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Free Fiction Monday: The Whispering Tree

Strong language and adult situations, for those of you who find such thing appealing.  I was thinking…I particularly like those stylized black and white covers.  Here’s a version that fits my short story template.

A writer torn between two genres, two worlds…and Horror always cheats.

If only the best writer of his generation, Richard O’Shea, had come down clearly on one side or the other between the horror and fantasy genres, none of this would have happened. But he didn’t, and now both worlds play dirty to get his soul.  The fairy lands send their queen:  a lusty, foul-mouthed punk with glitter and sex in her eyes.  Hell sends something darker.

The two worlds won’t share him.  They’re getting old, and need fresh meat, as it were, to revitalize their realms.  Richard wants to believe that the punk charms of Fairy have won him over…but Hell doesn’t need Richard to like it in order to win.

Now the only thing between Richard and Hell’s dark charms is Victoria, his editor.  An editor who carries both pens and swords…and has very sharp teeth…

“The Whispering Tree” will be free here for one week only, but you can also buy a copy at B&N, AmazonSmashwords, Apple, Kobo, Powell’s and more.

The Whispering Tree

The love of my life had just told me that the reason she’d been holding herself back was that she wasn’t human, but a Fairy. A real one. And that, if I had went to Fairy with her, according to the rules of fantasy, we would be setting inevitable machines of tragedy in motion that would work to keep us apart forever after.

I’d just told her that I intended to find a way around the rules. It was what I did, after all. Not break rules so much as just…weasel around them.

“But the rules—”

“When you have the rules figured out, it’s time to change the rules,” I said, more bravely than I felt.

She put her hands on the small, round table…and headbutted me. Oh, I don’t think it was intentional; in her next movement, she grabbed both sides of my head and kissed me. “Then run away with me,” she said. “To Fairy. And we will change everything.”

I saw stars and the inside of my skull felt as though it had a nosebleed. “Didn’t you just tell me that if I loved you we’d have to live here forever—”

This story is no longer available for free.  Please see the links above or your favorite ebook seller to purchase a copy.


The Garlic Ice Cream Incident

Last weekend was the Pikes Peak Urban Gardens’ garlic festival.  It wasn’t big, and there wasn’t as much garlic as you might have expected.  I mean, a garlic festival, you expect things to reek of garlic.  You expect a six-foot dancing garlic bulb and a raw garlic eating contest.  Roast meat slathered in garlic–perhaps even on a spit.

Maybe someday.  Now it’s small enough to fit in a garden center that doesn’t take up even a small block.

There was a guy playing guitar.  A guitar-shaped guitar without a lei of garlic around its neck.   He played non-garlicky songs.   There were food trucks outside the festival.  We got an iced coffee–one of the trucks was run by a guy that does food stuff up by where my husband works.   We passed by someone selling juice out of the back of a smart car.  There was supposed to be garlic popcorn, but it hadn’t got running yet.  There was a video of how to grow garlic:  it ran for ten minutes and started on the half hour.  It was like one of those movies that you see in an art museum, on a loop.  It’s not something you couldn’t find elsewhere; it’s just there to give context.

We stopped by all the tables.  I ate a salad from Seeds Community Cafe, which was a good thing.  I’d heard of them but hadn’t bothered to go because I thought they were a bunch of do-gooders with more ideals than sense, and who couldn’t cook.   But the salad was good, and now I think I’ll go check them out sometime soon.  I ate all of the salsas from the salsa contest; there was a Japanese salsa (which turned out to be a green salsa with tamari sauce) and a beet-garlic salsa (which sadly tasted nothing of garlic).  I had a veggie taco that was mostly potatoes.  Good, but it reminded me of why being a vegetarian is hard:  all that freaking starch.

It was a small festival, okay?  We didn’t say for the cookoff or whatever else there was.  We stayed for maybe an hour.  It was good, a good place to be.

But what I really want to tell you about was the garlic ice cream.

What did you think of, when you first read that phrase?  Garlic ice cream.

I think it’s important.

Did you decide it was going to be disgusting?  Did you decide that it was interesting, and you’d have to try it?  Would it help if I told you that it was made by the cooks over at Blue Star?

