stalked past them like a fox pursuing a hen.

The victim stood wordlessly in the back of the hall, watching her approach. The once-blaring televisions on the wall seemed to quiet.

When she reached him, he felt a shiver go down his spine, and his blue tie seemed to tighten itself. At that moment, he would rather have stared Death in the face. Death's words would have been more pleasant.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Biden," she lamented. "We've lost."

Well, this is just plain old horror.
But that phrase "his blue tie seemed to tighten itself" is masterful.

Brent Salish

Another jolt to Alison’s hypothalamus. Muscles contracted. Tendons twitched.

And again, her head clamped, eyes fixed on the fox.

Sweet, loving silver fox. Luxuriant fur, two white paws.

Alison shouted, screamed blue murder, cried, peed.

The hard-eyed man set the animal in a carrier, fingered a switch.

Alison braced, but the apparatus released. She turned, vomited.

Her mind reached for dear Sox, her gold-eyed familiar - and she doubled over, retched, drooled bile onto the kitchen floor.

"Shiversion therapy." Stepdaddy as scold, his demonic voice and Jameson breath in Alison's ear. "Ain't gonna be no witchin' in my house."

I have a feeling this is really good, but I don't quite get it.

Madeline Mora-Summonte
She is his oxygen. His passion. His obsession. She just doesn't know it. Yet.

He is the shiver down her spine. The shadow sliding behind her on the sidewalk. The sly fox slinking in the woods near her house. The presence she senses but does not see.

He daydreams. His knife traces the cold blue roadmap of her veins. He licks the hot red river it leaves behind.

She pays attention now. Looks over her shoulder. Watches out her window.

He has gotten sloppy. She has gotten ready.

He just doesn't know it. Yet.

Utterly brilliant.

It's not quite a story, but this is stunning writing.

The car roared as it sped off. It had a foxy sound, she had to give him that, deep enough to give her shivers unrelated to the cold. And that turn radius was so...xyresic. Still, the neon blue muscle car made him look like he was compensating for something. He probably wasn't taking her rejection well. If he could just trust her, he'd see they'd all be happier this way.

Sighing, she shifted into the highest gear.

This is a very clever twist!

Tess Rook
Returning is easy, the blood-scent of the copper plated doorknob pulling me back to the cold chasm. Out of the blue-fir copse.

At the crest of the hill I stop. There is a light in the house. I didn’t leave one on when I left. The shadow of a fox skirts around me. A wide berth given.

Halloween adrenaline junkies inside, probably. Shivering teenagers, pushed to bravery by dares and desoxy chemical courage. But it’s a fool’s errand. I have never seen a ghost in the house, and I have lived there for over 300 years.
I love this!
What a great ending line!

Marie McKay
I've to feed the fish. Twice a day as instructed- the instructions are specific and numerous. I head next door, shivering, nauseous, oxygen overload, overbreathing. I should never have agreed to this. The fish needs a certain light, certain temperature, certain .... I open the bag.Throw the fox in the tank. The blue, cold water blushes with frenzy. But it's the speed that's unnerving. I stand back. Wait.

The fish nods. I've done well this time. But his planet-sized eyes say more. More.

This line is perfect: The blue, cold water blushes with frenzy. 


Faux fur sox and fox fur stoles held October chills at bay. Oh, not outside under skies blued with unshed sleet, but in Gabrielle’s beloved rent-controlled studio. But barely. Her nose never got warm until the heat came on mid-November.

Shivering substituted for gym workouts, fasciculating muscles generating a slight thermal bump, from freezing to merely cold.

But 2020, an anomaly, pushed Gabrielle to act. No more. You hear that everyone? No more.

Home, working furiously. Fueled by an inner kerosene lantern. Fingers flashing, fashioning.

Flannel, fleece, folded three-ply, bilateral ear straps.

Not Covid mask. Nose mask.

Not rebellion.


this is brilliant: Faux fur sox and fox fur stoles
So is this: under skies blued with unshed sleet

I don't quite the get the story though...



And RosannaM's appears to concern creating a solution to a cold nose (a nose mask! LIKE!) But I may be incorrect.



NLiu was right about my character's cold nose. Also wanted to convey that the no heat apartment was about the last straw for 2020 and she was taking back control. Wrote it in a hotel room in between kisses and hugs. (G-rated version!)

Colin Smith

I thought Bob was the perfect guest to take to the party. Smart, funny, friendly—never cruel or harsh. I’ve reconsidered my opinion. He was so xenophobic. Cold to everyone. Just sat in the corner, Bluetooth earphones in, staring shell-shocked like a cornered fox.

“Bob?” I said, when I finally got his attention.

“SHSHHSH!” he said. “Don’t let them see me!”

I started to object, but he glared at me.

His plan seemed to work. All night I tried to introduce people to him. They would look at Bob, look at me, and smile. As if there was nothing there.

ohhh, this is brilliant.
Love love love that twist.


-It is cold for octobre, he says.

-Yeah, I say, tugging my ice-blue scarf tighter. Perfect for pie-baking.

-Pas pour moi, he says. Without my gym, I must avoid the carbs.

-Sorry, I say, checking my ID for the hundredth time and scooting forward.

-I still walk, he says. The mask cannot stop me.

-Stops me sometimes, I say.

-Not today, he says.

-Not today, I agree.

Time passes comfortably, despite the toes numbing in my fuzzy orange fox sox.

-It is cold, he says, shivering.

Ahead the doorway yawns; something sparks.

-Only outside, I say, and we step in.

Given who wrote this, I'm sure it's brilliant but I don't quite get it.
I thought maybe they were going to vote, but the French threw me off.

Jennifer Rand

She shivers, not from the cold, but from the life-affirming moment. Everest's icy blue summit. She takes a cheeky thumbs-up photo and dances a jig.

Upon her descent she stops short. The queue down is a hundred climbers deep. Her guide's panicked words sink in. He'd turned back 800 feet before the top. "We can't continue-the wait's too long!"

She'd refused to turn back. Now she's trapped in the death zone running out of oxygen. SHIT!

She pens a note:

...forgive me, my darlings. OXOX

While she's wedged in line, her life and note drift away unnoticed.



"Cold blue shiver, please."

The barman raised an eyebrow. "Okay."
She watched him pour blue curacao and… mint syrup?? into a pint glass.
She sighed.
So, this was Oxford.
She liked the lectures but the rest? Disappointing. She'd been here seven months and not discovered one magic portal.
No wonder everyone drank.
The cocktail arrived: looked exciting. Tasted of fox piss.
But when the barman turned aside, she saw it, behind him: the door.
Ancient wood, rimed with ice. Carved with mysterious figures.
She leapt the bar, brimming with electric certainty--
It was a freezer.

brilliant line: brimming with electric certainty-- 




I re-read this again, a week later, and last week's choice still stands.

A lot of you thought so too: Timothy Lowe.

 Absolutely stunning entry.

Thanks to all of you who took the time to write and post entries.

I really love seeing your work.

 Tim, drop me a line and tell me what your reading inclinations are these days, and I'll get your prize in the mail.