“Days Off” Are Days Off Your Life

The assertion, “I’ve earned a day off,” destroys dreams. I don’t exaggerate.

At different times in my life, I’ve managed to get myself onto a good personal schedule. My current schedule looks like this (you can breeze over it, no hard feelings!):

  • Wake at 2:30 a.m.
  • Let the dogs out, make coffee
  • Morning Pages (inspired by Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way)
  • Cook and eat a light breakfast (a banana, two strips of bacon, 1/3 cup of egg whites)
  • Meditate (3 to 5 minutes using the Headspace app)
  • Creative writing
  • Exercise (30 minutes)
  • Walk (listen to an inspiring or motivational audiobook, currently Grit by Angela Duckworth) (30 minutes)
  • Say hi to my wife and baby (they’re usually up by then, about 6:30 a.m.)
  • Fire up my laptop and get to work on volunteer stuff (I volunteer with the Young Marines)
  • Babysit my daughter (wife leaves to work about 8:30 a.m.)
  • Baby’s first nap about 10:30 a.m. (I meditate for 15 minutes, then work on my blog)
  • Baby’s up, we play, I do dishes
  • I take baby somewhere (grocery shopping, the park, etc.)
  • Baby’s second nap about 3:30 p.m. (I continue blogging)
  • Baby’s up, we play
  • I cook dinner
  • Wife is home (about 5:30 p.m.)
  • We eat dinner together at the dinner table, talk about our day
  • I get ready for bed and lie down by 6 p.m. (earlier if possible)
20180517 Me and Baby
Successful Daddy-Baby grocery shopping trip! (Easy ladies, I’m taken.)

I’ve been on that schedule (with minor adjustments) for more than two weeks now. It is awesome! My wife is so understanding. Although we spend less time together overall, the time we spend is of higher quality. We chat about our day and we play with our baby together.

Some mornings, though, I wake up tired. At 2:30 a.m., it’s particularly tempting to think, “I’ll just push the alarm out one hour…maybe two.” What would it affect? I don’t have to clock in. I just should be up (around 8 a.m.) to watch the baby when my wife leaves for work. But all that other stuff…writing, exercising, volunteering? I can skip that. I’m tired.

I’ve earned a day off.

Those fateful words have ended many previous, excellent schedules I’ve put in place in the past. Schedules that have produced a happier, healthier “me” in which I learn, grow as a person, and, well, shrink as a person, too, as those unwanted pounds have melted away (I once went from 250 to 180 lbs on such a schedule…as of now, I’m back up to 240 lbs).

After seeing years of my life dwindle away, wondering what could have been had I just stuck to that schedule, I’m fed up. I’ve done great things, but I could have done much—much—more.

Now, every morning, when I’m tired, I remind myself:

I’ve earned a day on.

I remind myself that I’ve worked hard in past days, and weeks, and (soon) months to earn this new day to be awesome again.

Sure, sick days are useful. Vacation days are important. Just use them wisely: as needed for sick days, or by planning vacation in advance, including what you’ll do (or not do) on those days.

Don’t look forward to days off. Every day should be a day on.

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Ghastly!

20160111 GhastlyTwo images recently inspired new stories for me. Both images are ghastly—at least, to my usually tempered sensibilities. The stories do not use these images for the sake of being ghastly, but instead serve legitimate thematic purposes. Still, they shocked me, and I wondered if I’d be able to write them. Additionally, I wondered if I should write them. Do I want to put such tragic images into the world, even if they serve legitimate purposes?

Ultimately, I decided I would be able to write them (though it might take a lot of editing to write them well, since they go against my nature), and that, yes, I should put the images out there, because they serve legitimate purposes.

Let me segue for a moment to explain what I mean by “legitimate purposes.” In my view, presenting a ghastly image for the sake of being ghastly is inappropriate in any art form. This is why I don’t enjoy most horror or action films. Regarding action, for example, if Jason Statham is the main star, I know it’s a movie with action for action’s sake, and thus, it’s crap. Some people will say, “Well, it’s just mindless fun.” Well, not for me. I’ve never had mindless fun, and I don’t think it’s possible except for mindless people. Regarding horror, I consider Saw to be a movie that (barely) uses horror for legitimate themes—for example, the movie questions how much we value our own lives, and whether anyone has the right to challenge us in that regard by hurting us (they don’t). However, the Saw sequels are generally horror for horror’s sake, and thus, crap. I’m sure I’ve offended a few people here. Feel free to argue the value of horror/action for its own sake in the comments and I’ll read them.

Returning to my main purpose for this post, the epiphany I came to was this: a writer should tap into the extremes of his sensibilities.

I’m fairly levelheaded. But every now and then I find myself enjoying something shocking, because it balances right on the line of what I can appreciate versus what makes me sick to consider. Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein and the movie Pan’s Labyrinth are examples. Sometimes, my own ideas are like that. The two stories I recently conceived would be my first forays into the ghastly fringes of my otherwise tempered nature.

I think a writer should, from time to time, dare to write his own extremes. Don’t let a legitimate story go to waste because it has a horrific or explicit element. Dare yourself to write it and to publish it. You can always return to center, and you need not go beyond your own extremes… Just, every now and then, take a walk along the fringes.

Have you ever shocked yourself with something you’ve written? Is it an experience you would like to repeat, or are you glad it’s done and gone?

What’s the best way to write?

First, let me say, Happy New Year!

Writers have long debated whether it is better to write by hand, by typewriter, or by word processor. Some insist that handwriting is the way to go, as it allows the writer to connect more closely with his work, to create his story in a slow, deliberate manner. Others swear by word processing, claiming it lets the writer get his thoughts out almost as quick as he has them; it is especially useful, therefore, when the muse strikes. Still others enjoy the compromise of the typewriter, which is faster than handwriting, but slower than a word processor, and thus allows for speed and deliberateness in tandem.

In my experience, older writers or writers of thick literary fiction prefer handwriting; younger writers (usually of popular detective, paranormal, or science fiction) prefer word processors; and bearded hipsters prefer typewriters (infer whatever you’d like from that). Then, of course, there are those who switch between two or all of these depending on what they’re writing or how the mood strikes them.

As for me, I’m still experimenting.

Initial notes for my first published short story. Read “Coffee in the Afternoon” for free, as published by Fabula Argentea Magazine in July 2014

My initial brainstorming and plotting always takes the form of handwritten notes, for which Moleskines are wonderfully suitable. Lately, though, my actual writing of the story occurs on word processor. About a year ago, I surmised that my writing is just about the same whether I write by hand or by typing.