We tried it.  We stood in line and got a two-ounce cup of it with a little spoon.  Lee took a bite first and decided it was godawful.

I took a bite.  At first, it was awful.  But I’ve tasted weird food before, and I love finding out how the mind works.  I know this stuff is made by people who would otherwise only make delicious things.  This horrific flavor sensation, of vanilla ice cream with raw garlic mixed in, isn’t all there is.

Then I think, “cold garlic cheese spread.”

There’s a snap in my mouth, and the ice cream tastes different.  Now it’s not vanilla ice cream with garlic on top.  Now it’s chilled garlic cheese spread, thinned out with milk and cream, and the garlic’s not raw, it’s roasted.

Two completely different flavors; each of them was more or less all in my mind.  An optical illusion of the taste buds.

It wasn’t just me, either.  I told Lee, and the same thing happened to him.

We both finished the entire thing, sitting at a table under an awning, listening to Mr. Guitar Player pick along.  Soon after that, we left and went over to Ivywild.  They gave us beer coupons at the garlic festival, so we went over there, got a sausage plate, and drank our beers.  The sausage plate, by the way, had sweet pickles on it, which were apparently good if you like that kind of thing, which I don’t.  Guh.  I tried one, but no–there was no snapping into place of the flavors, no sudden reinterpretation.

I’ve been thinking about this for days.

About how our minds affect our taste buds.  About how our opinions affect our perceptions.   About how optimist, pessimist, and realist don’t really cover this.  (The pessimist is guaranteed to hate garlic ice cream; the optimist is guaranteed to at least try the garlic ice cream but will probably taste the same thing the pessimist does; the realist is guaranteed to eat garlic ice cream.  What is it, what outlook on life is it, that can go, “this isn’t garlic ice cream–this is cold garlic cheese spread”?  A sales mentality?)

I keep running into things that make me go, “You’re not seeing what’s in front of you.   You’re seeing garlic ice cream, not cold garlic cheese spread.”

Because I’m a writer, I think about how this affects my books.  Is a book better because people say it is?  Once Twilight became Twilight, was it all but impossible for some people to like it?

I’m still pondering.  How much of what I see is completely warped by my opinion?  Not just a little better or a little worse than I would otherwise think it?  But completely different? How much of what I wrote above is even true?

I don’t know.  But I do know that I have Exo protein bars (made with cricket flour) coming to the house.  I hope they get here soon.


Free Fiction M–WEDNESDAY: The Society of Secret Cats

This one is late this week because…erm…I found more typos than I could live with.  So–this will be up until next Wednesday, if you please.

Also!  A preview of the forthcoming “King of Cats” follows the story.  Sooo happy with that one.

What if cats were really there to guard your dreams?

Lost in the Forest of Dreams, the dashing, handsome cat Ferntail must rescue his human girl from her horrible nightmares, nightmares that come from outside her mind. Will a mysterious and beautiful cat from The Society of Secret Cats help lead them out of the forest…or further astray?  Now (or soon) available at AmazonB&NSmashwords, Apple, Kobo, Powell’s, and more.

The Society of Secret Cats


Mice are delicious.  But even more delicious are monsters, ghosts, and things that go bump in the night.  Your mother or father might tell you that they are all in your head and that you’re just imagining things.  In a way, they’re right. Monsters are all in your head.

But you’re not just imagining things.

This story is no longer available for free.  Please see the links above or your favorite ebook seller to purchase a copy.


What comes before story?

When you are reading or writing a story, what comes before the story?

Well, if you’re a plotter, you might answer “an outline,” which is a rather literal interpretation of that question.  Or “character development” or “theme” or what have you.  But no, that’s not where I’m headed.

When you are reading or writing a story, what should take precedence before the story?

What, when you are reading or writing a story, is more important than the story?

  • Appropriateness of plot.
  • Appropriateness of language.
  • Appropriateness of characters.
  • Appropriateness of morals.
  • Appropriateness of choices of the characters.
  • Appropriateness of tone.
  • Appropriateness of ending.

Are any of these things actually more important than the story?  They should be in service to the story, yes, but are they more important than the story?

No.  If you find that a story calls for a certain type of plot, language, character, morality, character choices, tone, or ending, and you don’t provide exactly that, then you’ve made the story lose integrity.

