A Novel Story (Flash Fiction)

Sitting on the seat of my pants rather than flying by them, I settled in. Tucked in a corner of Casey’s, slurping off the Wi-Fi and staggering sips on a cup of Joe, my fingers danced on the keys. I tuned out the pitter-pat of the keyboard that so annoyed me when someone else was doing the pounding. The character driven novel I started had morphed into a plot twist like a pretzel. The protagonist was on the verge of becoming too becoming, and if I didn’t reign her back in, this could end up a screen play for a Hallmark movie.

The lockdown had siphoned off my Muse. Writing at home in the utility room sucked, plain and simple. Half-hearted attempts at moving the novel along became a droning, on the nose, word count. To feel productive I let my characters wander off the preverbal page as cobwebs and half empty paint cans looked on. The fact was, jealousy took over. With the world on fire and truth stranger than fiction once again, my novel couldn’t hold a candle to a media driven culture with all its flash-mob images. I envied journalists and all the morsels they stabbed at in 24 hour cycles.

A novel requires a long attention span, as opposed to sound bites, podcasts, and twit tweets. Without the coffee shop I relied on, putting on airs of fresh ground beans, and patrons shuffling in to order drinks with fraps and frills, well, my mojo atrophied. Casey’s was my bunker, my base-camp to revive and move a novel along. All of those coffee shop types of distractions became a wall around my imagination. It didn’t make sense, but it worked for me, and I was back with my butt in the chair. ‘The’ chair.

Something was off though. Maybe it was the hand sanitizer. Could be the masks we all wore. The extra effort it took to read people’s eyes rather than facial recognition. Tricky. Chairs were missing as well as half the tables. I was glad to be back, and yet after a while I felt like my imagination, like the invisible virus, was ready to find another host. The shop turned into a surgery theatre with all the Muses observing from the other side of the glass. The world had changed, or had been chained. For a moment I wondered if I had time to finish my novel. I could have written War and Peace 2.0 during the lockdown if my Muse hadn’t skipped town.

Fear crept in like I had left the door of my creativity cracked. The usual writer’s doubts marched past. “What’s the point?” “You don’t have what it takes.” “There are a thousand billion books at thrift stores everywhere, what makes you think…” I pulled my mask down for the umpteenth time to slug more coffee. I was tempted to find a tape measure and see if all the X’s really were six feet apart. I wondered if picking my nose was part of the cease and desist order. The public was much pickier now. It seems we all became Big Brother. George Orwell, smiling from his grave, a self-assured corpse of Christi, pointing his boney finger at all the points he made decades ago.

Damn. I guess I have to find a new normal. What a contradiction of terms…new—normal. The war of the words threatened by writer’s block once again.

I asked my protagonist her opinion. She offered me a cup of tea, shrugged atlas eyes at me, and demurred a smile underneath her N-95 mask.


You can’t use the space bar when backspacing.

I’ve begun writing for an hour now.

Nothing to show but white space

after deleting thoughts.

Talk about white supremacy.

What if every thought

was sentenced to paper?

Every tree beaten to a pulp?

Fiction and non, single spaced,

no margins of error,

looking like an inkblot

for our subjective peruse?

Ah, words.

Libraries full of them,

bound like prisoners,

serving their sentences,

and hoping for parole.

May I have a word?



The Apostle John’s first sentence in his gospel…

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1

The Death of a Poet and Other Clichés

I will write a poem

if it kills me.

Even if the line

breaks me.

Even if love

counts its ways.

Even when a

lesser path emerges.

Even if I lie

etherized on a table.

Even if roses are red,

with each petal a cliché.

Even if to be or not to be

isn’t the question.

Even if you tread

softly on my dreams.

Even if there’s water

everywhere but no drop.

Even if I wander,

lonely as a cloud.

Even if no word

rhymes or I

double over in


this is a poem,

and I live on.

Writer’s Block and the Resistance.

How I would like to have something to share at writers group tonight. Here it is 6:58am and I’m sifting through stale, moldy files. Nothing. There are no rants on my political dissonance. I open the poetry stove and feel the broiled heat sear my eyes, but no half-baked couplets. Foraging the fridge there were no words to nibble on. I check the hall closet–There has to be some epiphany hanging in there. Nope. Just coats crammed in there inviting me to squeeze through to Narnia.

I placed my butt in the chair as every writing guru suggests… I was flat bottomed, and flat lined. Nothing. The groove has disappeared. I think maybe a walk around writer’s block is in order. Fresh air and nature sounds will help search for a pulse.

Humph. Seven tours around the block and zero, zilch. I even shouted on the last lap and the wall just wouldn’t tumble down.

Oh great, now comes the voice.

“What do you have to say that hasn’t been said already? Get up off your duff and do something of substance! You’re all dried up, go read the obituaries and look for your name again.”

I plugged my ears. “La la la la. Oh shut up!” I pulled out my sharpest pencil and pressed it against his jugular. “What have you done to my Muse? Where is she?”

“Oh, yeah, pretty John-boy, now you want her when the pressure’s on to impress your writing buddies eh? Well, why don’t you go downtown and have a plastic surgeon remove that mole once and for all?”

I increased the pencil pressure. “The mole has nothing to do with me or her.”

“Oh really? Then why does it remind you of the last decent sentence you laid down…six months ago, huh? It’s the lingering period.”

“Kill the attitude before I break off a piece of graphite into your carotid artery.”

“I don’t have an artery. I have no heart. I am the resistance Stephen Pressfield alluded to. Don’t worry, your Muse is safe. I left her strapped to a chair at Starbucks.”

