Writing Challenge: A Fun Exercise in Character Development

This week I thought it might be fun to throw out a challenge to my readers and author friends. When I was earning my M.F.A. in Creative Writing, we were given various writing exercises, of course. To demonstrate an interesting way to develop a character, one of many, by creating a character from the characteristics of an inanimate object. It might sound strange, but honestly I can remember having a lot of fun with this particular exercise. The object I was assigned was a butter knife.

First, we were ask to do a free write about the object, associating it with characteristics which came to mind. Next, we were asked to create a character who possessed some or all ofthose characteristics, using a Proust questionaire, which is a really good tool, but any means of creating a character profile so that you really know your character would work. As always, the more you know about your character, the easier it is to write them in a scene or a story, or maybe even a series. Lastly, we were asked to write a scene that introduces the character.

You’ll find the scene that resulted from this exercise back in 2013, and I’d love to see the results of any of you who would like to accept my challenge and create their own character and scene. I had a lot of fun with this exercise and I think you will, too. My inanimate object was assigned, but you can pick one from the following list or choose one of your own: butter knife, salad bowl, spoon, fork, spatula, plate, frying pan, wine glass, corkscrew, turkey baster, tea cup, coffee pot, dish towel, broom, feather duster, brillo pad. I chose a bar scene for my introduction, but yours can take place anywhere you like. Explore the possibilities for setting as you work through this exercise in character development.

If you are up to the challenge, pick an object and do a free write about it. Then, create a character and get to know them well. You can even make your own questionaire. What are your character’s favorites: food, color, song, etc…? What do they do for fun? Occupation? You get the idea.

Then write a scene that introduces your character and send it to me at kayebooth@yahoo.com. Don’t forget to tell me what your object was. If I like it, I may ask for permission to share it here. Yours doesn’t have to be as long as mine, just keep it to a single scene that tells us who your character is.

My Introduction to Betty Lou (Butter Knife)

“Come on. Don’t be such a stick in the mud!” Christa said, urging her friend to live it up a little. “One drink is not going to kill you. I swear.”

Betty Lou sat on the bar stool with her legs crossed, hands folded in her lap. Her back was as straight and upright as if she were practicing the principles outlined in Debrett’s Etiquette and Modern Manners, with a book perched atop her head. “Oh, all right,” she said. “But, just one. You’re sure it won’t make me look foolish?”

“I’m sure,” Christa said, waving the bartender over. As he approached them, she said, “Two long island iced teas, please.”

“Iced tea?” Betty Lou asked, with a discernible sigh, thinking anything with iced tea couldn’t be too bad.

The bartender placed two tall glasses of tea colored liquid on the bar in front of them. Christa placed some bills in his hand and picked up her glass. “Come on. Drink up,” she said, talking a long swallow.

Betty Lou picked up her glass, sniffing the pungent aroma of liquor in the glass. “It doesn’t smell like iced tea,” she said, wrinkling her nose.

“You said one drink,” said Christa, placing a hand on top of Betty Lou’s, gently pushing up toward her lips, “Now drink up. Go on.”

Betty Lou took a small sip.

“No…, drink,” urged Christa, tilting her friend’s hand up with her own, gently forcing her to take more of the liquor in her mouth.

Betty Lou choked down a swallow, making her eyes water. “That sure doesn’t taste like iced tea,” she said when she had regained her composure. “Yuck!”

“You get used to it,” said Christa, working on her own drink. “Oh good, the band’s getting ready to start.”

Betty Lou took another small sip, wrinkling her nose once more. She doubted Christa’s statement. How could anyone get used to the taste? She watched attentively as the band members came out onto the stage and began tuning instruments. “Remember,” she said, turning to her friend, who perched a cigarette on her lips and was lighting it, “I’m only staying until ten o’clock.”

“Loosen up,” said Christa, offering her a smoke from her pack. “Tonight could be a whole new beginning for you. Relax and finish your drink.”

“Couldn’t I just have a seven-up?” Betty Lou asked, plucking the offered cigarette from the pack. “I just had a rocky ending. I don’t think I’m ready for another beginning.”