Should Harry Potter have used magic?

Some people don’t think so.

Should A Clockwork Orange have used the language, characters, or character choices (i.e., extremely violent ones)?

Some people don’t think so, either.  But A Clockwork Orange, whether you like it or not, has integrity.

Should people be forced to write about things they don’t want to write about?

No…but neither should they be standing up and saying that nobody else should, either.

Don’t betray your stories…but don’t ask other authors to betray theirs, either.

Write your own stuff and stop editing other people’s (unless you’re an editor, obviously).

More than likely, if it’s good, it sells (either traditionally or indie).  And if it doesn’t, then perhaps it’s not because someone is oppressing you.  There’s a touchpoint that I use to determine whether someone’s being an ass:  If they end with “and therefore, our main concern should be making sure that everyone is treated fairly,” then their hearts are in the right place.  But if they end with “and therefore, we’ll do whatever it takes to get what we deserve,” then I know that the preceding opinions are just a bunch of hooey.  When people talk about shutting down other people’s opinions (rather than just disagreeing with them), then I know they’ve lost their ability to empathize with real people and are just writing cardboard cutouts in a cardboard cutout story–no matter where they are, politically or spiritually.

Their stuff isn’t worth reading.

If you can’t be bothered to write someone who is fundamentally different than you are with empathy–then go home, because you’re not a writer.  You’re Darth Helmet playing with his little figurines.




What’s happening to the reader now? How about now?

I’ve been studying books this summer.  Books, short stories, even movies.  Let me tell you, the more I work on this the more I think that it’s the way to go.   So stop reading this stupid blog and go study a book!

How should I study it, you ask, because you’re smart and you ask the questions that I want you to ask.  (Every writer wants that audience.)

You know, I can tell you how I started, but really, it’s a bootstrappy, state-dependent kind of process, so it’s going to be different for you.  You can start where I started, although I can assure you that you’ll head elsewhere soon after.

What you do is read books.  Doesn’t matter what kind of books.  Just keep reading until you hit one where you’re like DAMN I AM SO JEALOUS.  Not one that you like, but one that makes you irrational.  One that you recommend to other people, one that makes you despair of ever being A Real Writer.  Or, scratch that, you could start with any book.  You could start with a horrible book.  It doesn’t actually matter; personally, I find it more enjoyable to work on books turn me green, because as I work, I slowly find out how to do it.  Ah, the power.

What you do is you go back to the beginning and start typing parts of the book in, OR outlining.  Or both.  Or some other technique that you’ve made up that makes you slow down and pay more attention to the book, to analyze it (and to absorb it on a less critical level while your brain is distracted by Shiny New Ideas).  Right now I’m outlining, except when I hit something that makes me go hm…, and then I type.  Sometimes I just type for the hell of it.  “Ah, I already know what’s going on in this scene, but I don’t feel like being too terribly analytical today, so I’ll just type.”  It doesn’t matter.  Just throw yourself in.  You’ll know you’re headed in the right direction if a) your brain hurts, or b) you’re bouncing on your seat going “LOOKITLOOKIT.”

I’m working on The Lies of Locke Lamora, by Scott Lynch.  I have worked on many, many stories this summer.  I studied romances, I studied crime capers, I studied a James Patterson thriller.  I studied a buttload of short stories across genres.  There wasn’t a single story that was a waste of my time, even when I found out things like “this author is really weak at plotting” or “you can write a short story with only two real characters in it, and nobody will know the difference if you populate the character’s thoughts and dialogue with references to other people.”  I learned to see things the authors didn’t want me to see.

By the time  I got to Locke, I could handle typing things in without my brain hurting, and I could outline without breaking a sweat.  I worked on him for a while, found out some cool structure stuff (like how to write more than one time stream per chapter, and maybe how and when to write omniscient)…and then started seeing something different.

Scott Lynch dicks with the reader.


I’ll give you an example.

In short, the book’s about a con artist, Locke Lamora, in a fantasy world.  The city he lives is run by two groups, the official government (the Duke), and the unofficial criminal government (the Capa).  Someone’s been murdering the Capa’s men in particularly brutal ways; Locke goes to the Capa to pay him the weekly cut of his little gang’s takings, and sees the Capa torturing some of his other men, who should have been able to stop the latest killing but are claiming they have no memory of it.

