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Short Stories & Thoughts on writing

A Question On How Big To Be.

Posted by Steven Swem on May 17, 2014
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I was asked the question, the other day. “How big (word count) should chapters be?” and this implied “How big (word count) should the story be?” Also implied would be, “How many chapters should there be?”

My answer was/is, roughly, when the story is told, then you have the word count for story, chapters, and the number of chapters.

My opinion is that a story should have a beginning, middle, big scene, and end. Each chapter that helps lead you in that direction should have the same, beginning, middle, big scene, end.

I have read books that had some short chapters, and I think I remember, there was this one story that only had a one page chapter. Then there were stories that had chapters that could have been stand-a-lone books.

I know an author that shoots for 100k for his books, not sure what his goal for chapters is.

I have taken and split a large chapter into 2, since it seemed to add to the overall effect. I have also gone in and combined 2 chapters into one, again, because it seemed to add to the overall effect of the story.

Of course there are probably rules for all this, just as any english professor, or any editor.

All I can tell you, is that if I am reading a good book. There is no such thing as rules. If I am pulled into the story and don’t want to put down the book, I am not counting words or pages. I am just wrapped up on how the character is going to get into or out of the mess they are in.

Speaking of which, where did I set that book down!

Welcome Robert Stanek

Posted by SFSwem on February 10, 2014
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We are pleased today to welcome Robert Stanek as a guest on our blog. Robert Stanek is not only the talented author of more than 150 books for adults and children but someone who has been helping other writers ever since his first book was published in 1995.

Back in the early days of the Web, Robert created Writer’s Gallery, Internet Job Center and Internet Daily News to help other writers (archives at http://www.tvpress.com). These days Robert helps other writers by hosting some terrific writers groups, by blogging about writing-related topics, and through his Read Indie tweets on twitter.

On Facebook, Robert Stanek hosts one of the more popular groups for getting the word out about your promotions and free offerings. It’s called “Free Today” and you’ll find the group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/freet…. On Twitter, you can tweet using the hashtag #freetoday as another way to spread the word about your promotions and freebies.

Go Indie (https://www.facebook.com/groups/goindie/) is another terrific group for writers that Robert hosts on Facebook. Go Indie is a group dedicated to promoting indie authors, indie books, and indie booksellers. On Twitter, you can also use hashtag #goindie to spread the word about your books.

On Goodreads.com, Robert hosts the Read Indies group. Read Indies helps to provide a platform for writers to discuss their books and writing-related topics. Read Indies is at http://goodreads.com/group/show/88011.

Robert also writes the Read Indies Blog (http://readindies.blogspot.com/). The blog discusses many important writing-related issues and details many of the challenges indie authors face in gaining mainstream acceptance. Some of the more interesting posts:

Taking Your Work from Print to Film – http://readindies.blogspot.com/2012/1…

Selling Rights to Your Books – http://readindies.blogspot.com/2012/1…

Viewpoints on Rejection Letters – http://readindies.blogspot.com/2013/0…

Understanding Bestseller Lists – http://readindies.blogspot.com/2013/0…

Finding Success as a Writer – http://readindies.blogspot.com/2013/0…

You can learn more about Robert and his books at www.robert-stanek.com.

Hear ye, Hear ye,

A Book Announcement is ready to be made.
  We would like to announce the fourth book of the Demesne YA fantasy series “The Challenge” is now live on amazon.com and smashwords.com e-book for your favorite device.
 Short synopsis of “The Challenge”
   Montiack invokes the Matriarch Challenge, a deadly duel on dragon back. The first obstacle for Jira is to find a dragon from her own clan as her dragon mount. Her connection to the valley and to the crystal, and any help from her friends Aithera and Devon is forbidden by the First Matriarch, and any interference will be met by instant death.
Links to this and the first three books of course can be found on our book site www.voldamar.com
For more information about our books please feel free to contact Steven Swem at writers@voldamar.com
We are and independent self publishing team. We hope you enjoy our stories.

The Escape

Posted by Steven Swem on May 30, 2013
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The Escape

He was in a group of other denim jacketed teenagers, as they passed by the window of the school.  I noticed, on several occasions, that this one, tall, long armed, blond haired, youth kept taking darting glances as he passed by.