“No way,” Christa said, offering her a light. “You agreed to live it up a little, remember? No taking the straight and narrow tonight. Besides, you know every time one door closes… ”

Betty Lou bent slightly to light her cigarette as Christa flicked her Bic. “Okay. Okay,” Betty Lou said. “But, only until ten. I have to debug a new program tomorrow. I want to be alert. I need a good night’s sleep.”

“Finish that drink and you’ll sleep good, I promise,” Christa said with a wink.

A man stepped onto the stage to introduce the band, as the house lights lowered. He was short and stocky, with shoulder length hair pulled back in a ponytail. The black leather pants and vest that he wore made him look like a throwback from a seventies biker gang.

“Good evening ladies and gentleman,” he said. “Thank you all for coming out.” Whistles drifted up from the audience, as he addressed them from the stage. “We have a great show for you tonight. Please allow me to introduce to you, The Ripe Melons!”

As the band began to play, Christa downed the last of her drink and signaled the bartender for another. She began to sway on her bar stool to the beat of Lynard Skynard’s, Gimme Three Steps, which The Ripe Melons managed to do a fairly good job of cranking out. Wisps of bleach blond hair fell over her eyes and she absently brushed them away.

Betty Lou took another careful sip. Maybe Christa was right. It didn’t seem so bad now. She could feel the vibrations from the music in the floor beneath her. “Do they have to play so loud?” she asked, raising her voice to be heard over the music.

Christa smiled at Betty Lou and shook her head. “Lighten up, girl,” she said. “Let your hair down.” She reached up behind her friend and yanked a pin from the tight bun on top of her head.

“Hey!” said Betty Lou, as her bun unwound and her long black ponytail unrolled and hung straight down her back.

“Come on,” Christa said. “You look so uptight.” She reached up behind her friend and pulled the hair tie out, letting her onyx hair fall loosely, softening her high cheekbones and angular jaw. “There,” she said. “Now you don’t look like you’re waiting for your last rites. You have pretty features when you just ease up a bit. You always pull your hair back tight from your face and it makes you look like your spring is wound a bit tight.”

Betty Lou was stunned by her friend’s boldness. Would she be undressing her next? She took another sip of her drink and smiled just a little, as the image of Christa reaching over and unbuttoning the top buttons of her blouse flitted through her head.

But, Christa’s hands stayed to herself as she downed her second drink and crushed out her cigarette in the ashtray. “Let’s dance,” she said, sliding down from her barstool.

Betty Lou shook her head adamantly. “No, you go ahead,” she said. “I’ll wait here and finish my drink.” She looked down at it, noticing to her own surprise, that it was almost half gone.

“Oh, come on!” said Christa, grabbing ahold of Betty Lou’s hand. “You need to get laid. Let yourself go a little.”

It took effort to stay upright on the barstool with Christa pulling on her like that, but she managed to pull her hand away. “No, really, I’m fine,” said Betty Lou. “I’ll just watch you.” She took a rather large swig from her glass as if that might convince her friend to go without her.

“Suit yourself,” said Christa, heading for the dance floor.

Sipping her drink, Betty Lou watched Christa as she approached a handsome guy with blonde, feathered hair, sitting in the second row of tables. She bent down and said something to him, then he stood and walked out onto the dance floor with her. Betty Lou couldn’t believe how bold Christa was. She could never be that forward. Even when she’d been with Matt, Betty Lou had always let him take the initiative. She had always followed his lead. They had been the perfect pair. That seemed like another life now.

A hand on her shoulder startled her out of her reverie. She turned to find herself face to face with the most gorgeous man she had ever seen. He was tall, maybe even taller than her own 6’3’’, with a muscular build that said he didn’t sit behind a desk all day. His brown hair matched the brown eyes that she found herself staring into.

“Would you like to dance?” he asked, smiling a smile that would melt any girl’s heart.

She straightened her back. Her heel began tapping on the rung of the barstool, making her knees bounce. “Uh—me?” she asked.

“Well, yes,” he replied, glancing to either side of her. “You’re the only pretty girl I see in the immediate vicinity.”