Now though, about a year later, I’ve also seen that typing lets me get sloppy if I’m not paying close attention. Usually I can tidy it up in editing, but it’s a hassle and takes the proper enjoyment out of editing, like moments of stillness during a rollercoaster ride.

Handwriting, on the other hand, doesn’t allow for sloppiness. Either I’m paying close attention, or I’m not writing; I can’t play fast-and-loose with a pen in my hand. That’s why I will probably always brainstorm and plot with pen and paper, no matter what method I end up choosing to write the story afterward.

Next week, I’ll share a bit of inspiration I received on this subject when I visited The Steinbeck House in Salinas, California. A little fact I learned about John Steinbeck made me reconsider (again) what method of writing—by hand or word processor—is better for me. In the meantime, what are your thoughts on these methods? Do you prefer one method to the others? Do you move between them depending on what you’re writing? Do tell!

There’s more (scifi) where that came from…

Hey everyone, I really appreciate that you follow my blog. I hope you’ve enjoyed its content so far! Recently, I diverged into writing speculative fiction, so I’ve set up another blog where I’ll publish scifi/fantasy related posts. The first post is up and ready for your reading pleasure! Check it out, be sure to follow my new scifi/fantasy blog, and let’s keep having fun! =D

Finding scifi/fantasy heroes in Hellenistic bronze

Newspapers: a Flash Fiction Story

About 750 words.

© 2015 Christopher Chinchilla. All rights reserved.

“Newspapers” first published in the East Jasmine Review, September 2014


For Dad

On a street corner in Hawaii, a little Costa Rican boy sold newspapers for ten cents. Seven in the morning, his arms heavy with headlines he couldn’t read, he watched the bustle as people shuffled along the sidewalks and across the streets and nobody looked down. Some bought papers, but most did not.

A man in a gray three-piece suit with a cocked hat, a short haircut, and a tipped smile walked up to the boy. “Good morning, son!” the man said. The boy stared at the man blankly, then lifted his arms so that the top of the stack of flat clean newspapers looked into the man’s freshly shaven face.

“Ha!” said the man, leaning forward and scrutinizing the headlines, “Weather’s balmy and the governor’s back!” He stood upright and dug in his suit pants pocket. The boy heard coins jingle. The man brought up a clean dime. “I’ll take a paper!”

The boy held up the stack even higher, stiffening his elbows, leaning back at his small waist and dipping his chin to his bare, puffed out chest, gazing up from under his sweating brow at the man with the dime.

The man tossed the dime in the bucket at the boy’s feet. It hit the bottom and another coin with a clink. The man grabbed the topmost paper from the stack the boy held, stuck it under his arm, and strolled away down the sidewalk, whistling.

The boy turned and watched the man go. After a moment, the boy faced front again, chin down, the wind licking his sweating brow, with a lighter load of newspapers on his arms—and no one bought the papers.

“Say!”

The boy turned.

It was the man with the hat, back again, the sun shining over his shoulder and the newspaper still tucked under his arm. “Have you sold a lot of newspapers today?”

The boy stared, then shook his head. His eyes drifted down to the all but empty coin bucket next to his feet, and then to the string-tied bundle of newspapers on the other side.

“You get your share based on how many newspapers you sell?” the man asked. The boy nodded. The papers rustled. People walked by.

“Ever sold them all?”

The boy shook his head.

The man pulled from his pocket a shining silver coin and held it between two fingers. “I’ll take another newspaper!” he said brightly. “And I’ll give you this quarter for it.”

The boy looked up at the coin gleaming in the sunlight.

“But this time,” the man said, “you’ve got to raise a paper above your head—” the man raised his own newspaper high over his head “—and you’ve got to shout,” and he heaved in a great breath and proclaimed into the bustling crowd around him:

“‘EXTRA! EXTRA! READ ALL A-BOOUT IT!’”

The boy jerked back, his eyes wide. The man looked down at the boy, smiling. “You do that once and you’ve got a quarter for that paper.”

The boy with the newspapers looked at the man and the quarter. People shuffled behind the man. The sun caught the quarter.

The boy sucked a great puff of air into his chest and shouted,

“Extr—!”

It ended in a squeak. He opened his eyes without knowing he’d shut them. The man still stood there, newspaper under his arm, with his hat and his quarter. His thin smile sat gently on his lips.

The boy breathed in again but it caught sharply in his chest. His brown eyes glistened and his face flushed red. He breathed out, lips trembling, arms shaking, his shoulders slumping with the weight of the newspapers—and finally looked at the man. Heads were bouncing behind him. The hand with the quarter in its fingertips disappeared into the pocket. The man’s smile remained.

The man breathed in heartily, lifting his face to the blue sky. Then he looked back at the boy and said, “Gotta go! Weather’s balmy!” He smiled. “And the governor’s back! People’ll want to hear about this!”

The boy watched the man strolling away down the sidewalk again and heard him whistling. Then the boy turned back to the bustle of people on his corner, his cheeks warm and wet. Beads of sweat dotted his brow—the papers were getting heavy again. He looked at the shuffling heads and the balmy sky . . .

“Extra,” said the boy.


Thanks for reading. What’d you think? Leave a comment below!

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The Imp: a 600-word story

About 600 words.

© 2015 Christopher Chinchilla. All rights reserved.


“If you can guess what’s in my pocket, O King,” the girl said, “you can have it.” She grinned. “Well, King, do you dare?”

The King knelt swiftly to meet her eyes. “I can have your head in a swipe if it pleases me,” he said. At his side the Queen kept deathly silent, his threat speaking for both of their majesties. The earthy scent of the girl’s blonde and disheveled hair—the scent of combat—infused truth into her next words.

“You know the battlefield I’ve traversed; you know on what river of risk and strategy I’ve sailed to reach you. And you know,” she whispered, pushing her face into his space, tickling his nose with the vanilla scent of her breath, “what befalls you if I’m taken.”

He slipped his gaze behind the little imp to survey the dark war beyond… Beneath the thundering sky men and horses lie slain; a fortress stood seized on the outskirts; the enemy advanced on all sides across the patchy land. Distant warriors watched for the fate of their girl before the rival King. He could see no escape.

The King looked at the imp. She smiled. “I am a wolf and clothed as a sheep, King,” she warned. “I advance on you with and without—with strategy and without mercy. And I’ll have this war, alive or dead.” She laughed. “What is in my pocket, King?”

