It’s All Noise

Sunset “Sunny” Sutton was the last person Meyers expected to see at two a.m. in the middle of this grimy intersection in old central L.A. hell. But there she was, crossing the street with a purposed stride while she slowly unrolled a paper grocery bag.


Meyers stepped out of the alley, angled his jog to intercept her before she could get to the twenty-four-hour liquor store. He caught her arm above the elbow before she made the curb.

“Hey, get off, you. I gotta…”


“Muh, muh…” she shook her head several times. When she stopped, her eyes settled like marbles that had been rolling around a bowl. “Meyers?” A quick look around, finger to her lips. “Shhhhh… Da fuck you doin’ down here, Meyers?”

“Better question. What are you doing down here?”

“I uh… I gotta… I needa…” She glanced around again. Her hair resembled a dyed blonde horse’s tail, styled with a blender. A perfect match for her wild eyes. Meyers pulled her across to the alley he’d come out of. “No nonononono… rats. I hate rats.”

“I have a gun if they get too aggressive.”

“Me, too.”

“Yeah?” He took the bag away from her, looked inside. “Somehow I knew this is what I’d find.” He pulled out a rubber Vampirella mask and a Mattel Fanner 50 cap pistol.

“C’mon dude, y’know? I need like two hundred dollars. Yesterday. Last week, actually. I got fifty-seven already, so -”

“I thought you were sober.”

“I am.” She ran her fingers through the tangled mass of hair, rubbed her nose with her knuckles. “But see, I got… I have… other money problems. Issues.”

“You think they’re so stupid in there,” he nose pointed toward the store, “that they keep enough cash in the drawer at two in the morning to make robbing them lucrative?”

“I… I mean they have a cash register, right? So…” Her eyebrows went quizzical. “What are you sayin’?”

Lightning ripped a hole in the sky, thunder right on its heels.

“If this was an easy knock, Sunny, there’d be a line of dope and unemployed designer purse junkies stretched around the corner. Vampirella was an unusual touch.” He held up the gun. “But there’s only one way to cap somebody’s ass with this thing and that starts by getting them to bend over.” He stuffed her unarmed robbery gear back in the bag, gave her a cursory once over. She seemed straight enough. Clean clothes, her bulging eyes clear. Scared shitless, probably jacked on a half dozen energy drinks. Otherwise, he believed what she’d said about sober. “What was the plan?”

“I don’t know, really. Just go in, you know, point the gun at them and hold out the bag…” she hugged herself. “I guess I come up with some fucking idiot assed ideas sometimes.”

“’Sometimes’ is generous.” Lightning lit up the alley and thunder let go again. Wind whipped up loose trash, spun it out into the street in a mini-vortex.

“I was just… Look, I need the money. And I’m totally out of options.” She took the paper bag, rolled it up.

“The hooker lingerie business go stale?”

“No. But that… The store I mean, like that’s the point, right?” She stood, still hugging herself, checked out the liquor store. “Assholes.”

“You know them?”

“Not them. The Five Block Cherries.”
“What does that band of shitbags have to do with it?”

“Everything.” More thunder, they both looked up, Sunny saying “Is it gonna rain or just make noise?”

“It’s all noise in this part of town. The rain gets to about 200 feet, sees how nasty the landing zone is and stops.”

“Bullshit.” She shook a grease-spotted waxed paper deli wrapper off her ankle, watched it take flight. “But probably true.”

“What is it with you and the Cherries?”

“You know I got the shop, right? Well, some months I do okay, and some not so okay. Like now it’s slow, you know? I can eat and pay my sales taxes and bills, but there’s nothin’ extra… And those bitches… See, I can’t afford insurance except what the landlord wants to cover his ass if some dick lookin’ for a Valentine’s present walks in with a blue pill hardon and fucks themselves up tryin’ to hump one of my mannequins… I’ve been thinking of going online. No rent. Direct deposit, no hassles. But my girls, a lot of them, you know, they’re street hoes. Half don’t speak English, they don’t have credit cards or even IDs or cars or any of that shit, so they aren’t going to Amazon or some store in the fucking burbs or the Valley, even if they could get there…” She took in the alley, the liquor store, the blackness overhead. “I guess since you won’t let me rob the liquor store, I need to beat it. It’s been cool seein’ you and all, Meyers, but-”

“The Cherries?”

“I told you, I don’t have insurance.”

“And the Cherries are in the insurance business now?”

“Duh. They told me all kindsa shit could go wrong with my shop. You know, like fire and-”

“Yeah, I know.” He dug a thin fold of bills out of his front pocket, handed her three fifties. “Pay them.” He locked eyes with her. “Tell them it’s your last installment.”

“Fuck that. They’ll burn me out or kill me if I give them any shit. They already done the donut man and his wife.”

“Tell them they go back to running their brand of nasty fat pussy and shitty brown weed and leave citizens alone or Meyers and the Bishop will put their skank asses in the fucking ground. Tell them that. Those words, exactly.”

“Goddam!” Thunder boomed, her eyes doubled from their already enlarged state.