“Um…, I couldn’t,” she stammered, “I mean, um, well…”

“You don’t dance?” he asked.

“No,” she said, feeling her face flush. “At least,… not very well.”

“May I buy you a drink then?” he asked, raising a brow.

“Oh,… thank you, but I have one,” she said, holding out her glass, only to realize that it was empty.

He smiled at her again. “Looks like you need another,” he said. “May I?”

How could she refuse? “Uh,… sure,” she replied. How wishy-washy that sounded. She did her best to save face, adding, “That would be nice.” At least, it didn’t sound quite as lame as her stammering all over herself, like a school girl who’s never talked to a good looking man before.

He flagged the waitress over and ordered them each another round. Betty Lou was surprised at how at ease she felt as she sipped her new drink while they talked. Normally, when talking to members of the opposite sex, especially good looking ones, she could feel the tension build inside of her, materializing on the outside as sweaty palms and stiffened muscles through her back and neck, but she felt none of those things now. It must be the alcohol. Up until tonight, the strongest thing she’d had to drink was a wine cooler. She wasn’t used to the strong effects of hard liquor, even in a mixed drink.

“Are you sure you wouldn’t like to dance?” Kyle, which is what his name had turned out to be, said. “You can step all over my toes, if you like. I walk on them all day anyway.”

Betty Lou started to decline once more, but then his corny joke registered and she burst out laughing instead, the most recent sip of her drink spraying out over his pants. “Oh, fiddlesticks! I’m so sorry,” she said, grabbing her cocktail napkin off the table and dabbing at his pant leg. “This is not a good beginning, is it?”

Kyle chuckled and took it all good naturedly. “It’s okay,” he said, taking her hand in his own and looking into her eyes. “But, now you have to dance with me, even if you have two left feet.”

feltBetty Lou gazed into those big brown eyes of his, noticing a few flecks of gold in them. She’d never seen eyes like that before and now, she never wanted to look away. He offered her his hand, and she took it, letting him lead her out onto the dance floor. He pulled her in close to him and held her there as they began to sway to music. Betty Lou laid her head on his shoulder and closed her eyes, allowing him to lead her. It felt good to be held against him so firm, heat flushing through her body, as she felt his stiffened member pressed against her leg. Maybe this wasn’t such a bad beginning after all.


Review in Practice – Slushpile Memories: How Not to Get Rejected

Slush Pile Memories: How Not to Get Rejected

Introducing a new blog series

For those of you that don’t know, I am currently embarked on a journey to earn my masters degree in publishing at Western State Colorado University. Some of you may know this because I mentioned it when I posted the submission guidelines for the Mirror, Mirror anthology that we are putting together for our class thesis project. I was really excited about sharing this paid writing opportunity with all of you and I hope many of you will craft out a story that fits the guidelines and submit it. I was recently reminded that the submission deadline is just two weeks away, so get those stories in.

With work and school and trying to write, I’ve been struggling just to get my Monday blog post out. I’ve been blogging here on Writing to be Read since 2010 and it is important to me and hopefully to my readers, so I can justify feeling a need not to drop the ball here even though I’m extremely busy. My solution, which I thought was rather smart, was to create a new blog series, “Review in Practice”, where you can join me through book reviews that reflect lessons taken from books I read as I work to improve my craft and learn the publishing industry. In this way, the books I need to read in order to learn and improve will do double duty as I share them with you here. These reviews will offer my opinion of the book, and also tell you about my experience with it and share what I have learned. I do hope you will join me.

My Review

Reading Slush Pile Memories: How Not to Get Rejected, by New York Times Bestselling author, Kevin J. Anderson helped to prepare me for the onslaught that is already flooding the submissions box, because it offered me a better idea of what lay ahead. But, this book was written for authors, to give them an idea of what editors are looking for and improve the chances that your submission will read and accepted. It is a brief book, which doesn’t take long to read and the lessons contained within could prove invaluable. As I have begun working my own way through this year’s slush pile, I’ve already learned that the experiences contained within Slush Pile Memories: How Not to Get Rejected is spot on.

