Tag Archives: fiction

‘Jerry the Angel’ on Titles

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(I thought it only fitting to have a proper title for this post – hope you approve Jerry.)

It’s been a crazy week and I was stressing over what to post about – yes, I have a poem or two in wait but I wanted something else to blog about. And that’s when an angel of mercy arrived by way of my inbox. Yes, Jerry Guarino may not look like your average angel, but I’ve learned he’s a real sweetheart and boy did he come through for me! So please, read and enjoy Jerry’s insights and be sure to check out his books, his website and follow the guy on Facebook. By the way, he started a Facebook Short Story Writers group that is 338 members strong. Be sure to check it out, too, if you write short stories! Thank you Jerry!

 

Are titles important and where do they come from?

By Jerry Guarino

            First, let me thank Sheila for this opportunity to share my ideas about titles.  We all know that a title is the handle for a story, a novel, screenplay or dramatic play.  It is the first clue to what the content will be and the last way for an author to leave a lasting impression to the reader.  We all have an instant visual when we hear these titles:

The Raven

            The Old Man and the Sea

            West Side Story

            MASH

            Death of a Salesman

            Personally, I use titles to give the reader something to keep in their mind.  I do so for many reasons.  Sometimes I do it to mislead or misdirect the reader, in order to keep them from guessing where the story will go.  Other times I use it to set up a multiple meaning word, phrase or idea.  I have used titles to intrigue, to question, to mimic a sound, a theme or an idea.  To me, titles are very important and I write them before I write the story.

Titles can’t make the story great or memorable but they can detract from the effectiveness of the story.  You don’t see bad titles published very often because authors, editors and publishers will correct that before printing.

Here are some of my titles and the way they are related to the content of the story.

The Bridge Game – uses the word bridge in three different ways.  First, as the card game that two couples play.  Next, as one of the women uses the other to bridge her relationship to the other’s man.  Finally, at the end of the story, the woman crashes her car into a bridge.  Using a key word in the title in different ways is a common device authors use.

Who Stole Asbury Park? – In this story, I used the title to preview the main idea.  It is the story of a New Jersey resort town on the ocean that once was vibrant with people, amusements and life, but has lost all that over time due to fiscal mismanagement and apathy.  It also serves the purpose of disguising the more interesting coming of age love story between a young boy and girl and their first explorations into the opposite sex.  Using a title to set up part of a story, especially with a question is a good way to give the reader something to think about.

Boxes and Ladders – is about three men all interested in the same woman.  In this case, the title refers to concepts.  Boxes are used to hold things, but in the story it also refers to the personality of one of the men, an engineer, who likes to compartmentalize everything, including people.  He takes this into extremes by categorizing people into boxes on a computer program, trying to find a mate.  Ladders refers to the other man’s way of attacking life, by climbing ladders to reach goals.  Of course the woman falls for the third man who approaches life and relationships in a mature and generous way.

Preheat the Microwave.Com – is a story looking at the funny things senior citizens do, although pushed to extremes for effect.  This title uses a quote from the book as the elderly woman tells her niece “You have to preheat the microwave.”  Using a quote from the book can be an effective way of making the story both memorable and different, as the title also suggests a website, another reference to the website the niece sets up in her aunt’s senior citizen center.  Using a quote is particularly effective when it refers to a joke as it is used here.

Coq a Doodle Do – this is one story of a trilogy of love stories featuring roosters as characters.  Here the title gives the reader a clue to one of the characters, by making a play on the sound a rooster makes in the morning, an essential element in the story.  Coq is also the French word for rooster and the theme of France runs through the trilogy.

Practical Goldberg (A Love Story in 3 Parts) – uses the name Goldberg for the main character, a college student, who creates an elaborate bird-feeding machine to attract women for love.  Of course we find out in the end that although he is successful in doing so, the woman was actually doing the same thing to get him to love her.  Using a reference like this (i.e. A Rube Goldberg Machine) makes your title reflect what happens in the story and for those of us old enough to know what that machine was, a delightful but overly complicated way to do something, the story works nicely.

Starbanks – this is a story I wrote about a bank with a Starbucks coffee shop inside.  It is merely a play on words, but one which works well in this quirky look at a how prevalent coffee shops have become in our lives.  I sent the story to Starbucks and it is actually an idea they have thought about doing.  I have no doubt we will see them in banks sometime in the future.