“Don’t sweat it, Sunny. It’s -”

“NO!” She screamed. “Goddam that!” Meyers followed her eyes to the van hauling ass down the alley straight at them, lights off. His gun came out, jumped in his hand until the windshield vanished. The van skidded sideways, sparks flying from metal on brick. Sunny grabbed the back of his jacket, yanked, sent him stumbling away into the street as the van rolled on its side, slammed into a dumpster and she disappeared.

NVDT Shorts – How They Get Away II


“Heard you hired Old Man Pritch-ard to run your weed farm. And that he’s growin’ Christmas trees now on the grazin’ end of his property. Down to you sendin’ a row tiller out there an spottin’ him the shoots.” Randy pushed his cap back, wiped his forehead. “How much of that’s true?”

“All of it.” Harper tossed the shovels into the bed of his work truck, started the compressor for the water tank. “Hose is on your side. You plan to start unloadin’ that concrete sometime today or you gonna call Cheryl and tell her you’re eatin’ with me tonight?”

“That shit won’t fly.” He rolled some of the hose loose. “She pulled some steaks ‘fore she left for work.”

“Damn. I miss a birthday, or what?”

“She saw some YouTube thing about how to cook steaks like a steakhouse. Says she wants to try it.”

Harper looked across the truck bed, raised an eyebrow.

“Somethin’ about how steaks don’t always have to be my responsibility or some shit.”

“Or some shit. This came up after y’all went up to the city for your anniversary?”

“What are you sayin’, Harp?”

“I’m sayin’ charcoalin’ steaks doesn’t mean turnin’ ‘em into charcoal. If I recall, you fed her a steak at Daffodils,” Harper reached in behind the seat of his truck, pulled a four-foot level. “After that she might’ve realized you weren’t all that in the steak cookin’ department. You bring your level?”

“Yeah.” Randy disappeared into the cab of his truck, reappeared with his own level. “Ya think?”

“Now I know where your daughter gets it. ‘Ya think’ what?”

“About me an grillin’.”

“I don’t have to think, I know. You got a reputation for turnin’ a twenty-dollar piece of meat into a hockey puck.” Harper grinned. “Why I won’t let you near my meat.”

“Fuckin’ pervert.” Randy shouldered a bag of Quikrete. “Where we startin’?”

“It’s your fence, but I say we do the gate posts first so they’re right before we burn one and drink a beer.”

“Or three.” Randy dropped the bag, went back for another, Harper behind him. “You never said the why about you and Old Man Pritch-ard.”

“The man grew prize winning tomatoes the size of volleyballs for years. Without chemicals.” Harper let his Quikrete drop at the nearest hole, knocked the dust off his gloves. “When I got to more greenhouses than I could say grace over and not being a farmer by training or nature, I knew he was the man I needed.”

“I thought there were consultants for you weed barons.”

“You want to spend your days listenin’ to some overpriced California fuck head consultants talkin’ their buckets of air non-stop?”

“Hell no. I just never figured Pritch-ard bein’ one to throw in with a weed man.”

“Never figured I’d own three dispensaries in small town Oklahoma, either. And he came to me with the Christmas tree idea.”

“What’s your cut?”

“Nothin’. He said he was getting’ too old for the hooved variety of ranch work and figured Christmas trees were a good bet not to wander off like cows and sheep and those damn mules of his. I could see him thinkin’. Downstream thinkin’, you know?” Harper lowered a 4×4 into a hole, slapped his level on it. “Like it wasn’t time to chuck it and quit, but time to reset his view of himself and what he could do with where he was at. So, I said ‘Come work for me and I’ll set you up. Like a signing bonus’.”

“I never was an idea man. Can’t see the Christmas trees for the forest most of the time.”

“Yeah, but you know how to get shit done. Lots of guys can figure, not many can do.”

“Nice try.” Randy leveled the back side of the pole, waited for Harper to get a solid grip before he flicked open a Cabella’s promo mini lock-back and sliced open the Quikrete bag. He started to push it into the hole with his boot, stopped, scanned the ground around them. “Where’s the damn hose?”

Harper nodded toward his truck. “Somebody who was supposed to get it forgot it.”


“I got the post, Randy.”

“Right.” He headed for the hose dangling from the truck mounted tank. “Randy the doer, not the thinker.”


Harper sat on his truck’s rear bumper, legs out, heels dug in, tipped back his beer. He watched Randy’s truck kick up dust as it rolled away before he dropped the empty bottle in the plastic trash bag with the empty Quikrete bags, picked up his phone.


“He on his way home yet?”

“Yeah. But…”

“I didn’t like the sound of that ‘but’. And don’t make some stupid fart joke.”

“He told me about you thawin’ some steaks… I maybe let the cat out of the bag on his steak grilling skills.”

“You mean his lack of steak grilling skills. What are you telling me?”

“That he might have his feelings hurt a little and it wouldn’t kill you not to rub it in when your steaks aren’t—”

“Charcoal? What else?”