This is a brutal torture scene.  Broken glass and a heavy canvas sack are involved.  There are two guys out of eight left.  The floor’s splattered with blood and everything reeks.  The Capa has the torterer work on the next-to-last guy while he questions the last guy.  The last guy doesn’t change his story:  none of them remember what happened that night.

The Capa goes down a list of things that might have caused them all to forget:  drinking, drugs both natural and magical, sorcery, and divine intervention.  The victim denies drinking or drugs, and the Capa says, “Oh, forgive me.  You weren’t enchanted by the gods themselves, were you?  They’re hard to miss.”

And then they move on, and the last guy gets thrown to something nasty under the boat where they are, and the rest of the scene is underscored by the thumps and scrapes against the wood.

See what I mean?  Dicking with the reader.  This happens in almost every chapter, if not every other scene.  Lynch tells you a) how things are going to fall out, b) why, and c) with what method.  He hasn’t, as far as I can tell, yet told us who was going to do it, although I can see the necessary pieces and parts laid down.  Of course everything must fall out the way it does, because of the groundwork that has been laid.

So I’ve begun reading to determine what’s happening to the reader at any given point.  Here the reader is being encouraged to ask certain questions–then having the questions answered misleadinginly.  Here the reader is being distracted by a torture scene in which Locke is worried that he’s next (because of course he’s been lying to the Capa about the take), and can’t see when the author throws in the method that the bad guy is using to get to his victims.  Here the author is letting the reader see that nothing has changed about Locke since the last time he had a major screwup.  Here everything goes smoothly for the character…all too smoothly, until there’s a gratuitous fight scene to distract the reader from the fact that it’s all too easy.  Here Locke patiently explains how he’s deceiving his victims…while behind the shadows, someone else is doing the same thing to him.

When I first read the book, I had no idea how it would come out–I just felt like the ending was surprising and inevitable, which is the way you want a book to come out.  Now that I’m studying the book, I can see that there was nothing really surprising about it–it was just that my main focus wasn’t on the details that would have told me how the book ended.  The details were there for my subconscious to absorb–but my consciousness was always distracted from those details, time after time, so that I wouldn’t give the ending away to myself too soon.

I don’t know that I’ve mastered the idea yet.  I’ll tell you when my brain stops hurting.  But something I do know is that you’ll never pick up on this kind of thing on a good writer unless you do something that breaks the spell of being purely a reader.  People say that if you want to be a writer, you have to read a lot of books.  Well, you can read as many books as you want, but you’ll never see this stuff on your own–because the writer is deliberately distracting you from it.

Pretty cool, eh?

New Kids’ Fiction: Exotics #3: The Subterranean Sanctuary

Mr. Hightower snorted.  “At any rate, it’s only you, dear Rachael, that we need, not these others. They can go.”

Returning home again after the terrible events at Xanadu House, Rachael Baptiste has learned not to trust humans…because they might be part of the Lighthouse Parents, a hostile group out to arrest and destroy the Exotics.

Her parents do nothing about argue.  Her Exotic friends pretend to be normal.  Her human friends hint that it might be better if the Exotics just disappeared.  And now the horrible Mr. Hightower wants her to spy for him…on her mom.

Rachael doesn’t know what she should do…but she knows that if she doesn’t keep an eye on Mr. Hightower and his group of Exotics, she won’t be able to stop them…

The third ebook in the Exotics series is available at Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, Kobo, Apple, Powell’s, and more.  The POD will follow shortly.  You can read free chapters here.


How Dark Is Too Dark? A Personal Observation

I am so running behind this week, so I’m ripping off my newsletter article for my own blog.  I have copyright.  Stop looking at me…if you’d sign up for the newsletter, I’d feel so embarrassed about putting the same stuff in two different places that I’d never do it again.  Really.

Okay, not really.