He breathed heavily and filled her face with a harrumph. Her face held its glare, devious and daring. He rose to his full height, his eyes yet on hers, but his mind wandered… The war did not go well. He knew it as inescapably as he knew every corner of his throne. And here stood this imp of an enemy before him, enjoying his fall, mocking his threat, caring naught but for the riddle in her pocket.

“What worry should I give to what’s in your pocket?” he demanded.

“What’s in my pocket is what I’m going to do next. What I’m going to do next will be your doom. If you can guess it, I will choose another path and spare you a bit longer…maybe in time for you to save yourself and your ailing army.” The girl’s eyes gleamed. The Queen clenched the King’s arm. The night grew late.

The King gritted his teeth and his cheeks burned. “Am I to have a hint?” he bellowed.

“Look at the whole field,” she said, winking.

His eyes returned to the battle. Another fortress fell. The front lines were now broken. His most agile knight lie dead. His clergy had been captured. What hope in Heaven remained?

Her gentle voice drifted up to him on the dismal air. “I shall unleash it soon, King.”

Trembling, shaking, he looked at her pocket.

“King?” she sang sweetly to his shivering eyes. “King, can you guess?”

He sputtered his guess madly. “You will—!” he trembled, “You will—!” he cried, “You will—kill my Queen!”

“YES!” In a flash the imp somersaulted to his right, brandishing a sleek silver dagger from her pocket, and sliced his dark Queen down dead.

“You said you would not!” he cried.

“IT IS WAR!” she shouted, laughed wildly, then said softly, “Pawn takes Queen. I am Queen now. Check and mate, Daddy.” She kissed her father’s nose, jumped from the board and the battle on her mother’s kitchen table, and skirted off to bed, giggling gloriously.


Thanks for reading. What’d you think? Leave a comment below!

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Coffee in the Afternoon: a Short Story

About 4300 words.

© 2015 Christopher Chinchilla. All rights reserved.

“Coffee in the Afternoon” first published in Fabula Argentea Magazine, October 2014


The blonde woman in the far corner of the café was not the reason he was here, but he wished she were. Her white button-up shirt was open wide at the collar and golden hair fell over her shoulders as she leaned forward, reading the books sprawled open on her table, holding a coffee in one hand and a pen in the other. A blonde curl dangled over her black square-framed glasses as she read. Johnny wished she was the reason he was here.

He hadn’t realized he’d been watching her, his thumb and fingers drumming absently on the café table at which he sat holding a mug of coffee. He knew he was staring after he’d thought she wasn’t the reason and hastily jerked away, splashing a bit of hot coffee over the brim onto the back of his hand. A few drops soaked into the paper of the large, white envelope resting face-down on the table. “Dammit,” he ejaculated, and, reaching for a napkin to clean himself up, he saw Jessica standing at the café entrance, a thin golden crucifix at her throat, looking down at him with her dark eyebrows raised.

Johnny shifted in his chair. With a soiled, crumpled tissue in his fingers, he stood shakily and gestured his wife toward him.

Jessica approached his table in the center of the quiet café. She was dressed stiffly in a blouse and skirt; the severity of her tightly-bundled brunette hair and her thin, straight lips vibrated in her strict movements; he waited as she slung her purse straps over the back of the chair across from him and glided into the seat. “You’ve grown your hair out,” she said tersely.

He reached both hands up to the beanie on his head, the crumpled napkin still in the fingers of one hand, and flattened the beanie down over the brown, curling locks protruding from under it. Stuttering a little, he replied, “Oh. Oh, w-well. After so many years of keeping it down—I thought I’d let it fly.” Over her shoulder, he noticed the evening sun disappearing behind the post office building across the street. A mail carrier stood at the bottom of the flag pole, lowering the flag slowly, letting the rope glide through his hands. Out of the corner of his eye, Johnny saw the blonde woman with the books. She was gazing up now, her chin raised, two fingers brushing her cheek. She was watching the flag come down. Johnny felt Jessica’s eyes, hot and black, and looked back to her. “I—I thought—I’d let it fly.”

Jessica looked down at her lap, smoothed her skirt over her thighs, and looked back up. “I hadn’t realized it had been so long. You’ve been away a while. We’ve missed you. You know that.”

“I—had some questions,” said Johnny. “Had some answers to find.”

“Away from me?” she asked.

“Away from the family, yes,” he answered, his grip tightening over the soiled napkin. He fiddled with it for a few seconds, then finally set it aside, his fingers slightly sticky. The blonde had returned to reading her books.

Jessica let her gaze fall to the porcelain mug on the table, next to the coffee-splattered envelope lying there, which she paid no mind. He felt tingles on the back of his hand where the coffee had splashed. She looked back at him. “Coffee in the afternoon?” she asked disapprovingly. “It gives you jitters.”

“I’m tired,” he answered feebly, his fingers jittering at the smooth handle. It was still hot and he hadn’t sipped it yet. He was still tired. The mail carrier across the street had the flag draped over his right shoulder and was ambling toward the door of the post office. Behind the post office in the direction he walked, the courthouse rose in the distance. Johnny pressed his jittery fingers onto the smooth surface of the envelope in front of him and stroked it softly, staring at the courthouse.

“So,” said Jessica, pulling his gaze to her, “I won’t grant you the divorce you requested.”

He stiffened, his breath catching in his chest. He fought to speak, but the words came out like splashes of coffee from a shaking mug. “Jessica, I’m—not trying—to upset—you—”

“This is your place for solitude, isn’t it?” she interrupted him. Her eyes bounced around the café in which they sat, taking in the soft mahogany tables and earthy green ficus trees, the dark oranges and browns coating the wide walls, decorated with paintings of landscapes and coffee beans and famous dead writers. A large mirror hung on the wall to her right, framing the two of them in its huge border, Jessica’s pale, severe countenance and suited body across from his stubbled, sun-kissed face, his body clothed in a second-hand jacket and jeans. Jessica eyed the patrons too—the newcomer murmuring for her coffee at the counter, the latecomer joining a group of smiling teenagers seated under the mirror, the regular whose fingers tap-danced over his laptop’s keyboard. Jessica looked at him and said with a curled lip, “This is your church now, isn’t it?”

Johnny noticed that Jessica hadn’t turned to see the blonde in the corner.

