Friday, June 24, 2016

More Stories at Dead Man's Tome

Is the phrase, "When it rains, it pours," only good for when negative things happen? Maybe not. Yesterday I had a flash fiction piece published at Flash Fiction Press. Today I have two more pieces published by an online magazine called Dead Man's Tome. I might have preferred having them published a little further apart but they don't ask my opinion on that kind of thing.

The link above is to the magazine itself. The direct links for the stories are
 "I See Your Night, and Raise You Hell."
 "The Boxer."

If you get a chance, I'd love for you to check them out. This is especially the case since how much money I make on the pieces will depend on how many comments I get on the site. So if it's not too much of a hassle, I'd appreciate it.

These stories are a flash fiction horror piece called "I See Your Night, and Raise You Hell." This is also one of my dream stories. In fact, the whole thing came to me in a dream almost exactly as it happens in the written version, with one exception, which I'll have tell folks about once they've read it. Otherwise it gives too much away.

The second story is a bit longer, called "The Boxer." I wrote this originally at a time when I was feeling very low. It expresses a certain painful outlook on life that I don't generally have, but which can overwhelm me when "it rains and pours" in the negative way.

The story "Red Book" is still up too, in case you'd like to have a look and haven't done so yet. It's off the main page of Flash Fiction Press. Here's the direct link.

As always, thanks for the support.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Red Book: New Story Up

Flash Fiction Press has published one of my tales today. It's called "Red Book," and is both short and free to read. I hope you'll check it out. And if you like it, leave a comment. 

This story will eventually appear in a collection I'm working on of Dream Stories, stories that I've written based either partially or wholly off of dreams I had. This one didn't come as a complete dream to me. I had to add some "before" and "after" information. I actually keep a 'story notes' file that has information in it about the pieces I write. Below is my entry for "Red Book."

Red Book: I was looking through my dream journal on March 23, 2016 and saw a dream I’d had about writing a book in the blood of my victims. Starting fiddling with a rough draft and the title just popped into my head. Finished the draft the first day and polished it a bit the next day but didn’t make too many changes.

As always, thanks for reading!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

SHOT IN DETROIT, Patricia Abbott

Razored Zen Hosts a Guest today: 

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Violet?

Violet Hart is the protagonist of Shot in Detroit. She's an almost forty photographer eeking out an existence in Detroit. As I am sure Charles Gramlich will tell you, writers are not always completely in charge of their characters. Characters are likely to take off and misbehave given the slightest opportunity. And from the very first with writing Shot in Detroit, Violet Hart, wanted to be an edgy, somewhat promiscuous, loner.  A pain in the ass to her friends and her creator. I could delete the stray sexual encounter in a gymnasium locker room, but darn if she didn't invite the guy home. I could write about her friend warning her about the dangers in meddling in gang warfare, but she was sure she had the situation in hand as she sped down to southwest Detroit. Drugs-I cut her down to one purchase. Enough to put the idea in a reader's head without suggesting addiction.

An agent wanted me to 1) change her name to something younger (little did he know that Violet would soon become a popular name  2) give her a female pal to hang around with 3) get rid of all mention of drugs 4) make her monogamous, 5) tone down her male friend's character traits (he's a gay, Latino, drug-dealing chef). "Surely, he doesn't need to be so...vivacious," he told me. "Who finds chefs interesting anyway?" Tell that to the fans of the Cooking Channel, buddy.

So what's wrong with Violet? Why does she have to be drawn to dark places and dark things? The reasons emerge over the course of the novel. Or some of them at least. But do we too often equate dark with evil? And especially in the case of women. Do we set a higher standard for them? You only need to watch the current political campaign to find the answer to that one.

Although Violet may make some questionable choices, none are evil ones. When push comes to shove as the cliché goes, she does the right thing. Like Weegree, the famous crime photographer, she is pulled toward the subjects that define her city. And in Detroit they are dark ones. Anything else would be hypocrisy.  Thanks for listening.

Monday, June 13, 2016

A Little Touch about Mass Extinctions

Life on earth has been plagued with mass extinctions throughout its history. Many scholars cite five, well documented mass extinctions, where between 50% and 90% of all species alive at the time died out. However, at least fifteen other large scale extinction events have been documented. The most famous such event occurred around 65 million years ago and did in the dinosaurs—as well as many other species.

Mass extinctions are due to world-wide (or nearly so) environmental catastrophes that result in drastic alterations to the global climate. An asteroid impact or wide-spread volcanic eruptions can not only directly destroy local environments, but they can throw so much dust and debris into the upper atmosphere that sunlight is greatly diminished. This can cause drastic cooling of the climate and wreck the process of photosynthesis. Once the photosynthetic plants die, everything that feeds on them dies. The carnivores are the next to go.

