The Odious Apostrophe

I’m pressed for time this week, so thought I would re-post this ditty from April 2018. I still struggle with the crazy thing from time to time, but it’s no longer my kryptonite. Who knew a teeny-tiny punctuation mark could cause so much grief? Enjoy!

 

The Odious Apostrophe

 

Apostrophe, Apostrophe,

or should I say catastrophe?

You make me nervous, angry, mean,

You’re Satan’s punctuation scheme.

I put you in and take you out,

Confusion reigns, along with doubt.

Unlike the period or comma,

You thrive on messiness and drama.

English would be much less rotten,

If you could only be forgotten.

 

Alexander Elliott

Author Update

The last few weeks have been brutal! Pre-move, move, post-move. It’s all been very moving, but at last I’m settled in my new place and can stop for a breath. Obviously, my writing has taken a back seat and I’m eager to get caught up.

Story five of Rise of the Draman is almost complete. The last of the story threads are being carefully tied, and then it’s off to my beta readers. When that’s done, it will appear on my blog in serialized format, and your anxious wait will be over! Leaving readers dangling from a cliff this long was never my intention, though be prepared for a much longer installment this time.

I received a wonderful note from a reader recently regarding my Gladstone Shifters books. The poor soul is hooked (yeah for me!) and wants to get her hands on the next in series – only it hasn’t been written yet and I have no idea when it will be. I have three new series begging to be written, and am still deciding what to do. Given my crazy work schedule and limited writing time, any novel-length project I choose to tackle means at least a nine month commitment. My tendency is to get bored and antsy to move on to something else long before I’m done!

Winter made a rude and unwelcome early start here and I’m faced with unfamiliar routes for shopping and work. I don’t mind the change of seasons, but driving on snowy/icy roads makes me tense. In 2014, I hit some black ice and found myself upside down in a snow-filled ditch. The car was totaled, and neither my back nor my nerves have fully recovered. Maybe I’ll work that into a book someday…

 

Photo Prompt – SHIFTER

Fox

The driveway was cold and wet, but this time I wasn’t leaving until Grant came outside. He knew I was there – I could see him peeking through the wispy curtains at the kitchen window. I’d made my grand gesture days ago, revealing my true self, and he’d run away. I couldn’t blame him for being afraid. I mean, when was the last time someone turned into a fox before your eyes? Not just any someone, but the person you’d been dating, the one you wanted, the one who loved you back.

If he could overcome his fear and doubt we had a chance. If not, I’d have to let him go. Give him the freedom to start over with another. Allow my heart to break.

I could hear him moving inside before the door opened. Tentative, he stepped out, dressed warmly and carrying a red apple. The fruit distracted me for a moment until I realized he was cautiously approaching. I remained still, watching his face intently for signs of fear. His heart thudded faster than usual, but I’d seen that determined look on his face before. I followed his movements until he reached me, crouched down, and set the apple near my front paws.

I wasn’t certain if this was a peace offering or a test of some kind. I ate the fruit – watching him watch me. Licking my muzzle clean, I waited for his next move. Though trembling, he extended his hand for me to sniff, as one would do for a dog. I complied, enjoying his unique scent, and then licked the underside of his wrist – something I’d often done in human form. Startled, he snatched his hand back and stared at me; wonder mixed with confusion. Finally, he spoke.

“Babe… is it really you?”

Photo Prompt – SILENT SCREAM

Shrieking Tree

Caught.

Forever changed.

Rooted in soil,

an arbor life.

 

Leaves gone.

Naked limbs

Tremble with effort.

Bark shifts.

 

Darkness coming.

Evil stirs.

Innocents in danger,

Seeking treats.

 

Turn back,

Run away!

A silent scream,

my only warning.

**********

I’m not a fan of Halloween, but this image was perfect and I couldn’t resist sharing it with my readers! I took this photo over a decade ago, wandering through an average middle-class neighborhood with my camera. The haunting look of anguish or fear is undeniable, and this became the first of several “tree people” images in my collection. (Next time you’re walking in the woods, see how many faces you can find.) When a friend of mine saw it, he said it reminded him of a painting by Edvard Munch. Huh? I’d never heard of him or his work and had to look it up.

the-scream

“Born in 1863 in Löten, Norway, famed painter Edvard Munch established a free-flowing, psychological-themed style all his own. His painting “The Scream” (“The Cry”; 1893), is one of the most recognizable works in the history of art. His later works proved to be less intense, but his earlier, darker paintings ensured his legacy. A testament to his importance, “The Scream” sold for more than $119 million in 2012—setting a new record.” https://www.biography.com/artist/edvard-munch