He shifted in the chair, wondered if his coffee had cooled, but it was yet too hot. “It’s—” he started, fumbling for the words rattling in his brain, pounding in his heart, “It’s a—a place that’s quiet. These people—don’t know each other. I’m not—tied to them. But I can—share this with them,” he said, encompassing the café with a steady gaze around. “It’s just a café, I know—but I can be with people, without—without them being—without having to—to give myself to them.” The liquid in his mug was dark, black, still. He regarded it solemnly and finished, “We can do our own thing, without having to consider each other. It’s peaceful here.”

“Selfish,” Jessica muttered. Johnny looked up. Her arms and legs were crossed, her thin chest very still under her severe gaze. “This is why you want your divorce, so you don’t have to consider me, your wife.” His eyes flicked over to the blonde. She was lounging in her chair, forgetting the books again and gazing out of the wide window next to her, towards the orange sun in the purpling sky. Sprawling, she had a hand at her mouth while the other lay on her jeans-covered thigh, one leg bent up and the other stretched out languidly. Her chest heaved deeply under her white shirt as she watched the sun slip behind the brown stone of the distant courthouse. “You vowed to love me and give yourself up to me,” Jessica said sharply.

Suddenly, the blonde looked at him.

She was smiling, or smirking. But he couldn’t tell if it was for him, or if the smirk had already been on her pink lips before this. But the blonde was looking at him, amused.

“Look at me, Johnny,” Jessica said. His eyes snapped back to hers. “Love me and give yourself up to me, Johnny,” she repeated. “Do you remember that? The family’s been asking after you, Johnny. They wonder where you’ve been. They speculate. They interrogate me. We’re tied together, that’s what these mean—” she reached for his left hand with hers and jerked it up in her grip. On a finger of her hand was a sparkling diamond ring. On the fingers of his hand was the vibrant kiss of a sun tan, smooth and unblemished. There was no mark of the thing left.

When she saw this, Jessica’s eyes went wide, her mouth agape. “So,” she breathed airily, “it has been a long time.” She sat back slowly in her chair, her cold hand dropping from his warm fingers, his hand falling slowly to the table. “Father will be disappointed,” she said. Then an icy tone returned to her voice. “You need to come back, Johnny. The family can fix you. This damaged heart, this lack of faith—we can restore it. There are some things that are closed to the power of man’s reason, to what he can do on his own. You can’t solve this yourself.”

Johnny bit the inside of his lip as she spoke. He hadn’t heard words like this in the six months since he’d left. Now, they clamped his chest tight. He felt as if the pain in his lip was the only thing connecting him to life—the physical pain was preferable to the deathlike fear gripping his heart. The beginnings of a tear liquefied in the corner of one of his eyes. He was shaking. He muttered in a trembling voice, “Until you, I never felt flawed.”

Silence. “Until me, Johnny?” she answered fiercely. “You were always flawed. We’re all flawed. I was your savior—you’re lucky that I was the one on the other side of the door when we met, willing to take you under my wing and introduce you to Father. The only thing you’ve done to save yourself was to open the door at our knock that day. And now you think you were fine just the way you were, behind that door, by yourself.”

He dabbed a dry portion of the soiled napkin at the corner of his eye, meeting her gaze again. “I shouldn’t have opened the door,” he admitted quietly, his voice steadying. “I should have left it shut—then I would have figured out that nothing was closed to me. Eventually. Would’ve seen that the world isn’t so evil. Everywhere you look—everywhere you look—it’s evil. But I’ve looked now. No, it’s not. It’s so good.”

She glared at him after this, an inquisitive air curving her dark eyebrows. She said, “What have you been doing these six months, Johnny? With whom have you been doing it?”

“Writing,” he answered, his chest still tight. “Writing,” he repeated. “Like I always wanted.”

“You never wanted it. You wanted to become a teacher. I remember the night.”

“I didn’t speak the night we sat with Father,” Johnny said abruptly. Her eyes flashed. He breathed gently, lowered his voice. “I didn’t—speak that night. We sat with the family and—and Father decided that my love for words should be my gift—for the family. I was supposed to read that—damned book cover-to-cover and then turn it into lectures for the family—tell them what was wrong with them and the evil world and how Father would make it right—”

He stopped. Jessica’s eyes had grown cold. A thin smile slipped over her mouth. In a long drawl, she hissed, “That’s Father’s job. To decide for us. Do you think you can decide the course of your life without at least his guidance?”

Johnny gulped slowly. His mouth was dry. A young man at the counter called out a coffee and a grinning teenager came and got it.

“Listen to you, Johnny,” Jessica said, draping her arm over the back of her chair and smirking. “You can’t even speak to me clearly.” He let her gaze hold him, feeling heavy in his chest, suddenly cautious. He looked down at the envelope as she continued casually, “Father thinks there’s someone else.” His eyes darted to the blonde. She wasn’t looking at him; she was studying. Had she ever been looking at him? His gaze slipped back to the envelope. Jessica continued, “He thinks you couldn’t really do this on your own. Someone had to be there, loving this little new-you. I was certain there wasn’t. There was only writing, and this place,” she indicated the café, “and wherever you’ve been living. Rented a room, did you?” She sneered. “How could you even pay for it?”

“A guest house,” he said, low. He reached into his coat and, shaking, pulled an item from it. “With this.” He held a pen straight up in the air between them, solid, black, metallic.

Jessica let her eyes rest on it. He saw movement over her shoulder. The blonde was gazing at it, too. He held his breath. “Soooo,” Jessica exhaled. They locked eyes again. “So, my—my. You’ve been writing.” Her gaze was steady, but he thought he saw her pupils shaking. Slowly, he pulled the pen back toward him, but stopped short, letting it linger in the air for a moment—letting the blonde see it a moment longer—then he tucked it away inside his coat pocket. Jessica said, distantly, “Whose name— Have you been using your name, my name?”

“No,” he answered at once. “A pen name. My mother’s name, her first name.”

Jessica raised her chin slightly. “Time away, a place to live, work to do,” she said slowly— “You really expect to have this divorce.”

“I’m—” He paused, exhaled shortly. “I’m demanding it,” he stated.

“You’re disobeying Father,” she said coldly.

“He’s no longer my father,” he said hotly.

Johnny let his eyes dance toward the blonde, hoping to see her staring…but she was studying her books, yawning languidly with her face in her palm, paying him no mind, leisurely turning a page.