So my husband Lee made me watch a couple of above-average movies over the last couple of weeks:  “The Great Magician” (2011), a Chinese movie about a very cool magician.  This is a great, boyish movie:  you can just see two little kids coming up with this movie as they play pretend together.  A delightful movie set in 1920s China.  The other one was “Cockneys vs. Zombies” (2012)  This is a movie filled with Very Strong Language and Gore (and accents), for those of you who care about such things, and is best summed by by the phrase “hijinks ensue.”  This wasn’t so much a horror movie as it was a nutty-yet-gory lowbrow movie featuring vivid characters in the vein of “Attack the Block,” “Shaun of the Dead,” or the TV series “Misfits.”

In book news, I recommend The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentlemen Bastards #1) by Scott Lynch and the Emperor of Thorns by Mark Lawrence (this is the third and final of The Broken Empire series), but only if you a) enjoy high fantasy and b) are not easily shocked, dismayed, or appalled.  I’m not sure appalled is the word I want but it’s close.  A writer friend of mine ditched Locke Lamora 500 pages into the 700-page book, because she was appalled.  Fair enough.  Mark Lawrence’s book started out by putting Alex from A Clockwork Orange into a fantasy land and devolves from there.  I liked them both well enough to study them from a writer’s perspective, at any rate–not too dark for me.

On the other hand, I had to ditch a couple of books lately, Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and Jerome Charyn’s The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson. I’m not telling you about these books to warn you off.  Quite the contrary.  They’re both fabulously written, amazing books.  However, they put me in a bad mood whenever I read them, so I decided to stop.  The more I think about books, the more I realize that how you feel as a reader when you read the book is the important thing.  If you want to slog through something because you’re the noble type who finishes everything you start, good for you, but I’ve decided to stop doing it.  Gone Girl made me hate everyone around me and question everyone’s motives, which got annoying very quickly, and The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson made me want to go rescue poor teenaged Emily Dickinson and tell her that her father was a manipulative bully and she ought to run away from home instead of justifying her horrible life by saying that her poetry was enough.  I like poetry well enough but no, actually, it isn’t.

Which raises the question:  Why did I enjoy the first two books and not the second two?  What, pray tell, is too dark?

Good question.  Off the cuff I’d say it must have something to do with finding a core of decency, kindness, and fellowship inside an awful world–as in, the first two books found it, and the second two didn’t.  Gone Girl seemed to be urgently telling me that people are horrible.  All of them.  Everywhere.  Emily wanted me to know that gosh darn it, Miss Dickinson had it hard, and made beautiful poetry while justifying pretty much all the abuse, manipulation, and injustice around her, even as she tried to (pointlessly) rebel against it.  Even though her life was lame, her poetry lives on, hurrah!

I wouldn’t call myself an optimist, but if your message is just “life sucks and then you die (or worse, keep living),” then I’m out.  I don’t need shiny happy bunnies hopping in endless fields to amuse me–but I do need something richer than a steady, bleak despair as a daily reading diet.

But.  All four books were so well-written that I encourage your to form your own opinion and tell me how crackpot mine is, at length.


Free Fiction Monday: Blind Spot

When everyone else looks at “The Mirror of the World Without You,” they see art–art that removes them from reality.  When Thomas looks at it, he sees technology…and danger to the artist behind it.  He offers Maxine a sweet deal to come and work for his VR company, but she refuses–she’d been used before.  But without his protection, who else will try to take possession of her?

“Oracle of Strangers” will be free here for one week only, but you can also buy a copy at B&NAmazonSmashwords, Apple, Kobo, Powell’s and more.

Blind Spot

“I can’t see myself,” Thomas said, raising his hand to touch the Mirror. The reflected room behind him was pale gray and filled with a line of guests, each craning their necks to see around him. It was a terrible sight, and he smiled in delight even as his eyes filled with tears. His body grieved for the lack of himself, the knowledge of how little he mattered, even as he felt like crowing with joy.

“Sir.” The guard shook his head. “Don’t touch.” He’d been saying it through the whole opening, no doubt, to incredulous guests trying to touch the work of art or science or whatever it was. Keeping people far back enough from the frame so they didn’t spill wine on it when it clicked.

“How?” Thomas asked, knowing that the guard couldn’t answer the question, but unable to stop himself.

“Read the sign, sir,” the guard said.

Thomas laughed under his breath. It wasn’t what he’d wanted to know, but he bent toward the sign anyway; he would have seemed out of place otherwise.

Why can’t you see yourself in “The Mirror of the World without You”?

