Call me Scrooge

Every year at Christmas, I try to read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Not only is it a ghost story, but it’s a great message and has a meaning that I think we all understand. The change and redemption of someone.

I was thinking, though, of how it’s been warped in our culture. When we know someone that doesn’t celebrate Christmas or is grumpy about the holiday season or they are tight with their money – we call them a Scrooge.

That’s a grave injustice to the wonderful story that Mr. Dickens wrote. The only part that people focus on is the beginning and how Scrooge was to start with. Our view of the story gets a bit skewed that way.

It should be an honor to be called Scrooge. This man was so set in his ways and his thinking that he didn’t realize what he was missing or how he was making not only his own life but other’s lives miserable. But someone saw something deep down in Scrooge’s soul and gave him a chance to make amends, to enrich his own life and other’s lives.

For his part, Scrooge wasn’t so far gone that he ignored it or refused to change. He saw what he had become and how he could do things differently. He saw how much he affected other’s lives and could choose to make them better instead of worse.

And he made that difference. He made that change with himself and thereby he changed the world around him. He made other people’s lives better.

There is a bit at the end that I think is super-important and something that is very relevant to today. This is from the end:

“Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this glove, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed; and that was quite enough or him.”

That could have been written today. So, please, if you feel like it, call me Scrooge. I would be honored.

Scary stories free in the public domain

I hope those of you reading this blog also like to read other stories. Why would you follow an author if you didn’t like to read, right? 🙂

Through the years I have read quite a few books and one of my favorite genres is horror. Ever since I was a kid I loved to read scary ghost stories. I still have most of the books I had when I was younger and have been reading some of them over – still good stuff.

One of the benefits of the internet at this time in history is that quite a few of the classic stories we think of as scary are now free. Their copyright has expired and the works are now in the public domain, meaning anyone can get them to read for free. I’m not talking about illegal, pirated books.

This is absolutely wonderful, as some of these are great stories. Keep in mind that stories from 100+ years ago can be quite a bit different from today’s stories. There is more of an atmosphere about them. They seem to play on the senses or scare through subtleties in perception. Plus a lot of them aren’t scary stories so much as a statement on the day and age.

There is a site I love – The Gutenberg Project. This site has been trying to collect as many books and stories that are in the public domain as they possibly can. They want to preserve these books and stories and offer them for download on the website in various formats. If you’ve never been there, check it out.

A couple that may be of interest during Halloween time:

Frankenstein – not only is this arguably the first science fiction story it is also written by a woman, which is pretty fantastic for the time period. While you may be familiar with the various movies, the story is much more than that. Like many classic, Victorian-era stories, the true monster isn’t who we think. It is also a commentary on the new science that was evolving at this time and how man thinks they can play god. My kids have been reading and studying this in school, it really is worth a read if you never have.

Dracula – again, not what you would think. If you think you’re getting an action vampire movie of a story, think again. This is a pretty hefty book, but its very good. It is actually more of a love story than a scary ghost story, but I love the Victorian atmosphere, gothic in every sense, and how the story is so much more than we think of it today.

The Vampyre, a tale – not as well known, but may be the first vampire story. It’s short but a little harder to get through than some others. Worth reading if for no other reason than it’s the start of our modern vampire story.

And if you think Nightmare Before Christmas is part Halloween and part Christmas, check out A Christmas Carol. Yup, the classic with Scrooge and the three ghosts. Did you ever wonder about ghosts in a Christmas story? It’s really a ghost story! I have read this story every year at Christmas as a tradition, but it fits equally well in October.

There are a few to get you started. If you like to read and have said you should read some of the classics, check this site out. There are so many good books you may be there a while and suddenly find your Kindle full.


One of the aspects of writing that is difficult for me is Point of View (POV).

Point of view is basically who is telling the story you are reading. The easy example is first person point of view – I walked my dog in the park when I saw a wonderous site. A UFO landed right in front of me and I couldn’t believe it. My dog, of course, went crazy.

The other one that is popular and fairly easy is third person – George walked his dog in the park and saw something wondrous. A UFO landed in front of him and he was shocked. His dog barked at it.

There are some slightly different variations and there is also 2nd point of view, but I’m not going to go into that much here.

My problem is something they call head hopping. When you right from a third person point of view, you can be omniscient or focused. When omniscient, you can see in the heads of all the characters and when focused, you usually stay with one character. The problem is, in any scene you should stay focused on one character or it gets confusing. That is something I have a hard time with and it’s hard for me to even recognize it.

Here is an example my editor gave me. It is from Martin & James vs. The Masked Moss-Trooper.

Martin’s POV is red, while James’ is blue.

Martin grabbed the ladder and climbed hurriedly. A noise below caused him to glance down and see James climbing. 

“James, do go into the car and wait for me. It is much too dangerous up here. I cannot be responsible for you and apprehend Victor at the same time.”

The little face looked up, voice whining. “But sir, I’m your partner.” Not getting the reaction he wanted, James tried again.  “Please, I won’t screw up like last time, I promise. Cross my heart, well, if I wasn’t holding a ladder I’d cross my heart.”

You can probably see fairly easily how the first part is as if we were in Martin’s head and the next part we are in James head. When I was writing it and reading it and re-writing it, that never stood out to me.

Here it is rewritten:

Martin grabbed the ladder and climbed hurriedly. A noise below caused him to glance down and see James climbing. 

“James, do go into the car and wait for me. It is much too dangerous up here. I cannot be responsible for you and apprehend Victor at the same time.”

The little face looked up, voice whining. “But sir, I’m your partner.” When Martin didn’t respond, he took another step up the rung.  “Please, I won’t screw up like last time, I promise. Cross my heart, well, if I wasn’t holding a ladder I’d cross my heart.

It’s subtle and the rewritten part says the same thing, it’s just the way it’s said. Some people don’t find it jarring and think it sounds fine the first way. This isn’t the best example, so let me try another one. Here is an example from later in the story when Martin is facing Vincent.

The triangle shape made this blade unique and Martin knew he had to be careful or he’d receive more than a cut from it. (Martin POV) Vincent tensed, readying himself, knowing he could overtake the other man, but before he could close the distance, there was a clatter as the door behind him opened. (Vincent POV) 

That one is much more clear. The POV definitely shifts between the two characters. We head hop from one to the other.

The triangle shape made this blade unique and Martin knew he had to be careful or he’d receive more than a cut from it. Martin readied himself as he saw Vincent tense. He knew he could overtake the other man if he was careful of the blade. Before he could close the distance, there was a clatter as the door behind Vincent opened.

This is an area of writing I still struggle with and will continue to work on. I want to thank Cate Hogan for helping with the examples above. I hope that I can use the knowledge I’ve gained to be able to go through my manuscripts and fix them so that they read better, because getting people to read them is the whole point.

How I broke my hand

I broke my hand over the weekend. Actually, not the whole hand, it’s not shattered or anything. Just broke the pinkie on my left hand. If you had to choose a finger to break, that’s a good one to choose.