Well, that’s my thinking on titles.  I’ll leave some more here for you to ponder.  The Duke of Yelp, The Grand Poobah, Pie or Die, Babybump.com, The Rich are Going to Hell, Like Father, Like Son, Overdue, The Tightrope and The Devil’s Orchestra.  So pay attention to the title of the next story you read.  The author probably put a lot of thought into it.

Bio:

Jerry Guarino’s short stories have been published by dozens of magazines in the United States, Canada, Australia and Great Britain. His latest book, “50 Italian Pastries”, is available on Amazon.com and as a Kindle eBook. Please visit his website at http://cafestories.net/

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Writing, Publishing, Literacy!

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FINALLY! My book is ready and I’ve submitted it to Smashwords  and hopefully all will go smoothly from here. I’m also working to get this small collection of flash fiction, short stories and poetry on Amazon KDP.  This process has been a little challenging for me. I thought I would be able to read the Smashwords guidelines and figure it all out myself but that didn’t happen. Then, I thought I could do the cover myself but that didn’t happen either. So, I hired a formatter and someone to do the artwork for me and now, finally, it is done. I’m in awe of you authors who do the entire process yourselves. My brain is simply not wired for formatting. I write. I submit. That’s it. I don’t format. I don’t draw. I can barely take a picture without cutting off someone’s head in the photo. I write. That’s what I do.  I’m leaving the technical stuff to the technical people. I’m including the cover art to my book in this post. It’s simple and kind of funky and I like it.

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I will let you in on the meaning behind the title and the image of the letter ‘X’ on the front. I came up with “Marked: Collected Ramblings” for one main reason:  all the countless people in this world who are illiterate. People used to ‘make their mark’ on documents if they were unable to sign their names. Today, there is still a large population of functionally illiterate people who may be able to sign their names but they are unable to read a book for their own pleasure or to their children. They are unable to read the correct medication dosage on a bottle of medicine for themselves or those they care for. I encourage you, dear reader, if given the opportunity to teach an adult to read, take it! You will never regret that choice and the rewards are incalculable to yourself and the person you teach. Your life and theirs is forever changed. For information for literacy programs in your area, check out America’s Literacy Directory.

I have many more stories to tell, many waiting for me to re-write and submit for editing. Speaking of editing, I’d like to thank Scott Morgan at WriteHook for editing my stories. He is straightforward, professional and gives me a swift kick when I need it. Check Scott out if you’re in need of editing services. Yes, it is important, even for short stories to be edited professionally.

I realized once I submitted the book to Smashwords that I left some things out – like a real acknowledgements page and a follow-up at the end providing information on where to contact me and to see other work. We live and we learn. I’m learning a lot on this one.  Also, I am really grateful for all the support I’ve received from each of you, for reading the bits of things I put on this blog and providing me with feedback. It is so important for me to have that interaction and exchange of ideas with every one of you.

Do I dare call myself an author now?

If this works the way I think it will, here is the link to my book  “Marked: Collected Ramblings”

Story Endings

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How do you know when to end your story? With poetry, I seem to know. With my short stories, it’s a whole different game. Ask my editor, Scott Morgan of Write Hook. When I write a short story or piece of flash fiction, I like to ‘drop in’ on the story and then ‘drop out.’ It’s my style. It’s my way. My way seems to leave my endings a bit too abrupt. With the following poem, although it’s short, it felt done to me. I had nothing else to say that would add to what I’d already said. So, how about you? How do you know when you’ve reached the end of something you’re working on? Please share your pearls of wisdom.

forests,nature,paths,Photographs,plants,roads,transportation,trees

Traveling

Deepening that path rarely trod,

Fairly certain transgressions were never

Intended

 

We place our heads upon the grassy knoll,

Our fortunes unknown to us,

By day we speak in whispers,

By night we define the silence

 

Complacence shadows the ambivalent,

Quiet and graceful he stalks

Until he secures his place;

 

The faithful are few, go

Make your discoveries

 

(Image courtesy of Microsoft ClipArt)

The Dung Pile

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Do you ever get a great idea for a story, begin writing it only to discover it is total crap? I’ve done it. The idea is inspired, the bones of the story are there but the narration and dialogue are complete garbage. I refuse to throw it away though. Did I hear you ask why not?

Well, I’ve got stories of total crap that go back to when I was 8 or 9 years old. At the time I was sure they were brilliant. I’m glad I kept them now. Although they weren’t intended to be humorous, they’re downright hilarious. Hey, I was 8 attempting to write a literary masterpiece about a family struggling to survive in a cottage in the Irish countryside. Sounds promising. However, I had no concept of time or geography. I picked some random year in the 1800s and somehow the family managed to have a bathroom inside, and their cottage was surrounded by ‘massive cornfields,’ because we all know how prolific corn fields are in Ireland. Hmmm, maybe I should have considered the potato.

