Honestly, I couldn’t understand why he didn’t wish for the girl first…

A nice little piece from, showing just how quirky and fresh one can get with an old idea. I’m glad I’m following this blog – I really like what I’ve read of it so far.


cement mixer

“Excuse me squire but I take it that this is the builder’s merchants what sells cement mixers for our old one is knackered beyond repair?”

“Certainly is mate. What kind do you want?”

“Fucked if I know if the truth be told – the boss just said go and get a new one and have them put it on the account.”

“Well when purchasing a device that homogeneously combines cement, aggregate such as sand or gravel, and water to form concrete it is always advisable to make sure you end up with the one that is right for you. I mean in these days of short mixing times of ready-mix concrete one cannot be too careful.”

“What do you recommend then?”

“Um…..I mean you could have a twin-shaft or maybe a vertical axis although being as you are in the construction game I’m thinking a drum mixer probably fits the…

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Writing Exercise – The Time Has Come

Time for another writing exercise from Fiction Writer’s Workshop. Chapter 2 of this book focuses on setting, and the different ways setting is used in fiction. I absolutely love the example given from Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol, where a very stingy hoarder is described through how he keeps his living area. An exercise follows from this example – Exercise 12 on page 43:

Make a character visible through her surroundings. If she loves plants and cats and hates people, her house might assume certain traits. Sketch the house, listing the sights, smells, sounds.

Well, I won’t win any points for originality for my reaction to this prompt, but I just had to try this with an established character rather than one I made up. Here’s what I came up with:


The Time Has Come

The mirror dominates the room. The frame may have once been an elaborate bronze, but its flowery pattern is now a hideous green from years of neglect. By contrast, the glass is pristine, reflecting myself and the room in perfect clarity. A house of cards sits in front, three tiers high. Faded, tattered cards lay about its base and at the foot of the plain wooden dresser upon which it stood. I nearly bang my shin on a low table, set with a delicate china tea set. Each of the table’s four sides hosts a tea cup on a saucer, with tiny silver spoons sitting nearby. The cup nearest me has long ago lost any distinguishing pattern on its bone white surface, and two stumps jut from it where its tiny handle should be.

I step over the carpet, my feet deftly avoiding several chess pieces. Stooping down, I pick up a queen. It is white, with flecks of red paint clinging to its surface. In my other hand, I take another white queen, this one noticeably shorter and a bit wider than the other.

I set the pieces before the mirror as I step to the rocking chair with its back to me. It rocks slowly, as though swayed by the evening breeze from the open window. Light snoring announces the presence of the lady I seek. I hesitate.

My eyes find another tea table next to the chair. This table looks even older than the previous, its varnish chipped away to show wounds of rotting wood. It is also decorated with ancient china – a plate, with a cake the size of my fist atop. The cake, to my pleasant surprise, was fresh, immaculately painted with chocolate frosting, and bearing the words “Eat Me” delicately spelled out in white icing. Next to it was a fine glass flask half-filled with a sparkling liquid. A square of paper was tied about its delicate neck by a tiny length of red ribbon. Predictably, I suppose, the blue ink on its surface read “Drink Me”. Unlike the table and the other dishes, this glass is spotless – I might think it freshly blown if I had seen it anywhere else.

I resolve to waken the lady. My business has to be done, no matter how regrettable I find it. I reach to the arm of her chair. My hand finds a glint of gold draped over its arm, and I am again distracted from my goal. I take up the gold, finding it to be chain for a fine pocket watch. I pop it open, revealing the hands working their way across a circle of Roman numerals. I nearly laughed, calming my breath as I see the drawing on paper placed carefully where a family portrait might be on other watches. The sketch was a detailed rendering of a rabbit, standing on its hind legs, dressed in overalls, and panicking as it stared down at a pocket watch.

“I’m late.”

My eyes snapped to the speaker of the soft words.

“I’ve gone and overslept, haven’t I, dear? You’re here to take me away.”

Snapping the watch closed, I nodded solemnly at the elderly lady.

“It is for the best, Ms. Liddell. Your family is worried, and I assure you, our home is like no other. You will be treated with respect and dignity.”

“Is there croquet? Oh, but not the kind with flamingos and hedgehogs.”

“There is croquet, of course. As well as many other pastimes – draughts and bingo, for instance. I’m certain I’ve never seen flamingos, and we do keep out any sort of pests.”

She stood up slowly, her wrinkled dress now revealed as it fell loosely over her bony frame. It might have been a bright blue, some ages ago, but the color had long worn away. She reached down, taking up the plate with the cake and offering it.

