Spotlight Sunday


Death of a Doughnut cover copy

Tair Rafiq

My name means ‘Virtuous Friend’

Hometown/Location: Rotherham, South Yorkshire, England

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
When I was 8 I read a book entitled ‘The Little Witch’ by Otfried Preussler.  It was the first book I read by myself and the only book I have read more than once .  It remains my favourite to this day.  After I read it I knew that this was what I wanted to do; I wanted to make stories.  Back then I didn’t know that people could get paid for writing.  I am still hopeful that one day I will.

Why do you write?
It is my passion, my reason for getting up in the morning.  The reason I eat, breathe, and dream.  I cannot imagine being any other way

What is your favorite genre or style to write in?
I like to write mainly chidren’s fiction and science fiction, because they don’t limit my imagination and I’m free to make up any old junk.

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
H.P. Lovecraft – I like the monsters.

What books have most influenced your life most?
The Little Witch by Otfried Preussler
The Hitchhiker’s GUide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
The Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison
Dune by Frank Herbert
The junior novelisation of the movie Star Wars by George Lucas

Do you have a favorite quote or piece of advice that you would like to share with us?
Always have a Plan B.

Do you have any advice for other writers? 
Make sure you have a day job – a writer’s gotta eat.

Can you tell us a little background or anything special on the piece you composed?

The piece I have submitted is the opening of a short story I have written entitled ‘The Death of a Doughnut’.  It is about a man called Charlie Darren who is just an innocent bystander in the action adventure of life.  He would be the guy serving macarroni and cheese in the Death Star Canteen.  This story is semi-autobiographical.  I am hoping it will serve as an overture to a series of novellas featuring this character.
This short story is currently on sale at the Amazon Kindle Store.


Recently I was confronted with some frightful pecuniary truths.  I had fallen behind with my student loan repayments and my bank manager was threatening to unleash bounty hunters to collect the arrears and/or harvest my internal organs.  With great reluctance I wrote a letter to my stepfather petitioning for an extension to my allowance.
    My stepfather and I have not been on amicable terms for some time, not since the day I accidentally pulled the plug on his life support machine.  I was no more than three years old at the time, but he still insisted that I be tried as an adult for attempted murder.  I was on Death Row until my early teens before my conviction was eventually quashed.
    I was pleasantly surprised therefore to find not only that he had deigned to answer my letter at all, but also that his response arrived expeditiously the very next day by special dispatch.  That is until I opened his package and discovered that it was in fact a box filled with mutant scorpions infected with a weaponised strain of the Ebola virus.
    So the day I had dreaded all my life had finally arrived; I had to find a job.
    Here in a place where damnation and despair meet for elevenses, two mighty empires clashed:  On one side, the remnants of the Skwil Alliance, once a fearsome force of the cosmos but now hammered to the brink of extinction.  The ones wielding that hammer were the brutal legions of Armandax, whose fanatical, rampaging, relentless, ruthless, blood-soaked, millennium-long campaign to conquer all known worlds had caused untold numbers of war correspondents to be made redundant because there weren’t enough adjectives to go around.
    Seated between these two quarrelsome powers was the neutral planet of Ashya.  The warring parties took great pains to respect this neutrality because the Ashyan’s were an ancient and noble culture, revered for their wisdom and munificence… and also because they had a giant space laser that could blow up a planet from half-way across the galaxy.
    When I say that the prospect of looking for a job filled me with dread, please do not misinterpret this as meaning that I am in any way indolent.  Far from it; I pride myself on my work ethic.  Being a student is not the round-the-clock cavalcade of intoxication and debauchery you might imagine.  At least not for me it isn’t… I don’t get invited to those sorts of parties.
    My principal field of study is xeno-psychology, a discipline that encompasses the cultural, historical, behavioural and linguistic study of non-human sentients.  Basically I study aliens, but please don’t tell my professor I just used the ‘A’ word.
    You would think therefore that someone with my aptitudes would have no problems at all securing gainful employment in such a cosmopolitan galaxy.  Sadly that is not so, not these days.  The job market for translators has dwindled to all but nothing ever since the advent of the speeki-phones.
    These things are nothing less than the work of the Devil – but then I would say that, wouldn’t I.  I’m no Luddite, though.  I appreciate the need for progress, but sometimes progress is not necessarily a step forward, and that’s certainly the case with speeki-phones.
    I wouldn’t object to them so much if they were anywhere near fit for purpose, but they’re not and everybody knows it.  The poor software and pitiful vocaliser range has led to no end of tragic misunderstandings.  It’s quite staggering the number of tourists each year who find themselves accidentally disembowelled at Ashyan sandwich buffets simply asking for extra mustard on their bagels.
    Yet for all their shortcomings, these hateful gizmos remain deliriously popular because they are cheap and shiny and they appeal to the lazy minded.  And that is how I ended up here, orbiting four hundred miles above the surface of the Ashyan home world, tending a credit register in the breakfast bar aboard a franchised fast food space station.
    I did get some odd looks from the customers from time to time when they realised that I didn’t have a speeki grafted to my hand like my fellow till jockeys; but they were always delighted when they found that they could place an order with me in their native tongues and get exactly what they asked for.
    It was a pity they didn’t allow tipping at the restaurant, because my till always drew the greatest number of customers – at least until the in-house queue wrangler swooped down to break up the tail end of the line and redistribute it to make all the other lines exactly even, despite the fact that the other lines were always much, much slower than mine.
    One customer who never needed to worry about queuing was General Gridvyn Urgos the Pitiless of Armandax.  He was the supreme commander of the majestic legions of Emperor Stezbant the Bloodgut.  The general and his lieutenants were in the habit of popping into the restaurant almost every day for their morning eye-opener and something sweet to nibble just before they knuckled down to a hard day of genocide and carpet bombing.
    Whenever the general and his retinue arrived all the queues would magically evaporate, (as would my fellow till jockeys).  I, on the other hand, would always remain steadfast at my station.  This was far from being my ideal job.  Nevertheless I was determined to be the best junior probationary hospitality revenue coordinator I could be, gosh darn it!
    As the general lumbered up to the counter, I stood up straight with my shoulders back so that the cheery hologram message flashing across my paper hat could be seen clearly:
‘Hi!  I’m CHARLIE DARREN.  What can I get you?’