How did I break my finger? That’s a good question. Below are three stories of how I MIGHT have broken it. See if you think any are true:


Story 1

So there I was, standing in the alley with the smell of rotten garbage. Water dripped down my hair and into my eyes. I was soaked all the way to my converse. No way was I leaving, though. The drunk moron in front of me was going to learn some manners and I was going to defend my wife’s honor.

Was I worried? Heck no, I’m a black belt after all.

Then, just like in the movies, he lumbered unsteadily forward, throwing a roundhouse that a hippo could have avoided. I slipped by and pow, landed a good one on his nose. He rocked back, shocked.

Now I was a little giddy with the achievement, so I danced in to pop him another one. I swung my left hand, and crack. His head felt as hard as steel as my hand connected and I felt pain shoot up my arm.

Cradling my hand, all I could do was watch his fist coming right at my face.

Story 2

“Spin me.”

Little did I know that those words would be my undoing. I mean, come on, it was just a kids merry go round. I had spun my older kids on them hundreds of times when they were growing up. I couldn’t tell my stepson no, could I?

Telling him to hold tight, I grasped the rails and started to run. It’s a very weird thing to run while crouched over and grasping two rails on one side. Once I had him going I stopped to watch.

Yup, sure enough, he had that glazed look of a kid that was absolutely terrified and enjoying himself silly at the same time.

Timing it just right, I started to reach for the bars as I started running to match speeds. Therein lies my downfall. If I had just gone around the mud I wouldn’t have slipped. If I hadn’t slipped I wouldn’t have heard the loud crack as my finger was bent at a very unnatural angle.

Story 3

“Last chance, so ya’ bedder tell us, see?”

Since I was strapped to a chair, I wasn’t about to correct this neanderthal’s grammar.

“Seriously, I think you have the wrong guy. I don’t know anything about a diamond.”

I looked desperately at the two thugs hovering over me. They exchanged a glance.

“Want me ta’ loosen his tongue Tony?” the bigger one asked.

“Nah, let’s look around first. It’s gotta be here.”

What could I do but sit as they busted up the joint. Not my place, which I think may have been the problem.

“Um, fellas, I don’t want to interrupt, but this isn’t even my house. Honest, I was just trying to collect money for cancer research. See? My bag is right there.”

I bobbled my head, trying to indicate the forgotten bag by the door.

“That’s it, Sylvester. Let’s rough him up.”

I was stunned. What type of respectable mafia guy is called Sylvester. Before I could question the name, the big guy grabbed my pinkie and yanked it up. I barely heard the snap before I blacked out.

I hope they found their diamond.

There you have it. Which one do you believe?

If you are interested, I have a couple other stories to check out:

Jeff Strand “I gotta pee” fan fiction

Dr. Time

Martin & James Visit the Witch

I can send you more stories, including an exclusive Martin & James story where they battle the first vampire.

Martin & James Adventure Progress Update

I just made progress on Martin & James Adventure! So far I’m 44% complete on the Writing phase.

Martin & James Adventure


The goal is to write a couple more short stories and compile all of their adventures. If you haven’t read the first couple, go to Martin & James vs The Masked Moss-Trooper and check it out.

writing exercise

There are many ways to improve your writing. The first, and most obvious, is just to write more. With more practice you should get better. Part of that process is to get feedback from others. What we think we are writing is not always what is coming across to others.

It can be very difficult to put your work out there and get feedback. One problem, though, is that many people don’t want to hurt your feelings and just tell you “Oh, that’s great, loved it.” That doesn’t really help you because if all the feedback you get is so positive, once you submit to the world or even just to an agent or publisher, you’ll get devastated when told how bad things may be.

But that feedback is so very important because it is a great way to see where your writing lacks and how to improve it.

There are also various exercises you can do. For example – get a topic or situation and just write about it. I have several weekly contests I belong to that do just that. Each week they have a topic or story starter and you have to take that and make a full fledged story. It’s fun and helps because you may write something you may not have any other time. You stretch, which is a great way to get better at writing. It’s also nice to get feedback on these writings because you may not be so emotionally attached to it, so any feedback can be viewed with a more critical eye. That will carry over to your other writing.

Another exercise I like to do is re-writing. I take a section of a book and then re-write it in several ways. I’ve done this with Harry Potter and below I’m doing it with The Shining.

I did 2 sections from Stephen King’s book. They are in bold. I then rewrote it as you might as a new writer. I wrote it again as someone that is over compensating or that hasn’t learned to trim down their writing. Then I wrote it and made other word choices.

Am I saying I can write better than you or Stephen King? No, not at all. This is just an exercise meant to stretch my abilities. I could have chosen to rewrite it as my dog might write.  I could have chosen to write it like Charles Dicken’s might have written it. Whatever. You can also choose any book or passage. It’s probably a good idea to choose something not in your favorite genre at times.

I’m interested in what others think of my choices and if you’ve done this exercise yourself and what the results were.  Here is what I have for this one:

Jack came out onto the porch, tugging the tab of his zipper up under his chin, blinking into the bright air. In his left hand he was holding a battery-powered hedge-clipper. He tugged a fresh handkerchief out of his back pocket with his right hand, wiped his lips with it, and tucked it away. Snow, they had said on the radio. It was hard to believe, even though he could see the clouds building up on the far horizon.


Newbie and dry:

Jack walked onto the porch. He zipped up his jacket and blinked in the light. He pulled a handkerchief out and wiped his lips. He then put it back in his pocket. In his other hand he carried a hadge-clipper. He looked at the clouds. The radio had said there would be snow.


More full blow:

Jack took a step onto the porch. He grabbed the tab for his jacket zipper, pulled it and zipped it all the way up to his chin as he blinked into the bright light and the air. In his left hand he carried a hedge-clipper. The hedge-clipper was battery powered. Reaching into his back pocket with his right hand, he took out a handkerchief. He used the clean, new handkerchief to wipe his lips and then he moved his arm and put the handkerchief back in his back pocket. He had heard on the radio that the weather was calling for snow. He found it hard to believe that it might snow, but he could see snow clouds on the horizon. They were still far away.


Changed words:

Jack stepped onto the porch, pulling the little zipper tab up under his chin as he blinked into the brightness of the air. He carried a hedge-clipper, battery powered. Using his free hand, he pulled a crisp handkerchief from his back pocket and proceeded to wipe his lips before tucking it away. As he looked at the sky, he thought it hard to believe that the radio had predicted snow, but sure enough, he could see the build-up of clouds on the horizon.



He started down the path to the topiary, switching the hedge-clipper over to the other hand. It wouldn’t be a long job, he thought; a little touch-up would do it. The cold nights had surely stunted their growth. The rabbit’s ears looked a little fuzzy, and two of the dog’s legs had grown fuzzy green bonespurs, but the lions and the buffalo looked fine. Just a little haircut would do the trick, and then let the snow come.



Newbie and dry:

He walked down the path to the topiary. He moved the hedge-clipper to his other hand. It wouldn’t take long to touch up the shrubs he thought. They were probably not growing because of the cold nights. He thought the rabbit’s ears and dog’s legs may need trimmed. He didn’t think the lion nor buffalo needed trimmed. Once he finished, the snow could come.


