Friday, January 29, 2010

Game Friday: The Planets

Are you a planet hugger?

Planets are the coolest, aren't they? All the different colors, temperaments, sizes.... One for every personality, no?

If you had to pick a favorite planet because you were kicked off of Earth, which one would it be? (Don't worry about searing heat or flesh-shattering cold. We'll hook you up with a hat fan or a pair of hand warmers.) You can even pick Pluto. Since it's my game, I'm inviting back our dissed 9th planet. That poor bugger has been weeping ever since it was cast out.

Okay, I'll go first.

I'm heading to Neptune. Why? The ghostly blue. The silence of ice. The slow, century-and-a-half orbit perfect for watching the inner planets. It even has faint rings. Ca-ching!

So how about you? What planet are we hooking you up with?


P.S. For those of you drawn to Uranus, please be careful. Keep Uranus clean. No dirtiness. You know what I'm sayin'.

P.P.S. If we can't insert a little kindergarten humor on a Friday, what's the use of being a grown up?? :p

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Seventy Miles Per Hour

    traveling 70 miles per hour

    you could rush to here

    or maybe here

...and it might not matter

    or you could wrap yourself in this single spot

...and it might not matter either

Monday, January 25, 2010

My Death Lives Beneath Your Skirt

"Do you want another drink?" he said.

She tipped the nearly-empty glass to gauge it. "Boy. I don't know."

He grinned. "You can take it. I know you can."

"Sure. Why not?"

He motioned to the bartender. The guy was good. He knew how to keep the energies flowing without hovering.

"I think it's pretty cool that you're a poet," she said.

"Really? Kind of like the nerd-cool phenomenon?"

"Are you kidding? The whole tortured poet thing? So hot."

"You have strange tastes."

"Don't complain. It's working for you."

"Oh, I'm not. Believe me."

The new drinks arrived. She tossed aside the useless little straw. "Assuming one thing, of course."

"Oh? And what's that?"

"That you write about me."

Oh. That.

He fidgeted. She didn't let him off the hook.

Perhaps the alcohol helped him flick up his eyes and become the dark aggressor. "Maybe I have."

The moment of surprise was cute on her lips.

"Well, not a whole poem. Not yet, at least."

He took a big hit of his drink. It burned his throat.

"For instance, a line popped into my head last night," he said. "Just a line. But it wouldn't let go of my brain. Thoughts kept falling into it. Churning around. All night."

"What was it?"

"I can't tell you."

"Come on!"

"I not that drunk yet."

She sat back. Playful-exasperated.

She played with the rim of her drink for a while. He watched her fingertip. The red, red nail polish.

"What's it like?" she said after a while.


"Writing a poem. Conceiving it. Having it take over your mind."


He tried to find the words.

But they wouldn't come.

"Show me," she said.

His brow furrowed.

"Yeah, you can do it. Just close your eyes. Go on. Let yourself drift. Float away into that place you go."

He did what she asked.

And in the dark, the room swam under his feet. Slow currents. Like an ocean nap. A heartbeat fluid and sensuous.

Something brushed him under the table.

Her ankle probably. The table was small.

Creamsicle, he whispered, accepting the first word. And the rest came.

Creamsicle skin
tasting the melting drops
like a trickle
down your thigh after you run
at least that's where I would be
after you run
and I would smooth in
while you watch
and your lips would part
a little more
that sharp breath would be mine
or it could be yours
and they gasp together
as knees bend back
everything falling inward
inward towards the darkness
and I would trail along the abyss
where I know I would never escape again
consumed as I consume you
open and deep
to my death
my panting

He opened his eyes. Like waking from a dream. Not entirely sure of what he had done.

"The line was, 'my death lives beneath your skirt,'" he said.

She looked unsteady. Ready to lose her balance.

"Check?" the bartender said, sliding the little folder between them.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A Change in My Contest Commenting

After a good bit of thought, I believe that it would be much more helpful if I give more detailed feedback to anyone who wants it rather than giving bare-bones feedback to everyone, regardless of whether they want it or will read it. So, here is the invitation! If you want feedback on your scoring, email me at jevanswriter at yahoo dot com with your entry number, and I will respond to you as soon as I can. The focus here is on those who didn't quite make the Forties Club. If you made it, then you succeeded at the main challenge. Those who placed had the most original ideas and deliveries of the Forties Club members in my opinion, but that is certainly subjective. Nevertheless, I'm always gratified to see how much my choices correlate with the overall Readers' Choice votes. In this case, it's even more remarkable given a total of 237 entries.

I think I'm still limping from the sheer size of this last contest, but I do think it was a blast! Unless I suddenly become sane, I'll be looking to do a summer contest somewhere in the neighborhood of July.

Friday, January 22, 2010


when i dissect the dark
i expose muscle
retract stress-cracked bones
biopsy the synapse clouds
of axons and dendrites misfired
i see the age
and degradation
when i dissect the dark
i see how I helped
to cook the thirsty chemicals
now contaminating me

Thursday, January 21, 2010

More on Judging

Although there is an discussion of the judging process via a link in the contest rules, I thought I'd take a moment to refresh the explanation.

The system I developed for scoring entries is called P.E.T.S. Voice, which stands for (P)acing, (E)ntertainment Value, (T)echnical Use of Language, (S)Storytelling, and (V)oice. Each element carries a possible score of 10 points, with the exception of voice, which has a maximum of 5 points. The reason for treating voice differently is that it is difficult to establish a unique voice in 250 words. When all of the categories are added together, the total possible points for an entry is 45. Please note that because only 10 points are given purely for the story concept (entertainment value), the result of my system is that a good story expertly written is going to score higher than a great story with significant writing problems.

In a way, the categories represent an expanding scope of review. Technical scoring looks within the sentences themselves. Pacing describes how well the sentences build on each other. Storytelling considers the flow of paragraphs and what you chose to portray to give your story life. Entertainment scores the idea itself, and voice reflects whether your writing has a clear, overall identity.

How do I score? Basically, I expect a story to be effortless in taking me into its world. I hold to the old writing advice that the words should create a continuous, uninterrupted dream. If an entry pushes back against me in any way, if it is not effortless and I am pulled out of the dream, I begin to deduct points. In any given category, 10 is perfect, 9 has one thing slightly bothering me, 8 has at least two definite rubs, 7 has multiple points of friction, 6 and below needs major revision in that category.

Keep in mind that a writer always becomes too close to a story to adequately judge for him/herself whether the story unfolds effortlessly. You can only read a story for the first time once. After that, your brain is contaminated. That is why it is a good idea to share your entry with a good critique partner before submitting it.

Now that I have scored between 1000 and 2000 entries in 12 contests, I find that entries scoring 42 - 44 are very strong and need only minor tweaks (the uncommon 45 entries practically fly off the page). 40 - 41 are very well done, but probably have at least one area to sharpen. 37 - 39 are good, but have multiple areas to sharpen. 35 - 36 have promise, but need substantial sharpening. Those under 35 need major revision. Of course, my theories on writing are not the only ones out there. You should review the results of the prior contests to make sure that you want to be subjected to my judging style.

As the size of the contests grow, so do the number of high scoring entries. How are the winners chosen? All of the top scorers in the 40's are collected, and my judging shifts to my sense of originality and impact. Of course, these elements are highly subjective. I also strive to have a mix of genres among those recognized.

What are common issues that cause deductions?

1. Telling Instead of Showing. Most of the time, a story is strongest when it's portrayed in real time for the reader, not narrated by the author in a kind of summarized, Cliff's Notes fashion.

Example: Stephanie was so tired of her mother staring at her. Her mother asked so many questions all the time. She accused Stephanie of not caring. Nothing was ever good enough. Stephanie thought that she didn't even have the energy to respond anymore.

Rewrite: Stephanie pushed away the coffee cup she didn't ask for. Mother stood by the table. Angry and waiting. Stephanie sighed, the fatigue pulling at her. "I'm sorry, mother," she said finally. "But I really don't know what to say to you anymore."

2. Over-description. If a single sentence has more than two adjectives, you're in danger of diminishing your impact. Example: The long, winding road was filled completely with a permeating, oppressive darkness.

3. Unbelievable Dialog.

Example: "What are you going to do with that hammer that you are waving in your hand?"

"I was thinking that maybe I should drive it through your skull and into your brain. In fact, I've been thinking about murdering you for ages upon ages."

