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WRiTE CLUB - The Quarter-Finals - Bout 2

After this bout, on Friday morning, the final will be set.  No beating around the bushes today, let's get to it!  Leave your votes in the comments below.  Everyone has a voice, so spread the word!

Passing through the ropes now is..................LUCKY LEFT HOOK

I watch the girl as I have every day for the last five days. She moves around the outdoor patio of the restaurant while balancing a drink-loaded tray. The effort forces an small, apple-sized bicep to form in her slender arm. I imagine her shiny black hair falling to her shoulders as the red stick holding her careless knot bobs lazily. The girl drops her pen and moves to place the tray on an empty table.

As she bends to retrieve it, my eyes meet her almond-shaped dark ones for an instance, and I look away. I'm not quick enough and recognize that she's angry.

Does she think I am stalking her? Probably. I'll have to skip a couple of days. I don't want to scare her. And then again, she doesn't actually look scared. She looks angry with a touch of curious.

"Can I get you anything else?" The waiter, a man with thinning hair arranged across the top of his head, holds the black restaurant bill folder in his hand. I can tell that he wants the table for his next customer as I look around at the crowded tables. He drums the edge of the bill folder with his neat, thin fingers. I can see the speculation in his eyes as they move over my t-shirt and holey jeans. His eyes say, "Doesn't this kid have a summer job?" The waiter smiles, but it's a fake smile that matches his equally fake tan.

"No. Just the check." I steal a glance in her direction for fear that she will disappear into the crowded dining room inside. It's too late and she's gone.

I glance at the ticket that's been placed in front of me and retrieve my wallet. Throwing a couple of bills on the table, I take one last sip of my water and crane forward, looking through french doors into the dining area.

"What's your problem?"

Her husky voice electrifies my senses. I've heard it in my dreams hundreds of times. I don't answer immediately. My rehearsed line tumbles from my brain and is lost.

I turn after a measured second that seems like hours. "I have a proposition for you." The words are all wrong. Her proximity makes me nervous that she will read my mind and know.

She laughs, a brittle sound that doesn't match what I know of her. In my dreams, she is all sweetness. It startles me when she places her hand on the back of my chair and leans down to whisper. "Listen, creep. I will say this one time. You show up here again and my brother will take a sharp knife to your tender and delicate places. Capiche?"

The juxtaposition of her words and what I know of us is almost more than I can stand. I wish to start over, but there's no beginning that would be right.

"Seiko, I need your help." I think of the photograph in my wallet.

And stepping into the other corner................ANNE SHIRLEY

They say that when you're about to die, your whole life flashes before your eyes.

Turns out it's true.

I sprawl in a pool of my own blood. The sky comes in and out of focus, and it's an unnatural color, like a bruised plum. Bombs explode to my right, spewing smoke tongues that smother the earth. Two men hover over me - Lieutenant Daniels and that baby-faced soldier who cried the night we got deported. I think they're trying to staunch the oozing wound on my thigh, but I'm not too sure.

My mind is going. Lying there on the battlefield, all I can see is Molly. Molly wearing her Dodgers cap in the kitchen, making breakfast, telling the dog to get down, stay there, good boy. Peter! Emily! Hurry up or you'll be late!

Wagging tail. The crisp smell of cinnamon French toast. Backpacks zipping. Sneakers skidding because the bus is pulling around the corner. Shit, I'm going to miss it! YOUNG MAN, don't ever let me hear you say that word again! Giggles. Peter said a bad word, Mom.

Little arms thrown around my neck. I love you, Daddy. I love you too, sweetheart.

The baby-faced soldier's voice slices through my delirium. "He just call me sweetheart?"

"Don't flatter yourself, son. He's feverish. Hand me that bandage."

"Yes, sir."

Lieutenant Daniels' ruddy face appears. "Jackson. You're gonna be all right, you hear me?"

A church decorated in red, white, and blue. My father lying there in his coffin. I kiss his cold forehead, the way he used to kiss mine when I was sick. I love you, Dad. My turn to fight for peace. I swear I'll make you proud.

San Francisco Bay, holding hands with Molly, heart racing because I'm about to ask her to marry me.

The doctor's office with Pat, my frat brother, my football buddy. The cancer will take me over, Jackson. No, it won't, I won't let it. You're gonna be just fine, Pat.

"He's going, going, gone," the young solider mutters.

"Don't count him out yet," Lieutenant Daniels says.

As if on cue, I sit up. Everything, everyone I love. I don't know if I'll see any of them again. But there's still breath in my body. Where there's breath, there's life. And where there's life, there's fight.