Class had been over for two hours when he returns alone.  He slowly comes out of the alley just north of the school.  He steps quickly and carefully so as to not step on any of the papers or cans that littered the sidewalk, and only an occasional scuffle could be heard from his black sneakers.  Hands in pants pockets, he walks down the street.  Glancing over his shoulder from time to time, he passes by the school, without looking in the window, and stops a couple of doors away to lean against the side of the building.  Back against the wall, just outside the light from the street lamp, right leg crossed over his left, and just looking up and down the street, acting casual but checking out the area.  The shade of his faded denim cloths allowed him to blend with the shadows.  He keeps this relaxed state for a couple of minutes then moves into the light, and with a quick look both ways, turns his attention to the window.  As time passes his shoulders drop slightly, his head slowly moving from side to side as he looked over the items in the school.

Stepping out of the doorway, I quietly cross the street being careful to stay out of the reflection in the window, to stop in a position, just outside of the glow of the street light, and slightly behind his right shoulder.  I waited, and watch his reflection in the window.

The wait is not long.  I had made no sound in my approach, yet, he knows that I’m here and where. The shoulders and back slowly straighten as he comes to his full six feet of height, and there is the subtle movement as he shifts his weight onto his left leg.  I remained still and see by the reflection in the window that his thin,   ¨sandy eyebrows, are knit together into a frown and his lips tightly pressed together.  He is perfectly still.  A moment passes, then there is a further shifting of weight as he gets ready to move.

“I will not inform your friends.”  I say quietly.

His reaction is good.  There is only the slightest hesitation before he shows his surprise and turns in the wrong direction, then spins all the way around to face the direction of my voice.

“What the … You scared the …  who’s there?”

His voice is at that awkward time.  Mixed in with the high tones of a boy, there is the rich mellow tones of a man.

“I am the owner of this school.”

“Well, hey, I was just looking.  I wasn’t thinking of breaking in or anything. Where do you get off sneaking around in the shadows.  You could get hurt coming up on somebody like that.”  His last sentence demanding.

“I have noted your interest on several occasions.  Why have you not come in?”

“The dudes think that anybody who takes this crap is a coward.”

“You are not really sure of that.  Do you find that your friends ideas are not your own?”

“The dudes do not lie to each other, we take care of our own.”  Taking a step foreword, voice cracking as he reacts.

“They lie to others.  Having learned to lie, could it be that they could lie to you without you knowing it?”  Still speaking softly.  “You have lied to them.”

“I don’t lie to the dudes.  I tell them everything that I see or hear.”

“Then why haven’t you informed them of your interests in this school?  Withholding that information, is that not a lie of your wants and feelings.?”

“Shut up man, your trying to confuse me with your fancy words.  Besides what do you know about my wants and feelings?”  Turning quickly, he nimbly runs down the street and disappears around the corner.

He ran, and ran hard.  He ran until his chest hurt and his breath was coming in ragged gasps.

I don’t lie!  I don’t lie!  How dare he think that I lie.  Where does he get off, telling me I lie?  It’s true, that I haven’t told the guys about the school.  It seems interesting, but I am not a coward.  The dudes are my only friends, the only ones that understand me.  They wouldn’t lie to me, would they?  I’m one of them and no coward.

He stops near a park and plops down on a bench to catch his breath.  Let’s see, where am I?  Looking around he recognizes land marks.  Oh no, I’m in the Red Devil’s territory.  This park is there major turf.  I know better than to come anywhere near here.  I had better get away before they find me.  Look what that jerk made me do!  Let’s see, if I go up to Maple then over Oak, I can . . .

The sounds reached him, when the slight breeze shifted and comes in from the park.  He starts to walk away but stops, then heads into the park.  Shaking his head.  I shouldn’t do this, but maybe I can get a some evidence on the Devils.  If I stay out of sight, I should stay out of trouble.  See, you’re not a coward.  If I get caught they’ll kill me, but I am going to spy anyway.  I am not a coward.