To read more from Tair vist:

Amazon Author Page:
Book Links: (* American, UK, etc.)

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Spoken Word Saturday – Harlem- Miles Hodges

Harlem- Miles Hodges


In light of the recent political events that have been going on in America,  this poem came to my mind.  I’m happy to be sharing this as my first favorite of Spoken Word Saturday.


What are your thoughts on this poem?  

Do you have a favorite spoken word artist or video? Leave the info below in the comments!

Zealous Scripts -NOW ON FACEBOOK!

Hello Friends!

It’s been a while since I’ve updated to site.  School has been the main priority these last few weeks, but finals are over , so now I will have ample time to update!

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Spotlight Sunday




Viv Drewa

Fort Gratiot, Michigan

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
By just reading. It sparked my own imagination.


Why do you write?

I want to be able to tell stories. I love reading other authors and want to share what I write.


What is your favorite genre or style to write in?

My novels are mainly paranormal thrillers, but I did write one that was an action/adventure romance, and also a short story about my grandfather’s escape from Poland in 1913.


Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

Stephen King is my favorite. I love to be scared and he does it!

What books have most influenced your life most?

I still remember the first one: “The Whistling Sword” by Green. I was 9 years old and this one triggered my desire to write.

Do you have a favorite quote or piece of advice that you would like to share with us?

“The scariest moment is always just before you start” Stephen King

Do you have any advice for other writers?

READ! Find your passion and write. Don’t be afraid to talk to people. I wrote to a famous archaeologist for one of my novels and he recommended two papers written by another archaeologist. For the novel I’m writing now I interviewed our Medical Examiner.

Can you tell us a little background or anything special on the piece you composed?

My novels all have owls in them. I’ve loved them since I can remember. Also, my novels celebrate the mature woman who may be divorced, widowed, or never married and are in their 50’s. I have two novels that take place in South America, which I have loved for a long time.


The Angler and the Owl

France Hunter was excited about her first trip to the Smokey Mountains in Tennessee. Her family planned camping trips here in the past and she just loved it. Now that she graduated from the University of Michigan, with a degree in ornithology, she was more than ready to study her favorite bird: owls.
After setting up her tent and campsite she grabs her camera case and notebook and headed into the forest. France came across a female screech owl sitting on its nest and started taking pictures. Since the owl was still she didn’t use the video option on her camera.
She smelled something foul, then heard a low growl. As she slowly turned she saw a small black bear standing behind her just to her right. She couldn’t help wondering where it’s mama was.
The bear growled harder and she felt herself freeze in place. France was sweating because of the hot day, but started to feel cold. She slowly went to reach for her bear spray in her belt, on her right side.
Suddenly that’s when the bear got hold of her right forearm. She had to reach for the bear spray with her left hand. She turned toward it and sprayed. That only caused the bear to shake it’s head while biting down harder on her arm. It pulled her so hard she fell on her knees almost facing the bear. France heard a snap and prayed the bear stepped on a branch and that it wasn’t her arm breaking.
She thought she was dead, for sure. The bear was not willing to let go. France didn’t feel any pain, yet. She was just scared; very scared, and started shaking. She kept telling herself not to panic. Once feeling in control she decided to spray the bear again,thinking only to aim directly for it’s eyes and nose.
The bear finally let go France got up and ran like hell.
She was starting to feel a little light headed but  knew if she stopped she would definitely be dead.
France kept going and ran into three guys who were out hiking that day. When they saw her they ran to her. She noticed one had a rifle and that made her feel safer.
One of them took her behind a large boulder and started working on her badly damaged arm, while the other two, Tony and Andy, followed and asked what happened.
“I was attacked by a small black bear and managed to get away,” she said as she tried not to scream from the pain the one man caused while trying to check her arm.
“We bes’ go check ‘n see if’n that bear’s comin’ afer you,” the other man said. She thought it was a Southern drawl, but couldn’t be sure. The man caring for her arm didn’t have an accent.
The other two decided to go around to where she came from and slowly go down the path.
“My name is Jason Bradley. They call me Doc. I’m a retired Paramedic,” he said. “Those two are my cousins, Andy and Tony Bradley. What are you doing up here alone anyway?”
“I’m France Hunter,” she told him wincing at the pain. “I just graduated and came to do a little investigating. I’m an ornithologist.”
“Ah. A bird lady,” Doc laughed.
“More like an owl lady,” she smiled and winced again.
France and Doc heard a noise and were sure it was the bear. But then they heard Tony say, “Boy, you bes’n get up or that bear’ll come ‘n gettcha.”
“Andy probably can’t handle the amount of blood you lost,” Doc said. “He didn’t like bears much, either.” This causes France to giggle, but wince.
“I would like to take you to the local hospital to be sure everything is OK,” Doc started putting the unused bandages in his case when they heard a growl and then a gun shot. That made France and Doc jump.
Tony and Andy came around to tell them they shot and killed the bear and started talking about going to the ranger station to report this, when another bigger growl could be heard. A really angry one. They looked around the boulder to see where the sound was coming from. Tony was in a good spot to hit the other bear so he took the shot.
Tony went to make sure they were both dead before walking back to them.
Doc said their trucks weren’t too far and carried her to them. France knew she couldn’t walk and she was very weak by then.
“The ranger knows I’m here,” France told them. So Tony and Andy went to make the report and Doc took her to the hospital.
After her initial exam and x-rays the doctor came in. “Not good news,” she said to France. “Both the radius and ulna are broken. The muscle is torn, and you’ll need stitches. You’ll have to stay for several hours, or maybe overnight. We’ll start an IV here and prep you for surgery. Then someone will take you up to the OR.”
France looked at Doc. “What about my things at the campsite?” she asked him.
“Don’t worry. We’ll get them for you,” Doc assured her. “Then I’ll be back to pick you up and take you wherever you want to go.”
“I live in Michigan but I could just get a hotel here,” France said.
“We’ll worry about that later. Do you want me to call anyone?”
“No, I’ll call home later, no sense getting them worried,” France said. “They weren’t too pleased about me traveling by myself.”
Doc left and the doctor started to get things ready.     “We’ll have to start an IV and give you some twilight.”
The doctor left the room and a nurse came in to start her IV. It was the same woman one who came in earlier to get all her information.
“I’m giving you the twilight now, so you’ll start feeling a little woozy,” she said as she inserted a needle into a port on the IV tubing and injected the drug. After a few seconds France starts feeling the effect of the drug.
One hour later France was awake and hurting. She sees her right arm bandaged and decides not to try to move it. Her arm was wrapped five times its normal size.
France looked around and sees she must be in a recovery area.
“How are feeling?” a smiling nurse asked her.
“Fine, I guess. Never had to have anything like this done,” France rubbed her head with her left hand.
“Would you like something for pain?”
“Sure. If it’s as good as the last stuff you gave me.” They both laughed and the nurse goes to get a shot for Frances pain.
It didn’t take long for the nurse to return and inject the medication into the IV port.
“Your friend is here. Do you want me to bring him in?”
“Sure,” France heard herself say, slurring her words. The nurse left and brings Doc in.
“Ready to go look for more owls?” Doc said with a wide grin.
“I think I’ll wait until tomorrow,” still slurring her words. “Feel a little out of it right now.”
“They said you can leave in another hour but shouldn’t be alone,” Doc said. “You can stay with me and my wife, if that’s OK with you.”
France had trouble thinking. “I can’t go home?”
“Nope. Flying is out of the question for awhile.”
“Well, then I guess I’ll stay with you,” was the last thing she said before she fell asleep.