“He got to feelin’ a little low about bein’ who he is. Workin’ for the man, not bein’ Shark Tank material, all that.”

“That’s ridiculous, Harper. And it’s pretty shitty of you to hint around about how I might drop my bitch a notch ‘cause the man’s not Superman.” Dead air. “Harper?”

“Not hintin’ big sis. He wants to give you the best he’s got, and he just found out he sucks at part of it.”

“An inconsequential, infinitesimal part. The man is a freaking floor foreman at the tire plant. He works his ass off for us around here. His kids love him, I love him, the dog loves him. What’s the big whoop about burnt steaks?”

“Inconsequential, infinitesimal?”

“You aren’t the only one who went to college.”

“Alright. It’s a man thing, and he’s bummin’. All I’m sayin’”

“Oh, great. I have one baby, Harp.”

“And tonight you might have a spare.”

“How’s the gate?”

“Bad ass. Spring loaded, auto close latch. No more pig shit covered dog or wandering goats down to forgetful daughter or wind a notch over a breeze.”

“Alright, I’m in. Hold on a sec… Waco? Hey, your Uncle H says two bucks if you deal with your baby sister when Daddy gets home… Yeah? Three? Okay, I’m back. You sure about the gate? What about the mess y’all always make when you do this kinda shit?”

“I told you about the gate. We only drank two beers, so it’s right and he’s not comin’ home lit,” he lifted the trash bag into the truck. “The mess is in my truck.”

“That’s for damn sure.” A few beats passed. “Thanks, Harper.”

“For the gate design I got off the internet, the fence repair, the heads up on Randy or Waco’s three bucks?”

“All that.”

“There a steak done right for me in this anywhere?”

“Don’t push it.”


I haven’t had time to do much of anything for two weeks except some editing. I sat with the intent to finish the towel saga, or an expanded riff on the Christmas Tree farm. Forty-five minutes later they’d gotten away from me. Again. Seems like in my short stuff the characters know what they want to talk about. I quit fighting them years ago. I hope Cheryl kicked her bitch down a notch and Waco kept her end of the bargain. Harper’s good for the three bucks.

NVDT Shorts – How They Get Away

“I really appreciate this, Harp.” Cheryl pushed the baby carriage back and forth, a clock pendulum on half time. “My baby girl loves her some big wooly dog, but not…”

“Reckon that’s what brothers are for.” He reached in the back seat of his pickup, pulled a stack of old bath towels, dropped them on the gravel drive. “Not that hosin’ off stinky-ass dogs was ever on any list or anything.”

“Me, too Uncle H. I really ‘preciate it.”

Harper checked the lanky eight-year-old girl in cut-offs and faded red tank top sitting on the back steps.

“You in some kind of trouble over this dog stank, Whacko?”

“Harper, you know that makes her mad.”

“What happens when your parents give you a stupid name like Waco, huh, kiddo? Runs in the family, though, stupid names.” He winked at the girl. “Trouble?”

“Double trouble. Double stupid.” She gave her mom a glare, stood and brushed the back of her cutoffs. “But, um, yeah. It’s kinda my fault you’re here ‘cause Flower, um, sorta got out the way back gate. When I was, um…”

“Bein’ a space cowgirl?”

“Before you go callin’ anybody names it was you bought her that Kindle thing all loaded up with crazy books about smarty pants little girls who can’t behave.”

“Yep. An I hear she’s readin’ like three grades ahead now.”

“Where’d you hear that?”

“Uncle Harp an Miss Gunnison get along.”

“Of course they do.” Cheryl shook her head, Harper pulled off his work shirt, tucked his undershirt back in, picked up the towels and carried them to a warped, wooden in-need-of-paint all-in-one picnic table set up in dry grass off the back patio of his sister’s house.

“Randy ever wants some help loadin’ this piece of shhh-” he glanced at the baby carriage and his niece, “…crap off somewhere, tell him to call me.”

“’Crap’ ain’t all that much better, little brother.”

“For this piece of crap, it is.”

Cheryl barked a short laugh, put her finger to her lips, tilted her head toward the carriage.

“She slept through my truck, big sis. She’s not wakin’ up for nothin’ any time soon.” He checked back with his niece. “Where’s Flower, kiddo?”

“Side of the house. In his kennel.”

“Dawn and a bucket?”

“By the hose. There’s a wash mitt, too.”

“You not comin’?”

“Well, I…” her eyes bounced between her mom and uncle.

“She almost barfed puttin’ him up, Harper.”

“Aha. So Flower got himself into some righteous stank.” He nodded toward the towels. “You gotta help dry, kiddo. Can’t count on other people, even Super Uncle, to clean up your whole mess.”

“Yes sir, I know, but, but,” she ramped up some righteous kid sized indignation. “I didn’t make him go off, go off an… an waller all over in old man Morgensen’s pigs’ shit. He done that himself!”

“Oh. My. God.” The carriage pendulum stopped. “Young lady, that is–”

“Probably exactly what you or Randy said when Flower showed his stankiness at the door.” He raised an eyebrow. “Huh, Cheryl?”

