Archive for the ‘stories’ Category

Marshall answered the questions that Dr. Knapp asked him easily. He should have. They were simple questions. His name. His birthday. Last thing that he remembered before the accident. The only thing that presented a challenge was that while he was answering these questions, he had Rip humming a tune in his head. That was frustrating enough, but the fact that Rip couldn’t carry a tune made it even worse. So when the questions became a little more than rote memorization, Marshall found himself having to concentrate harder and harder. “Have you noticed any sensitivity to light?”

Marshall tried to think over the past few minutes while Rip hummed a Maroon 5 song. “I don’t believe so, ma’am.”

Dr. Knapp smiled. “I don’t think I’m much older than you. You don’t have to call me ‘ma’am’.”

“Pretty smile,” Rip said.

“Yes it is,” Marshall replied without thinking about it beforehand.

“What’s that, Mr. Laken?” the doctor asked.

Marshall mentally cursed Rip’s voice. “I heard that,” the disembodied voice said with a chuckle.

Marshall managed to not respond and instead focused on the doctor. “I was going to say that yes, you are right. We are pretty close in age. So you can call me Marshall, not Mr. Laken.” Dr. Knapp nodded. “Is it alright if I call you Doc?”

Without missing a beat, Dr. Knapp replied, “But then who will be Sneezy or Dopey?”

Marshall laughed a little louder than the joke called for. “You are such a loser,” Rip chimed in.

“Bite me.” Marshall managed not to say that particular remark out loud. “Now let me get through this exam and then I can find out why my best friend that has been dead for six years has become a disembodied voice in my head.”

Dr. Knapp didn’t seem to notice the internal conversation that Marshall was having. “I know. Such a bad joke. I say it so often that it’s just automatic now.” She made a notation on her clipboard. “I’m still concerned that you might have a concussion. Are you having blurred vision, blotches in your vision, or hearing odd noises?”

Just the voice of my dead best friend Marshall thought. “Not that I’ve noticed,” was the reply he gave aloud.

As the doctor looked at him a little dubiously, Rip spoke with a bit of amusement in his tone. “Oh yeah. About that. I’m not Rip, man. And I sure ain’t a delusion. Watch.” Without any sense of control or forewarning, Marshall felt his hand smack his forehead.

Dr. Knapp looked somewhat shocked. “Mr. Laken? Marshall? Are you alright?”

Marshall had a wave of dizziness and nausea wash over him. Only part of it was from his probable concussion. “I’m not sure,” he answered shakily. “Something’s just not right.”


Marshall hadn’t said Rip’s name in several years. Saying it now made him feel a certain uneasiness. Like he had just cursed in front of his grandmother. He wasn’t sure if he really expected to hear a response. Part of him, a pretty big part, was hoping that he wouldn’t. Still, he knew what he had heard, and he was as lost as last year’s Easter egg as to why he had heard it. It was at about this time that the doctor walked into the room. Marshall didn’t even notice. “Mr. Laken?” she asked quietly. Marshall didn’t answer at first. He was still getting over the fact that he had mentioned his dead best friend’s name. “Mr. Laken? Can you hear me?”

Marshall managed to turn towards her. “Im, uh, sorry Doc. What were you asking?” The doctor reached into he lab coat pocket and pulled out a pen light. She alternated shining between Marshall’s eyes. He winced a little from the sudden onslaught of bright light. “Whoah! That hurts.”

The doctor put the pen away. “Good response from both eyes,” she said aloud to no one in particular. “Do you know where you are, Mr. Laken?”

Marshall took a few breaths as he tried to clear the spots from his vision. “I assume I’m in a hospital. I don’t know which one.”

“You’re at East Methodist,” the doctor replied in the same soft voice. “I’m Dr. Knapp. You were brought in here after a collision with a vehicle. You’re going to be alright. You have some lacerations and contusions, and you appear to have a concussion. I need to ask you a few questions, ok?”

Marshall finally cleared the spots from his eyes and looked at the doctor. She was just a few years older than him with short blonde hair and large classes. The glasses couldn’t hide a face that was best described as ‘cute.’ Marshall found himself smiling in spite of himself. “She’s like every girl you had a crush on in school,” he heard Rip’s voice say.

“Stop it!” he snarled under his breath.

“I beg your pardon?” Dr. Knapp asked?

