They Sat Outside Eating Cake

A piece of flash fiction written for Chuck Wendig’s challenge. It was to pick from a list of titles, and write a story in 1,000 words. So, without further comment.

They Sat Outside Eating Cake

Two gangly kids sat on their front porch. Both of them digging sticks in the dirt below. Justin was twelve and his brother Seth was nine. Justin was showing his brother how to draw three dimensional figures in the dirt.

“Justin, you must be the smartest teenager in the whole world.”

“Thanks little brother, but I’m not a teenager yet. I got six more months and then I’ll be there.”

“You’re gonna be great at it. I just know you will.”

“Thanks little bro. I hope you’re right. You know, little man, there is something I need to talk to you about.”

Seth suddenly looked at his brother excitedly. He only called him “little man” when he had something important to say. He didn’t always know why it was important, but he knew that was his signal to pay especially close attention.

“You know,” Justin said. “Things aren’t great around here. I’m not sure how long we’re all going to be together like this, but I have the feeling it won’t be for very long.”

Somewhere inside the house, as if on command, something hit the ground. It was quickly followed by another crash. Justin put his arm around his little brother.

“I know things should be different, little man. I know that someday they will be. I wish it could be that way now, the way it used to be. You’re too little to remember all of that. Everyone was happy. Someday it’ll be like that again.”

Behind them, two adult voices shouted at each other. They had been talking in heated tones until now, but they were suddenly more heated, more urgent.

Justin held his brother closer to him. He wanted to keep his brother as close to him as possible. Less because he was feeling especially brother like, and more because he wanted to keep Seth from seeing the tears forming in his eyes.


“Yeah, Seth.”

“Do you think they’ll ever stop. You know, what they are doing now?”

Justin wanted desperately to tell his brother that everything would be fine. But for some reason, at that moment, he couldn’t tell his brother that lie. There was something about the day that made it all seem worse than normal. The two adults, who were supposed to be their protectors, were locked in a battle for supremacy. Neither one of them would win.

“I don’t know, little man, I just don’t know.”

Seth started to cry. Justin had let his feelings slip. But he was tired. He tried to protect his little brother from the insane war their parents continually raged. Tired of the lies he continually told the school about them being late and why it was that his mother or father didn’t pick them up from school on time.

“Justin, you’re not going anywhere are you?”

“No, buddy, no matter what, I’ll always be with you. I’m your big brother. We have to stick together. It’s important. What good is a teenager if he doesn’t have an annoying little brother to follow him around all day?”

Seth smiled at him. “You’re the best brother a kid can have; you know that?”

“I know.”

“Where’d the cake come from?”

“I made it, just for you.” He told his brother that little white lie.

It was a pathetic piece of cake, but it was cake. He bought it on his way home from school that day. He wanted to make sure that they had something to put a candle in to sing happy birthday to his little brother.

The cake was expensive for Justin. It wasn’t much more than a day-old piece of cake he got from the bakery in town. But, to pay for it, he’d foregone milk at school, all week. He insisted on drinking water from the fountain with his peanut butter sandwich.

But, instead of singing happy birthday, he knew his parents were already fighting when he got home. He found Seth, like always in these situations, sitting on the curb. A little boy, staring into the rocks, trying to ignore the battle being waged behind him inside the house.

“You’d better eat, Seth. I made that cake with some magic flour you know.”

“For really?” Ever since he’d learned to speak, he’d say it that way.

“You bet. I bought it off a guy at school who said that if you ate the flour, then you’d grow up to be a superhero.”

Behind them a door slammed and an enraged voice banged on it from one side of the door. The screams grew more intense, more hateful. The banging on the door became kicking.

“What kind of powers do you want, little man?”

“I’d like to fly, I think.” Seth seemed to be lost in thought for a moment. “Justin?”

“Yeah buddy.”

“I want you to share this with me.”

“Why would you give up half of your piece of specially made, magic birthday cake?”

Inside the house, something large hit the wall and pieces of glass could be heard hitting the floor. Several other things sounded like they had taken flight and landed in various places in the room.

Seth’s eyes were full of tears. He looked at Justin as the tears let loose and streamed down his nose. “Because, if I’m going to fly, you need to be able to fly too. Cause, you’re always going to be here to protect me. I can’t fly without you Justin.”

Justin threw his arms around his little brother in time to cover his ears as a sudden explosion inside the home. Moments later a second explosion came from the same area. Then the ruckus was replaced with a sudden stillness in the air that seemed unnatural.

“Okay, little man, let’s eat some cake okay? I promise, I’ll never make you fly by yourself unless you really want to.”

The afternoon sun began its lumber into evening. For a moment, two brothers, sat outside their home, eating cake.