“You stay out of this, Harper. Waco Justine, we will talk later.”

“Yes ma’am.” She rolled her eyes, did the hands in pockets kid amble around the side of the house with Harper. He leaned toward her, lowered his voice.

“Find a way to wake your baby sister up and get her hollerin’ before your mom gets too wound up on you repeatin’ her. She’ll forget all about it.”

Her eyes widened. “Ya think?”

“I know. Your dad and I did it to her when you were a baby. Take the long way around the house, meet me at the towels.”


The last post was about surprises. I have said many times I put the characters together and keep up. Only this one had a premise going in, built into the old dog towels. About how there was this one-stoplight-and-it-didn’t-work town in nowhere west Texas called Lost Socks. Where towels and socks that go missing from the dryer end up. Well, the best laid plans and all that took a hard left at the picnic table. But I thank Cheryl, Harper, Waco Justine and Flower for the ride.

Sit down, listen, and off they go. No wonder I never get anything done.

NVDT Random – Inviting Surprises

Guest Episode

I subscribe to and follow few things, but I receive a newsletter from David Limrite, a graphic artist. I’m not sure I would even like his art hanging in my space, but he has a consistent style. It’s obvious he’s looking for something, and his newsletters are positive without a saccharin component. I thought his latest was a good take on “the muse”, something universal to creative. Writers should have no difficulty reading this cross curriculum. The bolding is mine.


I love when surprises show up in my work. You know, when something appears in a painting you are currently working on that you didn’t expect.

It could be an unusual texture, a completely different color that you don’t normally use, or an unplanned juxtaposition of elements that end up working in a quirky way.

I love when this happens. And I welcome it.

However, these surprises don’t just happen by themselves. They only happen when I show up in front of my easel and work. Surprises only happen when I am trying stuff, experimenting and taking risks.

In order for surprises to present themselves, I have to set up situations that invite them in. I have to be applying paint to canvas. I have to be making marks with charcoal on paper. I have to be gluing collage on a wood panel.

I also have to be looking for and be open to surprises showing up. And welcoming. And willing for them to make a surprise appearance.

I must be present during the creation of my pictures. I have to be watching what is happening on the surface of my painting while I am working on it. I have to pay attention.

Show up, make your art, pay attention, and allow yourself to be surprised.



NVDT Random – STFU and Running Stop Signs

I mentioned in the last book review that the author’s novella was a blessed relief from some epic wordiness. I have two indie books on my Kindle that are good stories. Well, one might be three good stories.

STFU #1 – This is a grimy, well painted modern noir where I had to give up after a couple of chapters and tours around the characters’ heads reached graduate level school of redundancy school. I get it already. After the second or third tour of the head time gallery chapters following on the heels of a meaningless ‘how to set up a web-site’ minutiae chapter written solely for ramping up a co-protagonist’s anxiety? We know she’s uptight and out of options from 30 pages ago. I don’t care anymore. Where’d the conspiracy story this is setting up go? STFU already. It’s a great setup, well described, we understand the characters after they meet in chapter one. If the characters were only making scale, they’d still bankrupt the entire production. Put their asses to work. Ephemeral Noir doesn’t require extra words on the same subject.

STFU #2 – This one is War and Peace, The Girl, the Gold Watch and Everything and baseball all go to lunch, meet a bunch of their friends who talk over each other and can’t figure out how to get home. There are three good stories in this book. One of them, sans all the peripheral crap, would be funny as a rom-com caper without the gold watch and baseball. As the gold watch component and baseball would be a great rom-com caper sans the background noise. As it is, nothing is central to the story except a season of baseball games full of authorial direction, and as many adverb laden tags as a Nancy Drew. I think because this book is the author’s baby, he wanted nothing left to chance so we’re never participating, simply waiting to be told what just happened and what’s next. I discussed this reading effort, without name, with a friend of mine and described the story line as resembling a clothesline, complete with a ton of loosely related shit hanging off it. All they have in common is being in the same load of laundry.

The author gets off some good humorous licks and some outright funny direct and indirect puns, but sadly, like the socks you really need, they’re buried in the laundry basket. I’m almost finished with this one and I want to like it, but I’m not sure which book of the three will win. As a cheat, I read the last page –

Last note on STFU – detail. Both specific to scene and specific to era. Some is good. An editor told me, “Unless you are operating in a specific costume drama time frame, drop the time capsule bullshit.” What she meant by that is what something costs and how to build a website and how to fix a lawnmower is all outdated by the time you run spell check. A contract for stealing your life savings is no more than that, and it’s all us readers need. Think about this. If you changed a few things, like mode of transportation, most classic entertainment lit would stand up today. Jim kicks Bill. Detective Foonblat made a call. We don’t need what rev iOS the phone has, or even if it was a cell phone. Readers will put a phone in his hand. Didn’t you? How simple is that? I could change the names and a few scene details and publish Gatsby by another name tomorrow because it’s a freaking story, not a head time playground or someplace to dump useless specific information. So get the funk out and tell the damn story.