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Spotlight Sunday



Ian Mitchell

Currently, I’m in Kelowna, BC, up in Canada, although I wouldn’t call it my hometown.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
When I was a kid, I would have all these great ideas for stories in my head, but when I tried to get them onto paper through drawing, it would never come out the way I wanted. I soon realized that I’m a terrible visual artist and tried my hand at writing. I started with fan fiction and sort of toyed with my own stuff, but I never really found any of it good enough. I finally got my stuff together a few years ago when I started my blog and started producing (mostly) original material.
Why do you write?
I write because I have to. I know that sounds clichéd, but the simplest truths in life often are. (Haha, more clichés.) I feel as though this is what I’m supposed to be doing. If I didn’t write every day, I would just have these stories going to waste in my head. It’s also very therapeutic. I can write to escape to another world where everything is better, or to vent my frustrations, or simply to work through something that has been bothering me.
What is your favorite genre or style to write in?
Originally, I enjoyed high fantasy in the same vein as LOTR and SOIF (although nowhere near that magnitude). Recently, I find myself moving into more surrealistic pieces, inspired by many sci-fi authors I’ve read recently and H. P. Lovecraft mythos. I enjoy telling a story and feeling that not everything has to be perfectly explained to the reader. Leaving gaps for their imagination to fill seems more satisfying, in some ways.
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
This took quite a bit of time for me to decide, because there aren’t many authors that I’ve read more than one book by. Douglas Adams, George R.R. Martin, I’ve read plenty of their stuff, but I can’t honestly call them my favorite. The only other one that comes to mind immediately is J.K. Rowling, and I can’t stand Harry Potter any more. So I suppose if I truly had to choose an author purely for the sake of answering this question… H.P. Lovecraft. His stories and mythos continue to survive until this day, and his writing style is so different for where and when he was writing that I was convinced he was an old-timey English writer until I was old enough to know better. I think that takes some skill, being able to write as though you lived in another time. Because no matter how hard you try, some colloquialism or saying or word or anything that will slip in and reveal you for who you really are. Lovecraft managed to not only write terrifying and engaging tales, but he managed to keep up that façade well enough that it doesn’t detract from the story.
What books have most influenced your life?
I suppose leaving A Song of Ice and Fire off of this list is the wrong thing to do, but I don’t want people thinking that that’s my favourite book or anything. Don’t get me wrong, I love ASOIF, but there’s so much media surrounding it now that I’ve become a bit disillusioned for it. I’d take everything they’ve produced and trade it for the rest of the books if I could, but I know that won’t happen. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a lovely example of dry humour that I absolutely love and strive for whenever I attempt it. I used to have a massive tome that contained every Hitchhiker’s book, but I seem to have misplaced it at some point, which is awful because I wasn’t done the third one yet. Finally, John Wyndham’s The Chrysalids has had a huge impact on my writing, or at least I’d like to think so. It was the first book that I had to read in school that I remember legitimately enjoying, and I’ve read it a dozen or so times since then. Dystopian novels fascinate me, and I’ve had a sordid history with religion, so combining the two and sprinkling a bit of Nietzschean philosophy makes for a delightfully fascinating tale.
Do you have a favorite quote or piece of advice that you would like to share with us?
Someone who played a huge role in the development for my love of books and subsequently writing once told me that you need to write every day, which is something I’ve taken to heart ever since that day. So that would be it. Just every day. See below for more elaboration.
Do you have any advice for other writers?

