Dear Santa

xmas-tree    Dear Santa,

It was my sister’s fault. Well, she didn’t light the fire. I did that, but there’s no doubt she caused the damage, and she could have stopped it if she hadn’t been running so fast. She’s selfish like that.

The fire wasn’t that big. It charred the front leg of Mommy’s favorite chair. I sat in it, so I know it’s okay. It does smell odd. Mommy says a skunk peed on it. I didn’t see a skunk, so I think she was wrong. Nobody’s noticed the scorched leg on Daddy’s chair. It always smells funny according to Mommy.

This all started in Mrs. Gold’s third-grade class. She showed us how to make candles and told us to make one to celebrate the holidays. Bobbie Schultz said our teacher was Jewish and didn’t like Christmas. I don’t know why she doesn’t like Christmas. For that matter, I don’t know what Jewish is, but Bobbie is smart. He knows the time’s tables all the way to thirteen.

Most kids made candles that looked like Rudolph, Frosty, or an angel. Two kids made pitchforks. They called them mininoras, I think. Zachery made a Navytea scene. It had little farm animals in a circle around a butterfly larva. I asked Zachery if it was a Monarch. He said it was a Baby Jesus. I’d never heard of that kind of butterfly. They probably come from Utah like Zachery.

I think I upset Mrs. Gold. I didn’t mean to. Honest, I didn’t. I made a devil. Mommy wouldn’t let me be a devil for Halloween–I had to wear Sara’s old Princess Jasmine costume. My devil was really cool, Santa. It had goat legs, the body of a man and the head of a bull. The bull horns had wicks in them. It was all red like you are, but not so round. Daddy says it’s not nice to call people fat. I hope round is okay. Anyway, it was sooooo cool. It didn’t stand up very well, so I glued on Popsicle sticks–they looked like snow skis.

Mommy and Daddy went shopping after dinner last night and left Sara and me to protect the house. I put the last ornaments on the Christmas tree, which sat between Mommy and Daddy’s chairs in front of the fireplace. We don’t use the fireplace because it’s anyfishunt. But, we still have a log lighter. I know, because I saw Daddy point it at Mommy like a gun. He said, ‘I’m going to light your fire woman.’ I wonder if I was adopted, sometimes.

Mommy and Daddy would be home soon, and I wanted to surprise them with my devil. I stood on Mommy’s chair to put the devil on the mantle. It looked great next to Grandma’s antique quilt on the wall.

“Sara where is the log lighter?”

She continued texting and mumbled, “On the hearth by Dad’s chair.”

“Thank you,” I said, but she ignored me, like always.

I had to stand on the armrest to reach the devil horns. The first one lit easily. I stretched to reach the second horn. The wick had started to flicker when Sara screamed, “What are you doing?”

I yelped and lost my balance. My hand caught the devil’s skis, and we both fell into the Christmas tree which fell on Sara. She squealed and ran like the wind. I landed on my back and stood up. The devil ignited the tree skirt which exploded in flames that died down quickly after I threw Mommy’s poinsettia plant on it. The ceiling sprinklers helped, too.

I hope you take it easy on Sara. I know this horrible incident was her fault, but she tries hard to be good. Sometimes things just don’t work out for her.

By the way, I’d like a Lego Super Hero High School for Christmas.

Yours most sincerely truly,

Elsie Montgomery, age 7 and 3/4ths.

(c) 2016 David P. Cantrell


I Hate Being a Quadriplegic —

By David P. Cantrell I hate having a damaged wheelchair. I hate getting the run-around from vendors. I hate relying on a doctor I barely know. I love being alive. I love having mobility. I love knowing someone will fix it. I love believing in others, even strangers. Life is good, but it can be […]

via I Hate Being a Quadriplegic —

Feed me Seymour said Audrey II

little_shop_of_horrorsMuch like Audrey II in the Little Shop of Horrors I have a craving. While my craving isn’t human flesh, it does grow more intense as it’s fed.

My craving is feedback. When I finish a bit of writing that I’ve struggled over, I want to be fed: Did you understand his motivation? Was her coyness overplayed? Can you see where I’m going with this? Or, any one of a hundred alternative inquiries. In the end, they all boil down to: Did you like it?

Then I rewrite the piece, and it starts over again. My almost infinitely patient Alpha Reader A.K.A. wife had suffered through my addiction for more than a reasonable period when she finally had enough. “I’ll read it when you’re done. Leave me be until then.” She didn’t mean “done” as in published. She meant “done” as in “I” think it’s done. Don’t be so sensitive, I think, but I say, “Yes Dear.”

Feed me, Seymour—even the Dentist hasn’t been enough. So, I send the first chapter of my WIP to a Beta Reader client, and a literature professor to boot, and ask for her thoughts. She gives me insightful comments based on the chapter; however, they feel off as if she were reading a different story. Oh well. It’s not her genre, I tell myself.

Okay, I can do this. I quit cigarettes, ergo I can quit anything, I tell myself. (In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that my repeated attempts to quit cigarettes failed for decades until I had a spinal cord injury and spent several months in hospitals. But that’s a different story.)  I am giving up the instant feedback craving. Because I’ve learned, I don’t truly want it. It is distracting. Positive responses are nice for a moment, but the feeling quickly subsides. Negative responses seem more meaningful at first blush but end up wasting your time focusing on things you probably would have revised without the feedback.

I am giving up the instant feedback craving. Because I’ve learned, I don’t truly want it. It is distracting. Positive responses are nice for a moment, but the feeling quickly subsides. Negative responses seem more meaningful at first blush but end up wasting your time focusing on things you probably would have revised without the feedback.

