J. D. Wenzel: Oma’s Oasis

July 12, 2012 in Guest Post

Oma's Oasis

Oma and his camel came upon the old, dry oasis while the sun was still high in the sky. He slipped from the camel’s back 
and surveyed his surroundings while the desert winds whipped and pulled at his kaftan. He glanced over his shoulder at the camel and despite his exhaustion Oma smiled reassuringly at the animal. He pulled the brimming bag from his shoulder and let it hit the dry earth; he could see that this place had died of thirst. He crouched low and put his hand over one large crack in the dried out mud, he almost jumped when he felt the shock of life there. His eyes flew wide and in the next instant he was searching frantically through his pack.
When he found the three-hole pipe, yellowed and chipped with age, he began to strip the clothes from his body, half running, half jogging towards the oasis’s empty waterbed. He kicked off a sandal and stepped into the waterbed with his naked foot and a thrill rippled through his body. He smiled. No, he grinned. He kicked off his remaining sandal and practically skipped with joy to the center of the oasis. Clad in only his underclothes and a nearly threadbare bandanna, Oma fell to his knees.
He looked up at the sun, closed his eyes and focused. He focused everything he could into his senses, emptying his mind of all thoughts. The smile faded and when he was confident that he was empty he put the pipe to his lips and began to play. Oma played quick notes; he needed to get a feel for this place. He needed to know it as well as he knew his own skin. As he played the earth beneath him responded, guiding him towards the right melody. It didn’t take him long to find it.
The music was low, but full of life.  His fingers flew frantically over the pipe holes as he grew more confident. When he was sure of himself and the sound he sent all of his focus into the earth beneath him. It was enthralled, he knew. It was listening and he told it what needed through the language of melody.
Oma’s music came to a stuttering stop as exhaustion overwhelmed him. His hands were shaking and it took almost all of his effort to keep ahold of the pipe. The bandanna that had been dry only moments before was now sopping with his sweat. His entire body shook with exhaustion, but Oma didn’t care. He was too busy feeling the changes in the earth. Where before there was only a whisper of life now it was screaming with delight. A moment later water bubbled to the surface, a few more moments later Oma was sitting in a small puddle of cool, life-giving, water.
He climbed to his feet, pulled the bandanna from his head and dipped it into the pool. He wrapped it back around his forehead, taking pleasure in the coolness of it. He smiled down at the growing puddle then made for his belongings. By the time Oma had collected and packed away his things, the puddle was a pool. By the time he had filled his water skins and mounted his old camel once more, the oasis was an oasis once more.

J. D. Wenzel is an upstart writer who hates everything he's ever written, but can't stop himself from writing anyways. You can read more of his work on his blog or connect with him on Twitter



Alan Warner’s The Sopranos; A Review

July 11, 2012 in Book Review, Guest Post

(My lovely friend Susanne is filling in for me today as I recuperate from a nasty bout of Tennis Elbow despite not having touched a tennis racket in more than a decade. Make her feel welcome and enjoy the bookage.)

If I were a proper writer of reviews, I imagine it would be easier to review things you felt ambivalent about. This would let you be dispassionate, fair and helpful to your reader: I can’t be any of those things about this book. I have read all of Alan Warner’s novels and have generally felt underwhelmed by them. Morvern Callar stands out because it has such a simple and effective premise (one of those novels you curse not having dreamt up yourself). The Sopranos stands out because it makes your life just a little more worthwhile having read it.

The Sopranos follows the Our Lady of Perpetual Succour girls’ school choir from their small Scottish town to the big city, for the national choir finals, and back again (hopefully in time to pick up some submariners in The Mantrap, their local dive). It is replete with all the things a book about teenage girls on the town should be: drugs, booze, sex (of all different varieties – regretted, rejoiced, imagined, and desired) and best of all, there is no moral to the tale. It is such a pleasure to read an author who doesn't stand in judgment of his characters, particularly when their lives mirror so well the real lives of many teenage girls. Written in a Scots dialect replete with slang and without the benefit of standard punctuation, it can be a difficult book to get your head around: it is well worth the effort. Punctuation remains a mystery to me and I have long since decided that it should exist to serve the writer’s purpose. For me, Warner’s decision to lump direct speech right in with the narrative makes the book feel much more immediate. It’s intimacy means The Sopranos can be an awkward read at times, but it is often a very beautiful one.