If writing is your passion, just do it. Don’t listen to what other people say about practicality or quality. You like doing it? Do it. It’s your passion? Get after it. Who cares if you don’t get published or no one ever reads it? There are so many writers and aspiring writers out there thinking that same thing right now. There’s always a dozen reasons not to write. So you know what you should do? Write them down, because that’s a great place to start.
Can you tell us a little background or anything special on the piece you composed?
This piece was the one that launched me into writing a few years ago when I really started getting passionate about it. To give a bit of backstory, I was at a convention called FanExpo, which is essentially a gathering of all thinks nerdy. At the convention was Levar Burton, who you may know from either A) Star Trek TNG or B) Reading Rainbow. I am a fan of the latter, or at least I was as a child, and couldn’t wait to get an autograph and maybe even some face time with Mr. Burton. When I approached his booth, I was shocked to find that there was no lineup, so I ran up and got an autograph. I also spilled my guts to him about how Reading Rainbow inspired me as a child to keep reading, and how that in turn inspired my love for stories and writing.
Now, if you are ever lucky enough to meet Levar Burton, you know that he is a man who can go from joking around about anything to deadly serious at the drop of a hat. This was one of those times. He spent the next few minutes lecturing me about how important it was to pursue my passion and hone my craft. I think he could tell that I wasn’t very sure of myself, because the inspirational speech he gave me left me shaken. To him, it was probably just another speech he was giving that day to another kid who had grown up on his show, but I’ll remember that day for the rest of my life. That night, I went home, sat down, and wrote this piece. I set a goal to write every day and, barring extreme circumstances, I’ve stuck to it. So many thanks to Levar Burton for inspiring a writer he’ll likely never hear of!


The Chronicles of Al Rahiz pt. 1

“Are you enjoying your meal?”
The fat man wiped the grease from his lips, beaming at his guests as they sat around his table. To his left sat the sword arm, her brightly polished plate mail gleaming in the candlelight. “Well,” she began, punctuating her sentence with a belch, “I have no idea what the hell you put in those pies, m’lord, but it was damn fine.” She grinned, picking at her teeth with her pinky finger. Across the table, the old man eyed her with mild disgust. “Yes, my lord, the meal was fantastic. Thank you so very much.” He turned his head towards his large host, nodding and smiling. “Aye, a real feast, my lord,” the elf chimed in, reclining in his chair and sipping a cup of wine. The fourth guest remained quiet, as they had for the entire morning. After a moment of silence, the fat man laughed, and soon the elf and the warrior joined in, unsure of what was so funny.
“Excellent. I pay my cooks a great amount; I would not want such money to go to waste on terrible food. If there is one thing I cannot abide by, it is bad food.” This was apparent. “I thank you all for arriving so promptly. I apologize for not being more forthcoming in my summons.” He stopped gorging himself long enough to gaze upon each of their faces, smiling the same grease-laden grin. “I am truly blessed to be sitting in your company. Very few people like you come along in a lifetime.” The elf shifted uncomfortably in his seat, his hand slowly drifting down to the dirk on his hip. “I’m sure you all have your theories as for why you are here.” He claps his hands, and spreads his palms out to them. Another moment of silence followed before he cut it with, “I would like to hear them.”
The old man was the first to speak. “I beg your pardon, my lord, but… you want to hear why we think you have summoned us?” The fat lord laughed again, his chins jiggling grotesquely. “Ah, your reputation precedes you!” he cried out, pounding his fist on the table in mirth. “Yes, that is what I would like to hear. Why do you think you have been summoned to my estate?” The fat man plucked a grape from the table and popped it in his mouth, staring intently at the old man, who withered under his gaze. “I- I am a mere scholar, n-nothing more, m-my lord… I a-assumed you called upon me to… to instruct one of your many sons or d-daughters.”
“Well, anytime someone hires me, it’s generally for killin’.” The warrior shifted in her seat, her armor clinking noisily with every movement. “I’m not good at much else, got no unconceptions ‘bout that. I just don’t know who you’d want killed in any way I’d do it. Uh, m’lord.” She cleared her throat, suddenly aware of how dry it was, and reached for her goblet, downing the sour wine in one gulp. “Not that I’m sayin’ you might want someone dead. M’lord.”
The elf chuckled, stretching before answering. “Can’t say much on what I do in mixed company, but I’ve been hired by your kind before.” He smiled, revealing a row of brilliant white teeth. His hand was now on his dirk, but he simply rested it there, taking a comfortable position. “But, sitting here, looking at everyone else you’ve brought here… I assume you have something bigger planned.”
The fourth guest remained silent.
“Interesting,” said the fat lord. “Very interesting.” He contented himself with chewing on a particularly tough piece of meat as he let his guests sit and stare. He swallowed, burped, and continued. “Very good answers. Just what I would expect from people of your caliber. I do wish to hire you all for something, yes. But before I do that, there is something that must be attended to.” A servant suddenly appeared behind him, bearing a small towel. The fat man took it and struggled to his feet as he wiped his face. “My guards will lead you to the proper chamber. If you will excuse me, I must go prepare myself.” As quickly as the boy carrying the towel appeared, a dozen guards bearing spears entered the room, each eyeing the guests with cold stares.
“Wait, what?” The soldier looked at him, putting her goblet back down with a clunk that shook the whole table. “What the hell is this? Are we supposed to be your prisoners now!?” She jumped to her feet, pulling a dagger from her belt and stabbing it into the table. “You’ll not take me without a fight.” The fat lord simply smiled and said, “Ah, yes. I had heard tales of your temper. Oh well, tables can be bought, but expertise does not come so cheap. Now if you will please be so kind as to follow my son, all of your questions will be answered.” And with that, he strode from the hall with surprising agility.
The elf was on his feet before the lord was out of the room. “I’m with the sword arm. I’m not going anywhere until I find out just what in the Deep Hells is going on here.” Even the old man, pushing himself up with his cane, agreed. “My lord is quite gracious for this meal, but I really must protest. I am a man of knowledge, not a fighter or a criminal. There is no need for this kind of behavior.”
The fourth guest rose, the bottom of their cloak just brushing the ground.
The boy almost seemed to ignore them and strode past to the doors they had entered through. He swung one open, revealing the massive grand foyer. “If you would please follow me, my Lord Father has something he would like to show you.” In five massive steps, the warrior was upon him, a foot of naked metal showing from her scabbard. The guards swarmed her, and half a dozen spear tips were at her throat as she spoke. “You tell me where you’re taking me now, or I swear your blood will stain these floors. I am not your Lord Father’s plaything.”
The servant met her gaze with innocent eyes. “There is no need for such hostility. My Lord Father simply wishes for you to bear witness to the trial.”
The elf’s ears twitched, begging to hear something in the deathly silence.