Running Stop Signs – It’s over when it’s over. Does no one read, or study chapter endings? Or scene endings? I ask because regardless of style or wardrobe construction certain things (metafiction and postmodernists may stop here) are gifts to the reader. If the scene changes, let us know. The *** works, double space, anything except the sudden jolt. WTF? We were just in the bar and now it’s raining at Jane’s house a week later? Huh? When a scene stops, stop. And let us know.

I don’t know about you, but I want to turn the page to see what they get up to next, I don’t want the last bit tied up with a bow and told what I just read and what’s about to happen. Here’s a rule I learned. The last couple of lines I want to write? I don’t. Or I whack them and see how it reads. Regardless of what you write, study the best as that’s the bar to hit. I know it’s a painful buzzkill for “damn mom, I just want to write,” but whack that shit. Readers don’t need it, authors don’t need to write it. I want the flavor of the book I just read to hang with me.

What I’m talking about is, for lack of a better word, “portending”. Author tells reader what to expect. Often found in conversational cozy type tales, it is acceptable, almost a bonding experience in first person, but I still don’t see the point. I take a line from Laura Levine’s Death by Pantyhose – Nothing, I thought, could possibly go wrong on such a spectacular day. I’m sure the gods had a hearty chuckle over that one.

I’m a Laura Levine fan, but did we need that telegraphing last line to keep reading? No. I’d have turned the page without it. And been more involved than with it.

Here’s some other recently encountered classics. From Jim Thompson’s Texas by the Tail – “And then they all had a drink together. Or maybe two, who knows…” That’s pure author. Could have ended more satisfactorily with an edit of the last line of dialogue preceding it. A good mid-century Noir killed by cliché.

I’m going to drop attribution for a few of the next ones, for the author’s sake because it’s not my intention to embarrass anyone. “You live and learn, and boy have I learned.” That is the last line in a final scene that cheats the intensity of the book. Several lines from the last scene could have been added to its predecessor for added emotional impact, done.

… she had groped for her cell phone. (female) recorded a short message on (male’s) phone, “You are the luckiest man in the world.” And he was.

Not only was this exchange prefaced with a hundred words of He thought and She thought author direction and miscellaneous peripheral action getting to it that could have been reduced to one good line, and since by now we know what’s up between these two when it’s not being buried in separate story lines, “You are the luckiest man in the world,” says it all.

Stop when it ends. Here’s the story to this point. Make me turn the page or end the book. But stop all the portending and telegraphing and telling me how I should feel and how everybody else feels because outside of a few chatty styles it’s a reader loser. Let me see the characters, not the author. Think about it – Oh, you’re telling me things are going to get shitty? Well, I can wait for that instead of turning the page to find out. Oh, turn the page and discover this book is going to repeat like the coda of “Hey Jude” or “Message in a Bottle” for fucking ever? I must read a contract, build a website, learn about Gulf Coast flora or stamp collecting to get through this? Never mind. Jim broke the gun down. Bill collects stamps in his spare time and seeks out stamp shops when he travels. Hank’s girlfriend says she loves him in dialogue.

Even Jane Austen used the page turn convention of hang time. It’s not difficult, just stop. Don’t ‘splain, don’t speculate for us, don’t tell us what we just read and its import. Show us the story. Anything else is an insult. To the reader and the work.

Jim, crouched over the glass shards, chanced a look through the splintered window frame. “Whataya think they’re up to out there?”

“Dunno,” Bill shoved shells in his pistol, spun the cylinder. “But they’re gonna have to come up with somethin’ new. We done run outta glass for ’em to break.”


Harper sat, fingers crossed and watched the ball sail end over end through the uprights with no time on the game clock. He hunched over, pounded his fists on his knees. “Yesssssss.” He knocked the coffee table over. “Yes yes yes.” Somewhere his phone beeped a voice mail alert. He scrambled through pizza crusts and Shiner cans, found it. Jackie? Holy shit, Jackie! He punched the screen, held the phone to his ear. “You, Mr. Harper Crosschambers, are the luckiest man in the world.”

The End of Part 1/ Chapter 3/ Scene 7 / Book

How difficult is any of that? All we gotta do is STFU.

NVDT Random – Another Book Review

Scam! By Stevie Turner

Five Stars

Another cover-to-cover indie. This one because I said I would, and I needed something to read to get out from under some seemingly unending epics. I was not let down.

This is a well-crafted story and, though called a “novella,” it is an appropriate length for a modern fiction work weighing in with a 23.5k word count. It starts out as the story of a young woman who wants her own home so she can get out from under her in-laws and gets scammed out of her down payment savings. At this point it could go moralistic about the consequences of greed and impatience but does not. Instead, once we meet everyone and the scene is set, readers are taken on a surprise ride of consequence(s) far more dire than pissed off and embarrassed over identity theft. I’m going to stop there as far as the story line. Read it and you’ll see.