So, What is Bryan the Writer Up To?

Hey everyone! I thought it could be a good time to give everyone an update on what the heck I have been up to this last month. Unless you have been living under a rock somewhere on the dark side of the moon, you already know my second book, The Dramatic Dead, is available for sale!  No Name continues to do well. Please, take a look.

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I’m also very excited to announce that I have author pages up at Amazon and Goodreads. Feel free to pop in and ask me questions and check out what’s there.

Current Projects

So, what am I writing? I am in the process of editing what will be my third book. It’s called Crimson Tassels. Unless some amazing moment of clarity strikes me and I decide to change the title, I am probably going to stick with that.

It takes place in a middle of Illinois. Its primarily set in an old farm house with a past. Abandoned for thirty years, a couple moves in and finds that their new life together also includes a trapped spirit who has developed a murderous plan to escape its torturous fate.

model pose in leather jacket while walking in studio and looking
Haley the Space Assassin

Editing is a lengthy process and as an Indie Author, it isn’t something I’m willing to rush. This does tend to delay things a bit, but it is worth it in the long run. I anticipate having Crimson Tassels ready by the end of the summer.

Haley the Space Assassin, my free blog series, is taking a short breather while I get caught up on other things. It’s more for my own amusement, so I am not worried about irritating people with a short waiting period for the next installment. BTW, I’m considering offering Haley as a short Novella.

Website Changes and Updates

Have you been to No? What the heck is wrong with you? The cool kids all go there!

The website is looking good. Not great, but good. I want to get some more work done on it. It is a balance between a lot of factors. I was going to work on it today over lunch, but my wife has lobbied for lunch at a local beer garden, in the springtime sunshine.  I’m a sucker for beer and sunshine.

But my plan is to include another page with media links to make it easier for people to just click on what they really want to see. It’s coming, I promise.

On a Personal Note

Bryan the person is preparing to go through some significant changes. We are going to be moving back to the United States in June. What that means for my loyal fans is that I’ll likely get quiet, sometime in June for about two weeks until “Bryan the Writer” establishes a new base of operations. I don’t anticipate it’ll take too long. But, as with any move, unanticipated things can happen.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

-Your Humble Servant, Bryan the Writer



Three Cheers (and five stars) for “The Author’s Guide to Working with Book Bloggers”

The Author's Guide to Working with Book Bloggers (Building Blocks, #1)The Author’s Guide to Working with Book Bloggers by Barb Drozdowich

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m an author/writer and if there’s one thing that will make me run under my bed and hide, it’s the word “marketing”. It’s true. Just typing this word made me run for the relative calm of my bedroom, shut the door, and draw the curtains. It’s a topic that most writers don’t understand and admit they never will. Fortunately, there’s help. Enter the blogger.

Sitting quietly in their basement, office, kitchen, or library, they tirelessly read and write about reading. The good news is that they’re here for you and I. An untapped resource which can spread the word of your wonderful works to the world. They are tool to use as a marketing strategy and the only thing they ask is a little bit of your time. The bad news is that in order to access them, you are going to have to do a little homework. That’s where Barb Drozdowich can help.

I picked up “The Author’s Guide to Working with Book Bloggers” on a recommendation posted on a writer’s Facebook group. I am so glad I did.

The book is well written and logically laid out. There were no less than three things I used immediately. While it’s still a long row to hoe for me to become a success, I sincerely feel that Barb’s book is a powerful weapon to add to my arsenal.

She seems to understand what both the author and the blogger want and need. She understands both points of view and lays them out for you. The book itself isn’t long and is really a quick read. I read it for an hour a day and I think it took three days total. She uses humor and examples to really drive home her points.

My recommendation to anyone reading this book would be to keep a pen and paper handy because you are going to want to take notes. Either way, pick up a copy of this book. You’ll be glad you did.

-Bryan the Writer

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Book Review: My Father, the Pornographer: A Memoir

My Father, the Pornographer: A MemoirMy Father, the Pornographer: A Memoir by Chris Offutt

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think we all spend about 1/3 of our lives trying to get away from our parents, 1/3 trying to decide what kind of people we really are and 1/3 trying to figure out how we understand ourselves through the lens of our parents and grandparents. To say the least, Chris Offutt has had an interesting search for the last part of this equation.

As an author myself, I find myself increasingly wondering where my influences and ideas come from. And that is what primarily attracted me to this book. In My Father, the Pornographer: A Memoir Mr. Offutt peels back the onion that was his father. Sometimes he really didn’t like what he found, but he continued to work at it because buried deep in the refuse of a life lived, there are pieces of himself to be understood. The story isn’t only a look at his own father, but an inward look at himself as well.