“Won’t you have some? You’ll get a little surprise, I think.”

“Perhaps another time. Our driver should be quite anxious by now.”

“The time has come, the walrus said.”

I shake my head, deciding not to answer her odd comment. I hold her bony hand gently, guiding the frail lady over the safe patches of the cluttered carpet. As we reach the door frame, she takes one last look at her strange room. She then gestures to the watch, and I realize that I still hold it. I give it to her, and she pops it open again before me. She points to the panicking rabbit.

“Have you seen him? Always late, always in a rush.”

“Can’t say that I have, Ms. Liddell. Come now; follow me to a far better world than this lonely life here.”

Her wrinkled face radiates a wide smile as she finds something amusing in my words. As she allows me to take her hand and lead down the staircase, she chuckles softly.

“Curiouser and curiouser.”

Reblog: How to Write a Killer Character by Ditrie Sanchez

Another reblog for my Wednesday content – but hey, it’s a good reblog. This one gives some great tips about character creation. I’ll try to use this with my students in the writing course I’m teaching in September.

This post was originally written by Ditrie Sanchez and appeared on Morgen Bailey’s Wrting Blog:

Morgen 'with an E' Bailey

I’m delighted to bring you this guest blog post, today by Ditrie Sanchez:

‘How to write a killer character’ No, I’m not referring to psychopathic serial killers running on rampages through the jungle with machetes and baseball bats. I’m talking about the real deal: living, breathing characters.  For some reason, ‘How to Write a Breather Character’ didn’t have the same ring to it.

1.) Know how the brain works.  Read psychology books. Research articles online. Understanding how brains collect and disseminate information gives you a greater understanding of what it takes to build a realistic human being.

2.) You are not your character. It’s really easy to fall into the trap of creating autobiographical sketches. It can be thrilling to live vicariously through your characters. Resist the urge. Not only will it prevent your characters from all sounding the same, but it will also avoid that awkward moment when your…

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A Reblog from Dianne Salerni – Do Full Time Writers Keep Office Hours?

As I’m not yet a full-time writer, this is a hard one to answer. I would like very much to keep regular hours with my writing, but teaching and taking care of kids often have to take priority. I don’t have exact times set for my writing beyond “Write for one hour, after the kids sleep” and “Blog for one hour every Wednesday after work”. My schedule has to be flexible, which means these times can move earlier or later as needed.

There’s an advantage in this way – I’m flexible and I can change plans easily. And of course, there’s a HUGE disadvantage – “After the kids sleep”could end up being well after midnight (when my energy reserves very quickly go kaput). My wife and I may need an important talk, right in the time I had set for writing. My writing ideas may simply not come to me at all (they usually come at times like the middle of a freaking class while I’m teaching – that’s a whole other blog post). Distractions about on the internet, and sometimes I feel like I NEED them (oh look, I wasted all my writing time on, what a pity).

I do need a more fixed schedule, and I’m with Dianne Salerni on this one – it’s damn hard. I think I will have to sit down with my wife to establish “Do Not Disturb” writing hours. And yet, I will also have to allow for things like games and mindless entertainment. I can’t work all the time, but I can’t mope around feeling like I don’t do enough either!

Originally Posted by Dianne Salerni at


I was pondering that question this weekend when I ignored my lengthy To Do list on Sunday afternoon and read a book for fun.

I felt guilty about it. Because, you know, I quit that lucrative teaching gig to do this writing thing.

Yes, I had other reasons for leaving a profession that was rapidly heading in a direction I didn’t want to go. That doesn’t take the feeling of pressure off.


  • Figure out where I’m supposed to go next in the 1st draft of my WIP
  • Do the background reading I need for two potential projects and take notes
  • Write my blogs for the week
  • Research pricing for school visits and start putting together promotional information
  • Research a list of people to contact for school visits
  • Stop freaking out and thinking I will never again have another good idea or finish another book


  • Read a book in my hammock

Read more here: Do Full Time Writers Keep Office Hours?.



Things You Should Know About Introverts

Are many writers introverts by nature? It sure seems like most I’ve met are! This post hits the nail on the head – it describes me and so many people I know.

Playfully Tacky

From From 1) We need to recharge alone.
This right here is the cusp of the entire introvert v. extrovert debate (if there is one, anyway) – Introverts need to be alone to recharge. We tend to get completely worn out by socializing. This is basically what it means to be an introvert.

