Microfiction: Late Night Study

If you’re new to this site then you might be pleased to discover that every now and then I take a break from my normal writing endeavors and I challenge myself to come up with a microfiction to share with you all.

Today’s was a result of writing a list of about eight words and then challenging myself to link those key words into a common story.

Late Night Study

The steady twap twap of the critter’s tiny pincers against the glass were fraying the young alchemist’s nerves.

The figures and notes from the journal in front of her were just as frustrating as she rubbed her tired eyes. The encryptions within were beginning to dance around her mind like two drunk lovers at the pub during the harvest celebrations.

Sighing, she closed the worn leather journal, accidentally rubbing her finger through the dust left behind on the table. How had so much dust accumulated in so little time?

Turning, she pulled the glass jar from the aging marble counter. “Sorry little guy, you’re not going anywhere until I transmute you.”

The praying mantis was still, sizing her up. Its eyes held her own in a silent glare as if daring her to realize the hubris of that claim.

“He was close.” She made a fist, “But I will succeed where he failed.” The mantis continued its silent watch as the splosh of raindrops announced the arrival of the storm.


Nuts and Bolts: Beta Readers


Similar to the series of posts called “Tools of the Trade”, “Nuts and Bolts” will be referring to the more analytical and business components of writing.

I have some good news! I am feeling comfortable enough with some of my stories to send them off to beta readers. But, in order to do that I had to determine who these readers should be.

To date my criteria has been simple: Do you you like stories in this genre? Are you willing to read my story? Are you someone I trust? Are you willing and able to get meaningful feedback to me in a timely manner?

Google Forms and Stories

With this in mind, I sent a message to friends who had been interested when I mentioned my stories in the past, but before I did so, I created a Google Form. This Form contained the questions I was most interested in regarding the story I was sending. I then promised coffee and cookies for the effort and sent off the email.

The next trick I used? I put options at the end of that questionaire for what level of readership the beta reader would want to be considered for in the future: Alpha, Beta, Close to publication, Audience (read after published), and Never-Send-Me-A-Story-Again. Thankfully no one has chosen the “never again” option.

It’s still an experiment in progress, but so far I have gotten some beneficial timely feedback. And I’m collecting data on what level of interest these readers have for upcoming stories.

Using the Data for Newsletter Practice

I’m also planning on using this as a way to experiment with newsletters. I’ve now been to enough workshops to understand that an author has to build their platform as early as possible. And, I’ve also heard enough to know that I better learn how to utilize a newsletter now.

So, besides the copious amount of editing left to do, I am hoping that crafting a newsletteresque email just for my beta reader team will not only keep them excited but also give me invaluable practice for when it’s time to send updates to a more general audience.

To be continued…

Tools of the Trade: Staedtler Norica and Pentel Orenz

If you have visited this blog before you’ll have discovered that I am a writer working on my first short stories and novels.  To be more specific I’m trudging through edits and rewrites on those first stories.

And while I do post some microfictions, updates, and reviews from time to time, I also create posts with helpful information for other writers.  The Tools of the Trade series consist of things and programs I have found helpful as I hone my craft.

Today’s post is all about my two favorite types of pencils to date: Staedtler Norica and Pentel Orenz 0.5.  I’ve been finding lately that the further I am into rewrites, the more likely I am to grab a pencil.  Editing has taught me humility and the wisdom that writing a little slower with the ability to erase is inherently beneficial.

Here’s a demonstration and review by Gray Matters on the Norica:

And here’s one by Scrively for the Pentel Orenz:

Golden Nights

“What are you doing out so late?” The old man gave me a penetrating look, wizened eyebrows knitted together in thought.

“Same as you.” I flicked my hair back and pulled my scarf closer.

Why did anyone go out at night? That time when the darkness steals vision away, giving in its place the teasing small lights.  The lights and shadows twinkling like ghosts toying with mortals in the darkness.

He didn’t answer. Instead, just like the gentleman he had been for all his life, he took my arm in his own and we walked together in silence. The tranquility was a warm invitation for thought.

We watched the streetlights flicker against the golden colors of the leaves long into the night.


Tools of the Trade: Paper for Planning

I typically do a good deal of my actual story planning on paper first. I would probably write a good deal more of my stories longhand too if it didn’t take so long.

In college I was around quite a few engineering majors who had piles of graphing paper. There was something about the way it could be used for notes, designs, and calculations without the sense of imposition that regular lined paper gave.

Then, I heard about bullet journaling and discovered the dot grid notebooks.

Both are now my preferred paper for story plotting and notes.

It gives me just enough to keep me linear if desired, without impeding my sense of freedom (though dot grid is a little better at this than standard graphing paper).

The Greatest Showman

I had just finished watching Logan a few days before the trailer for this movie was released. I think my first reaction was to be blown away by the range of characters Hugh Jackman can effectively play*.

My other thought? I have to see this movie.

Here’s a little pretext about me. I generally go to an actual movie an average of about 2-4 times a year, so anytime I see a trailer and think: theater, it’s a big deal for me.