Jessica’s eyes hadn’t left his; she made no movement to look away. “I won’t grant this divorce. You’re going to Father and you’ll beg on your knees for his forgiveness, Johnny. That’s what a real man does, he gets on his knees. This boy you’ve become is ridiculous.”

He gripped his mug tightly. The coffee was still hot; no, it was warm; the heat was in his tightening grip. He laid his other hand flat against the envelope, pressing down hard. The heat of his hand rose into his chest. He met Jessica’s stare with his own. Steadfastly, he stated,

“I’m taking Lily.”

If Jessica had looked angry before this, she was now furious. The red flecks in her brown eyes burned. Her cheeks paled. He saw that the hand draped over her chair gripped the wood. Steadily, she began tapping a manicured fingernail on the tabletop. She said, tightly, quietly, “Like. Hell. You. Are.”

“I am—taking Lily,” he responded, gripping his coffee mug, bracing under her glare.

“Lily belongs to us,” Jessica said, not moving except her lips. “She belongs to the family. If you leave us, I’m not letting you take her with you.”

Behind Jessica, the sun had nearly set. Purple hues were oppressing the last vestiges of the orange afternoon. The courthouse had lit up from its base in the distance, gleaming despite the coming darkness. The blonde, he saw, shocked—she was standing, leaning a shoulder against the window, her fingers in her pockets. Her head was down, kicking listlessly at the café floor with her toes…until her eyes rolled to meet his, stealthily. She saw him looking and raised her face up and away from his, gazing toward the courthouse. Johnny pulled the crumpled napkin back into his fingers, and then he looked at Jessica.

“I want her to choose,” he said. “Lily can choose.”

“It’s not for her to choose,” Jessica retorted quickly, “when there is only one right way.”

“Then let her see the wrong ways,” Johnny answered. He was breathless. “I’ll show her all these wrong things with the world, and when she sees that they’re wrong, you can blame me. Blame me for it. I’ll hold the weight of it.”

The blonde turned smoothly and sat down, flipping gently through the pages of a large textbook that was open before her.

“We’ve already been through this with the Judge,” Jessica said, looking upward. “We decided this the day she was born.”

“No,” he said, “we haven’t been to see a judge. But we’re going.”

Swiftly, Johnny opened the flap of the thick envelope on the table and pulled from it one heavy sheet of paper. “Yours is in the post,” he stated, sliding the sheet in front of her. A court date was stamped in the corner. She did not look at it.

“Who’s advocating for you?” Jessica asked, looking downward.

“I’ll be my own advocate,” he responded, his gaze level.

Suddenly, Jessica shot forward, a fist landing on the piece of paper he’d slid to her, as she sputtered, “You haven’t been with her in six months, Johnny. You left the family and you left her in our care. You don’t get to walk back in and take her.” She sat straight. “You don’t know her anymore. She’s become deeply spiritual. She’s corresponding with an important church, reading their materials, contributing prolifically. She’s not the audacious little girl you so wanted her to be, flouting rules and running through the mud, godless except for you, godless like you. She’s hardly outside anymore. She’s pious. You should see how she locks herself in her room and reads and writes. The envelopes she gets and the responses she sends to the Holy Church of St. John’s, she’s never been as righteous as she is now—”

Slowly—slowly, because he thought that if he moved faster, his shaking hand would topple the coffee mug over the side of the table—slowly, he turned over the thick, white, coffee-stained envelope. Blazing up from its clean face was a shimmering, gold-embossed crucifix. Next to it, above an address, were the bold words that read, The Holy Church of St. John’s.

Jessica’s eyes lingered heavily on the face of the envelope, longer than it was needed to read the writing. In the upper left corner of its face there read Jessica’s home address, under the name Lily Flannery, scrawled in green, playful cursive.

Jessica’s gaze hadn’t moved. Johnny reached forward, steadily, and opened the envelope again, pulling from it the bulk of its contents. He flipped the thick stack of white pages over. At the top was a story title, and below it the words by Johnny Alice.

Scribbled across the thin top sheet, in the margins and between the lines, were the playfully cursive green markings that defined Lily’s name on the face of the envelope. This is so funny! said a scribble. Great set-up! said another. Cut the exposition, daddy… said another. There were dozens more. Through the thin sheet of paper, the underlying sheets could be discerned, with heavy green scrawls dancing around the thin, strict double-spaced text.

Jessica was leaning in so close that Johnny felt he need only whisper… “This is my latest story, Jessica,” he breathed. “I have been writing. And I’ve been doing it with Lily.”

Slowly, she raised her pale, tight face to his tanned, blushing cheeks. She spoke severely. “You have not been with us. This isn’t what she wants.”

The envelope was flat now, its bulk having been removed. But as the last bit of orange glow sidled amiably out of sight in the now-purple sky outside, Johnny reached into the envelope one last time and pulled from it the last item, sliding the single sheet of paper filled with green cursive writing in front of Jessica.

 Dad,

I’m stifled here. Everyone is so interested in me and everything I do. And with all this mad attention, I don’t know who “I” am supposed to be! Get me out of it. Tell Mom—tell Jessica—I want out. She won’t believe me. Tell her I want to be with you. I don’t care how you tell her, just make her know it. Make her see what’s real, just once.

Your Little Angel,

Lilith Alice

Jessica did not move. With her head bent before him over the paper, she said gratingly, “She has to trust me.” She raised her face to his. “What can she know at her age? She needs to have faith,” she avowed, biting her tongue between her teeth.

“I’m,” he said, resolute, “taking Lily.”

“Come try it.” She sat up strictly. “I’m sitting in your place. I have the family, our congregation, our Father with me, everyone who knows what she needs far better than you do, Saint Johnny. What do you have?”

Johnny paused, his chest tightening—but it was not fear; it felt like a damning sensation, like he was the one damning her, and that that power belonged to him, to anyone who dared to use it.

He gripped his mug and lifted it to his lips, finally sipping his coffee. Over the brim, the blonde’s eyes met his. The coffee was warm, black, and bold. What did he have? Jessica had asked.

He set the mug down lightly on Lily’s letter.

“Righteousness,” he answered.

In a flash of fury, Jessica stood up so hard that her chair went skidding behind her. She seized the porcelain mug from his hand and raised it high over her head, then sent it shooting to the floor of the café, shattering it into dozens of pieces and exploding coffee in every direction.

The café went silent as John Mayer’s Stop This Train drifted dreamily through the air. The teenagers, the baristas, the regulars, and the stoppers-by all rested their wide eyes on Jessica, shocked. The blonde’s eyes were on Johnny; she was smiling.