"Jackson. Get down, we need to clean that wound!"

"Where are you going?!"

I crawl out of our hideout. Dragging my bad leg, I sling my gun over one shoulder.

There's a small army of them, tongues lolling from their lifeless faces. Green skin curdled like bad cheese. Slowly, they lurch toward me with sickening hunger, moving around the mutilated bodies of my fallen comrades.

I imagine them bending over Molly, the kids cowering in the doorway.

I load my gun.

They want my brains. I want them dead. Even deader than they already are.


"Jackson, no!" Lieutenant Daniels howls.

I throw myself at the zombies.

CATCH FIRE - CassaFire Book Launch

Hey gang! Today is the Catch Fire Blog Party, celebrating the release of CassaFire by our own Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh! The goal is to help CassaFire “catch fire” on the best seller charts and achieve the success of the first book, CassaStar. There’s also a special package of prizes being given away at the author’s blog (see picture below) as well as book giveaways during his two-week blog tour. See Alex’s site for details:

Alex's blog tour runs from today through March 9 – and anyone who comments on his blog posts during that time can win a special package from his publisher: copy of CassaFire and CassaStar, a large tote bag, and a mug. The Twitter hashtag for the party is #CatchFire

by Alex J. Cavanaugh

CassaStar was just the beginning…

The Vindicarn War is a distant memory and Byron’s days of piloting Cosbolt fighters are over. He has kept the promise he made to his fallen mentor and friend - to probe space on an exploration vessel. Shuttle work is dull, but it’s a free and solitary existence. The senior officer is content with his life aboard the Rennather.

The detection of alien ruins sends the exploration ship to the distant planet of Tgren. If their scientists can decipher the language, they can unlock the secrets of this device. Is it a key to the Tgren’s civilization or a weapon of unimaginable power? Tensions mount as their new allies are suspicious of the Cassan’s technology and strange mental abilities. 

To complicate matters, the Tgrens are showing signs of mental powers themselves; the strongest of which belongs to a pilot named Athee, a woman whose skills rival Byron’s unique abilities. Forced to train her mind and further develop her flying aptitude, he finds his patience strained. Add a reluctant friendship with a young scientist, and he feels invaded on every level. All Byron wanted was his privacy…

Available today!
Science fiction - space opera/adventure
Print ISBN 978-0-9827139-4-5, $15.95, 6x9 Trade paperback, 240 pages
EBook ISBN 978-0-9827139-6-9, $4.99, available in all formats

CassaFire is the sequel to Cavanaugh’s first book, CassaStar, an Amazon Top Ten Best Seller:
“…calls to mind the youthful focus of Robert Heinlein’s early military sf, as well as the excitement of space opera epitomized by the many Star Wars novels. Fast-paced military action and a youthful protagonist make this a good choice for both young adult and adult fans of space wars.” - Library Journal

You can visit the author’s site at

You can get the book here:

WRiTE CLUB - The Quarter-Finals - Bout 1

The march continues and at it's inevitable conclusion, only one will remain.  This week we will tap two more to move on and set up the epic battle we've all been waiting for since November.  You've probably seen all four of these WRiTER's in action before, but just in case your new to WRiTE CLUB you can find a list of their previous bouts here

The first match-up, determined by a random drawing, is below.  Read each submission carefully and vote for the one that in your mind deserves to keep marching.  No, it is not an easy task...but it really shouldn't be.  Hairs will be split, deeper meanings will be contemplated, and even coins will be tossed, but a choice has to be made.

And so...

Welcome back to the ring in the far corner.....CASEY BROOKS

When a princess misbehaves, most kings and queens send them to their chambers. Not mine. No, my parents send me to the dungeons. And I don’t get to just sit there and “think about what I’ve done.” I have to clean. It probably says something about my temperament that we have the cleanest dungeons in all of Farfel. Even now, as I sat on my royal *ahem* and polished the bars outside the second-largest cell for VIPs only (Very Important Prisoners), I was hard pressed to find even one speck of dust. Of course, that might be because I’ve been on dungeon duty every day this week. (Let me just say – cleaning out chamber pots? Not. Fun.)

On Sunday, I was punished for putting a snake in Prince Alec’s salad. I know, I know. Not that original, but he yelled louder than a banshee from the Mountains of Mystery.

On Monday, I ever-so-innocently suggested that the prince resembled a blue pincushion – what with his puffy sleeves and all – and my parents sent me down here again. (Though, I noticed they didn’t disagree with my assessment of his outfit).