To read more from Ian visit:

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Spotlight Sunday


Lauren Lola

Hometown/Location: San Francisco Bay Area, CA.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated? 
To be honest, not really. I don’t know if there was ever really a moment in time where I made the decision that writing was what I was meant to do. I think I’ve always known, since day one. My great aunt met me when I was six months old during her final trip to the United States (she was from the Philippines), and my dad recalled how she said that I am “a real Lola” and that I have “the hand of an artist.” I guess the art she was referring to was the art of storytelling.

Why do you write?
I write to speak; to tell stories. I’ve never been that big of an oral talker, and so writing has been more so my strength of expressing communication from an internal place; whether in the matters of telling a very real story, or something completely fictional. My brain has always tended to work a little differently in terms of putting together a story to tell, and with writing, you can take the time to tell it.

What is your favorite genre or style to write in?
I don’t know if I have a favorite genre. I have a wide collection of books, spreading across all sorts of genres. What I can say is that within the last year, I’ve really gotten into magical realism and fairytales. I’ve been reading a lot of books that incorporate one or the other element/genre into it and I’ve found it a very enjoyable education. I’ve even managed to incorporate influences such as these into my debut novel.

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I have a number of favorite authors, but one of them is definitely New Zealand author, Witi Ihimaera. Many Western audiences may be familiar with his novel The Whale Rider, especially since it was adapted for film about 12 years ago. However, he’s written many other books as well, and my collection of his works is consistently growing. I like learning about different countries and cultures, and he does my thirst justice by setting most of his books in the Maori community. Also, the way he’s able to incorporate a sense of humor into his stories- even those that have generally heavy content- makes his books all the more enjoyable to read.

What books have most influenced your life most?
As it is with a number of my favorite authors, I’ve noticed how many of the books that have influenced my life are international publications. That’s not to say that none of the books from here in the U.S. haven’t had any direct influence on me at all. There’s just something about books from other parts of the world, written by people hailing from different cultural environments and different upbringings than I have, that make them more “tick” in my eyes. From Witi Ihimaera, to David Mitchell, to Haruki Murakami, I can’t help but get lost their works, along with others.

Do you have a favorite quote or piece of advice that you would like to share with us?
In Haruki Murakami’s collection, The Elephant Vanishes, there’s this one short story from there that I really like called “A Window,” and it focuses on the interaction and eventual meeting of two people who are part of a letter-writing society. There’s a quote from there that I see as a standout piece of advice, and it is:
“Don’t try so hard to be the penetrating observer. Writing is, after all, a makeshift thing.”

Do you have any advice for other writers?
My advice is to keep writing and write every day. It doesn’t have to be a five-page piece or anything; it could something as short as a sentence. Just as long as you keep the pen- or fingers on the keyboard- moving with your words often, everything else should fall into place.

Can you tell us a little background or anything special on the piece you composed?
I’m never the one to write flash fiction on a regular basis, but this is a concept that I’ve wanted to explore for a while; the moment where you learn that your significant other is in the hospital. This short piece follows a gay man as he goes through just that, and how his roommate comforts him in the most unorthodox yet best way he knows how.