“M-ma’am—m-miss,” a young man’s voice mumbled. The shuffle of the patrons rejoined the soft musings filling the air. “M-miss,” said the young barista, “are you al-lright, miss?” The boy had a brush and dustpan in one hand and a towel in the other, setting to work at their feet.

Jessica’s cold eyes were spikes aimed at his heart. In a smooth motion, she pulled her purse from the chair and lifted the straps over her shoulder. “Mmmm, Johnny,” she said silkily. “Johnny, Hell hath no fury like that of a woman scorned.”

Feeling his heart pounding in his chest, he inhaled deeply, and bowed his head to her in acceptance.

Jessica spun sharply on her raised heels and sped out of the café, into the coming night outside.

Johnny put a hand on the shaking shoulder of the boy before him. “It’s all right, son,” he said. The teenagers sitting beneath the wide mirror laughed furtively, murmuring comments about that crazy… Coffee beans ground behind him at the counter. The café resumed its faint hum. Where was she?

The blonde sat at her table adjusting her glasses, reading lazily, smiling and not looking at him. He fiddled with the soiled napkin again, gripped it in his fingers, and stood up quickly.

“Excuse me,” he said nervously as he approached her. The blonde raised her green eyes up to his face. “May I…” Johnny paused. The green eyes were clear, her porcelain cheeks soft and blushing from warmth, her pink lips gentle and full. His heart slowed, and he said in a deep, steady exhale, “May I spend the next few moments with you?”

She laughed out loud. “Well,” she said, chuckling, “I’ll take boldness like that as well as I’ll take a coffee in the afternoon.” She stretched her arms out to both sides and her chest heaved. “And right now,” she yawned, “I need one.” Then she added, “Who is she?” nodding to the table from which he’d come.

He turned. Back at his table, the barista had finished cleaning and stood up. Jessica’s presence was gone now. The barista winked at Johnny. Johnny grasped that the young man had heard their conversation; he’d get their coffees. Johnny turned back to the blonde and her question about Jessica. Who is she? “It doesn’t matter,” he said.

“Then it doesn’t.”

“You’re a scientist?” he asked. The books strewn before her were calculus and astronomy, chemistry and biology.

She laughed. “I’m a student of science. ‘Scientist’ is still a ways off.”

“You were listening,” he said abruptly.

“Studying,” she responded, winking.

“Oh.”.

“Sit.”

“I can’t,” he answered. “My head’s… It’s spinning. I’m thinking of— Hell, you know it. I’m thinking of…”

“Lily,” she breathed. “I know it.”

The barista placed two coffees on the table. “Please enjoy!” he said brightly, then bowed out.

Quietly, staring into the mug, Johnny said, “She’s going to have a hard time of it.”

“Did you know that?” the blonde asked.

He nodded. “We both knew it.” She said nothing. “It’s as if…” He paused, shuddering. “As if my whole world has stopped.”

She was still as she looked up at him. “Well,” she sighed, “they may try to stop it, try their damnedest to get you to stop it…and yet it moves. The world moves.”

“Can I…” He halted, taken aback at the electricity that had just jumped inside him. For the first time that afternoon, Johnny smiled. “Can I take you out for a drink?”

The blonde smiled too. Suddenly, she slammed her books shut, shaking the table and spilling a few drops of the hot coffee over the back of her hand. He reached out with the soiled napkin and wiped her clean. She stood up before him, a head shorter than he. Laughing, she answered, “No! I’m taking you for one.” Johnny beamed.

They split, retrieved their books and papers from their tables, each left two dollars on her table for the coffees, and they met at the café door, waving goodbye to the barista who was smiling after them.

Outside, night had come. The lights of the post office and courthouse blazed through it. “You know,” the blonde said at his side as he opened the door for her, “Heaven hath no glory like a self-righteous man.”

A little shocked, he simply looked at her and asked, “What makes you say that?”

She laughed and brushed his stubbled chin as she walked through the door. “Just the energy from an afternoon coffee,” she said. Johnny smiled, knowing she had reason enough.


Thanks for reading. 

What to Do When You Don’t Have Time to Write

Work, family, our own bad habits—they all get in the way of our writing. Not much we can do about it, eh? Sure there is. Here are 6 obstacles and ways to get around them.

  1. You only have one day a week to write, maybe just a few hours on Saturday before the kids wake up. The rest of the week, you’re creatively frustrated. Have a quickie! Next writing session, jot down some things about your current story that you’d like to work on, such as a character sketch or upcoming scene. Then, throughout the week at lunch, spend 15 minutes working on them. You don’t have to finish them, just work on them. Put pen to paper and get a few words out. Hugh Howey, author of Wool, wrote his novel before work and at lunch while working as a bookseller. Little by little!
  2. Family won’t give you quiet time. From dawn to dusk, you’re either at work or with family. You ask for quiet time, but they can’t leave you alone. Attend a writing group. It’s easier for family when they know it’s a scheduled meeting outside the home. Plus, you’ll surround yourself with other writers—a weekly dose of encouragement! Find a group on Google or set up your own, like mine on Meetup.
  3. You need more time. A once-a-week group is good, but you need that daily dose and can’t get it at home. Run away. Pick a local coffee shop and head there before or after work. Straight there, like it’s part of your workday. Your turn to cook dinner? Next grocery trip, get some pre-dinner snacks the family can munch while they wait for you.
  4. You have the time, but you’re tired. Manual labor or long hours at a desk drain your creative energy. Change your diet. Eat breakfast (even if just a bagel). Swap fries for apple slices at most fast food joints. Better yet, skip Mickey-D’s and head to Subway—go easy on the cheese and sauce and load up on the veggies! Also, skip that extra cup of coffee and drink more water. It keeps you awake, staves off headaches, and flushes toxins from your system. Still tired? Take a short walk after work, before your writing session, to boost your metabolism and wake up your brain.
  5. You cut sleep for writing time. Power down. Get your 8 hours. How creative can you be if you’re always tired? If your schedule is really that packed, try quickies for a while, then add a writing group. Change your diet. Soon, you might find a morning or evening to run away, and with any luck, you’ll make the time for writing that you deserve.
  6. TV and social media suck up your time. Seriously? Okay, then I’ll repeat my advice to attend a writing group. Being around fellow writers at a scheduled writing session gets you away from TV and lets you detach from social media, while still getting a social fix. Also, the weekly meeting will encourage you to write more between sessions.

