Friday, March 30, 2012

Flash Fiction Fridays: The Long Arm of the Law

Here is a piece from Travis Haselton, whom you probably remember from his last submission, "A Blizzard in the Mojave: An Old West Christmas Story." Enjoy.

A Western Man
By Travis Haselton

His old Ford truck made a dull lull as he pulled into the gravel driveway. The wood floor of the porch enhanced the steady rhythmic sound of his boots. KNOCK, KNOCK. If she hadn’t known who it was already, she would.

“Come in” she said.

He removed his black Bailey hat as he stepped in. “I heard what happened, Tracy. He ain’t gonna get away with it.”

“It wasn’t that bad,” she said.

“Is that so?” He pulled her hair away from her face revealing a bad bruise under her left eye. “Can’t just let people do this to ya.”

She looked into his eyes and wondered how big of a mistake she made leaving this man. “What are you gonna do Travis? Arrest him? He’ll be back on the streets in two days as usual.”

“He split us up, tried runn’in you off of your own ranch, and now he beats you. He’ll be answering to more than just the law. He’ll be answering to me,” Travis said.

“Just like that, Mister Big Lawman is gonna take matters into his own hands and avenge his love? I suppose you’ll be riding into the sunset too, right?” A spitfire of a woman, Tracy had taken over her father’s ranch after his passing. She and Travis kept it going for a number of years.That was until he found as good as he was with horses, he would be a much better sheriff. She had fallen in love with a rancher, not some cop. It was too much.

“Well, it would be really ‘cool’ if the sunset thing where to time just right.” Travis put his hat back on, and she followed him out to the porch. He took off his duty revolver and his badge and left them with her. “I am not do’in this as a lawman, I’m do’in this as me.”

“So you’re com’in back?” she said.

“Yes, and I aways will.”

He stepped off that porch, started the truck and drove off, right into the sunset.

Travis Haselton is a writer and an outdoorsman. He grew up in the middle of the Mojave desert and has traveled across the United States. He is the author of The Man with no Past, Pursuit Through the Mojave, and Hell on a Mesa. To learn more about Travis, visit his blog.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Boudicca: The Warrior Queen

This Women’s History Month has brought us a few interesting predicaments as some here in the United States seem to be launching a verbal and ideological war against women. I have already called for us to re-embrace the word “feminist” and have paid my respects to those I have long admired on International Women’s Day

Today, on this last blogpost of March (besides Flash Fiction Fridays, of course), I have chosen to highlight a woman who, when her husband’s pacifism and desire to avoid conflict with the surging Roman Empire ended with a terrible turn of events, led a march that burned down Londinium and shook Rome and its patriarchy to its core — Queen Boudicca of the Inceni.

Boudicca was married to Prasutagus of the Iceni who, in an attempt to keep the peace with the Roman Empire, became a client/king and submitted to answering to the Roman ruling class. When he died, Prasutagus left his kingdom to his two daughters and the new Roman emperor to ensure tranquility for his people. 

In Celtic society, women often held positions of prestige and power. Many owned land and played important roles in political and religious life. They also chose their own spouses and could initiate divorce. These were all rights that Roman women did not have at that time.

Roman law did not allow royal inheritance to be passed to daughters, muchless have a co-ownership of a kingdom with females, so the kinsmen of the Iceni royal house were enslaved. Boudicca was flogged and forced to watch her daughters publicly raped and tortured at the hands of the Romans. 

Queen Boudicca would not stand idly by. There would be revenge. She rallied neighboring tribes, people who had suffered much under Roman taxation and had been driven off their own land and made to live as prisoners and slaves, and assembled an army.

They stormed the Roman cities of Camulodunum and Colchester, massacring the Romans and destroying their towns. Then they set their sights upon Londinium, which they burned to the ground and killed all the inhabitants. 

The historian Tacitus recorded what is supposed to be Boudicca’s final battle cry to her troops. 