I’ve learned a lot from looking back at stories I wrote that didn’t quite work out. I can look at them with a more objective eye now and say, “Hey, there’s where you went wrong.” I have thrown some things away but not much. These less-than-successful stories serve as a gauge for progress.

When I truly feel an idea is inspired and the bones are good, but the rest of it is lousy, I’ll put it aside for another time. After all, maybe I’m having a bad day or one too many distractions – I have a lot of those. Sometimes I write real stinkers, but I’ve decided not to give up on those piles of crap until I see dung beetles hauling them off.

How about you? When you write something you know is pretty awful, do you throw it away without a second thought or keep it for comic relief?

Writer Control

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I feel stories bubbling up to the surface, wanting to be told. With my fiction, I may not always choose the story – sometimes the story chooses me but ultimately I determine the course the story takes, how it will be told and what defines the beginning, middle and the end. I determine what is revealed in each chapter until finally, chapter by chapter, I’ve said all that needs to be said. I may put my characters through any number of hair-raising scenarios, emotional tsunamis, or supernatural experiences.  It begs the question, “Are writers control freaks?” Do we get off on charting the course for our hapless characters? I’m not so sure.

Look, how many of us have total control over our own lives? I don’t know anyone who does. Shit happens, right? We don’t always choose the circumstances – sometimes they choose us. And in real life, we aren’t given the luxury to stand back and mold and define and refine the situation until it fits a perfect outcome. As much as we might like to be, we are not the authors of our own lives. If we were, wouldn’t we all write ourselves happy endings? I like fairytales and happily-ever-afters. 

I feel sometimes as though I’ve been dropped into someone’s work of fiction while they are the midst of a difficult re-write – no kidding. I look forward to ending some chapters, while others I may lament a while. I can only hope the ending will turn out in my favor, but there’s no guarantee since I’m not the one controlling the pen.

 

What’s your take? Do writers have a god complex? If you could write yourself into the pages of any book, which book would it be?  – Can’t wait to hear your answers to this…

 

 

Assumptions of the Third Kind

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There are times when I write that I find myself using a particular phrase or word I associate with someone I know. It doesn’t mean I’m writing about them, but instead some nuance or characteristic stood out to me and found its way into my story, whether it be a piece of flash fiction or a poem.

I think people who are nonwriters don’t quite grasp this. They make assumptions if they know a writer personally that the work is about them or someone in particular they know. Believe me, if I thought that highly of someone to want to include them in a story, I’d pay homage in a much more meaningful way such as using their initials for a character’s name or dedicating a book or story to them. In other words, they would know they inspired the work – they wouldn’t have to wonder. I really don’t do ‘revenge writing’ to get back at people I know personally who irritate the living fool out of me, and there are plenty who do. I may write a poem that expresses some negative truth I’ve experienced but as far as stories go, if you’ve irritated me in some way, you won’t find yourself showing up in a story of mine. I wouldn’t waste the creative energy it takes to put that much effort into it, a.k.a., you’re not worth it. I can’t help it if you happen to relate on some deeply personal level to a characteristic or behavior that’s less than desirable. That’s an issue for you and your shrink.

It’s impossible for me, though, to separate my experiences and feelings from the writing. Somehow, one way or another, bits and pieces, no matter how transformed, end up making an appearance. It’s very cathartic for me to express how I’m feeling through a character. However, in no way does it convey a full picture of truth. After all, this is fiction I write, and I enjoy the hell out of it.

I write what comes to me, pure and simple. I don’t always understand it myself or where it comes from, hence the video reference above, but I know it’s important or it wouldn’t be pushing to make its way out into the world. If it happens to resemble you or your life in some way, let me say now, it probably isn’t. Of course, only me and the ink really know the truth, but the ink is drying and I’m not telling.

The Lucky 7 Meme: Oh My…

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My writer friend Mike Schulenberg  has tagged me for The Lucky 7 Meme.  Thank you Mike! Oh, the  pressure!!!

These are the rules:

1. Go to page 77 of your current MS/WIP
2. Go to line 7
3. Copy down the next 7 lines, sentences, or paragraphs, and post them as they’re written.
4. Tag 7 authors, and let them know.