Tuesday morning, I pushed the prince into the fountain during our supposed-to-be-romantic walk. Of course my parents didn’t believe me when I said I was protecting the prince from a very deadly looking wasp.

Really, I was surprised they still wanted to go forward with the whole marriage thing. I mean, I had hoped that if I made my thoughts on the matter clear, then they would let me out of it. But, no.

Maybe the fountain thing was too subtle.

“Maybe the prince should just go back to where he belongs,” I muttered as I scrubbed at the prison bars. After all, my parents couldn’t force me to marry Prince Alec in one week.


“That’s easy to arrange, you know,” a lilting female voice answered me. I nearly jumped out of my corset.

Peering through the bars, I saw two baby blue eyes staring back at me. They reminded me of the prince’s unfortunately puffy coat. I hate to admit it, but I judged her a little bit because of that.

“I thought this cell was empty,” I said stupidly. I was too surprised to come up with something more witty.

“New arrival. Just got here today.” She seemed unconcerned by the fact that she was a prisoner in the king’s dungeons. Calmly and primly, she sat by the cell bars, looking at me with an expression that could only be described as boredom.

She was also the most beautiful woman I had ever seen.

I judged her for that too. It wasn’t fair that she could have lustrous golden hair that cascaded down her back in waves (even while as a prisoner in a dungeon!) while my lady maids forced me to sit for an hour each day simply to have a semblance of curl.

But if she could help me … who was I to judge?

And their opponent in the near corner...JAMIE STUART

Charlene Gentry didn't know what to expect when she died. She wasn't necessarily an evil person, so would heaven welcome her? She wasn't an angel, either, so would hell be her destination? Not that she had a choice, but she assumed those were her only two options.

Certainly not 5542 Sycamore Lane.

She must be dead. How else could she explain the view of her bedroom from above? She didn't own a mirror on the ceiling, as badly as she had dreamed of putting one up there. And the eyes of the body – her body – lying on the bed below were closed.

The front door slammed. "Charlie? You here?"

Robbie. Her big brother finally made it. Was he in time? How long had her body been lying there? Minutes? Hours?

"I'm in the bedroom!" She yelled, but did he hear her? Dammit! How could she move to him? Was she stuck up on the ceiling for all eternity?

The sliding door to the backyard opened. "Hey, fella. Whatcha doing out here?"

Barnaby's claws ticked, ticked, ticked, as they skittered across the kitchen floor. Soon the chocolate lab burst through the bedroom door, Robbie close behind.

"Charlie?" He rushed to her body and placed his fingers against the neck.

Did he get a pulse? Was she still alive? He pulled out his cell.

"It's my sister. I think she OD'd."

"No, I didn't," she said. "It's not what you think."

"Fifty-five forty-two Sycamore Lane… No… Yes… Okay. Please hurry." He dropped the phone on the bed and proceeded to perform CPR. Barnaby whined.

"That's it. Resuscitate me. Bring me back, Robbie!"

After several pumps on her chest, he blew air into her mouth. He repeated the process and checked her neck. "Dammit, Charlie. Come back! Don't leave me."

She willed herself to be by his side, and it happened. So that's how it worked! "I haven't left you," she said. "Don't give up!"

He didn't react to her words, but he continued with the CPR.

Where was the ambulance? They should have been here by now. She only lived a couple of blocks away.

Robbie checked her neck again and started to cry.

"No! I don't want to die!" She reached out for him and her hand went through his body.

He didn't feel her. She was nothing.

"How could you be so stupid? I trusted you!" He fell to his knees and placed his head on the bed.

His sobs wrenched her heart, if she even had one anymore. She couldn't blame him. She was stupid. Not for overdosing – she'd been clean for a year – but for trusting Carl. That bastard had killed her.

She had never believed in ghosts before. Looked like she was one now. Was she stuck inside the house forever?

Oh crap. Maybe she was in hell.

A to Z Challenge Survival Kit

Hey everyone, I’m not here right now because I’m over on the A to Z Challenge site talking about my Survival Kit.   Stop on over if you get a chance.  Otherwise you can leave a message at the beep.