Coming to the edge of some trees, and staying deep in the shadows, he finds a small group of the Devils, harassing an elderly couple, near one of the sparsely placed park lights.  Kneeling down by the base of the tree and watching from just behind the trunk.  The fools, they should have known that taking a walk in the park this late at night is dangerous.  Maybe the Devils will just take their money and let em go, but it doesn’t look and sound like it, they are really fired up.  Why did they have to take their walk here.  Maybe an anonymous call to 911 will help em.

From out of the shadows on the other side of the pathway.  “You boys seem to be looking for some trouble.  Why don’t you leave this couple alone and go about some peaceful, and legal, type of business.”

That voice! It’s him!  The guy from the school.  Where is he?  What’s he doing here?  I’m the fastest guy around here, and he’s an adult.  How did he get here?  There’s no way he could have followed me.

A figure, dressed in dark slacks and a dark sweater steps out from the shadows and into the light.  A calm but determined look on his face.  Hands casually down by his side.

“Hey look boys, another fool who doesn’t know better than to stick his nose where it doesn’t belong.  Hey big man, why don’t you go away before you get hurt and have to go crying to your mama.”

He’s not stopping!  He’s going right up to Jimmy.  Shuddering.  He’s the worst of this lot.  I had better make that call now.

“This couple will not be one of your victims tonight.  They will continue there walk and you boys will go elsewhere.”

“Ok big man, you first.  Then we’ll get back to business.  No body tells Jimmy Shaw of the Devils, what to do.”

Here it comes.  Jimmy is known to send in one of the other boys, and when you’re back is turned, then he sneaks up and catches you by surprise.  What the . . . Franks on the ground and Jimmy’s on his knees.  What did that guy do to him?  Here comes the rest of em, he’s had it . . .  what’s he doing?  He’s moving to fast, I can’t make it out.  He’s tossing those guys around like they were dolls.  Well at least the old folks are making a break for it.  They’ll be safe.  Looks like the Devils have had enough for tonight.  Look at em run.  Beaten on their own turf, boy are they going   to be pissed.  Look at him, just standing there, not even breathing hard.  Six street lords against one guy.  Wait a

minute, he’s turning this way.  No, it can’t be possible.  There’s no way that he can see me.  But, the way he’s look this way, it’s as if he knows I’m here.  Closing his eyes for just a moment.  Boy is this guy creepy.  Opening his eyes to keep a close eye on this guy.  He’s gone!  Where did he go?  I didn’t hear anything.  I had better get out of here before my luck changes, this place is too weird for my liking.

******************************************************

This was a writing assignment a long time ago. What should have been added? Was more discriptives needed? What might have made it better?

Let us hear from you.

Bully

Posted by Steven Swem on May 24, 2013
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Bully

’”Hey beaver face, my pencil needs sharpened.  Come over here and chew on it for me and make it good and sharp again.  Ha Ha Ha.”

Was the sound of trouble ringing down the hall.

“Ron Crum and his gang of trouble makers.”  Thinking to myself.  “Thinking they own the school.  Where’s Canary?  Ron’s not so nasty when there’s a teacher around.  What a way to start a new class.  I’m here to learn how to draw houses and now I have to put up with him.”  Trying to get some other kid between Ron and myself.  “This isn’t going to be as much fun as I thought it was.”

As the bell rings, the loud mouth with the leather jacket waits by the door.  As I start to pass, he bumps me into the edge of the doorway.  My left shoulder hits the door jamb.  Knocking my books from my hands.  I inhale sharply against the pain, and try to act as if nothing has happened.  While trying to pick up the scattered papers and books, Canary looks up from his desk.  I must be beat red in the face, as I hear the snickers from the other kids.  My ears feel hot.

Getting to an open drafting table, I sneak a glance at Ron.  His greased hair combed straight back.   Spikes and chains all over his jacket and those square toed boots.  I quickly look away, when he slowly looks up at me with that nasty smile of his.  “I’m dead meat.”

All through class.  I got plugged with spit balls, erasers and paper clips.  Whenever Canary was not looking.  Twice I had to erase, big heavy scribble lines, when Ron bumped into my elbow.  Canary left the room once, Ron snuck up behind me.