Marshall bit his lip as he realized that he had spoken aloud. “Nothing, doc. Sorry. Ask away.” Marshall heard Rip chuckle at the situation. He knew that he was in big trouble, but had no idea what kind. It was going to be a long day.

Marshall struggled to open his eyes. He wanted to, but it felt like his body was fighting against him. He was feeling almost unimaginable pain in his head and his body felt like he had run a marathon. In the mud. In freezing temperatures. Twice. Whenever he attempted to open his eyes, they involuntarily squinted against the pain. His ears were being assaulted with random electronic beeps, alarms, and buzzing. He was able to force his eyes open, if for no other reason than to find the source of the noise and smash it against a wall. As he did, he found a stage woman uncomfortable close to his face. Marshall’s first instinct was to back away, but he found movement too painful, so he tolerated the intrusion into his personal space. “You’re finally awake,” the woman said with a good natured smile. “I thought you were going to sleep all day.”

Marshall blinked a few times and tried to clear his head. He started to pick out more details of his surroundings. The beeping was coming from somewhere just out of his view. The woman had a name tag hanging from a lanyard. He couldn’t quite make it out, but the clothes she wore looked familiar. He was cold. After a shiver or two he also realized that he was barely wearing anything. In surprise and embarrassment, he crossed his arms over his chest protectively. The strange woman chuckled. “Don’t worry. you ain’t nothin’ I haven’t seen before.” Despite that statement, he saw her reach down and pull a cover up over him. The extra warmth was inviting, comforting. Marshall closed his eyes for a few moments to enjoy the sensation and gather his thoughts.

A few brief memories came flooding back to him. The crippling, suffocating fear. The almost blind walk he took to try to escape it. Then starting to cross the road. After that, he couldn’t recall anything. “Sometimes you are really slow,” he heard a familiar voice say.

“What is that supposed to mean,” Marshall asked.

The woman smiled again. “It means that I’ve been a nurse for a long time. I know the gowns can be a little embarrassing, but I’m so used to it that I don’t even notice any of my patients are wearing them.”

“I wasn’t talking to you,” Marshall replied testily.

The nurse seemed to take the outburst in stride. “Well I’m the only one in here right now, honey. Whatever conversation you were having while you were unconscious is over.”

More pieces started falling together. Marshall finally realized that he was in a hospital room. The woman, his nurse, reached past him and hit a button that silenced one of the annoying alarms. That helped clear out the rest of Marshall’s thoughts. “What happened to me?”

“You’re an early victim of global warming,” the nurse replied, chuckling at her own joke. The look on Marshall’s face made it clear that he didn’t understand. “You were hit by a car,” she explained. “It was an electric car, so you probably didn’t hear it coming. Lucky for you it was at a slow speed.”

“Oh, yeah. What great luck you have,” Marshall heard from the same voice again. He looked around for anyone else in the room. There was no one else. The television wasn’t on, either. Of course, the next room might have their’s on and turned up loudly, so he didn’t bother asking about it.

The nurse checked the I.V. line that Marshall hadn’t even realized he had inserted into his arm and then fluffed his pillow a bit. “I’ll let the doctor know that you are awake. Then she can explain what all happened to you.”

“Thank you,” Marshall replied earnestly. He was still concerned, but knowing that he would be getting some explanation gave a a kernel of hope to hold onto.

The nurse left the room and closed the door. The room was suddenly much more quiet than Marshall was prepared for. Despite the fact that he knew someone would be coming soon to explain things to him, he felt remarkably alone and lost. He was about to reach for the controls for the television on the side of the bed when he heard the voice once again. “Since it’s going to be a few minutes, I reckon that we can use that time to have a little talk.” Marshall looked around the room once again. Convinced that it was the neighbor’s television again, he laid his head back down. “Don’t ignore me, Marshall. It’s rude.”

Marshall sat straight up. He almost passed out from pain and dizziness, but adrenaline kept him focused. There was no one there, and there were no televisions that he could hear. He thought about the voice that he’d just heard and felt himself shiver again, despite the blanket. It took all of his determination to make himself speak out loud. When he did, his voice cracked and wavered. “Rip?” he asked to the empty room. “It can’t be you. You’re dead.”