WRiTE CLUB and Other Hodge Podge

Sorry for delaying the WRiTE CLUB quarter-finals for a week, but I felt Monday’s post had an important message that couldn’t wait.  Anyway, the voting was really tight last week with three votes being the largest margin of victory, but here are our quarter-finalists:

Anne Shirley
Jamie Stuart
Casey Brooks

And the fourth wildcard selection, which had the most number of votes amongst the non-winners, had to be decided by tie-breaker…which is me.  This is exactly why I’ve kept myself in the dark regarding our WRiTER’s real identities, so I can focus solely on the writing.  My choices came down between Lily Mason and Lucky Left Hook, and I chose…

Lucky Left Hook

Both writers demonstrated masterful command of the material and offered very compelling pieces, but in the end I chose the submission I lingered on the longest.  Kind of like an aftertaste, but in a good way.

The first quarter final bout will be next Monday…with the voting remaining open for two days…and the second bout will be posted on Wednesday, also open for voting for two days.  Our two finalists, once selected, will have one week to prepare a new 500 word submission to WOW the hungry crowd in the final round.  I can’t wait!


I also have some other stuff going on I wanted to let you in on.  On Friday, February 24th, I’ll be guest posting on the A to Z Challenge blog.  I’ll be revealing DL’s A to Z Survival Guide, so you’ll definitely want to check that out.

Next Tuesday will be Alex J. Cavanaugh’s CassaFire Catch Fire book launch blog party, which I’ll be taking part in, so make plans to stop by for that.

Keeping with this year’s philosophy of making it uncomfortable in my comfort zone, I signed up for the DFW Writers Conference in Dallas May 19-20.  I’ll be tackling my first pitch session that weekend and I’m already hyper-ventilating.  If anyone is attending that particular conference or if you’re a blogger in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, give me a shout and we’ll see if we can arrange a get together!

And finally, my wife’s favorite author is Diana Gabaldon.  She was reading Diana’s blog recently and came across a particularly interesting post.  My wife thought of me…and you guys & gals…thinking the article would be informational for us.  She was right.  It you ever wanted to know why it takes so long for a manuscript to go from the author’s hands to the bookshelf, read Diana Gabaldon’s post here.

Happy Hump Day everyone!  :)

Be the Ball

I'm delaying the WRiTE CLUB quarter-final round for a couple of days because I have something I need to say as a result of the ORIGINS blogfest last week. 

I’m into sports.  I’ve played them and coached them at a very high level, but now I’m just an avid fan (mostly college).  Something continually stressed when learning a sport is a concept of visualization.  Whatever it is you’re trying to master…laying down a bunt, perfecting your soccer dribble, or mastering a two-handed backhand… you have to visualize doing it first.  In your mind’s eye, if you can see yourself performing the activity, then you should be able to do it for real.  Pretty simple stuff, right?

Back when I was coaching and I brought up this concept to my kids, I always linked it to the movie CADDYSHACK.  Remember the part of the movie where Chevy Chase is tutoring the young caddy on how to drive the golf ball a long way and he tells him to, “be the ball”?  Yeah, it’s funny and the kids can relate to it, but I use that to make a point.  When it comes to imagining doing something…and doing it flawlessly…you have to be focused and 100 % willing to give it your all.  Every single detail matters!

When it comes to our writing, the same concept applies.  How many of you have taken a picture like the one above?  Come on, don’t be shy.  Raise those hands up.  Yes, it’s a picture taken at my local Barnes & Noble of the space on the shelf (in the mystery section) where my book will someday reside.  If you haven’t taken that picture yet, do it this weekend!  Be the ball!

This is a picture of my feet, and more specifically the shoes on my feet.  They were a Christmas gift given to me by my wife, a very special gift.  Those of you who have read my book know their significance, but for the rest of you just know that they play a profound part in my book FALLEN KNIGHT.  I can now wear a personification of my dream.  Be the ball!

This is a book cover mock-up a friend did for me.  I’m not sure it’ll work because it gives off too much of a YA feel and it’s really an adult mystery/thriller, but you get the idea.  Looking at this makes me feel like one day a real version will exist.  Be the ball!

Heeding a recent commenter's suggestion, I've removed the word aspiring from the description of myself on my blog.  I've also committed to establishing a specialized  author page on Facebook and I'm going to have someone (winking at Tiana) help me turn my blog into an actual web page.  Be  the ball!

I read 215+ ORIGIN’s last week, and something I picked up on is that although most everyone could remember where they started, very few had a good handle on where they were going.  My advice to any of you who see yourself in that boat…visualize the destination!  I don’t mean daydream about what it would be like to have published a book…I mean see it specifically.  Take that book shelf picture and make it your background on your monitor and/or smart phone.  Find a picture of an author at a book signing and super-impose your face over theirs.  Whatever it takes.  See it…then be it!

Be the ball!

What are you doing to visualize your goal?



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