“I’m going to get you bean pole, after school.”

I jumped and another line.

“I’m going to use you for a pipe cleaner on my cars exhaust pipe string bean.  It hasn’t had a good cleaning in a long time.”

The sweat feels like a rivers running down my face.  Hands starting to shake slightly.

Reaching around he knocks my pencil container off the table.  Canary returns as I’m picking up the lead that spilled out.

“What am I going to do?  There  ¸’s going to be five or six of his buddies with him!  Why me?  If I leave through the west exit, maybe I can avoid him.  Then he’ll really be mad!  Maybe . . . ”  A ringing breaks into my train of thought.  “The bell!  Class is over!  I’m dead.”

“I’ll be waiting bean pole.”  Knocking my books off the desk, snickering as he leaves to meet some of his friends.

I head for my next class.  “Only five more periods before the end of the world.  I should have stayed in bed.”

By the end of the day, my nerves had settled down.  I had almost completely forgotten about Ron.  Then again, with Ginny in most of my other classes, it was hard to think about anything else.  Too bad I’m too chicken to ask her for a date.

When school let out, I saw Ron leave by the west wing.  I left by the east.

The next day did not start out on a good note.  I woke up late.  Was late getting to the bus stop.  Banged my shin on the seat in front of me.  And my temper, which is extreme, by this time was on a short, very short fuse.

I had completely forgotten about Ron, and didn’t even see him until the drafting class.  I got to the classroom shortly after the first bell, and it was open.  As I entered the room Ron was waiting.  A couple of his friends, one on either side of the doorway.  It was just me and them in the room.

“You didn’t show up yesterday.  I was looking forward to some fun, and you made me look bad in front of my friends.  Now I’m going to have to trash you.”  Taking a step forward.

That was the match to the fuse.  “BACK OFF PUSS FACE”  my temper exploding.  If I’m going to get beat up, then it might as well be over something worth while.  “I’m in no mood to put up with your garbage!”  Standing my ground.  My knees starting to shake slightly.

“You think that your skinny butt can take me?  Look at the worm, Johnny.  He thinks he’s got a backbone!”

He lounges at me.  Arms out stretched to grab the front of my shirt.  I am six feet tall and weight one hundred pounds.  Ron stands a head shorter  and must weight around on  “e sixty.

Just before he reaches me, I drop my books.  Lean slightly to my left.  Grab his right wrist with booth hands.  Pivot to my right on my left foot, letting my right foot angle backwards and to my left.  Using my weight to guide his momentum, I spin him around and let go.  He stumbled backwards, tripping on his own feet, crashing into one of the drafting tables.  Ending up all tangled in the legs and cross members of the table.  The look of complete surprise on his face.  He just laid there.

Then, Canary speaks up.  “That will be enough!  Mr. Crumb, when you get out from under that table, we will take a little trip to the office.  Mr. Murry wants to see you, and. . .” he pauses a moment.  “I think he’ll be interested in this little stunt.”

Now I really start to shake.  I picked up my books and sit down, hard, on my stool.  “That Judo stuff works.  I thought that class was just something to do.  Mr. Soto was right.  Use your attackers weight and momentum against him.  I don’t believe it.”

“Hey Swem.” Ron asks, getting out from under the table.  “How did you do that?”

“Come along Crum, you have other problems to worry about.”  Canary takes Rons arm and they leave the classroom.  “Take your seats class and start your projects.  I’ll be back in a moment.”

Ron was suspended from school, for a week, for starting the fight.  After that he never gave me much trouble.  He would taunt and call names, but he never tried to start another fight.  And ALWAYS stayed out of arms reach.

**********************************************************************

(This story is based on true life back in the good old High School days. Names have of course been changed.)

Chapter 15 out of 21 chapters, is off to the editor. The current project is right on track.

What? Huh? Just what do you think you’re up to? Are you really sending off just one chapter at a time to the editor? Are you nuts?

This might be what some are thinking, if they are following my entries in my face book fan page.

So what am I up to? Why not wait and send the whole manuscript to the editor? Well, let me splane the madness.

Pst, pst; that was intentional.