Rewrite: "Put the hammer down!"

"I'm going to fucking kill you."

4. Mismatch. Mismatches can be in intensity, such as when powerful words are paired with a non-powerful moment.

Example: "The parking ticket thundered into my hands and demolished my every chance of having a glorious day."

Descriptions should generally fit the importance of the moment in length and intensity.

Mismatches can also be in time. Don't use lengthy descriptions to portray a very quick action (unless you are specifically going for a slow-motion effect).

Example: His fingers extended toward the door, and as he touched the brass, his hand curled around knob. With a twist, the door unlatched. He pulled it open and entered.

Reading these words takes about four times as long as the action itself.

5. Weak Verbs. Example: The sky was dark. The motorcycle was idling. He was eager to go. Rewrite: The clouds piled in the sky. The motorcycle engine sputtered. He flexed his hands, ready to go.

6. Unnecessary Words/Tightening. Example: When he sat down on the chair, he thought he saw her go out of the door and out of the room. Rewrite: As he sat down, he saw her rush from the room. (Stronger verb too.)

7. Cliches. Example: He needed her like he needed to breathe.

This weekend, I'll be leaving feeback on the entries which scored lower than 40. Here is a quick guide on how to interpret my comments:

If I say your best element was:

Pacing - The progress of your sentences carried the story well. The story didn't stumble on how it moved in time.

Entertainment Value - Excellent, creative idea!

Technical Use of Language - Your sentences were well constructed, strong, and vivid.

Storytelling - When you take your idea and translate it to 250 words, you have to make decisions about what to portray and how. Your decisions made the story live.

Voice - I got an identifiable sense of your voice. A uniqueness.

If I say you might need more attention in:

Pacing - Your sentences may not have built in a seamless way. The writing felt disjointed.

Entertainment Value - The idea might be improved by giving it more depth or a more unusual take.

Technical Use of Language - Sentences themselves stumbled and pulled me from the story. Common reasons are overdescription and unbelievable dialogue.

Storytelling - Your idea may have been portrayed more strongly with different choices in what to show us.

Voice - The writing may have felt too generic. Not unique.

Thanks again for a wonderful experience!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Winners Announcement - "Silhouette"

Thank you all for a record-smashing contest! For all of you who read many or all of the entries and commented, thank you for embracing the spirit. For me, these contests are like little festivals where we can gather as writers, wow each other, and immerse in a rainbow of creativity.

I do focus hard on writing elements in judging and less on story concept (although among scoring leaders, originality and impact become the deciding factors). With so many entries, even minor deductions had a big affect on the final outcome. If you made the Forties Club, you used your words with high skill. If you didn't, keep in mind that this format is hard (and that's why I like it). Even great writers can find themselves flummoxed by how to get their idea to work in 250 words. If you're mainly learning at this point, then I have the highest respect for your effort. Writing only grows when you let it leave your hands.

And now, (drum roll please), I would like to recognize the following writers:

1st Place--Payne, Michael H., A Better Day Tomorrow (#75)
[Prize: $50 Amazon gift certificate]

2nd Place--Hendricks, Kurt, Get Ready For The Weirdness (#150)
[Prize: $30 Amazon gift certificate]

3rd Place--Thakkar, Aniket, The Good-stuff (#83)
[Prize: $25 Amazon gift certificate]

4th Place--Courtland, Linda, The Inevitable Loss of Burnt Sienna (#44)
[Prize: $20 Amazon gift certificate]

5th Place--Haller, Alisa Rynay, The Choices We Make (#171)
[Prize: $15 Amazon gift certificate]

Honorable Mention--Eldin, Chris, Other Places (#2)

Honorable Mention--Green, Rachel, The Flock of Deconstructed Reality (#18)

Honorable Mention--Wavemancali, Karma (#21)

Honorable Mention--Eaton, Loren, Lammergeier (#25)

Honorable Mention--Soles, Kim, Birds of Passionate Prey (#32)

Honorable Mention--Mukherjee, Mithun, Metamorphosis (#36)

Honorable Mention--Hill, Stephen, Unspoken (#60)

Honorable Mention--Hughes, Lee, The Mending of the Broken (#67)

Honorable Mention--Vogt, Josh, Furs and Ice (#72)

Honorable Mention--McClellan, Leah, Offering (#84)

Honorable Mention--Sharma, Mayur, The Shah of Blah (#86)

Honorable Mention--Fox, Gef, The Orchard and the Crow (#135)

Honorable Mention--Remp, Timothy P., Beyond The Nest (#138)

Honorable Mention--Gabrukiewicz, Thom, The Raven (#163)

Honorable Mention--King, Scott, A Worm in Crow's Clothing (#169)

Honorable Mention--Cooper, Annemaria, Just Another Day (#222)

Honorable Mention--McFeydon, Corra, Crow Etched Into the Window Pane (#229)

Honorable Mention--Taylor, Dottie, And The Hunt Begins (#234)

Honorable Mention--Ryan, Kathleen A., Body and Soul (#235)

Honorable Mention--Edwards, Dean Clayton, Reality, TV (#237)


Readers' Choice, 1st Place--Snowden, Shona, Flight (#180)
[Prize: $25 Amazon gift certificate]

Readers' Choice, 2nd Place--Courtland, Linda, The Inevitable Loss of Burnt Sienna (#44)
[Prize: $15 Amazon gift certificate]

Readers' Choice, 3rd Place--Hughes, Lee, The Mending of the Broken (#67)
Prize: $10 Amazon gift certificate]


Yes, choosing was especially painful this time. You all deserve to take a deep bow!

Just how successful was it? Jaw dropping. Your 237 entries have generated 65,093 hits from 18,361 unique visitors! Just. Wow.

Entries scoring at least 40 out of 45 in my scoring system are inducted into The Forties Club. Asterisks have been added next to the names of inductees. In my judgment, these writers have done their job excellently. Their strong, skilled writing brought their stories to life.

As a change from prior contests, if you did not make the Forties Club, I will tell you which scoring category was your strongest and which might benefit from additional attention. (The categories are pacing, entertainment value, technical use of language, storytelling, and voice.) If you are in the Forties Club, you were proficient in all of those areas. Comments will be up over the weekend.

Don't let the community end here. I hope to see all of you back at The Clarity of Night and on your own blogs. Link to each other and give your insights and gifts freely. If you hang around and comment after the contest, I will definitely link back to you and visit you on your own blogs (now that I have time).


Thanks again for a great contest experience and for all of the excellent writing. Give the winners a pat on the back for their outstanding work.

Feel free to contact me anytime. You will always find a welcoming place here.

"Silhouette" Short Fiction Contest


Click HERE for the winners announcement.

Click HERE for the contest announcement and rules.