Of course there’s never any guarantees of acceptance, but there are ways to increase the odds. Kevin J. Anderson relates his own experiences from the last two anthologies the graduate publishing program at Western put together. (Yes, he is really my professor. How cool is that?) If you are thinking of submitting a story to Mirror, Mirror or any other anthology, Slush Pile Memories: How Not to Get Rejected is a must read. I give it five quills.

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Anthology Release, Winner Announcement and Pre-Call for Short Fiction Submissions

Last week saw the release of the 2021 WordCrafter paranormal anthology, Where Spirits Linger. I was pleased with he stories that are featured in this anthology. I had worked with three of the contributing authors in past anthologies, but two were new to me, including the winner of the 2021 Short Fiction Contest, Christa Planko, who sent in a wonderfully eerie piece of flash fiction, “Olde-Tyme Village”, which gives me goosebumps.

For the release, we ran a book blog tour and giveaway, which I feel was a success, resulting in a few more book sales. The winner of the WordCrafter “Where Spirits Linger” Book Blog Tour giveaway was Cindy Georgakas, who commented on Miriam Hurdle’s blog stop The Many Showers of Blessings. Cindy, if you will contact me at KLBWordCrafter@gmail.com to let me know your format preference, (epub, mobi, or pdf), I’ll be pleased to send you your free digital copy of Where Spirits Linger. Congratulations!

If you didn’t win this time, I hope you’ll drop in on our next WordCrafter Book Blog Tour. For now, you can purchase your copy of this original anthology here:

https://www.amazon.com/Where-Spirits-Linger-Lynne-Booth-ebook/dp/B09GNZJVJ5

I want your Visions

Now that Where Spirits Linger has been released, it’s time to gear up for next year’s contest. There were only six contributing authors in this year’s anthology, but next year I’m hoping to be able to include more, so I am planning to broaden the scope of the theme for 2022. In the past, WordCrafter anthologies have had paranormal themes because I’m a sucker for a good ghost story, but for 2022, I plan to broaden that out to include the fantasy, science fiction and horror genres. For Visions, your story can still have a ghost if you like, but it won’t be required. I’m announcing this ahead of time because I want you to have time to limber up your fingers and your minds, and send me your very best stories. What I’m looking for in the 2022 WordCrafter anthology are thought provoking stories that will stay with readers long after they close the book.

WordCrafter will be open for submissions beginning on January 1 through the submission deadline of May 31, 2022. The winner will receive a $25.00 Amazon gift card and their story will be featured in Visions. All finalists will also receive an invitation to be included in the anthology, which offers a small royalty share for your story contribution. My submission guidelines are pretty simple, but they are different from last year, so be sure to read and follow them carefully. Submit your story with a cover letter to KLBWordCrafter@gmail.com with “Submission: [Your Title] in the subject line and pay the $5 entry fee in the PayPal box on the submissions page, which will go up January 1st, 2022, when submissions open.

Visions: Submission Guidelines

Submission Dates: January 1st, 2022 to May 31st, 2022

Genres: Paranormal, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Horror

Word Count: up to 10,000 words

Rights: First Anthology Rights and audio rights as part of the anthology; rights revert to author one month after publication; publisher retains non-exclusive right to include in the anthology as a whole. 

Multiple Submissions: Yes

Simultaneous Submissions: No

Submit: MS Word doc or RTF file

If you don’t know what standard manuscript format is, review, for example, https://www.shunn.net/format/classic/

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Day 3 of the WordCrafter “Where Spirits Linger” Book Blog Tour

Where Spirits Linger Book Blog Tour

Day 3 of the WordCrafter Where Spirits Linger Book Blog Tour finds us over at Patty’s World with a guest post from me! Join us to learn about the inspiriation behind my story, “The People Upstairs”, which is included in the newly released paranormal anthology.

Book your WordCrafter Book Blog Tour today!


Updates & Reminders

Where Spirits Linger

Update – Where Spirits Linger

The 2021 WordCrafter paranormal anthology Where Spirits Linger is scheduled for release on September 20th, and is now available for pre-order. Featuring original paranormal tales by Kaye Lynne Booth, Roberta Eaton Cheadle, Stevie Turner, Enid Holden S.L. Kretschmer, and Christa Planko, author of the winning story in the 2021 WordCrafter Paranormal Short Fiction Contest. It will be available in both print and digital formats, so be sure and order your copy today.