More full blown:

Jack started walking down the path to the topiary. As he walked along ,he moved the hedge-clipper from one hand to the other. He was thinking that it wouldn’t be a tough job at all. He thought that the shrubs just needed a bit of a touch up. The nights had been cold and that would have stunted the growth of the shrubs. He thought the rabbit’s ears might have looked a little bit fuzzy. He also thought at least two of the dog’s legs had grown some making it look like they had bonespurs. Looking at the lion and the buffalo, he didn’t think the needed trimmed at all. After he finished trimming just a little it, the snow could come and he wouldn’t care.


Changed words:

He switched the hedge-clipper’s to his other hand as he walked the path to the topiary. All they needed was a touch-up, he thought. The cold nights had surely stunted their growth, making this a quick job. The rabbit’s ears looked a little fuzzy, and a couple of the dog’s legs had grown leafy bonespurs, but the lion and buffalo looked fine. After a bit of a haircut, the snow could fly all it wanted.


Book sale promotion


I have one story that is in Kindle Unlimited, so the price is still 99 cents. But I have it on promotion right now for FREE! This is a limited time, so grab them right away.

Martin & James vs The Evil Mosquito Scientist

I have 3 other stories available wide. They are all free and available at multiple online locations (iTunes, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords).

Martin & James vs The Masked Moss-Trooper and you can the audiobook

Martin & James vs The Crazed Weatherman

Martin & James Visit the Witch

Right now they are all free – go grab them and enjoy.

If you read any of the stories, a review would be appreciated. Really, reviews are awesome and help a lot with getting a book known and helping the author to sell more. If that happens, you get more stories, so we all win. Please though, if you are a close friend or family, make note of that in the review.

Free Stories

Good news readers!

Right now, Martin & James vs The Evil Mosquito Scientist is FREE on Amazon!

Even better, The Crazed Weatherman and The Witch are also free, and those will stay free! If you would really like to help a new author, go check those out, click to buy them for free. Just doing that would be immensely helpful.

The other book, Masked Moss-Trooper, should be free soon. How soon? Not sure, Amazon doesn’t move fast on these things.

Also, if you like to read on other platforms, you are in luck, because you can get these all elsewhere. Check out the book pages for the link that works for you. Note – Evil Mosquito Scientist is not currently free on Amazon nor available elsewhere. As soon as it is out of Kindle Unlimited, I will be able to make it available all over.

Martin & James vs the Masked Moss-Trooper

Martin & James vs The Evil Mosquito Scientist

Martin & James vs The Crazed Weatherman

Martin & James Visit the Witch


Justice League movie – story fail

Have you seen the Justice League movie? If you haven’t, it’s pretty good, you should check it out. It’s supposed to be DC’s answer to the Marvel multi-movie universe. That’s a whole different discussion and not what I want to bring up today.

In the movie, Batman gathers Flash, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Cyborg to take on this threat to the world. The climax of the movie sees the team battling flying, demon insects while trying to stop the big, bad guy. OK, so far, so good. (Warning: there’s a bit of spoilers below, so if you haven’t seen the movie, go see it before reading.)

When this big, bad guy shows up, another dimension starts intruding on our world. Essentially a portal opens up and the demon bugs come out and the portal is getting bigger. When the portal opened, it was right in the middle of this town. Of course, most of the people, being smart, bug (ha ha) out and get away as fast as they can. That is, except for one family.

This guy boards up his windows to keep the bugs out and he’s ready to fight with his shotgun. His little girl, the star of this little scene, is scared and hiding under the table. After listening to the bugs slam into their house, she decides to crawl over to a cabinet. Reaching inside she pulls out — bug spay! I loved it. This little girl isn’t going to be afraid, she will fight the bugs and gets the best weapon she can think of.

Fast forward: The Justice League shows up and is fighting the bugs. The father, realizing he can’t fight them, takes the opportunity to skeddaddle. He loads the family up in the pickup truck and gets out. Except it isn’t that easy. The portal is getting bigger and about the engulf their truck and the bugs are swarming and will be attacking the family, and the little girl, riding in the back. Of course, there are superheroes to save the day, and the Flash uses his super speed to move the truck, and family, far down the road out of danger.

Right here is the missed opportunity. Flash tells them bye, and leaves. Ugh, ball dropped. Here’s what really should have happened. As he’s about to leave, the little girl tugs his sleeve and hands him the bug spray.

That’s it. Nothing super big or spectacular, but it’s exactly what was needed. They had this whole arc with the little girl and her family. They are trapped and she’s afraid, yet she decides to fight back and does what she can. Now, there are super people that will take care of things, yet, she wants to help and gives him her can of bug spray. She doesn’t need it. Regardless of the abilities they have, she is helping him and giving him the only thing she can, not only as thanks but because she knows they will need all the help they can get.

Even better would have been as the Flash is running around, he actually gets attacked by a group of bugs and pulls out the bug spray and blasts them, causing them to all fly away, maybe some fly into trees or buildings or whatever. He then smiles and looks at the can. That, to me, would have been perfect and was really missed. They could have finished that little sub-plot very well but left it go and it feels missed.

Wait, there could have been one more thing. End of credit scene, the Flash visits the family and gives the girl a new bottle of bug spray. Yeah, that would have been great.

Did you see the movie? Did you like it? Do you think they should have done what I said? Just curious. Thanks.


The Haunted Forest Tour – Jeff Strand & James Moore Fan Fiction

I’ll tell you a quick story before I tell you a story.

I sometimes review audiobooks. Some are good, some aren’t as good. I try to be fair, even if it is a book I personally am not enjoying or it’s a genre I don’t read much.

On occasion, though, I get an audiobook that I love. That’s what happened with Cyclops Road by Jeff Strand. I was hesitant at first because I couldn’t quite figure out what this was going to be about. As I got further into it, I found that I was loving it. Not only did it have a bit of fantasy, but it was funny. A great blend.

I finished the audiobook and immediately checked out the author – you know, social stalking on Facebook and his website. Turns out this guy has a ton of books. So, of course, like we all do when we find an author we like, I grabbed one of his books – The Haunted Forest Tour.

Once again, this book delivered. It’s light-hearted, funny, has some sci-fi type fantasy, and it has tons of monsters killing people in interesting ways. It was kind of like a B-movie on Syfy. Come on, who doesn’t like a good B-movie on Syfy?

Anyway, I finished the book and am moving on to another. BUT – being who I am, my brain sparked. There could have been other people that got off that tram car, right? Maybe a few of them got separated from the rest of the group. Hmmmm……

If you aren’t sure what I’m talking about, check out the book. For me, I sat down and wrote a story. I’m sure there was a guy that must have gotten off and went a different direction. Maybe he had something even more on his mind than tons of monsters trying to eat him……

So here you go – fan fiction for The Haunted Forest Tour.

PDF – I Gotta Pee

I hope you enjoy it. Made me chuckle, hope it brightens someone’s day.