My favorite author, Ayn Rand, escaped Soviet Russia and got to Hollywood. There, she worked long hours in a costuming department. After work, she went home and wrote until she was so tired she had to sleep. But she finished her novel, We the Living, and got it published. There’s dozens of obstacles in the way of our creative writing—and just as many ways around them. These tips are my solutions to obstacles I’ve encountered and overcome. If your obstacle isn’t on the list, remember: you’re creative! The solution’s out there, and, just like your protagonist, you gotta find it. Happy writing!

Son vs. Father: Ambrose Bierce’s “A Horseman in the Sky” (1889)

Spoiler Alert: All story reviews will assume the reader has read the story. Read the story free online here.

The theme of Ambrose Bierce’s short story, “A Horseman in the Sky,” is simple to say yet difficult to follow: Duty supercedes family. Due to the story’s theme, which strikes a personal chord with me, it is difficult for me to decide how to proceed with this criticism. Do I comment on the theme? Do I comment on the story structure? It seems easier to do the latter, so I’ll start there and see if I can work my way around to the former.

Source: aventalearning.com

Source: aventalearning.com

Bierce’s structure for “A Horseman in the Sky” is deceptively simple. For example, the plot is simple: a young Union soldier during the Civil War is asleep at his post; he wakes up to see a Confederate officer a few yards away from him; the soldier knows the officer has seen the Union base below, and if the officer gets word back to the Confederate Army, it will be a devastating defeat for the Union Army; so the Union soldier does his duty and kills the Confederate officer. This plot could serve many stories. Here, though, it is the seam running through a rather intricately woven fabric.

Armed with a simple plot, Bierce is able to use more complicated plot techniques, such as flashback. After Bierce shows us the young Union soldier sleeping at his post, he uses flashback to hand us a simple but important plot point. The soldier, Carter Druse, is the son of a plantation owner in Virginia. At dinner one evening, Carter tells his father, “‘[A] Union regiment has arrived in Grafton. I am going to join it’” (Bierce 120). Carter’s father responds wisely.

The father lifted his leonine head, looked at the son a moment in silence, and replied: “Go, Carter, and, whatever may occur, do what you conceive to be your duty. Virginia, to which you are a traitor, must get on without you. Should we both live to the end of the war, we will speak further of the matter. Your mother [is ill]… It would be best not to disturb her.” (Bierce 120)

It is a simple flashback, adorned with little setting detail and hardly any character description (except the father as “leonine,” or lion-like), but it creates a point of tension that becomes the crux of the story, the very thing which carries it off in supreme fashion. A simple plot and minimal flashback thus simultaneously establishes tension, foreshadowing, and the basis of the climax. This flashback, therefore, is a master stroke of story structure.

Bierce’s next trick is creating dynamic yet smooth shifts in points of view. He begins as the omniscient narrator, able to look upon Carter as he sleeps on post. We stick with Carter through the flashback, and when we return to the present we are with him when he wakes up and sees a Confederate officer several yards away. Before we continue with point of view, we should pause and admire another tactic of structure: description. Bierce, as the omniscient narrator, describes the valley, a nearby cliff face, Carter’s own outdoor post atop the ridge, and the road leading up to and down from the ridge, in exquisite detail. We see the blue skies, green trees, and purple mountains. We see the Union Army camp in the small, secluded valley below. Further, when Carter wakes up, we see the Confederate officer as a work of art:

[Carter’s] first feeling was a keen artistic delight. On a colossal pedestal, the cliff, motionless at the extreme edge of the capping rock and sharply outlined against the sky, was an equestrian statue of impressive dignity. The figure of the man sat the figure of the horse, straight and soldierly, but with the repose of a Grecian god carved in the marble which limits the suggestion of activity. The grey costume harmonised with its aerial background; the metal of accoutrement and caparison was softened and subdued by the shadow; the animal’s skin had no points of high light… The face of the rider, turned slightly to the left, showed only an outline of temple and beard; he was looking downward to the bottom of the valley. Magnified by its lift against the sky and by the soldier’s testifying sense of the formidableness of a near enemy, the group appeared of heroic, almost colossal, size.

For an instant [Carter] had a strange, half-defined feeling that he had slept to the end of the war and was looking upon a noble work of art reared upon that commanding eminence to commemorate the deeds of an heroic past of which he had been an inglorious part. (Bierce 121)

This detailed description is nothing short of necessary to the melodrama of the story’s climax, which we’ll return to shortly. As the plot continues—slowly, so that it has time to wield a tension-filled flashback and exquisite description—Carter struggles with his duty: “Is it, then, so terrible to kill an enemy in war—an enemy who has surprised a secret vital to the safety of oneself and comrades—an enemy more formidable for his knowledge than all his army for its numbers?” (Bierce 122). No, he decides, and shoots the officer. Suddenly, we’re snatched from the point of view overlooking Carter to a new, unnamed Union soldier below: “At that moment an officer of the Federal force…saw an astonishing sight—a man on horseback riding down into the valley through the air!” (122-3). Here, Bierce cashes in on his previous exquisite description of the horse and officer: imagine that Grecian statue-like image flying through the air above you! Bierce accomplishes several things with his shifting point of view coupled with setting and character description, namely, when the climax begins—when Carter fires his gun, shoots the officer, and scares the horse so badly that it leaps over the cliff—the shift in point of view is sudden to us, and we’re still dealing with that quick shift when we’re hit with another shock, the image of a horseman in the sky.

Finally, Bierce brings together all of his structural elements—plot, flashback, tension, setting, description, and point of view—to carry out the height of the climax. We’re with the surprised soldier for a few more brief moments, then we see a sergeant running up to Carter’s position to ignite the climax and the end of the story:

“Did you fire?” the sergeant whispered.

“Yes.”

“At what?”

“A horse”…

“See here, Druse,” he said, after a moment’s silence, “it’s no use making a mystery. I order you to report. Was there anybody on the horse?”

“Yes.”

“Who?”

“My father.” (Bierce 124)

Getting full use out of his shifting point of view, Bierce ends the scene and story from the sergeant’s point of view, which mimics our own as shocked readers: “The sergeant rose to his feet and walked away. ‘Good God!’ he said” (Bierce 124).