The Waiting Game

Nathan’s hearing seemed to have vanished upon hearing the news no boyfriend ever wants to hear…
“… has been brought in a while ago… was found unconscious in an alleyway… believed to have been involved in a mugging…”
Apparently his voice was retained from being dissolved in his shock, as he was somehow able to utter the words that his one true love was lying unconscious in the hospital. Immediately, his roommate Conner called up a taxi.
Aside from Conner instructing the taxi driver on where to take them, no words were uttered from either of the two roommates as the taxi made its way down the street in the busy, New York City night. Nathan stared out the window, eyes glassy with tears threatening to burst forth, not really looking at the outside world passing by him at all. All that occupied the space in his mind were thoughts about the gap between when his love was… mugged- he could hardly think, let alone say, the word- and the current situation in that moment. Was he taken to ER when they brought him in? Was he breathing? Did they have to use a defibrillator on him? Did they have to put him on a respirator at all? Will he make it?
In a brief moment from his subconscious ramblings, Nathan blinked twice and looked over at Conner, perhaps to say something or to seek some reassurance of sorts- he didn’t know. Rather than a concerned look returning his gaze, Conner was looking straight ahead at the road before him from the backseat, bobbing his head slightly. Nathan was almost annoyed by the sight. It was no secret that Conner aspires to be a big-named rapper, and somehow even in a time like this, he had a beat going on in his head.
They eventually arrived at the hospital and Nathan dashed to the front desk, asking for his love’s condition. A quick computer search and a phone call later, the receptionist told him and his friend to take a seat in the waiting area, informing them both that the doctor will be down with a report.
With the exception of a few stragglers and other late night drop-ins, it was basically Nathan and Conner seated together, waiting the time away. The receptionist said that the doctor would be there in about five minutes from the time she called him up, but unless if Nathan was mistaken, time felt like it was passing by a lot slower than 300 seconds. Nathan never bothered checking the time on his phone or on the clock on the waiting room, for none of that mattered when all he wanted was to see his love, right then and there.
Even still in the waiting room, Conner remained silent as his head continued to gently bob to the rap song forming in his head. Nathan made it visibly evident this time around that he was getting annoyed and irritated by that, when his head was already spinning with stress from the present situation.
“Digging the nighttime in the downtown hospital
Where paramedics and surgeons chill like it’s a 5-star hotel”
Conner had started rapping, and often when it’s a free verse, there’s no telling as to where he can go.
“Conner, not now,” Nathan said to him as urgently as possible. “This is not the time for this.”
Conner merely brushed his comments aside.
“You best be patient, for there’s no telling on what the patient can tell
As you’re stuck in the waiting room, waiting for them to get well”
Nathan held his head in distress as the rap continued. He was annoyed and stressed out all at the same time.
“I’d pull the cards, to get his ass released
But that’s outta my jurisdiction, it’s doctor’s orders, you see?”
Nathan’s eyes softened as he lifted his clutched hands away from his head as he continued to listen to the rap. He realized then that Conner was rapping about their present situation, and perhaps in the most thoughtful way possible.
“You may be wondering:
‘Is he there? Is he staying alive?’
Well let me tell you something brotha
You’re strong-ass lova is gonna be just fine”
And with that, Conner gave Nathan a comforting pat on the back. Nathan smiled a small smile at him, grateful for his words of comfort.
A few minutes later, the doctor finally showed up, and Nathan leaped from his seat with Conner accompanying him.
“How is he?” he immediately asked.
“Well, he has a minor concussion, a bruised rib, and other cuts and bruises as well,” the doctor said while glancing at his clipboard. “Other than that though, he is expected to make a full recovery and will be alright. We gave him a dose of painkillers and he’s sleeping it off now, but if you want, you can see him.”
Nathan sighed out of relief, thankful that his boyfriend is not on the brink of death after all. Conner smiled from behind and patted him on the shoulder.

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Spotlight Sunday



 Emma Pierce

Hometown/Location:   Hometown – Michigan, USA, Current location – Tokyo, Japan
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
From a young age I always kept a journal.  Whenever significant events occurred in my childhood, I turned to writing.  I am an adventurous person; I like to travel, experience new things, and take many risks.  My lifestyle has always provided me with inspiration for writing.
Why do you write?
I write because I am fascinated with written language as a medium for communication.  There is always something lost between the author and the reader, depending on a multitude of factors: background, culture, education, etc.  By experimenting with different styles and audiences I can strive to refine the gap between writer and recipient.  Sometimes, however, it is this gap – the slight misinterpretations or mutations – that gives way to new ideas.
What is your favorite genre or style to write in?
I enjoy experimenting with a number of different styles.  If I had to pick, my favorite genre would probably be memoirs of travel or adventure experiences.  Poetry is also high on my list.
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Herman Hesse has always moved me with his themes that unify the pure versus dark forces in the world – and his perspective on the topics like desire, self-discipline, and coincidence.
What books have most influenced your life most? 
- Postcards from No Man’s Land by Aidan Chambers
- Demian by Herman Hesse
- Dance Dance Dance by Haruki Murakami
- Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi
Do you have a favorite quote or piece of advice that you would like to share with us?
Favorite quote:
“If you need something desperately and find it, this is not an accident; your own craving and compulsion leads you to it.” – Demain (Herman Hesse)
Do you have any advice for other writers? 
Writing for a difficult audience can sometimes surprise.  Now and then I catch myself enjoying the frustration.
Can you tell us a little background or anything special on the piece you composed?
I originally wrote it as a submission for a small English e-magazine produced by fellow JET-Program (Japan Exchange and Teaching Program) participants in Nagano prefecture, Japan (just a publication for our work community).  The theme of the issue was ‘temptation’.  Some changes have been made.

Grooves in the Granite

Subtle Temptation, deceptive bravery

The word ‘temptation’ brings to mind images of seduction much too obvious: cake with poison icing, a siren’s song beckoning inevitable and anticipated doom.  Real temptation is subtler.  The danger is unrecognizable, the reins still in our hands, it starts out safe. Reasonable.  A small bite of cake, a harmless night stroll, lunch with a coworker.

I stare at the crack in a boulder, chalk dusts the thickest edges: handholds.  With two feet still planted on the ground, I feel the granite, the chalk smoothed between the grooves.  Harmless.  I’m not courageous, anyhow.  For most climbs – even easy pitches on rope – head-game hits me like a brick.  I buckle at my own lack of confidence to reach for the next clip, yelling “tension!”  Eventually, my belayer lowers me to the ground, relieving the discomfort caused by a taught harness bunching up fabric between the legs.

So this – a few moves in on a boulder, only feet above my portable cushion – is nothing.  Children risk more on jungle gyms.  A few more holds and I’ll surely fall to the crash-pad. Just see how it feels.

I shift my frame, move my left hand to match my right, and then wedge that hand against an edge.  Interesting… I feel my weight fall onto my arm beneath me now, mantling.  This frees up my other hand.  It’s getting creative now.  I see a ledge farther up and reach for it, but it surpasses my fingertips by several inches.  Bump.  I bump my right hand up, keeping my weight low.  Slowly I move my foot up with careful balance, expecting to slip any moment now.  My knee is at my chest, but it needs to go higher.  Finally my toe feels an edge.  I shift my weight, step-up, bam! Breathe, I’ve got it.