Please, do yourself a favor and check out these two authors. If you have Kindle Unlimited, many of Jeff’s books are available through that service.

Jeff Strand – website and facebook

James Moore – website

As another aside, I found out that Jeff and I were born 2 days apart and he went to school in the next town over from me. How cool is that?

Dr. Time

This was a short story I submitted on Reddit for a writing prompt I found on the Reedsy writing prompts:

The prompt was:

The doctor gave you six months. You lived through it, one year has passed. Not surprised, he then gave you one year; after that time you are still alive. You’re starting to think he’s actually GIVING you time to live, instead of making predictions.


This is what I came up with:

(you can download a PDF of this story here)

“Good morning, dear. Time to wake up.”
I groan or try to groan, at the sound of my wife’s voice. I love her dearly, but why does her voice sound like nails on a chalkboard in the morning. Maybe it’s just me. Probably just me.
I hear her starting to stride down the hall, her brisk steps seeming to pound into my head, and I valiantly sit up. There, hope she’s happy.
“Oh, good, you’re up. All right dear, I’ve laid out your clothes, do you need help dressing?” she asks this sweetly, but do I detect a hint of malice, maybe loathing, in that tone? Could just be me. Probably not just me.
“No dear, thanks,” I croak. She gives me a smile as she leaves. I don’t smile back. I think she’s starting to hate me, not that I could blame her, right?
Once I struggle the clothes on, I shuffle to the door, glancing at the clock as I pass it on the stand. Really? Is that just one more mockery, that it takes me over 20 minutes to get dressed. Just to get dressed?
As I continue shuffling down the hall, I hear her light steps from below and then her voice floats up.
“Dear, are you at the top of the steps yet? Should I start breakfast? I just don’t want it to get cold.”
Yeah, it would suck to have cold eggs, life’s tragedies. Ok, maybe I’m feeling a bit of self-pity this morning. Yeah, probably.
I gather my strength and roar, “No,” and then cough for half an eternity.
“What was that dear? I couldn’t quite hear you,” she says. “It’s ok, I’ll wait a bit.”
All right, all right, so it was more little a kitten whine than a roar, leave me my fantasies.
Hearing my plodding feet on the creaky stairs, she says she’ll start breakfast. At least it’s something to look forward to. My stomach growls and I grimace. Damn. Even that hurts. When your stomach says it’s hungry and it hurts, that’s when life really starts sucking, right? Forget the ‘my hair hurts’ stuff, if you can’t enjoy eating, why bother? Sorry, maybe it’s just me.
She’s already sitting and almost done eating by the time I clomp into the kitchen. Rising to help me, she stops and sits back down after my glare catches her eye. I haven’t lived this long, and with this pain, just to be treated like an invalid. Is that what I am? Yeah, ok, so what. I don’t want to be treated like one and I won’t be. I’ll die first. Maybe.


“Hello Mr. Sanders, let me help you.”
I can’t summon to strength to glare or tell the nurse no as she grabs my elbow, guiding me through the door. The trip here has taken most of the day and I’m done in. I feel my arm trembling as I try to lift the cane for the next step. The nurse is on one side of me with my wife on the other, holding my sagging body from hitting the floor unceremoniously. All right, let’s be honest, they are carrying me with my feet dragging.
Once I’m in the room waiting for the doctor, I recover some of my strength.
“I’m getting pretty darn tired of this,” I wheeze out.
My wife, my lovely, supportive wife, looks at me and for an instant, I see some anger and loathing before the all too common pity settles on her features. I want to yell at her, I want to scream. I sit catching my breath.
“I know dear, it has been hard. But try to remember the good side, you are still here, we are still together. Originally the doctor didn’t think you would make it six months, and here you are, two years later and still with me.”
Was that a bit of sarcasm and resentment I hear in her voice. Could be. Probably is. Not that I blame her. Yay me, I beat dying only to end up so miserable I think it would be preferable to be dead. I’m pretty sure my wife would agree with that assessment. Probably.
“This isn’t living. This is dying alive,” I mumble. I don’t care if she hears me or not.
“Dear, the doctor will figure this out and you’ll get better.”
“Will he?” I make an effort and glare at her. “I mean, he thought I was going to die and was wrong about that, huh? Wasn’t he?”
She looks at me, serenely, but I know I see some anger seething beneath the surface. Not that I blame her. Not really.
“We must have faith, dear. You’re alive, that’s the important part.”
I don’t bother arguing with her, it would take too much strength. But she’s wrong. She doesn’t have to live like I do, live like I’m dead but just can’t stop breathing. Except I wish I could stop breathing, it hurts so badly.
The door opens and there is the doctor, a bright sunny smile plastered on his face. I hate him. Thanks for telling me I was dying, doc, only to be wrong and then tell me you have no idea why I’m in such pain anymore. Thanks.
“How are you feeling, Mr. Sanders? Still alive I see.”
I’m going to punch him right in the nose, pow. I want to punch him. At least I’m thinking of punching him, I’m too tired to actually raise my arms.
“I think he’s doing better, Doctor. Yesterday he had more energy, didn’t you dear? I think the pain has been less on someday, too, right dear?”
I nod my head, more like a bit of a jiggle. What the hell? It doesn’t really matter anyway, the doctor hasn’t been able to do anything for me.
He examines me while asking more questions, which my wife answers. I just sit, I don’t care any longer. I do wish he had been right about that original diagnosis and I had died, believe me, that would be better than this existence I’ve been living.
“Well, Mr. Sanders,” the doc starts, sitting on his stupid little stool while looking at my wife as much as me. “The good news is, you are still alive. You seem to be a true miracle of science. I am glad to have been wrong in this case.”
He smiles. Maybe it’s the pain of continuing to stay sitting, but that smile looks malicious to me. I turn my eyes to see if my wife has caught that, but she’s just beaming looking at me and then back at the doctor.
“It is wonderful, Doctor. But he is still in such pain, more pain than he ever had before your diagnosis. Isn’t there anything we can do now?”
“Well, Mrs. Sanders, I’m not sure. I mean, just being alive should be considered a gift. Yes, a great gift.”
He pauses and again I think I catch a hint of something almost sinister in his smile. Maybe it’s just me. Probably it’s just me.
“Mr. Sanders, I’ll send the nurse in to take some blood. There are some new treatments I’ve been trying with some patients that may help you. We’ll talk after your blood is analyzed.”
He rises, shakes my wife’s hand then lifts mine to shake it. It hurts moving, even when it’s not me causing the movement. Then he’s gone. Gee, thanks doc, big help.
I need to pee, and if I don’t start to the restroom now, I will likely pee my pants before I get there. After some fussing, my wife just holds the door for me as I glide out, slowly, like a snail. Luckily, the restrooms aren’t far and I think I can make it.
After just a few steps, I’m tuckered out and my left knee is screaming in pain. I can’t help it, I need to rest. Will I be back on the ball court with the guys shooting layups soon? Doubt it, I can’t even get up the strength to turn the game on TV. I angle towards the wall, no a door, falling into it more than a controlled lean. To my surprise, I don’t stop. The door isn’t latched and I fall into the room. Just great, now I’ll probably pee my pants before I can get up. Then, I pee my pants anyway.
What I see is the most horrific thing I’ve ever witnessed. Is it just me? Am I hallucinating? Could be, but I don’t think so.
On the patient table is a man, similar in age to me. Standing in front of him is the doctor. But that is where the normalcy ends. The doctors head is split and folded open, the top half of his head laying back like someone cut open a ball. His mouth, where the split occurs, has a hose, no, a tube, projecting out of it and attached to this other patients head. There are what look like balls of glowing light flowing in the tube, not out of the patient as you’d expect in some cheesy horror movie, but from the doctor to the patient.
Before I can comprehend any of this or call for help, the doctor, half his head still lolling back, jumps and the tube snaps back from the patient and down the doctor’s throat. Crazily, it reminds me of a measuring tape when you flip that little switch to drag it all back in. Once the tube has disappeared, he turns as his head rights itself back together.
“Oh, Mr. Sanders, that was a bad thing, a very bad thing. You should not have seen that, no you shouldn’t. And here, I’ve done so much for you. I mean, look at you, still alive even when you would have been dead with any other doctor.”
He looks at me sadly, slight shake to his head. What insanity is this? I must be really insane. Am I insane? Probably. Feebly, I strain to pull myself back, away from this monster, to the door and safety. Casually, he steps over me and shuts the door. Well crap.
“Mr. Sanders, I’m afraid we may have to change our deal. I have had such a wonderful track record. So many patients that have gotten to live. Me, that was me, giving that to them. And you, I might add. And I was close, really close, to fixing the problems – the aches and pains your body experiences when it knows it should be dead. The pains of the dead on the living, you might say.”
The doctor steps closer, way too close, like right up next to me.
“I am sorry to say, Mr. Sanders, that you won’t get the chance to experience that. I truly am sorry, I thought you might be one of the first. You really shouldn’t have come in here. It makes the suffering you’ve had mean nothing.”
I think he may have said I’m sorry once more, I’m not sure. I was too busy focusing on his head splitting again and that tube stretching out right towards my …