"The Britons were used to the leadership of women, but she came back before them not as a queen of a distinguished line, but as an ordinary woman, her body cut by the lash avenging the loss of her liberty, and the outrages imposed on her daughters. Roman greed spares neither their bodies, the old or the virgins. The gods were on our side in our quest for vengeance, one legion had already perished, the others are cowering in their forts to escape. They could never face the roar of our thousands, least of all our charge and hand to hand fighting. When the Romans realize their small force and the justice of our cause, they will know it is victory or death. This is my resolve, as a woman — follow me or submit to the Roman yoke. (Webster, 99).”*

When Boudicca lost her final battle, she is thought to have poisoned herself, rather than submit to Roman capture. 

Boudicca’s rebellion is remembered as a monumental time in British history. She was a mother, wife and warrior who defended her children and her country, an avenging angel whom history shall never forget. 



Monday, March 26, 2012

Check This Out

Want a chance to win a digital copy of A Whisper to a Scream (The Bibliophiles: Book One)?

Stop by Laurie's Thoughts and Reviews blog to read an excerpt, check out my interview and enter the giveaway.


Friday, March 23, 2012

Flash Fiction Fridays: Caffeine is a Wonderful Thing

Hope you enjoy this piece by Janel Gradowski who recently released another volume in her 6:1 series of short stories and flash fiction, Revenge.

Precious Sleep
By Janel Gradowski

The heavenly aroma of brewing coffee greeted Allison when she walked into the kitchen. Jeff must have started the coffee maker before he headed into the shower. Usually Allison got up before him, making toast and scrambled eggs while enjoying the dark quietness. The swampy insomnia over the last few weeks had made mornings feel like she was entering a dark tunnel with no light at the other end.

The bathroom door clicked open, and Jeff hurried through the kitchen, rubbing his hair with a towel. “I’m running late. Can you fill my travel mug? Just leave it black.”

Allison opened the upper cupboard and stared at the array of mugs and glasses. Her mind was tripping over itself, trying to remember which insulated tumbler was Jeff’s favorite, or if it even mattered. She chose a shiny, stainless steel one and grunted as she tried to twist off the top. Her entire body was limp and soggy, sapped from staying awake night after night. The seal finally released with a hiss. She filled it with the dark-roasted coffee, letting the scented steam wash over her face, hoping the vapor would deliver some precious caffeine through her pores. Jeff’s footsteps were rumbling down the stairs, so she quickly refastened the lid.

“Hey, honey. Do you think you could do the laundry today?” Jeff shrugged into his suit jacket. “I’m running low on shirts.”

“Sure. I can do that.” Allison looked at the coffee maker and wondered if she could skip a mug and just chug it straight from the carafe. Hauling the laundry hamper into the basement sounded like a Herculean task. She wondered what would happen if she just set the hamper at the top of the steps, gave it a shove and let gravity do the heavy work. “Have a good day.”

After transferring the mountain of dirty laundry into the basement and stuffing the washing machine full of dress shirts, Allison sat down in front of her computer. The characters in her novel had turned into nocturnal creatures, whispering to her about what they wanted to happen in their fictional lives when she was supposed to be sleeping. She opened a file and stared at the words filling the screen. It had been four a.m. when the brilliant idea came to her, but she was too exhausted to scribble anything down on the notepad she kept on her nightstand. Now the perfect solution to her main character’s dilemma was just a vague memory that had been almost completely evaporated by the effort of what used to be an easy morning routine. She rubbed her eyes. It felt like her eyelids were lined with sandpaper. Maybe some more coffee would help.

On the way to the kitchen, Allison glanced down the hall. She could see the corner of her unmade bed. Ideas used to come to her whenever she sat down in front of her computer. Now they only seemed to come when she was stretched out in bed, chasing elusive sleep. She guzzled a mug of coffee, laced with a hearty squirt of honey, and headed to the bedroom. A little nap would get the creative juices flowing.

The thud of a slamming door woke Allison. She pulled the sheets up to her neck and listened. Someone was walking around in the kitchen, she could hear the footsteps clunking on the tile floor. Panic flooded her body. She had just laid down for a nap. It should be hours before Jeff was due home. The floorboards in the hallway creaked. The intruder was coming closer. Allison screamed as Jeff walked into the room.

He flung his necktie across the room in response to the unexpected screech. “Ali! What are you doing? What’s wrong?”

“I thought you were a burglar.” Allison took a deep breath. “What are you doing home early?”

The closet door banged open as Jeff searched for a comfortable outfit to change into. “I’m not home early. It’s almost six o’clock. What are you doing in bed? Are you sick?”