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Reminder – Open for Submissions

Submissions open today for the WordFire Press Mirror, Mirror anthology. This is a paid writing gig, so be sure to get your story in for consideration. For those of you who missed the submission call, you can learn more and read submission guidelines in my oroginal post.

To increase the chance of being accepted, I recommend reading the newly released, Slushpile Memories: How NOT to Get Rejected, by Kevin J. Anderson. It is written as a guide for authors submitting their work to publishers in the hopes that their work will be accepted and published, offering tips and advice to avoid the fateful rejection slip. The major points that came through were to me from this helpful guide were to be professional at all times, and to READ AND FOLLOW THE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES. I know from the preparation that I’ve been given for being a slushpile reader that these can and will be crucial factors in submitting a story that will make the final cut, so take heed as you prepare your submission.

Submissions will be open through October, so there is plenty of time to write and polish your submission. Click on the link to the submission guidelines above and read them over. It’s a theme that you can have a lot of fun with. Send us your best stuff.

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Adversity makes the story

When Donald Trump ran for election the first time, in 2016, he was heard saying that he got his start when he borrowed a half million dollars from his father to start a business. He went on to say that he created a successful business and paid back that loan in something like six months. He was very proud of this feat and used it as an example of what good business sense he has, which he claimed qualified him to run the country. My response to his claim was to think to myself, ‘Yeah, if someone loaned me a half million dollars, I bet I could create a successful business, too.’

Everything I have ever done in my life, I have done on my own. There has never been anyone who would extend me a loan, or support me in my efforts. I’ve had a lot of failures, like the landscaping business I tried to start and got taken to the cleaners by my very first customer, leaving me in debt on the endeavor, but I picked myself up and tried again. Now, I have created a small independent press and I offer author services through WordCrafter. It’s small and I do it all online, out of my home. To me, that is more of an achivement than former President Trump’s multi-million dollar corporation, because I didn’t have any help in getting where I am today. I struggled to overcome all obstacle that stood in my way, and I built my business a little at a time, without loans or other help from anyone. To me there is no real story in what Trump did, but the road to success for me has been paved with obstacles and setbacks to overcome. He may be a lot richer than I am, but my story is ever so much more interesting.

Several years ago, one of the nurses that I worked with came up to me and told me how happy she was to learn that I had continued writing after my son died. She said that it meant that I was healing. The truth was, after Mike died, I had to write. I had so much grief boiling inside me that my only recourse was to write and let it all flow out. After Mike died, writing was what helped me keep my sanity. I wrote poetry. I wrote stories about Mike. I wrote and delivered his eulogy. More than likely none of it will ever be published, but the stuff I wrote during that time was powerful. If I read it now, it still brings tears to my eyes.

The negative emotions- grief, sadness, hate, anger – are all powerful emotions and to write a story that stirs those emotions is to draw your reader into the story and make them care. The positive emotions like love or triumph are powerful, as well, but they are made more powerful if the character has to struggle to achieve them. If the character is happy when the story begins, and remains happy throughout, then it’s really no big deal when he is happy at the end. But, if the character has longed for happiness, struggled to overcome the obstacles that prevent him from being happy, and the reader has been right there feeling his frustration and sorrow along the way, then the reader will be elated when, at the end, the character accomplishes his goal and achieves the ever sought after happiness. The negative emotions are what makes the positive ones that much stronger. In life, happiness is fleeting, easily forgotten as we move on to the next goal, but the negative emotions are always there, just below the surface, waiting to be called forth. They don’t go away. I miss my son now just as much as I did the day he died, and all I have to do is think about him for the tears to start to flow, even eleven years later. The negative emotions don’t fade away, like the positive seem to.