The idea is to share a bit of my Work-in-Progress and then you get to do the same….

(Here’s an excerpt from the first draft of my WIP, a paranormal thriller):

Sweating, gasping, fearful, he awoke…thankful it was just a dream. “Get a grip.”  Rough nights equal rough dreams, he supposed.

The worn couch he rested on was unkind to the injuries he suffered the night before. He should’ve taken Simon’s advice – that girl wasn’t worth it. But pain wasn’t the problem right now.  An unbearable itch forced him to claw his arms. It was maddening, as if a thousand hairy caterpillars were tunneling up his legs and arms, converging in his abdomen. Heat wrapped itself around his neck and face.  His gut churned. He reached the toilet to vomit something white, slimy and squirming.  Maggots?…How?…Why? His fear returned.

The dream…it was real.

Okay – so my little tidbit, as rough as it may be…and no it isn’t 7 lines, 7 sentences or 7 paragraphs, but it’s what worked for me to share 🙂

My choice for the next Lucky Seven:

1. Carrie Rubin

2. Sean P. Farley

3. Garden Summerland

4. Janine Caldwell

5. John D. Kenworthy

6.Emma Byford

7. Brandon Luffman

If you want to play and your WIP doesn’t have 77 pages, I’m sure 7 lines from page 7 will work out just fine! Okay, guys, your turn!

Challenge to My Readers – Free Kindle book offer!

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Here’s the scoop: Mr. Jerry Guarino, author of Café Stories has a special offer for my readers! The first five (5) of you to figure out his not-so-hidden riddle in The Waiting Room will receive a FREE Kindle edition copy of his book Café Stories.

The Waiting Room is a short short story. For those of you unfamiliar with Mr. Guarino he is quite an imaginative writer, even though he is fairly new to the writing scene. By his own admission he’s somewhat of a late bloomer but that hasn’t stopped him from putting out over 40 stories, published in over a dozen magazines in the U.S. and internationally and published his first book available on Amazon.com via Kindle called Café Stories. He also has another book planned for debut this year.

The Waiting Room is a very quick, fun, but spooky read that I am sure you will enjoy. Here’s the catch – there’s a bit of a riddle in this story. The riddle is subtle but easy, once you know what it is. I won’t leave you any major hints here, but I will say that the author’s son is the only person who caught it. I did finally get it but I had to pry two hints from Mr. Guarino to finally discover it. Once I did, I had to laugh out loud because it was so easy! I have included the link to the story below, but first let me share with you the lengths I went to in order to find and solve the riddle.

I made a flow chart that was something like this:

Who?

Name of character

         

Where?

Location of story

        

When?

Time frame of story – how it eludes to another era

My flow chart actually included a great deal more detail about the character, time and location. I turned all the components I considered significant on end, evaluated and re-evaluated. You are welcome to do the same, although you will discover that it isn’t necessary unless you enjoy making things complicated, like I do!  One tiny personal hint from me is that one of the components in my flow chart is significant.

Okay – the challenge is issued. The first five of you to figure it out will receive a FREE Kindle edition of Café Stories by Jerry Guarino from the author himself! You must email me at sheilapierson63@yahoo.com with your answer.  Happy riddling…

           

The link to the story is:

http://www.short-humour.org.uk/6writersshowcase/thewaitingroom.htm

Do NOT leave your answer in the comments section of this post. Contact me at sheilapierson63@yahoo.com

Please also peruse Mr. Guarino’s website at http://cafestories.net/Cafe_Stories/home.html for more information about this author, a really nice guy by the way!

City Boys by Sheila Pierson

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 “Fix the damn tire and let’s get the hell out of here.”

“What do you think I’m doing dipshit? You could get your lazy ass out here and help me!”

“I had to do everything else today. It’s your turn to do some work.”

“Jack, don’t even get me started. I did plenty.” Eli grunted as he loosened the lug nuts on the wheel.

“Oh, yeah, you did plenty. You picked her.”

“I did more than pick her. You wouldn’t have even known about her if I hadn’t been watching and paying attention. You wouldn’t…forget it. I can’t talk about this right now. These damn lug nuts are stuck. Get your ass out here and help me.”

Jack reluctantly opened the door on the tan minivan. He hated the damn van but it was necessary. He came around and saw Eli struggling. “Move out of the way.”

Within a few minutes Jack had the lug nuts off, the flat changed and was putting the tools back up.

“Shit Eli! Did you see this?”