So there you are. Hope you like it. I will be posting other short stories, so if you like this one, come back for more.


Get to reading – the Great American Read

Have you heard of the Great American Read?

Sponsored by PBS, this documentary special is a celebration of reading. There are 100 books on the list, and you can vote for your favorite. There will be 1 winner based on these votes.

It’s pretty cool and exciting, go check out the list. Going through, there are many I have read and there are many that are surprising. Tom Sawyer is on the list, of course. But so is Ready Player One, which was interesting. So it’s not just a list of books that are more than 100 years old, though many of those are pretty good.

There are some books I’d still like to read, but here are the ones that I’ve actually read:


Adventures of Tom Sawyer (personal recommendation)

Alex Cross

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (personal recommendation)

Call of the Wild (personal recommendation)

Charlotte’s Web (I like the overall theme of this one)

Chronicles of Narnia

Count of Monte Cristo

DaVinci Code


Flowers in the Attic



Gone with the Wind

Grapes of Wrath

Gulliver’s Travels

Harry Potter (recommended, well duh)


Hunt for Red October

Jurassic Park (one of my top 3 books ever)

Little Women

Moby Dick

Ready Player One

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (highly recommended)

Hunger Games

Lord of the Rings

Martian (one of my all-time favorites)




Where the Red Fern Grows (recommended)


Thirty-one out of 100 – not great, but not bad. There are a couple still on my list to read, so that will bring it up. Likewise, there are a couple that I’ve tried to read but couldn’t get into and didn’t care for. That’s ok, you’re allowed to not like a book.

Parents, if you are looking for a good summer read for the kids:

Charlotte’s Web, Tom Sawyer, Where the Red Fern Grows, Hatchet would be good ones. Alice’s Adventures is a good one to read together, it’s trippy and is great with a discussion.

For the older kids, try: Outsiders, Hitchhiker’s Guide, Call of the Wild and Harry Potter.

How many have you read? Go vote!

Writing with balance

Many writers, including yours truly, struggle to write not just well but the bestest words. See that, I need to edit that. It’s very difficult to write out what you want to say. Sometimes you write the most perfect thing, then get disgusted when you read it back.

“How could I write that?! Why did I think that was so great!?” Those words can probably be heard often – if not out loud, at least echoing in someone’s head.

For me, coming up with a story isn’t that hard. Even writing it down isn’t that difficult. But then, reading it and editing it – that can be very difficult.

One problem I, and I’m sure many others struggle with, is writing with balance. Writing with balance can mean a couple things, so let me tell you what I mean.

For this post, writing with balance means putting the words on the page to say what you want to say, without those words sucking. I know someone laughed reading that, but I bet many writers are going, “yeah, that’s pretty hard to do.”

Maybe giving examples will help best rather than lecturing. Here is a bit of the infamous Harry Potter story:

From Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets chapter 10 The Rogue Bludger

Harry had no time to reply. At that very moment, a heavy black Bludger came pelting toward him; he avoided it so narrowly that he felt it ruffle his hair as it passed.
“Close one, Harry!” said George, streaking past him with his
club in his hand, ready to knock the Bludger back toward a Slytherin.
Harry saw George give the Bludger a powerful whack in the direction of Adrian Pucey, but the Bludger changed direction in midair and shot straight for Harry again.
Harry dropped quickly to avoid it, and George managed to hit it hard toward Malfoy. Once again, the Bludger swerved like a boomerang and shot at Harry’s head.
Harry put on a burst of speed and zoomed toward the other end of the field. He could hear the Bludger whistling along behind him. What was going on? Bludgers never concentrated on one player like this; it was their job to try and unseat as many people as possible. . . .
Fred Weasley was waiting for the Bludger at the other end.
Harry ducked as Fred swung at the Bludger with all his might; the
Bludger was knocked off course.
“Gotcha!” Fred yelled happily, but he was wrong; as though it
was magnetically attracted to Harry, the Bludger pelted after him
once more and Harry was forced to fly off at full speed.


If you haven’t read this series, you really should, if for no other reason than to know what everyone else is talking about.

Is this the most perfect section of prose you will ever read? No, probably not. Would Ms. Rowling say she wrote the best piece of literature ever? I doubt it. That’s kind of the point. Sometimes we get so caught up in making every bit of it perfect that it never actually gets written. The little inaccuracies and personal choices are what help define our voice and make us unique and interesting. There’s the wisdom of the day, young Padawan.

Ok, now, what could she have written? I’ve got a couple examples below of how it could have been written. I know I have caught myself writing this way and have heard many other authors write this way at times.