Why We Quote Movies (maybe)

…or why we quote anything, really.

Dave Hill has this site, Wish I’d Said That (WIST), in which he collects quotes, so I should be really consulting him on this.  Dave, why do you quote things?  How do you choose the things you quote? But I have this feeling that he’d say something direct and logical, which is fine, but I want to say something indirect and illogical.

Obviously, we quote things that are quotable.  Either they’re short and quippy or they’re long but otherwise memorable.  We quote things because we want to quote them.  We quote them because we really hope that someone will get the reference.  An old friend of mine, Peter Smith, quoted on his Facebook page:

Let marrow, bone, and cleaver choose…

To which I responded correctly with:

While making feet for children’s shoes.

So now I have the song in my head, and memories of Peter in my head.  Good times.

But is that the fundamental reason why we quote things?  To remember them, to call up associations?

I want to be able to give a clear answer here, but I don’t know if there is one.  But follow me for a moment, and see if you don’t agree with this other idea I’ve had spinning around in my head, because since I’ve pulled it together it keeps cropping up.

1.  Many, if not most, words are ultimately based on a metaphor.

many (adj.)Look up many at
Old English monig, manig “many, many a, much,” from Proto-Germanic *managaz (cf. Old Saxon manag, Swedish mången, Old Frisian manich, Dutch menig, Old High German manag, German manch, Gothic manags), from PIE *menegh- “copious” (cf. Old Church Slavonic munogu “much, many,” Old Irish menicc, Welsh mynych “frequent,” Old Irish magham “gift“). Pronunciation altered by influence of any (see manifold).
metaphor (n.)Look up metaphor at
late 15c., from Middle French metaphore (Old French metafore, 13c.), and directly from Latin metaphora, from Greek metaphora “a transfer,” especially of the sense of one word to a different word, literally “a carrying over,” from metapherein “transfer, carry over; change, alter; to use a word in a strange sense,” from meta- “over, across” (see meta-) + pherein “to carry, bear” (see infer) (Online Etymology Dictionary).

2.  What we do, when we don’t have a word for something, is make a new word, based on a metaphor.

Some of the 2012 additions to Merriam Webster:

  1. aha moment
  2. bucket list
  3. cloud computing
  4. copernicium
  5. earworm
  6. energy drink
  7. f-bomb
  8. game changer
  9. gassed
  10. gastropub
  11. man cave
  12. mash-up
  13. sexting
  14. systemic risk
  15. underwater

3.  Sometimes the ideas we want to communicate are too big for a single metaphor, either because they’re just too big, or because they’re conflicted, or meaningless without context (well, most metaphors are meaningless without context–could you really understand a mashup if you’ve never heard one?).

If you go here you’ll find a list of the top 100 movies on IMDB.  In case you’re rolling your eyes at this point, let me list some:

  • The Godfather
  • Schindler’s List
  • Raging Bull
  • The Shawshank Redepmption
  • Casablanca
  • One Flew Over the Cukoo’s Nest
  • Citizen Kane
  • Vertigo
  • The Wizard of Oz
  • Titanic
  • Lawrence of Arabia
  • Gone with the Wind
  • Sunset Blvd.
  • Godfather Part II
  • Psycho
  • On the Waterfront
  • Forrest Gump
  • The Sound of Music
  • West Side Story
  • Star Wars
  • E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
  • 2001:  A Space Odyssey
  • The Silence of the Lambs
  • Chinatown
  • The Bridge on the River Kwai

I typed that list out by hand, and it was tougher than it looked.  The movies I’d seen on this list (most of them) kept trying to overtake me as I was typing.  I still have “the heeeeeels are aliiiiiiiive” in my head, but I’m especially vulnerable to musicals.

If you can sum up any one of these movies as a single metaphor, you’re probably doing it wrong.

and so…

4.  When you quote a movie (or anything else), what you’re invoking isn’t that single line.

As you wish. (The Princess Bride)

I swear by my pretty floral bonnet, I will end you. (Firefly)


Off with their heads! (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland)


You’re invoking the entire work–the movie, book, or whatever.  You are taking something that can’t be said any shorter than the work itself, and calling up the entire work, and the implications of that work, by just bringing up one small part of it; the quote is a fractal part of the work, and can be used to recreate the work as a whole.