2) We don’t hate being around people, but we probably hate crowds.
I love being with people, but if you drop me into a large crowd I instantly feel like I’m alone and invisible. I try to avoid situations where I feel that way, so I may decline your open invitation to some random event. It doesn’t mean I don’t like to be around you, it just means I like to have more control over my surroundings.

3) We don’t mind silence.
I can sit beside you in silence and not think we are having a bad…

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“She Never Left Her Coffee” Writing Exercise

I’m going to try to do more writing exercises right here on this blog in the following weeks.

Today’s attempt is taken from a prompt in Chapter 1 of Fiction Writer’s Workshop by Josip Novakovich. It’s on Page 22 in the Second Edition, Exercise 7: “Write ‘My mother never …’ at the top of a page, then complete the sentence and keep going.

Here’s what I came up with:


My mother never left her cup of coffee unfinished. Steam still rolls up from it as I pace around the coffee table. The moment replays countless times – I try to get Dad to let me ride with him, and he makes me stay home with Steve. Despite all the worlds my mind makes for my toys and daydreams, it won’t create one where I stay with her. Dad closes the ambulance door every time, leaving me to care for my brother.

Steve is just sitting there, though. Not even really watching the cartoons endlessly fight on the TV screen. Where else will he go? He’s not causing trouble now! I should be with Mom.

I pace. I replay. I wait.

A ring breaks the silence. I run to the stand next to the sofa and snatch the phone from the receiver before the first ring finishes.

Dad’s voice is calm. He says he won’t be home for a long time. He tells me to get Steve to bed. He doesn’t even tell me about Mom. He doesn’t have to. I remember when Grandma was in the hospital, and how he talked then. Grandma didn’t come back.

I hang up the phone. I look back to the steaming cup, and Mom is there. I jump, but she smiles at us, and I feel calm. Steve turns off the TV, and we both watch her silently.

“Thank you,” she says, “I know you wanted to come, but really – it’s quite boring. A lot of people asking questions, papers to sign – nothing you kids would be interested in.”

She takes up the cup of coffee, taking a long sip.

“Mom,” I ask, “You won’t come home?”

“No, dear. I’m going away. Dad will be alone – don’t let him cry too much.”

“Will we… will we see you again?”

Mom takes another long sip. She holds the cup low – one more sip left.

“I think so. Not for a long, long time, though.”

Steve and I both watch her. I see for the first time that Steve is crying, then I realize that I am, too. 

Just then, a headlight shines in through the living room window. The car stops, and Dad walks up to the door.

Mom takes the last sip, and then she’s gone. The door opens, and Dad walks in to see us before the empty TV screen, crying in our dazed stupor. 

“I’ll have to go back out,” Dad says, “I had to check – had to see how you were.”

He hugs Steve first, but stops as he reaches me. He points to the empty cup clasped in my shaking fingers. I notice that my lips and throat are burning with dull pain.

“Mom finished it. She always does. Right Steve?”

Steve nods silently. He turns his lip in the faintest smile, and I know he really did see her too.

Dad’s eyes narrow. Slowly, carefully, he nods. Steve takes the empty mug, and I hug Dad tightly.

#IWSG – When everyone else is on vacation!

2007 Philippines 006

As usual, my Insecure Writer’s Support Group post will be a short one.

I go through this twice every year. It’s the pain of being a teacher and a writer – yes, I get two vacations every year, it’s true. I rarely have the finances to go anywhere, so I usually end up tutoring and doing other private teaching to earn extra money. You might THINK vacation means more time to write, but it rarely works that way. I’m not at the point where I can write to earn any significant chunk of income – that still has to come primarily from teaching. So that’s one problem – vacation never means more time to write, even though I sometimes think and act like it does! I find that I expect to have a lot of writing time, but then family and duties come along and fill the free time I thought I had.

The other problem is that my writing groups vanish. Poof. Gone. Everybody’s off in another country, or they too are loading themselves up with private work to take advantage of the best time to get such work. There’s nobody to write with! Nobody to talk to in person. I probably get LESS writing done just because of the lack of feedback and motivation that the writing groups provide. I’d love to be able to say that I’ll meet my writing group in September with awesome new stuff, but I don’t think there will be that much …

Writing has been so slow partly due to these factors. There has been a silver lining, though – I’ve actually managed to lose weight this summer! At least I’ll have SOMETHING to show when I go back to full-time work in September.

So I wonder what others think. For you, does vacation mean more or less writing gets done? Does most of your writing group vanish at certain times of the year?



Photo Source: Me! Beach in Cebu, where I proposed to my pretty wife. On Valentine’s Day, at sunset. Yeah, I’m proud; so sue me.