The characters endeared themselves to me in even those first glimpses. The music was powerful, the characters looked like they had a good deal of their own struggles to deal with as the anthem of the movie “This is Me” played in the background.

The other aspect of the trailer that got me hooked was PT Barnum in the office. There’s these glimpses of Barnum in an office where he’s just another number cruncher, staring at the life he has and comparing it to the life he’s dreamed of having.

And that was me. In some ways, it still is me.

I’m in the midst of chasing a dream I’ve had since I was a kid, playing stories in my head while I rode the bus home. From when I was in fourth grade, picking at the computer keys as I tried to write my own mystery story. As a high school and college student, writing up plans for a story I’m still crafting even today.

And here’s the movie reminding me of someone who got to live out a dream.

Like I said, I was hooked from the first few moments of the trailer.

I went to see it a couple weekendsago. It was amazing. The music was powerful, the choreography was excellent.

And the characters were memorable. Relatable. Endearing.

And in the midst of it all, there was a believable, cautionary tale about allowing a dream to consume you.

I will tell you, my writer brain was over analyzing the story but I don’t think I will share those takeaways here, except for this one.

You don’t have to have a highly complex story, sometimes the simplist ones are those that touch the hearts of the viewer or the reader. It’s the stories with highly relatable characters living through adversity without losing their soul that touch us the most.
*End Note: This reminds me of a post for another day, I think authors go through their own version of method acting.

The Last Jedi

I feel like I’m being torn apart.” -Kylo Ren

I am conflicted about this movie.  On the one hand I loved it, on the other I felt it was too long and some of the characters weren’t who I was anticipating them to be.

I’ve also spent the better part of a month deciding whether to even put up a post but my love for Star Wars won out and I can only talk to my own friends for so long before talking the topic to death.

*From here on out there are spoilers, you’ve been warned*


One of my biggest problems in the new Star Wars trilogy: no one seems like the characters they should be.

Han, was more Luke than Luke has been.  And Luke is more like our first glimpses of Han.  Different motivations of course, but it is as if the two characters switched souls somewhere along the way.  Leia, C3P0, Chewbacca, and R2D2 are the only ones who seem like they are supposed to be.

It’s not because I don’t like these characters, instead, it has a great deal to do with not seeing what has happened to them, only being filled in briefly about their development as they interact with the new characters.

I think, once more books, comics, tv shows, etc… start coming out and filling in the gap between Episode VI and VII I’ll discover that I really like the direction the new films are going in.

Another quick note, I did not feel as emotionally invested in the Poe, Rose, and Finn storyline as I did concerning Rey, Luke, and Kylo.  In fact, I felt like the resistance storyline was more a distraction to the central storyline this time.  I think it was because there’s more mystery surrounding the other three and metaphysical ramifications to the overall storyline regarding what could have been revealed about the force and why the Jedi should end.

That said, I liked Rose really well until the very end when she suddenly decided her new love interest was more important than saving the Resistance: a move that felt completely out of character.  It felt like it also missed Finn’s moment to shine and make his character become more impactful.  

Interrupting the Flow

I have several standards I use to determine how much I like the movie.  One of them is in world believability or how close the story sticks to its own worldbuilding rules.

In The Last Jedi (hereforth referred to as TLJ) there were several moments where characters had something or said something that reflected our own world too closely. In books like the Wheel of Time this can be fun because it’s like putting a puzzle together trying to figure out the real world influence but the author has built it into the narrative and world history.

The Star Wars galaxy has always been on its own plane of existence, sure, there was a game similar to chess but it was different enough to be believable.  To the best of my knowledge we never saw ying and yang symbols or heard the utterance of “Godspeed”.  And no one ever ploughed into a string of porch lights during a chase. 

A final note on these mental interruptions:  I often know if a movie is going too long if I mentally think, how much longer does this movie have?  Which I did, on several occasions when I was watching TLJ.

Space Battles

One of the scenes I greatly appreciated was the opening battle.  I appeared to me to have a good deal more strategy to it instead of: here’s a small target that will blow everything up if we hit it with a small blaster cannon.

I also enjoyed the nod to Rose’s sister and Leia simultaneously using the force.  I believe the yin and yang necklace was a hint to that.


While the other Star Wars movies have always been implicitly about hope. TLJ and Rogue One both discussed this more openly.  They are both grim movies compared to the typical tone of what I associate with a Star Wars film, but I like it because it helps the viewer understand just how large the stakes are and that there is no guarantee of success.


I am being harsh on this film and I know it.  For example, I love Marvel’s movies, not because they’re masterpieces, but because they are fun.

Star Wars has a special place in my heart which makes any little issue I have with the new films so much bigger than I would otherwise hold a movie to.  And at the end of the day, TLJ is still a good movie.  It’s beautifully done.  It has good messages.  It has characters I am growing attached to (thought I would have hoped for more Holdo than what we got in one film, I liked her character a lot).

And at the end of the day, even in the face of darkness, light still persists.

And that my friends is why this movie matters and why even my dissatisfaction doesn’t outweigh the whole.