Is there a moral to this story? Sure, there is. Don’t seek feedback until you’ve vetted your work thoroughly. Once you’ve done that, do it once more after letting it rest a bit and reading it as you would as a beta reader and then revise again. Then you may seek feedback from third parties. Analyze the feedback and apply what feels right and throw the rest in the trash bin. Don’t keep feeding Audrey II.

I know. I won’t do it either.

David P. Cantrell © 2016.

Creativity is Strange Part 2

fog-08This is the ongoing evolution, or is it a revolution, of a short story that wants to be more.

The Gates of Fire and Ash started out as a lark. A fun concept prompted by a fellow writer. Five thousand words Rachel said. Being a woman it seems odd to say fellow, but that’s English.

Three weeks ago, I posted about my struggles with Chapter 14–I can’t believe it’s been that long–I could blame my one-fingered typing brought on by a spinal cord injury for my slow production but to be honest, I was, at best, a three-fingered typist before the injury.

The truth is my story is fighting me.

The original goal of explaining the evil crowen in Chapter 14 was usurped, and Chapter 13 was revised to do the job. Chapter 14 got our travelers settled in Road’s End and foreshadowed the Fire Cloaks that absorbed Chapter 16. Chapter 15 provided a bit of comic relief (I hope).

Okay, the next chapter, number 17 with a working title of Recon, should be easy I tell myself. Send Dallaya and Royar to gather reconnaissance from a retired guy, Teador, that lives a few miles outside of town so that a major plot point can be revealed. In the meantime, Nantor, a competitor for Dallaya’s affections, will be sent to the docks to show he’s unworthy.

Everything’s going well until our prospective lovebirds stop for lunch and their evil birds of a feather, the crowen, attack. Darn. I’m two-thirds through the chapter, and we haven’t met Teador. But, it’s okay. They’ll get to Teador’s home, get their wounds treated and in the morning we’ll learn the plot point. Nantor can wait until the next chapter.

But, noooo. Teador won’t have it. He insists on joining the quest and Chapter 17 turns into two chapters.

The slog continues. The end is shrouded in fog, and I fear it may be beyond my reach.

(c) 2016 by David P. Cantrell



Creativity is Strange

DiceI’ve been working on a light-hearted young adult fantasy set in a medieval secular world. I’ve chosen to keep magic at bay, but I hint at mental relationships between a young man and his dog, Felmer, that might be magical. There are strange creatures, crowen, donkmarrs, and bruincats plus less odd sheeple and katle–it’s a fantasy.  I’ve been plugging away at writing the short story for several weeks now.

I started with the goal of five thousand words. That goal died a quick death–you need not worry–it didn’t suffer long. In the meantime, the story has evolved to be less about a young man reaching manhood and a young woman finding the importance of integrity in her beau and more about the value of a trusted friend. A friend that cares nothing for accolades, but wants to be treated with respect and fed regularly.

For a few days, I’ve been stumped on the next chapter (14). My rough goal is one thousand to twelve hundred words per chapter. My team of seekers has reached an interim stop point at Road’s End, and I started the chapter with the idea of describing the scene and explaining what crowens are.  A few hundred words in my mind. How do I complete the chapter I asked myself over and over again. Then Felmer demands attention and a few hours later I’m 780 words into the chapter and haven’t dealt with the crowen or set up the next challenge.

I love writing, but I don’t understand it at all.

(c) 2016 by David P. Cantrell

An Intelligent Post-Apocalyptic Thriller

PushBack_eBook.jpgI love my wife for many reasons not least of which is her ability to find outstanding indie authors. While I struggle to read one novel between writing and editing for other folks, she’ll read three or four books, maybe more. She has varied interests but is very fond of thrillers and mysteries.

Luckily for me, she introduced me to R. E. McDermott’s Tom Dugan three-book series focused on the world of merchant shipping. I envied his writing skills in all of them. When he decided to branch out into the popular post-apocalypse genre, and I was hesitant.

I’m socially liberal, but to be honest, I’ve had enough of zombies and New Age vampires.

Not to worry. McDermott’s take on the genre is realistic and very human. Who needs to fear zombies when the real world is full of human monsters. The first book in the Destruction series, Under a Tell Tale Sky, was outstanding and I encourage you to buy it while it’s available on Amazon at $0.99.

I had the honor of being an Advanced Review Copy (ARC) reader for Bob McDermott’s second book in the series, Push Back. I think he may have changed a thing or two based on my comments–picture a fat old man tickled with himself. Seriously, McDermott writes good stories. The review I posted on Amazon is presented below. By the way, if you hurry you may be able to get Push Back at $2.99 as an ebook.

The story opens where book one, Under Tell-Tale Sky, ended. McDermott does an excellent job of refreshing the reader’s memory with a Prologue and subtle reminders as each open plotline is addressed. There’s no lack of storylines or characters— George R.R. Martin might be jealous—but I never felt lost. The plotlines are logically connected with only one instance of a coincidental, although reasonable, intersect that occurs in book one.

It’s only been a few weeks since a massive solar storm destroyed the world’s power grid and overwhelmed the disaster plans and resources of the globe’s formal governments. As a result, some smart individuals like, Colonel Hunnicutt in Willington, North Carolina, and Captain Hughes in Port Arthur, Texas, have started to create informal governments for mutual protection. Corrupt Politician’s and bright bad guys are doing the same thing—conflict is inevitable.

McDermott writes an outstanding thriller that’s hard to put down. His research is top notch. I doubt you’ll catch a real writing error. It’s more likely, you’ll find a term used correctly that you hadn’t seen before, which I like. His protagonistic characters have depth and struggle with the morality of their tough choices. His antagonistic characters have few moral qualms but aren’t devoid of reason.

Push Back and its predecessor, Under a Tell Tale Sky, are excellent reads. Do yourself a favor and buy them.

Here’s a link. Don’t dally. It could cost you.

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