“Which one? I mean… Right.”

“Listen, just ease up. Killing me won’t solve your problem anyway. You’re just jealous that Sally can sit down with her Muse for afternoon tea the day of and throw down a thousand words of Dickensonian prose.”

“Hey now, I am not…”

“Yes, Yes you are. You have DeHaan envy too.”

“You don’t know my heart. You don’t know.”

I slouched down in front of my laptop. My belly flopped over my waist and I couldn’t catch a decent breath. My eyes drilled a hole through the screen as the prompter throbbed like a clenched-fist heart. I think I might be having a key stroke.

Take a Walk With Me Around The Writer’s Block

I am a bit befuddled with this keyboard. It is not behaving. My fingers are resting on  a s d f    j k l ;  but the keys aren’t helping a brother out. I have been working on my mothers memoir so this blog has been getting moldy. Any ideas you would like me to blab about? Any topics you would like to see poemed? This is your chance to kick start me.

Just leave a suggestion in the comment box below and I will bring this keyboard under subjection.

Yes, I learned to type on this beauty.

Frogger or Blogger?

Years ago in the arcade era, not arcane, arcade, there was a game called Frogger. In the game you were represented by a green leaper on the side of a multiple-lane highway. It looked like Los Angeles rush hour traffic going full-out on both sides. The goal was to make it across without getting squished. I am sure this game is still available somewhere.

I stopped writing for a spell. Life just got squished with traffic of a large family and a job that expands day by day as Christmas draws nigh. I would come to this screen and stare. Reading increased and I actually finished a book. Then a Facebook friend noticed my near cyber social non-existence. I was touched by his entry on my page. It was a simple hello with undertones of “you are missed.” Then my brother called and said basically the same thing, he doesn’t fb but follows this blog.

Then all the unattended e-mails, mostly blogs I follow sit unopened. I see all my writer friends who continue to voice it out on the blogosphere. Information everywhere. Quotes everywhere. Hearts poured out everywhere. Traffic still is flowing at the speed of optic light. Blogs, Facebook, E-mails, oh my.

So I sit by the side of the highway and croak and stick out my tongue. I think someone should develop a game called Blogger…

Does all the information paralyze you sometimes?

I am writing again, it is in my blood. I am looking for an opening in the traffic to put my words out there again, that’s all.

Writers: Another Peculiar People of Which I Am One.

I am getting to know the writing sub-culture slowly. Slow is what I do. It is a good thing to ease into this people group. Now, writing critique group, don’t go and think I am pointing at you, although I might be. It is just that the more I read on the craft of writing the more I see that most writers could use some therapy, Gerald the Writer notwithstanding. Oh, I needed therapy before, but now I might need to double up. From two different writer friends and a book I was told that writing can be therapeutic. Not therapy. Therapeutic.

I am thinking about building a cabin in the back field as a therapeutic retreat. In it will be a desk, bookshelves, a wood stove, spent pens hanging on the wall, and a sculpture made of crumpled paper. One corner will have a chase lounge and next to it a high back leather chair. Once a week…o.k. several times a week I will lay on the lounge and my muse will sit and make saddle rubbing sounds as he crosses his legs. He will pack his pipe and light it over and again. I will recline and whine about self doubt and wonder if I have anything to say. My droning will be interrupted with an occasional mmhmm and legs switching up and a short throat clearing and a quiet “Go on.”

“So, tell me more about your critique group meeting last night.”

“Well, we began the meeting by going around the table and revealing our favorite kind of ice cream. Mine is spumoni. Then someone read the minutes from the last meeting and we critiqued the piece entitled “Minutes” which took twenty minutes. A couple of people brought a copy of their published books and it got a little awkward with the Freudian slips because of underlying book envy.

“Ah, Freud, I’ve heard of him.” A leather sound emitted while he straightened in the chair.

“Right, anyway things were said like:

My manuscript is bound up. (Which means their writing is currently constipated.)

I just talked with my publisher. (Meaning they left several voices mails.)

My editor is dragging his feet. (They owe their editor money.)

My writing is gaining momentum. (They have taken several laps around the writer’s block.”

“Okay Jerry, I get the picture. Then what happened?”

“Well, a lot happened, but I will skip the rest of the incidentals and get to my piece and my critique and my opinion of it.”

“Of course.”

“Did I sense a note of sarcasm?”

“Well I…”

“This is therapy, right?!”

“Yes, and…”

“I am the therapee, correct?”

“Indeed you are and it got me thinking…”

“Really, Mr. Muse, got you thinking, eh? I thought you were supposed to get me thinking?”

“I believe we have been down this road before…”

“Oh, would you like a change of scenery, eh? We can turn left at Albuquerque if you wish!”


“No! You listen Mr. Moose, I mean Muse. I don’t pay you to rearrange MY priorities…”

“You don’t pay me anyt…”

“Don’t even go there. You know I am just a poor writer. Where is the love?”

“Define love.”

“I…” All I could think of at the moment was Tina Turner slamming one leg down as she sang ‘What’s love got to do with it’. He sat patiently and relit his bowl of tobacco. One eyebrow raised and the opposite side of his mouth curled a tad.

“You don’t know what they said about my piece. Sure they liked it but some of my favorite lines they suggested that I tweak them. One person didn’t know who Captain Kirk was and another ‘critiquer’ said that cartoon character expressions from the sixties and seventies most readers wouldn’t ‘get’. Zoinks! Who wouldn’t know where that word came from? Sometimes I feel like I am the only one with a clue. These writer types are ‘special’.

“And you are one of them, aren’t you?”