New confidence bursts from me like a bubble popping.  I see the way, a line on the rock’s surface as easy as a stroll down the sidewalk.  Rarely used adrenaline pours through me as I surge three power-moves in a row, seizing the chance inertia provides.  Act before your mind, my friend had told me once.    I push up again, reaching for what looks like a deep pocket, a chance to hang and shake-out, a chance to rest and breathe.  My hand glides over the small bump of chalk-covered rock.  No pocket….

I look down. Oops.

Self preservation kicks in. Too high for no rope.  I get violent ‘Elvis-leg’ and my friends below can see me shaking.  Cowards aren’t supposed to climb themselves out of this predicament.  I’m supposed to fall.  I fall and it’s all over; it can’t be helped. The natural consequence makes perfect sense.  I feel the burn in my forearms, the strain.  I’m just putting off the inevitable until muscle failure kicks in.

“I’m gonna fall!” I whine between panicky breaths, “ Is it clear? “

“We’ve got you!” yells my spotter, “Just keep going!”  In my gut I know it’s a lie, but I convince myself I’m insane with fear.  A good spotter would say nothing different, even at death-drop heights.  But he’s laughing at my panic over mere inches, I tell myself.  My depth perception is broken.

Fine, then.  I’m dreaming.  I can fly if I want.  I spring up on my left leg with force, my hand soaring aimlessly for the top ledge.  An uncontrollable drive for survival makes my hand clamp-down hard, because there’s no other way I’d let my body snap against that face otherwise.

“Nice, you got it – now TOP OUT!” The tone below has just changed to serious, yet I’m frozen in bewilderment.  I’m still on the wall; I’m still here!  I half-scramble, half-flop myself over the top ledge and collapse into nervous laughter.

Sounds of relief also come from below as I peer over the edge.

“I’m not going to lie, you had me a little worried,” the confessions pour out now. I just stare downward in shock. Amazing.

The rock led me on.  I was lured into proving myself against my mind today.  Deceptive bravery; this is how temptation becomes addiction.  

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The Disease of Being Busy

 Although this is not necessarily a direct topic related to writing, often I like to share articles that apply to our lives in general.  I found this to be a particularly compelling look at a life that some of us live daily.   The original article  written by BY OMID SAFI (@OSTADJAAN),  WEEKLY COLUMNIST can be found HERE .

I saw a dear friend a few days ago. I stopped by to ask her how she was doing, how her family was. She looked up, voice lowered, and just whimpered: “I’m so busy… I am so busy… have so much going on.”

Almost immediately after, I ran into another friend and asked him how he was. Again, same tone, same response: “I’m just so busy… got so much to do.”

The tone was exacerbated, tired, even overwhelmed.

And it’s not just adults. When we moved to North Carolina about ten years ago, we were thrilled to be moving to a city with a great school system. We found a diverse neighborhood, filled with families. Everything felt good, felt right.

After we settled in, we went to one of the friendly neighbors, asking if their daughter and our daughter could get together and play. The mother, a really lovely person, reached for her phone and pulled out the calendar function. She scrolled… and scrolled… and scrolled. She finally said: “She has a 45-minute opening two and half weeks from now. The rest of the time it’s gymnastics, piano, and voice lessons. She’s just…. so busy.”

Horribly destructive habits start early, really early.

How did we end up living like this? Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we do this to our children? When did we forget that we are human beings, not human doings?

Whatever happened to a world in which kids get muddy, get dirty, get messy, and heavens, get bored? Do we have to love our children so much that we overschedule them, making them stressed and busy — just like us?

What happened to a world in which we can sit with the people we love so much and have slow conversations about the state of our heart and soul, conversations that slowly unfold, conversations with pregnant pauses and silences that we are in no rush to fill?

How did we create a world in which we have more and more and more to do with less time for leisure, less time for reflection, less time for community, less time to just… be?

Somewhere we read, “The unexamined life is not worth living… for a human.” How are we supposed to live, to examine, to be, to become, to be fully human when we are so busy?

This disease of being “busy” (and let’s call it what it is, the dis-ease of being busy, when we are never at ease) is spiritually destructive to our health and wellbeing. It saps our ability to be fully present with those we love the most in our families, and keeps us from forming the kind of community that we all so desperately crave.

Since the 1950s, we have had so many new technological innovations that we thought (or were promised) would make our lives easier, faster, simpler. Yet, we have no more “free” or leisurely time today than we did decades ago.

For some of us, the “privileged” ones, the lines between work and home have become blurred. We are on our devices. All. The. Freaking. Time.

Smart phones and laptops mean that there is no division between the office and home. When the kids are in bed, we are back online.

One of my own daily struggles is the avalanche of email. I often refer to it as my jihad against email. I am constantly buried under hundreds and hundreds of emails, and I have absolutely no idea how to make it stop. I’ve tried different techniques: only responding in the evenings, not responding over weekends, asking people to schedule more face-to-face time. They keep on coming, in volumes that are unfathomable: personal emails, business emails, hybrid emails. And people expect a response — right now. I, too, it turns out… am so busy.

The reality looks very different for others. For many, working two jobs in low-paying sectors is the only way to keep the family afloat. Twenty percent of our children are living in poverty, and too many of our parents are working minimum wage jobs just to put a roof over their head and something resembling food on the table. We are so busy.

The old models, including that of a nuclear family with one parent working outside the home (if it ever existed), have passed away for most of us. We now have a majority of families being single families, or where both parents are working outside the home. It is not working.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

In many Muslim cultures, when you want to ask them how they’re doing, you ask: in Arabic, Kayf haal-ik? or, in Persian, Haal-e shomaa chetoreh? How is yourhaal?

What is this haal that you inquire about? It is the transient state of one’s heart. In reality, we ask, “How is your heart doing at this very moment, at this breath?” When I ask, “How are you?” that is really what I want to know.