Adams, Jean M., An Unsuccessful Suicide (#115)
Aditya, The White Crow (#108)
*Aerin Rose, Reconnaisance (#236)
*Agnew, Patricia, The Passing (#181)
Aizaz, Spread Your Wings (#176)
*Allinotte, Chris, Not A Dove (#12)
Altaba, D., The Bald Eagle’s Swift Flight (#179)
Amias, The Metamorphic Of A Blur (#4)
Ashby, Ken, The Truth About Trees (#78)
Banerjee, Ranee Kaur, En-lightening (#42)
Barber, David, Nature Is Cruel (#62)
*Beetner, Eric, The Debt Collectors (#118)
Bell, Christian, Watching the House Burn (#205)
*Bernita, The Tower (#22)
*Bhatia, Amrita, Sill-Love-Hate (#204)
Biswas, Sourabh, The Nuisance of Necessity (#209)
*Black, Terry, In Every Bite Of Chicken (#228)
*Blanton, David, A Note About Bums on the Street (#77)
Blodeuedd, The Trickster’s Bride (#64)
Boisard-Beudin, Nathalie, Flight (#50)
Branch, Jared, The Superimposed Killer (#143)
Brazill, Paul D., The Last Supper (#17)
Brent, Ragna, Carrion (#187)
Bridger, Ryan, Watchers (#203)
Callico, Jeffrey S., Window Seat (#137)
*Cameron, Sally-Jane, Guardian’s Gift (#220)
Carmichael, Isaac, The Dead Satellite (#191)
Cenni, Alexandra, By Chance (#20)
Chambers, Stacy, As the Crow Flies (#128)
*Chen, Curtis C., Tricksy (#198)
Childs, Lily, Take Me Down, Sir (#189)
*Chingangbam, Anupama, The Eagle and The Mice (#166)
Clevenger, Carrie, The Missing Piece (#158)
Coleman, Angela L. F., One Is For Sorrow (#95)
Collins, Patsy, No One Can See Where There Is No Light (#90)
Conley, Walter, On the Way to Merry Mills (#109)
Connors, Anne Elizabeth, Night Terrors (#63)
*Cooper, Annemaria, Just Another Day (#222) HONORABLE MENTION
*Courtland, Linda, The Inevitable Loss of Burnt Sienna (#44) 4TH PLACE and READERS' CHOICE 2ND PLACE
Cricket, Ryn, Snake Charmer (#195)
Crisman, Robert, Winter Hawk Jack (#218)
*Culpepper, Jared, In the Shadows on the Lake (#28)
Davidson, Peter, Death's Courier (#170)
Deeti, Sai Charan, Destiny’s Lonely Child (#160)
DeLeo, Bernard Lee, Flight Interrupted (#175)
*Desikan, Kartik, A Patient Tale (#93)
Dhanke, Prashant, Eight Seconds (#211)
*Dhingreja, Tarun, The Hunt (#141)
Diaz, Melissa, Hungry (#227)
Dickson, Donna, One Crow Sorrow (#101)
*Dragon, Louise, Seed Of Evil (#162)
Drama, In the Graveyard (#193)
Drehmer, Aleathia, The Anchoring of Frigid Ships (#71)
Drouin, Roger, Snow Fort (#57)
*Dudley, Peter, Alone (#27)
*Dunlop, Scott, As the Crow Flies (#226)
Durfee,Mark C., Form to Form (#157)
*Eaton, Loren, Lammergeier (#25)
*Edwards, Dean Clayton, Reality, TV (#237) HONORABLE MENTION
Edwards, Tessa, Night Flight (#46)
*Eldin, Chris, Other Places (#2) HONORABLE MENTION
*Ellis, Susan, Segregation (#88)
Emeraldcite, Prayer Circle (#3)
Ennis, Scott, Silhouetted Volta (#10)
Evans, Jason Trajectory (Your Host)
Flynn, Claire, Taunting Sally (#151)
Ford, Herrad, The Pitch Lake (#96)
*Fouquet, Kristin, For Eliza (#43)
*Four Dinners, Bird Brain (#6)
*Fox, Gef, The Orchard and the Crow (#135) HONORABLE MENTION
*Fritz, Aidan, Chasing Manhood (#120)
*Gabrukiewicz, Thom, The Raven (#163) HONORABLE MENTION
*Gallenberg, Elizabeth, Defender of the City (#79)
Gordon, Betty, A Love Letter (#165)
*Gradowski, Janel, Losing Numbers (#52)
Graves, Randal, Concerto Grosso (#206)
*Green, Rachel, The Flock of Deconstructed Reality (#18) HONORABLE MENTION
*Green, Stephanie, Survivor (#230)
Greenberg, KJ Hannah, Synecdoche with References to a Previous Life in Iowa City (#23)
Griffiths, Alan, The Eton Rifles (#100)
Groppi, Jesse, As The Crow Flies (#233)
*Gully, Anton, .43 Magnum (#207)
Gunn, Barbara L., Man in Her Dream (#102)
*Haller, Alisa Rynay, The Choices We Make (#171) 5TH PLACE
*Harar, Beth, Ice (#41)
Heidt, Yvonne, On The Eve of My Destruction (#51)
*Hendricks, Kurt, Get Ready For The Weirdness (#150) 2ND PLACE
Hickman, Michelle, Feathered Concerto (#5)
*Hill, Stephen, Unspoken (#60) HONORABLE MENTION
Hirschi, Nicole E., A Fear Brought Into Perspective (#124)
Holczer, Tracy, The Other Side (#58)
Hood, Rohan, The Victim (#125)
*Hughes, Lee, The Mending of the Broken (#67) HONORABLE MENTION and READERS' CHOICE 3RD PLACE
*Iduma, Emmanuel, Wailing Wall (#74)
Irons, Will, Homecoming (#202)
*Iyer, Preeti, The Dying Prologue (#33)
*Jackson, James Montgomery, The Message (#114)
*JaneyV, Fear of Flying (#39)
Jansen, Pennycandy, April in Paris (#30)
*Jasmine, The Willow (#199)
Johnson, Richard M., Dusk Till Dark (#85)
*Jones, D. Smith Kaich, Into the Night (#186)
*Jones, Samuel, Evermore (#232)
*Joos, Catrina, First Kill (#104)
*Joshi, Roma, Missing Inaction (#159)
Karen, Nevermore (#231)
*Karthik, Flight (#215)
*KateInTheCloset, The Space Between (#76)
*Keating, Louise, Snowy Embankment (#219)
Kechula, Michael A., Terrible News (#123)
*King, Scott, A Worm in Crow's Clothing (#169) HONORABLE MENTION
*Kinsey, Lynn, Breakfast (#183)
Kishore, Vinayak, The Poet (#127)
Klumb, Julie, The Bracelet (#55)
Knowlden, Gary, Dark Flight of the Soul (#208)
Laine, Aimee, The Trip (#82)
*Lambert, Teri, Entry #154
Lane, Nevea, The Last Impression (#168)
Laughingwolf, Mob Mentality (#69)
Laurenson, Sarah, Hawk’s Prey (#11)
La Violette, Rusty, Deliverance According to Proverbs 6 (#105)
Lee, Nathaniel, Winterwing (#87)
*Lena, Silhouette of Freedom (#38)
Levin, Dawn, Goodbye (#185)
*Liadis, Liz, Looking for Fun (#144)
Liadis, Paul, The Traveler and The Game (#7)
Long, Chong Yen, Whispering Pine for a Silhouette (#139)
Lucy S., Braids Flying (#130)
*MacArthur, Jodi, Midnight Feathers (#153)
Madhumita, The Lone Raven (#92)
*McAuley, John, Hovering Over Walden's (#225)
*McClellan, Leah, Offering (#84) HONORABLE MENTION
*McCormick, Jason Henry, Frank/Crow (#81)
*McFarland, Peggy, The Fourth Floor (#136)
*McFeydon, Corra, Crow Etched Into the Window Pane (#229) HONORABLE MENTION
Me, The Crossing (#49)
*Mendez, Jacqueline, New Mexico, 1821 (#200)
Mira, Dust Storms (#61)
Mitchell, Christopher, Silhouette (#99)
*Monteleone, Merry, Falling Leaves (#131)
*Montgomery, Laurel, Raptors 1, Hoyt 0 (#133)
Morocco-Clarke, Ayodele, Free at Last (#29)
*Morse, Michael, Eternity (#134)
MRMacrum, The Well (#40)
*Mukherjee, Mithun, Metamorphosis (#36) HONORABLE MENTION
*Murty, Yamini, Shades of Black (#212)
Mystico, Aves (#111)
*Nagel, B., Contre-jour (#56)
Narayanan, Sury, War- What Is It Good For (#65)
*Night, M.E., Dreamer (#145)
Noland, Tony, The Grandson’s Approach (#172)
*NothingMan, Things Boys Do (#149)
Novak, T.A., Patiently Waiting (#45)
*Odhner, Melanie, Rustle (#117)
*Ohlrogge, Jelena Vencl, Free (#70)
*Ostrander, Beth A., The Moth Incident (#116)
*Palande, Krunal, The Silhouette (#26)
Partridge, Jillian, Nothing Less (#192)
Payne, Megs, The Falcon That Does Not Fly (#9)
*Payne, Michael H., A Better Day Tomorrow (#75) 1ST PLACE
Peets, Freddie, Possession (#178)
*Pelc, Michael, The Last Bird on Earth (#184)
*Pembroke, Restina, Flight (#148)
*Peterson, Charmaine, Solitary Soldier (#98)
Poirot, J. M., And Then We Were Strangers (#190)
*Poppen, Sharon, National Save the Quill Day (#201)
*Proctor, Elizabeth, Flightiness (#94)
Purcell, Veronica, I AM I: BAGGIES (#34)
Randick, J., Stranded (#47)
*Rapino, Anthony J., As the Crow Flies (#73)
*Remp, Timothy P., Beyond The Nest (#138) HONORABLE MENTION
*Rickel, Danielle, Black Angels (#156)
Rosario, Blany Ashwin Francis, Why Was I Born? (#89)
*Rownd, Mary Dexter, Closure? (#140)
*Ryan, Kathleen A., Body and Soul (#235) HONORABLE MENTION
*Ryan-Harper, Linda, A Frogpondian Transgression (#216)
*Salas, Alexander, The Deal (#68)
*Salt, Jane, Tania's Revenge (#221)
SanFilippo, Liz, Catching Lies (#196)
Satyarth, Antriksh, Heaven Sent (#129)
*Scheer, Wayne, Old Habits (#8)
Scott, Craig, Birds of Prayer (#1)
Scott from Oregon, Malcolm And The Eagle (#80)
*Seamans, Sandra, The Undertakers (#66)
*Seiffertt, Kiki, Nursery Rhyme (#224)
Shankaran, Harish, Bird/I View (#126)
Sharanya, Untitled Life (#210)
*Sharma, Mayur, The Shah of Blah (#86) HONORABLE MENTION
*Shete, Sandeep, Wages Of Brevity (#167)
Silberstein, James, A Woman Will Come (#103)
Silvestri, A., Oubliette (#174)
Sindbandge, Mahesh, Forsaken Dreams..... (#164)
*Sinkhorn, S.E., P.E.T.E. (#59)
Smith, Cecile B., The Black Hawk (#54)
Smith, Craig, Just Desserts (#217)
Smith, Ph.D., Stephanie Suesan, Where’s the Beef? (#121)
*Smythe, Debbie, Blood Echo (#161)
*Snowden, Shona, Flight (#180) READERS' CHOICE 1ST PLACE
*Solender, Michael J., Jumper (#97)
*Soles, Kim, Birds of Passionate Prey (#32) HONORABLE MENTION
*Señor Steve, Reply No. 26 (#146)
*Stoler, Cathi, Into The Night (#119)
*Sullivan, Meghan, The Crow & The Raven (#31)
Swemmer, Angel, Oh the Freedom (#113)
Szelsofa, The Blackbird and the Hen (#35)
Tauber, Sandra L., My Stupid Dog (#53)
*Taylor, Dottie, And The Hunt Begins (#234) HONORABLE MENTION
*Terri, Dangerous Games (#37)
Terry, Pamela, Feathers (#112)
*Thakkar, Aniket, The Good-stuff (#83) 3RD PLACE
Tomlinson, James R., The Frailty of Birds (#188)
*Tomlinson, Katherine, Maternal Instinct (#106)
Tracticus, Logicus, A Rictameter (#91)
*Trafford, Adrienne, When He Was the Silhouette (#13)
*Vee, Jimmy, Pie in the Sky (#19)
Vermeulen, Susan, Broken Lip(s) (#110)
Vibert, Catherine, Cat of Arc on Being a Bird (#14)
Vinson, Missy, Shadow Theater (#16)
*Vogt, Josh, Furs and Ice (#72) HONORABLE MENTION
*Wavemancali, Karma (#21) HONORABLE MENTION
Watson, Tara, Bohatera (#15)
*Watters, Charlene, Apocalypse Now? (#152)
Watters, Kim, The Hunt (#132)
*Weaver, Raine, Special (#213)
Welter, Ed, Prelude to a Kill (#122)
Wert, Carla, Raven (#223)
*Whirlochre, Hawk Yer Goodies (#107)
Wildflower, Entry #173
*Wilkinson, M., Looking into the Light (#182)
Williams, Jean Ann, In The Form Of A Dove (#177)
Williams:Sotelo, Sharidan, Copy Right 2009 (#214)
*Wilson, Juliet, Buzzards at Dusk (#147)
Wisneski, Jim, The Freedom (#197)
Wiswell, John, No Sam For You (#155)
Worth, Hazar, The Unchosen (#194)
Zapata, Angel, Forgotten Ornithology (#142)
Zawadiwsky, Christina, Dreams Of Flying (#24)