Any technical issues? Considering the material and the commercial quality of the work, I would say none that got in the way except several pages of a contract I could have done without. I see that stuff, my eyes glaze over I and skip ahead to story. I had issues with certain aspects of the work as regards the character dynamics as well, but to call them out would give the story away, and those issues do not reflect on the quality of the work, but on my preferences. Overall, this is a damn good book, regardless of whether I agree with the characters behavior(s). To get bumped out of my comfort zone and still feel like I read something that was a professionally written, solid story is a good thing.

I said surprised, but I shouldn’t be. And here’s an honest bit of prejudice on my part—I see the author’s subject matter and many of her covers and I think “Wasn’t this an episode of Law and Order? Or maybe a redux of this or that movie?” But they never are. Because the author can take everyday people (characters) and imbue them with humanity and freshness even when treading on what would outwardly appear to be worn ground. No easy feat. Stereotypes and cloning are easy. Believable characters and situations of the everyday world are not. Even Stevie’s bit players ring true. The protagonist’s discomfort with mother-in-law, husband’s laissez-faire assumption of comfort on his home turf—in fact, both sets of family are believable enough to live down the street. Because they aren’t over or under written cartoons.

Technical stuff—This book was edited by Denna Holm. Having read Stevie’s earlier self-edited or beta reader efforts, it was obvious. At least for the first 18% where I don’t recall being ejected, coerced or seduced by substituted dialog tags or adverbs. In fact, it seems all the “getting to it” portion of the book was pretty flawless. After that the adverbs and “replied” “asked” etc. tags kick in, but the structure and dialogue remain sound. There are readers in the world and styles of writing that require some of that, so again, as it wasn’t egregious, no fault, no foul.

The ending made me feel a little pulled up short, like a wedgie. But it was a slice of time novella. An episode. This would make great fodder for a 90-minute pick your Brit detective serial, or better yet, that Welsh thing Thirty-Five Days.

Postscript – There are lines I wish authors would not write, or stop writing, or edit out at the end of chapters or books, but that’s a whole other post.

NVDT Random – Lemme Tell Ya How it Feels

Emotion Tells – I have discovered this subject is fraught with division. Some consider a lengthy interior monologue to be “showing”. I disagree, but if you’re a regular you know how I feel about head time.

My experience with emotion tells involves things like “heard,” “felt,” and “smelled.” The first time an editor told me to pull a “felt” I was angry. What? You want emotion, yet you’re telling me not to let the primary protagonist “feel”? Worse, I wasn’t offered any solutions. Like, well Phil, you ignorant dumb fuck, work it out. Which I did. Here it is, simpler than all the histrionics of fiction experts. Felt, heard, smelled, touched – they’re all weak. Worse, they’re filters. Using one and thinking, “Bill felt Jim’s kick” puts us in touch with Bill is fallacy. It’s pushing us (the reader) further away. Add an adverb and it’s patronizing. For the slightest moment. Emotion tells reside in the same place with explanatory dialogue tags.

Erlene hesitantly touched the stove. It felt cold. She called for Larry to come have a look. See that? I just told you about Erlene and the stove. There is no investment for the reader.

Erlene caught a breath, held it, sidled up to the stove. She closed her eyes, reached out and tapped it with her index finger. Cold. She relaxed, opened her eyes, hollered, “Stove’s colder’n a whorehouse fulla nuns, Larry. Ain’t nobody been around here any kinda recent like.”

Okay, not genius. But you get the idea. Plus, we get to know a little about Erlene. The point – Get rid of weak, lazy verbs in storytelling. Not just in tag-land but emotion-land. There are times to add some word count, and times to put gas in the weed eater. Long flowery sentences full of extra words, adios. Lengthy descriptions, adios. (Mor-on that in a later post). Words that engage and get the action out of the character’s head? Hell yes. I read an example somewhere – Bill thought the ladder might be unsafe. Well, yeah, it’s boring. The ‘Splainer went on to write an epic paragraph about Bill scaling the rickety ladder. Which was overkill for me, but if used as a tension builder, sure.

There’s still an early Deanna tell I need to fix where she “felt” her grandmother’s cold, bony hand. That was the one I got busted for. After I learned that “Deanna thought she might be pregnant, but thankfully wasn’t” was only a placeholder I had to force myself into an exercise in interior and exterior emotional shows. Liked to killed me.

Without the pill Deanna was used to irregular, but not twelve days late irregular. She wasn’t sleeping or following any of her health and scholastic regimens. She paced, worried, and cried off and on for eighteen hours before she called Alix.

Allo oui?”

“Alix, I… I did… Something. Stupid… I think…”

“Thought is most desired, my love. What thoughts most recent bring tears to your voice?”

“I… I might be… I mean I could be…”

“You have spoken with the doctor, no?”

“No. I…”

“Instead of knowing you have made an illness of yourself with worry? You must know of your condition, my love, as worry most becomes the solution of nothing.”

“I know, I know. From facts we discern issues and from issues we discern action. But -“

“Your ‘but’ arrives without relevance, my love. Make no excuses. Discover your condition as fact first, no?”