Adversity creates conflict, and conflict is why we keep reading. We have to see how the character is going to overcome whatever obstacles are placed in his way. We must read on to find out who wins the battle, to learn if our character will be triumphant, or if he will be ruined for life. Adversity, or conflict, is the key to writing a good story. Going through the characters struggles with them makes their revenge sweeter, their triumphs more elating, and their love so much stronger. Adversity is what makes us care about the characters.

So, make things hard for your characters no matter what genre you write. Beat them up, make them walk over hot coals, climb mountains, jump out of airplanes, or dive to the ocean’s depths to get the girl, find the treasure, win the race, or achieve self-discoveries. And just when they are at the lowest point they have ever been at, and it seems that there is no way to come out ahead, throw a burning building in their path, raise the stakes, throw in a ticking time bomb. Don’t make it easy for them. If a good looking guy walks into the bar and sweeps the girl off her feet without even blinking and there is no one to object, no one will care if they live happily ever after or not. When the reader is aware of the price that has been paid to achieve the goal, then your readers will care so much more. Give your characters conflict and adversity. They’ll thank you for it later, and so will your readers.

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Book Review: Mudflap – A character concept many of us can identify with

In Mudflap, by Jay Alden Bailey the character’s name isn’t really Mudflap, but that is the name he identifies with because life always seems to be throwing him under the bus. We’ve all been there, so the character concept is easy to identify with. Every time Mudflap gets up, life knocks him back down again. But he just keeps getting back up again, even starting over from step one when necessary. This story makes a suttle social commentary as Mudflap’s tale unravels that readers with a keen eye will be sure to pick up on.

Sharing in the life and experiences of Mudflap makes one appreciate the circumstances in one’s own life more. If you need cheering up or are just looking for a chuckle, this story is for you. I give Mudflap four quills.

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Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


Paid Writing Opportunity – Call for Short Fiction Submissions

I recently embarked on the journey toward yet another degree – an M.A. in Publishing at Western State Colorado University – and I am studying under the prolific bestselling author and founder of WordFire Press, (and inductee into the Colorado Authors Hall of Fame), Kevin J. Anderson. For one of the publishing projects that must be completed for graduation is a cohort produced anthology. This will be the third year that the publishing cohort at Western has been headed by Kevin, and the third anthology that they have published.

Each of the previous year’s cohorts have produced an outstanding anthologies featuring stories by reputable author names, as well as new discoveries. You can see my review of Unmasked, last year’s anthology, here. The first year, Monsters, Movies & Mayhem received the Colorado Book Award. Both of these exceptional anthologies are available from amazon, your favorite bookstore, or buy direct at wordfirepress.com/gpcw.

This year’s cohort worked hard to develop the theme and guidelines over the past two weeks, and I’m really excited about this anthology. One of the cool things about this opportunity for writers is that it pays per word, if your story is chosen. Since I am a part of the publishing team, I’m not eligible to submit, but all of my readers are. I strongly encourage you to check out the guidelines below, get the gears turning and crank out an original story to submit for this year’s anthology. Feel free to share with anyone who might be interested.

Tips for getting your story accepted: Read the submission guidelines and follow them.

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MIRROR, MIRROR:

Modern Myths

Executive Editor: Kevin J. Anderson

When you’re alone with your reflection, are you prepared for what you see?

A prince in disguise? A monster revealed? An alien race?

Mirrors can be truth-tellers, wish-granters, face-concealers, illusion-makers, even monster-summoners. Maybe the mirror shows an evil twin, or an echo of the life that should have been. Or a portal to another world. 

What happens when it shatters?

Once upon a time, no one knew the phrase “Once upon a time.” You’ve read the classic stories. Now write the lore you’ve always wanted to read. Explore this creative challenge from your own unique perspective informed by your roots, culture, and background. We want original fables, folklore, and fairy tales for an eclectic anthology showcasing a new dawn of an old artform.

Imagine a canon of diverse characters for today’s readers to love and loathe. Gaze into the mirror, whether literally or figuratively—classic or genre-bending, grim or whimsical, as long as it is new and fresh.

We are looking for original short stories (prose poems will also be considered) to include a mix of fantasy, science fiction, horror, magical, and romance elements. Must be appropriate for a “PG-13” audience. Please, no copyrighted characters. Previously unpublished stories only. Women, BIPOCs, LGBTQIA+, neurodiverse individuals, and other minorities are strongly encouraged to submit.