*Members of the Forties Club.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Voting is Closed

That's it folks! The voting period is now closed. Aine is hard at work tallying points for the Readers' Choice Awards, and I'm making final selections.

I expect to have the winners announcement up tomorrow evening(Wednesday the 20th).

I will also be indicating inductees into the Forties Club on the contest index. Look for the asterisks.

As you already know, there were many strong entries! Congratulations to everyone!! You all deserve a long round of applause.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Bad Romance

I want your ugly
I want your disease
I want your everything
As long as it's free
I want your love
love, love, love
* * *
You and me could write
A bad romance
--Lady Gaga, Bad Romance

"Come on. The kiss couldn't have been that bad."

"Shut up."

"Why are you pushing me?"

"Just shut up."

"You don't really want me to go."

"You don't know anything."

"I don't?"

"Just back up, okay?"


"On second thought, I'm getting out of here."

"You just got here."


"You know what your problem is?"

"Oh, this should be good."

"I'll show you."


"Don't move."





"Please don't do that."

"Your breath is shaking."

"Just don't."

"I love your neck. I could kiss you here for hours. Did you know that?"

"Please back up."

"You don't sound very convincing."


"Your hands are getting hot."


"You don't have to take them off me."

"I hate you."

"Still not convincing."

"I do."



"Really. What's wrong?"

"Just...promise me."


"Promise me you'll never leave me."

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Odds and Ends

Very cool to see the hundreds upon hundred of comments firing through the contest!

I hope you all are having a blast! Looking at the camaraderie, I'm sure that a lot of you will keep hanging out after its all over.

Many of you have asked what kind of bird is featured in the photo. Here's the story. For the past couple of years when the autumn leaves are in full color, I've tried to take a day to ride my motorcycle through this chunk of Pennsylvania. The cycle makes it easy to pull over and whip out the camera.

This part of the state is hilly and old (old for the U.S., at least). Even though we're considered suburbs of Philadelphia, we still have some remote dirt roads. I was coming down one of these toward French Creek, when I saw a whole mess of large black birds in the tree tops. They were bigger than crows. When I lived in Buffalo, I used to see ravens, so that was my first thought. However, I'd never seen them so far south.

As I got closer, I realized they were vultures without bare heads. Juveniles? I really don't know. They were congregating over the carcass of a road-killed deer. (I took pictures of that too, but will spare you.) Many of them took off before I could get close ups, but they began circling right over my head. In this shot, I isolated the bird with Photoshop and blurred the background (well, foreground actually) while sharpening the silhouette of the vulture.

Anyway, thanks again for a stellar turnout! I'm deep in scoring right now. At this point, I expect to be posting the results on Wednesday.

Because of the longer delay to allow everyone to get through the entries, I'll return to normal Clarity of Night content on Monday rather than wait until after the results are posted.

Also, I'm going to do something a bit different after this contest. Rather than comment about what I liked most about each entry, for all entries not in the Forties Club*, I will tell you which scoring category was your best and which might need more attention. As a reminder, the scoring categories are: pacing, entertainment value, technical use of language, storytelling, and voice. In a way, the categories represent an expanding scope of review. Technical scoring looks within the sentences themselves. Pacing describes how well the sentences build on each other. Storytelling considers the flow of paragraphs and what you chose to portray to give your story life. Entertainment scores the idea itself, and voice reflects whether your writing has a clear, overall identity. Entries in the Forties Club were proficient in all of these areas.

Keep reading and getting those Readers' Choice votes in!

*The Forties Club members have scored at least 40 out of 45 possible points.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Magenta clouds crowded the ocean over a red, resting sun.

The Arctic sky dimmed, but would not curtain to night. Day never ended this time of year.

Two men coiled harpoon lines in a little boat. Wind scorched their faces. Salt withered their skin. Overhead, an eagle watched the wide waters for fish that weren't there.

One man tapped the other.

A nod to the horizon.

Stout shoulders turned toward strange scratches unrolling in the sky.

Vapor trails.

Long lines falling.

Like nothing they had ever seen.

As they watched, the tracks branched into hundreds more, like marshmallow claws reaching for Earth.

A pilot whale blew and broke water close by. A harpoon arrowed and stuck, whisking the line out of coils and snapping tight. The boat surged forward and plowed the swells. But the fight broke too soon. The men pulled a bent harpoon from the flame-tipped sea.