I really enjoyed reading this. It’s well written and highly engaging. Yes, some readers will find his father’s chosen literary subjects detestable. However, many of you will value the search for answers as engaging as I did. He approached the task of dealing with his father’s belongings the way in which an archeologist would deal with trying to piece together part of a lost civilization. In this case the civilization is his own father. And his father’s world, was complex and varied.

I got the impression that Chris genuinely respects his father as a writer, although not necessarily the subject matter. His respect comes through in the written word. In the end he discovers some fundamental truths about his father. Interestingly enough, I don’t really think these conclusions are unique. More likely, they are symptomatic of the human experience. We all build offices for ourselves where we feel safe and secure. Places where we are the masters. The form of those sanctuaries take different forms, but they are all sanctuaries of one degree or another.

After reading this book, I found myself wondering what they will ultimately find in my office after I’m gone from this planet. What will they find as they leaf through my belongings? I think of the consequences of this book, whether intentional or not, is to make you take a closer look at your own life and realize that after you are gone, your imprint on this world is still very much here on earth.

To Mr. Offutt, I say thank you for this look at your father’s life.

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When Procrastination is not Procrastination

I go through ebbs and flows, just like everyone else in any kind of profession. There’s an old cartoon I love which says, “At work I give 100%. 25% on Monday, 10% on Tuesday, 30% on Wednesday, 20% on Thursday, and 15% on Friday.” Writing can feel like that some days too. Sometimes the brain is simply not willing. Or my muse won’t get off the couch and do his part. Either way, sometimes it’s a chore to just type a few lines of reasonably good material.

Over the past few days, I’ve been in a bit of a slump. Although you could really say that it’s less than a slump and more of a simple case of procrastination. Recently I finished work on my first draft of my next novel. I’m very excited about the story line. It’s perfect, at least in my mind, and I really have high hopes for it. There’s only one problem. Since I completed the draft, I’ve been unable to pick the thing up again.

Get it today!

I really do love the story, it takes place in a part of the country I absolutely love, the heartland of Illinois. It features a good amount of death and even a possession. So, you’d think that I’d be all fired up to get on with it. Yet, here I sit. Blogging instead of editing my novel.

In the past two days I have worked on writing ads for The Dramatic Dead, started working on another story line, responded to a bunch of e-mails. I even updated our GPS. Anything to get away from the task of editing.  I know, I should stop being silly and get on with it, but It’s hard.

Ultimately I know I’ll buckle down and get to work, but for now I think I just have to be content to remain distract-able. Life is like that sometimes. I even read recently where it isn’t so bad for authors to get distracted from time to time. It lets the mind wander and stretch its proverbial wings. I suspect I am in the majority of writers who experience a bit of a slump after a major milestone.

Okay then, enough distraction/procrastination. Time to get back to the business of writing and you need to get on with the business of reading The Dramatic Dead. Thanks for reading everyone.

-Your Humble Servant, Bryan the Writer

A simple guide to overcoming 1-star review grief

I really loved this perspective!

Ana Spoke, author

I briefly mentioned in my last post that free giveaways are notorious for attracting random readers that just don’t get your novel. Also, you may or may not know that the average Goodreads rating for any given book is usually lower than that on Amazon. This may be due to a few reasons, one of them being that people can rate your book without ever reading it.

So it’s not that much of a surprise that someone posted a 1-star review of Shizzle, Inc on Goodreads today. Still, it was a kick in the balls that I don’t even have, to read words such as “heaving pile that’s hard to swallow”, “poorly developed characters and an equally poorly thought out plot”, and finally “I’m sure the author is planning an equally stomach-churning sequel.” Ouch, ouch, ouch.

Normally I think of myself as having thick skin, but the review derailed me, and…

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Haley the Space Assassin, Episode 9: The Battle for Engineering

The ship was quiet. The engines had been shut down so the maintenance crews could work on them. She found herself missing the quiet thumping noises they made. She had gotten used to the reassuring heartbeat of the ship.

model pose in leather jacket while walking in studio and looking

She made her way down the corridor, ducking behind a bulkhead when she heard the noise of two technicians in the corridor ahead of her. One of them had dropped something heavy to the deck.

From the direction of the noise, a reproaching voice rang out, “Be careful you idiot.”

She hadn’t really considered what she would do when she got to the locked door. Maybe she could find a way to get Carl to acknowledge the room and open the door. As she reached the hallway, she paused briefly to listen for any noises in the corridor. She jumped back as two men stepped into the hallway.

“Alright, we’ll finish in the morning. I’m dead tired.”