We work at it and work at it, and finally we think we have the story, from start to finish. Now back to the beginning. We throughly go through the first 3 chapters and eventually call it good. Then we notify the editor and when she is ready we send off the first chapter with synopsis of the story, chapter by chapter. This starts the editing process of sending and receiving chapters.

This does 2 things.

It imposes a deadline: We know that we will be getting a chapter back, so we have to have another chapter ready to go out to editing. If we are not ready, it breaks the flow.

This gives a sense of progress: Chapter by chapter editing gives us a sense of progress, of flow, of accomplishment. I know, that’s silly, but hey, that is how we see it.

Since we think the manuscript is complete, we do a final review of the chapter before it goes out to our editor. This way we only partially fall into the trap of “we can add this to make it better.” The rewriting trap.

Getting a chapter back from editing, going over it and then sending it out and getting comments back from beta reader, gives us a sense of progress. If we sent the whole manuscript out for editing, that would take what? Month or two to come back. Then we would have a couple of weeks of checking it out? Then we would need to send it out for beta reading. Another couple of months? Before we get it back? So while we wait for the return of our work, we sit around and twiddle our fingers. So to speak.

Now some might say, that would be a good time to work on the next project. And they would be right. But for me, waiting for the whole book to come back makes it feel like I have not accomplished anything, that I am not doing anything for it.

When we get a chapter back from editing or from beta reading, it’s like the 25th of December. “Lets see what others had to say about it.” Do our thing and then, wait with anticipation for the next one.

Lone Wolf

Posted by Steven Swem on May 14, 2013
Posted in Short Stories  | Tagged With: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Note: This is a work of fiction. Something that simple sprang to mind.

Lone Wolf

With all her big brothers and sisters off to school, our ranch became a lonely place for our three-year-old daughter, Becky. She longed for playmates. Cattle and horses were too big to cuddle and farm machinery dangerous for a child so small. We promised to buy her a puppy, but in the meantime, “pretend” puppies popped up nearly every day.

I had just finished washing the lunch dishes when the screen door slammed and Becky rushed in, cheeks flushed with excitement. “Mama!” she cried. “Come see my new doggy! I gave him water two times already. He’s so thirsty!” I sighed. Another of Becky’s imaginary dogs. “Please come, Mama.” She tugged at my jeans, her brown eyes pleading, “He’s crying–and he can’t walk!”

“Can’t walk?” Now that was a twist. All her previous make-believe dogs could do marvelous things. One balanced a ball on the end of its nose. Another dug a hole that went all the way through the earth and fell out on a star on the other side. Still another danced on a tightrope. Why suddenly a dog that couldn’t walk?

“All right, honey,” I said. By the time I tried to follow her, Becky had already disappeared into the mesquite. “Where are you?” I called “Over here by the oak stump.  Hurry, Mama!”

I parted the thorny branches and raised my hand against the glare of the Arizona sun. A numbing chill gripped me.

There she was, sitting on her heels, toes dug firmly in the sand, and cradled in her lap was the unmistakable head of a wolf! Beyond its head rose massive black shoulders. The rest of the body lay completely hidden inside the hollow stump of a fallen oak.

“Becky!” My mouth felt dry. “Don’t move.” I stepped closer. Pale-yellow eyes narrowed. Black lips tightened, exposing double sets of two-inch fangs. Suddenly the wolf trembled. Its teeth clacked, and a piteous whine rose from its throat.

“It’s all right, boy,” Becky crooned. “Don’t be afraid. That’s my mama, and she loves you, too.”

Then the unbelievable happened. As her tiny hands stroked the great shaggy head, I heard the gentle thump, thump, thumping of the wolf’s tail from deep inside the stump.

What was wrong with the animal? I wondered. Why couldn’t he get up? I couldn’t tell.  Nor did I dare to step any closer. I glanced at the empty water bowl. My memory flashed back to the five skunks that last week had torn the burlap from a leaking pipe in a frenzied effort to reach water during the final agonies of rabies. Of course! Rabies! Warning signs had been posted all over the county, and hadn’t Becky said, “He’s so thirsty?”

I had to get Becky away. “Honey.” My throat tightened. “Put his head down and come to Mama. We’ll go find help.”