Eli came around to the back of the van. Red lines bled down the back of the van to the bumper. “I thought you cleaned up?” Jack was pissed, and it wasn’t the first time today.

He’d been pissed off since they left this morning. He didn’t know why he kept doing this shit with Eli but they’d been friends since they were kids so he felt like he owed him. It always worked out pretty good in the end, but there were always these little things that drove Jack crazy.

“How many damn times do we have to do this before you understand that there are rules we have to follow? We have to pick her, do the job and clean up! It isn’t hard. It isn’t rocket science. We’ve always kept the plan simple and still you screw it up! I swear Eli, this is the last time – the last time, do you hear me?”

“Yeah, I hear you but I don’t see why…”

Jack slammed the back door on the van and went back to sit in the passenger seat, not waiting for Eli to finish what he was trying to say. Eli hopped back into the driver seat and looked at Jack. He knew he screwed up but he didn’t understand why Jack was so upset over a tiny mistake. He grabbed some paper towels and an old bottle of water he left in the van last week and got back out. He cleaned up the mess off the back of the van. He wasn’t even sure how it got there but accidents happened. He tossed the paper towels in a ditch nearby. Jack looked a little more at ease when he rejoined him in the van.

“Eli, we’ve been doing this how long now? Since we were 15? It’s been 10 years. Maybe it’s time to hang it up. We’ve made a little money, scored some girls off it, had some laughs, but maybe it’s time to give it up.”

Eli started the van. He felt defeated. There was less than a half a tank of gas left. This trip cost them more than the rest. “Maybe you’re right. We haven’t done as well on the last two, and it just isn’t as much fun as it used to be, but I hate to give it up.”

“What choice do we have? It isn’t the same as it used to be. You remember the first time? We couldn’t wait to get there, pick her out, and that was the best part. We’d walk through the corridors, inspect them real good and even feel them over. When we found the right one it was like the biggest rush. And now? We don’t feel of them. We don’t enjoy it. You spot one, I agree and then we do the dirty work. And it’s dirty. I used to like it, but it doesn’t turn me on anymore. Can you sit here and tell me it does anything for you now?”

“I don’t know. I used to love it. I used to love the rush of the whole thing. Some people would think we were pretty sick I guess. That we get off on something like this?”

“Well, that’s the point. We really don’t anymore. It was a childhood fantasy that we’ve continued. It was fun for a while.” Jack looked straight out the front window. He hoped Eli would agree so they could just forget this and move on.

Eli put the van in drive. “So now what? We just ride off into the sunset like old cowboys, forget about all this?”

“I’m an accountant and you’re a friggin office manager. The time has come to let the past go. Nobody would ever believe we did something like this. And you know this has to always stay between us, right?”

“Of course Jack. People wouldn’t understand. After all, we live in the city. We live by the city. We do as the city. If there’s one thing I have learned, cowboys like us don’t fit in but I guess it’s time to assimilate.”

“Assimilate? Shit Eli. We’re just quitting an old habit born from juvenile dreams.”

“Yeah. But are we just going to quit? Think about Rochelle for a minute. She sets us up with a full-out good time, every time. She expects us every year. Hell, we have them convinced we’re pros.”

“Sure, but it’s always the same kind of girls, the same shitty work to prove to them we’re something we’re not and I’m getting kind of tired of the killing. You know what happened the time before? It took more out of me than I want to admit, but I just don’t have the stomach for it anymore. I’ve got a real job, a real life and this shit is getting old. Can you imagine what our friends in the city would think of us? Our families? And that’s another thing – we can barely get away to do it anymore. Debbie was already getting after me to cancel our ‘boys trip’ this time. She’s getting tired of me leaving for a four-day trip with you every year, especially since we had the baby.”

“So that’s it I guess? I know you’re right but we’ve sure had fun picking out the best ones, killing them and tasting the rewards of our work. I know that one got to you a little bit, but she just didn’t want to give up. It was hard on me, too, but she finally went down. You do remember how tender she was though? I mean, son of a bitch, she was friggin tender. Even you said when you gutted her that the meat was good on that one.”

“I remember, but this is it for me. I guess you can keep going Eli but I’m out.”

Eli nodded, understanding this would be their last one, their last trip, and the last time they would pick one out, do the kill and savor the meat over an open fire. It was the end of an era for them. They dreamed of being cowboys all their lives. When they were 15 they took a summer job on a farm outside the city. That’s where they learned about cattle, picking out cows for slaughter and how to butcher them. All boys eventually grow up. Eli drove Jack home, knowing their time had finally come.