In 1883, the volcanic island called Krakatoa, which lies in Indonesia near Java, erupted, producing what is generally considered to be the loudest sound ever recorded in modern history. In a series of explosions, roughly two-thirds of the island disintegrated. At least a thousand people were killed immediately, and over 35,000 more died in the tidal waves that followed. (Many believe the death toll to be considerably higher.) Lower temperatures were recorded world-wide in the year after this single event, a little over 2 degrees Fahrenheit on average. It took almost five years for world weather patterns to return to normal.

Krakatoa is not actually the largest volcanic eruption in recorded history, however. First place goes to the earlier 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora, another Indonesian volcano. Over 10,000 people died from the eruption itself, and the deaths of over 70,000 are blamed on the volcano, although many died from starvation. The following year, 1816, is known historically as “the year without a summer.” World-wide effects were detected, but the British Isles and America’s New England states were among the hardest hit. Ice lingered long. Crops failed. People struggled to survive. 

If such single eruption events could have this kind of impact, imagine what the simultaneous or near simultaneous eruptions of many volcanoes could do. It wouldn’t even have to be a great dramatic event. The signs of large scale and long-term volcanism are clearly seen in the geological history of earth. Several of these periods have been correlated in time with mass extinctions. For example, most of Siberia was covered with lava flows around 250 million years ago. The increased volcanic activity in Siberia at that time may have lasted nearly a million years and certainly would have had major impacts on earth’s climate, setting off a cascade of events that collectively shocked the planet’s biosphere. This great volcanic conflagration corresponds with the biggest of the known mass extinctions, the so called “Permian-Triassic event.” Almost 90% of all life on earth perished at that time.

Monday, June 06, 2016


I've been writing every day and making good progress, but haven't had much time to put up blog posts along with that. I decided today what I'll start doing is putting up snippets of what I've been working on. Kill two birds with one stone, as they say. Yesterday I was writing about the phenomenon called "epigenetics." Here's a short introduction to it.

Epigenetics: Earlier, I said that even if two people ended up with exactly the same genes, that wouldn’t guarantee that those genes would work exactly the same way inside of them. How can that be? Well, it turns out that there is more interaction between your environment and your genetics than previously thought. The environment can change the way genes act, and once these changes occur, they can sometimes be passed on to offspring in the next generation. If that happens, it affects more than just the individual, it affects evolution.  

Epigenetics is not what Jean-Baptiste Lamarck considered “the inheritance of acquired characteristics,” although it may seem like it at first. For Lamarck’s idea to work, mutations would be needed in the DNA. Epigenetics—the “epi” means from outside—doesn’t cause a mutation in a gene. It doesn’t alter the way the DNA manuscript is written; it alters the way it is read. To say it another way, epigenetic events don’t add new information to our genome. They change the way that genome is expressed in a person. 

A number of epigenetic phenomena have been identified now. For example, in the “Hunger Winter,” the “Dutch Famine” at the end of World War II, thousands of people in the Netherlands starved as a result of Nazi occupation. Children born to pregnant mothers who suffered through this famine and lived have, as adults, shown higher rates of obesity and coronary heart disease than comparative control groups who did not experience starvation. How could this happen?

Well, to simplify, you have a lot of genes and not all of these are active at every given moment. Genes have, for want of a better term, “switches” that tell them when to turn on and when to turn off. Some genes are active during the fetal period but get turned off later. Other genes are inactive until they are turned on during the various stages of growing up and aging. In the normal course of a life, some genes may never be turned on. However, stressful events, such as the starvation people experienced during the Hunger Winter, can sometimes activate switches that wouldn’t normally be activated. This turns genes on or off, thus changing the way a person’s genome builds the structure of their bodies.

Friday, June 03, 2016


I like teaching. But when summer comes I enjoy not teaching for a while. I enjoy getting enough sleep, being able to read a little, write a lot, sit and look out the window, listen to some music, take a walk, handle chores that I have to fight to get to during the school year. Here's been a typical day for me.

Bed at 2:00 to 2:15. Up with Lana at 8:00 or 8:15. 
Feed the birds, visit blogs, a little facebook time while listening to a little music.
Either fix breakfast of eggs and bacon for Lana, or if time gets away, eat some instafood.
Read over the previous days writing, make corrections if needed. (always needed)
Do some thinking about what comes next.
Take a nap, usually an hour and a half to two hours.
Get up from the nap and hit the writing hard. 2 to 3 hours straight. 
then take a reading break, chores if need be, then back at it.
Lana gets home. We have a walk maybe, or fix supper. Watch some Babylon 5.
Back to writing. Mind is overfull of thoughts and ideas now. 
Running out of steam on the main project now, so fiddle with something new.
Give it up for the evening, play some Skyrim. 

Not a bad way to spend some days.