Initially, the style of writing makes it difficult to discern the individual girls, but it is in his ability to create characters that Warner’s true genius lies. I have lost count of the times I have exalted the author’s ability to have begotten these immaculately conceived Catholic schoolgirls. How a thirty four year old Scottish bloke could so perfectly envision these young women is uncanny and attests to his formidable talent and imagination. Through their journey we get to know each of the girls as they introduce us to the myriad of issues facing young people: sexuality, mortality, poverty, teenage pregnancy, addiction, abuse… None of these characters is perfect, and they are frequently obnoxious, but their vulnerability is always appreciable, making them easy girls to care about.

There are a lot of books that I love enough to read over and over again; there are a very few books that I love enough not to want to: this is one. For me, this book was an epiphany and I would hate to find fault with it. I hadn’t realized how significant the people and places I grew up around actually were. These girls are anything but ordinary and well-deserve their place in literature. The Sopranos is all the words I’m trying so hard to avoid: poignant, profound, evocative… and so much more besides.

A word of caution: if you love this novel beware the sequel


*(Susanne Crichton hails from Glasgow Scotland, has traveled extensively and is currently raising two glorious daughters in a Monterey, California. She couldn't be arsed to write her own bio, as she wasted her one brief reprieve if the day swilling wine in the bathtub while Dinosaur Train was on.)




Stacy Hoyt: Posterity Incorporated

July 10, 2012 in Guest Post

She remembered the way he'd introduced himself, self-deprecating and almost proper: “I’m Charles Anderson, the scientist; and you are lovely.”

Posterity Inc. had told her he was an unusual case. They didn’t tell her he was tall, clean-cut and subtly magnetic. His nearness unbalanced her and she had almost bungled the interview by tripping over her chair trying to maintain a professional distance.

“I’m terminal, not contagious.” He had laughed, white teeth flashing between boyish dimples.

The interview lasted over an hour, discussing genotype and probability. He was so blessedly – normal. When it was time to make her decision, he had strolled behind her chair, suave as James Bond.  

“I may be dying, but I assure you I can still do this.” His hand traced the line of her biceps in one teasing stroke, brushing her breast in passing. A palpable thrill flushed her cheeks. She noted the smoky intensity of his intelligent grey eyes.  “I would like something more than a Chuck-was-here sign. Do we have a deal, Ms. Bruckner?”

She hadn’t spoken, only nodded.

Sweeping her hair from her neck, he had placed delicate kisses from shoulder to ear, sending erotic heat to her very core. One night of primal lust and erotic rhythms, just one, and her job was done.

That was eight months ago.

Gliding her hand lovingly over her rounded abdomen and the tiny elbow within, she had to agree it was a much better monument than a cold stone in a manicured cemetery. 



(249 words)

A Note from Team SBI: This piece took the win in one of Siobhan Muir's Thursday Threads challenges. 

Stacy Hoyt is a writer of fantasy and sci-fi tales, long and short. Mom. Baby blogger. Catnaper. Dogwalker. Chocolate lover and Starbucks fan. You can read more of her writing on her blog and follow her on twitter. 



Writers and the Internet Fan Experience – Part Four

July 9, 2012 in Essay, Interview

This is the fourth and final part of a series on writers and their online experience with readers/ fans.  You can find Part One here, Part Two here and Part Three here.

Part Four – What do you think the impact of all this access has been?  Good? Bad?

#4. Do you think that readers having this kind of access to writers is good for either the readers or the writers or both?  Do you think it has been good/bad for the industry in general?

This final question is obviously a bit general and in the end it begs oversimplification to answer.  When you send a question like that to writers guess what happens?  Yeah they ALL start out by pointing out that it’s a very complex issue and thus not as simple as “good” or “bad”.  Love writers.  Seriously, these people use their brains and I genuinely appreciate that.  They also made an effort to respond to the question anyway.

I’ll start out with the positive responses to this question.  Something that is common among writers is that most of them are readers.  At some point in their lives they were on the Reader side of the Writer/Reader divide.  This whole internet access experience is still relatively new.  So most of them brought up that at some point in their lives they had wished they could contact some writer that they loved to ask a question or just tell them that they loved their books.  Ilona Andrews (writing team Ilona and Andrew Gordon) pointed out, “It (internet access/blogs) benefits the readers, because they can ask questions and there is a reasonably good chance that the writer will answer them.  I would have loved it if some of my favorite writers, the ones I grew up reading, had a blog.  I have so many questions.”