And more than that.

5.  For me, the easiest way to think about this is through poetry.

Poetry is bigger than metaphor–it contains multiple metaphors–and it has heightened, very patterned language.  The creation of patterns in poetry is deliberate–not necessarily formal, but deliberate.  Poetry starts with things we know how to talk about, like Wild Bill and roses and rolled-up trousers and red wheelbarrows in the rain.  Then it moves into things that we don’t know how to talk about, like death, love, despair, and how the brain works.  Often the poet won’t even bother to talk about the real “point” of the poem:  it’s created through patterns, and breaking of patterns, more than it is strictly through metaphors.  You can write poetry without metaphor, although poetry will tend to produce (excrete?) metaphor more often than not.  Human brains are such that they will find meaning in patterns, no matter what the pattern is, and poetry tends to be complex enough that multiple patterns can be found in them, intended or no.

This is why it’s so hard to sum up complex works.  It’s hard to find the one clear, compelling pattern in a work that someone new would enjoy.  It requires a different talent than just figuring out a working pattern in the first place, because new, unintended patterns emerge as you create the work.

6.  So in the end, we quote movies because we need to say something bigger than what we can otherwise invoke…and quoting the movie is the easiest way to do it.  When we say, “two by two, hands of blue,” we really are speaking poetry.



Free Fiction Monday: Oracle of Strangers

Didi can find anything she wants…except friendship.  Wherever she goes, strangers tell her how to locate anything, from the perfect pair of jeans to carrying out the perfect crime.  But love?  Friendship?  Her power can’t seem to handle things that most people find easy.

When her ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend figures out Didi’s power, Didi gets ready to get used, because that’s what people do.  But it turns out there might be more to Jo than meets the eye…

“Oracle of Strangers” will be free here for one week only, but you can also buy a copy at B&NAmazonSmashwords, Apple, Kobo, Powell’s and more.

The Oracle of Strangers


Jo brought the letter, holding it at arm’s length and tilting it from side to side, letting the gold leaf catch the fluorescent lights in the hallway. “Take a look at this, Didi.”

I jerked it out of her hand, hoping that she hadn’t held it for too long. I didn’t want her wrapped up in this. “Jo. I told you not to touch my mail.” I tried to shut my bedroom door, but she pushed her way in. She had no way of knowing I had fifty thousand dollars’ worth of signed first editions on my small pressboard bookshelf, or that I found all the wall art at thrift stores for a buck-fifty a pop. But it still creeped me out having her in here.

She snorted. “Didi, you’re crazy, you know that.”

I nodded and stared at the letter. It was addressed to me, all right. Heavy linen envelope. Bright gold on the address. The return address was on the back: Mail Recovery Center, 443 Fillmore Ave E, St Paul MN 55107-9607.

“I ain’t doing it,” I said, and stomped over to the trash can. My foot stomped the foot pedal, the lid popped up, and the letter dropped in. The lid closed with a clomp.

“What did you do that for?” Jo asked. She reached down for the lid, but I stepped in front of her. “Either get out of the way or tell me.”

“Job offer. In Minnesota. I ain’t going to take them up on it, that’s all.”

I didn’t see that it was any of her business, but that was Jo for you. Nosy, like she owned the place or was the master to my servant. She’d only been dating Marcus for a month. What she’d be like after a year I didn’t know. Ordering me to polish the damn silverware, probably.

“Why didn’t you just say so?” she asked.

“I did.”

She bent down again to get at the trash, and I said, “If you know what’s good for you, you’ll leave that letter alone.”

“Good grief, Didi. I just want the stamp.”

“Don’t say I didn’t warn you.” Despite my words, which sounded like I’d resigned to the inevitable, I turned around, pulled the plastic bag liner out of the trash, and tied up the top. The corners of the letter tried to poke through. I slipped on a pair of Marcus’s loafers and went out the door, down the stairs, and dumped it in the trash, shoving it under a bag that oozed. She didn’t follow me. Maybe it would keep her out of trouble, the thought of getting her hands dirty.

I grimaced. If there was one good thing you could say about Jo, it was that she didn’t mind getting her hands dirty.

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