Reluctantly, Becky got up and kissed the wolf on the nose before she walked slowly into my outstretched arms. Sad yellow eyes followed her. Then the wolf’s head sank to the ground.

With Becky safe in my arms, I ran to the barns where Brian, one of our cowhands, was saddling up to check heifers in the north pasture. “Brian! Come quickly. Becky found a wolf in the oak stump near the wash! I think it has rabies!”

“I’ll be there in a jiffy,” he said as I hurried back to the house, eager to put Becky down for her nap. I didn’t want her to see Brian come out of the bunkhouse. I knew he’d have a gun.

“But, I want to give my doggy his water,” she cried. I kissed her and gave her some stuffed animals to play with. “Honey, let Mom and Brian take care of him for now,” I said.

Moments later, I reached the oak stump. Brian stood looking down at the beast. “It’s a Mexican lobo all right,” he said, “and a big one!”

“Whew! It’s not rabies,” Brian said. “But, he’s sure hurt real bad. Don’t you think it’s best I put him out of his misery?”

The word “yes” was on my lips, when Becky emerged from the bushes. “Is Brian going to make him well, Mama?” She hauled the animal’s head onto her lap again, and buried her face in the coarse, dark fur. This time I wasn’t the only one who heard the thumping of the lobo’s tail.

That afternoon my husband, Bill, and our veterinarian came to see the wolf.

Observing the trust the animal had in our child, Doc said to me, “Suppose you let Becky and me tend to this fella together.” Minutes later, as child and vet reassured the stricken beast, the hypodermic found its mark. The yellow eyes closed. “He’s asleep now,” said the vet. “Give me a hand here, Bill.” They hauled the massive body out of the stump. The animal must have been over five feet long and well over one-hundred pounds. The hip and leg had been mutilated by bullets. Doc did what he had to in order to clean the wound and then gave the patient a dose of penicillin. Next day he returned and inserted a metal rod to replace the missing bone.

“Well, it looks like you’ve got yourselves a Mexican lobo,” Doc said. “He looks to be about three years old, and even as pups, they don’t tame real easy. I’m amazed at the way this big fella took to your little gal. But, often there’s something that goes on between children and animals that we grownups don’t understand.”

Becky named the wolf Ralph and carried food and water to the stump every day. Ralph’s recovery was not easy. For three months he dragged his injured hindquarters by clawing the earth with his front paws. From the way he lowered his eyelids when we massaged the atrophied limbs, we knew he endured excruciating pain, but not once did he ever try to bite the hands of those who cared for him.

Four months to the day, Ralph finally stood unaided. His huge frame shook as long-unused muscles were activated. Bill and I patted and praised him. It was Becky to whom he turned for a gentle word, a kiss or a smile responded to these gestures of love, by swinging his busy tail like a pendulum.

As his strength grew, Ralph followed Becky all over the ranch. Together they roamed the desert pastures, the golden-haired child often stooping low, sharing with the great lame wolf whispered secrets of nature’s wonders. When evening came, he returned like a silent shadow to his hollow stump that had surely become his special place. As time went on, although he lived primarily in the brush, the habits of this timid creature endeared him more and more to all of us.

His reaction to people other than our family was yet another story. Strangers terrified him, yet his affection for and protectiveness of Becky brought him out of the desert and fields at the sight of every unknown pickup or car. Occasionally he’d approach, lips taut, exposing a nervous smile full of chattering teeth.  More often he’d simply pace and finally sulk off to his tree stump, perhaps to worry alone.

Becky’s first day of school was sad for Ralph. After the bus left, he refused to return to the yard. Instead, he lay by the side of the road and waited. When Becky returned, he limped and tottered in wild, joyous circles around her. This welcoming ritual persisted throughout her school years.

Although Ralph seemed happy on the ranch, he disappeared into the surrounding deserts and mountains for several weeks during the spring mating season, leaving us to worry about his safety. This was calving season, and fellow ranchers watched for coyotes, cougars, wild dogs and, of course, the lone wolf. Ralph was lucky.

During Ralph’s twelve years on our ranch, his habits remained unchanged.