“I haven’t gone because I know if I hear it for real, I’ll have to… decide. Something. And I’ll have to talk. Mom, Amanda, Jackson… They already hate me… “

“As you have spoken in our work, part of being a woman is to make the decisions most difficult. Without knowledge we become reckless, no? Attend the doctor. After you will know and decide as your heart speaks. Think, my love. Call me as you wish. Decide. What you need, regardless of decision, I make available to you. Do not think of the time most proper to call. Or of your mother, or of Amanda or le petite amor. We are agreed, oui?”

Deanna settled the phone, lay sleepless on her bed another seven hours hoping what she thought were cramps really were, not phantoms or from her stomach churning. She crawled out of bed as the sun turned night into a lighter shade of foggy Cambridge gray, showered and was on her way to the doctor she wished she’d never had to meet, ever, when she felt the cramps take over her abdomen. So strong she stumbled into an alcove out of the freezing mist to sit. If the cramps would just stop long enough for her to catch a decent breath… Goddammit, I have enough to explain without being late… She doubled over on the steps, her body exploded in release. She convulsed, wretched up bile, leaned against the cold, damp stone, choking back sobs.

She forced herself upright and ran. Ran like she’d die if she didn’t outrun the demons that had wrapped themselves around every moment of her life for the last month. She passed her flat and kept running, north up the river walk, past Trinity, across her baby bridge and the river into St. John’s Chapel where wet, cold, hungry, exhausted and thankful she landed on her knees two sections from the Altar. Too wasted to pray, she simply was. Extant between exhaustion and sleep. She stayed that way until her thighs locked up and she fell on her side, curled up in a ball on the padded kneeler and passed out.

A woman swishing a mop banged it on the short wooden wall separating the pews from the main aisle. “Canna fetch a priest, lass?”

“No.” Deanna pulled herself to her knees. “Hell no.” She rubbed her eyes with the heels of her hands. “No men. No priests. No lovers, no liars, no pretenders, no perverts. No nothing. Ever. From any of them. Never. Ever.”

“There’s dead men gone six hundred years and more beneath our feet.” The woman stabbed her mop in the bucket, sloshed it onto the floor, chin pointed to a stone wall broken by stained glass. “Some woman in the ground a’side with grass for a gown as knew them would say six hundred and a stone wall’s not long enough away. Count your blessings, child.” She maintained the rhythm of the mop. “It’s a game to them, love, but our lives to us. More careful you’d be at putting it about in future, I’d say. That’s advice true as no vicar can give. Free offered, to be free taken.” She leaned her mop and walked around the corner, returned with a worn but functional lady’s Mackintosh. “’Ave this against the rain. Wrap your sweater about your waist as you leave. You’re a right mess below.” She turned, reloaded her mop. “I’ll have my Mack back and clean when you come next for a proper go at Mass.”

NVDT Random – Jim kicks Bill – A Book Review

The Ballad of Mrs. Malony – C.S. Boyack

I recently read an Indie from cover to cover. Something I haven’t done in ages. What’s more, I gave it five stars on Amazon. Not because an Indie author made it all the way through but for how he made it through. That’s right. The author STFU and let the story talk.

One of the few blogs I subscribe to is Roberta Writes. Truth? I shy away from her most of the time because of her professional relationship with someone I consider (personal opinion only) one of the major frauds in the Indie publishing biz. But Robbie is everywhere, all the time. I mean like a rash. She’s promoting and interviewing and being interviewed by other Indies. A real hustler in the Indie domain. I think the majority of those things are circle jerks, but she “had on the show” this Boyack guy and his Hat books. I didn’t read the entire interview or review, only enough to get that a hat was a main character.


How the hell did I sign off on a Cat in the Hat style hat that assists an ingenue Danger Barbie in vampire hunting?

I opened the book and wasn’t offered a choice. Chew on that for a minute. First point in author’s favor. No bullshit. No sales pitch. No (listen carefully) authorial ‘splaining nonsense. No in-depth history of vampires. No super queen of the night how bad ass Danger Barbie is descriptions. This book is an exercise in STFU and let the story roll. We find out all about the hat and the DB, whose name is Lizzie, by listening and following them around doing their thing(s). How righteous is that for an Indie?

Pros – Consistent voice. Very few useless tags. Sensible dialogue. You know, the kind that sounds like people only it’s moving the story forward or solving the usual Indie author problem of POV and head time with dialog. Not bunny chasing, ‘splainin’ and author insertion.

Cons – the author’s language only kicked me off the page maybe three times, and all three involved to “sit upon”. Completely out of tone. Like he had an English Teacher moment.

Suggestion – Lizzie, who plays upright bass (with the Hat’s help) in a cover band always “keys” her damn mic before talking. I was 42% of the way through when I learned she was wireless, and a little later headset wireless. “Keying” a mic is ancient broadcast, CB/short wave, and Pilot terminology. I did the pro audio industry for a living, so even something as generic as switched would sit better in the mix.