“No…no. I just haven’t been sleeping well.” She rolled on her side and looked at the clock. It was 5:57 p.m. The sky outside the window was glowing pink as the sun set. “I took a little nap.”

Allison yawned and stretched her arms to the side. The little nap had been all day, but it had been weeks since she felt so rested. The next scene in her novel played like a movie in her mind, superimposed over the image of Jeff changing into a t-shirt and jeans. “Honey, I’m craving pizza from Antonelli’s. Why don’t we order that for dinner?”

“Um, sure. That’s fine.” He examined the shirts hanging in his closet. “Did you do the laundry?”

Allison threw off the bedspread. “Yes, I sure did.” She trotted out of the room and headed to the basement, hoping none of the colors had bled in the wet clothes still sitting in the washer. More details of the scene she needed to write were surfacing in her mind as she transferred the clothes to the dryer. She returned to the living room and sat down in front of the computer. Jeff was ordering the pizza as the screen blinked to life.

Sleeping in bed with her husband, like a normal person, didn’t look promising for the night. Finishing her novel, like a professional writer, was a good possibility, though.

Janel Gradowski lives and writes among the farm fields of central Michigan. She is the author of Haunted and Revenge, which are both part of her 6:1 series. Each volume is a collection of six flash fiction and short stories based on the title’s theme. Her fiction and non-fiction work also has appeared in Luna Station Quarterly, Every Day Fiction, Long Story Short, and Beadwork Magazine. To learn more about Janel, visit her blog.

Photo courtesy of

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Lucky 7 Challenge

Monday, Melissa Gardiner over at My Unpublished Life tagged me in The Lucky 7 meme, a challenge for writers with WIPs.

Here are the rules:

1. Go to page 77 of your current WIP.
2. Go to line 7.
3. Copy down the next 7 lines, sentences, or paragraphs, and post them as they're written.
4. Tag seven authors.
5. Let them know.

It is a fun way to get some feedback on your work, don't you think?

So, here is page 77 of Until My Soul Gets It Right. Unfortunately, this sample hits right in the middle of dialogue between Bibliophile Catherine Elbert and Katie McLellan, the owner of Christmas Bells, on Catherine's first full day in Portland, Maine, so I'm going to post the full page so you can get a better feel for the novel.

“Overwhelming, actually. I prefer this little place. No light-up plastic Jesus. No atrocious blinking flamingo lights.”

“And here I was, hoping to buy some illuminated chili peppers for my new apartment.”

“Can’t help you. But if you were going to hang them for an end of summer margarita bash, I could be persuaded to order them if you promise to invite me.”

“Need some friends first. You are only the third person I have spoken with since I arrived.”

“Where are you from?”


“You’re not a Packer fan, are you? My husband hates them.”

“No way. My brothers are, so, therefore, I am not.”

“Good girl. So what brings you here?”


“I see. Did you find a place yet?”

“Yeah, on Peaks Island.”

“Good Lord, I didn’t think anyone from the Midwest would even know Peaks Island existed.”

“I saw it on a travel show.”

Katie McLellan smirked. “So, what are you doing about a job?”

“Not sure. This is my explore Portland day. I haven’t given it much thought.”

“We are heading into our busy season, with fall just around the corner. I could use some extra help, if you’re interested. We are re-decorating the entire upstairs. People love those Department 56 villages. I need someone else besides Patsy, my full-time girl who is home sick today. Has a touch of the flu, or so she says.” Katie winked.

Okay, now it's your turn. The Lucky 7 authors I am tagging are the following.

Leah Griffith @ Eating Life Raw

Beverly Diehl @ Writing in Flow

Julia Munroe Martin @ wordsxo

Karen Cantwell @ Karen Cantwell

Becky Povich @ Becky Povich: Writer Searching for Bliss

inluvwithwords @ Out on a Limb

Ute Carbone @ Ute Carbone

Please visit these great writer blogs, either for their own Lucky 7 challenges, or just for a good read.

Monday, March 19, 2012

You Know You Want To...

Happy Monday, everyone!