Always keeping his distance, he tolerated other pets and endured the activities of our busy family, but his love for Becky never wavered.

Then the spring came when our neighbor told us he’d shot and killed a she-wolf and grazed her mate, who had been running with her.  Sure enough, Ralph returned home with another bullet wound.

Becky, nearly fifteen years old now, sat with Ralph’s head resting on her lap. He, too, must have been about fifteen and was gray with age. As Bill removed the bullet, my memory raced back through the years. Once again, I saw a chubby three-year-old girl stroking the head of a huge black wolf and heard a small voice murmuring, “It’s all right, boy. Don’t be afraid. That’s my mama, and she loves you, too.”

Although the wound wasn’t serious, this time Ralph didn’t get well. Precious pounds fell away. The once luxurious fur turned dull and dry, and his trips to the yard in search of Becky’s companionship ceased. All day long he rested quietly.

When night fell, old and stiff as he was, he disappeared into the desert and surrounding hills. By dawn his food was gone. The morning came when we found him dead. The yellow eyes were closed. Stretched out in front of the oak stump, he appeared but a shadow of the proud beast he once had been. A lump in my throat choked me as I watched Becky stroke his shaggy neck, tears streaming down her face.

“I’ll miss him so,” she cried.

Then as I covered him with a blanket, we were startled by a strange rustling sound from inside the stump. Becky looked inside. Two tiny yellow eyes peered back and puppy fangs glinted in the semi-darkness. Ralph’s pup!

Had a dying instinct told him his motherless offspring would be safe here, as he had been, with those who loved him? Hot tears spilled on baby fur as Becky gathered the trembling bundle in her arms. “It’s all right, little Ralphie,” she murmured. “Don’t be afraid. That’s my mom, and she loves you, too.”

 

So What is Next?

Posted by Steven Swem on May 4, 2013
Posted in Thoughts  | Tagged With: , , , , , , | No Comments yet, please leave one

So what is next up, now that ‘The Challenge’ is getting closer to completion. I really don’t know. There is ‘Devon’ waiting in the wings, and I have 11 other concepts with at least a rough draft of the rough outline of the rough idea.

So what is next. The Merlin like story? One of a couple of space adventures? Maybe the underwater/spy/save the world like story? Some would say, that, Devon should be next, if that is his story, and picks up where ‘The Challenge’ leaves off. Which it does, and which it is. Even though I try to stay clear of it, some things just sneaked in.

I have tried and tried to stay away from Devon. There is more to his story then the character in the story. He is the character that started this roller coaster, oh so very long ago, and neither he nor I could have guessed, that what was developing, was ever going to be told.

Shawna, created and operated by the better half, Deeitras, and another (who, out of respect will remain nameless), were the primary developers for helping to create Devon. Yes, there was a real personality behind Shawna, and a real personality behind Arianna.

Arianna, not the original character’s name, (again out of respect for the operator,) who will be paramount in the book, ‘Devon’. In the Challenge you get a small taste of her. But to do the character, and the operator justice is going to be tough.

Devon is going to be the hardest story to write. I am guessing that it will take at least a year, once we get started, to finish the first draft.
In the mean time, I think I need to probably work on my scifi space adventure. The first story published on amazon, before I got a program that made life so much easier, as far as getting the stories published. ‘The Guardian Returns’. Then there will be two genres out there from my one brain cell. Perhaps I should start promoting a bit more. Some might be saying that I should have been doing that all along, promoting. But I wanted to learn and grow a bit before I let the wolves have at me. Though they will find that I am very tough to chew on, and not very tasty. But I can learn a thing or two from the wolves.
Who knows, even now I can feel Devon trying to break free, but, for the here and now. ‘Demesne, The Challenge’ needs to fly in the wind, and soar free with the other dragons.

Life

Posted by Steven Swem on April 9, 2013
Posted in Short Stories  | Tagged With: , , , , | 1 Comment

Note: This is a work of fiction. Something that simple sprang to mind.