The book weighs in at 33.4k word count. Not long. Like a Laura Levine. Even some shorter Leonard. I would quibble with the slow spot on their stake-out (hey, a pun!) in the middle as a missed opportunity for some sudden monster in the car window moments, but hey, that’s me.

I don’t read vampire books, or horror or fantasy. But I read this. To me Mrs. Malony was a good, old fashioned character driven caper romp. Even in the minor slow spot the author never veered off course into author land and to me that’s five-star territory. Anyone who wants to see a modern version of how it’s done as applicable short form technique should pick this up.

I’ll read the next one to find out if the Hat gets his fog machine.

NVDT Random – Know What I Mean?

After the post on weird words and stranger meanings, Leggy Peggy offered a comment on how a friend of hers from Morrocco sends her notes where nothing is spelled properly, but she has no difficulty understanding them. While cleaning out and organizing files this week I ran across the scan below from my music daze and found it a fitting example. Even if no one ever spells my name properly, I knew it was for me.

At the time I worked for a distributor into Mexico and South America. The gentleman who wrote the letter got me out of more messes on my clinic tours than you can imagine. He also served as my interpreter when I got past ankle deep in Spanish. That’s the real gist.

We understood each other well enough to have a good time, and not piss anybody off. When my canned Espanol routine would get derailed by a question I didn’t grasp? It became a comedy routine. He’d translate the question. I’d answer as best I could in Spanish before he’d shake his head and take over. I’d ask, in front of 5,000 people, “Say what? I need to learn that one,” and he’d repeat it. I’d repeat it back, look to the audience for a yay or nay. A good deal of what got yelled back at me was in fun and unprintable. Even if I understood I’d come back with “¿Qué tiene que ver tu hermana con esto?” (What’s your sister got to do with this?)

If my wife had to grade this as an English 1301 project, Marco would fail. But I know exactly what he’s saying. Wawt madders is kontint, wee kan fix the rust. Know what I mean?

NVDT Random – Housekeeping and a Thank You

This blog was a mess. Of opinion, “tips”, silliness, and craft. Here’s a sad truth. A number of the craft pieces end up with more edits on here than the Word or other scratchpads where they originated. Even stuff pulled out of Scrivener is fresher here than there.

It has been in the back of my mind for a year to assemble a handful of shorts from the better of these blog posts. Trying to search them on WP is frustrating at best. Particularly if I know the title or a content trigger word and WP offers up forty posts. Thirty-nine of which are not relevant, nor do they contain the triggers or the title.

The other day I did some research on converting blogs to PDF/Word and found BlogBooker. This is not a pitch, nor am I a compensated spokesperson or an actor portraying a user. I tried several of the options out there on the “free tial” and for me BlogBooker worked the best. The caveat is if you want your whole blog you will need to pay. I found the princely sum of $18 for 6 months and a few passes and 30 minutes of processing time reasonable to save me at least one cut and paste step of 380+ documents. In under a minute, I had this entire blog down to five Word Docx files, one per year. Complete with graphics and comments.

I have been going through the files, copying out singles of the short stories by title and active character. Okay, in all honesty I went through and blew out all the comments so I could tell what was content and what was me blowing. I want to thank everyone (except that asshole Australian Nicholas whatever) for your comments. Good, constructive, critical – All of them. I had forgotten what I learned about Deanna and Jackson from you, what characters and their antic/conversations resonated and what was a reach even when I was experimenting. And how what crap I think my “poetry” is, it was the biggest hit.

I’m through two years of shorts and poetry. I haven’t pulled any of the goofy stuff or the Writerly Concerns/thoughts. I was on the verge of recycling myself, or reposting and what a waste of time. The point of this was to create a canvas with artificial deadlines to put product up and look at it. A virtual dress rehearsal. Hence the reason there’s a finer point on most of what was up here than anywhere else. Like playing live or putting a demo together or creative for $. I don’t see or hear the clams unless the volume’s up.

I used the word “was” in reference to content here. After I ran BlogBooker I dumped 99% of my content. Not because of any paranoia, but to keep me from hitting on something and tweaking it in one too many places. I’ll have one main folder with subs for shorts by character and the “poetry”. I will make various assemblies of content and port them to epub or Word or whatever format required and ask anyone interested to go through and say yay or nay to content selections. I have so much junk I could do several variations, with mini novellas in the middle. Deanna collection, Jackson collection, conversations with Lamar… Or print them for fish wrapping.

Coming up on this site will be more originals, ’cause I can’t quit, and I had a lot of fun with SepScene and the bad detective pulp and creating. But there will be a lot less nonsense.

Truth? I belonged to this blog hop. Nobody wanted to discuss craft, they wanted cover reveals for crap.* I mentioned that more than once and they invited me to go away. I still get notices from a few of them and, by and large, they are still writing long tomes once a week about nothing but how grand their shit is when they could be fixing their work or helping each other. When I saw all that, and all the time I’d spent participating and writing long tomes about why don’t y’all give a shit I was sick.

Thanks! Back to your regularly scheduled blogs.

*Stevie Turner is exempt from this description. Just sayin’.