Two men coiled lines.

Wind scorched their faces.

Salt withered skin.

Neither spoke about the fresh claws streaking down the opposite horizon. Now both ends of the sky glowed like great hands grasping, continent to continent, over the pole.

The empty wind howled as one man rowed and the other rested his eyes.

Neither felt the nuclear heat encircling the lower world.

Neither especially cared.

Clear, frigid sky gazed down where the missiles had flown, and the men slipped toward home.

Above, the eagle wheeled to fish another day.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Readers' Choice Voting ("Silhouette")

Have you seen the movie Scarface?

Near the end, Al Pacino is duking it out with about 25 guys in a gun battle. Solo. He takes a bullet or two, then opens his arms and taunts the lot of them as he takes hit after hit. "Is that all you got? Is that all you got?" The guys can't believe he's still standing.

That's how I feel, except I've got entries instead of bullets! (Of course, Pacino drops dead about 30 seconds later.)

Seriously, Holy Moses!! Not only did this contest break records, it took those records, steamrolled them, backed up, rolled over them again, and then dropped a hand grenade down their pants. You all RRRRRROCK!!

Whew. Okay. (Deep breath.) Back to business.

**The "Silhouette" Short Fiction Contest is now closed.**

But we have WAY more fun in store!

Voting for the Readers' Choice Award is now open!

This portion of the contest is open to everyone who submitted an entry. Here are the rules:

  1. Contest participants are invited to vote on their top 10 favorite entries by emailing me their votes to jevanswriter at yahoo dot com.
  2. Please vote by entry number and list your votes from 1 to 10 with 1 being your top vote.
  3. I will award 10 points for your 1st vote, 9 points for your 2nd vote, 8 points for your 3rd, 7 points for your 4th, and so on.
  4. You may not vote for your own entry. Please specify your entry number at the beginning of your email.
  5. At the close of Readers' Choice Award voting, I will tally the points. The winner will be the entry with the most points.
  6. I am going to award three Readers' Choice Awards. The 2nd and 3rd awards will have $15 and $10 prizes, respectively.

As you read, please keep the comments coming. Feedback and appreciation is the fuel along the lonely road of writing. If you find folks whose writing moves you, please visit their blogs or ask where you can find more. Make friends! Enjoy your own judging, and above all, have fun!

Cast your votes before Tuesday, January 19th, at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time (U.S.). At that time, I will let you know when the winners will be announced.


Finally, in the tradition of the Clarity of Night contests, I will share my own vision of the "Silhouette" photo tomorrow.

Have a great night!

Entry #237

Reality, TV
by Dean Clayton Edwards

Leather swivel chairs, enormous desk, celebrity photos neatly-framed on stark, white walls.

Tony sighed.

“Didn’t you get my email?”

“I’ve been on holiday,” said Graham. “Don’t people use the phone anymore?”

“Things have changed a lot,” said Tony.

“Everything but me,” Graham chirped.

“Yeah,” said Tony. “Everything but you. Graham - the new series didn’t do as well as we had hoped. The latest polls show that people aren’t switching on anymore. I’m sorry, but your contract won’t be renewed. If it’s any consolation, it’s been a ... magnificent ... long ... career.”

He should have known. Even his wife didn’t watch him anymore. She said he made her cringe.

“It’s ok,” he said and Tony looked relieved. “I was thinking of spending more time with the kids. I can’t go on forever.”




Much later, on his way home, he got out of the car, leaving the engine running. Tower Bridge. Below, the river was muddy and inviting. He climbed the railing. Slippery shoes.

Above, a bird flew in silhouette against the lightening sky. He raised his arms and closed his eyes, imagining his descent, like an ancient bird of prey.

And then he slipped.

He screamed, but his fall was interrupted by the pavement.

He scrabbled to his feet, embarrassed, but it was ok. No-one was watching.

Entry #236

by Aerin Rose

Blonde upswept hair, black pinstriped pantsuit, lacy pale camisole. She’s like walking moonlight. Tim mistakes her for a reporter.

“I’m sorry, this is a restricted area. You can contact the front desk in the morning for an interview.”

“No, Dr. Dalton, I’m here to see you.” She advances on him with predatory stealth and berry-moist lips. He lets her push him back into his office, onto the immaculate camel-colored leather couch.

Tim flashes the smile that says “Here I am, brilliant and single, corporate success at the age of thirty-seven, perfect hair, and a rock-hard six-pack. Of course you’re here to see me.”

He almost doesn’t hear her ask about the bird.

“Excuse me?”

“BIRD - Bio-Imaging Regenerative Device. Nanotechnology that facilitates the connection between synapses, like a bird flying from branch to branch. Research conducted by Dalton Labs. Paid for by a private Alzheimer’s foundation.” Her crisp recitation efficiently snuffs his flame-bright smile.


“Secretly sold to the CIA to rewire the brains of suspected terrorists.”

Shit. He knew that contract would bite him in the ass.

“Look, if you want exclusive rights to the story, I’d be willing to work something out.”

“You underestimated your backers.” Her voice slices through his bluster. “Don’t worry. After I rewire those charming synapses of yours with your own technology, you won’t even remember to feel guilty.”

The full-pane windows display the skyline, drowning in the inky darkness of the Bay waters.

Entry #235

Body and Soul
by Kathleen A. Ryan

The box of tissues in the nurse’s hand gave it away before the breast surgeon could utter a word.

“It’s not good,” he said. “We’re recommending a left breast mastectomy, lymph node removal, and chemotherapy. Would you be interested in reconstruction?”

“I’m still on ‘It’s not good.’”

I’m whisked away to consult with a plastic surgeon. The next thing I know, I’m in a tiny room with a crowd, being photographed naked from the waist up--my “before” body silhouette photographs.

“Turn sideways,” they instruct.

In the operating room two weeks later, the plastic surgeon marks my chest with a Sharpie, using feathery strokes to map out his plan to insert a tissue expander after my breast is removed.

“Ultimately, you’ll sacrifice looks for contour,” he says.

I’m sacrificing a breast for my life, I thought.

A question came to mind that night in my hospital room.

“When I gave birth, I was in the maternity ward,” I said to the nurse. “What floor do they put you on when they remove a breast?”

“This is the oncology ward,” she says, as if I should have known.

“But that’s for cancer pa--oh, yeah, that’s me.”

I’m not in any rush to have these bandages removed. Nothing like breast cancer to drastically alter a woman’s shape.

But it will never bend my spirit, which soars with gratitude for being given a second chance at life.

Entry #234

And The Hunt Begins
by Dottie Taylor

I raised my face to the night wind. There's the sweet scent I'd caught earlier. I inhale deeply, letting the scent wash over me, through me, heightening my senses.


I run, grinning wildly, as the land glides beneath my feet, almost at a full gallop. I scent the air again, yes, there it is! A hawk calls over head, pointing the way.

At the edge of the brush, I skid to a halt. I'm not the only one drawn by the scent as I hear a growl off at a distance in the waning light. I sat on the cold hard ground, forcing my heart to slow, biding my time. I can wait my turn, I will have my feed.

I open my jaws and yawning a loud whine, alerting others that I too wait to feed.

“Help me.” I hear in the distance as the growl grows closer. The ground vibrates, limping footfalls coming nearer. Damn, it's a helpless thing, groping in the twilight for a savior. A small hand lands upon my flank, curling in my fur.

“Please, I'm lost.” It pleads.

Food, my instincts cry.

Help it, my heart demands.

Shifting is always the worst part, especially when I've been denied my feast. Bones pop as I change, no one feeds tonight.

A child cries in the darkness.

“I'm here.” I reach out, taking the small hand in mine. “I'm here.”

Entry #233

As The Crow Flies
by Jesse Groppi

Three hours' travel as the crow flies, thought Father Crow, chuckling at the joke, You would have called me silly for that. You would have said this whole thing is silly.

Normally, Father Crow didn't travel. Normally, Father Crow spent most of his time napping in a drafty nest in the great oak tree. But today, he tried not to hear his joints creaking as he struggled to reach the upper air currents heading north along the coastline.

The Sun caught sight of Father Crow and pitied him as he wobbled into the airstream. She was shocked at how his feathers had dulled since seeing him last. Righteously, she burned away the clouds in his path.