Sure you could write a letter back in the dark pre-internet days but your chances of getting a response was almost non-existent.  These days a published writer’s blog not only gives readers a way to access the writer but to also peer into their lives a little bit.  As Jim C. Hines says, “And as a reader, I usually enjoy getting a glimpse of the person behind the books I love.” 

Read the rest of this entry →

Friday Night Write ~ Over My Head

July 6, 2012 in Friday Night Write

Welcome to the third edition of Friday Night Write


  • 1 Song (see image right)
  • 48 Hours (Friday @ 5pm to Sunday @ 5pm pacific)
  • 500 Words



  • New prompt posts at 5pm pacific on Friday
  • Listen to the music here
  • Let it stir up a story
  • Post your story in the comment box below
  • Comments will close at 5 pm pacific on Sunday


The Fine Print

  • The story does not have to contain any reference to the song. 
  • The music is merely the catalyst for your muse. 
  • The story you create is entirely your own and Sweet Banana Ink makes no claim to it.
  • You are free to post your story on your own blog


SPECIAL THANKS to Christina Krieger for this weekend's musical selection! You can connect with her via her blog or on twitter. 


Questions? Give us a holler via email (sweetbananaink@gmail.com) or twitter (@bullishink). We look forward to writing alongside you this weekend! Can't wait to see what stories The Fray stirs up!

Angela Goff: Visual Dare

July 6, 2012 in Flash Fiction, Guest Post

Six-and-a-Half Reasons to Participate in a Visual DARE

The Origin: I came up with the Visual Dare quite by accident during last year’s NaNoWriMo. I had just started my blog about six weeks before, and knew that I wasn’t going to keep up with my usual daily updates while sprinting through 1700 words (minimum!) on my manuscript each day. So one day I posted a favorite black-and-white photograph, and challenged my readers to incorporate that image into their own NaNo project. It was a cheater’s way of doing a blog post, but it birthed a weekly flash fiction endeavor that has gained its own following.

The Premise: The Visual Dare is very simple. I post a photo, and the flash fictioneers write a 100-word-or-LESS story based on that prompt.

Time Frame for Entries: The Visual Dare goes live every Tuesday at midnight (Eastern Standard Time) and stays “active” till the following Tuesday at midnight. Writers can post their entry any time during those seven days.

Why participate?  The Visual Dare helps writers on several levels:

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Visual Dares

July 5, 2012 in Flash Fiction

So I came out here, to the end of nowhere, or is it the start of somewhere? 

I wore shoes for traveling and a coat to keep warm.

I suppose I thought that if I made the effort, you’d meet me halfway but halfway is still too far, isn’t it?

Well, the walk was good and the view is fine and I have this sturdy umbrella to shelter my shattered pride.

They said it was going to be cold this winter.

If only I’d brought my gloves. 


I wrote this the first time I participated in Angela Goff's Visual Dare Challenge. 

Once a week, she posts a new photo and you can use it prompt in one of two ways:

     * Incorporate it into your current Work In Progress – literally, or figuratively
     * Use it as a 100 word flash fiction to get the brain going in a different creative direction.
This is a very fun exercise and we encourage you to give it a try!



Five Confessions Destined to Keep Me Out of Your Book Club

July 4, 2012 in Essay

  1. I loathe Jane Eyre. I blame this on Jean Rhys, whose “Wide Sargasso Sea” I read alongside Charloette Bronte's crowning glory. There was simply no way for me to side with Jane over the Mad Woman in the Attic when said mad woman is transformed into Antoinette.

  2. I have never read The Great Gatsby. In fact, when people mention Gatsby I always immediately think of Great Expectations. It is not a pleasant association. Creepy old lady. Creepy old house. Nothing even remotely great about it. To be fair, it was thirty years ago that I read Great Expectations and I clearly remember very little. Is that Gatsby's fault, no. Is it even related to Gatsby? I don't think so. Then again, having not read it, I'm not sure.

  3. I will not read a book which includes“Suggested Discussion Questions”. on the final pages, not only do I not want to discuss what is in those questions, I want to immediately refuse to read the book in the first place. Whoever first had the idea to include book club questions should be lead out behind the library and shot. 

  4. I could live long and prosper without ever hearing another word about Harry Potter or The Lord of The Rings. Seriously, I love you guys, and I respect your right to love those books, but please respect my right to be bored to death by them. It's not that I'm some literature snob (see item #2) they just never caught my fancy.

  5. If you know me long enough I will at some point force you to borrow books you have no interest in and then resent the fact that you never read them. Doubly so if you do not return said books, which I will eventually have to replace because I can't imagine living without them, which is why I demanded that you read them in the first place. 

