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Not Your Stepping Stone—Short Stories
Are a Destination, Not a Starting Block

Not Your Stepping Stone—Short Stories
Are a Destination, Not a Starting Block

Stories

The Other, as Just as Fair

This story originally appeared in Cyber Age Adventures Magazine and is collected in my short story collection Show Me A Hero by New Babel Books.

 

Twelve miles to go. Eight to the city limits then another four to Alan’s apartment.

Allison Reisner pulled her rented Maxima onto the shoulder of Highway 76 and stopped the car. Without turning off the ignition, she drummed the fingers of the right hand on the steering wheel, then ran them through her hair, tugging softly on a handful of thick, short, sandy blonde tangles, and letting out a loud sigh.

“Damn,” she said to the deejay droning on about the Colorado dryness. “Damn, damn, damn,” she said again and pushed the button to change the station to the blandest, most forgettable smooth jazz she could find. “What am I doing here?”

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Sin and Error Pining

This story originally appeared in Cyber Age Adventures Magazine and is collected in my short story collection Show Me A Hero by New Babel Books.

The man who killed me wore a tattoo of Santa Claus across his chest. The old elf in the red suit sat in his sleigh, moist with the man’s sweat in spite of the night’s chill, and his reindeer jerked with every shudder my murderer made as the icy breeze kissed his bare skin.

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It’s Christmas, Baby, Please Come Home

Cherry Hill

Not Your Stepping Stone—Short Stories
Are a Destination, Not a Starting Block

I’m predominantly a writer of short stories. Sure, I am working on a novel and I’ve written more than a few comic books, but if I’m honest, short stories are the first love I will always go back to.

I love the craft it takes to “work small” and tell a fulfilling tale within those word count constraints. I relish in the time and work required to target each word and phrase rather than allow for meandering and possible filler.

That said, I also understand that short stories and novels are two separate entities. And good short stories, just as good novels, requires a writer working diligently with all cylinders firing in pristine shape.

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The Twitter Writing Tips Sessions

Over the past two years, I've used my Twitter feed to deliver a series of "quick-hit" writing tips. Well, in an effort to archive those for easy access and greater usefulness, I now present them here. (The longer ones were obviously broken up into several smaller tweets, of course.)

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Writing Redemptive Stories

Every reader, it seems, loves to cheer for the underdog—but not just for the physical underdog, the weak and small David dwarfed by the monstrous Goliath. Readers also seem to have a place in their hearts for the moral underdog, the failed and fallen character (in both senses of the word, the individual and that individual's choices and nature) who seeks a resolution or a reinstatement of his or her innocence or at the very least a return to a place of balance between his or her good and evil natures.

In fact, it has perhaps become a staple in the modern adventure story. 

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This story originally appeared in Cyber Age Adventures Magazine and is collected in my short story collection Show Me A Hero by New Babel Books.

 

The woman across the table from me wasn’t really a woman at all. She had no real skin to speak of or any kind of humanity other than the feminine shape she had forced her new body of light and energy to look like. Her arms and legs may have been covered up with regular clothes like the rest of us wore, but the way I could see through the parts of her shiny, twinkling form that weren’t covered by clothing reminded me all over again how she was no longer human.

She was something else.

Just like my baby.

Her name was Nancy Elliot, but most of the world knew her as Starlight. A superhero. A woman who had lost her body years ago and had become a freak.

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"Ain't never been a day like it," the old man said, "and ain't never gonna be one."

He sat rocking in a rickety chair while a calm November wind whistled through the chimes that hung above his paint chipped steps. Nearly eighty six, his hair was grayed and thin, and his scalp showed through in frequent, scattered patches. He spoke clearly and thoughtfully, a trait common to the Southern elderly I'd interviewed.

"You sure you want to hear 'bout this? 'Cuz it might take a while. I still get really choked up when I think on it even though it happened sixty some odd years ago."

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Poems

Gomer

A spiritual allegory for a postmodern generation.

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White Male

No matter how much we want to understand,
there is a gulf we can't reach across.

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Old Fall

Nature always speaks the truth.

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Ki Wone

It means words of life.

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Memorial Day

Sometimes the old symbols don't stir us anymore.

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Death of the Prodigal

For some, the prodigal never returns home.

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No Man Is

Dinner at eight. Sex at nine-thirty -- ten at the latest. Depends on the service at Roberto's tonight. If we get that lousy mid-western kid again, it could be as late as eleven before we're out of there. Really, Roberto ought to fire that kid.