Length: up to 5000 words (firm limit)

Rate: 6¢/word on acceptance.

Rights: First Anthology Rights and audio rights as part of the anthology; rights revert to author one month after publication; publisher retains non-exclusive right to include in the anthology as a whole. 

Due: We are open to submissions from August 30 through October 15, 2021.  

Submit: A Microsoft Word or RTF file in standard manuscript format to 

https://wordfirewestern.moksha.io/publication/2/3/submit

If you don’t know what standard manuscript format is, review, for example, https://www.shunn.net/format/classic/

One submission per person, please. NO SIMULTANEOUS SUBMISSIONS. 

Edited by Kevin J. Anderson with an editorial team provided by Western Colorado University Graduate Program in Creative Writing, Publishing MA students. Anthology made possible by a generous contribution from Draft2Digital.

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Capturing Enlightenment: A brief tale of humor

Buddy and Holly came bouncing up to Egbert, ready with any number of humorous things to say to tease him. Teasing Egbert was one of their favorite pass times. Buddy liked to say that Egbert wasn’t one of the brightest bulbs in the batch, and Holly usually commented on the squirrelly round glasses that magnified his eyes and made them appear to be popping out of his head, or the way that he stuttered when he talked. When they ran out of jibs on those subjects, they could always make fun of his name, telling him that his mother must not like him at all to give him a name like that; obviously, she didn’t love him or she would have given him a better name than Egbert, uh! Usually long before they got that far the tears were running down Egbert’s face. Sometimes he started tearing up as soon as he saw them coming.

That wasn’t the case today. Today, Egbert was actually happy to see them. He had something wonderful to show them and it was so special that once they saw it, they wouldn’t make fun of him anymore. “Hi Buddy! Hi Holly!” he said, heading over to meet them with a huge grin on his face.

“What are you so happy about, Egg Head?” Buddy asked.

“Yeah. You look ridiculous. That grin is almost bigger than your face. Close your mouth, so I can see you.” Holly said with a giggle.

“Wait until you see what I found!” Egbert said. “You guys aren’t going to believe this.”
            “Oh, right,” Holly replied. “What could you possibly have that would even interest us?”

Egbert grinned even bigger as he looked from Buddy to Holly, and back to Buddy again. He was absolutely beaming with excitement.

Holly looked over at Buddy uneasily. When he glanced back at her, the uncertainty showed in his eyes.

Finally, Buddy broke the silence. “Well, are you just going to stand there with that silly grin on your face or are you going to show us whatever it is that you found?”

Egbert came out of his reverie. “What? Oh, yes of course. Just wait until you see!” He turned, running back toward his house, leaving the two of them standing there in puzzlement.

They looked at one another. “What do you think has him so excited?” Holly asked through the side of her mouth in a hushed voice, but Egbert could still hear her.

“Probably some old seashell from the beach or something,” Buddy replied.

“I don’t think so. He wouldn’t show us something like that anyway because he knows we’d just take it from him if it was cool or smash it if it wasn’t.” Holly said. “Besides, don’t you think it’s weird that he hasn’t stuttered at all?”

Before Buddy could answer, Egbert came racing around the side of the house with a jar which glowed from within.

“A firefly?” Holly said in disbelief. “We’re supposed to be impressed by a firefly?”

Egbert shook his head. “It’s not a firefly.”

“Then what is it?” Buddy asked. “It sure looks like a firefly to me.”

“Does it look like a firefly?” Egbert said, holding the jar up higher, so that they could see better. They squinted as the light coming from the jar seemed to get brighter, much too bright to be produced by a little firefly. Finally, they turned away, unable to look directly at it.

“Actually, that doesn’t look like any firefly I ever saw.” Buddy admitted.

“I told you, it’s not a firefly,” Egbert said.

“So, what is it? What did you find?” Holly asked. Egbert now had their full attention.

Egbert beamed and grinned once more. “I found enlightenment! I was playing down at the beach, when I saw it sitting, half buried in the sand. I scooped it up and carried it home and put it in this baggie for safe keeping.”