“The Scream is the best known work from a powerful series of images which Munch called The Frieze of Life, first exhibited in 1893.  The actual scream, Munch claims, came from the surroundings around the person. The artist printed ‘I felt a large scream pass through nature’ in German at the bottom of his 1895 piece. Munch’s original name for the work was intended to be The Scream of Nature. The figure is trying to block out the ‘shriek’ that they hear around them (the work’s Norwegian title is actually ‘Skrik’). The figure appears featureless and un-gendered, so it is de-individualised – and is perhaps one of the reasons why it has become a universal symbol of anxiety.”  https://blog.britishmuseum.org/10-things-you-may-not-know-about-the-scream/

Every Author Needs A Sounding Board

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A great story begins with a fertile imagination, but developing that terrific idea into an equally terrific book involves a whole lot more. Perhaps your story lacks a whiz-bang ending or there’s an embarrassing hole in the plot. Maybe you’ve plotted yourself into a corner and can’t see a way out. Possibly, you wonder if anyone else will find the basic idea as interesting as you do.

The solution is easy – get yourself a sounding board. Several, if you can. Something magical happens when discussing ideas with another person. They see it with fresh eyes and their own unique mix of personality and experience. I’m not talking about a “professional”, simply someone who is well-read, trusted, and has a good imagination.

pexels-photo-1438084

Just the other day I presented a seed idea to one of my sounding boards (who happens to be a co-worker). Not only did she improve on the basic idea, she helped me nail down the major plot points, improve the ending, and gave me a lead-in to a follow up story in the series! I literally could not have done it without her help, and the story went from “cool” to “WOW” in three short conversations.

Everything I have published or am currently writing has been improved by my sounding boards. I don’t always take their advice or run with their ideas, but the simple act of discussing it opens up new paths to wander and concepts to explore. We communicate in person, on the phone, or via email and I love the way our interaction jump starts my creative juices! Since these are people I respect and trust, I feel safe sharing my struggles and new ideas. At the same time, they are happy to support my quest to improve and grow as a writer. Double win!

Don’t have any sounding boards? Ideally, you will want readers (not fellow writers) who are well-read in multiple genre’s, are supportive rather than pushy, and can be trusted to keep your wonderful ideas to themselves. They’ll save you time, improve your work, and stimulate your own creativity – so start looking!

Off the Rails – Gay Romance Gone Bad

G

Gay romance is one of my favorite genres to write and read, but I’ve noticed some disturbing patterns of late. I’m not talking about fringe stuff, kinks, or dark reads – just regular M/M stories with happy endings. Apparently, a good number of authors have become complacent or are more interested in pushing their personal agenda than crafting a fine, well-balanced story. I suspect the same could be said for any popular genre, but this one caught my attention. Here’s what I’m talking about:

Overused Tropes

Honestly, how many people inherit a cabin in the woods or the estate of an absentee relative? Not all dog owners fall in love with their Vet and most enemies (boss, business rival, or High School crush) do not become the love of your life! Furthermore, hot and single millionaires are not hanging around with common folks looking for a meaningful relationship. Authors need to quit relying on tired old tropes whose time have come and gone.

Fractured Families

I can’t count the number of MC’s whose parents have died horribly or are way too old to have twenty or thirty something offspring! Are we meant to believe that all gay men face life alone or worse yet, aren’t speaking to their relatives? Do gay men always have homo-hating fathers, abused mothers, and siblings they never talk to? I understand the need to inject drama into a story, but why so often at the expense of family?

Young and Fit

Not every gay man in the world is under 35, healthy, hung, and drool-worthy. This may sell books, but it isn’t real. Enough said.

First Time Gay

This one really burns my cookies. There is an overabundance of stories about the clueless straight guy falling for his best gay friend, boss, neighbor, etc. Being gay is not a choice, and truly straight men do not suddenly realize that they are interested in sex with another man, as titillating as that idea may be! Often, authors of this type of story are married heterosexual women. Check your facts honey – it doesn’t happen this way (just ask your husband)!

Anytime Sex

Sorry, but penetrative sex can’t happen whenever the mood strikes. Not only that, many gay men don’t enjoy it at all, preferring other forms of intimacy. Again, a healthy dose of realism (not the gory details) and diversity is needed in the gay man’s bedroom.

Religion Bashing

I will be the first one to admit the church at large has treated the LGBT community horribly, and there is good reason to be angry. That said, it isn’t necessary or fair to blame the religious community for every problem in a gay man’s life, and not all people of faith are raving lunatics. Rejection and condemnation by family and clergy alike remains a significant problem, and I don’t mean to say authors should ignore it. What they need to do is avoid bludgeoning readers with it repeatedly. The horse is dead already, so give it a rest.

 

Romances will always remain popular, and there are thousands of authors out there cranking out story after story. I understand and accept the wide diversity of readers, writers, subjects, and tropes, but would like to see more balance, realism, and thoughtful crafting. As a writer, it’s my responsibility. As a reader, I deserve better.