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Goldy

Through the residue on the kitchen window, I can see Goldy playing outside. She rolls over in the dirt, and exposes her furry belly to the warm rays of the sun. I suppose it wouldn't be so bad if she weren't an inside dog. And Richard surely doesn't have the time to clean her off before the funeral, so it looks like it'll come down to me again. I really wish he and Candice had thought a little more before buying such a big dog as an inside pet, but I never could seem to talk much sense into Candice once she'd gotten married.

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...The Dead Bury Their Dead

In a world that thrives on being busy,
how can negligence ever be a sin?

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Daily News

John Donne was right after all.

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Writing the Scary—7 Tips for Creating
Horror and Dread with Words

What’s the scariest scene you’ve ever seen in a horror flick? Why was it scary?

Now I know some of you are going to default to either scenes of gratuitous (now there’s a loaded word if ever I’ve seen one), gore or perhaps others will immediately think of a jump scare, but I want us to think even deeper than that? What scared you even deeper than the moment of the scare? 

For me, those are the true scares, the deep frights, the fears that rattle us at our cores and stick with us.

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Content Is Crap, Not King, and
We Prove It with Every Click

You hear it all the time: Content is king. But I'm just going to call that out right now as a bunch of BS. In a world where "7 Ways to Get One Million Hits" and "You'll Never Believe What She Does Next" go viral while great content from lots of gifted creators sits in hidden pockets of the Internet ignored, content is nothing at worst, added-value at best.

No. The truth is this -- Content doesn't matter.

Here's another truth: Clickbait is king. It's also queen, prince, princess, and all dukes and duchesses down the line.

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Not Fitting in at the Bookstore—And What

It Taught Me About Who I Am as a Writer

I love used bookstores. Most of my ever-growing library comes either from online discounters or used bookstores. Even so, with all that love (I can spend hours wandering in a single, skinny store in a low-rent shopping center), I still always have the hardest time at used bookstores. The stuff I'm looking for to fill in gaps in my collections... Well, I never know where to look for it.

Is Vonnegut going to be with the sci-fi books or with classics? Sure, I can find Heinlein with sci-fi, but not so much Bradbury. He might be in with literary collections or classics, but seldom sci-fi, even though that was his bread and butter.

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Remembering Ray

I only met Ray Bradbury once, but that's the kind of memory that sticks with a guy, especially a guy who writes and speculates about people doing crazy, not quite scientifically possible things and trying to make the world a better place.

I only met Ray Bradbury once, but once was, well, not exactly enough because honestly, could a fellow sci-fi writer ever have enough of a fount of inspiration like Ol' Mr. Bradbury? If it wasn't enough, it was certainly more than sufficient to fill the coffers of motivation for a young writer.

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I Want To Be a Time Machine

I'm currently listing to the audio book of Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine on my drive to and from work. I must admit it took me longer to get engrossed in it than a Bradbury usually does. I kept waiting for something, well, outside of the normal to happen. Aliens show up to kidnap the Green Machine. A circus with a sinister showman gives Doug and Tom the stink-eye. Charlie turns on his parents and feeds them to the lions on a virtual reality veldt.

But, in spite of the lack of typical Bradbury action, I stuck with it. And danged it if didn't pull me in despite my preconceptions as to what a Bradbury story should be. 

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Literary Pulp—Why It Makes
Sense and How To Write It

Classic pulp is as much known for its black and white, all or nothing characterizations and crammed-to-the-top-with-action plotlines as it is for the cheap paper from which it gets its name—maybe even more so nowadays. So, with that in mind, how does someone like me, who got his start in literary fiction and the three most important words in fiction writing (character, character, and character, of course), grow into the kind of writer who embraces the pulp style of storytelling?

That’s a good question.

But, perhaps the better question is how can someone else do the same?

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Femme Fatales—An Obsession Dissected

If you read my writing at all, you know I’m obsessed with writing femme fatales into my stories. In defense, giving the hero an equal and opposite makes for strong storytelling, but surely I could just give him a straight up villain for that role, right? Yes and no.

 

While a villain needs to be a fully realized character just as much as the hero, the femme fatales (at least to me) are something different, something special, the proverbial monkey wrench (though drenched in curves and slinky sex appeal) thrown into the machine. 

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