Buddy was skeptical. “Enlightenment? How do you know that’s what it is?”

“Because I can feel it.” Egbert replied. “I know things now that I didn’t know before.”

“Like what?” asked Holly.

“Like I know that you guys aren’t really bad people. You only do all of those mean things to me because you don’t feel very good about yourselves.” Egbert replied.

Buddy and Holly looked at each other nervously. Then they looked back at Egbert.

“It’s okay. Don’t be afraid,” Egbert said. “I also know now that all the things that I dreamed about doing to get back at you came from petty feelings. I want you guys to be my friends, just like I always wanted, only now I know that I don’t have to change who I am to do that.”

Buddy shuffled from foot to foot nervously. Usually ready with a smart comeback to anything, it seemed he suddenly had nothing to say.

Holly eyed Egbert distrustfully. “What do you mean?”

“Here,” Egbert said, holding the bag up closer to them. “If you just feel it, you’ll understand everything.” 

“That’s okay,” said Buddy, backing into Holly.

“What are you afraid of?” Egbert asked.

“I-it’s nothing.” Holly said, stumbling over her own feet to get out of Buddy’s path. “I-it’s just that, well…, w-what if you’re wrong?”

Suddenly, Buddy found his voice. “Yeah, that might not even be enlightenment at all. Even if it is, how do we know that that is something that we would want to have any part of?” He spoke bravely, but he kept backing away.

“Doesn’t everyone want enlightenment?” Egbert asked, truly puzzled by their strange behavior.

“I’m not sure that I d-do.” Holly said, stammering the words. “L-look at y-you. L-look at the ch-changes that it has m-made in you already. And l-look at m-me, too. I d-don’t know w-why I’m st-st-stuttering all of a s-sudden!” Tears streamed down Holly’s face. She turned, rushing out of the yard and down the street.

“Hey wait, Holly!” Egbert called after her. “I know a good speech therapist. I’ll give you her card.”

“I uh, I think I should go and see if she’s okay.” Buddy said, running out of the yard, as well.

As he watched him go, Egbert got another grin on his face, this one however, had a sly cast to it. “Tsk. Tsk.” he said, shaking his head. “My speech therapy finally paid off. I really thought that they would be more impressed.” He opened the jar and lay it down in the grass where two small winged beetles crawled out and seperated from one another before flying away into the night. “Imagine getting so upset over two little glowbugs.” Egbert chuckled to himself all the way back into his house.

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“Jaguar”: A thought provoking psychological thriller

Jaguar

Dreams: A journey into the unconscious mind.

For Eddie Reyes and his friend Maryellen, dreams are much more than that. Dreams are an avenue for learning. Dreams are a means of breaking through to parallel worlds and making connections with their friends, Africa Lee and Rafferty. Dreams are a way to control people and a weapon which causes madness. To those who don’t know, it sounds like a cool superpower, but it’s one that carries a heavy price.

For Eddie, it’s the only way to hunt down the Jaguar to save their friends and the rest of the Roam from the persecution of the jaguar priests. But the Jaguar has reached Maryellen’s father through his dreams in this world and he’s intent on keeping she and Eddie apart at all costs.

Can Maryellen and Eddie escape her father and the other traps set on this side by the Jaguar long enough to hunt the him down in his own dreams before he destroys the Roam, and both worlds in the bargain?

My Review

Although Bill Ransom’s Jaguar unfolds the story slowly and it takes a little while to put the puzzle pieces together to form an idea of how the characters are connected and how they fit within the full picture of the story, it is just odd enough to keep your curiosity raised and keep you reading long enough to see it all come together. And by then, you’re hooked. You have to keep reading to find out how it all turns out. You can’t put it down. And it’s a good thing, because if you don’t read through to the end, you will miss the big reveal that changes the game and raises the stake even higher for Eddie.

A well-crafted psychological thriller that will keep you riveted to your seat. I give Jaguar four quills.

Buy Link: https://www.amazon.com/Jaguar-Bill-Ransom-ebook/dp/B0054SLB88

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Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.