I am not asking how many items are on your to-do list, nor asking how many items are in your inbox. I want to know how your heart is doing, at this very moment. Tell me. Tell me your heart is joyous, tell me your heart is aching, tell me your heart is sad, tell me your heart craves a human touch. Examine your own heart, explore your soul, and then tell me something about your heart and your soul.

Tell me you remember you are still a human being, not just a human doing. Tell me you’re more than just a machine, checking off items from your to-do list. Have that conversation, that glance, that touch. Be a healing conversation, one filled with grace and presence.

Put your hand on my arm, look me in the eye, and connect with me for one second. Tell me something about your heart, and awaken my heart. Help me remember that I too am a full and complete human being, a human being who also craves a human touch.

I teach at a university where many students pride themselves on the “study hard, party hard” lifestyle. This might be a reflection of many of our lifestyles and our busy-ness — that even our means of relaxation is itself a reflection of that same world of overstimulation. Our relaxation often takes the form of action-filled (yet mindless) films, or violent and face-paced sports.

I don’t have any magical solutions. All I know is that we are losing the ability to live a truly human life.

We need a different relationship to work, to technology. We know what we want: a meaningful life, a sense of community, a balanced existence. It’s not just about “leaning in” or faster iPhones. We want to be truly human.

W. B. Yeats once wrote:

“It takes more courage to examine the dark corners of your own soul than it does for a soldier to fight on a battlefield.”

How exactly are we supposed to examine the dark corners of our soul when we are so busy? How are we supposed to live the examined life?

I am always a prisoner of hope, but I wonder if we are willing to have the structural conversation necessary about how to do that, how to live like that. Somehow we need a different model of organizing our lives, our societies, our families, our communities.

I want my kids to be dirty, messy, even bored — learning to become human. I want us to have a kind of existence where we can pause, look each other in the eye, touch one another, and inquire together: Here is how my heart is doing? I am taking the time to reflect on my own existence; I am in touch enough with my own heart and soul to know how I fare, and I know how to express the state of my heart.

How is the state of your heart today?

Let us insist on a type of human-to-human connection where when one of us responds by saying, “I am just so busy,” we can follow up by saying, “I know love. We all are. But I want to know how your heart is doing.”

Spotlight Sunday



Anna Costello

Hometown/Location: Upstate New York

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

Actually, I remember when I was young, I hated writing. I hated getting
assignments in school that involved writing long essays. However, when
I grew older, I realized that writing creatively was much more
enjoyable for me that writing school assignments. And when I took a
creative writing class during my senior year of high school, I knew
that creative writing was my thing.

Why do you write?

I write because I love to create stories and
characters. I’m a big daydreamer, and writing is the best way to
record my thoughts and creations.

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

I’ll have to go with Edgar Allen Poe. I find his
works to be delightfully creepy and morbid.

What books have most influenced your life?

A book that immediately comes to mind is “Memoirs of a Geisha.” Particularly, the last two
lines: “But now I know that our world is no more permanent than a wave
rising on the ocean. Whatever our struggles and triumphs, however we
may suffer them, all too soon they bleed into a wash, just like watery
ink on paper.” It reminded me that no matter what bad occurs in my
life, it will eventually pass. And in the end, they are all just
memories, blended together. It gives me comfort.

Do you have a favorite quote or piece of advice that you would like to

“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often
we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which
has been opened for us.” – Hellen Keller

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Don’t stop writing. Aim to write every day. You don’t have to create a masterpiece each and every
time. Just write.

Can you tell us a little background or anything special on the piece you composed?

I wrote this story back in Spring 2008 for my creative
writing class during my senior year of high school. It’s based on a
true story, when I had to finish an English test in 8th grade.

The English Test

            It all began when the bell rung. The bell had rung with a
mocking dull tone. While for most of the class it meant that the time
had come to devour their lunches, for me it meant I was missing my
lunch to finish my English test. The stupid English test. The long and
tedious English test.

            Still, I was not the only one. There were a few people in
the classroom, rapidly writing away, their stomachs growling like
lions and tigers and bears. But one by one, they got up and left.
Soon, it was just me, Bryan, and that substitute teacher. That
mysterious sub. I had never had that substitute, nor had I ever seen
her before. Where did she come from? She wasn’t looking too happy at
Bryan and I. Were we taking too long? But alas, it did not matter to
me. As long as Bryan was here, I had nothing to fear.

            Then, Bryan put his pen down and got up to hand in his
test. My heart sank. Bryan was leaving me alone in the room with the
substitute teacher. That mysterious substitute teacher. Now, I had to
work faster. I was almost done. Just a few more sentences, and my test
would be complete. It would only be a matter of what exactly I wanted
to put in my answer. However, that substitute teacher changed

            Before my thirteen-year-old mind could process it, the
substitute stood in front of my desk, glaring down at me with glowing
blue eyes. Even as I looked down, I could feel her eyes penetrate into
the back of my head. Why was she doing this? Was she angry? Was I
cutting into her lunch time? I muttered sorry and gave an awkward
giggle. But she didn’t give any form of response. She just glared.

            It was nerve-racking. Here I was trying to finish a test
and someone was hovering over me, giving me the evil eyes. I could
barely concentrate on my test. I wrote furiously, not even knowing
exactly what I was doing.

            Finally, she spoke.

            “I’ll give you one more minute.”

            Such a fearsome voice. I had never a voice with such cold
irritation before. It was as though icicles had pierced through my
body. Was this substitute really human?

            Lucky for me, I had just finished my last sentence. In a
fury, I got up and gave her my test. Once again, I told her I was
sorry for taking so long and gave a small chuckle. However, she turned
around, un-amused. And so I raced out of the classroom, putting my
fears of the sub behind me and thinking about my delicious yogurt

            Never in my life that I been so scared during an English test.

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