Weekly Roundup – CELEBRATING INDIE AUTHORS!

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

pile of books

Sunday, October 13 is Indie Author Day – something well worth celebrating! While I have a great deal of respect for authors who choose the traditional publishing route, it requires a lot of hard work, dedication, and tenacity to land a book deal. Frankly, I can’t imagine ever joining their ranks, so indie author it is! Here’s what it means to me:

Exposure – I have the ability to actually publish my work right now, instead of sometime, maybe, in the future. Am I where I want to or need to be yet? No, but I have the freedom to grow and improve as a writer while putting my stuff out there. Traditional publishers aren’t going to allow that!

Control – This is important and I’m not willing to give it up. The work is mine and I choose what to write, when to write and publish, how to market it, and at what pace I can produce new work. With traditional publishing, the author has to relinquish an enormous amount of control to conform to someone else’s ideals, timetable, and goals.

Responsibility – Going it alone carries a heavy weight of responsibility. I consider it the price I pay for being an indie author, and yes, sometimes I wish I had the money to hire out some of the more onerous tasks. But you know what? The joy of publishing my work and receiving feedback from readers makes it all worthwhile.

I have a simple theory regarding who I am as an author and what kind of books I currently produce. There are three categories: Walmart, Target, Macy’s. Right now, I’m a Walmart author, but getting better with each book. Within a couple years I expect to graduate to Target, and if I keep at it long enough, I may reach the Macy’s level and we can talk about a traditional publishing deal. Meanwhile, I’m happy with who I am and what I’m learning. The most important thing is that I have a creative outlet for my stories and readers who enjoy my work. Being an indie author makes it possible, and I’m more than OK with that.

Want to join in the celebration? Here are a few ideas:

  • Buy an indie book. You’ll encourage the author and perhaps find a new favorite.
  • Leave a review. If you normally skip ’em, make an exception for indies.
  • Send an email. You have no idea how much it means to hear from readers.
  • Spread the word about your favorite indie via social media, bog posts, book share sites, or word of mouth. 

**********

What I’m working on:

  1. Dragon Rescue (book 5 in the series). Yep, I’m still trying to finish up the manuscript. It’s turned out to be much longer than anticipated, and may end up as a novella. The difficulty is my writing time has been severely curtailed by long work hours and exhaustion. Plus, I’m gearing up for another move in early November. As with the first four books, Dragon Rescue will appear in serialized format on my blog as soon as I can manage it.

 

  1. I have a great idea for a gay romance series involving senior characters! Everybody celebrates youth, vigor, and hot action between the sheets, but the reality is there are many older gay men looking for love. They still have a lot to offer the right person, and I want to address that need with a series of humorous stories with HEA’s. I think they would be well received.

 

  1. The collection and refinement of ideas for a new fantasy series is an ongoing process. While each installment will be novelette length, I intend to publish them as collections. I can’t tell you much more without revealing secrets, but this project will probably follow the publication of  Rise of the Draman.

 

  1. Somewhere in the murky future I want to release my books as print on demand through Draft2Digital. I can still do that and remain in Amazon’s Kindle Select program for eBooks. Do I expect to make a lot of money? No, but giving readers a paper option is important to me and broadens the reach of my books a little more. I don’t have the time to deal with it right now, but I’ll get there.

Photo Prompt – GREETINGS EARTHLING

112

Twenty years of scavenging the galaxy, and I’d finally found the mother lode. Not just a piece of space junk this time, but an intact vessel. Seemingly powerless and drifting, but whole, beautiful, and utterly alien. I nudged the Galileo, my scout ship, alongside the perfect silver-gray sphere, looking for an entry point. Closer inspection revealed only one possibility – a circular seam at the apex of the sphere, perhaps ten feet in diameter. Without an airlock or other obvious opening it would be impossible to get inside, but I wasn’t ready to give up just yet.

“Thor, initiate contact.”

My trusty AI and companion responded immediately.

“Acknowledged. Beginning sequence.”

Thor began cycling through a standard range of protocols, but there was no response.

“Extend the grappler, Thor. I’m going to take a closer look.”

While I suited up, Thor positioned Galileo above the circular seam and extended the grappler. When it made contact, a warning claxon sounded.

“Response from the alien vessel. Ship now under power. Change in configuration. Caution is advised.”

Sensors showed the area within the circular seam rising like a pillar from within the vessel. The shaft contained an oval aperture, large enough for a human to pass through, and lit with a blueish glow. With the welcome mat out, I wasn’t about to refuse the invitation.