Alternate Universe 1 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets chapter 10 The Rogue Bludger

Harry had no time to reply. A Bludger came toward him. He swerved. The Bludger flew close to him. His hair was ruffled by Bludger passing by.
“Close one, Harry!” said George. George flew past Harry. George carried his club. Goerge hit the Bludger toward Adrian Pucey. The Bludger change direction and flew toward Harry.
Harry dropped to avoid the Bludger. George hit the Bludger toward Malfoy. The Bludger swerved toward Harry again.
Harry sped up and flew to the other end of the field. The Bludger flew behind him, making a whistling sound.  Harry wondered why the Bludger was after him and not others.
At the end of the field, Fred Weasley waited. Harry ducked as he flew by Fred. Fred swung at the Bludger. The Bludger was knocked off course.
“Gotcha!” Fred yelled. He was wrong. The Bludger after Harry. Harry flew off.


I think you would agree, that wasn’t as interesting. Was it telling the same thing? Yes, but it sounded more like reading the directions to a recipe than telling a gripping section of the story.

Again, I’m not being mean or critical of the work. Nor am I saying I write better, believe me, I don’t. I am using this to gain a better understanding of writing with that balance of saying what needs said and saying it well. Or saying it goodly if you like.

The next example is one I’ve seen quite a bit. It is the opposite of the first example. Instead of being dry and cut down, it goes the opposite way and says way too much. In an effort to make it interesting, the author gets it too flowery and has the opposite effect of what they want.


Alternate Universe 2 From Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets chapter 10 The Rogue Bludger

Harry couldn’t reply, he had too many things happening at once. He turned his head and looked over to see a heavy black Bludger flying toward him. Shifiting his weight and gripping the handle of his flying broomstick, he adjusted his course and avoided the Bludger that had been flying towards him.
“Close one, Harry!” said George. George flew past him lifting his arm which held his club. He looked at Harry, waving his club in the air with his arm. Harry watched George shift on the broomstick, guiding it toward the Bludger. George flew at the flying ball and Harry knew he was going to swing his arm and hit it toward a Slytherin.
Harry saw George hit the Bludger. George swung his arm and the club hit the Bludger. He hit it with a strong whack. The Bludger flew in the direction of Adrian Pucey. The Bludger changed direction, flying one way and then turning in the air toward Harry again.
Harry flew across the field and saw the Bludger heading toward him. Shifting his weight, Harry adjusted the broom’s course and dropped quickly to avoid the Bludger. He flew through the air with the Bludger flying behind him. Harry saw the Bludger getting closer. Again, Harry, turned the broom, flying in a different direction, and the Bludger followed him. Harry saw George and flew the broom toward him. As he flew by, George swung at the Bludger. George connected, hitting the Bludger toward Malfoy. The Bludger flew hard toward the opponent who looked to see it coming. Once again, the Bludger swerved and changed direction, turning and flying toward Harry again. The Bludger was flying toward’s Harry’s head.
Harry saw the Bludger flying towards him again. Flying faster, Harry flew towards the other end of the field. Behind him, he heard the Bludger flying quickly, making a whistling sound as it flew through the air.  Harry glanced worriedly behind him, seeing the Bludger close. What was going on? Bludgers never concentrated on one player like this; it was their job to try and unseat as many people as possible. . . .
Fred Weasley was at the other end. Harry flew toward Fred as Fred held his club, ready to hit the Bludger.
As he flew by Fred, Harry ducked, flying lower. Fred swung his club at the Bludger flying through the air. He hit the Bludger and knocked it off course. The Bludger flew away after being hit so hard by Fred.
“Gotcha!” Fred yelled. He was happy that he had hit the Bludger. He wasn’t happy when the Bludger changed direction. It flew through the air again towards Harry, seeming to be attracted to him. Harry turned his head and looked the Bludger. He saw the Bludger flying right towards him again. Harry turned the broom and adjusted his flight. The Bludger flew after Harry as Harry flew off across the field.



Compared to the example from the book. that was a lot of words and a lot of excess description. That can realy bog down a manuscript. If you compare each example with the original, you can see how the word choices in the original lead to a more pleasant reading experience. Could you find some things that could be different or even improved? Yeah, I’m sure you could and someone else may find something completely different that they think should be changed, and they would probably be right also. That’s what is great about stories – there is no one way to tell any story. There may be better ways, and by finding those better ways, you can improve your own writing.

Try to do what I’ve done – take an example from whatever book you are reading and rewrite parts of it. Start by writing out the original. It’s best if you do this by hand on paper. This sounds very tedious, but it can open your eyes to how a section is written and what the author is doing to make the story enjoyable and say it in their own voice.

Once you have the original copied out, rewrite it. Try to pare it down to the bare bones. Then try to rewrite it with the most extravagent flourishes possible. Maybe rewrite it as if another favorite author had written it. How would Harry Potter sound if H.G. Wells had written it? What about if Charles Schultz had written it? If you don’t know who they are, I’ll let you Google that on your own.




They say we need a writing prompt, not a revolution

When my kids were in middle school, they participated in a program called Power of the Pen. A group of them would meet once a week after school and work on writing. At the end of the year, there was a contest amongst multiple schools. During the day, the kids would be given a writing prompt and would have a set time to write something about that prompt.

If you’ve never done much writing and aren’t sure what a writing prompt is, it’s just an idea or a sentence to spark your creativity. They are designed to make you think of something different and get the juices flowing so you can write.
Recently I have run into a great weekly writing prompt subscription. These are from Reedsy, a job type website where authors can connect with and hire editors and other professionals to help with their book publishing.

On Fridays, a list of writing prompts is sent out and displayed on their website at You can write anything you want based on any of the writing prompt ideas and submit them. They pick one to publish on their blog and receive $50.

I believe that most school kids are too young to legally enter the contest, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use the writing prompts. Go to the website each week to see the new prompts. Use your imagination and write a short story. Then, the following week, go compare your story to the one that was chosen. Think it stacks up?

Recenty, my favorite writing prompt was this:

In the human world, a magician reaches into a hat and pulls out a rabbit. In the rabbit world, the God hand has appeared again and a sacrifice must be made. This time, the Council of the Hop has chosen you.

That’s pretty good and sounds like it could be a fun story. This also seems to be appropriate for middle school kids, so it could be used with almost any age.

Even if your kids aren’t in a writing club, they can still do this on their own. Or, how about at breakfast or the dinner table? Look at the writing prompts and choose one for each night and everyone can make up a story on the spot or do a group story where everyone contributes.

These also would be great for trips. Throw out a writing prompt and makeup stories.

If you’ve been looking for a way to get kids interested in writing, start with just making stories. And if you aren’t good at coming up with the ideas, these are a great way to help get started.


Ramblings like Stephen King

One of the writers I have read a lot of is Stephen King. Starting about age 10, I have read almost everything he has written. The Shining is one of my favorite books of all time.

One reason for Mr. King’s popularity may be his comfortable, aw-shucks tone at times. He especially brings this out in the bits he writes before the stories. I remember this in Night Shift, the bit of insight into the actual author. Who they are, how they think, and why the hell are you writing this weird stuff?!

I decided to do this also. I want to get to know my readers – or constant reader as Mr. King affectionately refers to them. Even with my short stories, I’ve started doing this. While they might not be up to Mr. King’s standards, I hope they provide some insight and let us be a bit closer.