A quick reminder that April Flash Fiction Fridays submissions are due Friday, 3/23. Send your 1,000-word or less stories to Put "Flash Fiction Fridays" in the subject line and include a short bio and links (bookseller, blog, website, etc.) with your story.

All I ask is that you sign up to follow Bibliophilic Blather, so we can build our online writing community.

Thanks much!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Flash Fiction Fridays: Delicious

Happy Friday, everyone. Today, we have an interesting piece by John Wiswell. Enjoy!

Shark Café
By John Wiswell

I'm at the Shark Café like every Monday morning. It was a long night, so I'm pounding Double Hammerheads while the yuppies sip Maco and Great White Chocolate. Great White Chocolate? Like that's even shark anymore. They might as well sell candies here — but of course, they do. Gummybears and jellyfish are right next to the dried shark fin. Some days you wonder if shark has gone too populist.

Just when I’m thinking darkly of Shark Café, along rambles a good reason to support them. Wearing only flip-flops, jeans and Mardi Gras beads (in August) comes a man, swinging his arms in the ASL sign for “Shark Cruelty.”

“Shark is murder! Shark is murder!”

A couple of businessmen pick up their laptops and cups and leave for the subway. The others leave the open-air part, heading into the safety of the glassed-in part of the Shark Café. I could never drink in there. Smells like an aquarium.

“Give it a rest,” I call. “Shark’s no worse than Seacow or Whale Oil Refineries.”

Since I’m his only audience the guy stomps up to me. His ponch pokes the velvet rope that denotes where Shark Café’s seating area stops and the public sidewalk begins.

"Do you know how many dolphins die so you can get half-off on that shark?"

"None. Shark Cafe has been free of dolphin labor since the '90s. If you owned a TV you’d know that."

His Mardi Gras beads and gut swing over the velvet rope. He does not take a seat. “I donated my TV to a family of dolphins that were delocated by your supposedly harmless shark farms! Sharks never do that to people. They’re moral creatures.”

“Oh come on. If you’ve ever gone deep sea diving you’ve seen their Human Cafés. They pay out the nose for upper-middle-class blends.”

"Shark is murder!"

"A morning without shark is murder," I say, and illustrate with a long pull. There's a little whipped fish on my upper lip. I leave it there and beam at the protestor. He takes a swing at me, an openhanded haymaker. I duck and he only catches the top of my head. It feels like a fish has just swum over my scalp.

All the same I back further into the velvet-roped area. He doesn’t pursue – doesn’t want to be mistaken for a customer at a place like this. For the first time I take a good look at him. His dull skin suggests a distinct lack of Omega-3’s and Asian sex – the two key symptoms of shark deficiency.

“When’s the last time you had a cup, buddy?”

“Shark is murder!”

“If I give you five bucks do you promise to spend it here?”

“Shark is murder!”

I roll my eyes, then notice another eye rolling in my cup. A shark eye. Oh, it looks succulent. But it’s full of necessary nutrients. I take the tall cup and leave it on the table closest to the protestor.

“Listen, guy. I’m going to leave this here. No telling what happens to it.”

Before he chant another slogan, I turn and head inside. I’ll order something else – something less intense. I come back out with a Cinnamon Twist Sandshark. The protestor and the Double Hammerhead are gone.

And they say no good is done in the city.

John Wiswell writes humor, horror and anything that fits in-between. He has been published at Weird Tales, Flash Fiction Online, Enchanted Conversation and Untied Shoelaces of the Mind. He writes daily on his blog and is currently seeking representation for his first fantasy novel.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Quotable Writers

A few years back, I received a deck of cards, In Their Own Words, which featured some wonderful quotes from world-renowned writers. I'd like to share two of those with you today.

"One of the things a
writer is for is to say
the unsayable, speak the
unspeakable and ask 
difficult questions."

-Salman Rushdie

"Try again.
Fail again.
Fail better."

-Samuel Beckett

Words to ponder on this Monday morning. Have a productive week.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Flash Fiction Fridays: Intense

The Root of the Onion Tree
By Kathryn Handley

Pursing her berry-crush lips and smoothing the lines of her black checked on white, silky Canasta top, Mabel reached for the glass knob on the upright radio. As Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” crooning lowered to a stop, she heard a slow moaning sound rising, drifting in the torn, screened-in door.