Life

In this modern time, people go about their daily lives and have forgotten, and can no longer acknowledge the one part of their world that makes it all possible.  They wake up to the blare of the alarm clock, then it is the hustle and bustle of getting ready for the day with showers, breakfast, getting dressed for either school or work.  The shouted questions and answers, the rumble of the car or bus, hum of the tires, and the clamor of the radio.  Clicking of computer keyboards, tapping of pencils, shuffling of feet and chairs.  Then home to the family and the arguments and fights, laughter and giggles.  Then to bed so that the next day it can start all over.

My eyes opened to darkness.  Night would soon be replaced by the warmth and glow of the sun.  The all encompassing black of the night was broken up into shifting shadows of gray, black, and the silvery glow of the full moon.  The long dark shadows, of the trees across the ceiling, looking like cracks running across the top of a frozen winter lake.  Outside the trees have taken on the appearance of bent and twisted poles.

A slight breeze, moving through the tops of the trees, brought the faintest sounds, dry Autumn leaves rustling in the tree tops, the call of an owl as it makes its last flight for food of the night.  I could hear the other campers, some snoring, the rustling of material as they shifted in their sleeping bags, and some mumbling as they dreamed.

I was the first to awaken, and I did not want to disturb the tranquility that mother nature had spread over us, like a big warm feather blanket, to cover the harshness of our modern life.  I was warm and comfortable, snuggled into my sleeping bag.  The air had a cool clean crispness that carried the smells that only nature has.  Moisture in the form of the morning dew.  Pine, a light tangy sent that can almost make you feel the point of the needles.  A damp mustiness of leaves decaying on the ground mixed with the dryness of the soil.

Sliding out of the sleeping bag, the chill of the morning air is like hundreds of needles lightly poking into the skin.  Energizing the body to meet the day.  I shiver slightly, but I feel like I have the strength and energy to handle anything.  I am alive and it is wonderful to be alive.

I walk a short ways away from the camp, to the edge of a hill.  The moon is just about to pass out of sight and the sky is starting to lighten and change colors, as the sun starts to rise above the horizon.  I close my eyes, and as the sun crests the edge of the world I can feel its warmth and energy, as the first rays of light touch my face.

This is what is missing from our daily lives.  To know who and what we are, we must get away from the city, away from people.

Go to the place and time, the birth of a new day.

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Comments are welcome, even encouraged. Let us know what you think.

Did you like this example of mind meandering?
What would have made this better?

 

Editors and Beta readers

Posted by Steven Swem on February 22, 2013
Posted in Thoughts  | 2 Comments

Are Editors and Beta readers helpful?

Most say that editors are a necessity and I fully agree with that. If not for spell & grammar checking software, I wouldn’t even consider doing this writing thing. Then there is my editor. Must have! Mine lets me know if I start using one word or phrase too much, tells me when I need to do some more research into this English language thing. And then she adds just a little touch here and there, that, most of the time adds to the scene. Sometimes I don’t agree, and change it. I would never consider sending my editor a rough draft or first draft, that would be cruel. I do the best I can, and when I think I have gotten it good enough, then I send it on. I don’t know if this is normal or not, but I send my work, one chapter at a time to my editor, trying to have a chapter ahead of the one she is working on, in her mailbox. I know a few writers that send the whole manuscript, and wait for the editor to get done with it. I like this chapter at a time, work in progress stuff. Once all the chapters are back from editing and beta reading. I give it a once over, and then send the whole thing back to editing.

So, are editors helpful? For the good editors, I give them five thumbs up, 5 stars, and a life time supply of Wanka bars.

Beta readers. Can you live without them? Some might think so, but, I believe most writers would say that they are needed almost as much as editors. I have a good one, if I can keep him on track. He is not really into the fantasy stories, and I think, not much into reading at all. Which I find to be good. I sent him the outline and the first chapter. Right off the bat he came up with a problem. I hinted at action in the first chapter, but, according to the outline, there was nothing hinting at said action. Ooops! I went over the story, the outline and then the chapter. Everything was fine as far as I could tell. Everything matched, looked good and sounded good. WRONG. So in this case, the beta reader did exactly what he was supposed to do, find content that didn’t seem right. Not so little in this case.

Beta readers, are they helpful? For me, just as much as editors. More Wanka bars.