The old raven sighed, relaxing as the soothing rays soaked into his muscles. He was glad to still see the A595 guiding him from below. North along the road, over the firth, then straight on to the castle, he reassured the empty space at his wing, I remember.

Father Crow's determination was steadfast, but each mile burned away at what was left of him. When he finally broke from the current, a pain shot down his left wing. Not yet! he cried, and tucked in for an early dive. A black shape looked up from a forgotten picnic's wrappings.

Mother Crow!

As he came closer, so did the blackness at the edge of his vision.

The glossy Scottish rook watched as Father Crow lost consciousness and tumbled to the ground.

Entry #232

by Samuel Jones

One December morning dreary, I dismounted cold and weary
After riding long and swiftly o'er the dark and dreary moor.
Servants told me, "grieving season's overturned your uncle's reason
Now he's mutterin' and seizin', in the corner on floor!"
Thus with pounding heart I turned the handle of his chamber door
Sensing him and. . . something more?

Uncle, tortured, took no notice of my entrance; all the while his
Bloodshot eyes burned into something just above the chamber door.
This sad sight my heart was rifting when I heard a subtle shifting
As of ancient parchment sifting, behind me above the door.
Startling sent me whirling, glimpsing Pallas' pale bust shadowed o'er
With darkness shrieking, "Nevermore."

But my reason exercising, breathing, calming, realizing
It was nothing but a raven as of saintly days of yore.
Yet it's eyes wickedly gleaming, with capricious carriage seeming. . .
'Twas no bird, but scheming faerie of the pagan days before!
Whose delight is one dark utterance from his perch above the door,
Shaking weak men to their core.

"Nevermore!" the creature rasping, I was diving, I was grasping
Swift to hand a large and heavy volume of forgotten lore.
Through the air I heaved it whirling, and the blow sent feathers swirling.
When they settled there was nothing of the phantom there before,
And my uncle like a baby, sweetly sleeping on the floor.
Madness lifted, evermore.

Entry #231

by Karen

The search has gone on for days now. It’s a story made for the media – famous poet, lover of famous poet, disappears into thin air. At first, she’s used the cameras to plead for someone to come forth. Now, she avoids them as best she can. She’s a prisoner in her own home, fearful of coming outside lest they thrust a microphones in her face and shout for a quote to tell what she might or might not know.

And all along, she’s waiting for someone to just look up. Sometimes she wants to shout, “Can’t you see it? The damn thing’s right above your heads!” But they don’t test the sky for answers.

They think they’ll find him in the river. They suspect he wanted to imitate the one whose works he spent his life defining. Well, they burned his heart on a beach, and this black heart is swinging through the sky.

It’s funny they haven’t thought of the man she’s spent her life defining.

She thinks by now it resembles nothing so much as the silhouette of a huge bird, its large black form lifted on the breeze, swinging loose above her. And just at midnight when she feels her weakest, she thinks she hears it tap, tap, tapping. She grows weary of her demon lover swinging through the sky above her, rapping on her chamber door, urging her to tell her story…

Quoth the lady, “Nevermore.”

Entry #230

by Stephanie Green

“I’m sorry. I’m just –I’m a little distracted,” Joni was looking past the woman behind the desk. Her face was make-up smeared and tear-streaked. Add the wind-blushed cheeks, she looked very much like a beaten down woman.

“OH NO HO-NEY! After what you-,” the woman jumped. “Listen to me. YOU ARE SAFE HERE. He can’t get to you here.”

A tender smile managed its way through her fearful expression. Joni inhaled deeply and nodded at the round black woman of the safe-house office. She felt the woman’s strong personal attachment and desire to help her. Maybe I look like someone, Joni decided.

“Here’s what we’re gonna do- take this bag. We’ll get you fixed right up. Now you go rest and we’ll get started in the morning.”

“Okay,” Joni said after quiet consideration. This was all a standard part of the process. Joni leaned in with a fierce embrace. “Thank you so much for what you do,” she whispered. She stood, gathered herself, and reached for the bag.

All the while, an expertly concealed giddy feeling was erupting in her gut. It was a get out of dodge bag. She loved these. The bag would include some new clothes, shoes, toiletries, bus passes, a hotel voucher, cash… all in a days’ work.

Joni hopped the number 7 towards town. She sat in an empty pair of seats clutching her score. She leaned her head on the window and let herself drift. …time to clock out, grab a beer, and unwind.

Entry #229

Crow Etched Into the Window Pane
by Corra McFeydon

crow etched into the window pane—
flying buzzard on wings, you careen my now

Two shadows diverge on the far wall
between sink and sterile
counter, backlit with fluorescent
civility, the nurse in her germ
free scrubs smiles while the doctor
rams a pick ax between your legs
and you rise up in protest – too big!
all women think that – and he drives it further
Later your dress slips to your daddy’s
knee where he bounced you
the time he bought ice cream
sundaes at church
saving himself for the sake of watchful eyes
You await his return that night
between sheets of caught sweat
while headlights pry open your wanton
curtains, dragging an imprint
of an eagle’s shadow across the ceiling
You watch its hollow dance
with rapt lip caught between teeth,
then turning realize the shadow
isn’t an eagle print at all,
just an ugly crow magnified by light,
and that’s when you decide you could be that
crow etched into the window pane—
flying buzzard on wings, you careen my now

Entry #228

In Every Bite Of Chicken
by Terry Black

"They say it means death," said Professor Wellington Church, nodding skyward. "When the raven flies over you."

Brooke Peplin munched a chicken wing. "Superstitious now, are we?"

"Not at all." Church watched the bird wheel to the south, riding the air like an invisible sea. "I assure you, Miss Peplin, my dread is purely science-based."

"The bird's going to kill us?"

"No. The bird will watch while something else does."

Peplin shrugged, thinking, Go ahead, Professor. I’m a psych major, I've seen crazier folks than you.

"Birds are dinosaurs," said Church.

"Beg pardon?"

"People say the dinosaurs went extinct. They didn't. When that asteroid slammed into the Yucatán Peninsula, it only killed most of them. The rest became the birds. They say there's a little T. Rex in every bite of chicken."

Peplin smiled. "Well, we're doing the eating."

"For now." Church smiled. "Did you know the dinosaur extinction wasn't the worst in history? Eons earlier, the Permian-Triassic Extinction killed ninety-five percent of earth’s species."

"Another asteroid?"

"Nope. Volcanoes put tons of carbon in the atmosphere. Warmed the planet, wrecked the climate, flooded the air with sulfides and methane. Killed almost everything."

"What's that have to do with ravens?"

"They grew out of an extinction. They survive when others die." Church folded back the morning Herald to reveal the headline, COPENHAGEN TALKS STALLED. “In the end, the birds win.”

"Are you saying—"

"I'm not saying anything." Church offered her the chicken basket. "Like some extra-crispy? Hurry, while it lasts."

Entry #227

by Melissa Diaz

I’m trying to fill the void within by moving beyond myself, a shadow in the wind. I circle the city as twilight approaches. I am alone, under a moonless sky, while the streetlamps obscure the starlight. Headlights move below me as the world rushes home for the night. Their constant movement is a distraction from what I seek.

I want to be filled with the peace of a country evening in spring, a kind of quiet mating song as life reasserts its place in the world. I want to be filled with the warmth of summer’s sun as it sets. But I’ve been hardened by a barren fall and the cold chill of winter has hollowed me out. I’ve been left empty and aching.

Does anyone see me down below? Do they envy my freedom in this bitter night? I fly alone, without direction, without a home. Migrating with the seasons, I suffer through this man-made world.

Entry #226

As the Crow Flies
by Scott Dunlop

Took a wrong turn, wrong side of the tracks
Found himself shadowed in grey and in blacks
Ran for the subway, was caught where he stood
By a gang, hovering over, in boots and with hoods

He’d come to the party in sequins and beads
Not meaning to exit in overgrown weeds
But the call was too close to his ears, it said SON
You have to stop wandering, your time has come

He drifted outside with the dark and depressive
Hoping to make himself cool and impressive
Clutched at the pipe for a moment or two
And fell to the ground, feeling warmth, feeling blue

And when he came round, and the stash was all gone
He offered to go get some more, on his own
He took a big wad of new bills, freshly folded
And slipped to the sidewalk, brave and emboldened

Flashing small packages, parcels and rolls
They promised him emptiness, nothingness, holes
He gave over cash, and then ran for the door
Desperate, reeling, over the floor

Avoiding the party, he hid in a doorway,
Knowing the things that his partners would say
Crushed, heated and sniffed, and then turned into coal
He struck at the foil and snorted his goal

Fell to the ground- and felt his lungs close
Stricken by burning, complete overdose
He’d made his journey- as the crow flies,
But also, as pointlessly, as the crow dies.