“Yeah, did you hear they have some new Malovial ale? Good stuff. Kicks like my ex-wife.”

Haley jumped behind two supply crates sitting in the hallway. Not quite tall enough to hide her, she tried to lay as flat as possible. If she were any taller, or the technicians any less tired, they would likely have seen her. She breathed a sigh of relief when they walked past her, disappearing down the gang plank and off the ship.

She stood and started down the hallway towards the engineering section door. She stopped herself short of the door and pulled out her pistol. She had never thought about the possibility of killing anyone before. Looking down she saw that it was set to disintegrate. She moved the switch to stun, to be on the safe side. Killing someone wasn’t an appealing idea to her. Besides, she had questions, and the person she disintegrates might have answers.

Her heart jumped into her throat as the massive steel door flew open as soon as she stepped within the reach of its sensor. In front of her, stood a room to match its massive size. The ‘ENGINEERING SECTION’ as it was labeled on one of the walls, was maybe thirty meters long and fifteen meters wide. In the center stood two large computer banks. Neither one of them had a display, but each had lights which seemed to blink on and off randomly.

Stepping inside the room, the door surprised her again by closing with a loud bang.

Behind the computers, and against the wall, were three large cranes and racks of what looked like torpedoes. She thought it looked like an automated system where the crane would grab and load a torpedo automatically. To her left was a small panel marked ‘Intra-Ship Comms’. Perhaps the panel could explain why Carl had no way of knowing about this room. Maybe he was unplugged from this part of the ship.

She froze in place as there was a noise behind her. She pulled her pistol out reflexively and faced the source of the noise. In front of her, staring at her with glowing eyes, was a humanoid robot. Although it didn’t look like a threat, she really had no idea what it was doing.

The rest of the robot was behind one of the computers. Moving towards it to get a better look, she saw it was connected to the computer by a large cable which was attached to a port in its side.

“What the hell are you supposed to be?” she said.

“Please rephrase your query,” the robot answered.

“Oh good you can talk.”

“Affirmative, human communications are presently enabled. Language, English. Origin, Earth.”

“Can you talk with the rest of the ship?”

“Negative, comms circuits are disabled.”

“Okay, then. I’m going to go to the bridge for a few minutes. I’ll be back with a friend; his name is Carl. You’d like him.”

“Negative, entrance to this section has been locked due to a breach of security.”

“Breach of security?” Haley ran to the door and found that it was, as the robot mentioned, locked. A sudden flash of panic seized her as she realized she was now trapped in the room with a strange robot.

“Affirmative, entrance to unauthorized personnel is forbidden.”

“I’m the First Officer of this vessel. You can’t keep me in or out of any of these rooms.”

The robot stood stoic for a moment, “Protocol Theta-Seven limits access to the ship at the dock for specified purposes.”

“Look here you little jerk, I am the First Officer and I’m ordering you to open this door right now.”

“Negative, entrance to this section has been locked due to a breach of security.”

“Yeah, so you said. Fine, I’ll do it myself. You can bet, the first chance I get, you are going find yourself on the business end of a black hole. You little twerp.”

She opened the comms box, and as she did, the robot stood up to its full height and the cable attached to its side was ejected with a dull thud on the floor. Ignoring him, she reconnected a wiring harness which had been disconnected. Little lights on each side of the harness indicated data was now flowing between them, but she was expecting something more spectacular to happen. Looking behind the wires, there was an override switch which seemed to be in the on position.

“It can’t really be as easy as this.”

She switched the override switch the off position and suddenly a familiar voice crackled to life from the intercom. “Haley … no, don’t enter that room. It’s a—”

Haley found herself on the floor as the robot had come up behind her. It reached into the box and turned the override back on, silencing Carl.

“What the hell was that for?”

“Communications to this room have been disabled.”

It then backed up against the box in an act of defiance which seemed surprising, given how unemotional it had been so far.

Haley had about enough of the robot. She might be new at the whole First Officer thing, but she knew insubordination when she saw it. She climbed back to her feet and pulled out her pistol again.

“That’s it. I’m the First Officer of this vessel and I’m giving you one further warning. Stand down now or else.”

“Protocol Theta-Seven states no authority on this ship other than repair supervisor.”

“Who’s the present repair supervisor?”

“The present repair supervisor is the XP79-B Repair Bot.”

“Okay, where do I find the XP79-B Repair Bot?”

“You are presently talking to the XP79-B Repair Bot.”

“Well, XP79-B, I find you guilty of mutiny.” The pistol warmed slightly in her hand as an electrical charge hit the droid. Obviously unprepared for it, the robot hit the wall, spun around and fell on its face.