Damn cat. “Keep your drawers on, Suzie,” she screeched and moved directly to the picture of a young stud in military garb where she slammed it down with a thud.

Outside, fragile onion skins sashayed from the thick chestnut tree branch and landed soundlessly on the earth below. Almost at the root of the onion now, Ben’s eyes twitched and watered. The furious rubbing of his eyelids with little boy hands close to drove him crazy, yet he continued, stopping now and then to peer through a translucent peel to look at the mottled-blue sky.

Not again.  Not again, mother.  It’s not my fault.  You shouldn’t…

She said it twice.The first time Ben blanked on it, and when he could no longer ignore the voice, “Get in here now, Ben. Get in here now, Ben!” he, shuddering, stashed the onion bulb in the safe crook of the branches, and leapt down.

Although he twisted his ankle on the fat root bursting from the earth, he hobbled, nearly running, around the tree three times for good luck before he noticed her standing, and then, kicking the cat off the porch. She whizzed the green-budded fresh switch in figure eights in the air, creating a buzz Ben knew well.

Kathy Handley, a Grub Street member, writes fiction of all lengths. Her short fiction has appeared in many literary magazines, including and Her writing placed in many contests, most recently she placed in Press 53 2010 Flash Fiction and won the Word Hustler’s Page-to-Screen contest, judged by Sara Gruen and printed in The Nervous Breakdown.

Handley currently serves as Prose Poetry judge for the National League of American Pen Women Soul-Making Contest. She is the author of Birds of Paradise and A World of Love and Envy, a collection of short stories, flash fiction and poetry. To learn more about Kathy, visit her website.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

International Women's Day

Today, let's celebrate those who have gone before us for their talents, courage and fierce determination. 

Here are some of the women I have admired throughout my life, all of whom made the world a better place. May we strive to do the same. 

Susan B. Anthony, suffragist and women's rights activist

Harriet Beecher Stowe,  author of "Uncle Tom's Cabin."

Jane Austen, the master

Queen Boudicca of the Iceni (more on her story later this month)

Virginia Woolf, writer and incredible mind

Members of the Feminist Movement

To me, International Women's Day is not only about those who have made a huge impact on the world, but also those who make our individual worlds better places. I wish my mom were here today so I could tell her how much her example of kindness, love and strength made an indelible mark upon my soul. 

I leave you with a song, "Shaking the Tree" by Peter Gabriel and Youssou Ndour.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Editing for Grammarphobes: A Wednesday Quickie

I haven't done a grammar post in awhile, so here is a quickie courtesy of Sue Sommer's wonderful book, The Bugaboo Review.


Wanton is an adjective meaning "lewd or immoral."

Wonton is a delicious kind of stuffed Chinese noodle.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Feminism is NOT a Bad Word

fem·i·nist  [fem-uh-nist] adjective 
1. advocating social, political, legal, and economic rights for women equal to those of men.

When my son’s AP U.S. History teacher asked his students last year how many of them were feminists, do you know how many hands went up in the class?


I am proud to say it was my son’s. Not one girl in that entire class thought of herself as a feminist. My heart sank when he told me. Not one female.

Feminism has somehow become a bad word. “Feminists” allegedly tried to ruin the traditional family back when I was a child. How dare women want to be something else other than mothers and wives! Don’t they know a woman’s place is in the home?

In her February 8 column, bane of existence Phyllis Schlafly wrote the following.

“The reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 2 on a straight party-line vote. That proves again that the feminists control the Democratic Party, and also is a refreshing indication that Republicans are no longer intimidated by feminist demands.”

Yes, it is a terrible thing to protect women from domestic violence. Schlafly goes on to pose the question on every woman’s mind who has been beaten so badly she cannot move — what about the man? Who is advocating for men’s rights?

Feminism has been continuously criticized and vilified for years by misogynist Rush Limbaugh, who has insisted on calling us “feminazis.” And now, he is at it again on a grand scale with his comments about Sandra Fluke. Although he issued a lame “apology” because his show was losing advertisers, I don’t buy it.

Why is it that a woman who testifies that contraception is a necessity for women’s healthcare and should be covered by health insurance fodder for his insanity? A slut and a prostitute? Really?

What kind of person says this? “If we're going to pay for your contraceptives and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.'"