Now, perhaps I’ll touch on the theme. Carter saw his father on top of the horse. Carter, a Union soldier, deemed his father an enemy, an officer in the Confederate Army. His father had told him, “‘[W]hatever may occur, do what you conceive to be your duty’” (Bierce 120). Carter’s duty as a Union soldier is to help win the war for the Union. However, he can’t shoot his father. So he shoots his father’s horse, knowing the horse will leap off the cliff with Carter’s father astride, killing his father. Setting aside considerations of animal cruelty due to war’s collateral damage, the theme comes into light: Duty supercedes family. Because it is easier to say than to do, Carter, in a way, does not do it: he shoots the horse, not his father. But he also does perform his duty: he knows his father will die. Was Carter right or wrong?

At present, I am no fan of my own father. It would not surprise me if, during the Civil War, I should find myself on the side of the Union while he finds himself on the side of the Confederacy (literally that). Our personal matters are not so dramatic as that right now, but we have drawn lines. Well, I have drawn lines, as Carter did in the story. So, to the question of, “Was Carter right or wrong to kill his father?” my answer is, “Right.” Duty is a choice, a voluntary decision to pursue and defend a certain cause based on one’s own judgment. Family, however, is an accidental quality: a son does not choose his father (though a father chooses his son in the sense that he chooses to have a child). The logic and ethic are simple: what we choose supercedes what we cannot control.

To the man who says, “Carter should not have killed his own father; family comes first,” I say, “To hell with you.”

I admire Carter’s father’s wisdom. He knew, and made it clear to Carter, that they might very well find themselves in such a position as occurs in this story. Carter’s father accepted that. Though he may have felt disappointment, even disgust, with his son’s decision, he nevertheless did his fatherly duty—the duty he owes to his son, whom he chose to have—to make Carter aware of what could happen. Carter accepts it. Once said and accepted, both men are clear: we have placed duty above family, and it’s right that we did. In a sense, too, Carter honored his father by following his advice: “Whatever may occur, do what you conceive to be your duty.” Carter conceived his duty to be that of a soldier defending the Union, and even though he may have felt turmoil over that conception, he was nevertheless right. Family is accidental; duty is chosen. We are creatures of free will; that’s our nature. As such, our first loyalty is to ourselves and our own judgment. If a man judges that members of his family are unworthy of his loyalty, then his only moral course of action is to obey his own judgment and accept its consequences.

I think it’s time I stop writing this now…

My review: This is an excellently crafted story that shows how simple structure elements can yield a complex overall effect. Bierce’s theme is top-notch: the son versus his father as tied to the soldier versus the enemy. It’s a story I’ll read many times in the years to come. It’s a story I’ll share with my son when he reaches the right age. For him and me, I hope it will only be a lesson, instead of a reality.

Favorite quotes:

  • “He was asleep at his post of duty. But if detected he would be dead shortly afterward, that being the just and legal penalty of his crime.” (119)
  • “No country is so wild and difficult but men will make it a theatre of war.” (120)
  • “‘Go, Carter, and, whatever may occur, do what you conceive to be your duty.’” (120)
  • “[H]is hands resumed their places on the rifle, his forefinger sought the trigger; mind, heart, and eyes were clear, conscience and reason sound.” (122)
  • “Duty had conquered; the spirit had said to the body: ‘Peace, be still.’ He fired.” (122)

Work Cited

Bierce, Ambrose. “A Horseman in the Sky.” The Treasury of American Short Stories: Classic Works by the Masters. Ed. Nancy Sullivan. United States: Dorset, 1981. 119-24. Print.

Post written by Christopher Chinchilla; edited by Cyndi Sabo.

Thanks for reading! Follow me on Facebook and Twitter @ ChrisC_Writes.

The Gimmick: Theme, Philosophy, and Writing

“A true work of fiction…is implicitly philosophical.” -John Gardner, What Writers Do

 “On the subject of theme, I have one warning: Be sure that your story can be summed up to some theme.” -Ayn Rand, The Art of Fiction: A Guide for Writers and Readers

I began this blog as a means of interacting directly with readers and fellow writers, but I quickly abandoned it for lack of a solid purpose. Good blogs, the ones that interest people, have a gimmick, some theme to which they’re dedicated that interests both bloggers and their readers. I know a blogger who successfully writes about fashion and pop culture. I know another who turned her little book review blog into a hit with thousands of followers. She was kind enough to write a review of my novella. I think a successful blog has two parts: a solid purpose, and an empassioned blogger. Purpose and passion attract people. I was falling short on my blog’s purpose, its gimmick. But it came to me recently while I was working on an old story.

I began writing it in 2010. What was supposed to be a short story has since grown into an 18,000-word novella that needs completing. I had a lot of good material, but the philosophical portions were nevertheless ill-defined, ill-connected—in short, all over the place. I’m determined to finish the story, but it needs rewriting so that I can unify the theme and plot into a more cohesive structure. I started fresh with a mini-essay on the story’s theme, written by hand in my notebook for no audience other than myself, so that I could refer back to it as I wrote the new draft of the story. It occurred to me, though, that little philosophical compositions such as this, on my own work, might be an interesting way to spend my blogging time.

There it wClarity of thought leads to pristine fiction - CCas, my gimmick, composing miniature essays on the themes of my stories, either before or after the piece was completed. I won’t be writing literary criticism of my own work, though. Rather, the essays will focus on the abstract content of the stories, such that, aside from the story reference in the title of the essay, the essay won’t rely on the story at all.

The benefit is to me as much as to readers. These essays will require me to clarify my thinking. Clarity of thought leads to pristine fiction. What’s more, I know I’d read short essays by my favorite authors discussing the themes of their works. So, while this gimmick might not interest everyone, I’m sure it will at least interest some like it interests me. I also hope it will lead to stimulating conversations. My word is not law, and I imagine there will be readers who disagree with my themes and their conclusions. Whether agreeable or not, I welcome interaction on that most stimulating topic: philosophy.

Since themes interest me, I’m going a bit farther with my gimmick. Reading fiction is as important to a writer as writing it. We learn both through osmosis and through conscientious study of the masters and our peers. So from time to time, in addition to short essays on my themes, I plan to offer some informal literary criticism of short story masterpieces I’m currently reading, beginning soon with Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. In these cases, it’ll be important for readers to be familiar with the story. I’ll provide links to free copies of these masterpieces if available.

Well, here it is, my blog. In the ancient days of Greek philosophy, men and women used to gather in Athens’ marketplace, the agora, and discuss politics, ethics, and morality freely. In short, they discussed the themes of mankind. Let’s revive it here, if only a bit. Welcome to Agora. Welcome to my blog.