Entry #225

Hovering Over Walden's
by John McAuley

"...wasn't like we caught him and shot him. But I hope the flames of hell burn up through every bullet hole in him for what he did to Carl."

Earl had a way with dramatic phrases. A preachers son. And a good cop in the time we rode together after Carl got killed.

"I appreciate you driving all the way up from Atlanta to tell me in person Earl."

"No problem. Just wanted to see how you're doing." He didn't mention having the local sheriff check on me last week when I quit answering my phone. " So you still going to Walden's bar early in the day and listening to old men talk about tractors?"


"Find a girlfriend yet?"


"Thought this town was so small the only hooker's still a virgin."

"Not any more."

"Hah, that's more like your smartass old self."

When Beth asked if I was going back to work I shrugged and handed her a beer. We sat on my front porch and listened to the radio. During a commercial I stared at the solitary tree over on the west ridge. I'd told Beth that tree was my quietest partner since Carl. For the third time today an eagle swooped low over the bare branches. If eagles can carry away the souls of the dead I wish they could carry off the guilt of the living.

Entry #224

Nursery Rhyme
by Kiki Seiffertt

A glimmer of light. A flicker of memories past. How did I end up here? I was in a closet. Darkness, hurt, and pain. Then light! I was saved.

Hello sweetheart. We have you. Can you tell me your name? Talia? Come now. Let’s see if we can clear out all those cobwebs.

A soothing voice, a comforting hand. Things that had never happened to me before. Kindness. A brief moment in my life. Something better. They took me away from my prison. Took me away. To another cell.

Is your treatment working, Dr. SchwarzeVogel? Talia proved to be a brilliant candidate. Very few connections were allowed to develop in her dark closet; socially and neurologically. All she knew was darkness. If this doesn’t work, she is no worse off.

Someone is calling. Talia. I can hear a whisper. Then pain.

Nothing. Are you sure she’s the best choice? Surely someone was worse off than her; more abused, more damaged. What? Another shock.

Would’ve been better in the closet.

This has to work. We have to prove this procedure is a viable source for treatment. No matter. She is where she is. We can’t get her out of this closet. Might as well see how far we need to go to make this work. Send another shock.

No glimmer, no flicker. No hurt, no pain. No escape. Not from here. Just the flutter. The flutter of wings dance through my head. Lost. No one can find me here.



Entry #223

by Carla Wert

in the winter I heard your harsh call,
and so I fed you corn;
You filled the empty cup
with stones of
early morn..
O, we traded corn for stones,
‘til the winter days did stray;
And, when the days were empty,
you never went away.
Yet, I wondered who I was,
as snow
spilled into streams;
You lived amongst my days,
and soared in silence
through my dreams..
Flying amongst the branches,
you touched
a place in me;
You were my only friend,
whilst love, my enemy.
Yes, the past was yet to be,
and my soul lingered
amid the mists of time;
You swooped down
and scooped it up,
so sublime.
O trickster of all men,
creator of new souls;
You, yes you,
O Raven,
for you,
the bell still tolls.
in the winter I heard your harsh call,
and so I fed you corn;
You filled the empty cup
and a life in me
is born.

(Carla Wert is a lover of poetry and words that sing to her senses. She is 69-years-old, approaching 70 this coming summer and find contentment in painting word pictures. She is also an artist.)

Entry #222

Just Another Day
by Annemaria Cooper

It didn’t matter that the dawn was dismal with its light, or the birds overhead didn’t notice Molly beneath the tree. She pulled her hat over her ears, and continued walking towards the shore.

‘Another day,’ said Molly, stopping again to catch her breath.

‘It’s a wonderful day, Molly,’ replied John, reaching for her hand. ‘Are you tired?’

‘A little, yes. Perhaps I should sit in the chair now. I doubt I can manage up to the ridge.’ For a moment, Amy stared at the wheelchair. Pondered at the dip in the cushion and the space it would hold in future. She settled in, her eyes blurry with tears as John tucked the blanket down the side of her thin thighs. ‘Right,’ she said, composing herself, ‘to the top and the view of the sea.’

A thin, dark line separated the Heaven from the Earth.

‘Look Amy, can you see the Irish Ferry on the horizon.’

A crow flew overhead, perhaps to welcome the ferryman, thought Molly. ‘Will you ever come back here,’ she asked.

‘Every Sunday, and every Friday I’ll go to the theatre and sit in the stalls.’ He knelt, devoted, distraught and kissed her on the forehead.

‘Good. I’d like that, but promise me you’ll never visit my grave.’

‘I promise, Molly, but first you have to promise me something.’

The sun broke through to cast a warm glow on her tired face. ‘I guess I can make any promise I like now.’

‘Promise me tomorrow, Molly.’

(Annemaria Cooper is usually found loitering around for her crimes.)

Entry #221

Tania's Revenge
by Jane Salt

At first light Tania assumed the form of a raven and settled in the branches of her neighbour’s Sycamore to wait. How dare Sally complain to the council about the noise? If anyone was a noisy neighbour it was her, always shouting about something or another. It was usually worse around tea-time when the Weakest Link was on. ‘Bank! Oh you wanker!’ could clearly be heard seeping through the walls to Tania’s kitchen. But did she ever complain? NEVER.

It wasn’t as if Tania held coven meetings often. In fact last Wednesday was the first time her house had been chosen. It was a great honour. She’d decorated the lounge a lovely shade of black especially for the occasion. Anyway, spell incantations needed to be sung at full volume for the majik to work, but the banging on the walls from next-door had completely ruined the mood.

As the High Priestess left she'd given Tania such a look. “I don’t think this’ll be a suitable venue for the future. Come on everyone, we’re off to Mavis’s to finish up.”

Tania ruffled her feathers against the chill morning air and looked at Sally’s bedroom window, curtains still drawn.

“Caw! Caw! Caw!”


Tania continued all morning until finally, after she’d dodged several boots and even a can of hairspray, the moment she’d been waiting for arrived. Sally came into her garden to hang laundry.

Black wings took flight, then SPLAT.

“That bleedin’ bird’s shat in my face for the final time.”

Entry #220

Guardian’s Gift
by Sally-Jane Cameron

The solitary figure stands silhouetted on the grey hilltop, the other mourners are long gone. A dark bird circles overhead, it's cry piercing. She draws her cloak tighter around her, but feels the icy wind leech the last remaining warmth from her. The fire in her soul had been extinguished the night she held his head in her lap. Her guardian, protector and guide had raged against the dying to remain with her, but the dark ominous presence in the room had won, claimed it's prize and taken her champion.

She feels her legs begin to crumple, her eyes closing, she welcomes the thud of the cold earth, the never getting up again, but arms catch her, strong arms she knows and trusts. Warmth slowly spreads through her body, calm washes over her, the kind she felt when he was by her side. Her heart pounds, "He has returned!" But opening her eyes, she's alone...The pain is is still there, but she feels his final gift reach into her soul, and gently start to fan the embers of her spirit.

She feels his unwavering love and devotion to her, and grieves the one gift she had never been able to give to him; she the princess, and him, her guardian. Rank had fated him to love her completely but watch while she loved others. She will not fail him! Her strength gathers through the pain. She stands, determined to make him proud; the battle for her kingdom will be won!

Entry #219

Snowy Embankment
by Louise Keating

“Wish I was him!” Martin said, gazing through the snow speckled windscreen at the eagle as it circled overhead.

Maireen snorted. “Why? So we could just fly out of here?”

The car was not going anywhere. Their digging and straining had only helped to push it more deeply down the embankment into the snow.

“How long more before someone comes by, do you think?” Martin said, peering through the ice crusted glass of the passenger window.

“How the hell would I know!”

The words, frosty as her breath, were out before she could stop them. The fact was, she knew maybe no one would come by at all. Not today anyway.

“Sun’ll go down soon,” she said. “It’s getting colder.”

“Try your celphone again,” Martin suggested.

“God, Martin, I told you. It’s dead!!!”