JB Lacaden: Her Father’s Murderer

July 3, 2012 in Guest Post

By JB Lacaden

The sharp blade of the ax glistened as light reflected from it. Every single night, Jessica made sure to sharpen it to perfection. It had almost become a ritual. She held it in her hands, took a few practice swings, before she placed it back inside the cupboard. Tonight, everything would come to an end. She smiled at the thought as she straightened her dress and seated herself by the dinner table. She waited.

It was about six in the evening when the doorbell rang. She stood up. The doorbell rang again. “Coming!” She shouted. She looked at herself in the mirror. Her face was painted like a doll. Her lips were red and her black hair was tied in a tight bun on top of her head. She stared at herself some more. She was pretty—prettier than most. She had a comely figure as well. There were countless of men who were ensnared by her beauty. One of those men was her current boss—the man who had killed her father. The doorbell rang again.

Read the rest of this entry →


Writers and the Internet Fan Experience – Part Three

July 2, 2012 in Essay

This is the third part of a four part series on writers and their online experience with readers/reviewers/fans.  You can find Part One here and Part Two here.

Part Three – Surprised by the tone?

#3.  Have you been surprised by the vitriol/kindness of the people who contact you via the internet?  If so has that affected your view of the “audience”?

Finally I got the answers I pretty much expected.  Honestly this question is the beating heart of this entire series for me.  Mostly because I have been SHOCKED by the things I have seen people direct at writers on their blogs.  Occasionally a writer would post something vague, but pointed, that was obviously about some awful email they had received from a reader and in some cases from people who hadn’t even actually read their books.  This is the main reason that I was so certain that most of the writers would rather NOT have to deal with “the public” on the internet. 

Most, but not all, of the writers expressed some surprise at the vitriol but also at the kindness people sent their way.  It’s interesting to me that as extreme as the disregard and/or cruelty exhibited it sounds like it is matched by kindness.  That did my heart good.  I think by now it’s pretty obvious that I fall into the camp of people who think it’s a pretty awesome gift that we have a way to communicate directly to these writers that we enjoy and respect.  But it obviously opens them up to an awful lot of rudeness, unsolicited advice and abuse.  Jim C. Hines said, “The vitriol can be tiring, but it hasn’t been terribly surprising.”  More than one person mentioned having their feelings hurt by extremely cruel commentary on Goodreads or various blogs.  Again, this isn’t about bad reviews, it’s about extreme comments that are OFTEN personal. 

Now it is 2012 and the phenomenon of people using the anonymity of the internet to indulge in behavior they would never commit if they had to do it face to face, with their name on it and their friends and family witnessing it is not new.  At the same time most of us don’t do anything that attracts the attention of the public.  Often when a writer publishes, and if all goes really well, their book starts to gain popularity they will find themselves in an unexpected internet spotlight.  One of the trends that has become clear to me from what I have witnessed myself and from what I have heard from a few writers is that the commentary can be truly extreme.  Seanan McGuire said some people, “…are surprisingly cruel to someone they’ve never known.”

God help you if you are anything other than a white man, because then it goes from extreme to damn near criminal.  Yes these people who write books end up getting seriously disturbing threats.  Threats to their safety, to the safety of their homes, to their pets…their freakin’ pets!  Honestly all that considered I am completely amazed that ANYONE continues to interact with the general public online. 

But this brings us to the flip side.  Every writer that responded spent way more time telling me about the kindness and support they received from people.  While it’s obviously a mixed bag everyone mentioned how kind and generous MOST of their readers were.  Ilona Andrews (writing team Ilona and Andrew Gordon) said, “…the mean incidents tend to stand out more, simply because they hurt your feelings, but I think the majority of people are kind and reasonable.” 

As for the second part of the question almost every writer mentioned that they were more cautious with what they shared online as a result of not only the negative commentary but also sometimes because of the work involved with trying to straighten out confusion because people didn’t understand a joke or an off-hand comment made by the writer.  Ilona Andrews said, “If I compliment an item that can be easily purchased on the internet, I have to specify that I do not want it sent to me.”  Some mentioned having to set boundaries with friends who are readers about unsolicited comments whether in person or via email.  Even so they were all still pretty grateful for the good conversations and supportive feedback they get from people in general.  So in the end I guess it’s more good than bad, even though the bad can be really, really bad.

Last I wanted to know if all this access was a good thing or not and what it might mean to the industry in general.

To be continued on July 9, 2012…