After further warnings from Thor, I slipped out the airlock and towed myself over. Magnetic boots kept me from drifting off into space as I made my way to the portal and stepped inside. The light intensified as the shaft descended into the vessel and came to a stop. Before me was a brightly lit V-shaped cavern, unlike anything I’d seen before. It thrummed with power, extending over my head and deep into the vessel below. I took a cautious step forward and startled when the ship spoke.

“Acquisition complete. Dilation in three, two, one…”

With alarms blaring aboard the Galileo, Thor disengaged the grappler as the alien sphere began to undulate, shrink to a tiny dot, and disappear.

Weekly Roundup – DOG HAIKU

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

Back in 2000 I received a humorous email from a co-worker with a bunch of dog haiku’s. I have no idea who wrote them and certainly cannot be held responsible for quality or accuracy issues! Then, as now, this is for all you dog lovers out there. Enjoy! (Photos courtesy of Pexels)

I lie belly up

In the sunshine, happier than

You will ever be.

14

  

Today I sniffed

Many dog behinds – I celebrate

By kissing your face.

7

  

I sound the alarm!

Paper boy – come to kill us all

Look! Look! Look! Look! Look!

12

 

 I sound the alarm!

Garbage man -come to kill us all

Look! Look! Look! Look! Look!

1

 

How do I love thee?

The ways are as numberless as

My hairs on the rug.

13

  

My human is home!

I am so ecstatic I have

Made a puddle.

8

  

I hate my choke chain

Look world, they strangle me! Ack!

Ack! Ack! Ack! Ack! Ack!

 

 

Sleeping here, my chin

On your foot – no greater bliss – well

Maybe catching rats.

 

 

 Look in my eyes and

Deny it. No human could

Love you as much as I do.

4

 

The cat is not all

Bad – she fills the litter box

With tootsie rolls.

6

 

Dig under the fence – why?

Because it is there. Because it’s

There. Because it’s there.

11

  

I am your best friend

Now, always, and especially

When you are eating.

10

 

*****

Current project – OK, so here’s the deal. I’m stuck on the final chapter or so of Dragon Rescue. Not only has my available writing time been drastically reduced, but the end of the book simply MUST be an exciting thrill ride. I mean, the climax has been building for 20,000+ words so I can’t mess it up. No pressure! NO PRESSURE AT ALL!!!

The good news is that I’m almost done with the rescue, and then I can relax a bit and wrap up all the loose story threads. I enjoy this part, but it, too, is very important since it’s the end of the five-book series. I want the group to stand as a completed tale, especially if I don’t end up writing any more in the future.

As always, there are a number of new story ideas competing for dominance in my little brain – “Pick me! Write my story next! Don’t listen to them – I’m the best choice!” Lately it’s been romance, and while the ideas are intriguing, I have other commitments. Once the Rise of the Draman series is done, I intend to go back over them with a fine tooth comb to repair, improve, and add new content. Most likely, it’s going to take me until the end of the year and then I will publish (assuming I have the money). After that, despite the pesky voices, I have plans for 2020. I’ll fill you in on the details later…

Photo Prompt – FOLLOW ME

Z4-044A

The letter arrived shortly before the one year anniversary of my grandfather’s disappearance. We’d always been very close and his sudden absence from my life left me bewildered and lonely. He vanished like a fart in the wind, as he used to say, and no one could explain what happened. No body, no note, nothing.

I discovered the plain white envelope mixed in with my usual mail, no stamp or return address, and handwritten with a familiar script. If this was a joke, it wasn’t funny, and my hands trembled as I carefully sliced it open. For a fleeting moment I imagined him getting word to me he’d run off with a rich widow to some foreign country and was having the time of his life. What was in the enclosed letter was more fanciful by far and I had to sit down to keep from falling over. 

My dear James,

 Forgive me for leaving you so abruptly, but it could not be helped. In a few days time you will have a chance to see me again, but it will require you to leave everything behind and start anew. Despite what you are about to read, this is not the babblings of a crazy old man!

Remember the grand sundial I was so fond of in Centennial park? Quite by accident, I discovered it is actually a portal to another place and time. When the dial reads between noon and one o’clock, you have only to slip into the shadow behind it and you will be transported. There are wonders you cannot imagine, and I long to share them with you.

I cannot be certain there will be another opportunity like this, so if you decide to come, be there Saturday without fail. I beg you, set your affairs in order and come to me, James! Destroy this letter and tell no one what you intend to do.

 If you choose to remain, know that I love you with all my heart. Be happy, my boy, and remember me.

 Pops

 I read the letter through several times before putting it down. Even as I acknowledged the far-fetched madness of it all, my mind was busy. If anyone could have found a way to leave this crazy world in such an unconventional fashion, it was my grandfather! He certainly sounded happier than I’d ever know him, yet he wanted me with him. How could I disappoint the old man?

Saturday turned out to be a lovely day for an adventure…