Take a minute to absorb what he said. Wow.

Feminism is a good thing. It is the reason we have the choices available to us today.

March is National Women’s History Month. Periodically, I will be posting about the lives of some of the founding mothers, women who boldly forged the path we continue today.

Lest we forget.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Flash Fiction Fridays: Oh, No!

Flash Fiction Fridays is back to an open prompt, any topic, any length up to 1,000 words, until October. Katrina Byrd starts us off today with an excellent piece about a most unfortunate incident.

By Katrina Byrd

Mary Lyn can sit up there on the front pew dressed in all white looking like one of God’s sweet angels all she wants. We all know that she’s hell on wheels. She owns Big Mama’s, the only restaurant in Hot Cakes, Mississippi. My sister, Lerleen, works for her. Says she’s loud, cusses like a sailor, and she’s cheap. Won’t even pay minimum wage. Lerleen says that Mary Lyn even dares to have a mister on the side. That’s probably why she’s at church without her husband this morning.

The light from the warm sun filtered through the stained glass windows casting an array of colors over the small building and the well-dressed “Christians” inside, as Reverend Scucchi lifted his large hands upward. Who ever heard of an Italian preacher in a Black, Southern Baptist Church, but there he was. Tall and handsome. Skin as smooth and flawless as a fresh open jar of peanut butter. Eyes black as coal and silky, dark, curly hair. When he spoke his mellow baritone voice filled the room. Mary Lyn hung on his every word like a tick on a dog’s back. She was shoutin’ and amenin’ all over herself.

By the time the choir broke into "Victory is Mine," the entire congregation was on their feet clappin’ and hollerin’. Sweat pourin’ from brown faces. Feet thumping and bumping against the wooden floor some on beat, some off. Nobody ever would’ve guessed that there are rhythmless Black folk but there are. One of them was Mary Lyn. She was a movin’ and dancin’ to her own beat; her backside bouncin’ like a rubber ball unknowingly revealing, what I know in my heart, was only meant to be between her and her maker.        

“Lawd a mercy,” I say under my breath as I watch in disbelief. That off-key singin’ gal they got leadin’ the choir hollered into the mike. I couldn’t make out what she said but whatever it was it prompted Mary Lyn to holler out and lift her hands. Mary Lyn’s long black hair swayed back and forth as she stood there with her fat hands lifted toward the sky like she trying to catch a bird. What Mary Lyn didn’t know is that all her movin’ about caused her snug white suit jacket to slide up revealing the back of her unzipped and unbuttoned skirt. I shook my head and pulled out my sewing kit. I walked as fast as I could toward Mary Lyn without breaking into a run. The last thing I needed was to go to hell for laughin’ at a cheap, rhythmless, hypocrite jumpin’ and hollerin’ on the front pew while her shiny red drawers were a shinin’.  

Katrina Byrd is the author of One HOT Minute, a collection of flash fiction, as well as Byrds of a Feather and Justice is Blind. She graduated Millsaps College with a bachelor's degree in History. She has written several short plays that have been seen locally. Katrina served as the The Center Players’ Playwright in Residence for the 2010-2011 season. One of her short plays, Dinsmoor’s Last Stand, was written at the request of The Center Players Community Theatre. Dinsmoor’s Last Stand was performed at a ceremony hosted by the City of Ridgeland to commemorate Silas Dinsmoor, a Choctaw Indian Agent. Several of Katrina’s ten-minute plays have appeared in Fondren Theatre Workshop’s Ten Minute Play Projects. Katrina has also received four Artist Mini-grants from the Mississippi Arts commission. Her last Artist Mini-grant helped to fund a staged reading of Death Rattle, a full-length play that was started at a writing workshop hosted by the SonEdna Foundation. Two of Katrina’s short stories were published in the 2010 issues of Black Magnolia Literary Magazine.

In addition to being a writer and playwright, Katrina is also an actress and performer.  Some of her most memorable roles were Dutchess in the Center Players production of HATS! The Musical, Grandma in the Millsaps College production of Fabulation and Mrs. Gluunfridget in the Fondren Theatre Workshop production of Legal Mumbo Jumbo written by Oppie Cooper. To learn more about Katrina, check out her Facebook or Goodreads pages.