Martin’s lips pressed tightly together, then relaxed. He tilted his head and looked up at the eagle.

“Creepy,” he said.” Reminds me of those movies where the vultures circle, waiting for you to die!”

Maireen shivered. “Try the engine again.”

He turned the key in the ignition once more. The car chugged, then coughed, then sighed into silence.

Maireen blinked away a tear. “It’s no use,” she whispered.

Martin’s arms were around her then, his cheek against hers.

“We’ll keep each other warm,” he said. “They’ll find us. I promise. Someone will come.”

Only the cold came as darkness fell. Icy numbness lulled them to sleep, all trace of them disappearing beneath a blanket of falling snow.

Entry #218

Winter Hawk Jack
by Robert Crisman

Jack was a winter hawk out in the mix who pretended he swooped like a man.

Some hardshell lowroller had told him, fly in the sky and get hard or you die…

Jack played the game according to corporate dictate, with a steel-plate facade and the sewer-rat ethics big business demands. Success in the mix, i.e., manhood, is measured in dollars, as it is at all levels here in this bankers’ wet dream of a country.

Jack was a businessman, dig it? An MBA right out of Fool School….

He was hawk-nosed, hawk-eyed. He wore hawk’s plumage.

Jack, man in black, sporting manicured talons, his smile a hot-buttered knife…

A winter hawk, baby! He swooped from the sky! He showed no fear! Too many hostile takeover artists, waiting to bust through his armor.

Jack murdered his tears and hid behind dope. And as the years passed, the dope stripped him. And he’d pray to God in cold, lonely rooms at four in the morning, when all the note-taking snitches had clocked out for home and no one came by to watch him shiver and shake. Except for maybe his very last ghosts, who could no longer bother to care.

Jack fell from the sky, hawk no more. He snatched and ate dead things in gutters.

Jack, carrion crow.

Above, buzzards circled.

(Robert Crisman found out early on that all Jacks wind up in the gutter.)

Entry #217

Just Desserts
by Craig Smith

Alarm bells rang out in the distance, and Lord Myron's bloodhounds howled against the savage wind. Normally, I wouldn't have taken much notice of them as I worked for Lord Myron, but things had changed. They had changed very quickly. I had been caught stealing. But I had no choice, no other hope.

I could see my brother far-off… if I could just reach him, maybe, just maybe she would live. I clutched the engagement ring more tightly: holding in my hand the very life of my beloved.

I looked up and over my shoulder. For possessing only a bird brain the crow seemed to be quite smart. It danced there up in the sky. As if mocking me, daring me to try escape.

It was Gladys' fault. If only she hadn't spotted me taking it, I would have gotten away with ease. I was a trusted member of the household. I would never have been suspected, but nosy old Gladys had to ruin everything. Money for the ring was the only way I could pay for my wife's life or death operation. Gladys was meddling with my wife’s life. She would get her just desserts. I was sure of it!

A few paces from the rendezvous, I tripped over a tree root, crashing to the ground. The ring flew into the air. A black streak shot down and snatched it. The crow shrieked as it flew off with its prize, my wife's life, clutched tightly in its claws.

Entry #216

A Frogpondian Transgression
by Linda Ryan-Harper

Cal Hickman was salt of the earth, although he would not liken himself so; salt spilled is bad luck; the curse of Lot's wife, a dolt unable to follow the simplest instructions: As Cal would say, "I may be crazy, but I ain't stupid." He worked in the mines under mountains when young and half of his breath stayed buried there. He'd fought his lungs up the mountain path to Reddfield's cabin, hacking and spitting.

Hickman now watched as Tad Reddfield called to a circling hawk, Edgar Allen! The hawk swooped down and landed on the sleeve of his worn leather jacket. Reddfield was transformed by the bird into a royal medieval falconer disguised as a pauper.

Cal spit. "Edgar Allen?"

"Named as a joke on a fellow who came through here last year. Said he was a transcendentalist looking for his natural man." Cal didn't know what a transcendentalist was, but thought it must be a city-shaman interested in mountain magic. "When he saw Hawk, he told me about Edgar Allen Poe."

"Who might that be?"

"Someone who wrote about a raven and didn't like transcendentalists. I don't either—they don't know a bird of prey from a scavenger."

"So did he find what he was looking for?"

"He'd have better luck finding Sasquatch—our winter bested him."

"Think he'll be back this way?"

"Nope." Reddfield squinted at the sky. "To quote the Raven—'Nevermore'."

Entry #215

by Karthik

Valoury, the bird, was flying majestically over the trees, high up in the sky. Even though he was born a bird, he’d never believed he could fly. ‘I don’t think I could fly, mamma,’ he’d confided in his mother when he was little. ‘Remember, son. You are born to fly,’ his mother had said. Those words had instilled the much needed confidence in him. And now, reminiscing that moment, he flew higher.
After flying for another hour, Valoury was tired and decided to rest. He flew down to a house and sat on the compound.


Upon seeing the bird, Viplav, who was playing in the veranda, came running to his mother. He looked morose.
“What happened, dear?” his mother asked.
“I can’t fly like a bird, can I, mamma?”
She looked at her five year old son and smiled. Viplav eagerly awaited her response. She gave a peck on his cheek and said simply, “Why not, sweetheart? Of course you can fly. You can become a pilot and fly aeroplanes.”
Viplav widened his eyes and exclaimed, “Really?”
“Yes, my love,” said his mother and kissed him again.


Now, Valoury and Viplav were face to face with each other. True to its name, the bird had not flown away in spite of being approached by a human. They looked at each other. They could relate to each other somehow. The bird saw its past in the boy, and the boy saw his future in the bird.

Entry #214

Copy Right 2009
by Sharidan Williams:Sotelo

“Blackbird ringing in the calm of flight.”

“What a great opening lyric,” he thought.

His car window was crusty but he focused sharply on the outline of a bird against the blinding light of a morning traffic jam. He was so intent on studying the shapes that the feathers made, that he wasn’t paying attention to the Beatles tune that was affecting him.

Once he got to work, he played hooky from his duties and feverishly scribbled out the song that was going to grow his hair, lose his weight, and get him out of debt. He knew audiences would find this tune through the viral air and it would blow delight into the ears of the weary. There had been no new songs on the charts. All hooks were samples; all melodies were remakes. He had cracked the code of creativity and discovered what only the originals had in them…

Until –

“Take these broken wings and learn to fry.”

“All his life.”

“He was only waiting for his moment to imbibe.”

“The song is complete,” he sighed.

He always hated when the rush of inspiration was over. He resumed working for his hourly wage. It was then in the mundane clarity that he was crushed. He realized that he only rewritten Lennon and McCartney. He couldn’t even recite the right lyrics. He couldn’t even copy them right.

No hair. No thin. No cash.

He was glad 2009 was over. He cursed the day he ever saw that bird.

Entry #213

by Raine Weaver

“Mom always said I was different ‘coz I was special. The stranger agreed. Was that wrong?”

I liked Doc Burdett’s office. It had ash-white bones, warm wooden walls, and water trickling over rocks. And he never made a fuss, which made Doc special to me.

“Did he say anything dirty, Sarah?”

“No. He just brought the announcement.”

“Annunciation.” Mom clutched her purse, kinda scared-like. “Annunciation was the word she used.”

“Sarah? Who is ‘he’?”

“The dark man who comes to my bed.”

“She says she has a lover. Thirty-two hours in labor, and she lies to me.”

“She’s twenty-one, Adele. Being oxygen-deprived at birth didn’t stifle her hormones.” He gave me that look that men do, the one that makes Mom twitch.

“Impossible. I’m with her every waking minute.”

“Some fella shinny up her downspout?”

“You treated anybody with my shotgun up his ass?”

Doc Burdett wiped his mouth. “Sarah? Tell me what happens.”

“Feathered fingers on my window. Brittle taps against the glass. He lies on me ‘til he’s all heated honey-sweet skin, and rocks inside me ‘til dawn. Then there’s just wide, purple-black wings, and he’s gone.”

“Masturbating,” Doc said promptly. “Let her be. Fantasy may be all she ever has. You know what it’s like to be alone, Adele.”

Mom was calmer after that. I was glad Doc could help her. Especially now that I can feel something growing, fluttering deep in my belly.

There’ll probably be a fuss. ‘Coz I think it’s gonna be special too.