She quickly ran back to the control panel and flipped the override to the off position. The voice of Carl repeated itself briefly before coming back under control.

“Haley, stay out of that room, it’s dangerous. Something is going on and I don’t know what. My sensors are disabled and—”

“Carl, shut-up. It’s too late for that. I’m already in the room. Something happened and I am locked in.”

Suddenly the room lights flickered on. “Wow, so that’s what’s in here?”

“Carl, focus, girl trapped here. Can you unlock the door?”

“I mean, I wondered what the heck was in this section, but wow, this is cool.”

“Carl! Help me please.”

“Yes, sorry. It’s just pretty neat in here. Yes, locked door. I need a few minutes to get it open. XP79-B encrypted it.”

“What the heck is that thing anyway?”

“Kind of a parasite really. I’m not even sure how it got on board. It’s primary function is to automate ships systems, but never in a good way. We’ll need to interrogate him to find out what the heck it was doing. By the way, you need to keep an eye on it. It’s coming back on line.”

Haley pulled out her pistol, “Maybe I should shoot it again?”

“Can’t do that, another blast and you are going to fry its circuits. I need to know what it was doing to our ship,” Carl said.

The robot made a metallic ‘oomph’ noise as it started to move. It slowly rose to its feet. Thankfully, it was not made for speed or Haley would’ve been in trouble. She ran to the back of the room, towards the torpedoes, to find something to temporarily stop the robot.

“Carl, you need to hurry up.”

“I’m working on it as fast as possible.”

“Primary mission must be maintained. Critical threats identified and scheduled for eradication,” the robot said. Its hand suddenly changed into something resembling the barrel of a gun.

Haley had a bad feeling about the way it referred to ‘critical threats’.

The robot fired two blasts towards Haley. She quickly ducked behind a large metallic case. “Carl, you’ve got a few seconds and then I’m going to blast him again.

Two more shots rang out, one disintegrating part of the box she had taken cover behind.

Thinking it was better to fry its memory than to have the robot turn her into roast beef, she returned fire. Much to her surprise the blasts just bounced off the robot.

“Primary defenses online and functioning optimally.”

“What the hell?”

“I think it has a force field,” Carl yelled.

“Crap! Carl, do something.”

“Working on it.”

Suddenly a section of deck plating floor flew up in between the robot and Haley. Carl could control sections of the floor. It wasn’t much of an improvement, but the robot had to move around it to get another shot.

Haley watched, helplessly, as it finally made its way around the upturned deck plating. Suddenly the only thing in between her and the robot was nothing but air. Haley prepared to be vaporized.

Five Stars for “Losing Nuka”!

Losing Nuka (Litmus #1)Losing Nuka by Kayla Howarth

I just had the distinct pleasure of finishing the first book in the Litmus Series, Losing Nuka, by Kayla Howarth. Personally, I think you should drop everything and read this book. Maybe call in sick tomorrow, download it to your e-reader and find a quiet place to sit and read. Overall, it was a great adventure!

What I Loved

I believe that if you want to write a great book, you need to really write great characters. Ms. Howarth has done that masterfully in this book. I really fell in love with the central character, Nuka. It made me genuinely care for her. However, it really doesn’t stop there. She also made me fall in love with her sister, Sasha, and her body guard, turned boyfriend, Brett. There are other characters in the story, but these are the ones I really fell in love with. When something happens to one of them, your heart races in agony because you hate to see anything happen to them. It’s genuinely good writing.

I love it when the writing style is clean. Kayla Howarth writes in an easy to understand, easy to follow, way. I never had to backtrack to find out what she was talking about and that is the mark of a truly great author. It’s logical and chronological. When there is a flashback of any type, she makes sure to tell the story through one of the characters. It really makes them come alive on the page. More importantly, it makes them seem real and that can be a challenge for even the most experienced authors.

Ms. Howarth also does a terrific job building a world for her characters to live in. While they are still the main focus, it didn’t seem necessary forced on them. The way they interacted with their environment seemed natural. Another plus is that the story does not over indulge on details where they are not necessary. She allows the characters to carry the story, not the world around them.

This story is really about a young woman and her fight for what’s right. Don’t let the fact that the story line is hung, at least partially, on her participation in an underground fight club, called Litmus, be a barrier to reading her book. Sports stories always come across as jargon-filled to me, but Ms. Howarth did an excellent job avoiding that trap. Even those who really don’t care for sports centered stories will enjoy this. The characters carry the story and not the world they function in.

Overall, I gave this a solid five stars because I thoroughly enjoyed it. It grabbed me by the nose and pulled me along through the story at a good pace. The story was well written, perfectly edited, and it made me pine for more. Kudos to Kayla Howarth.

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