I have spoken several times about the interaction between the main character in my latest story, Darwin, and her friend Clive, a fellow college freshman that has Aspergers Syndrome (Autism Spectrum Disorder.) I have loved how these characters interact in what I have written and even how they will interact in future writing. I’ve thought a lot about this, and it’s helped me make a decision. 50% of the royalties I receive for Darwin’s Selection Volumes 1, 2, and 3 I will donate to an autism-focused charity of my choice. Watch this video for the announcement, then consider purchasing an e-book of Darwin’s Selection, Volume 1. You’ll get what I think is a good story, and you’ll be helping out a great cause.

Sometimes I wonder if I am alone in my discomfort when it comes to self-promotion. I have no problem standing in front of a group of people and telling them a story for the sake of entertainment, but I have never felt right if I am doing it for the sake of promoting something. It isn’t that I think that what I have is bad. I certainly hope that it isn’t! I guess that I just feel arrogant if I am trying to build up people’s view of me or my work. Am I alone in this? Probably. Just another one of those ways that I am weird. Well, despite that discomfort, this week I have to do some promotion because on January 31st, my first YA story, Darwin’s Selection, Volume 1: A Whole New World will be available as an e-book novella. I would really love a good showing, so I’m swallowing my discomfort and doing a little shameless self-promoting!

I’m sure that I’m beating a dead horse by now, but the more that I look around, read stories, watch movies, etc. the more examples that I find of how important details can be to the realism and reactions people have towards your characters. See what I mean on this week’s #vlog:

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My best friend has a unique obsession. He loves pens. Specifically, he loves trying to find really nice fountain pens. I’ve never been able to understand this focus of his because I can’t make much use of fountain pens. I’m left-handed and I hold my pen in an awkward fashion so all that I do with a fountain pen is smear the ink all over the page. However, I was thinking about my best friend and his love of fountain pens, and my mind gained a great, new appreciation for them because of some unusual, symbolic thoughts that occurred to me.

Usually, once my mind starts going into deep, symbolic thought I switch gears and start thinking of something else. I’m a very busy individual and I don’t have a lot of time to focus on such subjects. That, plus the fact that the world is probably better off without my deep thoughts keeps me from considering such things. For some reason, though, I kept going on this. One of my other concerns about fountain pens deals with their habit of bleeding ink. I’m clumsy enough as it is. I don’t need help getting things to stain my clothing. I handle that well on my own, thank you very much. Thinking of the bleeding pen reminded me of a quote I once heard. There are different versions of the quote, but basically it said, “Writing is easy. Just sit down, open a vein, and bleed onto the paper.” This rather morbid description is a pretty good representation of how many writers feel about their work. It is part of their life. And then I remembered where most men kept their pens: in a pocket, usually over their heart. See the symbolism coming together?

If you are a writer, whether it be professional, amateur, poems, novels, or even just interesting Tweets, let those words, that ink, bleed from your heart through the pen to the paper. Whenever you write because you “have to,” you are just putting ink in a pattern onto stylized wood pulp. But when that pen, which you have kept near your heart, bleeds the words for you, you have created art. You have put a part of your soul on display. No matter how much it may be criticized or acclaimed, that is your work, your blood, and it should be an object of pride.

Enough deep thoughts for me. I told you that I try to avoid it. Now I think I need to go make some lunch and perhaps, just perhaps, order me a fountain pen. Bet you it will ruin my shirt. It might be worth it, though.

“I know that I should have done more research, but where was a really supposed to look up information on that topic?” Many writers these days seem to be skipping out on the level of research that they could have undertaken simply because there didn’t seem to be much of an online presence for that topic. We have become an internet obsessed society (I mention on my online blog. The irony is not lost on me!) I think that there is an opportunity to research most topics if we are willing to look around. See what I mean here:

Any Language Arts teacher on the planet will tell you this: our vocabulary seems to be shrinking. It isn’t that we aren’t exposed to new and descriptive words, it is the fact that we don’t use them once we are exposed to them. Am I exaggerating? Does it really matter? Forget the cowboys, I want to know where have all the synonyms gone? (Sorry for the old music reference!) Well, that is what I decide to try and tackle with this video blog.

I didn’t get a chance to put up a blog or vlog last weekend for many reasons. One of the reasons was that I was trying to work on ideas for cover art. Honestly, I should have done that a while ago. After all, anyone that is honest with themselves will admit that they tend to judge a book by its cover. That first impression is hard to get past. If you do that with books you read, maybe you should do that with books that you write as well. Here are some thought on that:



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