Below is what I wrote for my first Martin & James story:

Hello and welcome one and all,

I am truly humbled and grateful that you are reading this story, the third one in the Martin & James series. I am glad the stories have brought some enjoyment and pleasure.
When I originally got it through my head that I really did want to write, I had an idea. Then, I sat on it and let the idea ‘evolve’ in my mind. Looking back now, I think it was more a matter of being afraid – afraid I couldn’t actually write and afraid that no one would want to read it. The fact that you are reading the third Martin & James story tells me that someone enjoys this. That’s totally mind blowing to me. Boom. Again, I am completely humbled and grateful.
I hope, that as you read through this story, that you enjoy it and find a bit of an escape from whatever your stresses are for the day. I hope that you want to read more, to learn more about the masked man they chased or learn more about the agency and other agents. Maybe you are questioning why they have a kid with a field agent – which is totally weird.
Well, the story you are about to read, does not answer all of those questions. That is the other thing that originally popped into my head when I wanted to write. I had never written a full length novel and didn’t have the confidence that I could do that. I did want to write, but if I got discouraged while writing my first novel, I would stop and never know if I really could do it. I’m probably not the only one that has ever felt that way.
To solve that dilemma, I decided to write short stories. This thought came from my love of the Conan stories by Robert E. Howard. Not that he consciously thought about writing short stories that just captured a slice, or an adventure, in Conan’s life. He was writing for what he had at the time – magazine’s that would publish short stories. The way Howard did it was to just write various stories about Conan in different stages of his life. There wasn’t really a thought to make a full life history or to even connect them, it was just stories. I loved that.
So that’s where I was, wanting to write stories but not sure I could. I decided to write a series of adventures about my main character and idea for the world. I did a couple, talked with some people, wrote some more, etc. Finally, I found someone that helped me out and encouraged me to stop with the individual stories and write a book. By that time, I felt that maybe I could.
OK, that’s not the whole story, but I will regale you with more at some other time. Since I took my main idea and went the full novel route, I still wanted to get some action adventure stories that were a bunch of stories loosely connected. My stepson, who is a very active dreamer, started telling me about some of his dreams, and that’s the final piece I needed.
So here we are. Action stories about a duo fighting the forces that want to destroy the world. They have some connection, and more of that will come out in time, but they are just fun reads. That’s my hope and desire.
With that said, I won’t hold you up any longer from finding out about this crazed weatherman and how Martin and James, maybe, defeat him.


Accessing stories


If you’ve read Martin & James vs The Masked Moss-Trooper, you may have done it at Wattpad.

That’s mostly because that has been the only place you could access it. You can now also access it on biblioboard app or the biblioboard website. Keep in mind that you will need to have an account to access anything there. If you have the biblioboard app on your phone or tablet, you can look it up.

How exciting is that?!

If you prefer to just get your stories to read, let me help you out. The link below will get you the story as an epub or a mobi.



If you aren’t sure what an epub is, then we can also offer it to you as a pdf.


Once you’ve read that story, there are other stories to read. As of this writing, there are 3 stories with another, longer, story being worked on. Keep checking and I will let you know when those are ready. Sign up for my newsletter and you will be updated immediately when there is a new story.

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There are multiple stories in the Martin & James series, so enjoy!





Kindle Scout

I must say, there are quite a few opportunities for independent authors in today’s world. Kindle publishing started a revolution and many people have had success with it and there are quite a few really good books that may not have gotten published without these avenues. Is it still a struggle and does it still take a good book? Of course. In fact, for the independent author/publisher, it can be harder to get sufficient recognition and readership.

Have you ever gotten a book from your favorite bookstore, only to discover it sucked and probably shouldn’t have been published? Why was it available and why did you get it? I’m going to bet that the publisher’s marketing had something to do with that. Everything from ads, the book cover, and the book description. The only problem was that the book really wasn’t that good, just the marketing.

For an independent, it’s even harder. It’s more difficult to get the word out and get people to give your book a try. But when you have a traditional publisher pushing a book, it already has some credibility because it’s coming from a trusted publisher.

I think many of us realize this in today’s world. Each year, more independent authors are getting recognized and read. this is a good thing all around. Can you still get a crap book? Of course, but the ability to find books that are focused on what you like is enormous.

I recently was made aware of what seems to be a great avenue for new, independent authors to get a boost. Kindle Scout is one of Amazon’s initiatives. The focus of Kindle Scout is to allow an author to put a book out there for anyone to check out and see if it’s something they would be interested in. If you find a book that sounds interesting and would be something you may like to read, you can vote on it. After a month, if a book has enough votes it will be chosen for publication. If a book that you vote on was chosen for publication, you get it for free to read.

This is a great system. I just wish more people knew about this and would go to vote for books. There are some great authors out there that may not be known, just because of obscurity. It’s great that this provides an avenue for authors to get their works known.


I started this post without finishing it right away. Between the time and started and now, Kindle Scout is closing. They are no longer accepting admissions, so all the good it may have done will be no more. I’m saddened by this. I can understand that it may have been a lot of work for little reward and that there may not have been as many people submitting or voting as desired. Again, I wish people would be more active when things like this are available.

That said – I would love to see someone else do something like this? Maybe with kids to allow them to get excited and interested in writing and reading.

Manga for everyone

I recently came across something that has me completely intrigued. I was at the Cleveland Wizard World Con in the Manga/Anime area. I normally am not a manga kinda guy, but I wandered in. Looking at the one table, a young lady started to tell me what they were about and I must say, I loved it.

The table was for Saturday AM. In a nutshell, these guys and girls are doing a western manga and they are focusing on new creators. They use writers and artists from all over the world, not people that are known and already in the industry. They are open to new ideas for stories. If you have a good story and good art, you could get into their monthly magazine.

The monthly magazine is how they get their comics published, similar to Shonen Jump. The magazine is distributed digitally and is very reasonable – about $2.50 per month. They have a slew of stories already and seem to keep adding more.

I have started at the beginning with issue #1, because you know, it only makes sense, right? Anyway, the characters and stories are fun and very Manga. I don’t normally read this type of comic, but I love to support people when they are trying to do something with a good purpose.

One of the other things they do is a yearly contest. This is to get their name out, but also to get artists and writers interested in submitting their stories. Last year, the prize was an iPad pro! Along with that, they have a comic drawing app called Comic Draw, so it made sense to give away the iPad and show off this app.

I love this and am in support completely. They showed us a comic that was created and made by a 16 year old! This is fantastic! I encourage kids to look into this, don’t wait until you are out of school, do it now.

Head over to Saturday AM, read some of the online comics, maybe get an issue or two. They even have some physical books for really good prices.

BIG book event

If you are anything like me and my family, and I’ll assume you are because you are here, then you like to read. Again, if you are anything like us, you have a stack of books that you want to get to and read. The problem is, you keep adding more books to that list.

Maybe you are lucky and young and can read many books each month. Believe me, I am envious and remember those days fondly.

It just seems that I can’t stop myself from getting more books. I have plans to feature some of my favorite bookstores on this site. But I just found out about an event that I just had to share.

The Detroit Festival of Books!

I haven’t been there, but it looks as fantastic as it sounds. If you are anywhere near Detroit, this might be worth the trip to check it out. We’ve already marked it on our calendar.

Let’s talk self-publishing and covers

A couple days ago, I posted the links to the short story Martin & James vs The Masked Moss-Trooper. Go ahead, if you haven’t read it, click the link, read it, I’ll wait.

One issue with that was the cover. Here’s the problem with covers. Most people will make a large part of their buying or reading decision based on the cover. If you have a crappy cover, no one will pick it up to read it. The opposite is also true – great covers will get readers, even if it’s a not so good story.

When you are traditionally published, the publisher will get the covers made based on what they think will draw the attention of the target market. That could be good and bad – it makes the author totally rely on the publisher to decide what the cover should look like. For some, that’s fine and they do great. You may also have seen books that get different covers. This, I’m sure, is due to many market factors.

The problem if you are an independent author and publisher, it’s totally up to you to get your covers. What usually happens is that the author thinks, “Hm, I have a great story that people will love and I don’t want to spend time/money on a cover so I’ll just get something cheap. It’ll be fine.” Then they end up thinking, “Hm, I wonder why no one is buying and reading my great story?”

Don’t get me wrong. Good cover designers are worth what they charge. When you are just starting out and no one has actually BOUGHT a story from you yet, it’s difficult to spend money on a cover.

That leads me to my problem with this story. I’m not charging any money for it, but I want people to read it. If I don’t have a good cover, no one will read it, so I should get a good cover. But a good cover costs money, and I don’t want to spend a lot of money on this cover because …. I’m not charging any money for the story. And we loop around until we decide to go eat ice cream and binge watch something.

The first cover was just me messing around and I threw something together. Good enough. When I release a book of all the stories, I’ll get a good cover. But it bugged me. And bothered me. So I decided to try and create a better cover. I wouldn’t get the benefits of a professional cover, but I might make it look a bit better than that first one – which looked like a second grader had fun in art class.

It took a bit of time, but I came up with a cover that isn’t completely horrible:

cover martin & james vs the masked moss-trooper
Cover for the short story – Martin & James vs The Masked Moss-Trooper by S.A. Schneider

The other benefit, I learned a bit of how to use a good graphics program. Exotic things, like layers and cloning and blends. Is it the best cover ever or even the best cover that could be made for this story? Phew, heck no. Is it better than the last one? I hope so.

Let me know what you think of my newbie, mad graphics skills. And if you haven’t read the story – what are you waiting for?

<hint – click the cover to read it>

Martin & James vs. The Masked Moss-Trooper

This is a Dick Tracy, pulp fiction style story. If you aren’t sure who Dick Tracy is or what pulp fiction is, take a minute and look it up.

I like the era of action stories that Dick Tracy is from. The pre-James Bond detective with gadgets, but that post-victorian era time. If you’ve seen Batman: The Animated Series cartoon, you have an idea of the type of world I’m talking about.

I wanted to create a series of adventures that involved a character like Dick Tracy and get that pulp feel. Even though most of the pulp magazines no longer exist, I was trying to get stories that would fit into those magazines. As if readers were getting the magazines to follow the adventures of this hero. That’s how we Conan by Robert E. Howard. The stories were printed in various magazines, not in order and each was separate. Now, we can get collections of all of the Conan stories and they’ve been put in chronological order, but that wasn’t how they were originally. Hopefully, the Martin and James stories capture this adventurous feel.

Originally, Martin was going to be solo, but somewhere along the lines, a Robin-esque sidekick came into being. While you can see the similarities to Robin, you might also pick out a bit of R2-D2 in James.

I would like to thank Jason (you know who you are) for the inspiration for this story. This kid not only has some great dreams that he remembers, but he will talk to you while he’s dreaming. Yeah, if these make money, I think he’ll need some writing credit and royalties.

Check out the first story – Martin & James vs. The Masked Moss-Trooper

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You can now access this story via your library and biblioboard!

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Hopefully you like the story and want more. Well, I have more. I can send you the second story – Martin & James vs The Evil Mosquito Scientist – just give me your name and email below.

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Star Wars Rogue One Trailer

Star Wars has always been a big influence on my creative life. I thought Force Awakens was excellent and even (might have) replaced R2 as best droid with BB-8. I’ll know for sure once I get a sphero BB-8 to play with. Big anticipation for this movie. Hope everyone is going to see it.


Reading a Christmas Carol

Every year at Christmas, I read A Christmas Carol by Dickens and also Skipping Christmas by Grisham. If you’ve never read A Christmas Carol, you should. What other ghost story do you know set at Christmas? I discovered Skipping Christmas because I really like the movie based on it – Christmas with the Kranks. Both are good.
Oh, yeah, also, if you haven’t read The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson, it’s definitely worth checking out also.
We also have a tradition of reading The Night Before Christmas by Clement Moore and How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Seuss on Christmas Eve.


What’s the best holiday story you’ve ever read? #ThrowbackThursday

First weekend writing

Many people have ideas for stories or want to write a novel. Most of those people never will.

I was one of those people. I had ideas but it was always too hard and would take too long. I’d do it sometime in the future.

Finally, I realized I would never do it unless I just sat down and did it. That’s just what I did in February of 2016.

Without any preconceived notions or worrying if it would be perfect or wondering if anyone would buy it, I started writing. By the end of the weekend I had written almost 15,000 words!

It was a fantastic start. If I did that every weekend for a month I would have a 60,000 word novel done. So why didn’t I do that?

Good question. Like most people life happened. Other things took my focus. I started telling myself that it sucked. Etc etc. I did finally finish the book and sent it to an editor. It was over a month before I got it back and then I couldn’t look at what the editor said right away.

When I did look at it I got what you’d expect. A lot of notes to point out to the newbie author where the writing and the story were less than par. Not the great American Novel I had hoped for. After reading over the editor’s notes I agreed with almost everything and could see the weaknesses in the story.

What did I do? I ripped out about half of the book. Stuff that really did stink. Leaving some good writing. What about the writing I did the initial weekend, how did that fare.

Actually, I kept most of it. It wasn’t bad. When I didn’t care how things went or how things sounded, I wrote pretty good. What made the writing take longer was I started actually trying and thinking about it.

There’s the lesson. We can be much better writer’s when we don’t worry about our writing. We get so caught up in our hopes and desires and we want it to be perfect that we actually are less perfect than we would be if we didn’t care about any of that.

Met Ian Douglas

This quick post is a life event for me that goes back to September 2015. This was a very exciting time. Without knowing it, my life was changing. While attending some plans I had for the weekend, I met Ian Douglas – author of tons of sci-fi books. And I didn’t even know who he was at the time. Wonderful fellow that writes wonderful books. He was a large part of the inspiration for me to finally quit thinking about writing and to actually write.

He is a super nice guy and writes stupendous stories. His newest is the Andromeda Dark series.